When you envision the settling of the American frontier, what kind of home comes to mind? A log cabin, of course. Even the larger, sprawling homes that came afterward are often a combination of stone and logs. Some of these original cabins and colonial homes still exist, having been maintained and restored multiple times over the years.

Historic districts often have strict rules governing the restoration of historic homes, whether log, stone, or other construction. In New England, for example, there are many guidelines to follow. These rules fall into several categories:

  • Use of the property – The property usage can't be substantially changed from its original intent. For example, if a historic home is being restored, then that property must be used as a place of residence.
  • Additions to the house – New, modern external buildings or features can't be added or transplanted from another house or building that would alter the type of architecture or features originally constructed
  • Materials for construction – Materials must be used that are consistent with the original construction materials except where compromises must be made due to safety or availability of historic materials. For example, lead-based paint can't be used even though it is historically accurate.
  • Restoration versus replacement – Historic features, decorations, or period elements must be restored, whenever possible, instead of being replaced. If a feature must be replaced, it must match, as close as possible, the original in terms of design, material, color, texture, and placement.
  • Stabilization and repair of logs – If logs in a cabin are only partially damaged, the log should be repaired instead of replaced.
  • Exterior log staining – There is some latitude in the actual stain used when restoring an outdoor home. Traditional stains were oil-based, but these can be toxic to the environment. With new regulations on stains, it is often acceptable to substitute low-VOC, water-based stains.

Exceptions do occur that allow some flexibility in the restoration of a historic, log home. Exceptions include, but are not limited to:

  • Replacing features where originals can no longer be procured – If a feature can't be found or made, a replacement that is as close as possible to the original is usually acceptable.
  • Adhering to modern safety standards – Materials that are hazardous can be substituted with ones that meet modern safety codes.
  • Accommodating disabilities – If the home must be made accessible to those with disabilities, there is more flexibility in modifying or changing features to allow such access. For example, the New England ADA Center site provides information on how to make a historic home more accessible.
  • Upgrading features that are no longer safe – if there is structural damage or areas where the structure is not up to safety code, then the structure can be updated to meet current safety standards.

Log cabins are part of United States history. Preserving that history, while sometimes difficult, is very rewarding.  If you are interested in restoring a log cabin or colonial home, make use of the available resources to guide your restoration project. To learn more, contact a company like MATT'S LOG and Wood Siding Solutions Inc