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How Log Cabin Kits Work

Disadvantages of Building with Log Cabin Kits

Any product -- and any home purchasing decision -- carries its share of risks. Here, we'll examine some of the down sides of log cabin kits.

Some kit providers smooth out the logs to uniform size by rotating them on a lathe. This method is sometimes called "machine peeling." At least one member of the Log Home Builders Association laments that the method turns logs into "giant dowels." Although the uniformity may make the logs fit together more easily -- or at least more predictably -- it may not lead to long-term stability. Removing the bark and surface irregularities strips the logs of their natural defenses against rot, which makes the cabin more vulnerable to termites and other problems.

To protect machine-peeled walls, you may need to treat the wood every few years with chemical sealants. This can aggravate respiratory problems. Or it could remove the ecological appeal of building a log cabin [source: LHBA].

It also removes a less tangible value: aesthetics. The individuality (sometimes called "personality") of logs rests on their irregularities; remove the irregularity and you remove the character [source: LHBA]. (To draw an analogy to more conventional homes, think about the difference between cinderblocks and genuine masonry, or linoleum and tile.)

Surprisingly enough, cost can also be a disadvantage. When you buy a kit, you're buying components bundled together. But that may mean some hidden costs are bundled in as well. After all, the suppliers have to make a profit, and they do that by marking up prices on materials that may be available directly to consumers. If you trust your ability to purchase construction materials, or if you know you're going to want a lot of customization anyway, it may be more cost-effective to purchase individual components than a kit [source: Wholesale Log Homes].

If you're concerned about cost, but you still want the backup support of a kit approach, a good compromise may be a walls-only system. In such a system, sometimes called a "panelized" cabin, you're responsible for purchasing, placing, and installing windows and doors. You receive walls -- and nothing but walls -- in modular sections, usually four feet each. The logs have been fitted together; their configuration is up to you [source: Octagon Homes].

The bottom line? Thousands of people use kits to create beautiful, unique dwellings. But you must go into it with open eyes. Do your research. Talk to log home associations. Talk to log-home owners. Shop around. When the blizzard winds are howling, and you're sure there's a grizzly outside, you'll want to know you built the best possible cabin.

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