If you’re in search of a log cabin but have no idea where to start, you’re in the right place. WhatShed’s Log Cabin Buying Guide is full of useful information to help you make that often difficult decision.
You might have already started looking at log cabins and garden buildings, in which case you’ll know there’s a huge number of models from numerous manufacturers available. With so much choice, it’s first important to consider why you even want a log cabin – what do you plan on doing with your new space? If it’s intended as storage for your car, it will, of course, benefit from different design choices than if you imagined a cosy year-round chill-out space.
In this log cabin buying guide, we’ll address all aspects of the buying process. We start with necessary preparation and important pre-purchase considerations, before moving onto the various building techniques used and stylistic choices made by the top manufacturers. We conclude with some tips to help you keep your new garden recluse in perfect condition long into the future.
- Things to Know Before Buying Your Log Cabin
- How Log Cabins Are Built
- Choosing Your Cabin
- Looking After Log Cabins
Things to know Before Buying Your Log Cabin
Costing several hundred to multiple thousand pounds, log cabins are up there with the most expensive garden accessories. Buying one is, therefore, not a decision we advise rushing into. With careful consideration of the following points, you will not only end up with a log cabin that fits your lifestyle perfectly but will continue to do so for many years to come.
Why Do You Want a Log Cabin?
A log cabin in your garden is a great, cost efficient way to increase your living space without the often arduous undertaking of a house extension. A well-crafted, tasteful model will also add value to your home and enhance the outdoor space surrounding it.
Although these are great reasons to buy, you need to be more specific in your thinking. Think about what you want to actually use the space for.
These days, there are loads of different styles and design features to choose from. It’s therefore crucial to know exactly why you even want it in the first place. How will you use your new garden hideaway?
To help you get a solid idea, we’ve listed the most common uses of large garden buildings:
- Garden office.
- Guest room.
- Hobby room.
- Home bar.
- Pool house.
Knowing what you want to use your building for right from the get go will help you hone in on that perfect log cabin all the more quickly. Also remember, with a bit of careful planning, your garden cabin can easily represent more than one of the above choices. For example, a summer house can easily double as a guest room or home office.
Other choices are much more limited in their versatility. It would take more than a bit of creative furniture reorganisation to transform your garage into a playroom or garden pool house!
Once you have a better idea of what you’re going to use the building for, you’ll be much better positioned to address the varied design choices on the specific structures on the market today.
Where Will You Build Your Log Cabin?
If you’re lucky enough to have a huge garden or plot of land, deciding where you want to build your new garden retreat is all important. Outside of planning permission guidelines, there are no hard and fast rules about the position of your new build. That said, careful positioning can enhance both the lifespan and functionality of the space.
A Room With a View?
Since their most common usage is relaxing, many folks want their log cabins to look out over a particularly attractive area in their garden. Think about the direction your doors and windows will eventually face and plan accordingly.
Shade Versus Sunlight?
Like many choices in the garden log cabin construction process, whether you decide to position your new building in full glare of the sun or not will be a matter of personal preference. If you dream of relaxing on your new summer house’s veranda, you are obviously not going to want it built in the shade of your house or a big tree. On the other hand, if you’re constructing a home gym, you might relish that same shade.
Be aware that the objects creating shade in your garden can have implications for your log cabin. Firstly, if you intend to use shade created by your home, planning regulations will limit the eventual height of your build (more on this below). Meanwhile, if you plan to take advantage of a tree’s shadow to cool your space, be aware that falling limbs and bird droppings will cause damage to the structure.
Whilst requirements vary from customer to customer, these days we find, buyers generally want electricity running to their garden buildings. Again, your own requirements will dictate your choice. For example, a new garden office would be pretty useless without power!
If electricity is a must have addition to your garden escape, we recommend choosing a site close to your property or another power supply. You will, of course, need to consult a qualified electrician before you start messing around with any live wires!
A Solid Base
Whether it’s going to be a chic summerhouse, burly workout zone, or rugged garden workshop, your log cabin is going to be heavier than a standard shed. It’s therefore crucial that you build a solid base for the structure.
Manufacturers recommend using at least a paved area as a base for your cabin. However, for applications involving particularly heavy items (think vehicles and gym equipment), they recommend a concreted area.
Bases should be completely level, or as near-to as possible. Don’t just guess it “by eye”. Use a spirit level and aim to make a perfect, level area. Also, start with a relatively flat piece of land so as to reduce work for yourself.
Water is the natural enemy of garden buildings. Avoiding building your base on an area of your garden prone to damp or flooding will help to reduce the chance that your structure will rot from beneath.
Remember, it’s often difficult to make changes to a base at a later date. Measure everything twice and ensure you fully understand the manufacturer’s dimensions. This guide features more information about the sizing of different buildings below.
It’s important to incorporate some space around a log cabin for maintenance. We recommend positioning it at least three feet from any other objects in your garden. This will give you space to work in when you need to add a coat of treatment or to replace any parts that have degraded over time.
How Big Will your Log Cabin Be?
The amount of land you have for your cabin, your own budget, and in some cases, a requirement of planning permission, will physically limit the size of your new structure. Unfortunately, different manufacturers will often supply their measurements in different ways. This can lead to confusion amongst customers.
Some will provide internal measurements and others external. Meanwhile, others might give length and width measurements based on the size of the roof, which may or may not come with a considerable overhang.
It’s vital that you understand exactly what each manufacturer’s measurements refer to before you start any work – especially building a base in your garden. Once constructed, the foundations for your cabin can be very difficult to alter!
If you’re at all in doubt, just send a message to a manufacturers’ support email address. Most list this on their website.
Whilst most log cabins do not require planning permission, there are some exceptions to this rule. Customers should use the following as a guide. Be aware that regulations are subject to change and vary in different areas.
Planning regulations apply in the following cases if:
- The structure is more than 2.5 meters tall and is less than two metres from one of your property’s boundary walls.
- It’s internal dimensions are over 30m square.
- It will take up more than half the land around your property.
- Someone will live in the structure.
- Your property is in an Area of Outstanding National Beauty or is a listed building.
- If the structure is in front of your home, facing a road.
These are the main points to consider when planning a major structure in your garden. However, with regulations subject to change, it is always best to check the latest on the UK government’s website prior to any purchase.
If you’re on a tighter budget, reducing the size of the structure might be the best way to immediately drop its overall cost. There are lots of other ways to make your budget go further too. This log cabin buying guide will address many of them in subsequent sections. However, when making savings on building techniques or materials, some compromise in overall quality is to be expected.
If you really want the best in quality on a budget, we advise opting for a slightly smaller garden cabin with all the bespoke finishing touches seen on manufacturers’ flagship ranges.
How Log Cabins Are Built
Log Cabin Walls
Unlike sheds, which are constructed using framework and external cladding, log cabins are made from long timber lengths that slot together. The material, dimensions, and treatment of the logs will all have a direct impact on both the cost and the longevity of your garden building.
When shopping for a cabin for your garden, it’s essential that you pay close attention to the type of timber used. You really want a slow grown variety such as European red wood. If designs use logs from faster growing varieties, such as Baltic white, they are generally more prone to warping and splitting.
You should also look out for wood sourcing certifications. The FSC or PEFC symbol will indicate that the manufacturer sourced their timber from sustainable forests.
Logs will come in a variety of thicknesses. These range from about 19mm right up to 70mm. Again, your intended use of your garden cabin will dictate which you should opt for. If it’s strictly a summer house or if space is a deciding factor, a thinner log will suffice. However, for year round usability and a real built-to-last feel, we recommend 44mm and above.
The floor of your log cabin will be constructed on top of a framework of bearers. This provides an essential gap between the floor itself and a potentially damp base.
Floors in cabins are usually constructed using timber boards that slot together. Pay attention to the method used to join boards together. Tongue and groove connected floor boarding will generally provide the most longevity, the smoothest finish, and be the sturdiest underfoot.
Flooring is another design process decision that you will want to make after considering what you will use the cabin for. For more industrial uses – home gym, garage, workshop – always consider a thicker than standard flooring.
Log Cabin Roofs
Your cabin’s roof will likely feature similar materials and construction methods as the floor. Instead of bearers, the boards will sit on a framework of rafters and purlins. Like with flooring, consider the thickness of the boarding used and look for any special treatments making either boards or purlins more weather-resistant.
The roof of your new cabin will also need greater protection from the elements than your floor. There are different kinds of coverings available from most leading manufacturers.
WhatShed top tip: Be sure to check that your chosen manufacturer does indeed supply a covering as part of the quoted price. Some do not!
Roof felt – Felt is most manufacturers’ entry level roofing product. Roof felt is usually a bitumen layer with a fiberglass finish. Pay attention to the thickness of felt, as well as the materials used. The products manufacturers carry will often vary dramatically in quality.
Shingles – Shingles provide additional weather resistance and durability thanks to an additional layer of fibreglass and bitumen tiling. Available in a range of colours, they can also add a touch of style to the build.
EPDM – This extra durable roofing material is the ultimate in weather resistance. Some manufacturers estimate that it will last more than three times as long as either shingles or standard felt. EPDM is a synthetic rubber covering. Although it’s the toughest option available from most garden building companies, it really doesn’t have the same visual appeal as shingles.
Choosing Your Cabin
Garden buildings come in loads of different shapes and sizes. Once you know what you want from your cabin, your budget, the space you have to work with, and have a better idea of construction material and methods, you’re ready to consider the type of structure you want to build.
Classic Log Cabins
Your classic garden cabin will be four walls and an apex roof. Most log cabin manufacturers sell a variety of classic cabins in a range of sizes. The main doors will usually be at the front of the building, although some feature side doors too.
Corner Log Cabins
Corner cabins are designed to make the most use of a smaller garden. They sit neatly in a corner and feature a fifth wall, usually with doors, bisecting their square or rectangular design. Other common corner designs are octagonal or heptagonal.
Many log cabins are a simple single room inside. However, some models make use of partition walls to bring greater utility to the space.
Some partition walls will create functional storage areas, whereas others will simply divide a cabin. In the latter case, the wall creates two or more similar rooms that can be used for different purposes.
Types of Log Cabin Roofs
Different roofing designs can give a log cabin a real “wow” factor. However, the roof isn’t just a stylistic consideration.The purpose of your cabin, as well as the space it will occupy, will be important in determining which roof design you opt for.
Apex: This roof is the classic “A”-shaped design. Two sloping roof panels meet at the centre of the cabin. These designs offer not only great visual appeal but also potential storage space in the ceiling. However, they are typically the tallest style available.
Reverse-apex: The same as the apex only flipped 90 degrees. This type of roof works well on long thin cabins.
Flat or Pent: These two styles consist of a single panel only. The flat panel roof will have a very slight gradient to it to allow rainwater to run off. Meanwhile, the pent will have a much more pronounced gradient. These two styles are excellent for those working with space or budget constraints.
Off-set Apex: This style is great for those who can’t decide between a pent and apex design. Here the ridge is not down the centre as with the apex. Instead, it is off-set giving the additional headroom of a pent but still retaining some style.
Split Level: A split level roof will feature two panels. However, unlike an apex, the two panels don’t meet at the same height in the middle. Instead, they are connected using a section of wall. Manufacturers may include an additional window on a split level design.
Additional Structural Considerations
Manufacturers create their cabins with loads of different external features. Some are integral to a given design and customers can choose to include others for an additional cost.
It’s common to see manufacturers offer the following as additional design choices:
- Gazebo or other outside sitting areas.
- Play areas (slides, swings, climbing frames).
- Garage area.
Log Cabin Windows
Quality windows provide a cabin with both style and functionality. As with many considerations in the cabin buying process, there are no shortage of options.
Manufacturers will usually carry both glass and non-glass glazing solutions.
Glass windows are the most popular choice amongst most owners and will often come in single, double glazed, and even triple glazed options. It’s important to pay attention to the thickness of the sheets used. For adequate safety and insulation we recommend 3mm or higher.
Glass generally offers much better heat retention and results in a much more insulated space within the building. However, some uses suit a non-glass alternative more. If you plan to let your children use the space as a playroom, styrene or similar might represent a better glazing option.
Log Cabin Doors
As the main point of access to your building, doors are all important. Like just about every other consideration, the cabin’s eventual use will influence your choice here. Think about how you want to access the space and also the kinds of furniture or equipment it will house.
Also consider doors from a security perspective. If your plan was to have a full blown recording studio in your garden, a solid door with multiple locking systems would be preferable to boutique, glass-panelled double doors, for example.
For the security conscious, consider the additional measures offered by many manufacturers. Depending on your plans for your garden building, you might want to add an alarm, camera system, and even security door bolts.
Log Cabin Delivery and Installation
Manufacturers will generally create their log cabin designs to be as simple as possible. For those with a bit of DIY experience, the process should be fairly easy. As well as a couple of helpers, you will likely need the following:
- Spirit level.
- Electric screwdriver.
- Utility knife.
- Silicone sealant and applicator.
That said, many companies understand that would-be cabin owners may suffer from mobility issues, time constraints, or other reasons why they can’t construct the cabin themselves. They will often provide a construction service for an additional fee.
Whether you’re planning on building your log cabin yourself or not, remember that you will also need transportation for the components. Check whether the manufacturer includes delivery within the price.
We always recommend getting professional delivery of garden building materials. Log cabins are built primarily using lengthy wooden timber pieces. You want to start construction with materials in perfect condition. Damage to a log in the process of transport can result in an inferior end product or re-delivery of a structural component.
Looking After Log Cabins
Treatment of Log Cabins
If you want your log cabin to stand for many years to come, it’s important that you commit to regularly treating it with a suitable oil-based product. Many manufacturers will carry such wood preservers and will not honour a warranty unless a strict treatment schedule is adhered to.
Wood preservers can be either clear or tinted. In addition to many natural colours, you can add a touch of style to your garden hideaway with a brighter choice.
When treating log cabins, it’s important to get the product into every little corner. Pay attention to areas that might be out of sight. A common mistake many owners make is ignoring the underside of the floor boards, for example.
WhatShed Tip: Always wait until construction is complete before the initial treatment! This creates a much cleaner fit between each log. The treatment protects the joint when applied post-construction.
You should aim to apply treatment as soon as possible after first construction. You should periodically treat it again in accordance with the instructions on the product. Most recommend once a year.
As well as treatment, log cabins benefit from periodic maintenance. The timber used throughout construction is porous and, as a natural product, it will expand and contract over the years. Over time, you might find that certain design features become misaligned. You should allow the structure to breathe every few years. Remove door frames, window frames, and fascia boarding to let the building relax. You can then make any necessary adjustments before putting everything back together.
You should be sure to clean any leaf debris from the roofing or guttering before it builds up. Such plant matter will become waterlogged, resulting in greater wear on the materials beneath.