How to Build a Log Cabin for Less

Lawrence Goldsmith shares his personal experience and tips for how to build a log cabin. Originally titled "My $25 Log Cabin" in the May/June 1970 issue of Mother Earth News.

| May/June 1970

There is no need to think in terms of a multi-thousand dollar expense for a house. A warm cozy log cabin can be built easily in a few months time for a cost of under $100. My 12-by-12 log cabin at the Heathcote Community took 2 1/2 months and $25 to build. If I had had more knowledge or prior skill the construction would have taken less time and the cabin could have been larger. As it is, the house is both aesthetic and functional and should stand a number of years with only minor repairs.

Since you will probably cut down the trees you use, you should consider a site close to your source of wood. Other things to consider in choosing a site are drainage, flooding of nearby creeks, sources of water, availability of electricity (we don't have any) and distance for supplies to be carried. You should clear dead trees from near the site and not build too close to any live trees.

Your tools are a matter of choice. I found that a sharp axe beats a poorly running chain saw, but a good gas driven, light weight chain saw saves time and effort. Basic tools should include an axe, sharpening stone, assorted nails, hand saws, drill, tape measures, carpenter's square, shovel, level and plumb line. You can improvise a jar of water and a string with a weight on it for a level and plumb line.

Available scrap or low cost used lumber often determine what supplies you should purchase and it wouldn't be a bad idea to gather much of this, including used doors and windows, beforehand. My roof is made entirely from used doors and windows and whatever scrap lumber I couldn't use was quickly consumed as winter firewood. Good sources of free wood include town dumps, construction sites, and barns or buildings that are being torn down. You should also be looking for a piece of metal to go under your cast iron stove. I bought my stove for $4 at a junk yard but don't feel bad if you have to spend up to $35 for one.

Because of our interest in ecology, we do not cut any live trees at Heathcote. Standing dead trees in good condition are excellent to use and there is no problem of live logs shrinking while they are drying. Another method, if you have time, is to season live trees for six or more months.

Almost any type of wood can be used if you have a high and dry foundation, but you may want to avoid aspen, basswood, buckeye, cottonwood, poplar, and willow. Strip the bark to protect against insects and rot and you are ready to build.

9/19/2007 9:27:46 AM

i am attemping to build a log caben on 5 acres of land.i am only 13 but i helped my dad build our house.we get a snow level 4 inchs a year good ideas.wish me luck!

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