Australians have always had a deep connection to the small, rustic cabins that were a vital part of this nation’s early history and literature. They remained the primary form of housing on the frontier until well into the nineteenth century. Even though today’s cabin builders probably have more recreational uses in mind than their hardy ancestors, this direct link to the past is still strong, and really becomes apparent when a modern property owner takes the self-reliant approach of building a small log cabin on a budget.

Whether you decide to go with a build your own cabin kit, or work entirely from scratch, constructing a small cabin will still involve a certain degree of careful planning and research. The following 8 tips, suggested by Pop Up Homes, should provide a solid basis of considerations to work from.

Step 1: Talk with past clients

If you are leaning towards kit cabins, try to meet and talk face-to-face with past customers of the company you’re interested in. Seeing a completed project and hearing first-hand about any potential trouble spots is worth way more than a canned sales pitch. Be prepared to do lots of background research into the kit company, especially if you hire them to erect your camping cabin.

Step 2: Create a firm foundation

Building a small cabin yourself is highly commendable, but be sure to have a detailed plan in place first. Since this is a budgeted project, once the all-important foundation is in place, try to build the rest of the cabin around the features you most desire, such as special windows, custom fireplaces, or alternative power sources. This will add extra value and distinction to your cabin without breaking the bank.

Step 3: Stick to your plan

Speaking of budgets, watch out for unplanned glitches that can quickly spiral out of control. Prefab log cabin kits often need to be “customized” to fit your particular location and special circumstances. With this in mind, consider any price quotes from the manufacturer to be a base estimate only. Building from scratch can certainly go over budget as well, but if you stick closely to a predetermined plan, and resist the temptation to add needless square footage or frivolous features, you’ll be fine.

Step 4: Choose the location wisely

Locate your camping cabin in the best possible spot available. For better passive solar benefits, design your own camping cabin to take advantage of the winter sun, and shade out summer’s blast of heat. Make a note of the prevailing wind direction, and watch for any tree limbs that could crash onto your roof. The path leading up to your cabin should be accessible year-round; even in snow and ice. If you plan on using standard grid electric, try not to site your camping cabin so remotely that it ends up costing a fortune to power up.

Step 5: Protect your cabin

Protect your camping cabin from the ravishes of sun, wind, rain, and insects. Excessive moisture is especially damaging to logs, so use at least a 3′ roof overhang, covered decks, and proper grading slopes/landscaping to divert splashed water away from the log walls. As further insurance against moisture issues with your cabin walls, use air-dried logs instead of kiln dried. Air drying will help acclimate the logs to your particular atmospheric conditions. Kiln dried logs will just suck up moisture like a sponge and swell. When they finally settle down, the kiln logs could have lots of cracks and distortions.

Another area of expense is the staining and caulking requirements of the logs, as this has to be done immediately after the structure is in place. Depending on the type of logs you chose, multiple coats of stain might need to be applied.

Step 6: Update your camping cabin from time to time

Regardless of what kit or building method you choose, the quality of the logs is of utmost importance. There is a huge difference between manufactured logs that have been properly dried and treated for insects and water rot, compared to naturally harvested logs that typically require lots of custom fitting and ongoing maintenance. Unless your willing to carefully dry, fit, and service your untreated logs, pretreated is the way to go.

Step 7: Do your research

Whether you decide on any of the small home kits to build, or start from scratch, understand what you’re getting into by reading books and blogs to learn how to build a small log cabin or watch YouTube DIY videos. This will help you avoid the common rookie mistakes that could end up costing you big bucks to fix later on.

Step 8: Know that less is best

Lastly, try to make your camping cabin a relaxing retreat of rustic simplicity, rather than a scaled-down version of your complicated house. When you build your new camping cabin with a more nature-oriented aesthetic in mind, the benefits will far outweigh any high-tech features.

Building a small cabin on a budget is definitely something every property owner should try at least once. Even if it turns out even more humble than the log cabins of olden days, you can still take pride in what you achieved using limited resources!


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