Our Race to Build a Homemade Cabin Before Winter

Five Maine adventurers built a wooden cabin in three months and for only $400, including diagrams.


| November/December 1975



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Our intention was to build a survival shelter — one which could serve as a house for a year or two and as a woodshed and workshop for many years after — and I think we succeeded pretty well.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

How five manually illiterate individuals constructed a snug Maine homemade cabin in three months and for only $400!

The building of a house, barn, or garage strikes most people as a formidable task reserved only for professionals (or at least experienced weekend handymen). We were no exception . . . and when our group began to construct a homemade cabin in September, it was with mixed feelings of uncertainty and youthful exuberance. For five more or less manually illiterate individuals to attempt to fabricate a year-round dwelling in the western "mountains" of Maine seemed preposterous (though, at the same time, somehow natural). Yet, three months later — as I sit at this desk and look out through double-paned windows at the cold, snowy landscape — I remember the job as rather simple. ("Uncomplicated", I mean . . . not "quick and easy"!)

Building a Homemade Cabin Before Winter

Our intention was to build a survival shelter — one which could serve as a house for a year or two and as a woodshed and workshop for many years after — and I think we succeeded pretty well. The fruit of our efforts is a 20 feet by 30 feet building with two 8 feet by 15 feet lofts upstairs, separated by a storage area that measures nearly 15 feet by 20 feet. That's space enough for two couples and most of their necessary possessions.

No, the house isn't the Ritz or the Waldorf-Astoria, but it certainly is adequate protection against even our demanding central Maine climate. The dwelling didn't take us long to erect, either. The first post went into the ground September 5, and we moved out of our tents and into the lofts on October 16 . . . a total of six weeks. We didn't buy a stick of lumber, and the whole shebang cost less than $400 to put up.

Work actually commenced in July, when two people began cutting balsam firs for framing and walls. Within six weeks we'd felled, peeled, and hauled to our building site approximately 175 poles that averaged 5 inches in diameter and 20 feet in length.

Meanwhile, three more of us were busy scrounging and salvaging lumber, windows, and other building materials from Portland, 70 miles away. The booty included over 600 feet of 2 by 4's, three large sheets of metal roofing, eight sheets of 1/4-inch plywood, a few 8 by 10 beams, 10 doors, and about 25 windows. The bulk of the wood came from a building that was being remodeled . . . and not only was the lumber free, but our crew got paid for tearing it down and carting it away After countless trips to and from Portland in two pickups and a van, we had almost everything we needed. By the first of September, it was time to start construction.





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