Using a Builder or Carpenter for your Log Cabin?

Log Cabins are pretty easy to install as long as you know the basic fundamentals.

The problems come if you don’t understand the build and sometimes worse still; if you employ a ‘professional’ to do the build for you who does not understand the process.

Sometimes beware of the professional as they may lack the understanding fully of what is involved despite their credentials of a professional builder, carpenter or joiner.

Please note most professional Tradesmen are absolutely fine and competent, this post is aimed at some that you employ that maybe too confident in their own abilities and may not understand the build, or, in some cases will not find out the complexities believing it to be a simple shed.

Professional Trades People

I’ve said it before, anyone who is a qualified builder / carpenter / joiner or ‘time served’ or ‘experienced’ or ‘trusted’ does not necessarily know about how to install a log cabin.

I think sometimes it is down to their professionalism and that they believe they should know it all but there are some key points that should be understood. Sometimes though this may not be fully realised by your chosen, (non log cabin experienced) installer

In a previous post (Here) I recounted the story of a customer who was recommended as follows:

“A friend of mine who has been a ‘time served chippy’ for 40 years told me that all I had to do was nail a board over the gap.”

Just because your chosen installer is a ‘professional’ it does not mean they know what they are doing with a log cabin install so please thoroughly check with them and make sure you ask them to read and understand our advice: Log Cabin Installation Advice.  

We also list a great deal more advice here: https://www.tuin.co.uk/Tuin-Useful-Information.html this advice may also be pertinant to other reputable suppliers, regardless whether you buy from us or not. All these things are useful to know if you are considering a Log Cabin from most reputable retailers.

Please remember though; “installing a log cabin is easy” – I say this all the time: Log Cabin Fitting Tips. BUT to make it easy you need to understand some basic things about the install and have a proper understanding of the building.

Below are examples of some very silly mistakes made by tradesmen who didn’t understand a log cabin install. All of these customers came to us rather fraught and we had to guide them or the installer on how to do it correctly, in some cases we had to visit site and correct the build, in the extreme it needed a complete new building.

Log Cabin Floor

A log cabin floor should go inside the cabin, not the cabin on top of the floor!

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The floor needs to be a floating floor as you would in your house.

Our log cabins have a floating floor inside the cabin and it is installed after the cabin has been built.

Our log cabins have a floating floor inside the cabin and it is installed after the cabin has been built.

Never allow your installer to lay the floor first and then the cabin, this will cause you lot of problems in the future. The floor should be a floating floor and your builder should be aware of this. Some ‘professionals’ treat a log cabin as a shed, a log cabin is a completely different beast to simple sheds.

Log Cabin Base

We explain the importance of a base for your log cabin and this must be passed on and understood by your chosen builder.

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This base is hugely out of level and the installer is trying to make good by blocking it up

He ignored the foundation beams supplied and installed the first log directly onto the base .... why?

As well as trying to block in he hasn’t used the foundation beams and the bottom log is in constant contact with the base. This is really not good!

If you are going to chock up the mistake in the base then at least use a treated timber to do this. These pieces will rot over the next 12 months and then everything will drop badly with huge problems to the building.

For smaller gradients you can use timber shims to take up a small gradient but do not use untreated wood as these will rot very quickly and the building will drop

This builder is using unstable blocks to chock the base level and is also using untreated timber.

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As well as unsuitable blocks the builder has also laid the floor first and the cabin on top.

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Unsuitable blocking of a timber frame base

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Untreated timber being used as shims will very quickly rot.

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A block directly on to grass with untreated wood is not acceptable.

Please also watch the base your builder puts down when using concrete, a wriggly and unlevel base is not a good thing for a log cabin.

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This is a very bad base for a log cabin, rough concrete is never very good. Notice also how unlevel it is and one side needed to be chocked. This poor lady had a few problems with water ingress and very unlevel doors

This was a terrible install by a professional builder. The base was hugely out and to compensate for the building lean he cut the lower logs to match and then added some sort of filler! In the end this complete building had to be replaced.

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This base was terrible so the builder cut the logs to make the windows level in the hope the customer would not notice.

A very bad base causing the whole building to lean. This builder then cut the logs to make the windows straight!

A very bad base causing the whole building to lean. This builder then cut the logs to make the windows straight!

Log Cabin Walls

I will warn you as I have done in other posts, professional builders, joiners and carpenters may do this if they do not understand the intricacies of a log cabin …. they fix the doors or windows to the wall logs. For some reason they may forget the idea that wood expands and contracts especially when unsupported by a frame.

Gap appearing in a log cabin wall

Gap appearing in a log cabin wall

You may have seen this picture in other posts of mine and this is one that sticks with me, I use this example over and again as it was so costly for the customer. She was a Doctor and I knew exactly what the problem was when she sent me a series of pictures. The fitter had attached the window and door frame to the logs.

There then followed a dialogue about how experienced they were, she had used her personal carpenter of twenty years and her stone mason to install, she also had a professional painter to treat the building.

We agreed that if it was our fault we would replace or repair, if it was the builders then they would pay for our time. Our service guy was onsite for two minutes and fixed it by removing screws and the whole log cabin dropped happily.

Unfortunately it did cost her. The professional carpenter of twenty years standing who had been watching very quickly went away when everything settled into place.

This is THE biggest mistake made by a ‘professional’ who does not understand a log cabin or timber expansion or contraction. I find this with builders, as they are used to fixing frames in houses they will do it to a log cabin – please check for this.

Log Cabin Roof Shingles

Sometimes I will look at customers pictures of a complaint or a help request and I really can’t believe them. This was a ‘professional experienced builders’ roofing install:

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Look at it closely, ALL the shingles are upside down!

Every tile, unfortunately, is installed upside down.

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Another experienced roofer cocks it up – notice how the ridge times are done!

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This is another favourite ‘experienced roofer / builder / Carpenter / Joiner mistake. No correct spacing and each shape should form a true hexagonal, these were all dropped down too much and massively effects the design intent and aesthetics, not to mention you run out.

Watch out for the above, if someone does not know what they are doing or does not follow the instructions, spacing of the tiles will start to go horribly wrong and you will run out of shingles.

We have some good videos that show how best to install shingles, instructions are also on each pack of shingles.

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Another example of a ‘professional’ install. Please show inexperienced fitters the instructions and videos before hand. Not all builders or Carpenters understand what to do.

Upside Down Log Cabin

This builder was just not at all on the ball and made a very silly mistake. He asked me why the top log would not go on. I replied ….. ‘because you have built it upside down’!

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Upside down log cabin, please look at the instruction advice and check the plans, the tongues always go up. You do not want to have your builder make it upside down and then have to take it down and install the correct way up.

 Botching a Log Cabin

I see this a few times each year, something has gone horribly wrong with a build and then it’s bodged to hide up the mistake. This was a particularly bad one and one I did not enjoy helping to solve as it was so far gone.

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This one wasn’t very fair. The builder had not read the plans or parts properly.

The installer did not read the plans and measure all the parts, he added them as he thought fit and then realised it was not going together. Instead of taking the roof apart and correcting before nailing on the roof boards he carried on with the build.  This produced all sorts of problems.  He then had to hide up silly mistakes with bits of wood in various gaps with pieces of trims and blocks. It was quite a mess at the end and not a lot we could do for the poor customer.

This was a bad building recently. The customer was lovely and they had chosen a Bergren Carport and Garage. A great building but one that does takes some knowledge to install, a bit of skill and time. It’s one of our hardest to install though and should not be taken on lightly.

Sadly the builder made a bit of a mess of it rushing through the install and not really considering what he was doing or taking into account the basic fundamentals of timber, a log cabin base or the effect of the environment around it.

He later admitted he was not prepared for it.

Unfortunately the install went very badly and we were asked to correct it for them. This meant a total disassemble and reassemble correctly on a level base and joints correctly aligned and made.

This is the finished building:

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Berggren log cabin carport and garage.

These pictures are some examples of where it had gone horribly wrong, the builder had not made any joint correct and then started filling the bodges. He should have stopped and analysed the build before going any further.

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As the bottom logs were so out of true this transposed to huge problems at the top. The builder then used filler to try to hide the ever increasing problems the higher the cabin went.

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Every single part of this install was bad and so much went wrong. Most of it stemmed from a poor base and incorrect fitting at the start of the install. The builder should have stopped and done some basic checks:

  • Base level across the whole build.
  • Logs made correctly.
  • Joints made correctly and tightly.
  • Levels correct.
  • Completely square.
  • Measurements correct.
  • Check for errors in manufacture or errors in fitting low down.

At the end though all was correct and the customer was very happy after we corrected the install. We did though have to replace several logs that had been damaged by the builder.

It should not though happened if the builder had taken some simple advice from us, stopped and looked at what he was doing and checked the above.

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The completed log cabin and a happy customer.

A Professional Builder Summary

Like any tradesman you can get some good and bad people but I always advise customers to make sure they pass on our online advice here:  Log Cabin Instructional Advice and to make sure the chosen installer has read it regardless of their skills and profession, there might be some things in there that they hadn’t considered and it will make the install quicker and cheaper and less likely to be a problem in time to come. It maybe an idea to ask them to confirm they have read our advice before starting the build.

I also highly recommend that if you are using a builder, carpenter or joiner who may not be fully experienced or you may not be sure of with a log cabin install to familiarise yourself with the advice. If anything is going wrong you will very quickly realise it and can stop the build before it goes too far.

Please though, at any point if you or your installer have any questions please let us know and we’ll be pleased to help before things go wrong. Send us a picture or what you are seeing via email, a quick description and we can advise, even out of normal working hours.

2 thoughts on “Using a Builder or Carpenter for your Log Cabin?

  1. Hi,
    I have been speaking to a Log Cabin installer (credentials on the reverse of a brochure from a local timberyard) who stated he provides a base made of wooden bearers which are supported by wooden posts sunk into the ground in concrete. When asked if these would rot he stated they are under the building and so stay dry. Is that the best approach or would it be better to support the base on stone blocks to keep the wood out of the ground entirely?

    • Personally I do not like to sink posts into the ground, I prefer to support them on a paving slab or concrete. If I did have to put them into the ground then I would liberally coat them with a black tar type treatment before doing so to guard against rot.

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