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

  • Log Cabin
    Dream big, build small! Whether it’s a first or second home, at the lake, in the woods, on a mountaintop or at the ocean’s edge, a small-footprint cabin may be the perfect housing option for you.
    ISTOCKPHOTO/CORY JOHNSON
  • Compact Cabins
    “Compact Cabins” presents 62 interpretations of the cabin getaway dream, with something to please every taste. Best of all, the small-footprint designs are affordable and energy-efficient without skimping on comfort and style.
    COVER: STOREY PUBLISHING
  • Post And Beam Cabin
    With its centuries-old building style, the post-and-beam cabin has a classic character. Traditionally the heavy beams remain exposed in the interior.
    STEVE SANFORD
  • Log Cabin Design
    Log cabins evoke a sense of the pioneering spirit. They can be built by hand the old-fashioned way, but kits make the job easier and faster.
    STEVE SANFORD
  • Straw Bale Cabin
    Straw bale construction yields well-insulated, natural-looking homes. One of their best attributes is ease of construction — any reasonably handy person can put one up.
    STEVE SANFORD
  • Pole Cabin
    Because pole construction is designed to be free span, it gives cabin owners great flexibility in how to use the interior space. Sliding walls and panels work well in pole cabins. They can be opened or closed as needed to open or divide spaces.
    STEVE SANFORD
  • Quonset Home
    Depending on materials selection, the curved walls of Quonset-style huts can give a cabin an earthy, sheltered feeling or a modern, high-tech character.
    STEVE SANFORD
  • Masonry Cabin
    Cabins built of stone, brick or other masonry materials have a strong sense of heft and timelessness. Almost nothing is prettier than a small stone cabin built of the same rock that surrounds it.
    STEVE SANFORD

  • Log Cabin
  • Compact Cabins
  • Post And Beam Cabin
  • Log Cabin Design
  • Straw Bale Cabin
  • Pole Cabin
  • Quonset Home
  • Masonry Cabin

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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