How to Build a Cabin by Hand


Building a cabin by hand cuts down on costs and provides satisfaction to the owner. The plans for a simple cabin require few tools and very little expertise. Early settlers built their homes by hand, kept themselves warm inside throughout the winter and raised families in these simple, hand-built structures. The tools to build a cabin and the building site itself are the only costs for a cabin built by hand. The building materials, young trees, grow abundantly in wooded areas surrounding many suitable building sites.

Things You'll Need

  • Logs
  • Floor planks
  • Plywood boards
  • Roof shingles
  • Axe
  • Adze
  • Saw
  • Knife
  • Shovel
  • Concrete
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Door
  • Hinges
  • Window


  • Gather as many logs as your building plan calls for. You can buy log cabin plans or create them yourself. A simple cabin structure does not require professionally drafted plans.

  • Dig holes in the ground where the corners of your cabin will be. Make the holes two and a half feet deep and insert building posts. Reinforce the posts by filling the holes with concrete.

  • Use an adze to give a flat surface to your logs with the largest diameter. An adze looks like an axe with a sideways blade. These flat-surfaced logs will serve as the bottom layer of your cabin walls.

  • Carve out four evenly spaced notches in the logs on the long sides of your cabin. Use narrow logs as floor joists to support the floor planks. Set these planks in, sanding them down to prevent splinters.

  • Cut your logs to size according to the length of your walls. Leave an opening for the door and one for a window. A window is not necessary for cabins with very simple plans.

  • Create notches in your logs where they will rest on top of each other in the walls. Double-sided, Lincoln-log-style notches will give your cabin a more traditional look but may collect water during rain storms. Single-sided notches facing down require less work and secure logs firmly in place.


  • Lay the logs down one at a time in the walls. Logs with the largest diameter can bear the heaviest load and should go on the bottom. The lightest logs belong on top. If the notches do not fit precisely, carve them with a knife until they do.

  • Carve four notches into the last logs you place on the two longer sides. Run ceiling crossbeams between these two logs just as you mounted the floor joists on the bottom. These crossbeams can support another layer of planks to create an attic or second floor.

  • Add logs to the two shorter walls in descending size until they come to a point. This forms the roof gables. Nail a long beam from one gable to the other to create the roof's purlin.

  • Nail a large, wide plywood board to each open side of the roof, driving nails into the purlin, gables and ceiling support log. Attach shingles to the roof so that it sheds water during storms.

  • Use wood screws to mount the door hinges into the doorway. Self-tapping screws do not require power tools and penetrate wood surfaces easily.

Tips & Warnings

  • Dried moss can fill drafty holes in log cabin walls, but squirrels may remove it and build nests with it. Instead, use concrete and a trowel to block out the wind.
  • Never go to sleep with kerosene lamps burning in a wooden house. If your cabin does not use electricity, mount battery-powered lights to the walls or ceiling.

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  • Photo Credit log cabin image by jimcox40 from
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