Log construction

This type can range from the primitive pioneer-type cabin made of rough logs to more sophisticated versions where the logs are machined to fit together snugly and present a more finished and weatherproofed result. The rustic, primitive varieties will fit better into more remote, forested locations.

Logs can also be laid horizontally on top of one another, overlapping the ends of logs for stability, and intersected at the corners. This type of construction leads to a particular kind of structure with a horizontal emphasis, coarse texture and prominent corners formed by the intersections. They tend to have low-pitched roofs with wide overhangs, which cast deep shadows and help the cabin to hug the ground.

Because of its prominence the roof finish is often the most critical part of the design. Traditionally wooden shingles (shakes) or overlapping boards are used, and if treated with preservative these last a reasonable time. Asphalt sheeting or tiles have a very smooth texture and can look too finished for the wilder locations, but profiled steel sheet with a dark colour is acceptable (see Chapter 6). Sometimes turf can be used, which gives a very interesting texture and colour.

Logs should be peeled, large in dimensions to reflect the scale of the landscape, and either allowed to weather to silvery grey or stained an appropriate colour. In Finland, logs from trees that have died, the bark flaked off and the wood weathered silver, are highly sought after for cabin construction. Their texture and colour, as well as their stable, naturally dry condition, make them ideal for cabin construction.

The machined logs are modern versions of the traditional hand-squared logs used in many places. They give more regular dimensions, so that each cabin can be built easily and more cheaply—an important consideration at a commercial site. The timber can be treated against rot and fire, and even the jointing between logs gives a more weatherproof seal. The pattern created by the jointing of overlapping logs should have some regularity, as complete randomness can cause visual confusion. The jointing patterns used in masonry, such as stretcher bond, can also be applied to log or sawn board walls. These designs are more appropriate in a less wild or rural area.

If the cabin is built on irregular ground a level base will be needed. Natural stone should normally be used to make this, rather than exposed concrete or brick. Alternatively a timber frame can be built on steeper ground to avoid cut or fill altogether and provide a more elevated view from the windows or balcony.