It is my dream to build a small cabin (maybe 800-1100 sq feet) using logs that I can cut down and hand carry with my wife. I saw one Mountain Men episode where Marty made a "trapper's cabin" without letting the logs sit for a year. He cut them down and threw them right on on the structure. He built the entire home, which was small, by himself in one month. He even left the bark on the one side of them that would be facing the elements. Basically, I want to do the same thing, but probably on a concrete foundation. Ideally I would like to skip even the concrete foundation too.
I understand the logs shrink and, therefore, would probably require me to give windows and doors a good think. I guess my question is this. If I build a cabin like Marty did (without letting the logs dry), what are the risks of that? Furthermore, can I mitagate those risks by not having windows for a year while the logs dry out or can I put small windows in with big gaps between the logs and the windows to allow for shrinkage? It looked like Marty added about 1-2 inches of gap between his windows and the logs to allow for shrinkage. We understand the cabin would be super rustic, which is fine.
Our goal is to live as cheaply and tiny as possible. We would probably get a well and septic tanks for the home, but everything else we would like to be comfortable, buy very basic so I can do it myself within a couple months.
Please help! I am so excited to do a build, but have little experience. I am not going to build something complex that takes years. I want to get a chainsaw and start cracking quickly. Maybe finish it in a summer? If I would build a cabin like this, how long would it last?
Thanks for the reply Raymond!
Marty looked super happy and he built it without his wife! I'm not trying to create the taj mahal here. I'm trying to create, possibly, more of a social experiment on living small and an easy build.
How did all the settlers get away with it? Not saying you aren't right, just trying to put it all together.
As Thoreau wrote, we often "...make the solution more complicated than the problem."
Thanks for the reply!
Check Noah Bradleys site out handmadehouses.com
My wife and I built our litle single pen log home out of logs we had on pur property and also reclaimed. the logs are flat hewn with smaller chink joints (around 2-2 1/2") We did it all ourselves by hand. We did stick framed bump offs and also a kneewall for a second floor bedroom. It gave us about 770 sq. ft. Then we built the barn addition and the log section is now our master. We also built our own foundation under the barn addition. We only have a crawl space with a rat slab. We did slip form stone and concrete walls (I think it was 110 feet of it). The form work plywood I then reused for roof sheathing. A lot of work, but can be done. :)
Did you guys let the logs cure for a year or season or did you cut them down and put them right onto the build the same day? It looks like Marty didn't let his logs sit at all in this video. He just cuts them and uses a mill to square them off on three sides and puts it on the structure.
Here is his cabin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkwlBX9Dy2w
Thanks for your reply! How much did it all cost for you guys? How long did it take?
Do you have any pictures you can share?
I have seen Martys cabin on the show.
We did a more traditional "V" or steeple notched corner style log home (my wife hand chiseled them). I don't like Martys corner post and spike methid of construction. It might be ok for a trapper camp, but not a log home.
A lot of our logs were 60 years or more old, and since we used white cedar, the fresh cut logs don't shrink as much as other species of wood.
I cheated a bit (even though I have a substancial broad axe), and used an inexpensive harbor freight beam maker for my chainsaw, and flat sawed both sides of the log semi flat, then finished hewed them with a lipped or ships builders adz.
We lived in a tent from spring until summer. We were pushed for time. In retrospect I wish I had bult a small barn or shed, and we could have set up in their as living quarters. Prior to this I had worked on about 25% of the logs that were reclaimed and prepared them.
The log work is slow and patient, but our basic log pen was only 16' x 24'...the longest logs being about 26-27' long. It took until about december of that year to get the basic logs up, all the framing and the roof shingled. But we had experience already because this was the third place we have built ourselves. The actual logs cost nothing (since most were on my property already). We hired someone to do the walk out basement (even though small it was still about 9K). and I had accumulated from a local sawmill, over the years many beams and such and also from dismantling buildings and salvaging. I used these beams for floor joists etc. We probably had about 35K in materials in our first cabin. Hardware is expensive. We are "pay as we go" people. We build smaller and add on later (always design so you can add on if you want too).
Its been 5 1/2 years and we are still working on our place, but we are just about done. I am semi retired so I can put a lot of time into it (like hand building the kitchen cabs etc.). Its not a job for people who don't want to break their finger nails, and who want "everything now" types. Its like baby steps. You take it one step at a time or else you get overwhelmed and cannot do anything. One baby step at a time.
We made our own lifting devices, using manual boat winch (like haborfreight sells) and log poles, snatch blocks, and cables, cordwood log rollers to roll logs out of the woods.
Here are a couple pics. The first one is where we were in October the first year. I was hustling to get the roof on before winter snows, and luckily we had a very mild winter. We now have what I call the barn addition off the side of this cabin. This is where I made the kitchen and living room. It has trusses with iron plates and internal connectors and a loft. Small one car attached garage.
I am very grateful for your replies! Your home looks awesome! For us, right now, I think we DO want something that looks more like Marty's cabin. It is not that Marty's cabin looks better. Yours looks much better! It's that Marty built his Cabin in a couple months. That is what is so appealing to me. He cut down the logs and built his cabin in two months. I am okay to sacrifice aesthetics for quickness, so long as the home will last for 30 years or more. We aren't so concerned with aesthetics. We are interested in performing more of a social experiment where we live as simply and easily as possible for as little money as possible. However, I wouldn't want to do all the work only to have the cabin fall apart in a year or two.
You stated the following:
"I don't like Martys corner post and spike methid of construction. It might be ok for a trapper camp, but not a log home."
So, my questions are these:
1. What is wrong with a "trappers" cabin? If we are okay with the rusticness of it, what are it's downfalls? If the corner and post spike method is your main issues, what is a better alternative?
2. If we choose the right logs, can we put them up immediately?
3. Will Marty's cabin last a long time?
Your cabin looks great! Where are you guys located?
We live in Maine.
Trapper cabins were not made to last....they were just temporary log structures to get out of the elements. Of course custom log builders etc. have trapper cabins that are built to last, with large overhangs off the ground, good corner connections etc.Spiking verticle log corner posts into horizontal logs is not a good connection. Its a temp thing really.
You are going to get shrinkage with green logs, so you have to accomodate for that with window and door bucks etc. There are also books out there you can get a lot of info on this. Building with logs by
Here are some more Pics. Using "crotch posts for porch beams (pic 1). Rough sawn 6 x 8" floor joists out of pine (24' long), for the barn addition (pic 2). Slip forming the barn addition foundation walls on top of grade beam (pic 3). We reused the plywood for roof sheathing afterwards.
We salvaged and bought used, so we saved a lot of money, otherwise we could not afford it. Slipformed stem wall on barn addition (pic 1).
Using ship knee and reclaimed beam in barn addition (pic 2).
Hi Shanny, So grateful to have met you online here! So, I watched a bunch of Noah's videos. It seems like Noah is pushing more for the refined cabin. He estimates his smallest cabin to cost $50,000. That is far above and beyond what I am interested in right now. I am interested in the path of least resistance and the cheapest path. I want to build it myself quickly. Surely there must be some resource out there that shows how to build a trapper's cabin. I know you said that a trapper's cabin is not meant to last, but I see so many of them that are very, very old on YouTube. Kind of like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqC0n2iXqgc
I looked into the book you recommended as well. It seems like that book is more towards what Noah is pushing for, too. I am not looking that direction yet. I am look more towards a Thoreauvian experiment.
Please share your thoughts!
Here is another video of a cabin on a rock foundation. This is what I want to do, but not let the logs cure and dry for a season. Wish I had some solid answers on it all.