Without a doubt, the log home is a classic American icon. When thinking of the archetypal rural homestead, the log cabin is the first thing that springs to mind. What created this association between America and the log home, and why did settlers choose log homes when they are fairly rare in Europe?
For early European settlers in America, building a home required using whatever materials were available. At the time of colonization, essentially the entire continent east of the Mississippi River was forested. Log homes were thus a natural choice for early settlers. While stone or bricks might be used in places where they were easy to use, wood was the readily available building material of choice.
Of course, the same calculations applied in Europe, and wood was a highly demanded building material. However, the other uses of wood eventually made supply an issue. Before about 1500, wood was the only decent heating fuel for the majority of the population. This led to Northern Europe being almost completely deforested by the 16th century. Since many European population centers are near large supplies of clay, bricks became the preferred building material.
Even once Europeans started burning coal and peat for heat, the demand for timber remained fierce. For example, the average Royal Navy ship at the turn of the nineteenth century required about 6,000 mature oak timbers for its construction. Logging timbers with which to construct ships was a large business in the colonies and later the United States.
These demands for wood from the New World lead to deforestation in America as well. One hundred years ago, Vermont and New Hampshire were around 80 percent deforested. Thankfully, reduced demand for timber as well as conservation efforts lead to the complete reversal of that figure, with upper New England now being about 80 percent forested. Western Europe, however, remains largely bereft of forests. For example, Scotland is the most forested part of the United Kingdom yet it is only 18 percent forested, less so than New England at its nadir.
Some areas of Europe managed to get through industrialization with intact forests, most notably the Alps and Scandinavia. It is no coincidence that these areas also come to mind when we think of European log homes. Whether it is the Swiss chalet style we featured in May or the Swedish Cope log style, these regions that maintained abundant forests also keep alive their log home building traditions.
Today, we are proud that the trees that are used to produce our logs are harvested in a sustainable manner. Whether you are looking to build a log home in a country where they are traditional or a more recent trend, we’d also be proud if you would contact us about building with you.