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All About Owning Log Cabins in the Smoky Mountains

Beautiful View

There’s nothing better than seeing the breathtaking sights of grand mountain ranges and ancient forest trails, all while singing along to a well-curated Dolly Parton playlist blasting in the car on your way to the perfect log cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Smokies can be home to all walks of life, whether you’re an avid outdoor enthusiast planning your next adventure, a parent looking for the right home and community to raise a family in, or a retiree wanting to settle down with the best that Mother Nature has to offer.

More importantly, the Smoky Mountains is the perfect retreat for the whole family to escape the stress of the pandemic. With never-ending trails to explore and attractions to see, you can find both exciting escapades and peaceful sanctuaries among these rugged mountains.

But before you start your search for log cabins for sale in the Smoky Mountains, there are a few things you should know about this timeless and ever-reliable house structure:


Table of Contents

  • History of log cabins in Tennessee
  • Modern log cabin homes
  • Benefits of owning log cabins in the Smoky Mountains
  • Log cabins for sale in the Smoky Mountains

History of log cabins in Tennessee

16th President of the United States
When you think of log cabins, the first thing that comes to mind would probably be those summers spent at camp as a kid or third-grade history class discussing the pioneers. You might even recall how Abraham Lincoln grew up in a tiny log cabin before becoming the 16th President of the United States.

Whatever memory it evokes, you can be sure about one thing: log cabins have been in the backdrop of American history since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century.

Home of the American pioneers

Early Finnish and Swedish immigrants were the builders of the first American log cabins along the banks of the Delaware River in New Sweden. Settlers who arrived much later from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Britain saw that there was no need to fix something that wasn’t broken, and simply adopted their cabin-building technique.

Log cabins were the favored architectural choice for pioneers and early settlers because:

  • It didn’t need many resources. Most of our pioneers moved to America with nothing but the clothes on their backs, so they had to use what was abundant in their environment – lumber. Also, you only needed a few tools to build cabins, such as an ax and a froe.
  • It was relatively easy to build. Old traditional log cabins didn’t have the fanciest features. They had a simple, 1- to 2-room floor plan, a low ceiling, a fireplace, and a stove. Logs were notched and put together with the fireplace, and the whole structure can be finished by a few men in a couple of days.

Meeting the needs of the American Industrial Revolution

The “Logging Era” of the early 1900s resulted in more people living – and building more cabins – in the Smoky Mountains, which was replete with natural resources. The Homestead Act of 1862 also gave log cabin owners rights to undeveloped land if they have cultivated it, built a home on it, and lived in it for more than five years.

Log cabins are a thing of the past – and of the future

While log cabins may be old, they have never gone out of fashion. Log cabin homes are still popular in both rural areas and suburban communities, becoming the face not only of traditional home building but also of environmental sustainability and the green building movement.

Modern log cabin homes

Modern home style

The days of frontier-style log cabins are far behind us. In stark contrast, modern log homes have more than just electricity and indoor plumbing. Some of the more high-end log “cabins” are two to three stories tall, with hot tubs, pools, gaming and entertainment rooms, skylights and large windows, and decks that maximize its landscape views.

Although log cabins may come in different shapes and sizes, there are still several core features that are consistently present among them that would be hard to find in any other property type:

  • Part of the natural environment. Many log cabins are designed and built to blend in with their natural environment. The primary material is sourced from wood in the surrounding area. From an aesthetic and environmentally sustainable point of view, log cabins show how a home can be a part of nature rather than something inorganic that was crammed into it.
  • Rustic and cozy. Wood is the main contributor to the log cabin’s homey and cozy aesthetic. Also, log homes typically have smaller square footage, allowing for creative and functional floor plans. Its layout typically centers around a fireplace, which is the main centerpiece – and heat source – of any log cabin.
  • Sturdy and practical. The distinct way log cabins are built – from the materials and bare structure to the way the actual logs are stacked together – makes it resistant to harsh weather and climates. Depending on the kind of wood used, you can be sure that the cabin will age gracefully and withstand the test of time.

Types of cabins

contemporary home style
In terms of construction, there are three basic types of log cabin homes:

  • Full scribe log home. This type is probably nearest to the traditional, frontier-style home. Each log has hand-cut notches, which are used to securely stack logs on top of each other to create its exterior and interior walls. Its structure allows it to endure the most extreme weather, and it often doesn’t need any siding, insulation, or drywall.
  • Post and beam log home. Full logs are used for the main frame or structure. To be more specific, it uses many vertical log posts to support large horizontal logs at the top. The rest is built using conventional 2×6 walls, cinderblocks, or straw bales. This is one of the most popular types due to its cost-effectiveness and flexible design options.

Timber frame and hybrid log home. The main difference between this type and the others is the way timbers are cut. While others retain the log’s round shape, timber frame and hybrid log homes have timbers cut into squares and rectangles. Although it loses that pure “log” look, it is easier to build and maintain, has fewer wood settling issues, and allows a wider range of design options.

Benefits of owning log cabins in the Smoky Mountains

Playing guitar

There are many perks and advantages to having your personal log cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Here are some of them:

Log cabins are less expensive to build

Compared to other types of houses, log cabin homes are not only easier to construct but the materials used to build them are also more affordable. Harvesting wood, for example, requires less production energy than concrete or other manufactured building materials.

Log cabins generally take up less square footage, as well, so you won’t need to buy as many materials as you would for other house types.

Log cabins are eco-friendly

Log cabins are more energy-efficient than other homes because of wood’s natural R-value (thermal resistance). With natural insulation, log cabins generally stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter without using as much energy as regular houses.

Logs are also renewable resources, so they can be reclaimed and reused in other construction projects, thus, reducing waste.

Log cabins have a large variety of designs

Log cabins are built using organic materials, and with the vast diversity and beauty in nature, your design options would be just as limitless. Even the kind of logs used or the type of corner construction and log stacking done on the cabin will have a drastic effect on its size, design, and overall vibe.

The blank-slate nature of log cabins also allows a lot of space for you to add your personal touches. While logs make up most of the exterior and interior of the cabin, you can incorporate other materials such as bricks, stone, glass, and more.

Log cabins provide health benefits

Since logs are organic building materials, they are less likely to bring about asthma, allergy attacks, and other health risks. Wood has air purifying qualities, so you can expect better indoor air quality in log cabin homes compared to others.

Additionally, natural wood as a primary housing material is known to absorb noise. This noise reduction feature, paired with the natural tranquil ambiance provided by wood, can help improve one’s mental health.

Log cabins promote an active lifestyle

When you own a log cabin in the Smoky Mountains, you live right next door to endless thrills and activities. Known as a must-see National Park, 12 million people a year visit the Smokies, making it one of the most visited destinations in the country.

The Smoky Mountains is the ultimate outdoor getaway with its breathtaking scenery, gorgeous hiking trails, and coursing rivers. But if you want something with more thrills, there are also tons of amusement parks and sports facilities to quench your thirst for action.

Log cabins are a good investment

At the end of the day, owning a log cabin in the Smokies is a great investment. The Smoky Mountains are among the most visited vacation hotspots every year so you can expect to yield excellent revenues for your cabin, should you want to turn it into a rental.

More importantly, your log cabin is built to last. Aside from being a formidable structure against nature’s harshest conditions, it is also a long-term asset that can last for generations to come.

Log cabins for sale in the Smoky Mountains

perfect cabin homes

Ready to start your search for the perfect log cabin home? Before you begin, here are some things to consider when shopping for log cabins for sale in the Smoky Mountains:

Rustic living with modern comforts

Living that cottagecore dream doesn’t mean you have to completely give up on technology. Many cabins have updated kitchens and great entertainment features that could rival those of high-end residential homes. Remember to check on the current state of their water pipes, electrical wiring, and fireplaces, as well.

Functional cabin design

Everyone wants that cute and homey-looking log cabin in pictures on Instagram and Pinterest. But once you actually start living in a log cabin, you’ll find that functionality is still the way to go. To maximize the limited space, go for cabins that have an open floor plan, high ceilings, and a lot of built-in storage. Wood also absorbs light and can lead to a dark interior, so choose cabins with big windows and great lighting.

The right location

This depends on your lifestyle needs and preferences. Do you prefer exploring the great outdoors and looking at stunning views of mountain landscapes? You should look at properties in Gatlinburg. Would you rather be near the action and excitement of parks like Dollywood? If so, then consider real estate properties in more active areas like Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.

Available amenities

Having nearby amenities can sometimes be a deal-breaker if you plan on renting out your cabin. There are those who rent cabins to enjoy nature in all its rugged beauty, so they may not be interested in finding the very same amenities they interact with at home while “roughing it up.” However, there are others who simply want to take in the magnificent vistas and still appreciate access to modern features and services.

Also, cabins are either located within a resort or are part of a special zone, so it helps to check if they allow access to community features like clubhouses, swimming pools, basketball courts, and others. Rental companies can also perform standard upkeep and maintenance for your log cabin.

Property management companies

If you don’t plan on living in your log cabin the whole year round, you should sign it up with a local rental company to generate profit. They will handle everything related to renting out your cabin, including booking services, cleaning, maintenance, and even marketing.

If you want to be more hands-on with your property, you can opt to self-manage your rentals through VRBO and Airbnb. Make sure to ask your agent for a comprehensive list.

Maintaining your log cabin in the Smoky Mountains

Maintaining a house cabin appearance

The Great Smoky Mountains was traditionally called “Shaconage” by the native Cherokee people. This meant, “place of the blue smoke.”

And as the name implies, the Smoky Mountains are often veiled by a natural fog due to the dense vegetation. Because of its high altitude and prominence compared to the surrounding lowlands, the Smokies also shoulder the brunt of the rain and wind in the area year-round. 

So, when buying your log cabin, you must prioritize its resistance to humidity and extreme weather changes, especially during the spring and summer seasons. Here’s a brief guide on how you can keep your log cabin in tip-top shape:

Wood staining and other annual checkups

If your log cabin isn’t properly stained with high-quality weatherproofing treatment, the wood will absorb the water and eventually rot. Carpenter bees may also damage the wood if these are not stained correctly and regularly. 

Make sure to check that the stain evenly coats the whole cabin and that it’s done regularly. Depending on the type of wood and stain used, you may have to brush a coating of water-resistant treatment approximately once a year. 

Also, you should regularly see to the caulking (or sealant) in between your logs to check for huge cracks, gaps, and tears. Ignoring them can lead to extensive – and expensive – water damage. 

Keeping the cabin insulated and energy-efficient

Logs are natural and energy-efficient insulators but that doesn’t mean your whole log cabin would be energy-efficient and insulated by default. To make the walls effective insulators, choose the thickest and highest-quality logs you can afford, ideally with a diameter of more than 58mm. Double glazing your walls and doing regular caulking checkups can also do wonders for your cabin’s energy efficiency.

And while the right logs can keep your walls insulated, your cabin’s roof and floor tell a different story. Around 70% of heat escapes through the floor and roof, so ensure that they’re lined with a moisture-resistant membrane and insulated with either synthetic insulation panels or natural materials like recycled wool. 

Preventing water and air infiltration

Make sure that your cabin has an overhanging roof and functioning gutters. The overhang helps keep the rain and snow away from the logs and foundation while gutters drain the water away from your cabin and prevent undue saturation of the logs. 

More importantly, do not let your cabin’s base logs touch the ground. Not only will those logs absorb the moisture from the soil but they will also render the whole cabin susceptible to insects, bacteria, and fungi. 

Wood settling and shrinking

Depending on the humidity and temperature, wood tends to shrink and expand over time. While cabin builders take extreme care in making sure settling and shrinkage are accounted for, it’s still important to quickly act on signs that your log cabin may not have settled properly.

The best way to check is by looking at the cabin’s doors and windows. See if any are sticking out, not opening, or seem to be dipping under the weight of the walls. The roof can also be an indication, especially if there are humps or dips. If you see any of these signs, call in a log cabin inspector as soon as possible to help you save tons of money in future repairs. 

Find the perfect log cabin in the Smoky Mountains today

If you’re looking for a real estate property and a log cabin investment in the Smoky Mountains, know that this can be quite different from your usual home property search. The Smokies, like the rest of Mother Nature, are unpredictable to newcomers and first-time homebuyers. 

Seek guidance from a real estate agent with intimate, hands-on knowledge of the local market and experience in selling log cabins. That way, you avoid making mistakes in your log cabin investment.

That said, you’ll find peace of mind working on your log cabin investment with the help of Paul D. Cailleteau, Sr. Having handled the Knoxville real estate market for years, Paul knows that generic data you’ll find in online real estate databases can never compare to the relevant, on-the-ground information from a local like him. 

Paul’s top priority is putting his clients’ needs first. So, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a veteran in the real estate market, his wealth of knowledge and friendly approach will be crucial in your search for log cabins for sale in the Smoky Mountains. 

Ready to go home to the Great Smoky Mountains? Find your perfect log cabin today by calling Paul at 865.253.0587 or by sending an email to pdcailleteau(at)gmail(dotted)com.

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