A Practical Log Cabin Design

Trooper Tom Emonds shares information and a cost chart on his low-cost, practical two-floor log cabin design.

| November/December 1986

Trooper Tom Emonds uses his practical log cabin design to build low-cost log cabins for $5,000. 

A Practical Log Cabin Design

Now that you've seen what can happen when you let a chain saw run amok when building log cabins, I'd like to talk about a more practical log cabin design. I've built two of these log cabins as rentals, and they're perhaps the most efficient (in terms of materials and space) and practical I've done. With no roof or floor insulation, they stay comfortable with one woodstove in 20 degrees Fahrenheit weather. My tenants seem to be very pleased with them. (See the image gallery for a chart of costs for the log cabin design).

I used pier foundations: pyramids of rock and mortar about 2 feet high with pieces of rebar sticking out the top to pin the sill logs. (Keeping the logs at least 14 inches away from the ground is the most important way to make a log house last.) The piers are about 3 feet across at the base and are spaced 6' apart. I just scraped away the organic layer of soil and laid the piers right on the subsoil.

Technically, both of these houses are mobile homes: They have no permanent foundations and could be moved with a D-9 Caterpillar. Septic and building permits for mobile homes are about $1,000 cheaper than those for "permanent" structures, at least in my part of the country, and I saved $1,800 per building over a solid-concrete foundation.

All of the logs are joined at the ends with half-round notches, which are the easiest and most effective type I've tried. Each joint is spiked, and the logs are pinned with 1/2 inch water pipe on each side of a window or door.

The floor joists are logs with one face cut flat, and I used 2 by 6 tongue-and-groove (T&G) boards for all the flooring. I arranged the joists so that I could use odd-length pieces of T&G, which the mill sold me for quite a bit less than premium 8 foot, 12 foot, and 16 foot boards.

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