Before you buy, think about your goals for the cabin and your property. Why do you want a cabin? Which style of cabin best answers that question?
Other questions to consider are:
- What quirks of your property (such as elevation and trees) do you need to accommodate?
- How much effort can you personally put into the construction?
- Are you willing to do deep excavation for a basement, or are you content with a shallower foundation?
- How many rooms do you need?
- How much money can you spend -- not just now, but in the future, when you're paying utility bills?
- What local building codes and zoning ordinances do you have to meet?
Take some time to learn about the different methods of log cabin construction. In virtually every method, logs are notched or shaped so that they fit together with a sound, airtight seal for stability, even weight distribution and insulation.
In a Scandinavian chinkless cabin (sometimes called Swedish cope), each log has a shallow, rounded groove, or cope, running the length of the log. A cross-section of a coped log looks like a cookie from which someone has taken a small bite. The point of this bite-shaped groove is to create a log custom-fitted to the log below it [sources: LHBA, Cedar Knoll].
The Canadian chinkless method assembles logs in much the same way as the Scandinavian chinkless. But the Canadian method uses uniform, V-shaped grooves. A cross-section of the log looks like a pie from which a large piece has been removed. The V can introduce some structural problems. The log is more prone to splitting at the apex of the V. If it splits, even slightly, it may settle into a new position, threatening the integrity of the wall above it. The spaces between logs are also more vulnerable to termites, mice and other pests [source: LHBA].
By contrast, a chinked method of construction retains the irregularities in the logs. Rather than fit logs together perfectly for their entire length, a chinked construction uses another material to fill in the gaps between the logs [source: Log Home Directory].
Chinked or not, not every log is round. Some are D-style -- flattened on one side. Some are cut in the Appalachian square style. You'll also need to pick a corner style; options include saddle notch (familiar to everyone who ever played with Lincoln Logs), dovetail and butt-and-pass [source: Donaldson].
On the next pages, we'll look at the good, the bad and the ugly of log cabin kits.