1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine

1/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
Build This Co Cabin
June/Julv 2006
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/2006-06-01/Build-this-Cozy-Cabin.aspx
Bv Steve Maxwell
Anyone with basic carpentry skills can construct this classic
one-room cabin for under $4,000.
LEN CHURCHILL
Rays of early-morning sunlight gently peek through the windows, easing you awake. Looking down from the
sleeping loft, you see everything you need: a pine table; a box piled with hardwood, split and ready for the
woodstove; and a compact kitchen in the corner. This is the cabin dream.
In this article, Ill show you how to build a 14-by-20-foot cabin featuring a sleeping loft over the porch for about
$4,000. Who can resist it?
My own cabin adventure began in 1986, when I built one as an inexpensive place to stay while constructing my
house — thats when I began learning what makes cabin design and construction successful. (Ive always had a
debt-free approach to developing my property.) The four years I lived in this cabin were a good time in my life
— perhaps one of the best. I fondly recall the simplicity of waking each morning with the sole purpose of building
my own house, working well into the evening.
What follows is a cabin plan with the hands-on know-how I wish I had 20 years ago. It wont replace the need
for basic carpentry skills, but it will alert you to the main challenges of framing a cabin and how to clear the most
important hurdles. And even if you never build a cabin of your own, these basic instructions will be useful anytime
you need to build a garage, shed or other outbuilding. (For more on the authors cabin experience, see “Our Life
in a One-room Cabin,” below.)
I believe in building for the long haul. When it comes to cabins (and everything else for that matter), this means
working to the same standards of durability and beauty that youd apply to a full-size house, even though the
style, size and soul of a good cabin are entirely different. Im sold on durability because it takes such small
amounts of extra care, materials and money to yield a huge increase in longevity. Although a cabin certainly can
be framed less stoutly than the design Ill show you here, Im convinced the wisest use of resources often means
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
2/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
going beyond whats merely good enough.
A Firm Fondaion
Every well-built structure begins with the foundation. In regions where frost isnt an issue, site-poured, 6-by-16-
by-16-inch shallow-depth concrete pads work just fine. If this is similar to the approach used on new houses in
your area, then its OK for use under your cabin.
Cold climates are a different matter, and one of the best cabin foundations you can choose is established easily
with minimal tools and time. Concrete piers extending below the frost line, poured within round cardboard tubes,
are a time-proven approach to lightweight construction that offers a couple of advantages. Besides raising the
structure off the ground and isolating it from the annual freeze/thaw movements of the soil, concrete piers provide
good support around the perimeter of your cabin, without the need for full-scale forming and pouring.
In this cabin design, you need one pier at each corner of the cabin, one in the middle of each long side, three
piers spaced evenly on the front of the porch and one in the middle of the rear wall. In light soil, its reasonable to
dig the 10 holes you need for 8- to 12-inch-diameter pier forms using a long-handled shovel. Otherwise, call in a
neighbor or contractor with a tractor-mounted auger. You can use 8-inch concrete piers, but the larger size is
more forgiving if you dont get the alignment just right.
The best way to mark your foundation outline is with 12-inch spikes pushed into the earth and connected with
nylon string. (See “Choose a Rock-solid Start,” below, for layout tips.) Regardless of the foundation design you
choose, the main construction challenge is the same: leveling the top of the foundation pads or piers. A laser level
is easy to use and even allows a person working alone to level a foundation successfully. You dont need to buy
a laser level for this project, but its definitely worth borrowing if one is available from a friend or neighbor.
When setting concrete pier forms in the ground, dig the holes large enough to allow room for side-to-side
adjustment. The outside edges of the pier forms should extend a bit beyond the outer dimensions of your
building. As inexpensive insurance against frost jacking of foundation piers (when the piers are pulled toward the
surface by seasonal freezing, even though they extend below the frost line), wrap the outside of each pier tube
with black polyethylene plastic before setting them into the holes and packing soil around them. While the
concrete is wet, vertically embed five-eighths-inch L-shaped threaded metal rod anchors, extending at least 7
inches above the concrete, short end down. Later on, these will hold down the base of the floor frame.
Bilding he Floor Frame
There are many ways to frame a cabin floor, but I favor the timber-rim approach for a couple of reasons.
“Timber rim” refers to a load-bearing frame of timbers that defines the perimeter of the floor area. Its better than
a continuous foundation wall because it eliminates the need for lots of block work or a poured foundation, and it
offers great stability. For this project, it provides continuous support for a building thats held up at only 10
points around its perimeter. Another plus is that timber-rim construction is durable and simple for first-time cabin
builders.
Start by gathering rot-resistant 6-by-6 timbers for the outer rim. Timbers for the ends of the cabin and porch
should be long enough to do the job in one piece. If you need to splice two timbers together for the 20-foot
cabin sides, thats fine. Just locate the splices directly on top of your concrete pads or piers. (It is possible to get
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
3/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
away with thinner pieces of wood here, but that would require adding more piers — an option thats probably
less attractive than dealing with thicker timbers.) Be sure to make half-lap corner joints to connect the rim
timbers.
Measure, mark and drill 1-inch-diameter holes in your 6-by-6s for the five-eighths-inch threaded rod anchors
you embedded in your concrete piers, then settle the timbers in place over the rods.
Before bolting down the timbers, double-check that the top surfaces of the 6-by-6s are level to within one-eighth
inch of each other. Pouring concrete is coarse work, and its possible the foundation piers arent exactly the
same height now that theyve hardened. Nows the time to identify and correct any such errors. Install shims
underneath the uneven timbers to make them level; bolt them down tightly under 2-inch washers; then check one
last time with a level. You now have a sturdy timber rim on which to begin building the cabin. As long as the
bottom of the timber rim is at least several inches above the soil, natural ventilation should keep this structure
strong for many decades.
The timber rim you just installed supports floor joists and headers (the frame around the joists) that in turn form
the cabin and porch floor. By running joists across the 14-foot width of the building, youll have the stiffest
possible floor for a given width of joist, minimizing squeaks and ensuring long-term durability. As a rule of thumb,
2-by-10s spaced on 16-inch centers across the span of this cabin will give you a good floor. But because the
type of wood affects the total allowable span — building codes may vary where you live — double-check floor
joist sizes with your local authority. You might consider using 2-by-10 joists across the porch and 2-by-12s for
the main floor (but if you do, remember to use a 12-inch-wide header for the main floor, or your joists will be
taller than the floor frame). Using 2-by-12s raises the cabin floor slightly, creating a lip at the door that helps
repel water and snow.
Regardless of the floor framing wood you choose, use five 3 1/2-inch nails on each joint connecting the floor
joists to the headers. Make sure the edges of your floor frame are perfectly straight and use a string as a
reference to ensure that this happens as it should. Use 3 1/2-inch hot-dipped, galvanized nails driven at an angle
to connect the floor frame to the timber rim. You also can use galvanized connector plates.
Nows the time to apply a floor surface to your joists, and that means you have a decision to make: If you want
flooring thats easy to build, inexpensive and requires no maintenance for a cabin that wont see much cold
weather, then three-fourths-inch softwood planks are the way to go. Even left completely unfinished, these form
a fine, rustic floor thats easy to sweep clean. Over time, bare wood like this also takes on a burnished beauty
thats as pleasant to look at as it is to live with.
Or do you want a better floor to keep out drafts and bugs, while retaining simplicity? Then consider shiplapped
floorboards. Theyre one step up from square-edged planks, offering all the same advantages as plain boards,
while also preventing board-to-board gaps. The best floor option is five-eighths- or three-fourths-inch plywood,
though this makes sense only when youre planning to apply a finished floor material over the top. Plywood
keeps drafts out and adds an element of rigidity that dimensional lumber cant match, but it also looks
unattractive, especially in a cabin.
Wall Faming
With your rough floor in place, you can now build the walls. Stud-frame construction is still the most popular
approach for residential projects, and it makes sense for cabins, too. Although you can save money by framing
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
4/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
with 2-by-4s, I recommend 2-by-6s instead, even if you wont be insulating. The extra 2 inches of frame depth is
stronger, looks better and offers greater storage opportunities for small items sitting on shelves between the
studs.
The illustration in the Image Gallery shows how stud-frame walls have three main parts: the plates (horizontal
members that form the top and bottom of the walls); studs (vertical frame members); and lintels (horizontal
members that span doors and windows).
Start by cutting one top and one bottom plate for the rear wall — the one opposite the door. Make these plates
out of one 2-by-6 each, then temporarily screw them together so all sides are flush. Joining them together
ensures accuracy of the marks you make to show stud location. Make these plates 13 feet, 1 inch long. This way
the completed front and back walls will measure 14 feet wide when flanked by the two long walls that will go up
on each side of them.
With the pair of plates on edge, use a carpenters square to draw lines across the edges of the plates at the same
spot. Each pencil line shows where one side of each stud should be located. An “X” marks the side of the line
where the stud needs to sit. Studs measuring 92 1/2 inches long should be spaced 16 inches apart from center
point to center point, with extra studs where door and window openings will go later. Before you frame openings
for windows and doors, you need to know the sizes of the openings required for them. Make window openings
1 inch wider and 1 inch taller than the overall size of your window (1 inch wider and a half inch taller for a
prehung door, when you get that far).
Remove the screws that temporarily held the top and bottom plates together, separate these pieces about 8 feet
apart (with the bottom plate near its final place on the wall), and then position your wall studs between them.
Begin by nailing the plates to the ends of the full-length studs, then cut and add shorter studs to form the window
opening. Use three 3 1/2-inch nails per joint. If youre planning to build insulation into your floor, add a second
bottom plate to the wall to raise it up. Now gather some eager volunteers and get ready to heave the wall upright
and into position.
This is an exciting moment, but youll need a few tools to succeed. In addition to a framing hammer and some
31/2-inch nails, an 8- to 10-pound sledgehammer is helpful for jostling the wall into final position, and youll need
a 24- to 48-inch level to check and align its orientation. Raise the frame with a couple of helpers, then push, pull
and pound it into alignment with the edge of the floor frame. Use your level to help align the wall so its perfectly
vertical (plumb), and then drive two nails into each space between the studs on the bottom plate, extending down
into the floor boards and header.
Your wall is up and secure now, but its not yet strong. Brace it with some long pieces of lumber extending to the
ground (youll take them off later, so use the good stuff), then repeat the wall framing process for the two
neighboring side walls.
When youve framed the last wall (the one with the door) and raised it, check and adjust all walls so theyre
straight and plumb. This may take some time, but dont continue until youve correctly finished this detail. Use
taut strings (as you did when assembling the floor frame) to make sure the top edges of the walls are truly
straight. When youre satisfied, get ready to cut and apply another layer of 2-by-6s over the existing top plate.
Youll need to arrange these parts so they overlap the joints between wall segments (see “Post Top Detail,” at
the bottom left corner of the illustration), but theres another detail you need to address first.
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
5/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
The illustration in the Image Gallery shows you how two 6-by-6s or log posts should be installed extending from
the top corners of the side walls to provide support for the porch roof. Begin by fastening two 6-by-6 vertical
posts to the front corners, then rest three horizontal 6-by-6s on top, extending to the porch posts temporarily
supported by props of lumber. When all this is in place, tie everything together with a second 2-by-6 top plate.
What you should have at this stage is the four walls of the cabin raised, with an additional 4-foot frame extension
from the cabins front wall, which will support the porch roof. The roof fits over the cabin walls and porch in
exactly the same way. Heres a tip: In general, you can use 12-inch spikes to hold together large framing posts,
such as the 6-by-6s described above, but you have to drive them into pilot holes. Although spikes arent strong
enough to resist shear loads, they do an excellent job holding one part in place over another.
For siding, I recommend wall planks because they look so much better from the inside of your cabin. If you are
looking for inexpensive siding, or you plan on insulating the walls interior and adding interior siding (covering the
2-by-6s from the inside), you can use plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB) wall siding panels.
Roof Faming
There are many ways to frame a roof, but when you want to create usable loft space, you need to address a few
design issues. The first is roof pitch. For both aesthetics and efficiency, the 12:12 pitch is best. This means that
for every 12 inches of horizontal run, the roof rises 12 inches. In other words, the slope is 45 degrees from
horizontal, with a 90 degree angle formed at the peak.
The parts of your cabin that form the slope of your roof are called rafters, and cutting them accurately will be the
most challenging part of building your cabin. That said, if you tackle the job with care — checking for accuracy
early on — youll succeed.
The first step is to take another look at the illustration in the Image Gallery. Fig. 1 shows a side view of the
rafters you need to build. Youll need 34 in all. This includes 30 that span the cabin itself, and two more pairs
that extend to create the overhangs at the porch and the rear wall. You could use 2-by-6 rafters, but if you plan
to insulate, youre better off using 2-by-8s spaced on 16-inch centers. Although it costs a bit more, the extra
wood actually makes it easier to create the required notches and angles because theres more wood with which
to work. As with the floor joists, check with local building authorities on exactly what size of wood is required
where you live.
Start by marking rafter locations where they will sit on the top of the side walls, ideally atop wall studs. Use the
same “line-and-X” marking scheme you used to lay out the top and bottom wall plates.
Next, measure the width of your building across the top of the side walls. It should be 14 feet. Chances are good
that your cabin width across the front and back walls will match this measurement, but maybe not across the
middle. No problem. Take one or two spare planks, rest them across the top of the building and spike one end
of each in place. Get some help wrestling the walls inward or outward (whichever is needed to get a 14-foot
building width), then spike the second end of your brace planks down. These will come off later, when the rafters
and cross ties are added, so dont pound the nails all the way home. Also, make sure these temporary braces
are well away from the rafter locations you marked earlier. You dont want them to get in the way of the rafters.
Follow the pattern on the illustration in the Image Gallery (Fig. 1) and cut out a pair of rafters. Although they
should fit just right on your cabin, it always pays to double-check your cuts with a tape measure. Tack a piece of
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
6/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
11/2-inch-thick scrap wood to the top end of one rafter (to simulate the ridge board that will be part of the
completed roof), then get some help temporarily hoisting the rafters up and leaning them against each other.
What youre looking for is a gap-free fit where the rafter meets the top of the walls, and where they come
together at the peak. While youre working, test the location of the rafter pairs at various places across the
building. If they fit in one place and not another, thats a sign the width of your cabin isnt consistent after all.
When youre satisfied with your pair of test rafters (and have adjusted their size if necessary), make the entire
batch of 34 rafters. Of these, you must add a special feature to 12 of them.
The illustration shows how you should cut 1 1/2-by-3 1/2-inch notches along the top edge of these 12 special
rafters to accept 2-by-4 braces. These support the outer pair of rafters on each end of the cabin, the ones that
create the overhang. The best way to cut these notches accurately and quickly is by temporarily clamping two
sets of six rafters together, marking each set as a group, then cutting the notches with multiple passes from a
hand-held circular saw. Its easy to knock out the slivers of remaining wood with a hammer and chisel.
Total length of the cabins ridge is 22 feet (20 feet across the building and porch plus 1 foot of overhang at each
end). This means the ridge board probably will have to be made in two lengths of 2-by-10s. Prepare these now,
arranging the joint between them so it lands in one of the spaces between rafter pairs. Next, lay the ridge boards
end-to-end on top of one wall plate and then transfer rafter locations onto these boards.
When it comes time to raise the rafters and ridge boards, do one half of the cabin at a time. Raise one pair of
rafters at the end of the cabin and another pair in the middle, near the place where the ridge board will end. Fill in
the spaces along the wall with more rafters, angling screws so they penetrate the ridge board and sink into the
ends of the rafters, then repeat the process for the second half of the roof. Add the 2-by-4 rafter supports, then
the four rafters that form the front and back eaves.
Concerned about the two-part ridge board? You shouldnt worry. The roof sheathing that comes next will join
these two halves together quite solidly. I strongly recommend using solid-wood planks that are three-fourths inch
thick, not the more expedient option of plywood or OSB, unless you are building in a hurry. The underside of the
roof plays a large visual role in this cabin, and sheet woods never enhance the natural backwoods aesthetic. Just
remember to lap the roof planks across the area where the two ridge boards meet.
Youre now well on your way to finishing your cabin. Add the ceiling joists that tie the cabin together at the top
and form the floor of the sleeping loft. Shingle the roof, install doors and windows, and then apply your exterior
wall treatment.
Once your cozy, affordable little cabin has become part of your life, youll realize something that many folks
never understand: Small really is beautiful!
Co Eimae Fo Yo Cabin
The following includes the frame, rough floors and shingled roof, but not windows, doors and exterior siding. All
costs are rounded up to account for miscellaneous expenses.
Toal co: nde $4,000
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
7/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
Floor assembl: $900
• two 20 6 x 6 rot-resistant beams (timber rim, length sides)
• two 14 6 x 6 rot-resistant beams (timber rim, width sides)
• 27 14 2 x 10 boards (blocking, joists and headers)
• nine 5/8” plywood tongue-and-groove subfloor panels
Walls and porch frame: $1,000
• 50 8 2 x 6 studs (walls)
• 15 14 2 x 6 boards (wall plates)
• five 8 6 x 6 rot-resistant wooden posts (porch)
• one 14 6 x 6 rot-resistant beam (porch)
• 21 7/16” oriented-strand board wall siding panels (wall planks)
• six 14 2 x 6 fascia boards (exterior wall trim)
Roof: $1,500
• 34 12 2 x 8 boards (rafters)
• two 12 2 x 10 boards (ridge board)
• 17 14 2 x 6 boards (cross ties)
• four 8 2 x 4 studs (rafter support)
• two 20 2 x 8 boards (blocking)
• 17 3/4” spruce plywood panels (roof planks)
• wooden shakes for 550 square feet of roof surface; roof liner, gutter apron
Hardware: $350
• six 12” spikes (foundation markers)
• 10 10” Sonotubes (pier forms)
• 10 5/8” threaded rod anchors (foundation)
• eight 1/2” x 6” carriage bolts (header anchors)
• 10 pounds of 3 1/2” ardox (spiral-shanked) nails (wall studs, floor joists)
• 10 pounds of 2 1/2” ardox nails (subfloor, roof planks)
• eight 1/2” x 8” lag bolts (post tops)
• 15 pounds of 1” roofing nails
Choose a Rock-Solid Start
Right from the beginning, youll be faced with the challenge of creating an outline for your cabin that has truly
square corners. To deliver accuracy, a carpenters square just wont do it — youll need to use geometry.
The overall width of the cabin is 168 inches, and the overall length (including porch) is 240 inches. According to
the Pythagorean Theorem (Remember high school geometry class?), the diagonal line connecting these two is:
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
8/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
Length of diagonal = length of one side squared + length of the other side squared (then take the
square root of this sum). It works out to be 293 inches for the length of the diagonal side of the Pythagorean
triangle when the corner is square.
Start by laying out one side of your building, with a spike at both corners, and another spike at the porch corner
— thats three spikes in a row, connected by a string. Next, grab two large tape measures and a couple of
people to help hold the tape ends on the spike heads: Youre about to mark the other side of the building so the
corners are perfectly square.
Hook one tape measure to each corner spike (youll need some help holding them there), and then extend both
tapes so the 168-inch mark on one tape intersects the 293-inch mark on the other. The spot at which this
happens is the place where one corner of the remaining cabin side should be located. Sink a 12-inch spike there.
Repeat the process for the other side, then double-check that the opposite sides are the same length.
If youre building on bedrock, lay out your cabin footprint and mark the corner points with a stout felt-tip
marker, then rent a hammer drill. Boring holes in the rock is the best way to establish key anchor points for the
strings to define the walls of your structure. Bore oversized holes, then tie a masons line to half-inch-wide, 6-
inch-long bolts and slip them in place. Bolt size isnt critical because they just drop into oversized holes bored
into the rock.
Eterior Options
The exterior wall treatment you choose for your cabin matters a great deal because it sets the tone for how the
place looks and how much maintenance youll be saddled with over the years. The exterior of your cabin can be
made of wooden shingles, boards and battens (see illustration), wooden panels or other materials. Research the
pros and cons of each material before choosing one for your cabin, and choose a material that wont burden you
with much maintenance.
Cedar shingles are a terrific option because they look great in a rural setting, last many decades and are
lightweight. They always live up to their reputation on roofs, and on walls, cedar shingles will satisfy those people
who insist on wood siding. Hand-split cedar shingles taken from your building site are ideal if youre lucky
enough to have them, but commercially sawed cedar shingles also work well.
Are you planning to install stone or brick yourself? Buy all the time you need to get the job done by installing
windlock asphalt shingles (see illustration) on walls. These interlock physically, allowing you to install them
vertically without the usual flapping youd get if you tried the same thing with regular shingles. They look pretty
good on their own, even if you never get around to the masonry.
For a low-cost approach to exterior siding, use either board and battens or 4-by-8 wooden panels. These two
options are easy to put up, and they look good for awhile. But in time they can look shabby unless youre diligent
about refinishing.
Our Life in a One-room Cabin
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
9/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
In 1985, my wife, Mary, and I purchased 91 1/2 acres on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, and a year later, we built
a one-room, 200-square-foot cabin. We were homesteading beginners, and the job took us four 60-hour
workweeks and $550 to build what we now affectionately call “The Shed.” Neither Mary nor I had ever built a
structure before The Shed, so its smaller and built less stoutly than the cabin design here.
For the floor frame and roof rafters, I hewed logs from our forest; for most of the rest of the project, I bought the
least expensive locally sawed lumber I could find. I built The Shed with just a few tools: a broad axe, chain saw,
claw hammer and a carpenters handsaw, square and level.
For four years, every spring through fall, we lived in The Shed as we built our 2,500-square-foot, three-story
Victorian-style stone home (see photo). By living in that little cabin, we saved thousands of dollars and boosted
our productivity by eliminating daily travel to the work site. We shared that space with mice, newborn livestock,
our golden retriever, King, and even a sick calf that had been abandoned by its mother.
Each winter until our hand-built home was ready, Mary and I grudgingly left The Shed and traveled back to the
city to overwinter and earn money. But doing so enabled us to live in that tiny rustic cabin for the rest of the year,
which was a crucial steppingstone to the rural life we now enjoy.
“Starting out simply and debt-free in The Shed was very important for us,” Mary recalls, “but lets just say that
Steve liked it more than I did.”
Whenever I tell people our story, they usually shake their heads and wonder how we succeeded. But the truth is
the cabin life was the lap of luxury for me at the time, because deep down inside, Ive always been a country
person who had the misfortune of growing up in a big city.
Getting Organied
The biggest blessing of cabin life is its simplicity. But you dont get that benefit just because youre living in a tiny
space. In fact, a cabin this size will drive you crazy if youre not ultraorganized. We installed hooks, nails, pegs
and shelves, and slept on folding cots — all of which allowed us to live in the space comfortably. Whats more,
these space-saving devices doubled during the workday as room for tools and hardware, and space for
workshop tasks.
If you stay organized, the cabin lifestyle is wonderful for personal productivity. With no distractions from
entertainment, we happily worked 12 hours a day, six days a week on our home, quarrying stone by hand and
using it to build the 350 ton basement. In one season of cabin living, we built the three-story frame of our home
almost entirely by ourselves.
The Accommodations
Our kitchen appliances in The Shed consisted of a two-burner hot plate and a deep crockpot. We made toast in
an old-fashioned flip-down toaster and kept perishables in a 1951 Frigidaire that we acquired after hooking up
to the electricity grid. For access to water, we drilled a well and pumped water into a pressurized tank in a
corner of The Shed. We took baths every Saturday night in a steel-panned wheelbarrow, filled with water that
we heated a gallon at a time in the crockpot. We washed our work clothes with a scrub board in the same
wheelbarrow, and then dried the laundry on ropes tied across the inside of The Shed.
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
10/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
Life was simple and good, but also strenuous and Spartan — especially for Mary, who grew up in South
America in an area where camping and outdoor living were not a part of common culture. But to us, the benefits
of cabin life were, and still are, obvious. The cabin made it possible to cut costs, live efficiently and work
nonstop. More than ever, I now see that the ability to focus exclusively on your dream home for three seasons a
year while not leaving the property to earn money is a tremendous luxury indeed.
20/20 Hindigh
I look back on my days in The Shed with fondness, but I admit I couldnt live there now. Mary and I have four
children, and raising them with any degree of sanity requires more than 200 square feet of space. If I were 20
years younger and starting an adventure in the country again, Id still begin by building a cabin. The Shed served
me just fine, but I would design it a little differently, starting with the size.
Id make the cabin bigger, easier to heat and slightly more comfortable. I randomly chose The Sheds 10-by-20-
foot dimensions based on no building experience whatsoever. Now I know that making the cabin just 5 feet
wider would have greatly improved the amount of useful space. Also, I would spend more money to add
insulation, running hot water and a small sink with a drain. By doing so, I could have extended my home-building
season longer into the spring and fall. Furthermore, I would build the base on a deep foundation.
These days, The Shed is looking old and sits a little wonky as its base moves a little more with each years frost.
But I dont suppose our children would ever let us tear it down. For them, The Shed is a place of legend and a
tangible connection to the stories we tell them about how their family came to set down roots on the land theyll
inherit.
Yo Can Bild One, Too!
If you feel drawn to the simple cabin lifestyle, I say go for it. Someday, I look forward to experiencing the cabin
lifestyle again, even just as an occasional retreat. Something about the tiny size of a cabin puts me at ease. Some
of my best cabin memories go back to cool fall evenings — tucked into my sleeping bag, Im dog-tired as the
warmth of our antique woodstove wafts across my face. This lifestyle gives me the kind of deep-down
satisfaction and enjoyment that is only attainable when you mix hard work with a compelling dream and your
own piece of land.
Cabin Ki
Many people dream of building a cabin or cottage in the woods, beside a lake, along a bubbling brook or on top
of a mountain with sweeping views. But cabins are not just for wilderness living. They also can offer cozy space
as a guest room, an artists retreat, a craft center or a small office.
The cabin kit manufacturers listed below are divided into three construction categories: log, frame and panel.
Most kits consist of the necessary materials for the exterior walls, interior wall studs, roof and floor, and include
windows, doors, fasteners, trim and construction manuals. The kits do not include foundations, insulation, or
electrical and plumbing packages. The base prices listed below do not include shipping costs.
To find the cabin that best fits your budget and construction experience, read each companys literature carefully
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
11/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
and then ask lots of questions before you buy a kit.
Log Cabin Kits
Appalachian Log Homes
11312 Station West Drive
Knoxville, TN 37922
(800) 726-0708
Yukon Trail II
$28,000
18 by 24 feet; 432 square feet
Conestoga Log Cabins
246 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lebanon, PA 17046
(717) 306-4490
Heritage
$24,595
14 by 27 feet; 378 square feet
Countr Log Cabins
390 Swartz Road
Lewisburg, PA 17837
(877) 295-0085
Mahoning
$19,025
20 by 20 feet; 400 square feet
Merrimac Log Homes
32 Old Concord Road
Henniker, NH 03242
(866) 637-7462
Winnipesaukee
$13,695
20 by 24 feet; 480 square feet
Northeastern Log Homes
P.O. Box 46
Kenduskeag, ME 04450
(800) 624-2797
Getaway
$17,570
18 by 24 feet; 432 square feet
Frame-wall Cabin Kits
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
12/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
Cabins.ca
30570 Great Northern Ave.
Abbotsford, BC V2T 6H4
(604) 504-1555
Algonquin
$29,004 ($32,485 Canadian)
20 by 24 feet; 864 square feet; two floors
Grestokes International
(a division of The Wilderness Cabin Co.)
230 Carion Road
Kelowna, BC V4V 2K5
(888) 891-3111
Okanagan
$19,750 ($23,150 Canadian)
18 by 24 feet; 432 square feet
Jamaica Cottage Shop
P.O. Box 106
Jamaica, VT 05343
(877) 397-7433
Vermont Cottage
$12,999
16 by 20 feet; 320 square feet
Shelter-Kit Incorporated
22 W. Mill St.
Tilton, NH 03276
(603) 286-7611
One unit — several units can be connected
$9,535
12 by 12 feet; 144 square feet
Spirit Elements
6672 Gunpark Drive, #200
Boulder, CO 80301
(800) 511-1440
Yukon Custom
$22,198
20 by 20 feet; 400 square feet
Summerwood Products
735 Progress Ave.
Toronto, ON M1H 2W7
(866) 519-4634
Kepler Creek
1/1/12 Mother Earth News Magaine
13/13 www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=74398
$15,435 ($14,735 Canadian)
16 by 24 feet; 384 square feet
Panel-all Cabin Kits
Panel Concepts
331 North M-33
Mio, MI 48647
(989) 826-6511
Knotty Pine #5
$23,214
20 by 20 feet; 400 square feet
Steve Maxwell is a Mother Earth Nes contributing editor who likes to build beautiful things stronger than
necessary. He lives and gardens with his wife and four children on a hand-built homestead on Manitoulin Island,
Ontario.

com/print-article. but I favor the timber-rim approach for a couple of reasons. Cold climates are a different matter. Start by gathering rot-resistant 6-by-6 timbers for the outer rim.) Regardless of the foundation design you choose. short end down. wrap the outside of each pier tube with black polyethylene plastic before setting them into the holes and packing soil around them. one in the middle of each long side. the main construction challenge is the same: leveling the top of the foundation pads or piers. concrete piers provide good support around the perimeter of your cabin. three piers spaced evenly on the front of the porch and one in the middle of the rear wall. Otherwise. In this cabin design. that s fine.” below. and one of the best cabin foundations you can choose is established easily with minimal tools and time. Later on. call in a neighbor or contractor with a tractor-mounted auger. A laser level is easy to use and even allows a person working alone to level a foundation successfully. The best way to mark your foundation outline is with 12-inch spikes pushed into the earth and connected with nylon string. While the concrete is wet. for layout tips. vertically embed five-eighths-inch L-shaped threaded metal rod anchors. site-poured. It s better than a continuous foundation wall because it eliminates the need for lots of block work or a poured foundation. Just locate the splices directly on top of your concrete pads or piers. it provides continuous support for a building that s held up at only 10 points around its perimeter. A Firm Fo nda ion Every well-built structure begins with the foundation. without the need for full-scale forming and pouring. When setting concrete pier forms in the ground. are a time-proven approach to lightweight construction that offers a couple of advantages.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine going beyond what s merely good enough.aspx?id=74398 2/13 . these will hold down the base of the floor frame. but the larger size is more forgiving if you don t get the alignment just right. In light soil.motherearthnews. you need one pier at each corner of the cabin. even though they extend below the frost line). The outside edges of the pier forms should extend a bit beyond the outer dimensions of your building. B ilding he Floor Frame There are many ways to frame a cabin floor. extending at least 7 inches above the concrete. but it s definitely worth borrowing if one is available from a friend or neighbor.to 12-inch-diameter pier forms using a long-handled shovel. If this is similar to the approach used on new houses in your area. “Timber rim” refers to a load-bearing frame of timbers that defines the perimeter of the floor area. Besides raising the structure off the ground and isolating it from the annual freeze/thaw movements of the soil. Another plus is that timber-rim construction is durable and simple for first-time cabin builders. (It is possible to get www. If you need to splice two timbers together for the 20-foot cabin sides. For this project. Timbers for the ends of the cabin and porch should be long enough to do the job in one piece. You don t need to buy a laser level for this project. As inexpensive insurance against frost jacking of foundation piers (when the piers are pulled toward the surface by seasonal freezing. In regions where frost isn t an issue. dig the holes large enough to allow room for side-to-side adjustment. and it offers great stability. poured within round cardboard tubes. 6-by-16by-16-inch shallow-depth concrete pads work just fine. it s reasonable to dig the 10 holes you need for 8. then it s OK for use under your cabin. You can use 8-inch concrete piers. Concrete piers extending below the frost line. (See “Choose a Rock-solid Start.

offering all the same advantages as plain boards. You also can use galvanized connector plates. mark and drill 1-inch-diameter holes in your 6-by-6s for the five-eighths-inch threaded rod anchors you embedded in your concrete piers. then check one last time with a level. Install shims underneath the uneven timbers to make them level. You now have a sturdy timber rim on which to begin building the cabin. galvanized nails driven at an angle to connect the floor frame to the timber rim. remember to use a 12-inch-wide header for the main floor. As a rule of thumb. too. Wall F aming With your rough floor in place. natural ventilation should keep this structure strong for many decades.motherearthnews. especially in a cabin.aspx?id=74398 3/13 . They re one step up from square-edged planks. Stud-frame construction is still the most popular approach for residential projects. 2-by-10s spaced on 16-inch centers across the span of this cabin will give you a good floor. though this makes sense only when you re planning to apply a finished floor material over the top. while retaining simplicity? Then consider shiplapped floorboards. Using 2-by-12s raises the cabin floor slightly. minimizing squeaks and ensuring long-term durability. double-check that the top surfaces of the 6-by-6s are level to within one-eighth inch of each other. The best floor option is five-eighths. Now s the time to identify and correct any such errors. Measure. use five 3 1/2-inch nails on each joint connecting the floor joists to the headers. But because the type of wood affects the total allowable span — building codes may vary where you live — double-check floor joist sizes with your local authority. Before bolting down the timbers. while also preventing board-to-board gaps.) Be sure to make half-lap corner joints to connect the rim timbers. Make sure the edges of your floor frame are perfectly straight and use a string as a reference to ensure that this happens as it should. Or do you want a better floor to keep out drafts and bugs. Plywood keeps drafts out and adds an element of rigidity that dimensional lumber can t match. Although you can save money by framing www. these form a fine. but it also looks unattractive. or your joists will be taller than the floor frame).com/print-article. and that means you have a decision to make: If you want flooring that s easy to build. and it makes sense for cabins. Even left completely unfinished. bare wood like this also takes on a burnished beauty that s as pleasant to look at as it is to live with. Over time. then three-fourths-inch softwood planks are the way to go. Pouring concrete is coarse work. inexpensive and requires no maintenance for a cabin that won t see much cold weather. Regardless of the floor framing wood you choose. As long as the bottom of the timber rim is at least several inches above the soil. you ll have the stiffest possible floor for a given width of joist. rustic floor that s easy to sweep clean. bolt them down tightly under 2-inch washers. Now s the time to apply a floor surface to your joists. By running joists across the 14-foot width of the building.or three-fourths-inch plywood. you can now build the walls. then settle the timbers in place over the rods. The timber rim you just installed supports floor joists and headers (the frame around the joists) that in turn form the cabin and porch floor. You might consider using 2-by-10 joists across the porch and 2-by-12s for the main floor (but if you do. but that would require adding more piers — an option that s probably less attractive than dealing with thicker timbers. and it s possible the foundation piers aren t exactly the same height now that they ve hardened. creating a lip at the door that helps repel water and snow.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine away with thinner pieces of wood here. Use 3 1/2-inch hot-dipped.

looks better and offers greater storage opportunities for small items sitting on shelves between the studs. This way the completed front and back walls will measure 14 feet wide when flanked by the two long walls that will go up on each side of them. The extra 2 inches of frame depth is stronger.to 48-inch level to check and align its orientation. use a carpenter s square to draw lines across the edges of the plates at the same spot. This is an exciting moment. but it s not yet strong. This may take some time. and you ll need a 24. When you ve framed the last wall (the one with the door) and raised it. and lintels (horizontal members that span doors and windows). separate these pieces about 8 feet apart (with the bottom plate near its final place on the wall). you need to know the sizes of the openings required for them. check and adjust all walls so they re straight and plumb. Your wall is up and secure now. but there s another detail you need to address first.” at the bottom left corner of the illustration).to 10-pound sledgehammer is helpful for jostling the wall into final position. www. Use taut strings (as you did when assembling the floor frame) to make sure the top edges of the walls are truly straight. Use your level to help align the wall so it s perfectly vertical (plumb). pull and pound it into alignment with the edge of the floor frame. extending down into the floor boards and header. and then drive two nails into each space between the studs on the bottom plate. Make these plates 13 feet. but don t continue until you ve correctly finished this detail. then push. Begin by nailing the plates to the ends of the full-length studs. studs (vertical frame members). Raise the frame with a couple of helpers. If you re planning to build insulation into your floor. You ll need to arrange these parts so they overlap the joints between wall segments (see “Post Top Detail. Before you frame openings for windows and doors. Each pencil line shows where one side of each stud should be located. then repeat the wall framing process for the two neighboring side walls. Remove the screws that temporarily held the top and bottom plates together. then temporarily screw them together so all sides are flush. Brace it with some long pieces of lumber extending to the ground (you ll take them off later. Studs measuring 92 1/2 inches long should be spaced 16 inches apart from center point to center point. so use the good stuff). with extra studs where door and window openings will go later. but you ll need a few tools to succeed. I recommend 2-by-6s instead. When you re satisfied. even if you won t be insulating.aspx?id=74398 4/13 . an 8. get ready to cut and apply another layer of 2-by-6s over the existing top plate. Use three 3 1/2-inch nails per joint. Make these plates out of one 2-by-6 each. then cut and add shorter studs to form the window opening. when you get that far). 1 inch long. In addition to a framing hammer and some 31/2-inch nails.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine with 2-by-4s. Joining them together ensures accuracy of the marks you make to show stud location. An “X” marks the side of the line where the stud needs to sit. With the pair of plates on edge. add a second bottom plate to the wall to raise it up.com/print-article. and then position your wall studs between them. Make window openings 1 inch wider and 1 inch taller than the overall size of your window (1 inch wider and a half inch taller for a prehung door.motherearthnews. The illustration in the Image Gallery shows how stud-frame walls have three main parts: the plates (horizontal members that form the top and bottom of the walls). Start by cutting one top and one bottom plate for the rear wall — the one opposite the door. Now gather some eager volunteers and get ready to heave the wall upright and into position.

Although spikes aren t strong enough to resist shear loads. such as the 6-by-6s described above. This includes 30 that span the cabin itself. Here s a tip: In general. Use the same “line-and-X” marking scheme you used to lay out the top and bottom wall plates. with an additional 4-foot frame extension from the cabin s front wall. It should be 14 feet. rest them across the top of the building and spike one end of each in place. make sure these temporary braces are well away from the rafter locations you marked earlier. You don t want them to get in the way of the rafters. but maybe not across the middle.com/print-article. you re better off using 2-by-8s spaced on 16-inch centers. In other words. You could use 2-by-6 rafters. 1) and cut out a pair of rafters. Next. Although it costs a bit more.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine The illustration in the Image Gallery shows you how two 6-by-6s or log posts should be installed extending from the top corners of the side walls to provide support for the porch roof. if you tackle the job with care — checking for accuracy early on — you ll succeed. 1 shows a side view of the rafters you need to build. with a 90 degree angle formed at the peak. you can use plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB) wall siding panels. and two more pairs that extend to create the overhangs at the porch and the rear wall. Chances are good that your cabin width across the front and back walls will match this measurement.motherearthnews. you can use 12-inch spikes to hold together large framing posts. This means that for every 12 inches of horizontal run. but if you plan to insulate. Start by marking rafter locations where they will sit on the top of the side walls. The first is roof pitch. the 12:12 pitch is best. the roof rises 12 inches. Roof F aming There are many ways to frame a roof.aspx?id=74398 5/13 . The roof fits over the cabin walls and porch in exactly the same way. but when you want to create usable loft space. tie everything together with a second 2-by-6 top plate. check with local building authorities on exactly what size of wood is required where you live. Also. then rest three horizontal 6-by-6s on top. it always pays to double-check your cuts with a tape measure. For siding. they do an excellent job holding one part in place over another. Follow the pattern on the illustration in the Image Gallery (Fig. As with the floor joists. If you are looking for inexpensive siding. What you should have at this stage is the four walls of the cabin raised. For both aesthetics and efficiency. when the rafters and cross ties are added. Get some help wrestling the walls inward or outward (whichever is needed to get a 14-foot building width). measure the width of your building across the top of the side walls. so don t pound the nails all the way home. you need to address a few design issues. but you have to drive them into pilot holes. No problem. The parts of your cabin that form the slope of your roof are called rafters. extending to the porch posts temporarily supported by props of lumber. then spike the second end of your brace planks down. I recommend wall planks because they look so much better from the inside of your cabin. Take one or two spare planks. The first step is to take another look at the illustration in the Image Gallery. Although they should fit just right on your cabin. which will support the porch roof. and cutting them accurately will be the most challenging part of building your cabin. or you plan on insulating the wall s interior and adding interior siding (covering the 2-by-6s from the inside). That said. the slope is 45 degrees from horizontal. You ll need 34 in all. the extra wood actually makes it easier to create the required notches and angles because there s more wood with which to work. These will come off later. Tack a piece of www. When all this is in place. Begin by fastening two 6-by-6 vertical posts to the front corners. ideally atop wall studs. Fig.

The roof sheathing that comes next will join these two halves together quite solidly. then get some help temporarily hoisting the rafters up and leaning them against each other. and sheet woods never enhance the natural backwoods aesthetic. Add the 2-by-4 rafter supports. The illustration shows how you should cut 1 1/2-by-3 1/2-inch notches along the top edge of these 12 special rafters to accept 2-by-4 braces. When it comes time to raise the rafters and ridge boards. then cutting the notches with multiple passes from a hand-held circular saw. but not windows. lay the ridge boards end-to-end on top of one wall plate and then transfer rafter locations onto these boards. It s easy to knock out the slivers of remaining wood with a hammer and chisel. and where they come together at the peak.aspx?id=74398 6/13 . Once your cozy. affordable little cabin has become part of your life. Next. install doors and windows.000 www. not the more expedient option of plywood or OSB. do one half of the cabin at a time. make the entire batch of 34 rafters. rough floors and shingled roof. If they fit in one place and not another. This means the ridge board probably will have to be made in two lengths of 2-by-10s. near the place where the ridge board will end. angling screws so they penetrate the ridge board and sink into the ends of the rafters.com/print-article. Raise one pair of rafters at the end of the cabin and another pair in the middle. All costs are rounded up to account for miscellaneous expenses. unless you are building in a hurry. then the four rafters that form the front and back eaves. test the location of the rafter pairs at various places across the building.motherearthnews. Fill in the spaces along the wall with more rafters. You re now well on your way to finishing your cabin. you ll realize something that many folks never understand: Small really is beautiful! Co E ima e Fo Yo Cabin The following includes the frame. Add the ceiling joists that tie the cabin together at the top and form the floor of the sleeping loft. The underside of the roof plays a large visual role in this cabin. the ones that create the overhang. Total length of the cabin s ridge is 22 feet (20 feet across the building and porch plus 1 foot of overhang at each end). What you re looking for is a gap-free fit where the rafter meets the top of the walls. you must add a special feature to 12 of them. Concerned about the two-part ridge board? You shouldn t worry. marking each set as a group. To al co : nde $4. While you re working. Of these. and then apply your exterior wall treatment.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine 11/2-inch-thick scrap wood to the top end of one rafter (to simulate the ridge board that will be part of the completed roof). Prepare these now. When you re satisfied with your pair of test rafters (and have adjusted their size if necessary). These support the outer pair of rafters on each end of the cabin. arranging the joint between them so it lands in one of the spaces between rafter pairs. Just remember to lap the roof planks across the area where the two ridge boards meet. that s a sign the width of your cabin isn t consistent after all. Shingle the roof. The best way to cut these notches accurately and quickly is by temporarily clamping two sets of six rafters together. doors and exterior siding. I strongly recommend using solid-wood planks that are three-fourths inch thick. then repeat the process for the second half of the roof.

aspx?id=74398 7/13 . the diagonal line connecting these two is: www. According to the Pythagorean Theorem (Remember high school geometry class?). roof planks) • eight 1/2” x 8” lag bolts (post tops) • 15 pounds of 1” roofing nails Choose a Rock-Solid Start Right from the beginning.motherearthnews. gutter apron Hardware: $350 • six 12” spikes (foundation markers) • 10 10” Sonotubes (pier forms) • 10 5/8” threaded rod anchors (foundation) • eight 1/2” x 6” carriage bolts (header anchors) • 10 pounds of 3 1/2” ardox (spiral-shanked) nails (wall studs.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine Floor assembl : $900 • two 20 6 x 6 rot-resistant beams (timber rim. a carpenter s square just won t do it — you ll need to use geometry. joists and headers) • nine 5/8” plywood tongue-and-groove subfloor panels Walls and porch frame: $1.com/print-article. you ll be faced with the challenge of creating an outline for your cabin that has truly square corners. To deliver accuracy. roof liner.000 • 50 8 2 x 6 studs (walls) • 15 14 2 x 6 boards (wall plates) • five 8 6 x 6 rot-resistant wooden posts (porch) • one 14 6 x 6 rot-resistant beam (porch) • 21 7/16” oriented-strand board wall siding panels (wall planks) • six 14 2 x 6 fascia boards (exterior wall trim) Roof: $1. and the overall length (including porch) is 240 inches. length sides) • two 14 6 x 6 rot-resistant beams (timber rim. floor joists) • 10 pounds of 2 1/2” ardox nails (subfloor. The overall width of the cabin is 168 inches.500 • 34 12 2 x 8 boards (rafters) • two 12 2 x 10 boards (ridge board) • 17 14 2 x 6 boards (cross ties) • four 8 2 x 4 studs (rafter support) • two 20 2 x 8 boards (blocking) • 17 3/4” spruce plywood panels (roof planks) • wooden shakes for 550 square feet of roof surface. width sides) • 27 14 2 x 10 boards (blocking.

and on walls. For a low-cost approach to exterior siding. and choose a material that won t burden you with much maintenance. lay out your cabin footprint and mark the corner points with a stout felt-tip marker. last many decades and are lightweight. Bolt size isn t critical because they just drop into oversized holes bored into the rock. allowing you to install them vertically without the usual flapping you d get if you tried the same thing with regular shingles. Research the pros and cons of each material before choosing one for your cabin. It works out to be 293 inches for the length of the diagonal side of the Pythagorean triangle when the corner is square. then rent a hammer drill. The exterior of your cabin can be made of wooden shingles. with a spike at both corners. and they look good for awhile. wooden panels or other materials. and another spike at the porch corner — that s three spikes in a row. But in time they can look shabby unless you re diligent about refinishing. then tie a mason s line to half-inch-wide. but commercially sawed cedar shingles also work well. Cedar shingles are a terrific option because they look great in a rural setting. connected by a string. Our Life in a One-room Cabin www. Hook one tape measure to each corner spike (you ll need some help holding them there). even if you never get around to the masonry. If you re building on bedrock. use either board and battens or 4-by-8 wooden panels. Hand-split cedar shingles taken from your building site are ideal if you re lucky enough to have them. They look pretty good on their own. Start by laying out one side of your building.motherearthnews. Are you planning to install stone or brick yourself? Buy all the time you need to get the job done by installing windlock asphalt shingles (see illustration) on walls. then double-check that the opposite sides are the same length. They always live up to their reputation on roofs. Next. The spot at which this happens is the place where one corner of the remaining cabin side should be located. These interlock physically. and then extend both tapes so the 168-inch mark on one tape intersects the 293-inch mark on the other. grab two large tape measures and a couple of people to help hold the tape ends on the spike heads: You re about to mark the other side of the building so the corners are perfectly square.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine Length of diagonal = length of one side squared + length of the other side squared (then take the square root of this sum). E terior Options The exterior wall treatment you choose for your cabin matters a great deal because it sets the tone for how the place looks and how much maintenance you ll be saddled with over the years. 6inch-long bolts and slip them in place. These two options are easy to put up. boards and battens (see illustration). Sink a 12-inch spike there.com/print-article. Boring holes in the rock is the best way to establish key anchor points for the strings to define the walls of your structure.aspx?id=74398 8/13 . Bore oversized holes. Repeat the process for the other side. cedar shingles will satisfy those people who insist on wood siding.

” Mary recalls. For the floor frame and roof rafters. quarrying stone by hand and using it to build the 350 ton basement. I hewed logs from our forest. and I purchased 91 1/2 acres on Manitoulin Island in Ontario.500-square-foot. I bought the least expensive locally sawed lumber I could find. In fact. our golden retriever. we built a one-room. we drilled a well and pumped water into a pressurized tank in a corner of The Shed. claw hammer and a carpenter s handsaw. But doing so enabled us to live in that tiny rustic cabin for the rest of the year. these space-saving devices doubled during the workday as room for tools and hardware. We installed hooks. for most of the rest of the project. Mary and I grudgingly left The Shed and traveled back to the city to overwinter and earn money. my wife. six days a week on our home. because deep down inside. For four years. For access to water. We were homesteading beginners.com/print-article. a cabin this size will drive you crazy if you re not ultraorganized. and space for workshop tasks. we built the three-story frame of our home almost entirely by ourselves. But the truth is the cabin life was the lap of luxury for me at the time. three-story Victorian-style stone home (see photo).” Neither Mary nor I had ever built a structure before The Shed. every spring through fall. But you don t get that benefit just because you re living in a tiny space. 200-square-foot cabin. we happily worked 12 hours a day. By living in that little cabin. What s more. pegs and shelves. We shared that space with mice. chain saw. nails. I ve always been a country person who had the misfortune of growing up in a big city. We washed our work clothes with a scrub board in the same wheelbarrow. the cabin lifestyle is wonderful for personal productivity.aspx?id=74398 9/13 . King. I built The Shed with just a few tools: a broad axe. and even a sick calf that had been abandoned by its mother. We took baths every Saturday night in a steel-panned wheelbarrow. “Starting out simply and debt-free in The Shed was very important for us. so it s smaller and built less stoutly than the cabin design here. With no distractions from entertainment. If you stay organized. Mary. The Accommodations Our kitchen appliances in The Shed consisted of a two-burner hot plate and a deep crockpot. we lived in The Shed as we built our 2. Getting Organi ed The biggest blessing of cabin life is its simplicity. they usually shake their heads and wonder how we succeeded. In one season of cabin living. newborn livestock.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine In 1985. filled with water that we heated a gallon at a time in the crockpot. we saved thousands of dollars and boosted our productivity by eliminating daily travel to the work site. and the job took us four 60-hour workweeks and $550 to build what we now affectionately call “The Shed.” Whenever I tell people our story. www. We made toast in an old-fashioned flip-down toaster and kept perishables in a 1951 Frigidaire that we acquired after hooking up to the electricity grid. and a year later. and slept on folding cots — all of which allowed us to live in the space comfortably. and then dried the laundry on ropes tied across the inside of The Shed. square and level. “but let s just say that Steve liked it more than I did. Each winter until our hand-built home was ready. which was a crucial steppingstone to the rural life we now enjoy.motherearthnews.

and include windows. I randomly chose The Shed s 10-by-20foot dimensions based on no building experience whatsoever. The cabin made it possible to cut costs. Furthermore. I m dog-tired as the warmth of our antique woodstove wafts across my face. an artists retreat. I now see that the ability to focus exclusively on your dream home for three seasons a year while not leaving the property to earn money is a tremendous luxury indeed. but I admit I couldn t live there now. fasteners. I would spend more money to add insulation. This lifestyle gives me the kind of deep-down satisfaction and enjoyment that is only attainable when you mix hard work with a compelling dream and your own piece of land. and still are. Someday. I could have extended my home-building season longer into the spring and fall. even just as an occasional retreat. 20/20 Hind igh I look back on my days in The Shed with fondness. live efficiently and work nonstop. I d still begin by building a cabin. Now I know that making the cabin just 5 feet wider would have greatly improved the amount of useful space. insulation. roof and floor. easier to heat and slightly more comfortable. Cabin Ki Many people dream of building a cabin or cottage in the woods. who grew up in South America in an area where camping and outdoor living were not a part of common culture. or electrical and plumbing packages. trim and construction manuals. The kits do not include foundations. and raising them with any degree of sanity requires more than 200 square feet of space.motherearthnews.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine Life was simple and good. I say go for it. But to us. doors. Too! If you feel drawn to the simple cabin lifestyle.aspx?id=74398 10/13 . By doing so. Most kits consist of the necessary materials for the exterior walls. To find the cabin that best fits your budget and construction experience. but I would design it a little differently. If I were 20 years younger and starting an adventure in the country again. But cabins are not just for wilderness living. I look forward to experiencing the cabin lifestyle again. obvious. The Shed is a place of legend and a tangible connection to the stories we tell them about how their family came to set down roots on the land they ll inherit. They also can offer cozy space as a guest room. frame and panel. Something about the tiny size of a cabin puts me at ease. the benefits of cabin life were. The Shed served me just fine. starting with the size. a craft center or a small office. These days. For them. I would build the base on a deep foundation. beside a lake. Also. But I don t suppose our children would ever let us tear it down. along a bubbling brook or on top of a mountain with sweeping views. I d make the cabin bigger. The Shed is looking old and sits a little wonky as its base moves a little more with each year s frost.com/print-article. running hot water and a small sink with a drain. but also strenuous and Spartan — especially for Mary. interior wall studs. read each company s literature carefully www. Mary and I have four children. The base prices listed below do not include shipping costs. The cabin kit manufacturers listed below are divided into three construction categories: log. More than ever. Some of my best cabin memories go back to cool fall evenings — tucked into my sleeping bag. Yo Can B ild One.

NH 03242 (866) 637-7462 Winnipesaukee $13. PA 17837 (877) 295-0085 Mahoning $19. Log Cabin Kits Appalachian Log Homes 11312 Station West Drive Knoxville. PA 17046 (717) 306-4490 Heritage $24. 400 square feet Merrimac Log Homes 32 Old Concord Road Henniker.025 20 by 20 feet.com/print-article. Lincoln Ave.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine and then ask lots of questions before you buy a kit.595 14 by 27 feet.570 18 by 24 feet. Box 46 Kenduskeag.000 18 by 24 feet. 480 square feet Northeastern Log Homes P.695 20 by 24 feet.aspx?id=74398 11/13 . 432 square feet Frame-wall Cabin Kits www.O.motherearthnews. TN 37922 (800) 726-0708 Yukon Trail II $28. ME 04450 (800) 624-2797 Getaway $17. 378 square feet Countr Log Cabins 390 Swartz Road Lewisburg. 432 square feet Conestoga Log Cabins 246 N. Lebanon.

ca 30570 Great Northern Ave.O. NH 03276 (603) 286-7611 One unit — several units can be connected $9. Abbotsford. Box 106 Jamaica. 432 square feet Jamaica Cottage Shop P. Mill St.004 ($32.com/print-article. 144 square feet Spirit Elements 6672 Gunpark Drive. ON M1H 2W7 (866) 519-4634 Kepler Creek www. Tilton. #200 Boulder.750 ($23. 320 square feet Shelter-Kit Incorporated 22 W. 864 square feet. VT 05343 (877) 397-7433 Vermont Cottage $12. CO 80301 (800) 511-1440 Yukon Custom $22.999 16 by 20 feet.535 12 by 12 feet.150 Canadian) 18 by 24 feet.198 20 by 20 feet. BC V4V 2K5 (888) 891-3111 Okanagan $19.485 Canadian) 20 by 24 feet. 400 square feet Summerwood Products 735 Progress Ave.aspx?id=74398 12/13 . two floors Gre stokes International (a division of The Wilderness Cabin Co.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine Cabins. BC V2T 6H4 (604) 504-1555 Algonquin $29.) 230 Carion Road Kelowna. Toronto.motherearthnews.

www. 400 square feet Steve Maxwell is a Mother Earth Ne s contributing editor who likes to build beautiful things stronger than necessary.214 20 by 20 feet.435 ($14.motherearthnews. Ontario. He lives and gardens with his wife and four children on a hand-built homestead on Manitoulin Island. MI 48647 (989) 826-6511 Knotty Pine #5 $23. 384 square feet Panel.1/1/12 Mother Earth News Maga ine $15.aspx?id=74398 13/13 .all Cabin Kits Panel Concepts 331 North M-33 Mio.com/print-article.735 Canadian) 16 by 24 feet.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful