Log cabin: design ideas, inspiration and pictures

What is a log cabin?

A house entirely built of timber or logs is known as a log cabin. It is one of the most ancient types of residential structures. Log homes are widely seen in Europe and in parts of Asia. Since 17th century, they have become a permanent feature of the rural areas of North America. In 1930 the largest log house of the world, Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, was built in Montebello, Canada. The famous log resort is still revered for its ingenuous design.  

What are the different types of log cabin homes?

The architecture of the log cabin homes varies widely. The size and style of the building are largely influenced by the purpose for which it is built. Following are some of the most prominent log homes types:

Hunting lodge – These log structures are built close to the forest. In modern time, they are often used as a holiday retreat. The cosy character of the building and proximity to nature inspire many city dwellers to build a hunting lodge.

Sauna – Saunas were originally built in mountain slopes of the Scandinavian countries. They were used mainly for their health benefits. Just like their modern counterparts, ancient saunas were also built of wood. Cedar, eucalyptus, basswood and pine are frequently used to build a sauna.    

Log cabin for kids – These are miniature log houses built in the garden for the amusement of the kids. They frequently mimic more elaborate castle-like structures. Sometimes they are built as Victorian cottages. Nowadays, you can buy pre-fabricated wooden playhouses for your young ones.  

Barns – Barns were originally built to store food grains. They were often built with stables. The modern barns are sometimes built to serve the dual purpose of living and storing household items. Many of the old barns are also converted to spacious residential dwellings or event venues.

Are log homes common in Canada?

Log homes are very common across the country. In fact, it is one of the most popular types of architecture for residential dwellings. The easy availability of raw material, namely wood, is the primary reason for its enduring popularity.

European log cabins in Canada

Canadian log cabins show varied styles. The older ones resemble Swiss chalets. European log cabins are commonly seen in and around Mont Tremblant, Banff and Le Massif. Due to their immediacy to the famous ski resorts of the country, they are often used as winter homes.  

American log cabins

American log cabins are characteristic to British Columbia. These log houses are also built in the scenic areas outside the boundaries of the city. Log houses built on the plain land showcase more elaborate structure. They are sometimes built with flat roofs as well.  

How to build a log cabin?

Assess your requirements. Do you plan to use this as your primary dwelling or only as a holiday home? Make a detailed building plan or choose one of the log cabin plans readily available with the architects. Invest in high quality wood sold specifically for this purpose. Take special care to prepare the ground. If needed, use mortar to solidify it. Build the pier and erect the walls. Log dwellings are often built using specialised joining mechanisms. Traditional log structures are built without a single use of nail. However, you need not worry about these details. Your home builders are expected to take care of these steps.


The basic roof structure is created with timber. Roofing can be done with tiles, felt, wood shingles, metal sheets or grasses for thatching. Log dwellings are generally built with purlin and rafter style roof. Plywood is a popular alternative to traditional timber like cedar, fir or poplar.

Legal issues that may arise when building a log cabin

In Canada, it is not permitted to build a wooden structure more than four stories high. Before starting to build your log dwelling, have your house plan approved by the local building authorities. You may also opt for prefabricated log structures suitable for your needs. Once the building is complete, you must apply for a possession certificate. This is awarded by the building authorities of the area after making an inspection of the house.

Measures to protect a log house against fire

Logs sold for this purpose are generally sealed with gypsum boards or copper based solutions to prevent the structure from catching fire easily. Install automatic sprinklers and smoke alarms in case of an outbreak. Keep your electrical fixtures in order to avoid fire caused by short circuits. The threat of fire is especially potent during the dry months between May and September. Experts suggest planting healthy green grass on the lawn. Keep the ground wet. Remove dead vegetation from the compound. Don’t keep wood piled near fuel tanks.

Pros and cons of owning a log house

Log cabin homes are built with sustainable building materials. The structure is particularly suitable for mountain regions prone to heavy rain and snowfall. The sloped roofing prevents building up of stagnant water or snow. In many places like Laurentians, Manigotagan, Northern and Eastern Ontario, you can but log dwellings in less than CAD 500,000. This is more affordable than concrete family houses of many cities. Log houses are generally built in the suburban and rural areas of the country. The lure fresh air and idyllic setting is often considered an irresistible combination for many.

While their location has obvious advantages, staying far outside the city’s limits may not suit your lifestyle. This is especially true if you need to visit a city regularly for your work, children’s studies or any other purposes.

Maintenance and costs of a log home

You need to paint and varnish your log cabins at an interval of 5 to 7 years. Minor damages in the structure must be fixed as soon as they appear. Log structures tend to be quite durable and the maintenance of the house would not cause you much difficulties. Since they are mostly built away from the major urban areas of the country, the cost of parking and service charges tend to be quite low. A newly built log structure can be maintained in less than CAD 1000.

Things to remember while building your first DIY log cabin

Have your building planned by an experienced architect. For the construction process, trust home builders with specialised knowledge of log buildings. To give your home a proper mountain hut like feel, seek suggestions from an interior stylist.

You can buy DIY kits and build your own log structure by yourself. However, opt for that step only if you have prior experience of building such a structure. Otherwise, seek expert guidance. Don’t endanger the lives of your family members. You may start by building a small structure such as a garden shed and postpone building the main house till you acquire sufficient skills and experience for doing so.