Can Log Cabins Survive a Tornado?


Log cabins do not seem very strong, especially when compared with the awesome power of a tornado. Recently, I have been pondering the classic question, “who would win in a fight, a cabin or a tornado?” My first instinct is to bet it all on the tornado, but could a log cabin survive the fight? I did a little research and here is what I found.

So, could a log cabin survive a tornado? Due to their strength and weight, log cabins can survive harsh storms that most other drywall homes can not. You should not, however, build a log cabin intending it to serve as a storm shelter. They are not guaranteed to withstand any storm, especially if they are not built professionally.

Just what is it about a log cabin that makes it better than most homes in a tornado? Are there any downsides during a storm? Let’s examine these and a few more questions below.

The Strength of a Log Cabin Home

If you are like most people, then when you think of a log cabin home, you think of the pioneers. And I don’t know about you, but when I think of the pioneers I don’t think of cutting-edge technology. Isn’t there a reason that we don’t see any of their homes around? I mean look at the three little pigs. The one pig that decided to build his house out of sticks was the first to get eaten, wasn’t he? The surprising truth is that most log cabins built today are actually sturdier than your typical suburban home. Let’s take a closer look as to what makes these homes so strong.

Construction has improved a lot since the golden age of pioneers and log cabins are nothing like what they used to be. Think for a moment as to what your own home is made of. If you are like most people living in the United States, you probably live in a wood and drywall home. Think of what that is actually made of. Besides a few supporting beams and insulation, the walls of your home are mostly hollow.

The stucco-covered exterior your home may do well in keeping out the cold and repelling the rain, but if a strong gust of wind comes by then you are toast. The roof isn’t the safest either. If a heavy snowfall comes, then your roof is liable to collapse. Only that thin sheet of shingles is separating you from the outside world. I’m not saying any of this to scare you, but only to highlight some of the differences between your own home and that of a solid log cabin.

So what makes a cabin better?

Strong Walls

Now let’s take a look at the log cabin. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of a log? For me, it is the word sturdy. Nowadays log cabins are built using the finest quality lumber and the newest construction techniques. The walls of a log cabin are so strong, that I have read stories of cabins being ripped off of their foundations by flooding, only to be discovered floating in the water some few miles away. Now, that is some serious strength!

Fire Resistant

Log homes are also surprisingly fire resistant. I know what you are thinking, “come on, it’s a big pile of kindling. The thing is bound to light as soon as I strike up a match.” But that is not the case. Logs used in the construction of log cabins are actually harder to ignite than tradition homes due to their large size and density.

So, imagine this scenario with me if you would. A tornado comes ripping through the countryside and tears up your neighborhood. Most homes escaped unscathed, but the tornado has also knocked loose an electrical pole. The pole lays sagging, supported only by the thin electrical wires, but the stress is too great and they snap, sending up a flurry of sparks.

The sparks land on the wood and drywall house not too far from your log cabin and ignite it. What do you expect to happen? Well, this situation isn’t actually that uncommon and time and again the log cabin has been proven to be the only home left standing after a fire. They may be made of wood, but that doesn’t mean cabins make for good kindling.

Independently Strong Roof and Walls

Why is it that most homes get destroyed in a tornado? In a traditionally built home, all parts of the house are interdependent of each other, meaning, when one part of the structure goes down, the whole home goes down. One of the most common damages done to a home during a tornado is the loss of a roof. When the loosely laid shingles and insulation get torn away by strong gusts, powerful winds invade the interior of the house, causing the whole structure to collapse, but not so with log cabins.

Even if the roof is torn from a cabin home, the log walls are usually heavy enough to resist the powerful winds of a tornado. You can make your home even stronger by adding additional bracing and hurricane straps.

I wonder why we aren’t building more log homes in tornado country!

Disadvantages of Log Cabins in a Storm

OK, so living in a log cabin sounds great. Not only is it super comfortable, but it is also super strong. You may be thinking to yourself, “I’m ready to live in a log cabin. Bring on the storm!” But not so fast. Log cabins may be safer, but there are some disadvantages as well. Let’s examine some of the disadvantages of living in a log cabin.

Location, Location, Location

How many cabins do you see in the middle of the suburbs? I personally do not see many at all, but maybe I’m crazy. The biggest disadvantage of living in a log cabin is the secluded location. While living in the middle of the forest or some mountain somewhere may look pretty, it can also be quite dangerous if disaster strikes.

If a tornado does it your secluded cabin, it could take well over an hour for emergency services to arrive. They may even need to send an emergency chopper to quickly transport any who were injured. And remember when I said that log cabins are fire resistant? That may be true when compared to a drywall home that ignites around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, but a wild forest fire could easily reach upwards of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. You won’t be nice and cozy in your cabin, you will be roasting to death.

Disasters like tornados are rare in areas where you traditionally keep log cabins, but you can never be too sure. If you do have a log cabin, make sure that you can quickly obtain help if worst comes to worst.

Price

The last disadvantage to owning a cabin that I will discuss is the price. Building with solid logs can be expensive and most log homes run anywhere from $175000 to $350000 to even more. That added safety and comfort can be a steep price to pay, but it may be worth it.

Conclusion

It may come as a surprise, but cabins are actually safer than traditionally built homes. Their strong walls, solid foundation, and fire resistant material make them very durable in a tornado. While they may be expensive at times, a log cabin is definitely a safe place to be during a tornado.

Additional Question

Can log cabins survive an earthquake? Yes, they can. For a lot of the same reasons a log cabin is safe during a tornado or hurricane makes them safe during an earthquake as well. The walls of a log cabin and strong and durable. They can each support their own way, meaning that if one of the walls were to collapse, which is highly unlikely, the other walls are likely to stay standing. Fire is also one of the biggest destroyers during an earthquake, and as we discussed earlier, log cabins are very fire resistant.

Are log cabins safe? Log cabins are very structurally sound and are not likely to collapse. The biggest threat that comes in living in a log cabin is the secluded location. Cabins are generally far away from population centers and it may take a while for emergency services to arrive in a disaster.

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