By Daphne Howland
I am looking for info about prefabricated cabins made by reputable companies. Are these cabins – prebuilt in factories and then assembled on-site – as good as having a cabin built on-site from scratch? How do I find the companies, and who rates their reputations?–Donna Miller, via email
Modular or “kit” homes have served as second homes such as cabins and beach bungalows since their heyday in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. These days, improved logistics can make them a good choice for anyone who wants a log cabin or other kind of more rustic structure. Whether made from custom designs or predesigned plans, modular homes are built to specifications at a company’s factory and delivered to your site, where your contractor (or you yourself, if you have the right skills) can complete construction.
Modular log cabins can be an especially beneficial choice, says Brian Fisher, sales director at Woodtex, which delivers pre-fab cabins, barns, and other structures. “Definitely our niche is somebody who wants the look and feel of log home living for, in a lot of cases, a more affordable price,” says Fisher. “And our home is a lot more efficient because it can be hard to insulate a log cabin.”
Most modular cabin companies sell through dealers or contractors, while a few, like Blue Ridge Log Cabins in Campobello, S.C., sell direct to the consumer, who then employs a contractor to finish the job on site. That means you can check local listings for reputable dealers and contractors or contact the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which maintains a directory.
See also An Introduction to Modular Construction
Opting for a modular cabin can help keep you on schedule because there are fewer variables to hold up construction. “I think one of the biggest advantages to modular construction is the fact that it’s built indoors,” says Russ Marti, vice president and general manager at Stratford, Wis.-based Stratford Homes. “When we’re finished, it’s loaded on the carrier completely wrapped and delivered to the job site. So it’s completely protected, unlike a typical stick-built site, where walls are exposed to whatever Mother Nature throws at them.”
Another aspect of modular building that can speed up the process and help ensure quality is that much of the work, like interior finishes, fixtures, windows, and wiring, is also done at the factory. “The first floor is completely finished, with bathrooms, light fixtures, kitchen cabinets, granite counter parts,” says Blue Ridge vice president of manufacturing Doug Terrell. Blue Ridge offers both log homes and a Mountain Architecture series.
All the companies we spoke to sell modular cabins and cottages nationwide, and each cabin is designed to meet the building specifications and codes of the local states and cities where the delivery will be made.
Finally, banks and insurers will treat modular homes much like a stick-built home, though it pays to find agents and brokers that understand the financing, appraisal, and insurance of cabins in general and modular homes in particular. Sometimes your site will introduce variables, like well drilling and energy hook-ups, that could affect your financing and insurance costs more than the way in which your home is built.
In any case, working with a modular company can be an excellent alternative to stick-building a cabin, with more choices than you may realize. “They can be log cabins, chalets; we build a lot of rustic retreats with knotty pine log beams,” Marti says. “We have a complete line of what we refer to as rustic retreats. The smallest is 800 square feet and the largest, 4,000 square feet.”