Colin and Justin: Wood you believe it?

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As the leisure home industry booms, Colin and Justin appraise the log cabin’s enduring appeal

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There’s something quintessentially North American about a red roofed, log built home, that positively screams Canadian.

This observed, some cottagers opt to pursue a different aesthetic. But into which camp do you fall: ‘painted’ or ‘purist’?

traditional log home

Our first cottage was a sweet lil’ gem in Muskoka, lost (as we found it) to the ravages of time. But we’ve always loved a challenge…

Our vibe was ‘upmarket lodge’, with luxurious layers and generous use of linen and leather. We specified a mix of antique and contemporary furniture, the emphasis placed firmly on rustic. And then we layered, and then layered some more…

The lounge features softly glowing round cut logs as background (polished with linseed oil to augment sheen) which set an immediately decompressing mood.

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In homes constructed primarily from solid lumber, edges can, without careful attention, appear unwelcoming, so balance is essential.

In the living area, the specification of soft linen upholstery, for example, pared with a French button tufted leather ottoman, delivers hard core comfort.

Painted log cabin

We can only imagine the raised eyebrows when an artist couple purchased this formerly toffee toned log cabin, going on to make an attendant précis of controversial design decisions.

A rock fireplace was removed, and timber – everywhere – was painted, God forbid, white. But oh, the finished cabin: gallery-esque, and wildly inviting.

Floors were re-finished in an ebony tone to contrast the white walls, a partial divide was added between the dining area and kitchen to create a sense of separation (without obliterating the zone’s open concept integrity) and walls were reengineered in order that picture windows could be inserted.

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The cottage is testament to what can be achieved when confidence is played as one’s trump card. It truly goes to show the way in which a log home can be re energized in the most refreshing, nay ‘groundbreaking’, manner…

Case studies aside, here’s a round up of main log home build styles, and a few pros and cons of each…

Stacked or ‘full scribe’

The variant with which most are familiar: wood stacked horizontally to form walls, with logs grooved underneath to establish a tight seal.

Revered for their sturdy construction, the external shell goes up is in just a few short days. But whilst there are savings on build time, the sheer volume of logs can make this choice expensive.

post and beam

A series of vertical posts shoulder horizontal beams to support the structure. Remaining areas are often filled with less expensive lumber or cinder block. Interior structure is usually exposed, to create the much loved ‘open’ look. Generally speaking, P&B homes are thermally efficient and ‘settle’ less than stacked log homes.

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Square cut timber frame

These are similar to P&B structures, though logs are milled to create a square rather than a round profile. Oftentimes, owners add contemporary siding as part of the exterior aesthetic, the build type – and its multiple flat surfaces – lending itself well to cladding and ancillary finishes.


Weather issues can be problematic if maintenance is ignored, with sunlight, wind and rain having a potentially adverse effect on logs if not refinished every two or three years.

To be fair, the foregoing issues aren’t a death knoll for logs, though unattended, rot can indeed settle, but this can be minimized by drilling holes to allow air to penetrate and dry the affected wood.

When ‘corrected’, holes can be filled with epoxy. For larger areas of damage, sections can be cut away and replaced.

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Expensive? Potentially, yes, but not prohibitively. For our Muskoka log home, we secured sufficient risk for 20% more than a similarly scaled stick build.

Another misconception is that log homes present a higher fire risk, while in fact they can be less susceptible to damage than standard properties. Have you ever tried engaging flame on a fire log without kindling?

The difficulty in insuring properties such as these often stems from remote build sites and the issues that fire fighters face when accessing a call.

As admirers of multiple construction types, we reserve a special place in our hearts for a build style that goes back literally thousands of years.

And whilst we might consider them North American, most historians agree that log cabins actually have their roots in Bronze Age Northern Europe, where construction started around 3500 BC.

By whichever continent they can be rightfully ‘claimed’, log homes remain a popular option when it comes to shielding ourselves against the elements and feathering the perfect nest…

Watch for Colin and Justin on Cabin Pressure and Great Canadian Cottages (Cottage Life TV) and on Cityline (CityTV). Find the Colin and Justin Collection in stores across Canada. Visit

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