In the early days of the United States of America, log cabins were a common choice for dwelling places. Many of the pioneers built their own. It is still possible to build one’s own cabin, especially on property that is in the woods and off grid. You can build your own cabin without it being cost prohibitive, as well, which may be a source of some surprise.
While it is possible for a log cabin to cost well over $200,000, there are also options available that result in a complete cabin for under $10,000. The main difference in the price is generally the size of the cabin; a smaller cabin uses fewer materials and therefore has a lower cost. Another consideration is the builders – a person who hires a contractor will necessarily pay more for construction than a person who builds the cabin as a do-it-yourself project.
A foundation is required for whatever type of cabin is chosen. This does not come with a kit nor with reclaimed items; it must be prepared before building with these things. The best option for strength is concrete, but the cost will increase. It is possible to create a wooden foundation, but this will result in a higher chance of rot due to contact with soil and moisture. The inexpensive option is stone or reclaimed brick or a combination. Reclaimed rebar can be helpful for strength but may not be necessary. When the foundation is firmly packed, a layer of concrete can be added to the top to smooth it and make it a better surface for both a floor and for building on to aid in resisting settling.
One of the options available is a cabin kit. There are many of these available from many sources, and with a variety of inclusions. There are turnkey kits that include everything needed plus interior finishings, shell-only kits that provide the outer walls – meaning that finishing it out with such things as windows and doors (among other things) will add to the overall cost, and dry-in kits that include the shell along with windows and doors, roof and floor.
It is important to note that a cabin kit does not include the land on which to build it. However, it can generally be built anywhere, as long as the buyer already has property. Because a low-cost kit is unlikely to have a large footprint, even a wooded lot would not be excessively difficult to prepare for building.
While this is closer to a shed than a cabin (as in its name), there is still enough space in this cabin to set up a room or a tiny house. With six windows, the natural light will fill this cabin. This kit comes with window boxes, shutters, and a solid lockable cedar door.
The wall boards for this cabin fit together neatly in a way that prevents wind from getting through. While not insulated, the inside looks nice enough to be used as is if desired. With walls that are 6’ 5” tall, most people can easily walk around this cabin comfortably. 113 square feet can be available in a day or two with two adults working together; directions for assembly are included and tools needed are minimal. The kit does not include roof shingles or foundation.
While prefab cabins are available, they tend to cost more than a build-it-yourself or kit. The lower range of these starts around $15,000 and they go up from there. The least expensive one on Amazon is the container house, which can hardly be called a cabin, but would be an option for housing in an off-grid location.
Steel construction offers a second floor option. This prefabricated house comes with windows and doors, ceilings and floors.
Reclaimed Materials DIY
Whether the materials are lumber from old barns and other old buildings or trunks of cut down or fallen trees, gathering materials that do not require purchasing can greatly reduce the cost of building a cabin, as will building it one’s self. When using fallen trees, the bark should be removed; this will prevent the bark from harboring insects and wood parasites. The logs will need to be as straight as possible. Reclaimed lumber should be cleaned and checked for dry rot and anything else that could cause problems in the construction either during or after.
If a door is not a part of the reclaimed material, one will need to be made. Good, sturdy wood should be used for this. Determine the desired size of the door and make planks of a size to put together to make the size upon which you have decided.
Larger trunks or beams should be used at the bottom of the walls, since smaller ones will be easier to lift to the higher areas. When using logs, a notch cut into the ends, similar to the children’s toy “Lincoln Logs,” will aid in keeping the logs in place.
A good tutorial on how to create a log cabin is available on Instructables.
Perhaps the goal is a do-it-yourself, but the preference is something more designed. There are a number of plans available to set up a floor plan or a multistory cabin from scratch. These can be built with reclaimed materials or purchased lumber, and usually have a list of what materials will be necessary to complete the plan as designed.
There are times when people no longer want their cabins. They may offer to sell these at a low cost if the person who purchases it disassembles it for moving (or moves it themselves, when possible). Sometimes it can take longer to take apart a cabin than to build one the first time, but the price may make it worth it.
Whatever the reason for building a cabin, it can be done at a reasonable cost for those who are willing to put in some effort.