Cabin Designs: Build the Best Cabin for Your Lifestyle

From logs to straw bales to metal, the materials you choose will play a determining role in your cabin’s cost, quality and style. Find out the pros and cons of a number of different cabin construction methods.

| September 7, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan (Storey Publishing, 2010). You’ll be inspired to create the cabin of your dreams with Rowan’s exciting collection of 62 creative cabin floor plans that feature innovative storage, clever use of outdoor space, mix-and-match modular elements, and off-the-grid energy options — all in less than 1,000 square feet. This excerpt is from Chapter 2, “Design: Architecture, Logistics, Environment.” 

The materials you choose play the determining role in your cabin’s cost, quality and style. Here is where building small has great advantage: Limiting the overall size of your cabin allows you to dedicate your money to building with quality materials that will serve you well over time.

I use local materials whenever possible, both because it’s the ecological thing to do (saving transportation fuel and stimulating the local economy), and because it makes sense aesthetically. Rough-sawn barnwood siding makes sense in northern forests; adobe makes sense in the American Southwest. Chefs talk about the advantages of preparing dishes using local ingredients and pairing them with local wines. The same can be said about building.

The use of recycled or remanufactured material may make a lot of sense if you live in an area where older housing or industrial structures are being either torn down or replaced with new housing. You may even be lucky enough to find a local business that specializes in used windows, doors, moldings, trim, lumber, brick and so on.

Using premanufactured components — such as whole-house modules, panels or roof trusses — may make sense if you want to build quickly or don’t intend to do much of the construction work yourself.

No single construction method is best. The design of the cabin, the complexity of that design and the accessibility of the building site are all important factors in choosing a construction method. Take time to sit down and cost out the building of your cabin in a number of ways. Consult builders or an architect, or do a lot of homework yourself.

Dan Toth
10/11/2010 11:23:25 AM

Consider factory-built (mobile Homes) as an alternative builing product. They have a poor reputation but only due to how they are cared for. They are built well at a factoryand what other building would you transport along the Interstate at 65 mph without it coming apart. I bought my home in 1986 for $26,600 and have only put new siding on and a new roof, plus normal maintenance. Never had to paint it. And it is extremly well insulated due to my requesting that to be at the time of purchase.

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