Build a Log Cabin for $100

Here's how an Oregon couple combined love of the land, native materials, traditional hand tools, and hard work to build a log cabin for $100.


| May/June 1981



069 build a log cabinn 5 main view

The author and his wife chose to build a log cabin following the Norwegian "stabbur" design: raised foundation, small windows, low door, and wide eaves.


PHOTO: BILL SULLIVAN

Living in a cozy little cabin nestled in the woods is part and parcel of the classic Thoreau-inspired lifestyle most folks dream of now and then. But the romantic vision of log-home life is shattered — for many people — by the sheer cost of such structures, which can be as high as that of equivalent conventional homes.

That doesn't have to be the case, however. My wife and I kept down the cash outlay for our “Walden” by gathering most of the materials from the land where our house was to stand, and then building it ourselves, using only hand tools. As a result, our small home cost us only about $100 to construct … and the project was so simple that we’re convinced anyone with access to a few basic implements and a good supply of timber could build a log cabin too.

First Steps

One of the ways in which we kept our expenses down was to choose an uncomplicated design for our cabin. After researching several log house styles, we decided to build a home patterned after the Norwegian stabbur, which is a storehouse built on a raised foundation of pillars or stilts. A traditional stabbur also features extra-wide eaves, which repel rain and snow; small windows and a low door, which help reduce heat loss; and an upstairs loft, which serves to nearly double the available floor space.

The size of our cabin was limited more by our stamina than by the design. We didn’t want to have to deal with logs any longer than 16 feet, so our home measures 10 feet by 13 feet inside. Creative planning and the careful placement of doors could allow a much larger house to be built, but I always encourage first-timers to think small (and then possibly add on needed space later).

When our plans were drawn up, we chose a cleared and level site with nearby water, pitched a couple of large tents for temporary shelter, and packed in enough flour and beans to sustain us during a summer of hard work. While my father — who had volunteered to help during his vacation — worked on our outhouse, I marked the borders of the cabin’s foundation with stakes and string. Next, I dug six holes, three on each side, to a depth of 2 1/2 feet, right at the wall line of the cabin, and hauled in 20 wheelbarrowfuls of large, flat rocks that we’d gathered on the property. Using four bags of mortar mix, I made sturdy cement-and-stone piers in each of the holes, extending the supports 18 inches above ground level. After the extra spaces in the openings were packed with gravel, I topped the “stilts” with large plates of sheet metal to keep termites and small rodents out of the cabin.

Log Foraging

Next on our agenda was the exciting — and often backbreaking — task of finding, cutting, and hauling in the logs that would soon become the walls of our home. We selected trees from our dense second-growth forest which needed thinning. Most of the conifers we earmarked for our dwelling measured only about seven to nine inches in diameter and thus were too small to have commercial value. Working together, my wife and I felled each tree using a 5-foot crosscut saw and then removed the limbs. Then, with an axe or a hardwood barking spud (a 2-foot-long stick with a wedge-shaped tip) we stripped the bark off each trunk. We found that it was better to peel the logs immediately, because if the bark was left on the trunk for more than a few days, it would adhere to the dead tree and have to be laboriously whittled away with a drawknife.

godsgirl
6/4/2016 1:50:04 PM

Great job and details. If i had a mate, I think I'd be able to do this myself with your explanation. It has been a few years since your article, did you ever add a room? if so, do you have more details? Is there anything you would change? Thanks for sharing.


james
4/2/2015 4:57:47 PM

I think it's awesome that you built your own home....however, building a house by myself is far more work than I would want to do...Yes I would love to have a log cabin home...yes I would love to live the life of a hermit....but at my age, and with my poor health, basically, I'm just waiting for the day GOD calls me home.


freelife101
9/8/2014 2:26:43 PM

In 6 months with a few friends i built my 1000 sq ft log cabin for around 600$ in materials this book helped me do it copy the link below http://goo.gl/KOjsmf


4evrmoi
8/9/2014 1:23:40 PM

Have a question; Once upon a time, there was a company who offered that if you use your log-house to advertise, you could build your own log-house at X-amount of dollars (a very minimal amount when "building" a house is usually, monumental!). Does anyone know if such a "deal" or company still exists? "Thanks"!


canadabound
11/20/2013 10:09:21 AM

Sir, do you happen to have any pics of the actual construction???


nugguh
10/25/2013 11:07:58 AM

Nugguh go to wowomg.com. It helps with these types of things.


hood13
8/31/2013 6:48:22 PM

I DESPARATELY need info on how to find/buy land to build a cabin, or how to go about it in general. I'd be more than appreciative if someone would please email me to guide me in the right direction. Thanks!! Hood112297@hotmail.com


travis isensee
3/21/2013 12:36:26 AM

:)))))))) Fantastic


obearlady olson
6/11/2012 9:30:16 PM

like to see butter picture on this or step by pictures on the steps of this sounds like fun or would i say work


ben_14
8/3/2009 8:04:34 PM

This story has further inspired me to build my own cabin, "i think i will start tomorrow" Thank you


dwayne_1
10/20/2008 1:28:18 PM

i think this is great and i would really like to do it someday, for sure.


summer_1
10/10/2008 11:26:32 PM

very neat little cabin






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