A log cabin saved | Living the Country Life

A log cabin saved

An abandoned and dilapidated shack becomes a thing of beauty.
Grand Pop Dave enjoys making popcorn for the grandkids in an iron kettle over an open fire.
Dave and Bets Hahn did most of the restoration work themselves on the 150-year-old log cabin that provides a fun and guest-friendly gathering place for holiday meals, birthday parties, and summer picnics.


Dave poured concrete footers and added cement blocks to build a foundation for rebuilding the cabin. The original wood floor planking was reinstalled over new floor joists. The Hahns also installed new windows and a back door, and they moved an interior door to serve as the cabin's primitive, yet stylish, front door.

Rebuilding the log walls was a learning experience, say Bets and Dave. Their son and son-in-law helped set the V-shaped logs, using a forklift to put them in place. That only took about a day's time, and Dave was impressed with how easily the logs lined up. "When we set them, they were perfect," says Dave. "It was just as square as it could be."

Chinking the logs with cement mortar was more time-consuming. The Hahns consulted a friend about mixing the mortar in just the right combination of water and cement so it wouldn't crack. They used chicken wire and slabs of wood to help stabilize the cement, which was applied in three layers. "You have to build it out slowly or it will sag on you," says Dave. "It was a long process."

The Hahns designed a fireplace to fill a gap from missing logs where garage doors had been installed years earlier. To save costs, they had the large, two-story fireplace built from manufactured stone instead of natural or cut stone. The fireplace is used for cooking -- Dave especially enjoys making waffles in an antique iron -- and for heating the cabin, although Dave and Bets say the cabin can be chilly in the winter. "That's the one issue we haven't solved yet," says Dave.

Originally, the cabin had three rooms on the first floor, but Dave and Bets opted for one large room instead. Removing the interior walls meant a support for the upstairs loft was needed. So a single basement jack was placed near the center of the first-floor room. Dave wrapped the jack in old barn siding to give it a rustic look. "You really don't even notice it," says Dave.

The new porch columns were made from lumber salvaged from the original floor joists. The floor for the L-shaped porch is wood decking. The porch provides a restful place to sit and it helps protect the logs from weather, says Dave. The cabin has new custom-made trusses and a new shingle roof. Old barn siding nicely finishes off the gables under the eaves at each end of the cabin.

Electrical work was minimal -- just a few outlets and one ceiling lamp. A wrought iron candelabra illuminates the large harvest table, and oil lamps and candles are lit when more light is needed. There are no kitchen or cooking appliances besides the fireplace and no running water. A church pew, a smaller harvest table, a few chairs, cabinets, and two beds upstairs round out the furnishings.

"We kept the whole thing simple," says Dave.

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