How to maintain a log cabin

Updated: Sep 12

A well-built log cabin will literally last several lifetimes, surviving even the worst weather the British climate can throw at it. The timber we use is naturally weather resistant and our cabins are built precisely and to an exceptionally high standard to ensure there are no gaps or leaks through which that weather can enter. But as with all buildings, log cabins require a little TLC to ensure they stay in tip-top condition that can genuinely be enjoyed for generations. Most of this comes within the first couple of years of owning a cabin during which the logs settle. After that, it’s just a matter of staying on top of more regular, smaller jobs.

A log cabin seen through trees
Maintaining a log cabin home is part of the enjoyment of owning one

Initial shrinkage

During the first two years of the life of your cabin, the logs are settling into an equilibrium with the moisture content of their surrounding environment. Green wood, such as that we use for our cabins, contains at least 28% water and as such, the logs do 50% of their shrinkage in the first 18 months. Total shrinkage of a 500mm log such as those we use can be up to 100mm over its lifetime meaning as much as 50mm change in the first two years. Naturally we factor this into our builds but it needs to be considered by the owner over that initial period; anything that prevents a log moving in their natural way may cause problems such as the formation of gaps or the deformation of the logs themselves. The advantage of this shrinkage however is that joints and seams become tighter and stronger, and then maintain their integrity as the conditions change seasonally.

It is worthwhile considering that the timbers in a true log cabin are constantly ‘moving’ as they expand and contract with changing humidity. This is of course a relatively small amount once the period of initial shrinkage has finished, but worth keeping in mind. This movement is built into any kitchen units, window & door surrounds and structural beams we install, having perfected this science over the years.

In certain situations we may build an adjustable screw-jack into the structure which may need to be manually adjusted from time to time. These are most commonly used to allow a fixed height vertical element such as a beam, stud, steel upright or staircase to be moved with the changes in the logwork around it. This is nothing to worry about and any adjustable elements should just be checked every three to four months.

Water ingress All water, including that running off the roof through the guttering and downpipes, as well as any rainwater hitting exposed log surfaces should naturally run well away from the cabin. No timber, logs included, like to sit in water and it can quickly lead to wet rot and decay if not addressed. Particularly during the autumn months and early winter, it is important to ensure all guttering is kept clear of leaf litter and is free flowing. A build-up of gunk and sitting water will significantly reduce the lifespan of the fascia timbers and could lead to further ingress problems.

Keep an eye out for discolouration of logs, other signs of ingress such as swelling, black marks, a damp, musty smell and mould as well as pooling water and any build up of mud and dirt on logs. Prevention is better than cure so if you are inspecting your cabin regularly you will start to notice small changes and nuances in the timbers allowing for early treatment and avoidance of further issues.