Bringing New Life to Your Old Cabin
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Bringing New Life to Your Old Cabin

Whether you’re interested in a full-on renovation, or you just want to make a few upgrades, you can likely get started right away.

Written by Sam Bowman


 Photo by Louis Renaudineau / Unsplash


There’s something incredibly appealing about old cabins. They hold a lot of history and character, and the “rustic” look often fits well with the decor many people may choose for their cabins. But that doesn’t mean some old cabins should stay exactly as they are. 

Many older cabins benefit from refurbishing and restoration efforts, bringing new life to the old bones of the structure. Thankfully, that’s easier to do than you might think. You can keep the original rustic charm of the cabin in place while bringing it into the 21st century and creating a comfortable space for you and your family.  

Let’s cover a few ideas for restoration projects that will breathe new life into your cabin without breaking the bank. Whether you’re interested in a full-on renovation, or you just want to make a few upgrades, you can likely get started right away.


Decide On Your “Why” 

Before you begin the restoration process, think about what you want to accomplish. When you have a plan in place, you’re less likely to spend extra money on things you won’t use. You also might find more motivation if you have a plan with smaller goals. 

Do you want to restore your cabin to live there full-time? Is it going to be a vacation property for you and your family? Maybe you want to fix it up and rent it to others. What you decide to do will undoubtedly impact how much time and effort you put into the restoration process.  

For example, if you want to transform your old cabin into a vacation rental, you’ll want to focus on updates like: 

  • Furnishing the rooms appropriately
  • Accentuating its style
  • Updating the kitchen
  • Organizing the cabin 

If you’re going to live there yourself, consider what would make you happy and how you can incorporate aspects of your personal style into the space. Consider looking at other DIY cabin projects for inspiration, and don’t be afraid to break the restoration process into pieces so it doesn’t overwhelm you (or your budget). 


Small Maintenance Goes a Long Way

If your cabin has good bones, you might not need to make any major renovations, but a little sprucing up can make a world of difference. If menial updates are all you’re trying to accomplish, pull out that to-do list and you’ll be able to transform your space in no time. 

One of the easiest ways to bring new life to an old cabin is to restore the look of the wood. Natural, rustic wood is one of the major draws of cabin living, so you want the interior wood to look as strong and clean as possible. You can restore the look of everything from banisters to cabinets by giving the wood a proper cleaning – especially if it’s been a “family cabin” for years and your kids and pets have damaged the walls or flooring. 

It’s always important to research the properties of the wood your cabin is made of to select the right cleaning or restoration method. For example, there are a variety of techniques you can use to remove stickers from wood. You can do so by using a hairdryer, adhesive tape or even commercial products — which method you should choose depends on which will maintain the wood’s original qualities. It is also always a good idea to refinish the wood after you have finished cleaning it. 

Other simple projects that can improve your cabin include sealing doors and windows, updating your lighting, taking care of landscaping and upgrading to “smart” appliances. These updates can make your stay more comfortable, or they can draw in potential renters for the summer. 


Restoring With Care

While it’s important to make sure your cabin is safe, up to code and comfortable, don’t feel the need to change everything about it. Most old cabins are treasure troves of vintage style and charm. Even if you have to do major repairs and it’s a big restoration project, think about how you can keep the integrity and character of the cabin intact. 

Most major cabin restoration projects involve things like:

  • Caulking
  • Painting/staining
  • Pressure washing
  • Making repairs
  • Restoring and preserving natural wood

While making sure modern amenities are updated is important, most of your restoration efforts will likely be in the wood. Old wood is beautiful, but if it’s been exposed to weathering or general wear and tear, it can become a safety hazard very quickly. If you’re not comfortable working with wood to repair, restore or refinish it, it could be worth it to hire a professional to ensure things are secure. 

In addition to making sure the inside is safe, your restoration efforts should also include outdoor “security.” Most cabins are nestled in wooded areas, meaning they are major targets for wildlife – including insects, rodents and other pests. Things like sealing up cracks and repairing holes will keep nature where it belongs. 

Finally, take care of the way you design and decorate your old cabin. A few simple touches can go a long way in bridging the gap between classic and modern. Think about what initially attracted you to the property – a lot of it probably had to do with history. Don’t feel like you have to remove all of that history just to bring the cabin up to date. 


See Also: Diagnosing 8 Common Cabin Maintenance Issues

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