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How we design log cabins: step-by-step

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Clients come to us in all stages of preparedness. Some have had architectural drawings already completed. Some have mood boards full of ideas and inspiration they have collected and some have hand drawn sketches on a piece of paper. Others come to us with a head full of ideas and simply verbalise what they have been dreaming about. At British Log Cabins, we really don’t mind! We just love working with passionate clients, seeking a dream log home or embarking on a new cabin project. And our design team is here to help them all make those ideas a reality in a process that is unrushed, collaborative and engaging at every step of the way. Although each process is unique, here’s an outline of the way we take your ideas and turn them into drawings that our log builders then use to hand craft your cabin.

A person drawing architectural designs
Many designs still start with a pen and paper

The design services we offer

In a nutshell, we offer every step of the design process from architectural scaled drawings including floor plans and elevations that can be submitted as part of your planning application process, to SAP and EPC calculations that may be required to get your cabin through building regulations. Being unable to meet clients face-to-face during the pandemic has given us more reason to innovate so we now offer 3D walk-throughs of your designs. This means you can glide through your future front door, sweep through the lounge and wander through the bedrooms, making sure your virtual cabin is exactly as you would like before we even pick up a chisel. Turning your ideas and sketches into a 3D walk-through is a particularly exciting part of the process and we are pleased to include this as standard in our Log Home Design package as part of the video screen-share meeting.

But it doesn’t matter how big your project is - we offer a full design service for smaller project such as garden offices or mobile log cabins that comply with the Caravan Act, or full scale holiday let plans with multiple cabins and complex requirements.

Being able to offer the full process from start to finish means your cabin is designed and built by the same team of people, resulting in a seamless process from pencil to saw. So whatever it is you’re planning and whatever level of design assistance you require our team is on hand to help and guide you through each step of the journey.

The design process in steps

Below is a typical six stage process taking you from first conversations to signing off your designs. Your precise situation may vary slightly to the following, but we can pick it up wherever you are in the process.

1. Client brief / design brief

This is our initial discussion whereby you tell us what you are looking for, however broad a description that may be. We’ll ask you to consider some of the standard detail considerations such as construction method & roof type. At this point we’ll be able to give you an estimate of build costs and rough timescales depending on what other projects we are working on and the stage of planning consent you are at.

2. First draft

After the initial plans have been agreed, we’ll pass your thoughts and ideas on to our design team who will prepare the first draft drawings for you. These will most likely be 2D plans initially with one or two simple 3D models to ensure we have captured what it is you’re looking for. This also gives you an opportunity to make any changes to the design that may only become obvious once you see them on paper.

3. The virtual meeting

One of our design team will then meet with you online to discuss your plans in more detail. At this point we may do a live 3D walkthrough whereby you can assess your plans both spatially and aesthetically. This walkthrough happens in real time so your designer can make tweaks and changes to your plans during the call itself - if you want to move the position of a door or window or pull a wall out slightly further we can do that for you in the call itself. These conversations typically last a couple of hours but you’ll be surprised how the time flies!

4. Final revisions

Our designers will then finalise any revisions to the plans based on what has been discussed in the call and send them to you for approval. We can continue to tweak the designs until you are absolutely confident that they are as you would like and may arrange shorter follow-up calls at your convenience to ensure we capture everything you are hoping for.

5. Design pack

Once you sign them off, we will prepare your design pack for you ready for your planning application. This could include site and location plans if you don’t already have them.

6. Detailed specifications, quotation and contract

When planning and finance (if required) have been agreed and received, we’ll discuss the detailed specifications with you and give you a final price quotation and contract for the build, including timescales for completion. Once we receive your signed contract and 10% deposit, we’ll begin scheduling the work and hand the drawings over to our talented team of log builders.

A wooded farm track
Sites with tricky access may require a visit from us first

Site visits

A site visit may be necessary, particularly if we need to evaluate accessibility site or if your project is large and/or complex. We will cover this with you in early discussions.

The different design render options

Our design team has a number of tools at their disposal allowing us to create different images for different purposes depending on what stage of the process you are at. These can be detailed two dimensional floor plans or fully rendered 3D models that include textures, shadows and glazing. Generally, for planning purposes you will only require scaled floor plans and elevations with a location and site plan.

Floor plans and elevations

Floor plans are two dimensional technical drawings, presented from an aerial perspective showing the spatial relationships between walls, positions of windows & doorways, sizes of rooms and other spaces such as entrance halls, utility rooms and WCs. This gives the viewer an idea of the scale and layout of the proposed building and how people will move through it.

Elevations present the sides of a building from a given angle with all of the perspective removed and are used to demonstrate how the exterior of a building will look to an observer. A typical elevation will show the height of the building, positions of windows and doors, the proposed roof pitch and how different parts of the building will interact and appear from a particular direction.

Floor plans and elevations will be required when submitting your planning application and are often the starting point in the design process as we interpret your ideas into the beginnings of architectural drawings.

Technical drawings of a log cabin
3D model, floor plans and elevations for a proposed cabin

3D white models

Although not required for planning purposes, three dimensional white models can be very useful when it comes to helping visualise your log cabin as a finished building. This is particularly true with larger, more complex structures such as log homes where you may want to see how far the porch protrudes or how an annex will appear from the rear of the building for example. Given the benefits of seeing your plans in 3D we include these as standard with our design packages.

As the name suggests, white models have no textural detail and are simply 3D renders of your floor plans and elevations. They give substance to your plans and are helpful if you’re not used to looking at architectural drawings for example. Don’t be put off by the simplicity however - seeing your plans pop out of the ground and being able to move around it on screen for the first time can be an exhilarating part of the process!

Rendered models

For those looking for more realistic representations of their plans, we can take the white model and add timber & roofing textures, glazing, shadows, reflections and other life-like details to your drawings. This can help you decide between different roofing options or external finishes for example. Again not required for planning applications, these can be useful when presenting a larger project to an audience, or simply for your own personal enjoyment as part of the design process. Rendered 3D images are charged separately.

Becky is one of our clients we're currently working with on designing their 'forever' log cabin home. Here's what she had to say about working with our Design Team.

"We had a good idea of what we had wanted for the last two years, had done drawings and notes and you had quoted on our design as best as possible, but finally being able to actually ask for our sketch to go to the design team was exciting.

When we had the call with your designer, Ali, he patiently spent two and a half hours with us showing us around our cabin, moving stairs, adding a small balcony, and making many very sensible suggestions while he rebuilt our house! We have subsequently had two more video calls with him, again with more suggestions and a couple more evolutions to our cabin. Nothing is too much trouble; if we have a suggestion for something he patiently changes it on the live CAD in front of our eyes. He has let us experiment with positions of doors, stairs, a mezzanine, storage solutions and even the position on our plot.

Ali has been great to work with; helpful, friendly, creative and patient. He has made this part of the process easy and exciting. Seeing our dreams grow and evolve on the screen has been invaluable.

We are just waiting for the final drawings so that we can put in our planning application, and cannot wait to welcome the team to our plot in sunny Suffolk and finally build our cabin and our forever home."

Planning application docs

If you’re building a log home that you plan to live in, or cabins intended as holiday lets, then you’re most likely going to need planning permission. Smaller projects such as garden offices may not. For more information read our Guide to UK Planning Permission here.

As part of your planning application process you will require site & location plans, scaled drawing and elevations all of which we offer as part of our design services. We’ve navigated this process many times so will be more than happy to help you collate all the documentation you’re going to need or point you in the direction of a trusted professional planning consultant.

Whether you have been through this process before or are new to self-building, the design process is always an exciting part of making your vision a reality. Log buildings are our passion so we always look forward to embarking on the design journey with new clients and are here to help ensure the process from conception to completion is smooth, enjoyable and fun all at the same time!


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