Can you even imagine a guy with very limited carpentry skills building a log cabin like this?
Well that is exactly what happened!
I actually convinced my wife to sell our 2800 sq ft home and everything in it. I showed her a simple drawing, basically a couple of boxes, in which we could easily build a log cabin like the pioneers did. I explained that most of these pioneers couldn’t even read or write and many came from the city like me. So why couldn’t I build one?
I was very surprised when she said, “let’s go for it!” It turned out when we were both younger (and didn’t know each other at all) we had similar ideas. I had worn a cowboy hat so much at summer camp they actually dubbed me “cowboy” and I would draw farm houses and trees wishing I lived in the country. Stacy would always carry this thought of animal husbandry, living in a log cabin and raising lots of animals with a garden. It was kind of strange to discover this about one another as we were starting this journey from 100% city kids to a pioneer life in the 21st century.
I began to devour books on log cabin building focusing on the pioneer style. I did my homework by visiting several log cabins in and around the St. Charles County area of Missouri. They have several log cabins that have been standing well over 100-200 years. One place that I really enjoyed was the Daniel Boone Home in Defiance, Missouri. They have a great collection of 1800 early 1900 style homes on the property made with logs. That place was inspirational!
With my newfound inspiration, I was off to find the logs to build our cabin. With the help from a friend, we harvested the white oak logs from his property. White oak was my first choice because of its rot and bug resistance. This type of hardwood is the most sought after to build log homes for longevity.
Next, my focus was finding a way to join the logs as I stacked them. There are several ways you can achieve this. I chose the “saddle notch” method using a “V” knotch because of its simplicity that I felt confident with right away.
I put the cabin together as I notched out the logs. Below is a pic from the back and front of the cabin after I stained the logs, cut out the doors and windows, and braced the logs with 2x4s.
I felt comfortable building the cabin, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing the footings and concrete work. So I hired the work out.
We opted for a crawl space because we were building with no debt. We paid cash for the build and a full basement would of added another $5000. Our new motto was “No more bills.” So we did the best with what we had.
We had an old Allis- Chalmers tractor that we purchased for the homestead. I was able to utilize the bucket to lift the heavy white oak logs in place on the foundation all by myself. It really came in handy when I was five to seven logs high!
One thing to note is that the white oak logs are very dense and heavy, getting that tractor was a great move for this solo project.
When I disassembled the cabin to place it on the foundation, I numbered all the logs. This was very beneficial in the rebuild process so everything went right back in its place.
The next step after stacking the logs was the roof, I planned on building the rafters on site. I built the roof by myself on the record-breaking hottest day of the year. I knew that when I accomplished that nothing would get in the way of our dream.
Here is a picture of the balancing act I had to perform while working solo on the day of the rafter build. The ratchet straps and scrap 2x4s were my best friend. When I was actually on the ground and looking up at what I had just accomplished, it really started to sink in. We were now captains of our own ship. This place we were building would be so much more than just a house or status symbol, it would be a place that we would grow as a couple and individuals. A place to push all our former boundaries, to learn new skills and to work together as a team.
The roof was up and it was time to make the whole struture a little stronger. By adding the roofing plywood to the rafters, it strengthened the whole structure. This was exciting because we were one step closer to shingles.
The pink stuff between the logs is pink panther insulation. This was a little trick I picked up. This way I get R value BETWEEN the logs and use less chinking. Chinking is the material that fills the gaps between the logs. The insulation is the pink panther insulation foam boards you get from the lumber yard or big box stores.
Now we are ready for some “chinking”. I did some research and I was not really into using grass and mud so I went a little modern and used a product called log jam. It comes in a caulk tube and is supposed to expand and contract very well with the logs. Remember, we are living the pioneer life in the 21st century, so we get to indulge a little.
This was an interesting process. I had never done anything like this before but felt I was up to the challenge. I needed some foam brushes and a spray bottle of water. I learned I needed different size brushes for the install because log homes always have some variations in the space between the logs.
Just like caulk, you squeeze it on then use the foam brush to smooth it out. You will squirt the water (on mist) directly onto the chinking, not to much, just enough to keep it from setting up. Just do one row at a time.
Here are some pictures showing you a mistake I made. See that ledge? It shouldn’t be there. Chinking needs to fill the gap so it’s flush with the wood or overlaps a bit so water rides out of the gap to the ground. Otherwise, when the water is allowed to sit in the gap or ledge, it could rot the wood. I will be redoing the whole cabin soon. Look for those videos on our You Tube channel here:
One of the reasons we went with a log home was the simplicity of the build. Inside the home there is no drywall or mud or paint which really cuts down on costs and on experience needed. I won’t go into all the details about the inside part of the build on this blog post but stay tuned as we start rolling out the stories of our nine year adventure to become more self-reliant and sustainable while we live an intentional life.