How to Build a Log Cabin from Scratch

Those wanting to build a nice structure for camping and seclusion on your farmland or lakeside property can learn how to build a log cabin from scratch, creating a nice live-in residence for relatively cheap. If you pay a carpenter to do the same work, you’ll be out thousands of dollars.

Building log cabins from scratch is an elemental undertaking, which takes you back to the frontier days of America. There’s something quintessentially American about having your own simple log cabin in the woods, so instead of using a cabin kit, build your own frontier cabin from scratch. Like the frontiersmen who did so before you, you don’t have to have specialized skills to build your own cabin or lodge house.

Make a Log Cabin Design

Start your log cabin design by determining the outer dimensions of the lodge. Make this assessment based on the existing lumber supply, specifically the length of the available logs you have at your disposal. Log cabin kits come with a log cabin blueprints, so you can use that, if you have the plans or a friend who used a kit.

Find Log Cabin Real Estate

When finding the plot of land on which to build your log cabin, find land that is level, but which drains well. This means finding a strip of land that is slightly elevated from the land surrounding it, but which is level in and of itself.

You can choose land with underbrush, rocks and trees on it, though you’ll need to remove these impediments, if you do. Visualize the land without the obstructions, if you have trouble finding flat land that fits the bill, but isn’t covered with trees.

Prepare the Logs

Preparing logs for construction means you have to remove the bark and branches from the logs, as well as the knots. Once you have this cut, cut and shape the end of the logs to your specifications. Don’t prepare more log material than you need, because that’s both a lot of extra work and a drain on resources.

Consult your plans to know how many logs you need to prepare.

Digging the Post Holes – Know the Frost Line

How to Build a Log Cabin from Scratch

How to Build a Log Cabin from Scratch

Learn the frost line for your region, so you can place postholes beneath the frost line. If you don’t, frost heaving can occur when the ground gets cold, moving the foundation of your log cabin and causing structural instability and damage. Most houses have the foundation and water lines underneath the frost line.

The frost line can change significantly from one region to the next. For instance, the frost line in the northern section of Minnesota is 5′, while it’s only 3.5′ in the southern sections.

Placing Log Posts – Log Cabin Foundation

Install your log posts in the holes, setting them in place with reinforced concrete. Next, add the main floor beams and joists in your log cabin. Once joists are in place, place playwood or wooden panels on top of them, to serve as the floor of your log cabin.

Prepare Logs for Wall Construction

You’ll build the walls of the log cabin next. When you get to this stage, cut notches in the logs, so the logs fit together and give the structure stability. These should fit together as snug as you can make them.

When building this section of your log home, leave spaces specifically for your doors and windows. Take this into account when preparing your logs beforehand.

Building a Second Story

To build a second story or supports for your roof, set loft supports at ceiling height. You’ll need to cut additional holes in the wall logs, if this is your intention.

Gables and Purlins

Build gables up to the height of the ridge pole, which is the highest portion of your cabin. Be careful when you building the center roof support structure, though, because this is the most dangerous section of the building project.

Purlins – Purlins are the structural support that cross the loft space of the log cabin.
Gables – The verticle part of the roof. Wall extensions that add support to the roof and building structure.

Roofing the Log Cabin

To build a roof on a log cabin, you need to frame out the roof. This process of determining gradient and pitch is not entirely different than what we told you about in “How to Build a Roof” (, though a log cabin roof is more rudimentary than modern house roofs.

Frame out your log cabin roof using prepared lumber – not the standard logs you’ve used to this point. Use plywood to build the underside of your roof, while adding tin sheets on the top. You can buy tin sheeting at both your standard lumber yards and military surplus stores.

Install Windows, Chimneys and Stairs

Once you have the major components of your log cabin built, install the windows. Then built chimneys, doors and chimneys to the cabin.

Now that you have a log cabin built, it’s time to decorate the cabin. Bring in the wife or girlfriend to add a woman’s touch, or fit out your hunting lodge or summer cabin with fur carpets, hunting trophies and rugged outdoors relics.

Building Log Cabins from Scratch

Learning how to build a log cabin from scratch is more complicated than building a lodge from a log cabin kit, but you can regale your friends with all kinds of stories about the building process. If all of this sounds like a little too “backwoods” for you, buy a log cabin building kit and have your building supplies tailor made for you.

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