Building a Hybrid Cabin

The components of a hybrid cabin are two or more construction methods or mixed structural and design elements.

By Janice Brewster
MossCreek_2-IMG_0623 Salvaged logs find new life in this cabin, which has the appearance of having been added on to over time.

Like chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream, a hybrid home takes the best of two distinct things and puts them together to make something even better.
Greatroom A cozy great room boasts hand-hewn log walls and a wall of windows to help capture the view.

The components of a hybrid home are two or more construction methods or mixed structural and design elements. As you research sources for your new cabin, you may find producers that use the term hybrid in a variety of ways. For some, a hybrid is a log home with timber framing or a timber-framed home with some log construction. The term hybrid is also applied to a log home with some conventional framing or a conventionally built home with timber-framed structure in some areas. “From our perspective, it would be a home conventionally framed with log or timber accents,” says Allen Halcomb, president of Tennessee’s MossCreek. The homes his company produces feature a mix of exterior materials and the rustic feel of log walls and heavy wood posts and beams on the inside, outside or both. Hybrid homes crafted by StoneMill Log & Timber Homes in Knoxville, Tenn., also feature natural stone and timber accents on the exterior and timber-frame roof systems inside. No matter how it’s defined, a hybrid home should take advantage of each element’s benefits, making the whole, in some way, better than the sum of its parts.
Squier_EntryDoor Round log posts and beams become the structural support for this entryway. Exterior stonework accents the home’s wood finishes.

Best of all

Cost is one benefit that hybrid homes have over fully log or timber-frame homes (sometimes called “system built” homes). “It’s a lower cost way to build,” Halcomb says. “You get 90% of that true system-built look at a reduced cost, mostly because of the speed of construction.” Halcomb explains that half of the cost of home construction goes toward labor. “If you speed up labor, you save money,” he says. He notes that wiring and plumbing are easier to install in conventionally framed walls, in part because they’re routines that subcontractors are familiar with. The use of common construction methods could allow you to obtain competitive bids from a larger labor pool of qualified subcontractors. The cost of a hybrid home can also be lower because higher-priced logs or heavy wood timbers can be used in some featured areas of the home (a great room, for instance), and more economical stud-frame construction can be used in areas of the home that are less public or are strictly utilitarian. The Log Connection in British Columbia notes the advantage of using round log or timber beams, trusses or accents in areas where they will have maximum visual impact. In a timber-framed cabin, hybrid construction can also help the frame adapt more easily to the floorplan, allowing a bit more flexibility in designing interior spaces.
16-_MG_0318-cca-exp A barn-style cabin blends standard construction with log walls for a unique look.

Hybrid homes may benefit from increased insulation that isn’t possible with full log walls. People building in areas where having beefed-up insulation is a concern may opt for installing half-log siding on the exterior of a heavily insulated wall and finishing the interior with log siding as well. The result is a home that looks identical to traditional log construction but may be labeled as a hybrid by some log home producers. For increased energy efficiency, many timber-frame companies enclose their frame structures with structural insulated panels (SIPs) that create a super insulating envelope around the home. It’s possible to use SIPs on the timber-framed areas of a hybrid timber-frame home. Hybrid cabins with exterior wood finishes will have some of the same maintenance tasks as traditional log homes. Exposed wood in whatever form on a home’s exterior must be protected from the elements with periodic treatment. Hybrid construction can help eliminate the drawbacks of full-log construction. Settling is a factor in traditional log construction, as the logs dry and shrink over time. Any conventionally framed walls that connect to log walls must have a built-in system to allow for settlement. “A hybrid allows you to do more complex homes; you don’t have to worry about differential settlement,” Halcomb says.

The finished product

How a hybrid home looks will vary depending on the construction methods used, but in general, a hybrid can take on a wide variety of styles: fishing cabin, modern ski chalet or anything in between. A hybrid cabin can look exactly like a traditional log cabin. “Our ability to mix authentic log and timber materials in the construction of a single home gives our clients more options for how their home will look – inside and out,” says Stephanie Johnson of PrecisionCraft Log and Timber Homes. “They don’t have to absolutely choose one product style or the other.” MossCreek homes feature details inspired by a wide range of regional styles, giving them universal appeal, Halcomb says. Hybrid homes are also perfect for using reclaimed materials, one of MossCreek’s specialties. For example, salvaged antique beams would have to be tested and certified for use as structural supports, Halcomb says, but can easily be incorporated as accents with no additional inspections required. Choosing a hybrid can create the opportunity to truly mix things up. New and reclaimed materials like mushroom wood, shingles, cedar shakes, poplar bark, logs and stone can all play a part. So how do you make it all look good together? “It’s like clothes,” Halcomb says. “You can wear a polka-dot shirt with striped pants, but you need to carefully put that together so it doesn’t look like a clown suit.” Thoughtful design and a keen understanding of the materials result in a put-together look instead of a mish-mash. Hybrid homes can be a great choice for cabin owners hoping to stick with a budget, build a stand-out cabin or increase energy efficiency. “It’s all about the initial vision of our clients, and sometimes a hybrid design is the best solution,” Johnson says. Janice Brewster, who enjoys mixing polka dots and stripes, loves the authenticity and character of salvaged materials in a home.