In order to create a bit of extra storage space in the garden and return the annex from storing toys, clothes, games and garden furniture into a habitable dwelling (in the next big project), we decided to replace the two dilapidated sheds along the boundary we inherited with the house with a self-build Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin.
Choosing the Supplier / Design
Having measured the area and roughly worked out what was needed to replace the existing storage and more, we started trawling through all the websites and companies that manufactured sheds, summer houses and log cabins. I wanted to find a solution that would look good and last the years (obviously if done right) and I was finding that the cost for a large shed was pretty much on-par with an equivalent sized log cabin. We agreed that a log cabin would look great in the garden and could still use it to store ‘shed stuff’. Plus in time as the bikes, scooter and ride-on cars start to disappear this new space could be made into something a bit more exciting too!
So with the ideas, dimensions, planning permission understood and price in mind I was able to see who could offer the right log cabin. Initially I was looking at cabins that offered two rooms, one to keep the messy stuff in and the other that may double-up as a bar area when friends were over. However, the options available were either too small overall or too big and therefore priced themselves out of my budget. There was one really nice design that incorporated a veranda/seating area to the side but was 10cm taller than the 250cm permitted without applying for planning. I could have risked it but sod’s law would have seen the council turn up with a tape measure and that would be that. I also didn’t want to go through the planning applications adding more time and cost to the project.
We’d bought from Dunster House before when we were looking for a garden swing-set for the kids, and having experienced good service and quality on that occasion, and having driven past their main depot all the time when we were living in Bedford, knew that there shouldn’t be any problems. I still read through the reviews and watched all the you tube videos I could. Like anything these days, there’s a good load of positive reviews and there’s those few bad one’s too. It was important that we were happy with the choices made and the extra time to research and learn what the project entailed was well worth doing.
So in the end we decided to order a the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin. It was longer than the old sheds combined but not too long so we’d only lose a bit of extra lawn. It was a similar depth to the annex too so it would fit in perfectly and overall it would double the existing shed space we had.
As with most sheds from various suppliers, the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin came with a list of options, upgrades and extras. Bare this in mind as the ‘from’ price is likely to go up the more you add. Luckily even the standard spec on the Modetro looked good. We did go for the slightly thicker 45mm walls, there was the option for 28mm previously, as we felt this would provide extra stability and ease of construction. The floor and roof boards are a good 19mm which is also something to look out for Some other suppliers start off at just 11mm to make the price look good. The thicker walls also included double-glazed windows and doors which make all the difference.
On top of this we had the option to add roof-felt or shingles, guttering and insulation. Now in my opinion this is where all suppliers make the money. There’s extra work involved but sourcing these items myself saved a small fortune.
Doing it Yourself?
At the time Dunster House offered a build service for about £2000 once you had the foundation ready for them. Looking on their site now I’m not sure if this is still available but I’m sure there’s builders and carpenters who specialise in these builds should you choose to have it done for you. By this time I’d watched enough you tube videos to understand the main construction points and being fairly competent with flat-pack furniture and Lego felt this would be fairly similar – just a bit bigger and heavier.
When to Order
I’d been keeping my eye on the Dunster House website and throughout the year they tend to offer various promotions and discounts on their log cabins, either a percentage reduction or free extras, such as roofing. January is when they had and typically have the largest discount available so that’s when I placed the order. These projects soon start to add up so a good saving on the main build was perfect.
You get to choose a delivery slot based on when they’re in your area. Having ordered in January I pushed this forward as much as I could knowing that the foundation was still to be done and I’d probably start the build around March/April when the weather improved. I think I even delayed it by another week or two after the order was placed so that the wood wouldn’t be out in the elements for too long.
It arrived on a dry day so we were lucky to be able to re-stack and pack the logs up nice and dry. It was delivered on a lorry by just one guy who clearly knew what to do. I had an extra pair of hands to help in the form of grandad. It turned out to be a day of deliveries having already received the sand and cement needed for the foundations from a local supplier.
We’d made enough space along the driveway for the 5.5 metre lengths of timber and other items of the build. The delivery guy set down a few spare timbers to raise it all off the floor and we started to unload the lorry and re-stack neatly onto the timbers. The delivery guy put us to shame carrying multiple logs on his own whilst we paired up to share the load. As we unloaded the logs we managed to identify the bearers and first layer of logs and put these to one side. It’s a good idea to bring these to the top of the pile as they’re the first bits you’ll need when you eventually get started.
We made use of all the plastic wrap that came with the delivery to help cover the large pile of wood before wrapping it all with couple of extra tarpaulins. I’d ordered a large tarpaulin from eBay just for this job as I was intent on keeping the logs as dry as possible until they were needed.
STEP 1: Out With The Old
The two sheds were well and truly past their sell-by-date. We had done our best to keep them going for the last few years with patches of roofing felt, patches of timber and a lick of paint but the floors were rotten, the roofs leaked and all structural integrity was on its way out. So the first job was to clear out the contents from the sheds before dismantling them and wondering what nasty surprises may be hiding underneath.
Luckily for me there wasn’t any dead rodents or animals to discover as I lifted up the rotting base-boards. The foundation bricks had completely submerged into the soil and the sheds had been mostly sitting on wet ground for however many years. There wasn’t much that could be salvaged from the wreck although we did manage to combine the best bits with a few old pallets to form a lean-too log store.
STEP2: The Foundations
With the old sheds nicely out of the way we could make a start on the foundations with a concrete slab the chosen solution. Having seen the damage done to the old sheds from sitting on wet ground, I was keen to prolong the life of the log cabin as much as possible with a firm base that had a damp course membrane in between the ground and the slab.
We brought in grandad’s expertise with concrete to help with the slab. The frame and membrane were put into position before we poured the slab in three sections using a concrete mixer and customised timber plank to level off the screed.
Stick to the Instructions
The logo cabin instructions state that the foundation needs to 100% level. Grandad was used to incorporating a small gradient for water to run-off but having read other experiences about disputes over how level the base was, I made sure ours was as close to perfect as it could be.
Laying the slab took a few days to get finished as each section had to dry before starting the next. I guess it would be easier to have pre-mixed concrete poured by a contractor but we saved a bit of cost doing it the more manual way. When it was finished I was amazed how well it had worked out. Nice and level from corner to corner with no bumps or dips.
STEP 3: The Build
As luck would have it, once the slab was ready the weather was forecast to stay dry for a week or so, so it was the ideal time to check if our waterproofing had saved the logs in storage and to make a start on the build. We’d had the logs sitting for about 8 weeks on the drive and with the covers off only had one patch where water must have been sitting. The area, which was on a roof beam, soon dried out once it was in the open and didn’t leave any marks or damage.
We started by laying out the pressure-treated bearers onto the concrete slab. These were then placed into the right position before adding a strip of membrane underneath each one as another layer of protection against damp and rot. We took our time to make sure all was level and square before the first layer of logs were secured into position. Any errors at this point would have a big impact as you build so it was vital we took our time to make sure all was correct.
To make things easier for the next part we carried across some logs so they were a bit closer to work with. Depending on where your log cabin is you might have the delivery placed next to the build site but as I wanted the logs in a dryer location it just meant a bit more lifting.
The walls soon started to go up and in next to no time we were dropping in the door and window frames. Some logs were easier to work with than others with a few bowing or having teeth missing but with a bit of gentle persuasion (with a mallet each and some off-cuts) we were able to knock them into shape. The more layers that were added, the better these issues became as the weight would help settle down the logs. It was one of the issues that didn’t really worry me.
I’d read that the walls might bow during construction but overtime they’d settle and so they did. As part of the kit you’re supplied with one extra log (to the longest length) just in case there was that really bad log that needed replacing and couldn’t be used. Luckily we didn’t have any problems that weren’t solved with just moving on to the next log.
I’m not sure it it would have been as easy if we were building with thinner logs, the chunky nature of the 45mm log certainly helped with the rigidity of the structure as we built up the walls. The door and window frames also offered a good deal of stability to the front logs once they were added and locked into place.
By the end of day 1 we’d worked through all of the wall logs ready to move onto the roof beams the next day. It was great to see it all come together so quickly and transform what was once a pricey pile of logs into something a bit more satisfying.
Up Some More
The next day started off with some heavy lifting as we got the full-length roof beams into place. Once this was done there was room inside the build to house all the boards needed to construct the roof. I’d ordered some plastic spacers to help keep the distances between the boards nice and even. There was a few problematic boards that had warped in various ways but between the two of us we persevered and got each row done one-at-a-time. Remarkably it was nice and level once we reached the end.
You’ll need a set of ladders each to make it a bit easier but once you’ve got a good section done you can work on top of the roof. The last piece needed trimming to size down the length to fit the overhang and the boy was on-hand to help knock in the last nail.
STEP 4: Wood Treatment
The Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin was starting to look good and in order to keep it that way the next job on the list was to treat all the wood with preservative to help prevent rot and decay. There’s loads of options available from the big DIY stores and I decided to go with Cuprinol (clear) Wood Preserver. ScrewFix was great for cheap brushes and containers which were well and truly knackered after the last coat.
Three coats were applied to all four sides, two coats applied to the roof as this would be getting further protection and two coats to the inside. Overall I went through about 25 litres of preserver and found at the time that Amazon was the cheapest place to buy it from. It seems an expensive product but in perspective against the cost of the log cabin it’s money well spent.
And now that there was space inside the log cabin and a covering over the top, I was able to store all the other bits and pieces left to finish the job.
The weather was finally on the turn and with rain on the way we used the tarpaulin bought to cover the un-built logs to cover the main structure and keep the wet off until we’d got round to a proper roof and fully-painted outer.
STEP 5: The Roof
There were a few little bits to do before work on the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin roof could start and in between showers enlisted my trusty helpers to fit the edging to the underside of the roof boards.
To keep the log cabin nice and snug all-year-round we planned to insulate both the roof and floor with 25mm thick Celotex. This was the same thickness as specified if ordered as an extra. The Celotex was ordered from www.less2build.com at a really great price. As 25mm was also specified for the floor I ordered 12 boards so there was enough to do the whole lot (using all the off-cuts where possible).
A layer of breathable membrane was added on top of the roof boards to provide a bit of extra protection and allow for something in between the roof boards and insulation panels. We then applied pressure treated roof battens from Wickes to the roof, spaced evenly across and secured with a screw just the right size to stop it from going through the roof boards.
Adding the Insulation
The Celotex was then cut to fit snug between the battens before a corrugated bitumen roof was added on top and nailed to the battens. This was done in stages until the whole roof had been insulated and covered. The corrugated panels were left to overhang the sides temporarily before finishing them off properly. Although this is still to be done 🙂
Before choosing the roof material, the research was done and from past experience and preference, we’d decided against a felt roof, or even a shingle roof as these can look good for a year before they start to wear and tear, and ideally need replacing within 5 years. We instead opted for corrugated bitumen sheets that need a bit more time and know-how to fit but can ultimately last over 25 years if looked after. Grandad was ushered back onto site to help with this stage having used the same material for his own sheds in the past.
My apologies for the lack of images showing the roof going on with the insulation. I thought I had some and will add them in if I find them.
STEP 6: The Paint Job
With the roof now on, my main aim was to get the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin water-tight before the standard British summer arrived. I was using a combination of tarpaulins and pallets to cover the doors and windows whilst they were still off waiting to be painted.
WARNING: Make sure you discuss with all those involved as to the colour you intend to paint your log cabin to avoid arguments. I’m sure I’d discussed it, or maybe it was just with myself but I’d gone ahead with my choice of colour and had completed two sides before being questioned on it looking a little too dark.
I’d continued using Cuprinol products and gone for Urban Slate in the Garden Shades range. The paint was easy to apply with both a block brush and finer brush for cutting in. It’s water-based but acts in a similar way to oil-based paints so wear old clothes and protective eye-wear to stop the splatters as they’re hard to get off. You need to plan ahead when painting with this too, as two coats are required and the second coat needing to be applied within 8 hours of the first. If left any longer, the first coat starts to repel anything you try to put on top, unless you roughen the area with sandpaper.
I’d gone with an accent colour on the window frames and doors which, if I’m honest, doesn’t look as good as I thought it would and maybe I’ll choose more of a cream to tie it into the annex next time around. But whatever I do, I’ll ask first!
Two coats were applied to all sides of the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin and the finish does look really smart. The Urban Slate has slightly lightened overtime as I thought it would and so everyone’s not as against it as they were originally.
Remember to open the windows when painting the frames as I left these closed which then meant they became painted shut and it was a bit of a faff to get them unstuck later on.
STEP 7: Doors & Windows
Fitting the locks and hanging the door frames was relatively straight forward. It’s handy to get some help as you maneuver them onto the hinges. There’s an element of trial and error to get the doors on level by adjusting the hinges on the frame and the door but after a while both doors were in place and the security lock pulled up nicely to administer the locks.
Glazing the windows and door was a little more daunting. Carefully lifting the double-glazed units into place one at a time was a squeaky bum moment but The Boy helped hold them in place as I positioned the packers and nailed in the beading. I purchased a Soft-Faced Hammer from ScrewFix to safely tap in the screws without damaging the glass. Well worth adding to your kit!
As I got round to glazing the doors I noticed a split had occurred on one of the inside door frame panels. I contacted Dunster House with a few photos and a replacement was quickly sent out on their next local delivery – no questions asked.
STEP 8: Adding Power
Before I could get the floor down I needed to make a start on the electrics as I’d planned to run some cables underneath the log cabin between plug sockets to keep it all looking as tidy as possible.
I planned out the interior space of the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin and worked out where and how many sockets would be needed. From previous experience, more is always better so with that in mind ended up with 8 double sockets, 2 single-switched external sockets, 1 double external socket operated by a fused master switch on the inside and 1-gang Cat6 outlet.
Sockets & Switches
I’d looked around for a good, cost-effective option for sockets and switches and decided on using the Metal Clad range from British General (BG) throughout. I ordered the bulk of these online for further cost savings and the back-boxes fitted neatly within the width of the cabin’s logs. 20mm plastic conduit was used between the boxes to carry the wires, allowing for temperature expansion especially when installing vertical pieces. I left the wires dangling out of the boxes for now and would re-visit these later to add and connect up the front panels correctly. To help prevent any wires being chewed or nibbled under the floor if a rodent did manage to get in, I ran the cable through more conduit along the most vulnerable areas (open end) just for added protection.
STEP 9: Flooring & Insulation
With the wiring in place (that was running underneath), I could make a start on getting the flooring and insulation down to make it that bit easier walking around inside the log cabin.
Having read what Dunster House provided in terms of floor insulation, the same 25mm thick Celotex was used (as per the roof) and the “unique insulation clips” were easily found on eBay to help hold them in place. The Celotex was cut to fit snug within the floor beams and the clips added used on each piece to stop the insulation from slipping down onto the concrete slab.
As more of the insulation boards went down, I used left-over pieces of timber as stepping stones to prevent walking over them.
With the first 2400mm lengths of insulation installed across the width of the log cabin I started laying the timber flooring over the top so that I could then continue with the next section of insulation, and so on, until the other side was reached.
A job for Two
Having kept the floor boards dry and flat, they’d stayed in pretty good shape with only the odd bowed piece now and again. Using more of the plastic spacers bought for the roof, the boards went down easily just on my own. For the trickier boards then needed a bit of force to bring them in-line, the Boy was called upon to help knock in the nails as I held them in place.
With more boards down, the next section of insulation was added and then boarded over again until the last piece of timber was left to trim and drop into place. Once again, there wasn’t much discrepancy either end so a nice straight cut was all that was needed to finish the job. Two coats of timber protection was then applied in-keeping with the rest of the cabin. Once dry, I ordered a basic roll of carpet to lay across the floor. I did this to hopefully extend the life of the wooden floor that little bit more and provide a little extra level of insulation.
STEP 10: Lighting
Now that I could move around the inside of the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin easily without tripping over the bearers, I could start to work out where the lighting and cables would need to go. If I had the luxury of hindsight or the trust it wouldn’t rain for a good period of time I may have attempted to run cables over the roof before covering it, but then if anything did go wrong it would become a much bigger job to sort out. I guess it comes down to time, planning and aesthetics depending on how you want to tackle it.
Anyway, with the roof on, the cables were going to be running on the inside of the cabin so working out what lighting was needed, where it was going and how it would be operated needed a bit of thought to produce the cleanest of cabling between the fixtures.
On the outside of the cabin, we’d decided to run three down-lights across the front and one a larger down-light along the side facing down the garden. The two sets of lights would then be operated by an external switch each so that they could be eventually turned on and off without having to go inside the log cabin.
With the outside lights providing placement of the junctions needed, the rest of the wiring and lights were roughly mapped out allowing for two internal switches to operate an LED tube above the worktop/bar area and a single track light that ran the length of the log cabin (allowing for flexibility in the number of lights and positioning as the layout and use of the space adapts over time).
Running the cable through the conduit was difficult at times, especially when there was a few cables in a section. 1mm2 twin+earth was used for the whole lighting circuit which terminated along with the ring-main into a consumer unit, out of the way and out of reach from small hands in the top corner nearest to where the power would be connected from. The consumer unit was another BG product, this time from ScrewFix, a nice and smart 5-Module, 3-Way Populated Garage Consumer Unit with RCD, 32amp fuse, 6amp fuse plus a spare port just in case anything else needs adding in the future.
Get it Checked
Once all the lights had been installed and the plug sockets tidied up, my friendly neighborhood sparky eventually found the time in between his work and golf to run power to the consumer unit from the mains via an armored cable and check all the circuits. Unfortunately there wasn’t any ‘z-list’ celebrity available to help with the switch on but it was a great moment to finally flick the switch and see it all working.
Now that there was light, I could get some of the last jobs done even if it was dark outside. Internal trims were added along where the roof meets the walls and the internal storage layout was starting to take shape.
A selection of 1800mm high and 600mm deep metal shelving units were used to create useful storage for tools, toys and equipment whilst also acting as a divider to hide the ‘junk’ from a more open ‘bar/utility’ area that you walk into through the double doors. OBS board was attached to the rear of one shelf unit to help hide the contents and provide a screen. A fridge, freezer and tumble dryer were then installed in between two kitchen units to make up the bar area with laminate worktop finishing it off.
With all the efforts made to keep the Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin dry and damp-proof, the last line of prevention was to install the guttering. A guttering kit is available as an added extra but once again, if you’re prepared for a little extra work the same outcome can be achieved for less.
Buying between Wickes and ScrewFix I ordered FloPlast Mini Line guttering to run along both (long) sides of the cabin. Some of the items were cheaper in one store than the other and vice-versa. It was handy that the stores were both local so if I needed an extra part I could just nip out and pick it up rather than wait for an online store to deliver – plus any spares could be sent back just as easily.
Finding a Way
The only real issue and fiddly bit I found with not buying the Dunster House guttering kit is that the edging on the Modetro Log Cabin runs at a slight angle, which is why the supplied kit comes with wedges to straighten up the gutter clips – preventing the gutter from sagging down allowing the water to run over the edge.
To get around this I could have carefully measured and cut my own wedges to size and shape but instead figured out another way, which as of now is still working perfectly well without any problems. I carefully used a hacksaw to cut the tips off some leftover roofing nails and glued them onto the lower end of each bracket. This extra buffer was just strong enough and thick enough to force the brackets upright against the edging board to make the guttering sit level.
The End… Almost
As I write this there’s still the odd bit to do like add on the Georgian bars and finish organising the inside but it’s 99% complete! We’ve now started work on drainage and paving around the log cabin so hopefully in a few years we can start to enjoy it 🙂
It’s been a much longer project than anticipated but that’s been down to various reasons like the weather, being reliant on help from others, saving up and general life getting in the way. Do you spend the weekend laying the floor when you could easily visit the number of attractions in Norfolk? I guess it’s up to you how you manage your time. As long as the build is kept out of the elements as much as possible, or once the roof is on and it’s water-tight, there really isn’t a need to go crazy.
The other thing to understand with these projects is the cost. And that it’s likely to be more than anticipated when you started planning. The initial outlay on your choice of shed or log cabin is probably going to be the most costly (depending on size) but on top of that there’s a whole raft of requirements to factor in. The foundation, the tools, the timber treatment and paint/finish, choice of roofing, carpet flooring, insulation, guttering, electrics (sockets, switches, lights, cable), and any other additions or furniture you can think of to transform the new space into something that’s right for you.
As I’ve done throughout, you can make savings by doing work yourself, asking a favour of those you know in the trade, and buying the extras for the best price. Do your research and take time to investigate. There were a few tricky bits throughout but nothing that couldn’t be achieved with a bit of planning and following examples (hopefully like this one) on the internet.
I hope this has provided you with some good information if you’re looking to build a Dunster House Modetro Log Cabin or any other similar cabin. We’ve had no complains going with Dunster House and only had one split timber that was quickly replaced. The instructions were hard to follow for some areas. I’d suggest they need larger images or even photographs to help explain in more detail. That said, there is a series of you tube videos by Dunster House that goes through a ‘generic’ build.
The log cabin has been standing for well over a year now and there’s been no issues with the quality of the wood or materials and hopefully that’ll continue to be the case for many more years to come. Also, remember to factor in for any movement as the log cabin will expand in the warmer summer months – ie. cut downpipes to allow for this movement, and especially on vertical fixings that go from top to bottom.
Below you’ll see a list of parts and suppliers that were used within the build. Thanks for taking the time to read this far down and good luck with your project!
I’ll hopefully add some more ‘finished’ images too once the weather improves and I’ve tidied up a bit 🙂
- Rubber Mallet
- Window Hammer
- Block Brush
- Paint Brushes
- Paint Pots
- Step Ladder
- Hand Saw
- Hack Saw
- Sand Paper
- Wood Glue
- Electric Drill
- Tape Measure
- Eye Protection
- Wire Cutters
- Cuprinol Wood Preserver
- Cuprinol Shades Urban Slate
- 15 x Coroline – Corrugated Bitumen Roof Sheet (2000 x 950mm)
- 7 x Coroline & Onduline – Ridge (1000mm)
- Onduline Black PE Nails – 400 Pack
- Climateq Breather Membrane – 1 x 50m
- Wickes Treated Roof Batten (25 x 38 x 3600mm)
- FloPlast Miniflo Guttering
- 12 x Celotex Insulation (1200x2400x25mm)
- Celotex/Kingspan Insulation Board Gripper Clip for Rafters – 50 Pack
- BG Metal Clad Switches & Sockets
- BG 3-Way Garage Consumer Unit
- 20mm White PVC Conduit, Clips & Connectors
- 2.5mm Twin + Earth Cable
- 1mm Twin + Earth Cable
- Saxby Light Track
Internal Fittings & Fixtures:
- Champion Cord Carpet – Anthracite
- Heavy Duty Shelving
- 15mm OSB Board
- Laminate Worktop
- Kitchen Floor Cabinets & Doors