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Building a Log Cabin with Salvaged Wood

Salvaged materials and old-style building techniques create an instant aged appearance for this newly built Indiana cabin.
by Scott Gibson | Photos by Joseph Hilliard

At 2,204 square feet, the Lanes' log home is friendly and accessible, and looks, they hope, like something that’s been on the site for a very long time.

Jane Lane’s new home might have looked entirely different had it not been for two things: a conversation between her, her husband, Mel, and a local sawmill owner, and a dream she’d harbored since she was 9 years old.

Mel wanted to build Jane a house on the five-and-a-half-acre parcel they’d just bought in hilly Brown County, 50 miles south of Indianapolis. Off they went to the Helmsburg Sawmill to see what kind of log-like siding Mel might hang on a conventionally built home. Turned out the mill sold log cabins as well as lumber.

“We were talking to the gentleman who owned the place, Bill Pool, and I told him I really wanted a log cabin,” Jane recalls. “I really liked the style of his log cabins, and he kept saying to Mel, ‘You don’t want to build her a stick house. You want to build her a log cabin.’ I have wanted a log home since I was 9 years old. That has been in my heart forever.”

And a log cabin is what it turned out to be, built in a style that Mel describes as one of the oldest in log-home construction. Six-inch-thick slabs of poplar 16 inches wide and up to 28 feet long are joined at the corners with dovetails, with the wide gaps between each log course chinked against the weather.

Mel made the kitchen countertops by attaching inexpensive red-oak flooring to a substrate of 3/4-inch plywood. He says it was cheaper than plastic laminate — and it’s a much better fit in the house.

Design Ideas

Mel and Jane struggled with a design for the house as they searched for property. “We drew several houses,” says Mel, “and two or three of those drawings were fairly complete. We just weren’t happy with any of them. We put an offer on the property and went home, and the house just came right out because it was based on the property.” The one-and-a-half-story house is a simple rectangle, with the living room and kitchen facing a small pond as they had envisioned. The rest of the plan fell quickly into place.

Hybrid Construction

The upper level of the house is conventionally framed, but on the main level, Mel had to take a chainsaw to the log walls to cut door and window openings — something he’d never done before. “I was very nervous at this point,” Mel says. “My experience with logs was zero. If you miscut a 2-by-4, you go and get another one off the stack. These things were huge, and if I cut one too short… I don’t own a log stretcher. It would have been really detrimental to the process to make a mistake.”

Salvaged Materials

Mel and Jane used materials from a variety of sources to help give the house a homey warmth that only comes with time. Long before they started construction, they began collecting furniture, lumber and fixtures. A shuttered restaurant yielded a stained-glass window, cedar door and window trim, and even an etched-glass panel from behind the bar. They scored on Craigslist, painted inexpensive stock cabinets to make them look custom and turned tongue-and-groove flooring into countertops.

The house fulfills a very old dream for Jane. Even though they’re taking care of some odds and ends, she says, “we still have time to sit on the porch and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings.

“When I drive in the driveway and see the house, I think, ‘Wow, that’s where I live.’”

Comment Feed

4 Responses

  1. I just saw your magazine at the grocery store & I see that you feature log home. I wanted to tell you about ours. It is primitive. All wood (old) inside. Kitchen sinks are 2 old wash tubs. In kitchen is an old hand water pump that works. All cabinets are handmade to my design. Pantry door is 100 yr old screen door off general store. Old farmers kitchen sink is in entry hall coming from garage. Trees are used as the upright beams. All pine wood floors. Very unique home. We have it sitting on 60 acres. Also had a 4800 sq ft gambriel barn (black w/ copper roof) . Stairs going to upper level are from a home built in early 1800′s. There are 27 stairs going to upper floor. Log home also has copper roof. We have wood sidewalks also. These are just a few f the hidglights of our home. Just wanted to see if you would be interested in featuring it. Thanks for listening about our home. Oh one other thing. Fireplace is walk in built from flat rocks on our property. House also has a 10ft wide walk around porch. Fillled with antiques, quilts one of a kind items. I’ll shut up now. LOL

    Donna McKinneyMarch 1, 2013 @ 8:16 pmReply
  2. The person I talk to here was unfriendly and a straight bomber. If I was going to buy a log home it would not be from here. Not unpleasant at all to talk to. Cheer up buddy I didn’t have anything to do with it.

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