Log cabin design ideas, inspiration & pictures

Characteristics and styles of log cabins

It’s quite hard to find somebody in today’s day and age who hasn’t seen a log cabin, whether in real life or online. But where did these well-known structures originate from? Apparently log structures started out in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe in ancient history (around 3,500 B.C.). From there, the trend of constructing a dwelling made of wooden logs spread to North America and the rest is pretty much history.

Traditionally, log cabins were made up of horizontal logs interlocked with notches, or cog joints, at each end. Any gaps were filled up with smaller wedges, moss or mortar to keep out the elements.

Today, the term ‘log cabin’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean a rustic-styled wooden cottage or hut in a rural setting somewhere, even though this was how they began. In fact, once a symbol of humble living, modern-day log houses can be quite modern (and pricey) depending on location and finishes, and numerous holiday destinations (in South Africa and abroad) capitalise on the charm and rustic splendour exuded by log cabins.

But even though conversations about log cabins and wooden houses generally refer to the same structures, there is a difference between the two designs. A log is the round(ish) tree trunk before it is processed into timber. As soon as the logs are put through a sawmill and cut up into planks, they become timber. The easiest way to distinguish between a log cabin and wooden house is to look at the structure’s walls and corners: if they are all regular and machined (even if the planks have been machined to a rounded appearance), they are timber homes. Yet if they look solid and round, it is a log home/cabin.

The pros and cons of log cabins

Think you’d be happy shacking up in a log cabin? First consider the pros and cons.


· Probably the biggest drawback of living in a house made (almost) entirely of wood is termites, ants and other creatures that feast on timber.

· It can also be quite tricky to wire a log structure with electricity, not to mention water piping.

· Full-log homes have no insulation, meaning they are extremely hot in the South African summer and freezing cold during winter. Conventional systems need to be put in place.

· As soon as the logs start to shrink, you’ll have to keep caulking the space in-between them.

· As a natural material, wood needs to undergo maintenance if you want to use it for your house. Thus, those logs will need to be stained/sealed every 3 – 5 years to protect the wood from a range of factors, from fighting moisture build-up to keeping the logs from decaying or splitting.


· Log walls are natural sound insulators.

· Log homes exude a prestigious and beautiful aesthetic appeal.

· Log cabins are more energy efficient if built and caulked properly compared to an identical wood-frame house.

· Buildings made from timber can be extremely durable. And even though earthquakes are not a major issue in South Africa, wooden structures are able to absorb ground movements without the entire design being compromised.

· Wooden homes can be very cost effective, meaning you won’t need to break the bank if you’re planning to build your dream home out of logs.

The costs of log cabins

South Africans dreaming of owning their very own log cabin are in luck: we have numerous builders and suppliers ready to help you construct your wooden dream home. Of course prices range considerably depending on factors such as finishes, location, type of supplier, the size of the home you wish to build, extra amenities, etc. However, R8,500 per square metre is the asking price of one building company located in Pretoria. For an additional R75 per square metre, thatch roofs can be erected as well.

If you’re looking at a high-quality, solid log or wooden house with high interior finishes, you can expect a budget of around R5,500/m². Keep in mind that this price can definitely be lowered by incorporating innovative design and plenty of open-plan living areas.

Log cabins: prefab or normal build?

Prefabricated structures are also to be found in South African architecture, and seeing as they offer a range of benefits (such as speedy construction, affordability and energy efficiency), this type of building has definitely gained popularity during the past few years.

However, be sure to do thorough research, contact quite a few suppliers and weigh the various options (and quotes) up against each other to discover whether a prefab or traditionally built log house will best suit your needs.

Let homify help

Whether it’s a colonial-style log cabin or a super modern house constructed out of bricks, homify has an ever-expanding collection of residential designs ready to inspire you. In addition, we also help to put you in contact with a wealth of professionals in the architectural and design realms (including architects, interior designers, carpenters and electricians), both locally and internationally, to help you expand your options when it comes to your housing needs.