How to Build Your Own Small Cabin

A log cabin can be a simple structure, but always involve a building expert.
log cabin image by jimcox40 from

Many people dream of building their own small cabin in the woods. Building a small cabin is not difficult, even if you have very little experience with building projects. You can make your own plan or use ready-made plans. Cabins are simple structures that are easy to plan and build.

Planning and Building Your Foundation

Develop the plan for the cabin. The design of the cabin should take into consideration the size and shape of the lot and the need for a septic system and a well. Draw up the plans for the cabin with the dimensions of the exterior and an interior floor plan. Next, determine the building materials you will use (how much lumber, how many doors, windows, cement for the foundation). Price the materials and get a rough estimate of the total cost.

Obtain a building permit from the local government before starting construction. You must follow local building codes and have all the required inspections throughout the building process.

Clear off the area of the lot where the cabin will sit for the foundation. You'll need to install a septic system and a well. The conduits for the septic system and well need to be in place and inspected in accordance with local building codes.

Build a two-by-four frame for the foundation. Mix and pour the cement into the frame using rebar to strengthen the cement. Place metal fasteners in the cement so that they stick up several inches around the foundation where the walls will go. These fasteners need to be spaced properly, so the base of the walls can be securely attached.

Building the Structure

Build the frames for your outer walls using two-by-fours. The frames usually have studs 18 inches apart. The frames must also allow for windows and doors. This will involve making a frame within a frame for the windows. You will leave space for the doors between sections of the frame.

Build the frames for the inner walls to section off each room. This step is similar to the previous step except you will not need to deal with windows.

Put sheeting on outer walls. You can use either plywood or pressboard, whichever is least costly. Also put a layer of tar paper over the outer walls.

Install roof gables about two feet apart the full length of the cabin. You can make these or purchase them prefabricated. Use sheets of plywood for the roof. You will want to put down tar paper and shingles or rolled roofing as soon as possible for weather reasons. Rolled roofing is easier and less expensive than shingles.

Install the windows and doors on the exterior walls and do any framing necessary on the exterior.

Insulate the exterior walls and install heating ventilation in each room. This will connect to the furnace or heating unit. Install wiring, outlets, switches and junction boxes throughout the house. Also install any plumbing needed inside the walls. Connect the wiring to the fuse box and the fuse box to your outside power source.

Finish Interior and Exterior

Install sheet rock or panel for the interior walls. Sheets of paneling will be easier and less costly than sheet rock.

Install a ceiling in each room. You can easily staple tongue and grove ceiling tile squares to the rafters to form a finished ceiling. Make sure you build a door to the attic for access. Insulate the attic with rolls of insulation.

Install kitchen and bathroom cabinets, sinks, toilets, showers, hot water heater and well pump.

Glue tile squares or indoor/outdoor carpet to the cement slab to install flooring.

Finish interior walls with trim and molding. Put siding or board and batten on your cabin exterior, if desired. Landscape exterior and enjoy your cabin for years to come.

Things You'll Need

  • Tools
  • Building materials
  • Portable cement mixer
  • Ladder
  • At least one helper