If you're running out of space in the house but do not want the bother and expense of building an extension, a log cabin may be a reliably quick and easy solution.
This type of structure can make an ideal home office, playroom, workshop or games room, providing an attractive outdoor retreat as well as adding interest and value to your home. Here are a few practical pointers for anyone considering a log cabin:
What's the difference between a log cabin and a summerhouse?
Log cabins share some features in common with summerhouses but are larger, more fundamental buildings made from much thicker timbers. Their walls are built up using interlocking precision-cut logs which slot together so tightly that no fixings are required. Floors and roofs are typically constructed from close-fitting tongue and groove timber, resulting in strong and watertight structures suitable for a whole range of uses.
The logs are usually made from kiln dried wood. This process extracts moisture from the timber to a precise level, which reduces warping and minimizes the risk of splitting.
What are the main points to look for in a log cabin?
Not all log cabins are the same. Wall density can range from around 28mm up to more than 50mm, and floors are usually between 19mm and 28mm thick. Some cabins are double-glazed, making them usable in all weathers, where others may only have single glazing, so check before you buy.
As for roofs, most are around 19mm thick and available with a choice of covering. Felt shingleles are generally considered the most attractive, but you can also get corrugated bitumen panels and felt sheeting.
Consider the shape of the building as well. Log cabins with pitched roofs tend to be taller than those with flat or sloping roofs, which can sometimes limit where you are able to place them in your garden. And traditional chalet-type structures with roof overhangs often take up more ground space than modern minimalist designs, so remember to allow for this when measuring up.
Do you need planning permission for a log cabin?
If you are thinking of erecting a small detached building such as a log cabin, shed or sun room in your garden, you will not normally need planning permission. These are the main points to bear in mind:
1. You are not allowed to place a building beyond the front wall of your house – in other words, in the front garden.
2. No more than 50% of the land around the original lodging can be taken up with outbuildings or extensions – so if you have a small back garden, measure carefully to make sure there is enough space left over for a cabin before you commit yourself .
3. Height is a major factor. If the cabin is less than 2.5m tall at its highest point, you can place it within 2m of your boundary – otherwise, you will have to position it further away.
Do log cabins have to comply with building regulations?
Building regulations are safety rules that govern how well a structure is built. They will not apply if your log cabin is less than 15 square meters in size and contains no sleeping accommodation. Even if the cabin is between 15 and 30 square meters, it will usually only have to meet building regulations if it is situated less than 1m from your boundary.
However, if you are hiring to use the cabin as a granny annexe, guest room or holiday let, then it must comply with building regulations because it will include sleeping accommodation. This applies to any size of cabin and is down to safety reasons. More information is available on the government's Planning Portal website.
Where's the best place for a log cabin?
Put the cabin on a level part of the garden. Leave a good gap all around the building so you can reach the walls to apply treatments or carry out repairs, and remember to allow for roof overhang when measuring the space available.
Do not position the cabin where it will block out your neighbors' light, and be aware of planning rules – if the building is more than 2.5m tall, you should not place it within two meters of the boundary.
Consider the direction of the sun, as you may not want sunlight beaming straight in if you're going to use the cabin as an office. Think about convenience too. If you're planning to install electricity in the building, putting it near the house will make it easier to connect a power supply.
What base do you need for a log cabin?
Good foundations are vital for any garden building. If the base is not strong enough, or is even slightly uneven, the walls will indeed warp.
For adequate support, it's best to put the cabin on a 150mm thick concrete base. A paving slab base should be sufficient for smaller cabins of less than 30m², as long as it is completely level. Try to make the base exactly the same size as the cabin for a neat appearance.