There’s nothing really quite like being inside a wood cabin. The coziness and charm that come with the natural wood and the logs used in the design of cabins are unmatched and it has nothing to do with size.
In fact, small wood cabins are perhaps the most charming of all. Before we check out a few designs, here’s some things you should know about wood cabins, starting with their actual definition.
- What is a wood cabin?
- What Type Of Wood Are Log Cabins Made Of?
- How To Insulate A Log Cabin?
- What’s the best way to heat a log cabin?
- Log cabin roof types
- Wood cabin designs to inspire you
- Is It Legal To Build A Cabin In The Woods?
- What style to choose for a cabin’s roof?
- What’s the best flooring material for a cabin?
What is a wood cabin?
The first wood cabins were built in Europe a very long time ago. They were simple and small structures made with unfinished, round logs and they had a semi-permanent character. You can think of a wood cabin as being a first generation home that someone was able to build quickly and easily, a sort of starter home.
From there using logs to build houses, barns and other structures became popular all across Europe, Scandinavia and even Russia. When the first settlers reached America they took this tradition with them, building the first wood cabins in the new world.
In time, wood cabins and log houses started to evolve and new styles were developed. The wood cabins of today come in all sorts of different architectural styles and their designs vary in complexity.
What Type Of Wood Are Log Cabins Made Of?
Although at their origin log cabins are very simple and straightforward, building such a structure today requires a fair amount of research. One of the very first things you should ask yourself is what type of wood you should build the cabin out of. A few elements to consider in this case are the age of the wood, the location that it comes from and the species.
Wood that comes from older trees has more natural resistance to fungus and insects. It’s also more durable and it shrinks and warps less. This is because older trees have more heartwood than sapwood compared to the newer ones and especially to trees that have been grown quickly. Old, slow-growing trees give the best quality wood for log cabins.
As far as the wood species go, here’s some of the options:
Pine wood is a very common option when it comes to log cabins. It’s important however to make the distinction between the different types of pines. Yellow pine has the best decay resistance which is very important for a wood cabin. Compared to that, white pine offers the least decay resistance. Keep in mind also that pine wood has a high shrinkage rate.
Cedar wood is very popular with log cabins and for good reason. It provides natural resistance to insects and fungus and it has a low shrinkage rate which means you won’t need to kiln-dry the wood. It’s also a beautiful type of wood. Of course, all these advantages mean you can expect cedar wood to be more expensive than other woods.
Compared to cedar and other wood types, spruce is not great when it comes to decay and fungus resistance. It needs to be kiln dried and treated if you want it to last. Spruce also grows in high altitude areas which makes less accessible in certain parts of the world. It is however relatively inexpensive and it has a moderate shrinkage rate.
Oak is a hardwood and is typically used to structures a lot larger than a cabin. It is nevertheless one of the more common wood types when it comes to log cabins. White oak is particularly popular because of its high resistance to decay. All oak wood should be kiln dried to prevent warping and shrinkage.
Fir is not the greatest wood type of cabins and that’s because it has a very low resistance to decay, insects and fungus and needs to be treated. Most types of fir however have a low shrinkage rate and there’s several different types to choose from which can affect its accessibility in your area.
This is one of the best types of wood and a very popular material on the west coast. It’s resistant to decay, insects and fungus and it has a very low shrinkage rate. The downside is the high price tag and, depending on where you live, the accessibility.
How To Insulate A Log Cabin?
As you may already know, logs are naturally great insulators which is partially why log cabins became so popular in the first place. However, if you want your log cabin to actually be energy-efficient and well insulated simply building it out of logs is not enough.
Before we get into all the details, it’s important to make the distinction between the R-value and the U-value of a material. The R-value measures the resistance of heat flow through a certain thickness of material while the U-value measures the heat loss in Watts through a material. As a general idea, the R-value is typically around 1.41/” for softwoods and 0.71/” for hardwoods.
Log walls don’t really have a great R-value but measurements on paper are not everything. Because logs have the ability to store heat that means log walls don’t really feel as cold as they should on paper.
There’s multiple steps you can take to ensure your cabin is well insulated and as a result more energy-efficient as well.
Insulating the floor
The first step towards making sure the floor of the cabin is well insulated is to install a moisture-resistant membrane underneath it. This prevents the moisture and dampness from penetrating the logs and keeps the underneath of the cabin dry.
You should also raise the cabin off the ground or build it on stilts. Then secure joists onto the lathing and attach batons to the joists. This will support the insulation. Make sure to leave a gap of at least 50mm between the membrane and the insulation to allow airflow. Then cut the insulating material to size and fit it in the cavities created by the joists. The insulation and the joists should sit flush and the flooring should sit directly on top.
Insulating the roof
Insulating the roof of a cabin is similar to how the floor insulation is done. If you want to be able to see the exposed wood on the inside of your cabin’s roof you should install the insulation on the exterior. This is done during the construction process. The roof is completed to rafter level and is then sheathed with boards. After this the roof is covered with moisture-resistant membranes which are stapled onto the boards. The insulation is added on top of that.
Insulating the windows
If you want your log cabin to be as energy-efficient as possible you should also consider insulating the windows and doors. Keep in mind however that double glazing is not always worth it. The cabin’s walls should measure at least 58mm in diameter for this to make a difference. Any less than that means that more heat will escape through the walls than the windows and the double glazing is not worth adding.
What’s the best way to heat a log cabin?
Even a well-insulated wood cabin needs to be heated. There’s a variety of different heating methods to choose from and each one has both advantages and limitations. Choose the one that fits best with your requirements and preferences.
Electric convector heaters
Electric convector heaters work by heating the surrounding air and circulating it around the room which creates a convection current. The air comes in direct contact with the exposed heating elements which makes a quick and effective way of heating a room.
Compared to convector heaters, electric radiators are not as quick and they take longer to heat up. They also don’t have exposed heating elements which makes them a safer option. Electric radiators are wall-mounted and they’re available in a variety of different styles and designs.
Electric oil-filled radiators
These are typically freestanding radiators which means you can easily move them around the cabin to where the heat is needed most. The oil inside them heats up and retains the heat even after you turn the radiator off, keeping the room warm for longer.
If electricity is out of the question or if you prefer a different heating method, consider a wood-burning stove. These heat up quickly and they retain the heat well, keeping the cabin warm and cozy for long periods of time. Wood-burning stoves come in a wide range of styles and designs but keep in mind that in addition to the stove itself you’re also going to need a storage place for the wood.
Bottled gas heaters
This is a practical solution for cases when you have no electricity and you don’t want a wood-burning stove because of the maintenance requirements. It would be especially convenient to use this sort of heater if you already use bottled propane elsewhere in the cabin. Be careful to ensure proper ventilation inside the cabin if you’re using a gas heater.
Another option is to harvest the power of the sun to heat up your cabin. This can be a good alternative if the cabin is located off the grid of if you want it to be as eco-friendly as possible. You can install solar panels on the roof of the cabin and use the energy to heat water which can be fed through a radiator.
We typically use air conditioning units to cool our homes and we tend to forget that they can also be used for heating. In fact, they’re a very practical way of controlling the temperature inside a wood cabin and they’re great at maintaining a constant temperature and humidity level.
Log cabin roof types
Once you’ve chosen a site and you took care of all the legal details, it’s finally time to work on your design for the cabin. Think of it in sections: the roof, the walls, the floor plus all the details specific to the chosen design or style. Let’s start with the roof.
What is the appropriate material for a log cabin’s roof?
One of the most important decisions regarding the roof of your cabin has to do with the materials that it’s made of. Choose these based on cost, appearance, energy-efficiency or other factors that you consider important.
This is perhaps the best roofing material for a wood cabin based on appearance. Wood shingles suit traditional log cabins, they have a rustic look and they last for a long time. If you want the roof of your cabin to look natural and to change their appearance with time, showing their age, choose cedar shingles. They get a beautiful patina turning from red to silver gray as they age.
Typically metal shingles are used in commercial projects and tend to have an industrial appearance. They don’t really match the style of a wood cabin but they offer some great advantages. They can save you a lot of time when building the roof they’re very quick to install and you can also have them pre-insulated.
EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer and is a type of synthetic rubber with many applications, including in roofs. The main advantage of a rubber roof is the fact that it can be ordered to the right size and fitted in one piece which eliminates the possibility of leaks. This is also a type of roof that you can install yourself without having to rely on a professional.
Thatched roofs are very expensive due to the complexity of the thatching technique. However, they look unique and have a natural and organic look that suits wooden cabins.
Felt and felt shingles
Roofing felt is an inexpensive, quick and easy option to cover a cabin’s roof and it comes in a variety of different colors which allows you to customize the appearance of the roof. The life expectancy of such a roof varies based on the quality of the roofing felt and it typically somewhere between 5 and 10 years.
Felt shingles are thicker than roofing felt and their life expectancy is longer, being around 20 years. Usually felt shingles have an adhesive backing that allows them to stick together when heat is applied which makes installation especially difficult in cold weather. They come in different shapes and colors and they’re a bit more expensive compared to roofing felt.
A green roof can look magnificent of a wood cabin and is definitely the way to go if you want this to be an environmentally-friendly project. Keep in mind that green roofs are expensive and difficult to install plus they also require constant maintenance. Take into consideration all the weight that the soil adds to the roof especially when it’s raining and plan the structure and design accordingly.
Some wood cabin designs to inspire you
Rustic streamside mountain wood cabin
This cute little log cabin is located in the White Mountains Region of New Hampshire, US. It has a traditional design with log walls and a pitched roof and inside it features a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and a cozy living area.
It’s heated by a wood-burning fireplace clad in stone and the guests can also enjoy a two-person hot tub. It’s a lovely waterfront cabin with a beautiful stream nearby. It can be rented out via airbnb.
Cozy wood cabin in Transylvania
This beautiful little cabin is also an airbnb rental. It’s located in Transylvania, Romania and it has a charming and inviting interior with log walls, a wooden pitched roof and wooden floors.
The atmosphere inside is casual and relaxed, with multiple areas for lounging and a nice view of a large garden. There’s also a patio where you can spend time admiring the nice views.
A large log cabin in the Rocky Mountains
Not all log cabins are tiny but even large ones are super cozy inside thanks to all the exposed wood. That’s definitely the case here. We’re looking at a rustic log cabin found in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado with a fresh interior design created by Thom Filicia.
It’s an all-season week-end retreat with a big stone fireplace in the living room, comfortable seating arrange around it and a twig chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Photos: House Beautiful
Summer cabin in Moscow
This log cabin designed by studio I.D Interior Design is a summer vacation home located in the countryside, in Moscow. It has thick log walls, a wooden roof and wooden floors but it’s all stripped of bark which creates a more modern and airy aesthetic.
The design is a mix of farmhouse and modern details which complement one another creating a cozy and inviting ambiance.
An A-frame log wood cabin
A-frame cabins look stylish and modern even when built with rustic materials like reclaimed wood or logs. This right here is a beautiful example. It’s a log cabin design shared by @mycozycabins with big glass doors and windows that let the sunlight in and log walls that give it lots of texture and character. The pitched roof drops all the way down to the ground, framing the cabin perfectly.
Rustic log cabin with a modern interior
Located in Alta, Wyoming, this rustic log cabin was refreshed by WRJ Interior Design with a modern interior. The location is beautiful, with big tall trees all around and wonderful views of the mountains. The interior was reimagined with an open floor plan, an airy decor and a neutral and elegant color palette. The centerpiece of the living area is a big river rock fireplace.
Multi-level log cabin in Colorado
This cabin from Telluride, Colorado was designed by TruLinea Architects and Studio Frank in response to their clients’ request for an organic and timeless home that would replace an old cabin. The new structure is a much bigger log cabin with five bedrooms, five bathrooms and big open-space social areas.
The interior is welcoming, modern and a bit shabby-chic. The exposed log walls and wooden beams add lots of texture and character to the rooms.
A chic and tranquil cabin with mountain views
Log cabins and nice views make a perfect pair. This one is no exception. It’s a beautiful three-bedroom cabin rental with three bathrooms and a gorgeous living area with a big sectional sofa and windows that let in the sunlight.
The cabin is designed to be a tranquil and peaceful retreat, a place where one can reflect, disconnect from their daily routines and enjoy the simpler life. You can find it in North Caroline and rent it via airbnb.
Riverfront wood cabin with a cozy patio
This little cabin can be rented to groups of up to six people and you can find it in Skykomish, Washington. It’s a riverfront property, raised off the ground and with a cute floating patio that overlooks the river. The area is surrounded by lots of tall trees and vegetation, making this a great little retreat for anyone interested in hiking or just spending some time out in the wilderness. Check it out on airbnb.
Log cabin in the woods of Woodstock
You can find this log cabin in Woodstock, Vermont, US. It’s an airbnb rental, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a cozy living area and a capacity of up to six persons. The cabin is surrounded by beautiful forest on all sides and has a beautiful little pond nearby which you can see from the patio and from inside as well.
The exterior has a beautiful gray patina and the interior is very warm and welcoming.
Off-grid cabin built from scratch
A small wood cabin in the woods can make for a fun and rewarding DIY project, something that you can do together with family or friends. This off-grid cabin was built entirely by hand and the process is described in the video posted by The Wooded Beardsman. You can see how the post holes were dug, how the frame was put together and how the cabin slowly started to take shape until it became this charming little retreat one can be proud of.
An entirely hand-built log cabin
Building a log cabin from scratch with no outside help is definitely a very daring project. Doing this all alone in the middle of the forest is an even bigger challenge, one that was successfully completed and that you can check out for yourself in this timelapse video shared by My Self Reliance. There’s no electricity out here and this is an off-grid project as well as a dream that became reality.
Off-grid sauna cabin made from logs
This beautiful off-grid log cabin was built over the course of 12 months by a single man under the supervision of his cute golden retriever. The cabin was made from scratch in the Canadian wilderness. It’s an off-grid sauna cabin with log walls, a pitched roof and a beautiful forest surrounding it. The scenery is magnificent and makes this project that much more impressive. Check out My Self Reliance to see a timelapse of the project.
A log cabin is the Swedish wilderness
Inspired by the beauty of nature and a desire to create something magnificent from scratch Erik Grankvist built this beautiful log cabin in the woods of Sweden and did it all by hand using materials gathered from the wilderness. With no prior experience in building, this was a challenging project which required doing research and learning along the way. It ended up looking magnificent.
An entire off-grid homestead built in a year
This inspiring video shared by My Self Reliance describes the wonderful journey of planning and building an off-grid log cabin, a workshop, a root cellar and a vegetable garden in the middle of a forest surrounded by wilderness and beauty. It was all done over the course of a ear, from spring 2020 up until winter 2021.
Is It Legal To Build A Cabin In The Woods?
So you found the perfect little piece of land, you bought it and you can’t wait to start building your dream cabin on it. Well, don’t start the construction process just yet because there’s one more important element to worry about: the building permit. In other words, it might not be legal to build there without a permit and you might be facing financial penalties or even the risk of having to tear down the cabin altogether.
Before you take any of the following information for granted keep in mind that the rules and regulation for building can differ depending on your location on the globe. Consult with a specialist before taking any actions.
In general, the larger the cabin is and the closer it is to the boundary of the site, the higher the chances that you need planning permission to build it. There are however some exceptions. You don’t require a planning permission to build the cabin is the proposed design is within the definition of a permitted development or if the cabin is incidental to the main house’s enjoyment and recreational purposes. It would of course be safe to check first if these rules apply.
The Permitted Development Rights
This is a term you might already be familiar with. It refers to the rights of a homeowner to extend and improve their property without needing to apply for a building or planning permission. This covers the area that surrounds the house. The project however needs to meet certain criteria.
If you want to build a cabin in your backyard and use it as a workspace or for recreation you don’t need a permit but if it’s going to function as sleeping accommodation then a permit is required.
Building and planning permits are given out by local planning authorities based on a variety of criteria. Each case is analyzed individually and there’s a multitude of factors that can influence the decision. One of them is the impact that the cabin or structure that you want to build will have on the neighbors.
For example you’ll need a planning permit if the cabin is going to restrict a neighbor’s view or their road access. A permit is also required if the cabin is meant to serve as a residence or if you want to rent it out. This applies not just to structures that you want to build in your backyard but also on other sites such as if you want to build a cabin in the woods for instance.
Obtaining a permit
In order to obtain a planning or building permit you first need to contact the local planning department. They’ll give you the information needed regarding the building approval requirements and they can also provide suggestions to help you get the approval more easily.
You’ll most likely have to work with an architect to draw the plans for the cabin. Then you can send the site plan and a copy of the drawings to the planning department along with a fee, after which you await their response. A public announcement will then be made regarding their decision. A notice will be posted or will be announced in the local newspaper and your neighbors will receive a letter informing them of your future project. The whole process can take up to 8 weeks.
What style to choose for a cabin’s roof?
Apart from the material considerations, another important element to keep in mind when planning the design of a log cabin is the roof’s style. This impacts its shape, size and in some cases the materials that it can be made of.
A roof with a slope greater than 10% and one or more surfaces is called a pitched roof. It’s the most popular style when it comes to cabins, especially the rustic and traditional-looking ones. A steeper roof allows rain and snow to run off more easily and quickly which keeps the roof dry and in good shape for longer. However, the higher the pitch the more expensive and difficult building the roof becomes.
A flat roof is easier and cheaper to build compared to a pitched roof. That’s because it requires fewer materials the labor cost is also reduced. It can even take as little as a day to install a flat roof on a cabin.
A flat roof is not really perfectly flat. It still has a slight pitch in order to allow water to run off. The lower pitch however does mean that flat roofs are more susceptible to leaks and they’re also more unstable the larger they get.
What’s the best flooring material for a cabin?
When choosing the material for the cabin’s flooring, base the decision on important factors such as the cost, the appearance and tactile aspect and the level of traffic or activity level. Different materials offer different advantages but also come with certain limitations.
Real wood flooring has a unique look and feel and it adds a lot of warmth to the interior design. This makes it one of the most popular options for log cabins and home interiors in general. There’s a multitude of wood types to choose from and hard woods are preferred for their durability but come with a higher price tag.
If you’re going for a rustic or farmhouse-inspired cabin, reclaimed wood flooring can look absolutely amazing. This is also an option to keep in mind if you’re going for a sustainable and eco-friendly cabin design. Reclaimed wood has history and character and can give your cabin a unique aesthetic.
Tiled flooring is very practical because it’s super easy to clean which can be very beneficial in the case of a cabin. Of course, tiles don’t have the same tactile look and feel as wood planks which can tends to give a somewhat cold appearance.
One of the benefits of using tiles is that you can create unique patterns and custom designs with them. Mix and match different textures, colors and patterns or use tiles that mimic the look of wood, stone or other materials if you prefer a specific style.
Using carpet in a cabin can be tricky. On one hand carpet and moisture don’t go well together so if the cabin is in a snowy area or a place with heavy rainfall you should look into other flooring options.
On the other hand, carpeting is great for comfort and sound dampening. It’s also a nice option if you have small children.
This is something that you can add on top of a wooden or tiled floor to make it warmer and more comfortable to walk on.
Area rugs also make cabins look extra cozy and are nice accessories that you can use to add color or pattern to the interior design. Rugs also help with sound absorption and reduce the echo inside the cabin.
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