The Tiny house Blog

What Are the Different Cabin Types? (Explained!)

Updated on:
November 17, 2023
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The demand for cabins has risen sharply over the last few years due to their simplistic and minimalistic design. The rustic vibe log cabins provide adds to the charm. Log cabins have been long used as simple, easy-to-construct shelters that offer a great way to connect to nature.

Although log cabins come in different shapes, sizes, and styles, the most popular ones have a handcrafted, full-scribe design. That said, modern cabin designs offer several amenities and are often used as family homes rather than temporary shelters.

Cabins can greatly differ in design, location, the material used to build them, and utility. While classic designs like the post and beam, full scribe, and timber frame are still quite popular, modern hybrid log cabins with modern amenities are gaining popularity.

Do you want to build a cabin in your backyard or the woods but are confused about what type to build? We are here to help.

In this article, let’s take a closer look at the various types of cabins you can build and discuss some advantages and drawbacks of these designs.

So, let’s get going, shall we?

What log cabin style do you want?

The aesthetics and the external beauty are a huge part of a cabin’s charm and appeal. While the aesthetic appeal of a cabin is a crucial factor, it is equally important to consider the materials used, their efficiency, and the log cabin styles best suited to your needs.

You should consider several important aspects of a cabin before finalizing the type of cabin you want to build. If you are familiar with the construction process, style, and building material types, you can make a better decision while assembling your cabin.

Most log homes are used as secondary houses, summerhouses, and hunting shelters rather than primary residences. The choice of your cabin house can differ significantly depending on whether you want to use it as a primary residence or a secondary one.

Many modern cabins are designed to serve as a gym, home office, or additional guest room alongside the primary residence. In such situations, the type and design of your cabin should complement your primary residence.

If you know the different types of cabin options you have, you can choose a design that offers the most yield for your investment.

1. Traditional log cabins

Log cabins are picturesque homes that look like they have come to life from history books or western movies of the past. When most people think about a cabin, they inevitably think about a log cabin. These cabins are still extremely popular as summer homes or hunting retreats.

There are several styles to choose from when constructing a log cabin. From the type of trees and longs used to the style and finish, several possibilities exist to build a unique log cabin.

Constructing a log cabin comes with challenges like stacking the logs together, working with different size logs, and insulating your cabin. However, it is quite possible to construct a warm, secure, stable log cabin that can last for years.

Here are the most popular styles of log homes you should consider.

Full Scribe Cabin

Full-scribe log cabins have been around for centuries. These cabins are made from whole uncut logs scribed on-site to fit together perfectly. Rather than cutting the timber into smaller pieces and assembling it, this method uses entire logs. There is no need for log siding to give a rustic look.

Most full-scribe log cabins are made from large-diameter logs, often measuring 12 inches in diameter or more. One of the most enticing features of a full-scribe cabin is the natural look of the exposed wood. The artisans carefully handpick the logs and peel them, exposing the natural beauty of the wood.

Constructing a full-scribe cabin requires considerable skill and experience. Each log needs to be scribed perfectly to fit the contours of the adjacent log for a perfect fit. The scribing process can take considerable time and must be done precisely to ensure proper structural integrity and insulation.

A properly constructed full-scribe log cabin is airtight, insulated, perfect for any weather, and has a classic western ranch look.

Another interesting fact about full-scribe log homes is that while the design originated in Scandinavia several centuries ago, the construction methods remain the same, even today.

Another advantage of this cabin type is that you can use locally available timber, making it easy to construct in remote places.

Western cedar logs are perfect for constructing a full-scribe log cabin.

Advantages of full-scribe cabins

  • Strong and can withstand any weather
  • Rustic aesthetics are very appealing
  • It can be made from local wood
  • Incredibly energy-efficient

Disadvantages of full-scribe cabins

  • Requires experienced and skilled artisans to construct
  • It can be challenging to attach utilities, including plumbing and electriPost and beam cabin

The post and beam log cabin design has also been used for centuries. It uses rough-hewn timber beams to create a support frame to bear the structure's weight. Unlike the full-scribe design, the post and beam cabins consist of smaller logs cut and shaped to fit together using various types of joints such as dovetail and mortise or tenon joints.

The exposed vertical and large horizontal logs of the post and beam log home to give it a rustic and authentic look you often associate with mountain cabins or holiday retreats.

While several species of wood can be used to make post and beam cabins, some of the most common are:

  • Cedar
  • Spruce
  • Fir
  • Pine

You can paint or stain the logs or leave them in their natural state.

The most significant advantage of this design is that you can build a post and beam cabin using a kit that comes with all the necessary building materials, including the pre-cut timber and the building plans.

This design uses fewer logs than the full-scribe model, which can help reduce costs. It mostly consists of vertical and horizontal logs, with a stick-built frame filling the space between the logs.

In most cabins that use this design, the exterior is often finished with half logs or timber, giving it a characteristic look.

As beam cabins are constructed with fewer vertical log posts, you can install huge windows to enjoy breathtaking views of your surroundings.

These cabins are usually more expensive to construct as they require high-quality timber. However, they are much easier to build than full-scribe cabins.

 Advantages of post and beam cabins

  • Easy to construct and add log siding
  • Offer great insulation
  • Offer greater durability
  • They can be built in different sizes
  • They require very low maintenance

Disadvantages of Post and beam log cabins

  • The timber frames used in construction can be pretty expensive
  • The outside beams are susceptible to rotting

Timber frame cabins

The timber frame design is quite famous for residential cabins and features a wooden framework from large timber beams connected by unique joinery. These cabins are popular as they are durable, attractive, and eco-friendly.

The timber frames use structural insulated panels or SIPs that warp around the timber frame to provide excellent insulation from weather elements.

As the log walls are constructed outside the wooden frame, the timber is left exposed, adding to the beauty of the design.

The design calls for large timber panels cut to precise measurements, so it can be difficult to construct with limited connectivity.

However, a timber frame cabin is highly durable and energy efficient. As the frame is quite strong, there is no need for load-bearing walls to construct these cabins. It allows you to experiment with an open floor plan with huge rooms.

The natural beauty of the wood used in construction creates a welcoming, warm atmosphere that is difficult to recreate with other building materials.

A properly constructed timber frame cabin can last centuries and offer great returns on your investment.

Advantages of timber frame cabins

  • They can last for years
  • High energy efficiency
  • Can be designed with log siding in different open floor plans
  • Environmentally friendly

Disadvantages of timber frame cabins

  • The cabin cost can be significantly higher

Chink log cabin

A modern chink cabin is a design that uses “chinking” to fill the gaps between the logs to create better insulation. Chinking the logs resembles joining bricks with mortar while constructing a wall.

The process can create a perfectly insulated cabin that can be difficult to achieve otherwise. The design almost always consists of horizontally stacked logs.

The chinking can not only serve a functional purpose, but it can also add to the aesthetic appeal of your milled log cabin.

Most chink milled log cabins use two types of material for the chinking process:

  • Concrete log siding
  • Synthetic material

Mortar chinking is preferred over synthetic as logs absorb or lose water and shrink or expand seasonally. Chink milled log cabins are easier to build and do not require a high skill level. As a result, such a cabin can be an excellent do-it-yourself project.

Advantages of chink cabin

  • Easy to build
  • Good energy efficiency
  • Cheap to make
  • Offer a rustic look

Disadvantages of Chink cabin

  • They may require regular maintenance
  • Not as sturdy as other log cabins

Handcrafted log cabin

The handcrafted classic cabin design is perhaps the most rustic and unique among all other log cabin designs. The handcrafted log construction uses large, carefully handcrafted logs to fit perfectly together. These cabins' timeless aesthetic and charm make them one of the most sought-after designs.

Constructing a handcrafted cabin begins with selecting the right kind of logs, stripping the bark off them, and cutting them by hand to achieve a perfect fit. As you can imagine, the level of craftsmanship in constructing this type of cabin is relatively high.

A handcrafted log cabin can last for years, thanks to the high-quality logs used in the construction. If you take good care of your cabin, it can last for years with minimal maintenance.

The heavy logs used in building a handcrafted cabin ensure that a tight seal is formed, insulating the inside of the cabin from the weather elements. Consequently, handcrafted log cabins are some of the most energy-efficient cabins that can keep warm during the winter and cool during the summer.

One of the biggest drawbacks of this design is the price tag. A handcrafted log cabin can be expensive, especially compared to other designs. As the logs needed for the design must be of high quality, they can increase the price by quite a bit.

While a handcrafted cabin has a rustic charm, it might not make much financial sense for many people. If you are on a tight budget, going for other types of cabins can be a better idea than these expensive handcrafted ones.

Advantages of handcrafted log cabins

  • Sturdy and long-lasting design
  • Exceptional energy efficiency
  • Rustic look
  • They can be adapted to a wide range of sizes

Disadvantages of handcrafted log cabins

  • Quite expensive to build

Types of logs used for log cabins

The type of logs you choose for constructing your log cabin is critically essential. The choice of logs will determine the cost of your cabin and its overall durability and looks. A log home made from high-quality timber can withstand the elements better, providing better shelter in all weather conditions.

The longevity of your log cabin depends on the quality of timber you use in the construction. The best timber for a log cabin comes from conifers that grow at high altitudes. 

The conifers like fir and pine tend to grow slowly, resulting in a compact wood with exceptional tensile and compressive strength.

The wood from these trees also has less propensity to warp and crack with age, making them ideal for all cabins.

Some of the best species of conifers for constructing a cabin include the following:

Douglas fir

Douglas fir is known for its high-strength wood and is a favorite for constructing a cabin in the northern United States and Canada.

You can also buy kiln-dried Douglas fir - a better option than unprocessed logs. The logs from Douglas fir are ideal for full-scribe, post, beam, and timber frame designs.

Red cedar

The red cedar is quite ubiquitous throughout the North Pacific coastline. Western red cedar logs are known for their dense wood and high insect and decay-resistant properties. 

It is a wood of choice for making cabins in colder regions where insulation is crucial. The flared ends of these logs add to the appeal.

Eastern white pine

Another popular soft wood used to make cabins, the eastern white pine, is known for its straight grain and uniform texture. It is also quite resistant to decay and insects, including termites, making it an ideal choice for log homes.

The type of logs used also influences the characteristics of your log cabin. Here are a few types of logs that are pretty popular in constructing cabins:

Round logs

This is the most traditional type of logs used to construct handcrafted and full-scribe cabins. 

These logs are typically cut from the tree trunk and are sold unprocessed with their natural round shape. Round logs can be easily shaped to fit into each other during the construction of your log cabin.

Square logs

Square logs also come from the tree trunk but are milled into a square shape. The square shape makes it easier for them to be stacked and joined. 

The cabins made from square logs also have a more uniform appearance. Square-shaped logs are pretty popular in modern cabins.

D-shaped logs

As their name suggests, these logs have rounded and flat faces. Although these logs are not very popular, they are often used for the bottom layer of the logs in a log cabin, as the flat side can provide better support. They are also used for making log siding.

Swedish cope

A Swedish cope is a log design similar to a round log with one key difference. The logs usually have a small crescent shape cut out into their bottom for a better fit when stacking the logs together.

Hand-hewn logs

These logs are hand-shaped, usually on-site, using tools like broadaxe or adze. They are commonly used in handcrafted and full-scribe cabins and offer a rustic, hand-made look to the cabin.

Milled logs

Milled logs are cut into specific shapes and sizes using a sawmill. While they are not used for constructing a traditional cabin, they are popular in modern designs. These logs are cut off-site with greater accuracy, making milled logs easier to work with than other log types on this list.

Log home packages

You can purchase log home packages directly from the producer or a local dealer. The package often includes everything you will require for making a log cabin, along with the floor plan. On the downside, there is limited flexibility while using these log cabin kits.

2. Modern prefab cabins

Modern prefab cabins are gaining popularity as cost-effective and efficient alternatives to making traditional log cabins. The cabins are manufactured in a factory and transported to the site for assembly. The modular approach in these designs allows the cabins to be customized according to your needs.

The pre-manufactured components used in these cabins are more cost-effective than the natural wood material used in traditional cabins. All parts of a prefab cabin are made to fit perfectly with each other, making these cabins easy to build.

Besides, you don’t need highly skilled craftsmen to assemble these cabins. Assembling the cabin is fast and simple. In contrast to log cabins, modern prefab cabins don’t require highly skilled craftsmen to set up.  

The materials used in these cabins come from sustainable sources, making them an environmentally conscious choice. 

Being prefabricated, the cabins come with several finish choices. You can also use different materials and combinations to create a unique style statement.  

The high-quality materials protect your cabin from weather elements and offer exceptional insulation.

These cabins are ideal if you want to build them in your backyard as an additional living space.

Advantages of modern prefab cabins

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Exceptional energy efficiency
  • Offer great flexibility in design
  • Can withstand almost any weather conditions

Disadvantages of modern prefab cabins

  • Don’t offer a rustic look of a log cabin

3. Modular cabins

Modular hybrid cabins are perfect for building a cabin quickly and on a budget. The modules of the designs (also called sections) are mass-produced in a factory and shipped to the site for quick assembly. In most cases, a modular cabin can be erected in as little as two days.

The modular approach can significantly reduce construction time and reduce overall cost. Modular cabins come in various types of exterior walls and designs, and some can closely resemble classic cabins.

One of the most significant advantages of a modular hybrid cabin is that the modular approach ensures excellent energy efficiency. The operating costs of these cabins can be pretty low compared to traditional cabins.

Another attractive feature of this design is that you can start small and add to your existing cabin when you have the time and budget for the expansion. As the design is modular, you can easily add new rooms anytime with minimal disturbance to the main structure. You can also finish the exterior with log siding for that rustic look.

You can also take a DIY approach with these modern hybrid cabins. While traditional log cabins need expertise and skill, assembling these cabins is relatively easy, requiring a few tools.

A modular hybrid cabin is a way to go if you are considering building a small cabin off the grid in a remote location.

Advantages of a modular hybrid cabin

  • These cabins are easy to assemble 
  • Are environmentally friendly
  • A modular cabin can be built in small installments
  • Offer great weather protection

Disadvantages of a modular hybrid cabin

  • Land rights and zoning laws can be a problem in future expansion
  • Customizing these cabins can be difficult
The Eco Cabin

4. Modern A-frame cabins

A-frame design is one of the most straightforward and inexpensive cabin designs available. Thanks to the inclined roof, it is ideal for mountains and places with heavy snow. As the snow tends to slide off the roof, there is less pressure on the roof.

The design was initially conceived as a simple and affordable housing solution during the early 20th century. However, modern A-frame cabins come equipped with contemporary design elements and amenities.

The design allows for excellent use of space within the structure. The triangular shape allows for bigger rooms, with the walls angling inwards to provide a cozy and comfortable atmosphere.

Many modern A-frame cabins also feature skylights that add to the beauty of the design. While a classic A-frame is a minimalistic cabin with little embellishments, you can incorporate various modern design elements.

For instance, the design can include multiple levels, patios, and decks to complement the minimalistic aesthetic.

The A-frame is also known for its low maintenance requirements. The simple design also means that these cabins are quick and affordable to construct. The classic A-frames can be an excellent option for a vacation home in the woods or even as a rental property.

Advantages of modular cabins

  • Minimalistic design
  • Hood environmental protection
  • Possibility to customize
  • Durable

Disadvantages of modular cabins

  • The design might be too simple and mundane for some
  • As you can have windows only on two sides, it can be pretty dark inside

5. Stick-built cabin

Stick-built cabins use a framework made from cut pieces of lumber or “sticks.” These cabins can be made from different types of lumber, including softwoods like pine and fir. The framing is typically made from 2X4 or 2X6 lumber, combined using nails and screws.

Stick-built cabins are highly customizable, thanks to their ability to adapt to your design specifications. As the framework is built first, there are no limitations on the shape or size of the unit built. 

The cost of a stick-built cabin can also be influenced by the type of wood used and the dimensions of the cabin.


  • These cabins offer a greater degree of customizability, including log siding
  • The cabins also offer good environmental protection 
  • Excellent durability and structural integrity

Disadvantages of stick-built cabins

  • They can be more expensive than prefab cabin
  • Don’t offer the rustic look characteristic of a log cabin building

Takeaway: Experiment with various designs to create the cabin of your dreams  

Cabins can be a great option if you are a fan of the outdoors or looking to build an extension to your primary residence. A huge part of owning a cabin is the unique experience they offer.

Besides your several design options, you can customize your cabin to make it as rustic or as modern as you like. While handcrafted and full-scribe cabins offer a natural look, modern modular designs can make your cabin look sleek, minimalistic, and contemporary.

Traditional cabins can last long with timely repairs and proper maintenance. If you choose a suitable timber, your cabin can also effectively keep the rot and pests away. On the other hand, modern prefab and modular cabins are made from synthetic materials with excellent insect-resistant and weather-resistant properties.

You can create a unique, aesthetically pleasing, and long-lasting cabin with the right design and material combination.

Tiny House can help you find your dream cabin, whether you are looking for something rustic, close to nature, or minimalistic and ultra-modern. Check out our article on 11 Best Places to Buy a Cabin in the US.

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