Tips to Consider: Building A Cabin Yourself
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Tips to Consider: Building A Cabin Yourself

Tips and advice to consider before you take the plunge on building a cabin yourself

Written by Jim Cooper


 Photo by AwayandAbroad / Unsplash


Owner-built cabins are part of the fabric of America. In fact, at one time, most cabins were probably built by their owners. The addition of heating and cooling systems, plumbing and electricity and increased architectural complexity requiring sophisticated engineering and construction details moved some cabins beyond the reach of average DIYers. Still, with a few caveats, DIY cabins can be an option. 



If your dreams are fueled by “Cabin Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” (a nod to the 1980-1990s television show of a similar name) you may be looking for something beyond typical DIY fare. Generally, smaller, simpler cabin plans offer broader DIY potential. Larger cabins take longer to build and often require more specialized tools and equipment and greater knowledge of construction methods. 



For many, the main appeal of DIY is in lowering costs – either by building for less or getting more for the same amount of money. In either case, DIY cost-saving potential is a mixed bag. Yes, you can save money, but you can also spend quite a bit more by not turning the project over to pros. If your project involves a construction loan, beware of the time requirements and interest costs. A lengthy construction period can run up more interest expense than the cost of professional labor. If time isn’t a factor, DIYing may allow you to avoid a construction loan by simply paying as you go. If this will be your approach, put aside enough money to get an enclosed weather-tight shell before launching your project. Protected from weather, you can proceed with interior work at your own pace. Leaving a half-finished shell exposed to weather while you replenish your bank account will likely bring some repair and additional work and cost.



How much do you have? How much are you willing to devote? Any construction project requires a serious time commitment, especially if you are learning as you go. Balance your DIY cabin dream against your time. If you have limited time, tools or skills, consider hiring pros to build the weather-tight shell.



Most people have limited experience with major construction. However, many have fix-it skills for basic homeownership repairs and maintenance. You can fill in some areas of weakness by attending workshops offered by big-box building supply stores or reviewing videos online. Be sure to consider building code requirements. In some areas, mechanical systems must be installed by licensed contractors. Before starting any construction project, even a simple cabin, thoroughly understand zoning, building codes and permit requirements for your location. 



One way to overcome some of the challenges of DIY construction is by purchasing a cabin kit. Kits overcome some of the issues around skills and the use of specialized tools. Kits range from pre-bundled, pre-cut materials to pre-fabricated floor, wall and roof assemblies. Cabintek (, specializes in pre-fabricated log cabins well suited to DIYers. “We get many inquiries for cabins in the 400-500 square foot range although our system can be configured for larger cabins as well,” says Mark Dahlman, Operations Manager at Cabintek. “Components are pre-cut, which simplifies assembly and tool needs.” 


In the end, advice for prospective DIY cabin builders boils down to this: keep it simple, keep it small and understand your limitations and the building requirements for your project. 


See also The Affordable Log Cabin

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