Log cabins Ireland: Are they for you?

A woden cabin

Could log cabins be the answer to the perennial problem of affordable housing in Ireland? What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a log cabin? How much do they cost, and are they really environmentally friendly?


We’ve trawled through every wooden nook and cranny to answer your questions and have brought back all the necessary information to help you make a decision. Are log cabins for you? Read on and find out.

Did you know?One metre3 of wood can absorb up to 350 litres of carbon emissions.


Log cabin or shed, what’s the difference?

While in Ireland we generally distinguish between log cabins and sheds in terms of size, it’s actually the exterior thickness which determines the denomination.

Sheds are less permanent structures, and the thickness of the exterior wooden panels used tend to run between 7mm to 1.8cm. This is obviously quite thin, and might do in a pinch to keep your garden tools dry, but would not be suitable for living in.

A log cabin is a much more substantial structure, with external timber cladding generally ranging from a thickness of 1.4 - 1.35cm. In Ireland, cladding tends to be thicker, starting from around 4.4 cm.


What are the pros and cons of log cabins

When you think of wooden houses, you might jump to the conclusion that they would be fire hazards or beacons for termites, but is this true?

Pros

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Let’s examine the positives of living in or owning a log cabin.

1. Environmentally friendly

Wood is a slow, clean renewable material to construct with. Concrete, on the other hand, has a large carbon footprint (article coming soon), being responsible for nearly 8% of global carbon emissions. Much less concrete is used in log cabins than in regular buildings, as it is usually only required for the foundations.

As wooden houses are lighter than regular buildings, there is also less concrete needed in the foundations. Not only do wooden buildings have a smaller footprint, but trees grown to be used in timber home construction also absorb carbon from the atmosphere while they are growing, and retain it when cut down.

2. Long-lasting

Timber homes can be very long-lasting, with some still in usein Europe atover 800 years old.

3. Inobtrusive

Wood homes blend more easily with the Irish landscape.

4. Less mold or damp

Due to the speed with which a log cabin can be built, the frame of the house is exposed to the elements for much less time. This reduces the possibility of mold or mildew.

5. Warmth

Timber cabins can be easily kept warm by taking advantage of the natural thermal mass of wood. Log homes can retain up to 40% more warmth than traditional houses.

6. Breathable

Not only do log cabins keep the heat in, but wood is also naturally breathable and allows air to circulate more efficiently. This also helps avoid damp problems.

7. Quick

Log cabins are quick and economical to construct and are also easy to make energy-efficient (although this will also depend on the construction company). Your new home could be yours in a matter of weeks rather than months.

What is thermal mass?Thermal mass refers to the property of materials which enable them to absorb and store heat.

Cons

Everything has its weak points - so what exactly are the disadvantages of living in a log cabin?

1. Maintenance

Wooden houses require more extensive maintenance than traditional houses. Stained wooden exteriors will need to be redone every few years and painted exteriors will need to be repainted more often than traditional house exteriors.

A closer eye will need to be kept on the overall condition of your home, as damp wood left untreated can quickly spread rot.

2. Termites

Although termite infestations are rarely heard of in Ireland, they remain a possibility and could damage the structure of your new home.

3. Water

Unfortunately for wooden houses, in Ireland, we have a lot of it. As wood can absorb water and warp or rot, log cabins need to be raised off the ground and have overhanging eaves so that water runs off instead of pooling and damaging the structure.

4. Insurance

Not all insurance companies cover log cabins for residential purposes at the moment, although that could change as they become more popular in Ireland.

Still undecided?

If you’re still not sure whether or not a log cabin is for you, consider:

  • Visiting open days at log cabin construction companies
  • Call a local cabin provider and ask to see showroom cabins
  • Rent a wooden cabin on AirBnB - this will allow you to truly decide whether you could live in a timber house or not

If your main motivation for considering living in a log cabin is financial, you could also consider a tiny house.


Types of log cabins

Generally speaking, log cabins can be divided into five categories:

  1. Bespoke log cabins
  2. Log cabin extensions
  3. Single Room log cabins
  4. Multi-room log cabins
  5. Garden log cabins

Bespoke log cabins are made to order. There are several companies offering this service in Ireland.

Log cabin extensions are added onto existing houses or cabins. A log cabin extension is a fast and economical alternative to a traditional house extension.

Single room log cabins can be used for living purposes, such as studio-style apartments, but are more commonly used for small holiday properties. They are becoming more common at “glamping” and non-traditional hotels.

In these cases, the majority of the hotel’s amenities are normally housed in the main building and the bedrooms are separate cabins.

Multi-room log cabins are very suitable for living purposes and can reproduce the living dimensions of most average-sized houses.

Garden log cabins can be used either as sun houses, playhouses, offices or as sheds to store gardening items and unused furniture, as.

 

Log Cabin FAQ

Find all the answers to some frequently asked questions here, regardin log cabins and wooden houses.

How can I finance buying a log cabin?

As with tiny houses, getting a mortgage for a log cabin can be a tough proposition. You may be able to either organise a loan or alternatively some log cabin construction companies, such as Eco-home, have partnerships with financial institutions and can arrange financing.

How long does it take to build a log cabin?

In general, once a customer has paid the down payment, log cabins can usually be constructed within an 8-12 week period.

How do you heat a log cabin?

Log cabins can be heated much the same way as regular houses. The easiest installation options tend to be stoves, but oil heating and gas heating systems are also options.

A well-insulated log cabin should be relatively easy to keep warm in winter and cool in summer. Log cabins with adequate insulation can be easily brought up to an A3 BER (Building Energy Rating).

Can a log cabin be insured?

Like all good things in life, not only can a log cabin be insured, it definitely should be. While some companies will insure your new timber abode without any difficulties, not all will.

Your construction company should be able to provide you with a list of brokers prepared to insure your new acquisition at a price comparable with that of a “regular” house’s insurance.

In some cases where the cabin is located on the grounds of an existing property, you may be able to include the dwelling in the insurance policy of the main building as an annex or “granny-flat”.

Do you need planning permission for log cabins in Ireland?

If you are planning on building a log cabin with over 25m2 of inhabitable space, then yes, you will need planning permission. As always we strongly advise you to consult with the council of the area you wish to build in, prior to commencing construction.

As log cabins are built on concrete pads, they can often fall outside the limitations for classifying a residence as a permanent structure. This means that it can be easier to get planning permission for them.

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