Are log cabins a dying breed?

By Penny Caldwell »Penny Caldwell

More restrictive guidelines for energy-efficient construction could make log cabins obsolete

January 5th, 2012


Photo by Mr Moss


Guest post by Blair Eveleigh, senior associate editor.

Happy New Year!

Well, maybe not, if you own a log cottage and you read the story on the front page of today’s Globe and Mail. It appears that the federal government is seeking to beef up the building standards for energy efficiency in residential construction, possibly, in the process, regulating log cabins by the wayside. Logs do not insulate as well as fibreglass matt insulation, which is what builders use in contemporary frame construction. Any changes will be incorporated into the National Building Code of Canada, which most of the provinces and territories use to set their own building codes. The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes is asking for input on the proposed changes in a public review to run from Jan. 9 to Mar. 2 on the National Codes website.

Many log cabin owners, however, say they find their cabins to be cozy and comfortable, not the inefficient energy wasters that wouldn’t meet code restrictions if the proposed changes go through. There may even be some research to back them up. A University of Alaska Fairbanks study on the thermal properties of walls found that there are important properties of log cabins that are not considered with a simple R-value calculation when those cabins are compared to softwood frame-construction buildings. For instance, the moisture content of the logs may be lower than that used as the standard in laboratory tests, and that translates into less heat loss. Also, much depends on the amount of wall space given to window openings, where the potential for heat loss is greater. An insulated frame cottage with many large windows may actually be less energy efficient than a log cabin with fewer, smaller windows.

Any log cabin owners who would like to comment? Is your cabin warm in winter (and cool in summer)?


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Jan. 10, 2012

10:01 am

when i was a child i dreamed of having a log cabin.

Jan. 5, 2012

11:35 pm

We live in BC in a log cabin. We built it 7 years ago. Our only heat source is a wood fire place with fan. On sunny days in winter, we don't need to light the fire. If we are having a party...10 or more people, we don't light the fire. It is very cozy and we love it! We have no air conditioning....don't need it....our house does not get unbearably hot in summer. Our 1st home...on same property....was wood frame. It was cold in winter and we sweated in summer. Much prefer the log cabin!!! J. Arcand Cherryville BC

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