Cabin Restoration: A Fun Project Or In Too Deep?
Cabin Life Left Header Ad

Cabin Restoration: A Fun Project Or In Too Deep?

Here are the steps you’ll likely need to take to achieve your goal or determine if you’re in over your head.

Written by Rose Morrison
 Photo by Cafer Mert Ceyhan / Unsplash

When you restore an old cabin, you can expect the project to take at least a few months. There are many steps to restoration and the work that goes into it depends on your situation. The rougher shape the cabin is in, the more time and effort you’ll need to put in. Here are the steps you’ll likely need to take to achieve your goal or determine if you’re in over your head.


Moving It 

This isn’t necessary for every restoration but is the first step in working on a cabin you want on another property. Once you finalize the sale or get permission from the property owner to take possession, you’ll want to gather a team to carefully move the cabin on a trailer to its new home. You can either try to move the whole thing or break it down into smaller pieces for less-risky transport. When you arrive, the nitty-gritty work can begin.


Cleaning It

The next step is to clean the entire cabin to better understand what you’re working with. Dust, dirt and stains can disguise problems in the wood. By gently scrubbing the floors and walls with a cleaning agent, you can see any mold, cracks or dents that might impact how you restore your cabin. Cleaning can also help you determine the style and color scheme you want to make your finished product.


Repairing It 

Once it's all clean, the next step is making necessary repairs. Start at the top and look at your roof. If there are cracked shingles, visible structural damage, plant growth or discoloration, you must replace them to prevent a future leak or collapse.

Next, look at your walls. Are they level, or are some logs missing or uneven? You need solid walls to shelter you on stormy nights, regulate your cabin's temperature and frame your windows and doors. Reseal any cracked or eroded seams, and replace the wood as necessary to create a firm and level surface.

Needing to replace your windows and doors is almost a guarantee, but it's worth looking at the old ones to see what you can incorporate into the finished product. You can create decor with a piece of cracked glass or reinforce or recycle your doors.

If you don’t need to replace the floor, it could probably still use a good sanding and sealing. It will smooth out the surface and give your wood a nice shine.

For cabins with plumbing and electricity, it's best to have a professional check those systems to ensure they’re safe for you to reuse. You may be looking at a costly replacement or two if they aren't.


Redesigning It 

Let your inner designer come out for this step of your restoration. Once you make the necessary repairs, you’ll have a blank canvas to make your cabin as traditional or modern as possible.

Restain your wood panels with the shade you desire. You can restore the cabin to its former glory or use it as a base to create the cabin of your dreams. This is the time to make changes to the floor plan or build new bathrooms or closets.

It’s best to create a blueprint of how you design each part of the cabin to ensure the dimensions are correct before changing things. Some programs let you create a virtual model so you can test out your changes and identify any issues before you start.


Finishing It 

Once your cabin is back together how you want it, you can start finishing it. This includes adding touches like furniture and decor, a wireless network or television and landscaping the outdoors. At this point, you completed the most challenging parts of the process and can focus on making your cabin a place to call home.


Mental and Physical Considerations 

Restoring your cabin might seem like a fun project, but consider the mental and physical toll it could take on you before diving in.



Taking on such an enormous task is stressful. You strain your mind and body when you become your own contractor. It’s already a large investment, but you’ll spend even more if you don’t get it right the first time. 

The restoration will take up a lot of your time. You might have to sacrifice enjoying time with family and friends when unexpected delays happen. Even when doing something else, it can be difficult not to think about the project.

You could develop increased anxiety — especially if you don’t have a sound support system. You can’t do much spontaneous work to your cabin without ruining it, so planning ahead is important. However, all the planning might make you anxious about the project until you finish it.



​​If you are planning to do a lot of labor, it could take a toll on your body. You’ll need to be able to lift significant weight, navigate potentially hazardous locations and be on your feet for several hours at a time.

You’ll also need to consider your nutrition. Eating foods that can fuel your body for the hard work ahead will make the restoration easier.


Reasons to Restore a Cabin  

While cabin restoration isn’t for everyone, there are reasons to take on the project, including: 

  • Personal satisfaction: Seeing your cabin start off run down and broken and end shiny and new is a great self-esteem booster. You created something extraordinary and each time you look at your restoration, you should feel pride in all you can do.
  • Improved mental and physical health: The physical exertion from working on your cabin could be an excellent tool for increasing feel-good hormones that help boost your mood. It’s also a great workout.
  • More income: When you restore a cabin, you could rent it out for a source of passive income.
  • A new home: Your cabin becomes a custom vacation home you can enjoy whenever you choose.

If these benefits are important to you and you’re up to the challenge, restoration could suit you. However, if this all sounds like too much, hire a service to handle the process. It may cost more, but doing so will prevent costly errors and ensure you’re happy with the final product.


Should You Restore a Cabin?

Cabins are a treat and it’s understandable that you want to restore one. You can know if it’s right for you by evaluating the process and your needs.


See Also: Is Investing in a Cabin the Right Choice for You?


Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated, a home living site where she loves to give advice to help even the most novice of DIY-ers make their home their haven. She has written for publications such as NCCER, the National Association of Real Estate, and BioFriendly Planet. When she isn't writing, you'll find her baking something to satisfy her never-ending sweet tooth. For more articles from Rose, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to the newsletter.

Subscribe Now + Get 2 Free Gifts!