Build Your Own Low-Cost Prefabricated A-Frame Home

If you itch to own a place in the country or a vacation cabin but can't afford to buy one ready-made, you can build your own low-cost prefabricated A-frame home in sections to be assembled on site.

| November/December 1985

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    The completed home cost the Wades $12,000 to construct.
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    Jack and his wife built the A-frame trusses in movable sections.
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    Erecting the trusses took just two days . . . And the entire shell was closed in two weeks later!

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Learn how to build your own low-cost prefabricated A-frame home from the ground up. (See the A-frame photos in the image gallery.)

For the past few years, I've been involved with an exciting concept in low-cost housing: I prefabricate modified A-frame homes in my spare time, right in my own backyard, then transport the presawn parts to rural lots where, with help from the purchasers and their friends, I can have a new dwelling up and weathertight in only two weeks.

It all started some time ago, when my wife and I decided to move to a more rural setting. But—as is the case with a great many people—our relocation plans were stymied by the prohibitive cost of purchasing a ready-made house; it seemed that the only way we'd be able to afford a country roof over our heads would be to put it there ourselves and build a low-cost prefabricated A-frame home. But given the time limitations of my annual two-week vacation, building from scratch didn't seem like a viable alternative, either.

For a while, we toyed with the idea of purchasing a factory-prefabricated log cabin and erecting it ourselves—but when we looked into kit homes, we found their cost to be a bit high for our budget. However, the idea of prefabrication had taken a firm hold on my imagination, and, being an engineer by trade, I decided to try designing a structure with component parts that my wife and I could prefabricate ourselves—at home, during our evenings and weekends—then transport to a rural building site for rapid assembly.

This approach, I reasoned, would allow us to make optimum use of our spare time and, once the assembly was begun, to quickly get the structure weathertight. So I chained myself to my drawing board until I came up with a design that would meet uniform building code requirements, maximize living space, and minimize both material costs and construction complexity . . . a two-story, modified A-frame dwelling.

My calculations indicated that a 20 foot width would be perfect for the ground floor, while a length of 24 feet would provide adequate floor space for personal needs (it would have been easy to make the house longer simply by adding on additional A-frame trusses). Further, as I went about refining the overall design, I discovered that I could include two redwood-decked, cantilevered balconies without significantly increasing material costs or making construction much more difficult.

12/1/2014 8:39:29 PM

Still trying to purchase Jack Wade's THE PREFABRICATED OWNER BUILT MODIFIED A-FRAME. No longer available at Amazon. Willing to purchase a copy of a copy if need be. Any help would be appreciated.

11/21/2014 11:24:07 AM

Theres a wonderful step-by-step article on A Frames in Cabins by David and Jeanie Stiles. I picked up the book at Barnes and Noble but Im sure Amazon has it. For prefabs, I found a book published in 1942 called House Construction Details by Nelson L Burbank. Both are quite informative and useful. Since I want to build a cabin in Alaska I can bypass the normal more rigorous approval departments!

12/19/2013 9:50:42 AM

Amazon has the book.


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