Purchasing a new log cabin is a big decision. Whether a log cabin is worth the investment can depend on how long it is going to last in a UK garden and the amount of use it will get throughout its lifetime.
Many of us have realised that garden buildings, especially log cabins, can unlock new uses for the space in a rear garden. This has led to a surge in demand in recent years, with more people than ever installing their own log cabins.
The exact use of each log cabin varies, with some extremely creative examples. A common use is a garden office where the cabin provides a sanctuary away from the house to get to work without being distracted. Garden bars are also incredibly popular, and log cabins can be large enough to host all of the family at once. Other uses include as a garden gym, a nail salon or even a games room.
When purchasing a log cabin different options will be available to customise including the thickness of the logs, double glazing, insulation and the paint finish. Each of these can affect whether the building is usable in colder months, and also how long it will last. Log cabins built with higher quality materials and thicker logs are usually able to last longer.
Before purchasing a new log cabin, it’s important to know how long it is going to last. Let’s take a look at the lifetime of a log cabin and how we can extend the life further.
How long will a log cabin last?
While difficult to give an exact estimate, we believe a high-quality log cabin should last a minimum of 20 years with the correct maintenance.
Log cabins in gardens may have only recently become popular over here, but in Europe, there are plenty of examples of timber constructions lasting over 100 years. In these locations, timber homes can be lived in for generations and often outlast those living inside of them.
When deciding to purchase a log cabin for a garden, it’s a near-permanent decision as it’s not going to rot away after a few years when correctly maintained. If the time comes to sell the house in a few years, a log cabin can often increase the value of the property and give a unique feature to the listing.
To get the best longevity from a log cabin, the construction needs to be completed correctly and the building will also require maintenance every 2-3 years. Simple steps such as keeping the building dry and preventing sitting water can maximise the life of the cabin. Slow grown timber can be more durable, and survive for longer, even in cold conditions. Many manufacturers will offer an anti-rot guarantee (often for a period of up to 10 years) to provide peace of mind that the cabin is well built and constructed of high-quality materials.
How to extend the life of a log cabin
A log cabin can last a long time, but it needs looking after to do so. Extending the life of a log cabin begins before construction has even taken place when choosing a suitable location for the base. After the cabin has been installed, we recommend examining the building once a year to see if there are any noticeable areas where maintenance is required.
When purchasing a garden building, the quality of the timber can vary massively. Each garden building manufacturer will use their own supplier and sometimes the price is a bigger driver than quality. The best quality timber is often grown in colder countries. As the tree grows slower, this results in the wood becoming more durable. Be sure to check look at the quality and previous reviews when purchasing a log cabin.
Several log cabin thickness options are available. Low-cost log cabins start at 28mm thickness, which is still much thicker and sturdier than a garden shed or summerhouse. For a log lasting cabin, we recommend at least 44mm log thickness, which uses a double tongue & groove system. The additional size adds strength to the structure to keep it firmly in position for years to come. A thicker log cabin can also be used throughout the year, even during the winter months.
The base can be a common downfall to garden buildings and a log cabin is no exception. There are plenty of examples of bad bases online. If there’s one piece of advice we could give to anyone considering a log cabin, it would be to make sure the base is both solid and level. Even the smallest of log cabins will weigh hundreds of kilograms and a solid base is required to provide support in preventing any movement.
Building a log cabin on an uneven base can lead to gaps in the walls appearing within a few months. When the cabin is assembled in the garden, each interlocking log is put into position until all of the walls are built up. When the building is constructed at the factory it will be machine cut to extremely tight tolerances. A slightly uneven base can lead to the logs not locking together properly and not creating a watertight seal around the building. Over time, the uneven base can put additional pressure on the wood, leading to warping, which can be visible in difficulty opening the doors and windows.
A concrete slab base is the best option for maximising the lifespan of a log cabin. The concrete is easy to get level and will last for years without needing any maintenance. If a new concrete base is being installed, a vapour barrier can be put inside the base to prevent damp rising from below the log cabin. The vapour barrier stops water from the ground underneath the concrete from rising and affecting the log cabins floor. A concrete base must be installed at least several weeks before the log cabin to allow it to dry out completely before the cabin is assembled on top.
The base should also be slightly larger than the log cabin to allow enough space to support all sides of the log cabin, even with a little bit of movement.
Treating a log cabin doesn’t just enhance the appearance, it also provides long-term protection against exterior conditions. When most log cabins arrive, the timber spruce is completely untreated and exposed to the elements.
Wood is porous and can take on water. When it rains, the untreated timber can absorb water, causing it to expand slightly. When the sun comes out and the timber drys again, it will contract as it’s no longer holding onto the water. These frequent slight movements in the timber over time can lead to wear on the building, potentially reducing its lifespan. Remaining damp from lots of bad weather during the winter can also lead to rot affecting the cabin.
A high-quality wood treatment on the exterior of a log cabin provides a layer of protection against the outside weather. The treatment is usually topped up every 3 years for maximum protection and can keep a log cabin looking new for a long time.
The wood treatment protects against rot and mould by soaking deep into the wood with chemicals to inhibit their growth. On the surface, the wood preserver provides a water-proof layer to prevent the timber from taking on water when it rains. This keeps the moisture content of the wood consistent.
Lots of different colour wood preservers are available and any are suitable apart from the clear options. A clear wood treatment does not contain any coloured pigments, meaning it will not provide any UV protection for the timber. Within a few months, the timber will begin to turn grey as the suns rays begin to fade its natural colour.
It’s recommended to apply a wood treatment as soon as possible once the log cabin has been assembled. If it’s been raining recently, you may need to wait for the wood to completely dry first.
Prevent water build up
Damp and moisture are one of the biggest causes of damage to wooden buildings, so preventing water from building up is essential. Plenty of choices can be made when installing a cabin that will prevent issues with water.
The log cabin should be placed in a suitable location that is slightly higher than the surrounding ground. This will prevent water from puddling up during heavy rainfall or during the winter. Locations such as at the bottom of a slope or somewhere the water cannot runoff can lead to water collecting at the bottom of the log cabin. Over time the cabin floor and framing can begin to take on water, leading to dampness.
To keep water away from the cabin when it’s raining heavily, roof overhangs or gutting can be used. The guttering can be installed at the bottom of a sloping roof to redirect water away from the bottom of the walls. Instead, the rainwater is deposited away from the cabin or collected in a water butt.
Ventilation is also essential for all garden buildings, particularly if it will be left unused for an extended period during the winter. A log cabin should be able to continuously ventilate air to prevent the build-up of humid conditions inside, which can be visible as condensation on the windows. A small passive air vent is usually enough for most cabins, as well as regularly opening the door and windows to let fresh air inside.
Overall, understanding how long a log cabin will last is important to know before committing to purchase. Even though outbuildings are classified as temporary structures, we expect a high-quality log cabin to last over twenty years when properly maintained. With this in mind, a cabin can be a great investment to add space to a property.
Taking steps to extend the life of a log cabin will ensure the building lasts for a long time. A concrete base will provide a solid and level foundation. Using a wood preserver will enhance the appearance and also protect the timber.