How to Build a Cheap Cabin

How to Build a Cheap Cabin

Escaping to the great outdoors is a dream for many Americans, but for those of us in the 99%, it’s not realistic to think we’ll own an expansive, two-story cabin built at the foot of our favorite ski hill. The quintessential getaway cabin is out-of-reach.

However, there might be a more frugal way to scratch that wilderness itch. The tiny homes movement and DIY aficionados everywhere have combined forces to produce many affordable solutions for small cabin-type structures that someone with basic carpentry skills can build on their own time. Here are some tips for you if you’re interested in constructing a little getaway.

Keep it Simple

If a return to basics is your goal, a DIY cabin can give you that. You should go into this project with the expectation of a one-room structure if you intend to keep costs down. There might be one or two partial walls to separate your toilet area, but otherwise, you’re building a rectangle. Some designs incorporate a loft to better use space overhead. Expect to have small windows and one small door, to maximize energy efficiency.

Gathering and Processing

Find a good location for your new cabin. Look for an area with level ground and good access to nearby water. Next, you can begin the process of gathering logs. The length of logs used will determine the size of your structure, and you’ll want to do some homework about how to process logs using a chainsaw mill to keep costs down.

The foundation of your cabin can be dug in, partial or fully supported, but you should use your best lumber as the base of the structure. As you work up, you can vary the length of your vertical logs to create windows and doors. The roof should have long eaves to help slough off water and snow, and you can treat the lumber with cooking oil to help seal it from elements.

Adding Living Quarters

With the shape of your cabin well established, you can begin to install its basic functional components. A running shower makes a wonderful addition, —you can use a pre-fabbed unit that will drop into the cabin structure easily to keep water in, and then hang a gravity-fed camping shower. Use a modern composting toilet since you won’t have access to sewers, and building a septic system can be costly.

For your kitchen, a hotplate run using a generator, or a wood-burning stove, can function as cooking surfaces. You can also go with a traditional camp stove or opt for a full-blown kitchenette, but costs will rise. Have a reservoir for water and an insulated container to store perishable goods.

When all is said and done, you get to furnish the place. A few tasteful pieces will add a lot of character. Select cozy bedding to keep you warm and comfy after a night in the woods. Sometimes these basic designs can remind us how much we have in modern cities. You don’t need much to survive comfortably. Spending an evening living simply can be a refreshing and comforting experience.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington

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