What You Should Know Before Buying Cheap Log Cabin Kits

Log cabins are the quintessential representation of an American life in the past. Remember the Little House series by the author Laura Ingalls Wilder where the Ingalls family lived in a one-room log cabin facing all the hazards of life on the frontier. 

The author would be shocked to see how the log cabins look today. They are now built with hardwood floors, picture windows, great rooms, some with a garage and solar panels. Some log cabins are no longer built in the United States even. Luckily, you can still have a simple one for your family with a little help from log cabin kits.

What is a Log Cabin Kit?

With winter rapidly approaching, many Americans would want to spend time in a cabin in the woods, complete with hot apple cider and fires in the fireplace. A cabin represents freedom and the ability to connect with nature. It gives us the ability to escape from the bustle of the city and live a simple life. Recently, there is an increasing trend of giving greater accessibility to customers of owning a cabin through a cabin kit.

Now, you can build your log cabin without going into the forest to cut down trees. You won’t need to do anything if you purchase a log cabin kit. This kit is marketed as a fast and cheaper solution to build a log cabin. It comes with logs that can be pre-assembled into walls, and some even have an energy-efficient window that is ready to be fitted into fabricated frames.

The process of building a log cabin may have changed, but its charm and function remain. Log cabin remains true to its purpose, bringing you closer to nature that other types of dwellings cannot replicate. Today, the log cabin represents a direct link to the pioneer spirit of yesterday.

The Benefits of Building with Log Cabin Kits

There are many opposing views when it comes to using log cabin kits. It can either be the best and cheapest home or the worst and the most expensive house to build. Which one is true depends on the outcome.

The beauty of building a log cabin is the opportunity it presents to build your own home. We live in a world of mass production and cookie-cutter homes, and only a few people can experience the luxury of building a home. If all the stars aligned in your favor, then this cabin will be your legacy.

Working from a kit means that you will be able to complete the project within the timetable. In case something goes wrong, you can have access to the manufacturer’s customer service hotline. Building from a kit also needs only basic tools like a drill, hammer, and ladder, which you might already have.

Another benefit of using a log cabin kit is you have minimal impact on the environment. There is no need for heavy equipment, and many manufacturers are green certified. You are also helping the environment by reducing your carbon footprint since log cabins have better heat retention.

You also don’t have to worry about construction passes because the kit complies with the building code. Its engineering and floor plans are all relatively sound, and the doors and windows have met the specifications.

Lastly, the prices of log cabin kits are very appealing. Depending on the size and floor plan, you can have the cheapest home in no time. The price can also be influenced by the materials and the method you will use, plus the labor costs.

For a more extensive guide on whether a Log Cabin Kit is right for you, check out our guide here “Should I Build a Cabin from a Kit?“.

Things to Know Before Purchasing a Log Cabin Kit

There are about 500,000 log cabin kits available in the US alone. It only demonstrates the popularity of owning a log cabin in this country. It comes as no surprise since this type of dwelling offers an alternative to people who want to reconnect with the outdoors.

If you want to jump on the bandwagon of building your log cabin, you should read these tips before buying one.

1. Know the cost

Just like what you do before building any home, your log cabin needs careful planning too. It is important to plan on your budget and how much you are willing to spend. Doing this is not easy without knowing the facts.

First, you need to understand how the log cabin kit is priced. There are two general classifications on how a log cabin is selling: the total cost of the kit and the finished cost.

According to an expert builder, the finished cost of a log cabin kit is approximately $125 per square foot. Also, you need to know that you cannot make an apple to apple comparison if the log cabin kits are different.

You can find these different kinds of log cabin kits in the market:

  • Shell Only. It’s known as the log wall system and comprises the logs, beams, and timbers that can build the shell of the cabin. You need to source out the doors, windows, floor, and everything else you need for the finishes. This is the cheapest option. But if you don’t have the time and the knowledge to buy the rest of the materials, it may not be the best option for you.
  • Dry-In Package. This is the most popular choice for a cheap log cabin kit as the kit includes the log shell and the exterior finishing that completes the build. This option already has the windows, doors, floors, and the roof. You can save some money with this kit if you will be doing the interior finishes itself.
  • Turn-Key Cost. The overall cost of building a log cabin that includes the shell and the interior and exterior finishes. It provides you with everything you need to build your log cabin, excluding labor.

The beauty of purchasing a kit is to save yourself from the hard part of milling and making all the logs so that it is ready for building or use.

So, which package is the cheapest?

A typical log cabin kit comes with the log walls, doors, and windows. The cost does not account for other expenses in building a house like laying down the foundations, labor, and its interiors finish, and of course, the cost of buying the land.

The log cabin kit should only be 40% of your budget and the rest are for the miscellaneous expenses you will have to build the cabin. A shell or dry-in package may be cheaper than the turn-key option but you have to exert additional effort in sourcing materials.

What you have to do is to list down all the components that are included in each of the packages. Then, find out how much each of the individual components costs. This will allow you to have a thorough cost analysis and find out which option is the most cost-effective.

2. Choose the Right Manufacturer

With thousands of manufacturers to choose from, it is daunting where to start. You will not know at a glance which of them is the best if you don’t know what you are looking for. Some companies offer high-quality kits for a higher cost while others offer cheap kits, but you don’t know if it will last.

Although the temptation to buy the cheaper option is great, it is recommended to do due diligence and always choose quality over price. It will guarantee that you will get your money’s worth with a log cabin that could last for generations.

There are two critical things that you should be looking for when you are looking for a reputable manufacturer. Here they are:

  • Service and Aftercare. One significant factor in choosing a brand is if the manufacturer offers after installation service. Many companies, especially the trusted ones, offer installation and after-sales service. Another vital factor in choosing a manufacturer is the warranty they offer. The kit should come with a warranty, and some may offer a ten-year warranty with inclusive maintenance.
  • Manufacturing Process. Of course, you cannot go to the factory or mill to see how the log cabin kits are made. However, some signs would tell you about how like the grade stamped on the wood.

3. Quality of the wood

Particular types of lumber are used in building cabins. The most common words found in log cabin kits include white cedar, pine, spruce, and cypress. Each of these types of woods has different prices, and the choice would be a matter of preference. Cedar, for instance, is a premium quality lumber and would cost more. In choosing the log cabin kit. Make sure that the wood is thoroughly dried.

Other Tips When Choosing a Log Cabin Kit

After all this information on how to choose a log cabin kit, you might be rushing to buy one. But wait. Before buying the kit, make sure that your goals in building the cabin are clear. Here are other questions that you might want to think about:

  • What are the factors in your property that you might have to consider? It includes the elevation or the trees around it.
  • How much effort would you like to put into the construction?
  • Do you prefer a shallower foundation or dig deeper to include a basement?
  • How many rooms do you want?
  • How much is your budget for maintaining the cabin?
  • Are there local zoning and building codes that you need to comply with?

Aside from these pertinent questions that you need to clarify, it will also help you to know more about constructing a log cabin. One common factor among how log cabins are built in the logs are shaped or notch to make them tightly fit together. It should have an airtight seal for even weight distribution, stability, and insulation.

Let us take a look at some of the construction methods for log cabins.

  • Scandinavian chinkless cabin or Swedish cope. In this method, the log has a shallow and rounded groove that is running along the entire length of the log. Its cross-section looks like a bitten cookie. The purpose of this bite-shaped groove is to create a custom fit for the log below it.
  • Canadian chinkless method. It uses the same as the Scandinavian chinkless method, the only difference rests on the groove. The Canadian method has a uniform V-shaped groove on the log. This can present a structural problem as the log is prone to splitting at the juncture of the V. If it splits, it can compromise the integrity of the log above it. The spaces are also vulnerable to pests, termites, and mice.

The chinked construction method can have a rustic effect more than any other method because it retained the irregularities of the log. Instead of fitting the logs perfectly together, it leaves it as it is and just fills in the gaps with another material.

How Can You Save Money on Buying Log Cabin Kits

Although you can save money if you buy log cabin kits, you can stretch your budget further if you follow these money-saving tips.

1. Learn about self-assembly. Paying a contractor to build your cabin can increase your expenses. However, you can save on construction costs if you know how to build them. You don’t have to be an expert carpenter because manufacturing companies offer assistance.

2. Choose a simple, straightforward design. A square or rectangular log cabin is easier and cheaper to build than a more complicated design. The reason for this is because it has fewer walls, which means fewer notches of logs. The roof is also easier to build when you have a straightforward design.

3. Make it small. You will reduce the price of your log cabin if you make it small. The key rule to follow is buying only what you need right now. Log cabins are relatively modular and it can easily be modified in case you need to add more rooms.

Key Takeaway

Many people are buying log cabin kits because they can create a beautiful and unique dwelling at a lower cost faster. However, when building a log cabin using the kits, you have to do it with your eyes open. Do your research and use the information we have gathered here before getting your feet wet.

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My name is Eugene Thornhill. I'm an outdoor enthusiast who loves nothing more than being one with nature. I've lived in numerous outdoor homes and even constructed my own. Living off-grid is something I'm very familiar with, more so than living in the city. For many years I've dealt with the many problems of living off-grid. It's time to pass on my knowledge through Cabinguides.

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