The traditional log home plan originated in north Europe during the Bronze Age (about 3500 B.C.E.). When European settlers arrived in America there was already a millennial old tradition of using logs for homes, barns and other structures in the Scandinavian countries as well as Russia and Germany. These regions had large forests of softwood trees which could easily be crafted with hand tools. Log homes were built of logs stacked horizontally and notched on the ends so the walls interlocked. When the Swedes and Finns arrived in New Sweden (the Philadelphia region) they imported their knowledge of log construction with them, as did later settlers from Germany. Settlers from the British Isles had no such tradition of log building but they soon learned the technique since log building was so convenient in eastern America. There were abundant softwood forests at hand, and other building materials including nails and spikes were unavailable, expensive, or difficult to transport. Moreover, log homes are easy to build: a man working alone could build a cabin in a few weeks. Using skids of logs leaning against the wall as inclined planes, it is possible to lift logs with ropes to construct even a two story log home.
However, usually a log home floor plan consisted of a single room, perhaps twelve to sixteen feet square. There would be one door, but in most cases no windows. When windows did exist they were covered with translucent greased animal skins rather than glass. Fireplaces were built of stone or clay and the chimneys of wattle. Because this is not a very fire-safe mode of construction, stone or brick were used where obtainable. The fireplaces furnished warmth and light as well as a cooking area. The interior walls of the log home were chinked with cloth or clay; and the floors were simple tamped earth (although some log homes had a puncheon floor, made of split logs laid flat side up). Higher designs had lofts which were used as sleeping and storage areas. Roofing depended upon what material was available, but often cedar shingle roofs made with hand split shingles were laid over two-by-four rafters. Continue Reading