There’s just something about log cabins that makes people want to pack all their earthly possessions and set up camp in one of these charming homes, usually close to nature—and away from the chaos of the world.
I would know. I’m one of those people.
I’ve lived in a log cabin in Colorado for roughly two years now, and I’ve learned a thing or two about what it’s really like to inhabit such a rustic home. My 40-year-old log cabin—one of the oldest houses in my neighborhood—instantly drew me in with its natural allure and the way it complemented the surrounding forests and mountains.
But while it’s easy to get caught up in this seemingly peaceful lifestyle, here’s the thing to remember: Many log cabins demand extra time, money, and energy from their owners.
So what exactly are the demands of log cabin living as well as the perks? Here’s my list of the top things to consider.
Log cabins can be high-maintenance
“Maintenance usually entails periodically restaining and recaulking your home because logs deteriorate over time,” says Larry Snider, vice president of operations at Casago Vacation Rentals.
Last year alone, my husband spent over 40 hours restaining our wood deck and cleaning and treating the logs of our home. Because of the strong UV light and harsh winters at our elevation, this kind of upkeep is fairly standard for a mountain home with all-wood construction like ours.
Pests are also something to be aware of with log cabins. These structures are susceptible to ground squirrels, mice, ants, and termites, because their wood construction can easily be chewed and damaged by local critters. Although rodents are usually easy to detect, insects can truly wreak havoc on a log cabin because their damage is less noticeable.
Log cabins tend to be more expensive
According to Snider, log cabins cost about 20% more to construct than a comparably sized typical home, due to the increased labor and material costs associated with building a specialty home. Timber costs more than drywall, and working with timber requires different skills than working with plywood.
The home improvement marketplace HomeAdvisor estimates that a log cabin can cost as much as $500 per square foot to build for custom designs, while the average cost of a traditional construction is $100 to $200 per square foot.
Log homes aren’t just more costly to build; they’re also usually more expensive to buy and go off the market faster.
“If you’re curious about buying a log cabin and find the model of your dreams, you’ll need to move quickly,” says Snider. “Log cabins often sell much faster than conventional homes. All of this increased cost mostly comes down to two things: supply and demand, and building costs. With fewer log cabins on the market and the incredibly high price of building them, it only makes sense that you’ll pay top dollar to own.”
Log cabins bring a high return on investment
On the plus side: If you can navigate the increased cost and maintenance of log cabin living, these homes tend to retain their value over time, no matter how old.
“The resale value is often much higher than regular homes, by as much as 30%,” says Snider.
Much of the actual resale value will ultimately be determined by how well-maintained your cabin is.
Log cabins are naturally insulated from heat—and cold
Another advantage is all about the incredible insulation powers of well-maintained log cabins. You’ll have better interior temperature control—no matter the season.
“Regardless of the time of day or night, wood retains and releases heat equally well,” says garden room designer Tiffany Payne, of Orangeries. “As a result, no matter what the weather brings, you won’t have to worry about keeping the cabin cozy. Both the heating and air-conditioning systems won’t have to work as hard, which will result in cheaper utility bills.”
Even without AC, my Southwest cabin stays nice and cool during the hottest summer months. A well-constructed and designed cabin (in theory) should provide adequate insulation no matter where you live. This is mainly due to the thickness of the logs and their ability to absorb heat (which they then release at night). If you’re concerned about buying an older place in a hot climate, be sure it has plenty of energy-efficient windows.
Log cabins offer splendid noise control
Quality building materials and insulation mean more than a comfortable indoor temperature year-round. It also translates into superior noise control compared with a more traditional home.
“One of the nicest things about living in a log cabin is how quiet they are,” says Snider. “The insulation that makes them so temperature-stable also helps block outside noise.”