NEW PRODUCT – A traditionally handcrafted log cabin built as a mobile home!
Over recent months BLC has been developing The Nook, our new product which is not only a traditionally handcrafted log cabin but also meets the requirements of the Caravan Act and can be used as a replacement for a mobile home. We are also proud to announce the opening of our first development of these cabins at The Station Inn in Marshbrook, Shropshire.
The popularity of log cabins in the UK is spiralling out of control, especially traditionally handcrafted cabins, along with this the market for log cabin holidays has dramatically increased. Hundreds of thousands of Brits take their holidays in mobile homes which are scattered throughout the spectacular countryside of the UK. Our mission is to improve the experience of the British countryside holidaymaker by replacing these ugly, flimsy, shipping container-esk buildings with our handcrafted log cabins.
This is not a simple feat, the engineering and design that has gone into creating a handcrafted log cabin which can be delivered in two sections (and therefore be classed as a mobile home) is quite substantial with each half of The Nook weighing in at just over 10 tons!
This is a building which will outlast your grandchildren and create a cosy, natural and sustainable environment from which to enjoy the countryside, coastal regions and back gardens of Britain.
With the advent of AirBnB and other similar platforms accommodation can be rented out far more easily than used to be the case. The Station Inn at Marshbrook have three of these cabins installed (completed this week) and already have a massive influx of bookings for the coming months.
As this product is classed as a mobile home general planning permission is not necessarily required – in fact The Nook can be located in the garden of your house without planning permission at all! For more information see our ‘Mobile Home Planning’ page.
Where did it all begin?
Log building as a construction method and art-form has been around for centuries. It’s origins were in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. As a trade it has a long established history…
“By stacking tree trunks one on top of another and overlapping the logs at the corners, people made the “log cabin”. They developed interlocking corners by notching the logs at the ends, resulting in strong structures that were easier to make weather-tight by inserting moss or other soft material into the joints. As the original coniferous forest extended over the coldest parts of the world, there was a prime need to keep these houses warm. The insulating properties of the solid wood were a great advantage over a timber frame construction covered with animal skins, felt, boards or shingles. Over the decades, increasingly complex joints were developed to ensure more weather tight joints between the logs, but the profiles were still largely based on the round log.”
Weslager, C. A. (1969), The Log Cabin in America, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press.
These skills mostly skipped over mainland United Kingdom on their way to frontier America. Medieval Brits tended to build with local stone, and hardwood
timber frames, not having the access to the abundance of fast growing coniferous forests of Scandinavia or the much established softwoods to hand in the land of the free. But since the evolution of commercial forestry and the introduction of suitable species into the UK this has been changing…this is where British Log Cabins steps in. Using modern handcrafted log building techniques to provide log homes around a once deprived country.
The beauty of the log cabin is not only in its aesthetic form but in its function, log building has come a very long way since its inception, but our need for shelter remains as important as ever, even if we take it for granted in the modern era.
The essence of log building is to use the materials around you, that are close at hand, to build shelter in order to survive. Due to the way in which the trade has evolved this raw and natural need for shelter is evident in even the most elaborate log homes built today. The materials we use are the same as they were 400 years ago and the techniques are merely refined versions of those used by generations gone by.
Before we begin constructing the cabin all of the bark and cambium must be removed from the tree. This can be done in two ways:
1. Hand peeling (using a drawknife to remove the bark and cambium)
2. Pressure washing (using high pressure water to remove the bark and cambium)
However, for the best results we combine the two methods, first pressure washing the bark and cambium from the log and then running over the log with a drawknife to achieve a more rustic, hand peeled finish.
Pressure washing the logs removes all material down to the timber even around knots and dips in the surface of the timber where a drawknife alone would miss bits. Once the log has been pressure washed we knock the larger knots off neatly with a broad axe. Any damage that may have occurred during felling or transportation is easily tidied up at this stage grading the timber back to the deepest point of the damage with the broad axe. The drawknife is then run over the entire log, peeling off strips of timber and giving a fantastic neat yet rustic effect.
At this point we also treat the log for wet rot, dry rot and wood boring insects.
Once the process is completed the log is stored on bearers in the yard ready to be selected for its place in the building.
To build a log cabin the first thing you need to know about is timber sourcing.
All of the timber that we use is FSC certified to be from sustainable sources and is all British grown.
The process begins with many phone calls to find an agency that has the right species and specification of timber, this timber can be located anywhere in the UK but predominantly comes from Devon, Wales, and Scotland.
We generally source Western Red Cedar or Douglas Fir to build our cabins and homes with but not exclusively, we have also previously built cabins from Larch and Spruce. Douglas Fir is renowned for its strength and is extensively used throughout the construction industry. We prefer to use Douglas Fir where the design includes long unsupported spans or long log walls with no intersecting walls. This is due to not only to its strength but also because Douglas Fir tends to grow with less taper than other species making it possible to use a longer length of log while remaining within the specified minimum and maximum diameter specifications for the building.
Western Red Cedar is normally our first choice, although harder to find usable stock in the UK, its natural ability to resist decay is a highly desirable attribute, it is also a comparatively stable timber in the world of softwoods.
Once we have found an agent with the correct specification of timber we will arrange a viewing of the standing timber to make sure that it is suitable for the cabin in question.
Our standard specification is minimum 10” top diameters and maximum butt diameter of 18”.
When viewing the timber we are looking for:
● The size of the timber. (diameter spec.)
● The straightness of the trees.
● The amount of taper in the trees from butt to top.
● Minimal lower branches on the trees.
● The quantity of the correct specification in the stand.
We will then sort through the stand and mark trees that we want. If we specify Western Red Cedar then will will normally only take the tree from around 12ft up as cedar grows with fluted butts which are difficult to scribe. However, if wanting to create elaborate and gnarly features we might use a few fluted butts.
It is important when building handcrafted cabins that the trees are hand felled. If a harvester is used then it leaves unsightly track marks up the length of the tree when de-limbing. If the agency cannot have the timber hand felled for us then we will go back and fell it ourselves. Once the trees are on the floor, our haulier will bring the trees to our yard where the real work begins…
RULE #1 – Respect the shrinkage!
When building with green timber movement is inevitable. With the correct log building methods in place this will never cause any issues, however if the initial shrinkage and seasonal movement of the building is not taken into account many problems can arise…in the case of doors and windows it may mean that one morning you wake up and can’t get out of your house!
Around doors and windows our tried and tested method is to cut a vertical slot with a chainsaw and set in a piece of 4×2 down the log ends either side of the opening, as shown in the picture above. We then fix the door frame into the door lining, place the unit in the opening and fix through the frame ONLY into the 4×2. Expanding foam is used behind the 4×2 to create a seal.
Because the 4×2 is fixed to the frame and clamped by the logs the logs are free to slide around the frame without causing disruption to the swinging of the door or window.A ‘shrinkage gap’ is also left (75-100mm over the height of a doorway) to allow the logs above the opening to move down towards the frame. This gap is filled either with expanding foam or tightly cut soft foam to create a seal.
Other areas to watch for shrinkage are staircases and vertical posts. We get around this by using Screw Jacks. These are heavy duty threaded bar, welded to a footplate with a moveable steel plate held up by a nut. When the cabin walls shrink, simply adjust the nut to allow the fixed element of the building (stairs or upright post) to follow the shrinkage.
Another cheeky trick – When a stud wall meets a log wall, cut a slot for your wall finish (plasterboard in the example pic) to slide into. This is better than scribing a cover strip to the form of the logs because if you do that you have to re-scribe the cover strip successively as the wall shrinks.
It is important to remember that when owning a log home you should keep an eye on the shrinkage and occasionally adjust fitments as required. Adjustments are mainly needed in the first 18 months of the cabin being constructed as the moisture levels in the timber reach an equilibrium with the atmospheric moisture level. We always offer to go back to a project to make these adjustments in the initial drying out period and explain what to watch out for before we leave.
Log building is a tricky business, good job you came to the experts.