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What is the Difference Between a Log Cabin and a Summer House?

Summer houses and log cabins are both types of garden buildings, which can be used in similar ways. In some cases, a garden room can be both a log cabin and a summerhouse at the same time, but the words still have their own distinctive definitions.

How is a summerhouse different from a log cabin?

A garden summer house is generally meant for the purpose of leisure or relaxation. Families typically furnish their summer house with armchairs and sofas, facing out to enjoy the view of the garden and oriented in a circle so that the occupants can talk to one another. Summerhouses are great for garden parties, playing games, having a chat, or just watching the rain (while staying dry).

The term ‘log cabin’ refers to the way a building is constructed. Garden log cabins are typically made from interlocking tongue and groove wooden panels. This type of building method offers a good amount of thermal insulation and high resistance to penetration by rainwater.

One key distinction here is that not all summerhouses are built from this kind of material. If you have a metal summerhouse, this is not a log cabin, as it is not made of wood. Metal is often selected for its low maintenance requirements and sleek modern appearance. Some models are also built to enable owners to easily install electrical outlets or insulation.

The best way to remember the difference is: a log cabin is defined by the style of building, whereas a summerhouse is a purpose that the building is used for.

Should I get a wooden log cabin or summer house?

This depends on the purpose you have in mind for your new garden building. As mentioned above, if your summerhouse is made of wood, it most likely is also a log cabin. In fact, even garden sheds can be log cabins if they are made with tongue and groove cladding. The durability, appearance and insulation offered by a log cabin build is why many gardeners enjoy the log cabin workshop style of shed. In this case, the building is used for storage and for craft or DIY projects, which is quite different from the usual purpose of a summerhouse.

However, log cabin sheds are further differentiated from summerhouses by some of the other building features. If a shed has windows, they are typically not very large as they are just to provide a reasonable level of lighting by letting daylight in, while the doors are completely opaque. A summerhouse generally has large windows, some of which are set into the doors, to give the occupants a good view of their garden and an abundance of natural light.

If a log cabin has large windows in its walls and doors, it will function as a summerhouse if furnished for the purpose. Alternatively, it could be used as a garden office, outdoor gym, an entertainment room, or a whole host of other purposes. You could even put a garden bar inside it for hospitality.

For children’s play there are also log cabin playhouses, which combine the qualities of a log cabin build with the classic Wendy house designs.

If you plan to use your garden building as a summerhouse, you should consider having this insulated, or purchasing a pre-insulated summerhouse. This regulates the internal temperature of the building, meaning that it is more comfortable for use through both summer and winter.

Which wooden summerhouse or log cabin should I buy?

In conclusion, not all log cabins are summerhouses, and not all summerhouses are log cabins. But if a log cabin is used as a summerhouse, then you have a building which is both.

For more details on which garden building you should get, check out our log cabin buying guide and our summerhouse buying guide.