A $90 Navajo Hogan Made of Logs

Two Oregon homesteaders parlayed a little pioneer spirit and a lot of ingenuity into a Navajo hogan made of logs.

| March/April 1981

  • 068 navajo hogan
    Positioned on a hillside, the author's Navajo hogan was built on an octagonal floor plan.

  • 068 navajo hogan

Long before we finally bought our 40 acres in the Oregon woods, my wife and I were convinced that a Navajo hogan would be close to the ideal home for us. Such structures are round, for maximum use of available floor space, and they have the added advantages of vertical walls. Better yet, the building site we selected on our new property was on a hillside and would allow us to incorporate a half-basement into the home without digging!

We began our "home in the round" by drawing a 24-foot circle and digging eight equally spaced post holes around its circumference. Then we searched the forest for supports and ceiling poles and selected fallen rot-free trunks as well as still solid, but dead, standing trees.

Next, we determined the length of our foundation columns by adding our planned 7 1/2-foot ceiling height to the distance the slope would drop for each post. These eight upright pillars—which formed the supports for the floor, walls, and roof—were set in cement (though we now believe gravel would have better preserved the wood and, because of this, might have been a superior material for the purpose).

To begin the floor, we started at the shortest vertical post and—using a level—installed a horizontal ring of poles. Then, with a thick foundation log in the center of the interior space, we filled in the floor stringers (largely made of cut timber from an old barn) in a spider web fashion. We wanted to provide some shade for our future labors, so we decided to put up the roof next. Our design, we think, is unique. Like the traditional hogan's roof, it uses no center supports, but we also believe that it uses less material.

To start the roof, we nailed poles between the tops of the foundation posts to form an octagonal ring and continued upward from there ... making each ring smaller and higher than the last. Every new circle was placed in such a way that its poles would start and end near the centers of the timbers in the previous ring. (And—to keep the logs from rolling—we flattened their ends with an axe.)

As soon as it was feasible, we switched from octagonal to square "rings." (Otherwise, the roof would have turned into a "smoke stack.") When we reached about a four-foot square, we installed a trap door, and covered the logs with old barn siding.

8/13/2018 9:46:35 PM

Cute! I like the innovative vertical approach just as much as the traditional horizontal log placements. Additionally the Navajo hogan are closer to the ground as the tribe live in the desert plains area which does not have the same geographical layout as northern states but I agree we need more pictures! How is life in the structure? What is the inside like?

1/3/2008 9:06:18 PM

Very nice,though more photos would have been nice.

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