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Welcome to the wonderful world of timber buildings! There are so many different types to research and compare and ponder. Do you need a single or a double garage? A wooden garage or a concrete or brick garage? What about a log cabin garage? 

Maybe you’re loving this rabbit hole and can’t get enough of reading about garages. Or maybe you just want to know what your options are. 

So let’s compare two of those options. Then you can decide which building is right for you and make your choice based on good information rather than just giving up because the research is killing you. 

What is a log cabin garage?

This sounds like a pretty straightforward question. Surely a log cabin garage is a garage made out of logs, right? 

Yes, but also, hang on. To fully understand what you’re getting with a log cabin garage you first need to know a few things about log cabins in general. 

When you picture a log cabin you probably picture an old-world, Little House On The Prairie throwback, or the sort of building that lumberjacks build in Alaska reality TV shows. 

But if you’ve Googled “log cabin garage” you’re likely looking at an interlocking log building. You can read a whole lot more about interlocking log buildings here, but the main takeaways are this:

  • Those Little House On The Prairie buildings are extremely rare. They require serious skill and access to materials that most people don’t have, or aren’t willing to pay for. 
  • Interlocking log cabins use machined logs which are notched at the ends and have a tongue-and-groove profile. The notches interlock at the corners of the buildings, and the logs slot together like a big jigsaw to form the walls of the building. 
  • Log cabin garages are generally built of spruce, which is also known as whitewood.
  • The logs used range in thickness from 28mm to 100mm, or even thicker.

Most log cabin garages you find on the market will be garage-sized interlocking log buildings.

What is a Gillies & Mackay garage?

A Gillies & Mackay wooden garage painted pale green with a classic VW camper van parked inside.

Most of the other timber garages on the market are single-skinned buildings. This means that they’re built the same way that most sheds are. They have a timber frame and a single skin of timber cladding that forms their walls and roof. In other words, they are large sheds. 

But after encountering the same problems with large sheds over and over again, we decided that this model wasn’t working. While our sheds are pretty special, even our specification wasn’t keeping the water out of garage-sized buildings. So we created the Gillies & Mackay Garage.

How are our Garages different? Instead of a single skin of timber forming the walls and roof, we use three layers plus an all-important air cavity. Underneath the outer timber cladding there’s a dampproof membrane to keep the water out, then a layer of OSB. We’re really proud of this specification because it thoroughly solved the large shed problem. No leaks. No water ingress. Just a beautiful, dry, long-lasting building. 

What are the pros and cons of a log cabin garage?

Now that you know the difference between these two garage types, how do they stack up against each other? Yes, I did just make a log cabin pun, and no, I’m not sorry.

Pros of log cabin garages – cost

Log cabin garages are slightly more expensive than the large shed option and cheaper than a Gillies & Mackay Garage. They range in price from around £5,000 to around £14,000, depending on their size and the thickness of logs used. 

Pros of log cabin garages – self-assembly

Part of what makes log cabin garages a cheaper option is that they are usually self-assembly kits. If you fancy taking on a jigsaw building, they’re relatively easy to assemble.

Pros of log cabin garages – wall thickness

The thicker walls of a log cabin garage will offer better insulation than the large shed option, meaning that the building stays warmer in winter and cooler in summer than a single-skinned garage. However – this option still doesn’t compare to a layered building. There’s a point at which thicker timber causes more problems than it solves.

Cons of log cabin garages – water ingress

Let’s talk about timber. Timber buildings have a couple of key vulnerabilities.

The first is water. Because timber is porous, water can soak into the walls and roof, and if there’s enough of it, this will travel through the walls into the building. Even if the building isn’t actively leaking, water ingress through the walls will cause the same issues as a leak would. 

Here in Scotland, we see way more than our fair share of water, so a Scottish timber building needs to be especially hardy to stay watertight. 

Our top choice for stable timber that’s resistant to moisture is Scandinavian redwood. Unfortunately, most log cabin garages are built from spruce, also known as whitewood. Spruce is less resistant to moisture and movement. It’s a cheaper option compared to redwood and is often fast-grown in warm climates, which makes it even less stable. 

Scandinavian redwood is your best bet to keep water out of your building.

Despite the thickness of their walls, log cabins also struggle to stay watertight because of timber movement.

Cons of log cabin garages – timber movement

A screenshot of an article on Timmersol.com, showing gaps and timber movement in interlocking log cabins

The next thing that makes timber buildings tricky is temperature changes. Timber buildings do really well in cold, stable climates, where temperatures change very little. 

But around these parts, it’s perfectly possible to have -4° first thing in the morning and +10° by the sunny afternoon. 

Because timber is porous it always contains some moisture, and temperature changes affect this. When it’s cold timber boards shrink, and when it’s warm they swell. In a stable climate, these changes are small and happen over long periods. In a changeable climate, these changes cause timber to change shape. 

When your building is made out of thick logs, even small shape changes can be influential. And because interlocking log buildings are stacked together like a puzzle, a shape change in even one board impacts the whole building. Gaps can appear, and water can find another way into your building. 

Timber movement is especially problematic around windows and doors, where you definitely don’t want any gaps or leaks. 

This excellent article on the Timmersol website has clear photos of the problems that happen when the timbers of a log cabin garage change shape due to exposure to moisture. Check out the comments!

Whether you’re dealing with a large shed-type garage or a log cabin garage, timber movement has to be considered.

Cons of log cabin garages – lifespan

Because log cabins are prone to timber movement, which leads to water ingress, and because water ingress encourages rot and decay, the lifespan of a log cabin garage is limited. Ten years would be a pretty good run for this type of building. 

If you’re looking for a short-term option, or if keeping the building watertight isn’t a top priority, then an interlocking log cabin might be just what you’re after. But if you’re looking for a fully watertight structure that will last for a good few decades, this isn’t a great choice.

Cons of log cabin garages – self-assembly

Maybe the idea of building your own interlocking log cabin garage makes you want to run away and hide. This point is both a pro and a con, depending on your point of view. 

Some people love the satisfaction of assembling something themselves, and some people hate the thought of having to do so. 

Cons of log cabin garages – size limits

Once a building is larger than 5m x 6m, it is subject to Building Control. This process ensures that buildings follow the appropriate safety regulations required by law. 

Before building something over this threshold, you must apply for a Building Warrant outlining the size and specification of the building, then have the finished construction inspected to ensure that it complies with this warrant. 

However, interlocking log cabins are not compliant with Building Control regulations. This means that your garage has a maximum size limit of 5m x 6m. 

What are the pros and cons of a G&M garage?

Interior of a Gillies & Mackay timber garage with a car and bike inside. The back wall has shelving units added and a variety of boxes and other items are stored on the shelves.

While a Gillies & Mackay Garage is still a timber building, our specification is designed to avoid many of the problems faced by log cabin garages.

Pros of a Gillies & Mackay Garage – fully watertight.

Our garages don’t leak. The three-tier wall and roof construction ensures that water stays on the outside, where it belongs. The air cavity under the cladding stops any moisture that might be absorbed from reaching the inner layers of the building, and the dampproof membrane reinforces this barrier. 

Steel box profile roofing ensures that the roof is just as weatherproof as the walls, and a coat of paint protects the outer cladding from moisture and shifting. 

Pros of a Gillies & Mackay Garage – insulation.

A layered wall with an air cavity provides much better insulation than solid timber. The combination of materials creates a building that keeps heat in when it’s cold outside, and heat out when it’s warm outside. As well as insulating effectively, the tiered walls are much thinner than in brick or concrete garages, meaning more interior space.

Pros of a Gillies & Mackay Garage – lifespan

Because water stays out of your building, the problems associated with water ingress are avoided. This means that a Gillies & Mackay Garage will last 30 years with minimal maintenance. Other than a coat of paint every few years to protect the cladding, your garage is good to go.

Pros of a Gillies & Mackay Garage – customisations

Because our garages are designed and manufactured right here in our workshop, each garage is a bespoke building that can be customised to suit your space. If you’d like a carport for additional parking space, that’s entirely possible. If you have an unusual space that doesn’t suit traditional sizes, we can work with you to accommodate a garage. 

Cons of a Gillies & Mackay Garage – cost

Of course, all of this good stuff comes at a price. A Gillies & Mackay Garage is more expensive than a log cabin garage, with prices ranging from £10,879 to £25,000, depending on size and extras like carports.

Cons of a Gillies & Mackay Garage – maintenance

Like the point about self-assembly above, this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, but if painting the building every 3-5 years feels like one job too many, a timber garage may not be for you. However, upgrading to Radiata ThermoWood cladding takes even this job out of the equation – it can be left untreated for a natural finish that weathers over time. 

What other factors might influence your decision?

Timber buildings aren’t for everyone, and if you’re worried about the lifespan of your building, you may want to investigate brick or concrete garages as an alternative. However, a Gillies & Mackay Garage will last just as long as these options, despite being made of what is traditionally seen as a less durable material. They’ve been engineered to stand firm against the weather for decades. 

How do you decide between a log cabin garage and a Gillies & Mackay Garage?

A Gillies & Mackay wooden garage painted cream.

If you’re buying a log cabin garage, here’s what you need to know:

  • This is a more affordable option than a G&M Garage.
  • The building will be only fairly watertight in a Scottish climate.
  • Water ingress will shorten the lifespan of the building and may damage its contents.
  • You can expect to get around 10 years out of a log cabin garage.

If you’re buying a Gillies & Mackay Garage, here’s what you need to know:

  • The initial investment will be much larger than for a large shed or log cabin garage.
  • The building will be installed by experts and is designed to last for decades.
  • Customisations are possible.
  • The Garage should be repainted every 3-5 years.

So what should you do next? If you still have questions about timber garages, head to our Learning Centre

If you’d like to examine one of our gorgeous Garages in real life, come on down to our Show Area
Or if you’ve decided that a G&M Garage isn’t for you, check out our Shed Buyer’s Checklist to help you sort out a shonky, short-lived timber building from a solid, durable one. Happy hunting!

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