The Differences Between Building Cabins in Different Climates

Hamill Creek   |   Nov 22, 2019

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to build a timber frame home in a snowy backwoods area? Or have a coastal log cabin overlooking the ocean? Wonder if there are different building materials for different climates? If you are seriously considering building the timber house you have always wanted, it makes sense to know what building with wood in different climates is like. 

At Hamill Creek, we are in the business of helping our clients watch their dreams build from the ground up. Below you will find some valuable information about what using timber and logs in different climates entails.

What building materials do you need for different climates?

A log cabin in a colder environment will need insulation on the floor and roof as 70 percent of heat is lost through these areas. This drives up costs. You will want to find timber with a high R-value. This metric evaluates how well each type of log insulates. White Atlantic cedar has a tremendous ability to keep a cabin warm. Other types of wood to minimize leakage are spruce, pine, fir and larch.    

Hot temperatures, like with a coastal log cabin with no air-conditioning, will require timber that allows the air to move freely in and out. If it gets humid where you have your coastal log cabin, you may have to spend more to be sure the timber is cut, dried and stored properly. Otherwise, it will collect moisture and be susceptible to wood rot. 

Are there different costs associated with building materials in different climates?

Yes, there are, although, it’s hard to estimate in terms of timber as the price fluctuates. Building a log home in a colder climate is generally more expensive because of insulation, heating and ventilation concerns. More maintenance is needed to keep a log cabin in colder climates sealed tight than to encourage airflow in warmer places.

That being said, a log cabin somewhere hot is going to have building and maintenance costs of its own. Keeping the exterior logs protected from UV light is an ongoing task. Also if it rains a lot where you are from you will need to invest in water protection for your cabin. 

Is it more expensive to maintain a Timber Frame home in snowy climates? 

It certainly can be. As snow collects on the roof of a log cabin or timber-framed home, massive pressure builds on that roof. Therefore the roof undergoes a lot of wear and tear every winter and must be inspected annually. Consider a metal standing-seam roof at a slightly steeper angle to help snow to slide off.  You may also want to put in snow guards to prevent dangerous large chunks of snow from sliding on top of you. 

The exterior of log cabins in snowy places also needs a lot of TLC. Driving rain, snow, wind and sun all take their toll. Protective stains and sealants need to be applied each year to protect against sun and moisture. Designing a log cabin or timber-framed home with large eaves, overhangs, covered porches and decks helps save you money on maintenance.

The best cabin foundation for cold climates will depend on a number of things, like the rock and soil type, size of the cabin, drainage design, topography and budget. A shallow foundation in cold weather will provide more frost protection than a conventional slab with below frost-depth footings. Also, rigid foam under the foundation extending out from the building will help keep garages warm.

Want to know more about how the climate of your building site will affect your log cabin? Contact the friendly staff of Hamill Creek for more information about climate-specific materials, building practices and more.

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