When I think of a log home, I imagine something that has been built lovingly by hand, each log having been carved to fit snugly, the wonderful pine, woody, smell to linger for years upon entry and to be surrounded by cosiness throughout our winter weather.

To be fair, that is not always the case with kit-type homes, but with Caledonia Log Homes, based in the Borders, you get exactly the home described above. Mainly because you have the opportunity to wander into the forest and pick your own logs if you wish, such is the level craftsmanship they can offer.
Chris Houston, owner of the firm, learnt his craft from the experts while in British Columbia, in Canada. He then worked his way through Austria, France and New Zealand, building log homes.
However, what he really wanted was the stability of being in control of his work diary and the opportunity to be his own boss. With this ambition, he made the decision to head back home in 2010, going on to set up the business in 2011 with his younger brother, John, who is currently in the Scotland Rugby Sevens squad.
To help ensure Caledonia Log Homes stands out from its competitors and to demonstrate the passion behind each handcrafted build, Chris is selective about which logs to choose, selecting only the best trees to do the job to the highest standard.
What type of person invests in log homes? Chris believes they have to be in love with the idea of a log home, adding: “It’s a different way of living, very eco-sustainable, with very little waste. You’re choosing to live in a beautiful home, which regulates air as the building allows air to circulate as the logs move and settle.”
In general, clients come to Chris with an idea, and along with an architect they work together to bring their idea to reality. There are no stock homes sitting in a workshop just waiting to be put up. This of course, means it is a longer process, but the finished product is worth the extra time and you can tell a huge amount of heart and passion goes into the completion of each property.
The process is the same as building any home; drawings, plans, planning permission, and building control all have to be dealt with, but the company will lead you through the process and help you with each step.
Whether the client is looking for just the shell of the house for the self builder, or a finished home up to key entry stage, Chris is happy to get involved at any stage.
Currently, Caledonia Log Homes is using a special American insulation product which is used to increase the thermal properties of each home, and allows the log cabins to pass building control with flying colours.
The insulation is a closed cell foam casket, which is laid between the logs. It then shrinks to fit and compresses as the logs settle and fit tightly together. All this is unseen from either outside or inside the home, but it gives a tight fit to the logs and elevates it beyond current UK building control levels.
The work involved in creating ‘hand scribed’ log homes is quite intensive. This means stripping the log of its bark and then carving the log in its whole form to fit a specific position in the building, then scribing (carving) the contours of the logs together so they fit tight, and then carving saddle notches to increase structural integrity and beauty.
This doesn’t mean all the homes look like Grizzly Adams’ cabin. You can have a rustic cabin or a modern home built using this technique.
Timescales are variable, obviously, depending on the size of the building, but as Chris explains as a rough estimate, it will take around nine months, maybe up to a year in some cases, to get the keys from the first meeting.
Clients, however, are not just buying homes to stay in. They are also taking to the idea of creating a special space to live in. And it isn’t always permanent residences that are requested.
Garden studios, offices, and even a granny annexe are perfect for this type of build.
Chris has had experience building in many landscapes and hopes to expand into the ski market in Scotland, as he did in Canada. He has also built a huge project in the middle of a forest called the Forest Pitch – building a changing room that was for a football match played in the middle of a forest. A very unique project, it allowed the company to showcase its work and capabilities to a new audience.
Another current project in the pipeline is a bird hide at Loch Leven, again demonstrating how versatile these buildings can be.
Chris is keen to point out the log homes he and his team of four build are not to be confused with the Scandinavian log homes that can be bought in kit form, which are perfectly acceptable homes, but don’t have the same level of craftsmanship involved.
He does offer these homes, as it wouldn’t make business sense to turn clients away who want them, but his heart lies firmly with the hand-scribed houses.
I ask about cost, as I would imagine it would be far more expensive if you are using a real craftsman. Surprisingly, however, the costs involved aren’t too far off generic costs quoted by all builders. A ‘normal’ home would cost around £1500 per square metre, and these log homes cost around £1700 per square metre.
Chris will also be working towards accommodating the holiday home market in his future plans and is in the process of putting together plans for a cosy cabin that can sleep four which can be bought as a holiday let.
He adds: “The staycation trend in this country is continuing to go from strength to strength with an increasing number of people choosing to holiday at home and stay in self-catering holiday accommodation.
“What’s more those with land are also looking to diversify their own business plans and are tapping into the holiday home market. This is great opportunity and we would like to work more with this group and gradually become established as being able to provide bespoke high quality holiday homes, offering visitors with the ideal base to explore Scotland.”
Furthermore, Chris also hopes to market them to people who want a home without having to go through the process of hiring an architect etc. They can use his blueprints and he hopes to bring them onto the market within the next month or so.
The cost of one of these units, fully installed (excluding connection of services) will be in the region of £70,000 and owners should be able to generate rental income of £500 and upwards per week, due to the uniqueness of the property.
His brother John, while also playing professional rugby for Scotland’s sevens, is also working his way through a construction management course, and hopes to join the company full time after his rugby career, to further enhance the service they can offer.
If you’re looking for a special building, that allows you a higher level of input into the project, these homes are worth looking into. The extra level of homeliness they offer is priceless.