Solutions for Self-Reliance

21 Steps to Building a Norwegian Loft House


If you like log cabins, then you’ll love what I’ve got for you today. I’m honored to share with you a story in pictures from Swedish log building expert Sven-Gunnar Håkansson, where we get to follow along as he builds a classic Norwegian loft house, known simply as a ‘loft’ in the Scandinavian countries.

Sven-Gunnar is the author of “From Log to Log House“, practically the “bible” of log house construction in the nordic countries.

The new 2013 edition has not yet been translated into English, but if you’re interested in getting your hands on his book there is a Canadian edition (ISBN 1-89457272-6, year 2003) released by Algrove Publishing and a US edition (ISBN 978-1-936013-15-9, year 2011) released by Blue Moon Press (both of the previous edition of his book).

Now, onto the building project! I’ll let Sven-Gunnar Håkansson take it from here:

I’ve built many houses on my property, as I share in my book “From log to log cabin”. After the last big update of the book in 2013 I can’t see any further big update in the future. However, that does not mean that I’ve stopped building, and today I’d like to share with you my latest project.

Disclaimer: if any log building expert happen to read this, I apologize if I’ve translated any of the construction terms incorrectly. Lots of strange and hard to translate terms in the log construction trade!

1. My son Erik and his wife Eka had a vision of building a “Norwegian loft” of this type. The “Vangestad”-loft in Flesberg, Numedal (from the book “Stav och Laft,” page 103, Oslo 1990.)

2. The loft has a core of timber that’s surrounded by extended galleries on the upper floor. In this model, the stairs up to the second floor is located in the uninsulated vestibule.

3. The lower floor consists of a timber frame that Erik hewed from leftover timber from the construction of the main house. It has been standing without a roof since it was built on site in 2010.

4. Traditionally they use standing poles for the foundation (as can be seen in picture #1), but here we used massive stones instead.

5. The upper row of logs is taken down and here you can see the construction of the upper floor using the pole method of construction. The upper frame is being built using the lower frame as a “template”.

6. 12 logs are cut in one go while Erik is making floor joists with brackets and framework.

7. May 14. The first day’s work ends with erecting the poles. You can see we added some improvised rain protection on top of the poles.

8. The upper framework is in place. What’s missing is the diagonal studs, nail studs and the water boards (also called sacrificial boards because you “sacrify” them by letting them lead away the rainwater instead of exposing the foundation to rain.)

9. May 19. All diagonal studs in place. Two firs were cut down for timber for the roof beams and and rafters. Now we’ll let the pole frame dry until the end of July.

10. July 23. Roof beams in place, water boards on the lower frame along with nail studs. Nail studs and water boards for the uppermost logs are constructed when we dismantle the frame.

11. July 24. Building help from Switzerland, Christoff, and Erik insulates the log construction with moss in preparation for placing the top layer of logs that will connect with the upper floor.

12. July 25. Heatstroke is not far off with 30 degree heat. 08.53 in the morning.

13. The sill frame is in place on the extended floor joists.

14. After one day’s hard work in the heat the pole framework is in place. Before assembly the poles and studs have been treated with a mix of 1/3 pine tar, 1/3 raw linseed oil and 1/3 turpentine (turpentine helps the oil and tar penetrate into the wood), for protection against rain and moisture.

15. The Norwegian “looks” is starting to show.

16. July 26. The big challenge in this build was to lift the two large roof beams. The lifting machine just barely reached the lower sill frame, and from there we had to use a one-ton chain block the rest of the way. The chain block was fastened to two rafters that was locked with big screws to an A-frame as shown in the picture.

17. The A-frame was fastened against think planks. In the final phase of the lifting a manual lift was needed to get the roof beam into its final position on the second pole. Luckily we were three people on site.

18. Long evening when the final rafter was lifted into place.

19. We finished the evening with a “roof ridge-celebration” where we sat and admired the build.

20. July 29, 07:53. One side of the roof was set up the previous day. We had a table saw on the upper floor that we used to cut the tongue and groove planks continually while two men nailed them into place.

21. July 29, 17:16. Erik nails the lower edge of the roofing felt into place, while using safety harness and line.

22. Sheeting set up all around the upper floor with panel nailed into place on two of the four walls. Very think planks used as scaffolding.

23. The build is almost weather proof now that the triangular openings between the trusses have been covered with sheeting.

24. Window openings have been covered and the loft will stay as it is until next summers building period. The front window opening is complete with plastic covering and a ladder is in place where the wooden stairs will eventually be. The entry vestibule where the ladder is will be built in and covered using the same pole construction technique as the upper floor.

What does a traditional Norwegian ‘loft’ look like?

We don’t have to speculate what lofts used to look like, because there are really old ones still standing today. The loft you see below is over 700 years old and counting:

Norwegian loft house

Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s the Sondre Tveito ‘loft’ from Telemark, Norway and today it stands in the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. This particular house was part of a larger farm in Telemark in the Middle Ages. It has a runic inscription dating it to 1300.

Houses like this one is a living testament to the longevity and beauty of wood.

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