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How to Build Cabins, Lodges and Bungalows
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How to Build Cabins, Lodges and Bungalows

by Popular Science Monthly

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"Nothing could be more American than the simple cabin. Not many generations ago, it was the backbone of American life, the headquarters of that important unit, the home. It provided shelter, protection, and a foundation upon which to build a great empire. The pioneer cabin was, in other words, a necessity."—From the Introduction
Once regarded as a safe


"Nothing could be more American than the simple cabin. Not many generations ago, it was the backbone of American life, the headquarters of that important unit, the home. It provided shelter, protection, and a foundation upon which to build a great empire. The pioneer cabin was, in other words, a necessity."—From the Introduction
Once regarded as a safe haven and a vital source of security, the little cabin in the country is today more closely associated with leisurely activities—a vacation spot and even a health investment. First published in the 1930s, this helpful guide was designed to provide vacation home builders with all the information they needed to construct, decorate, and furnish a rustic little cottage. Floor plans and outlines of necessary materials are included, as are tips on constructing foundations, porches, doors, windows, fireplaces, and other structural elements. There are even suggestions for furnishing and beautifying your cabin.
A useful how-to manual, offering straightforward advice on the building process from foundation to roof, this practical book can also be enjoyed as an entertaining look at lifestyle elements of the early twentieth century.

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Woodworking Series
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

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How to Build Cabins, Lodges, and Bungalows

By Dover Publications

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13937-1



THE word cabin will be used throughout this book to designate a simple structure primarily intended for recreational purposes and part-time occupancy. It will be one story high, in most cases; will consist of one, or at most three or four, rooms; seldom will have a foundation other than a few stone or concrete piers, and will be capable of being built by the amateur. A cabin will be considered as having a number of relatives, structures whose design and construction are fundamentally alike, which are neither elaborate nor expensive, and which can be built by anyone.

First and most important is the log cabin. Because the log house is so firmly rooted in American history, it will be a long time before, in the mind of the average American, any other structure can replace it as a symbol of primitive comfort. The person who conceives the idea of building a summer or vacation home invariably thinks first of a log cabin, and usually does everything within his power to obtain that type in preference to any other. Unfortunately, the scarcity of logs and cost of labor in some sections make it necessary to choose a substitute. Also, the pioneer who knows all about log-cabin building from boyhood experience cannot be found in every home or community, and the novice is hesitant about tackling anything that looks as formidable as building a house of logs.

In reality, the erection of a log cabin is not difficult, and need not be costly. When it is properly put up, the builder has something that will last for years, perhaps for generations. Considerable space is given in this book to log cabins. This is primarily because the log structure can be used as a basis for so many other types. For instance, there is on the market a log siding or weatherboarding that permits the construction of faithful imitations of log houses. So if real logs are not available, the vacation cabin can be a wooden framework covered with this type of material, without losing much of the charm of a real log house.

Log siding, usually made of pine or redwood, consists of interlocking boards so milled that their outer surfaces are curved, like sections ripped from real logs. Such boards lend themselves to a wide variety of uses. They can be employed outside to simulate logs laid horizontally or vertically, and on the inside for creating distinctive wall surfaces. Log siding can be stained, painted, varnished, or left to weather naturally. It will not decay, either because of inherent properties or because of treatment given it during manufacture. A modernized log cabin consists of a framework of 2 by 4's and similar sawn timbers, covered outside and perhaps inside with log siding. This siding is made in various widths, so that it can be applied in random fashion to give still more realistic imitations of log walls.

Another type of log cabin of interest to the modern owner is the pre-cut variety. Real logs, usually cedar because of that wood's resistance to decay and insect attack, are employed. The corner notches and other constructional details are cut at a mill. The logs arrive at the cabin site ready to erect without laborious chopping and sawing. Some companies provide expert supervision or labor when the customer desires it, and deliver the cabin complete, even to furniture.

Hunting and fishing lodges may be of logs or of simple frame construction, with an outer wall covering of almost anything from log siding to plain boards set horizontally or vertically. Such lodges frequently consist of a single room, with cooking and bunking facilities arranged to make the most of the space available. Sometimes a type of construction is used that permits the lodge to be torn down and moved to another location. This is a valuable feature because a good hunting or fishing locality may not always remain that way. A hunting or fishing lodge does not differ fundamentally from a simple cabin, tourist home, or summer cottage, so that designs for these structures may be used interchangeably.

Bungalows and summer cottages may be of logs, but more frequently are frame structures with outer wall surfaces covered with log siding, plain siding, shingles, or plain boards arranged in a pleasing manner. They can even be of stone, when such construction is economically possible. Rammed earth is another cheap but little-used type of wall construction that might be employed.

Because the motorist of today demands something better than a tent and cheaper than a conventional hotel, tourist cabins have become a familiar sight along our highways. A really attractive tourist home can be built for $200 or so, and will pay for itself in one season if it is built at a strategic point. The same fundamental designs employed for vacation homes can be utilized for tourist purposes, with some alterations in interior arrangement.

Wayside stands, where farm products and refreshments are sold to motorists, are offshoots of the genuine cabin. Their construction is not essentially different. Provide any simple cabin with an open front, a counter, and perhaps a projecting roof, and you have a wayside stand. Attractiveness is a highly important detail.

Then there are service stations, ice houses, comfort stations, and other similar small structures that are cabins in design and construction. Frequently such buildings are made to harmonize with near-by tourist homes or wayside stands.

Whether you are building a hunting lodge or a wayside stand, strive above everything else for attractiveness and sound workmanship. The highways and hills and woods are cluttered with eyesores, dumpy-looking shacks, once smeared with gaudy paint and then left to shift for themselves. The builders apparently had no eye for pleasing appearance, and were ignorant of the fact that such structures repel rather than attract. The wayside stand, for instance, that looks like a squatter's shack is more likely to drive customers away than attract them.

This matter of attractiveness is of prime importance when the cabin is in the city. Yes, log cabins are erected on city lots. They are used as garages, workshops, guest houses, stores, and the like. Attractive city cabins have been built of discarded poles purchased from a local telephone or electric company.

Another city use for the log-cabin idea is the cabin room located in a residence or public building. A million-dollar Y. M. C. A. building in a large city has a log-cabin room for the use of its younger members. The walls are built of real logs, and there is a massive field-stone fireplace. It is an experience to be remembered to step from the cold, severe hallway into this delightful room that harks back to the days of buffalo hunters and Indians. The basement recreation room or the den in any part of the home can be made a replica of the interior of a real log cabin, by using genuine logs or log slabs for the walls and ceiling. Another pleasing treatment is the use of log siding on the walls. Such rooms should, of course, contain massive fireplaces of natural or field stone, and be furnished with rustic chairs, benches, tables, and lighting fixtures. So if you cannot build a cabin in the woods, you may want to do the next best thing and tuck one away somewhere in your home. It will, at least, help you imagine that you have escaped from the rigors of everyday life.



UNFAVORABLY located, the finest cabin in the world will be a disappointment. Selecting a site is a matter of great importance. For summer-home use, some of the factors affecting the location include accessibility, drainage, water supply, cooling breezes, wooded areas, lakes, streams, and vistas or scenery. Some thought may be given also to the safety factor: the nearness of dangerous cliffs, avenues of escape in event of a forest fire, flood menace, and protection from storms.

Although it is desirable to have a vacation retreat far from any road, you must consider the matter of accessibility. In the first place, materials used in construction must be hauled to the site. Later, guests and supplies must be transported to the cabin, usually in automobiles. Keep in mind the fact that roads and trails that are excellent in dry weather may become impassable when it rains, or during winter months when the ground is not frozen.

It is a frequent practice to place a cabin on a hillside, where it nestles snugly against the earth, protected from storms by trees and elevated ground. Unless care is exercised, the cabin owner may awake some stormy night with the impression that he is on a houseboat. Sites in the direct path of wet-weather streams and drainage ditches should be avoided. To take care of normal drainage, grade the area around the cabin so that water runs away from it. Between the cabin and area from which water is likely to flow, create a water barrier. This can be a shallow ditch, a masonry wall, or a basin formed by filling in around the cabin. Water should be able to escape from the barrier by flowing around the cabin yard.

To assure health protection, make certain that the water supply is adequate and safe. It seldom is safe to use water from streams. Springs are satisfactory if there is no seepage of waste matter into them from above. A dug or drilled well is perhaps the best form of water supply. But whatever the source, it will pay you to have the water tested once or twice a year. In most states, this will be done by the county or state health department without charge. You simply procure a sterilized bottle from the local health officer, fill it with the water, and mail it to the place designated.

The location of porches and other matters of orientation will be determined largely by the direction from which cooling breezes blow, points from which the most beautiful scenery can be enjoyed, position of shore of lakes and streams, and the presence of large trees or other natural formations.

From the standpoint of safety, it would be unwise to build a cabin on the brink of a cliff, or at a point where a dangerous rock formation or steep slope must be negotiated to reach the site. Do not place the building under a leaning tree that might fall, unless the tree can be removed. Avoid, likewise, overhanging rocks and earthen banks. Make inquiry about the height of flood waters from near-by streams and note whether the site is in a pocket that might become a lake if the rainfall is heavy. In mountainous country, the danger of snow slides and landslides must be taken into consideration.

Another important factor is sanitation. Outside toilets should be placed in a secluded spot not too close to the cabin, and should be below the level of springs, and at least 100 feet away from all sources of drinking water. Do not place the toilet near the main roadway or approach to the cabin. These suggestions apply to chemical toilets, pit toilets, septic tanks, and garbage pits.

When erecting a cabin, keep in mind the fact that you may want to enlarge it later. Because of its informal and rustic nature, the average cabin can ramble all over the place and still look attractive. It is better, however, to follow some definite plan, and to leave space for possible later additions.

Preserve, as far as possible, the natural appearance of surroundings. Let all trees stand, except the dead ones, and refrain from trimming off limbs that are close to the ground. Clear away only the underbrush and shrubbery where absolutely necessary. Usually the landscaping can be improved by transplanting shrubbery, so as to create natural screens separating the cabin from the roadway or from other cabins, to conceal outbuildings, and effect other improvements. When fences are built, they should be of rough poles, to preserve the rustic appearance of the surroundings. The same applies to outdoor furniture, boat docks, etc. The matter of tools is not a difficult one to solve, when it comes to the actual erection of a cabin. A log house, being primitive in nature, can be built with the aid of only an ax and a crosscut saw. However, some elaboration on these fundamental tools is desirable. An adz may be helpful. Old-time cabin builders used a broad-ax for hewing logs flat. This consisted of a wide-bladed ax head fitted with a hickory handle steamed and bent slightly outward, so that it would not be struck against the log and be broken. When these handles got wet, they often straightened out again. If you cannot procure a broad-ax, either a broad hatchet with 5- or 6-in. blade, or an ordinary ax can be used for hewing. A wide blade is necessary in order to produce a smooth surface.

A shingle-splitting tool was employed a great deal in earlier times, but you probably will buy your shingles or other roofing material. For cutting logs, a two-man crosscut saw is desirable. You will find it wearisome to work logs with a hand-saw although such a tool is useful when handling small poles, framing windows and doors, etc. A heavy hammer, for driving spikes, is necessary. Some forms of construction require that the logs be nailed together at intervals, the spikes being driven through holes bored part way through them. For this purpose an auger and a bar or rod of iron a foot long and about in. in greatest diameter are used. A sufficiently strong block and tackle can be used to raise logs into place on the wall. The upper pulley can be mounted on a tripod made of poles, or attached to the part of the wall already in place. With this useful device, two men can put up a cabin that, without it, would require a half-dozen or more men, working with forked or pointed poles. A small trowel for chinking cracks between logs is desirable.

For building other types of cabins from mill-sawed lumber, the usual assortment of carpenters' tools is required. These include hammer, rip and crosscut hand saw, hatchet, steel tape, steel square, plumb line and bob, level, chisels, plane, and so on. Sectional or ready-cut cabins, which can be purchased from some dealers, require to erect them little more than a hammer, and perhaps a wrench for tightening nuts on bolts.

If you go into the business of building vacation cabins and lodges, you will find a power saw, with perhaps a jointer unit attached, a great convenience, and at least as serviceable as an extra helper. An 8-in. circular saw on a suitable stand does not cost a great deal. With it you can rip, crosscut, dado and otherwise process stock in excess of 2 in. thick. A saw of this type together with a 4-pin. jointer, mounted on a rugged steel stand, can be purchased for less than $70. For about $40, you can get a 7/10-horsepower, four-cycle gasoline engine that will operate the saw, and any other power machinery you may want to use. The saw-jointer unit and engine can be hauled to the job in a small truck.



LIKE the chain that had a weak link, more than one log cabin or summer bungalow has had its life shortened by a poor foundation, or no foundation at all. Builders of log cabins sometimes lay the sill logs directly on the ground. Now it happens that one of the easiest ways to make wood decay is to leave it in contact with the earth. Moisture, collecting between the wood and ground, creates conditions ideal for the growth of decay-producing fungi. Hence a log cabin, built flat on the ground, will, in a few years, start to fall apart. The same applies to any other kind of structure. In addition to decay, there are certain insects, such as termites, that delight in finding a building with no foundation.

A common form of support for cabins consists of piers made of two or more flat stones laid one on the other. A single stone is not much better than no stone at all, because moisture can still reach the wood and cause decay to set in. When two stones are used, the joint between them stops the rise of moisture and the top stone will remain dry. Do not cement the stones together.

Another support that has been used but is not generally recommended by building experts is a post of cedar or other wood. Some woods, such as cedar, locust, redwood, and pine, have sufficient natural resistance to decay and insect attack to permit their being used without particular protection. Other woods should be creosoted, and it is not a bad idea to use creosote on the woods that are naturally resistant.


Excerpted from How to Build Cabins, Lodges, and Bungalows by Dover Publications. Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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