Planning to build your own log cabin can give you a feel-good factor. But, don’t let the uncertainty around the cost of building a cabin put you off!
If you haven’t yet started planning, then make sure to read beginner mistakes that cause log cabin projects to fail.
Then take a look at log home plans to make sure you have an idea of what you want to achieve.
From the cost of foundations and groundwork to windows and doors to insulation and roofing, let me break down the costs of log cabin homes for you.
This post will detail my cabin build costs and the average cabin construction costs.
Many of you might know cabin construction techniques, but this post will reveal all of the materials and costs incurred in building a cabin home.
So keep reading if you want to understand the major costs of constructing your own log cabin home.
Site Preparation and Foundations
Once you’ve decided upon the plot for your cabin, the first place to start is preparing the site for your cabins foundation.
This happens in three main stages:
- Clearing rocks and vegetation.
- Removing turf and topsoil.
- Levelling the site and staking the cabins perimeter.
Top-tip: Clear 5FT extra each way – if your cabin is 20FT by 15FT then your site preparation area would be 30FT by 25FT.
What you are trying to achieve is a clean and level site to work from for the installation of your foundation.
Depending upon your cabin’s site, you may be able to relocate all of the debris to another area (if the site is large enough). If you can’t, then you will have to pay for the debris to be removed from the site – this is the option we took.
The typical cost is anywhere from $1-43 per square foot of site cleared. The variance is so great because you may not have the ideal, level, and relatively clear site.
The cost of demolishing and clearing old structures, leveling uneven or hilly land, and removing trees add extra expense to the task.
Our site was an easy one, which cost $4,500 to be cleared. This included the contractor removing all excess rubble, turf, and vegetation off-site.
Once the site has been leveled you can then proceed to lay your cabin’s footings and foundation.
There are lots of different construction techniques for foundations that are applicable for log cabins such as concrete pads, piles, and plinths.
We selected a concrete pad for our cabin based on the recommendations of a structural engineer and geographic surveyor. The typical cost for the professional’s advice is around $500 each.
A pad required less excavation work to extract cavities for the foundation, hence there was less waste coming off-site.
If your soil type is peat or clay then foundations can require substantial piles to get beneath the damp levels, which is expensive.
Our cabins foundation cost $4,600, which included the rebar, concrete and hard-core for the cabin’s base, as well as the engineer and surveyor.
Total cost for site preparation and foundations: $9,100.
Drainage, Gas, Water and Electricity (Utilities and Services)
Utilities and services are always a hot topic during cabin construction!
Installing utilities and services for your cabin has the potential to radically alter the total finished cost, depending upon your preference of on-grid or off-grid.
If you are looking to go off-grid and use a self-sustainable power supply, such as wind turbines and/or solar panels, then don’t forget the costs of battery banks to store the power.
I would recommend reading about the full costs of off-grid utilities to get a better understanding.
Continuing the cost breakdown for utilities and services, Mike Holmes, a log cabin builder in Montana, says:
$3,000 to $8,000 is a good estimate for the new installation of utilities and services for a cabin.
- Plumbing $1,200
- Electrical $3,600
- Water $900
If you have purchased an old cabin, which requires restoration, or a piece of land with previous occupancy, then speak to the previous owner. There is a chance utilities and services may already be installed.
If the utilities are already installed then you will just be required to pay a service connection fee – this will be around $500, depending on which municipality you’re in.
Installing utilities and services requires lots of groundwork, typically trenches to lay the piping, so it’s worth getting a builder and surveyor on-site early to assess the work required.
Installing the utilities and services early will prevent you from having to re-work foundations and re-hire expensive plant machinery to dig trenches which could have been done during the start of your cabin build.
Our cabins services cost $5,700, which included the plumbing ($1,200), electrics ($3,600) and water ($900).
Timber and Roof
Timber and logs can quickly become the most expensive part of your cabin build.
For some lucky folks, they will have a natural supply to use. For us, we purchased road-side soft timber logs in lengths of 32FT for just over $2,400 – most of the logs were 14” in girth or greater.
Most logs are priced between $0.2 to $1 per board foot. How many board feet are in a log can be determined using the Doyle Scale.
Once we purchased the logs we got them hauled to a local sawmill to prepare and cut them to size. Then another expense to get the logs hauled back to our camp!
Top-tip: Try to use logs with a girth greater than 12” – this will save you money during insulation.
Weather proofing your logs is essential; there are lots of techniques for achieving this – I decided to use Permachink. If you aren’t familiar with caulking a log cabin, then look at our tutorial.
The Permachink cost $500 and then an additional $550 for foam backers.
I then used Permagard to treat the timber logs once they were delivered to site. This was very time consuming and cost around $300, but it gave me peace of mind that the timber had been treated properly.
Once the cabins structure is built, you will then need to decide upon your roof. Choosing the right roof and color can really finish the cabin to a high standard and make it look great.
Roofing comes as thatch, shingles (felt or cedar), tiles, EPDM rubber, slate or tin.
I decided to use a tin roof because it was the perfect color, durable, and fast to build with.
I used 2m x 950mm Bitumen Corrugated Sheets which cost just under $30 per sheet.
Our cabins timber and roof bill was $6,600. This includes purchasing, preparing, cutting and constructing the logs.
When it comes to insulating a cabin there are almost as many choices as the timber you use.
I would suggest that you insulate the floor and roof as a minimum for your log home.
Did you know that 65% to 70% of all your log cabins heat is lost through the floor or roof?
Top-tip: If you are using smaller girth logs (less than 12”) with a single skin, then I would recommend you look to install a dry-wall interior for better insulation.
Alternatively you can create two skins, and in the cavity between the double-wall you can use insulation or wool to help insulate the cabin.
For those of you new to insulation, watch Steve Maxwell’s fantastic beginner guide:
Insulation works in two ways:
- Keeping you warm in the harsh winters
- Keeping you cool in the hot summers
Insulating your cabin is a must if you are planning to use the cabin all year round.
After our concrete pad was laid I used a damp proof membrane and then used 50mm Kingspan floor insulation. I purchased the Kingspan from my local builder’s yard.
Kingspan or Celotex are both reliable brands of PIR insulation board, very good for floor insulation.
For the roof’s insulation you can chose between two options:
- Insulating the inside of your roof
- Insulating the outside of your roof
Typically, insulating the inside of your roof is much faster and cheaper than the outside .
We decided to insulate the cabin from the inside and used 100mm Kingspan PIR board.
As the waterproof membrane was purchased during the foundation stage, all of the insulation (50mm and 100mm kingspan) cost a little over $2,000 in total.
Interior, Windows, Doors and Fixings
Let’s talk interior.
By this point your log cabin will be ready to receive windows, doors and interior fixings to waterproof the cabin.
You will have already used Permachink to seal the logs and a waterproof membrane for the foundation slab to prevent damp rising.
When it comes to the floor, we used pre-treated tongue and groove finish. The tongue and groove was nailed into the floor joists, which were installed during the foundation and insulation phase.
As we had used thick logs we didn’t want to cover them, so, we left the inside of our cabin exposed – apart from the floor and ceiling.
The total cost of all the tongue and groove for the flooring was $1,290.
Moving onto the doors and windows.
At this point in our cabin build, our cash supplies were dwindling. We decided to up-cycle the windows and doors from craigslist.
We have 4 double windows, which are all double-glazed. In addition, the door has two glass panes, which are double-glazed too.
You can spend lots more on doors and windows. Do some research into r-values and u-values and their thermal properties!
Once you have installed the doors and windows your cabin will now be completely waterproof.
Think of it now as an empty canvas!
The total cost of all the windows and doors was $500.
Total cost for Interior, Windows, Doors and Fixings was $1,790.
Building a log cabin yourself was one of the reasons we suggested why you should live in a log cabin.
So in our opinion, labour should cost nothing but hard work and sweat!
If you aren’t able to, or, are considering hiring professionals to build you a cabin, this can increase your build cost dramatically.
If you hire external labour, such as builders, architects and project managers, it will be the single most expensive cost:
Project manager – 5%-10% of total cost, realistically from $5,000 to $50,000.
Builder/carpenter – 15-20% of total cost, so anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000.
The total cost of all the labour for my log cabin was $5,500.
I did most of the construction – apart from site clearance, structural engineering and surveyor activities.
Tools and Equipment
Having the right tools to build your log cabin will make your construction process much easier and faster.
When purchasing tools for my cabin; I made the decision that I was going to purchase high quality tools which would last for years.
Since then, I have used the tools on multiple projects.
You need to decide if you’re looking for cheaper tools, for just this cabin, or, if you’re going to spend more to purchase higher quality tools that will last.
Each tool will have a variety of options from size to brand, so make sure you carefully consider each purchase.
I have added the specification next to some of my more expensive tools.
- Chainsaw – (Stihl MS 230 Duro) ≈ $400
- Sawbuck (i.e. sawhorse)
- Axe (Gransfors Bruks) – 1.6KG ≈ $300
- Sledge Hammer
- Cordless drill/screwdriver (Makita) ≈ $500
- Cant Hook – 42” used to handle the timber
- Hammer – 18oz
- Ripsaw – 22” long and 5.5tpi
- Tape measure – 50FT
- Level – 40”
- Steel square
- Spikes and string
Top-tip: Being able to re-use tools for multiple purposes is essential.
An example would be to use a chainsaw for logging and cutting timber; instead of purchasing a chainsaw for logging and a table saw to cut the timber to size.
Purchasing all of the tools above cost approximately $1,900.
If you were to purchase cheaper brands this could be reduced to around $900.
Building a log cabin on a budget is achievable. Not only is it achievable but it is possible.
Our build cost just over $27,000, excluding purchasing the land and the interior.
Keep in mind that the size and complexity of your cabin are the most significant factors for cost. Economies of scale can be achieved for larger cabins, but, these savings are minimal compared to the outlay.
Use this list as a resource for budgeting for your future cabin. Select the specific materials and costs based on your log home’s specification.
For some this post will help them decide if they can afford to build a cabin, and for others it can be used as a comparison against typical brick and mortar homes.
I’d love to hear from you if you have built your own cabin on a budget – leave us a comment to let us know how much it cost!
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