How to Build A Log Cabin

Log cabin homes are amazing. Made of wood and often nestled in the middle of nature, they are a wonder to behold. They come with all the creature comforts of home, including state of the art kitchens, windows that let in lots of light, and so many other things we often take for granted.

It is no surprise that log cabin homes of today are made using technology, manufacturing, and other advanced methods to make the process simpler and cost efficient. But have you ever wondered how to build a log cabin on your own? What would it be like, look like, feel like, and so much more are many things we often wonder when we think of what it takes to build a log cabin home. We thought it would be fun to share a little more about how to build a log cabin home the old fashioned way so you can gain a greater perspective and appreciation for the log cabin home you have today.

One important note before we delve into things. We are discussing how log cabin homes were built during the times America was expanding west. You can still build a log cabin home today, and if you want to learn how to, you can use this great resource. In fact, it even gives you information on how to purchase your log cabin kit. Yes, that is a real kit. And we would be happy to assist you along the way at Jaworski Coatings. From finishing the wood to inspecting the completed house to maintaining it, we can ensure what you build will last for years. Now, on to a little of how the settlers that helped expand America built their log cabins.


When settlers were building their homes, it was not to have something cool to relax in on vacation. They were building it because no one else could, and it was their home and place of survival. Building a log cabin home would have been back breaking work, and it only goes to show the drive these pioneers had that helped make America what it is today. Below are the steps that would take and tools they would have used.


Below are the tools you would have used. You may not recognize some of them as they are not common anymore. After the tools are the steps you would take if you were building a log cabin home as the settlers did. Due to modern technology, it would be misguided not to use some electronic items when building. However, settlers would not have had access to this.

1. A crosscut saw to fell the trees, cut your lengths and make any straight cuts.
2. An axe for hundreds of jobs.
3. A two-person log carrier, because carrying a 20-foot long log up a hill can be challenging.
4. A draw knife or barking spud to debark the logs.
5. A peavey to roll the logs into position.
6. An adze to start most of your notches, smooth limb stubs and knots.
7. A hand drill and a 20-inch drill bit so you can pin the logs together at the corners if you choose to build that way.
8. A broad axe is likely the most useful tool you will have. Use it to smooth and fit notches, shape any part of any log, and more.
9. A mallet or sledgehammer to drive corners together and set corner pins.

Pick Your Land

In the settlers day, they may not have always had the premier pick of the land. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed people, including free slaves to put in to get 160 acres of land for free. About 1.6 million claims were made according to the History Channel. While settlers may not have had a choice of their land, they kept some things in mind when placing the cabin on the land. One consideration was facing the cabin facing south so they would get the sun shining in and warm it up, avoid snow drifts, and know which way was which.

Pick Your Wood

Settlers would have had to choose based on what was around, or they were willing to travel to get, but generally many woods were suitable for use to build the cabin. Spruce, Tamarack, and Pine were among the options. Other considerations such as taper and being able to age the wood may have come into play. But considering this was the place that settlers would live, they often did not have time to wait two years for the wood to dry to avoid cracking and other issues.

Debark The Logs

The next step the settlers would have taken would be taking the bark off the tree. The trees could be debarked where they fell or back at the build site. This is an important step to ensure the wood is smooth as can be and all bugs and other obstacles are removed.

Building The Foundation

This would encompass one of two options. The first would be to build stone walls at 4 to 6-foot intervals. You would do this along with the prepared and packed dirt within the outer walls. The other option is using small spot pillars. Then there would be the matter of where the fireplace would go because you would build up extra flooring around it. Consider you have no computers and this is not an exercise in precision.

Sub Flooring and Walls

The next step in the process would have been to place the sub flooring. This meant turning the logs into wood boards. You would then want to raise the side walls. This meant fitting logs on top of logs much like with log cabin toys where there were notches at the end. This would involve some trial and error to get the logs to align properly. And without caulking and insulation, you would use mud and other substances to fill in between the logs to keep things in and out of the cabin.

Build the Fireplace and Roof

Next, you would build up the chimney. You would build it and seal it. Then you would put the roof up. This can get technical, so we will not go into much detail. But this involved joining the side walls with the roofing at a certain angle. Most roofs were rectangular too.

Window Frames, Doors, Flooring, and Clean and Protection

The finishing touches would be to fit the windows into the spaces set for them with some handy work and hammering. Then you would frame the doors. Lastly, you would sand the floor to finish it or place something else like stone down. After all the work is done, it would be time to clean the home with a long handled brush. This would remove dirt and debris.

Keep in mind that this is a very simplified version of what would have been done to build a log cabin home the old fashioned way. Remember that logs would be hauled by cart and mule or horse, and everything was done manually and with a ton of elbow grease. There was nothing easy about this endeavor. And the homes, once they were done were very simple in nature. They were usually one room with a stove of some kind, a bed or two and some other minor items. Imagine though, the feeling of owning the land outright and not having a 15 or 30-year mortgage to pay for your home. It is hard to imagine, but this was a very different way of life. To see what building a log cabin home from scratch looks like, watch this video.

We hope this gives you a little more of an appreciation for the log cabin home you have. With that in mind, it is important to keep your home well maintained. Feel free to contact us for a free inspection or just to learn more about log cabin home maintenance and restoration. Also, note that in no way is this post meant to be a guide to encourage you to go out and build your log cabin home.

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