Build A Log Cabin Using Trees From Your Own Land
If you are in the fortunate position of owning a piece of land with plenty of trees, building a log cabin is great way to make the most of the natural resources surrounding you.
Whether it’s your primary home, a weekend getaway, or an outbuilding; it is completely realistic for you to build a cabin, even with little or no construction experience.
Don’t be put off or fooled by the many kit builds on the market that make out only experts can build cabins and they come with a huge price tag. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have your own rustic log cabin.
Owning your own land can cut a huge chunk off the cost of your log cabin if you know how to choose the appropriate logs, fell, prepare and build with logs.
The first thing you’ll need to know to start the process of building your own log cabin is how to select the appropriate trees to build with.
If you only have one species of trees to opt for then the choice has already been made for you.
However, if you have a few tree types, how do you know which species to choose? How big (i.e. girth) should the logs be? How long should the logs be? Should they be dead standing?
This article gives a really good breakdown on different tree species, their appearance, R-value, decay resistance and shrinkage rates.
The most popular logs used in America are Pine, Cedar, Cypress, Spruce, Fir, Hemlock, Oak and Poplar.
Once you know which type of tree you want to use, you’ll need to know how many trees you will need, but, before that; how big and how long should the trees be?
Ideally, you will want the butt of the tree to have a minimum girth of 10″ and the tip 8″. In addition, the length is dependent upon your cabin (e.g. for a 20FT cabin you will want to fell 28FT trees, so you have 4FT overhangs on each end).
How many logs do you need?
A log cabin that is 24 x 20ft and 9ft high will require 67 logs if the logs are all 10 inches in diameter.
Use this page to get a specific calculation of logs required.
When you know how many logs or trees your build will require, walk through your land to identify which trees you’ll use.
You need to look for trees that are as straight as possible from every angle and that the log diameter is as similar as possible at each end.
Your logs should be anywhere from ten to twelve inches in diameter, with minor tapering (in a sixteen foot long tree, the tapering should be no more than two inches).
Mark each tree and keep note of them as you walk round to keep a tally of how many you’ve selected.
Once you’ve identified all of your trees…
Now you will have calculated how many trees you need and which trees you’ll need… the fun bit comes in.
It’s important to note here that while this may be one of the most fun parts of building your cabin, it can also be one of the most dangerous.
You should always wear safety equipment whilst cutting your trees down. I suggest at the very minimum wearing a helmet with a face screen, safety glasses, leg protection and steel toe cap boots. You will also need – a chainsaw, an axe and a wedge.
In this article I go in depth to discuss how to cut your trees and where to make the cuts.
Here is a brief summary:
- Fell logs in the winter when the sap content is at its lowest.
Cutting trees in the winter also allows them a longer drying period and will result in less cracks and splits.
- Do not fell trees in windy conditions.
Even if you have put aside that particular day to do so, rather wait a few extra weeks and do the job safely.
- When deciding which way to make your cuts, you should look at which way the tree is leaning and make cuts so that the tree falls in that direction.
- You’ll need to ensure there is a clear area, and a pathway for you to use to move out of the way of the falling tree.
- Once you’ve established this, you can make your cuts and drive a wedge into the cuts if the tree hasn’t already started falling.
- Once felled, you should seal the log ends with paraffin wax and debark them.
You will need to straddle your log, and use a drawknife to peel the bark off the logs towards you at a 30 degree angle.
I recommend cutting 3 or 4 extra trees down just in case others don’t dry properly or become infested, and also note that you should not cut down too many trees from the same area.
Once your logs are debarked, they are ready to be stored to start the natural drying process.
I am often asked how long logs need to be dried for.
The simple answer is – as long as possible.
At an absolute minimum I would recommend drying your logs for at least 6 months, if you can leave them for a couple of years – even better.
Logs need to dry in their surrounding area and climate so they can reach equilibrium moisture content (the point at which moisture is not being gained or lost).
It’s important to remember that due to the nature of logs and the seasons, this is a dynamic equilibrium that will change throughout the seasons and so your log will still expand and shrink slightly throughout the years.
Before you store your logs, I would advise sealing them at the ends as this is where the moisture evaporates through the fastest which can cause ring separation or cracks.
The ends can be sealed with paraffin wax, shellac, latex paint or specially formulated end grain sealants.
Logs need to be stored off the ground so you can either use skids to raise them, or sacrifice a couple of logs to rest your logs on.
Once your logs are dry, you are ready to start building your log home!
If you are wondering how long it takes to build a log home, check out the complete construction schedule so you can make an appropriate plan.
We have plenty of articles which go into detail about each step of building your log home so I’ll just give a quick overview of those steps here.
First you should decide which foundation you will need. Log Cabins usually only require shallow foundations; pad, strip or raft foundations.
You’ll then need to know how you are going to construct your log cabin. There are many different construction methods and notches that you can use to join your corners.
Once your walls have been raised your need to roof your log cabin. You’ll need to decide on the pitch of your roof and the materials you want to use.
You may want to insulate your log cabin. It’s unlikely that you will insulate your walls, but your floor and roof will definitely need insulating.
Once your cabin is finished you will need to stain and weatherproof it.
You may find it helpful to read these articles:
How to Select the Right Logs
All You Need to Know About Logs for Your Log Home
How to Harvest and Prepare your Logs
Building a log cabin using trees from your own land can be a very satisfying and enjoyable experience.
Not only are you using natural resources but you are saving costs of transport and you know exactly where your logs have come from.
Building a log cabin is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and leaves you with a beautiful and rustic looking home which will last for generations to come.
Are you thinking of building a log cabin using trees from your own land?