Building homes with logs has been a construction method for millenia, so it is unsurprising that over the centuries several different styles of construction have evolved and each has its own unique character that can significantly influence the end design and feel of the building. Which method of construction you choose is largely a personal choice so here’s our guide to the three main techniques we use, to guide you in that decision making process.
Before we get started it is useful to be aware of some of the terminology involved.
Notch - this is the corner of the building where perpendicular logs intersect. There are various methods and styles revolving around the construction of the notch.
Scribe - the process by which a log is shaped to ensure a seamless but natural-looking fit with the other logs it interacts with.
Hew - to flatten a naturally round log on one or more sides. Most commonly used in dovetail construction which requires geometric intersections.
Groove - the void created between two logs where they intersect, usually filled with natural sheep's wool insulation.
Post and Beam
Post and beam construction dates back almost 4,000 years and consists of widely-spaced vertical posts across which load-bearing horizontal beams are installed. Timber framed infill walls are then inserted between the posts giving you options around the finishes, energy efficiency and build cost.
In a full log post and beam cabin, the posts and beams are exactly that; full, natural round logs with the bark removed and hewn flats created to accept the infill walls. This approach differentiates our buildings from more conventional post and beam style homes.
With the beams carrying the load of the roof, a cabin of post and beam construction is less reliant on internal walls meaning a more open internal structure can be achieved. If you are looking to create a large, open-plan social space such as a café, bar or open-plan dwelling then post and beam may be the way to go. We also offer the option of adding two foundation layers of full-scribe saddle notch log-work as a foundation layer to bring more feature log-work into the building.
This style of construction is perfect for those looking to retain a visible log structure but perhaps seeking a contemporary internal finish. We have developed our own highly energy efficient modular insulated wall panels into which electrics and plumbing can be hidden and which can be painted to the interior styling of your choice, giving you a wide range of options when it comes to the look and feel of your log home.
Why choose a post and beam log home?
Minimal internal structure lends itself to open-plan living
A relatively quick and cost effective method that can be constructed to log work only stage in just six to eight weeks (not including lead-in time).
A wider range of finishes with conventional smooth internal walls and a range of external cladding options.
Electrics and plumbing can be hidden within wall panels and altered easily at a later date if required.
Allows for a combination of visible traditional timber and modern interior design options.
Can accommodate great expanses of glazing to maximise views and light.
Things to bear in mind
Much of the log structure is only visible internally, meaning your log home may not have the same external impact as a Scandinavian Saddle Notch cabin (see below) for example.
This type of corner joint is most commonly seen in cabinetry and involves precise and interlocking geometric shapes that once slotted together during construction cannot be pulled apart without full deconstruction. Dovetail joints are designed to actually increase with strength as the weight of logs above them increases as the build progresses. This results in corners that are both very strong and incredibly beautiful. However, there is more craftsmanship to dovetail notches than initially meets the eye. Look more closely and you will notice that the notches are carved in such a way that rainwater always runs down and away from the building. A well-built dovetail log cabin can therefore last for centuries.
While our dovetail notches are angular and geometric at the corners and hewn along the internal and external surfaces, the length of each log is scribed to the contours of the log below it allowing us to retain the wavey, natural beauty and the look and feel of a traditional log house. Dovetail notches can be cut flush with the walls to give a neat finish, or left to protrude giving the distinctive interlocking notches synonymous with log cabins.
Why choose a dovetail cabin
The angular notches are a work of art and talking point in themselves.
This is a ‘lighter’ notch option best used in smaller cabins.
Achieve the thermal requirements of mobile homes (BS3632) without additional insulation.
Although more involved than post and beam, dovetail construction is quicker than the fully-scribed Scandinavian saddle notch method giving an ideal mid-range price point.
A well-made dovetail cabin can last for hundreds of years.
We also offer a ‘’Dovetail post and beam” cabin with two layers of dovetail log-work and a vertical hewn post and beam structure above.
Things to bear in mind
This time and skill involved in creating flawless dovetail notches mean this is not the cheapest construction method (although it is not the most expensive either).
While this construction method meets the thermal requirements of mobile homes, to achieve the level required for full residential regulation the internal walls may require additional insulation.
A dovetail log cabin is a living breathing building, as such the walls shrink and move seasonally. We have custom detail designs and construction methods around this to ensure that your log cabin always remains sealed from the elements and functioning as it should, but every log cabin owner needs to be aware of the movement of full timber homes and to respect this when designing any future additions, fitting kitchens or adding internal walls. Make sure that you consult with us for advice before you undergo any works which may restrict the independent movement of the log-work.
Scandinavian Saddle Notch
This is perhaps the method of log cabin construction that people are most familiar with, producing a beautiful and traditional style cabin that maintains the natural appearance of the timber both inside and outside the building. Logs are shaped by hand to intersect tightly at the corners in an intrinsically strong joint that simultaneously maintains the natural, round appearance of the wood. Indeed, as the timber shrinks over time these joints become tighter which increases the strength of the building.
At British Log Cabins we fully hand-scribe our Scandinavian Saddle Notch cabins, meaning the entire length of each log is matched to the individual contours of the log below it, allowing round logs to seamlessly sit one on top of one another without visible gaps. Such are the quality, strength and insulating properties of a full scribe hand-crafted Scandinavian Saddle Notch cabin that beyond the internally fitted sheep’s wool they require no additional insulation to pass current building regulations and can last for centuries.
A full-scribe saddle notch cabin however is the most labour-intensive and demands the most skill of all of the construction methods we use, but the end product is a truly striking, strong and beautiful cabin that reflects the care and attention that has gone into it.
Why choose a Scandinavian Saddle Notch cabin
If you are looking for a traditional style cabin, there is nothing truer than this construction technique and results in a high-end finish.
The natural appearance of the logs is maintained from all angles, both inside and out.
Done well, a Scandinavian Saddle Notch cabin requires no additional insulation.
The structure is exceptionally strong and can endure the worst British weather you can throw at it, lasting for hundreds of years.
The mass of the logs acts as a thermal battery, storing heat during the day and releasing it at night meaning a cabin of this construction can be upto 15% more energy efficient than conventional timber framed houses.
Things to bear in mind
This is the most labour-intensive and time-consuming of all build types so will take longer to complete and will cost more than other methods that are comparatively less involved.
Although electrics and plumbing installations can be hidden within the walls of a Scandinavian Saddle Notch cabin, once fitted it is not possible to re-access the voids created in the logs without disassembling the building. Think carefully about the locations of your services and electrics and try to keep as much as possible to internal stud walls, within intermediate or suspended floors and roof voids.
How to choose a log cabin type
There are a number of things to bear in mind when trying to decide which of the above construction methods is best for you;
What are you intending to use the cabin for? If this is to be a home then consider the internal finish you are looking for. If it is to be a holiday let, consider what your potential customers are going to be seeking when booking a log cabin holiday, and a construction method that reflects its setting.
What is your budget? With post and beam being the quickest and most economical, dovetail being mid-range and fully hand scribed saddle notch being the most involved, the time and level of craftsmanship required dictate the final cost of a log cabin. See our pricing page for some guideline prices.
How quickly do you need it? We can complete a bespoke post and beam cabin in as little as six to eight weeks (to log-work only stage, not including lead-in time), but a fully hand-crafted saddle notch home will take considerably longer. The more time you have the more options you will have available.
Do you need planning permission? Buildings over a certain size require planning permission, so the construction method might dictate what can be achieved within your limits, or how you maximise the space available. Read our guide to planning permission here.
If you are interested in learning more about these construction methods, we run a log building course to show you the basics first hand.
So whatever style of cabin you’re looking for and whatever its intended use there is a construction method to perfectly complement your project. Whether that’s a traditional cabin in the woods or a modern, open-plan social space, the versatility of wood as a material allows for almost infinite designs and finishes. If in doubt, give our team a call to discuss your ideas and aspirations.