How much does it cost to build and live in a cabin in the woods in USA?

How much does it cost to build and live in a cabin in the woods in USA?

Building the Base

André Boettcher / Politaire

For the foundation, they filled steel pipes with concrete and anchored them into the bedrock, the most eco-friendly solution they could find for building on swampy terrain. They specifically decided against a traditional concrete foundation since one of their main missions was that the cabin could be "erased" from the site if need be.

"But not only constructing the cabin eco-friendly was important," they told us. "We also designed the cabin that tearing it down (not soon gonna happen) would not leave any traces and there is no issue about renaturation."

"Building the house in such a way that nature can revive and that we are not dominating the place," was crucial, they emphasized.



On chimneys and foundations, engineered stone can be figured at $11.50 to $14.50 per square foot of coverage for labor and materials. Dry-stack stone can be figured at $11 to $13 per square foot for labor and materials.

Exterior Painting and Caulking

Prices vary based on exterior design, such as multiple gables, dormers, covered porches, and offsets. Figure materials at $1.50 per square foot of the log home for the exterior and the same again for the interior. If you plan to use tongue and groove for interior wall coverings, figure $1.90 per square foot. Labor is usually $100 per 1 gallon of stain used. For exterior labor, figure at double the cost of materials. For interior labor, figure at triple the cost of materials.

How hard is it to build a cabin?

It is difficult to build a log cabin by yourself. The nature of log cabins is to use logs. Logs for modern log cabins are too large for one person to handle themselves. It is best to leave the setting of foundation and the framing of the logs to someone who is well acquainted with the process.

3. How much cabin can you afford?

Cabins might seem like a luxury, but with careful budgeting and lifestyle adjustments, you’ll find they can be an affordable way to acquire property and vacation time.

Budgeting for a cabin is just like budgeting for a home. The price tags vary widely, based on location, design, amenities and quality.

Consider how much value you’ll get for your money. If you’re going to use it frequently, you won’t need to rent vacation homes, which could save you money in the long run. And if you’re going to rent it out, it could even make you money.

But if your cabin could potentially sit there unused, collecting maintenance to-dos that you aren’t around to complete, it can be a major financial drain.

Speak with a financial adviser, and take plenty of time to assess pricing and location options before deciding if a second home is indeed within your budget.

What is the easiest cabin to build?

According to Bruce Wilde, founder of the school, a vertical log cabin is the easiest and one of the least expensive to build. “Vertical log cabins can be built by almost anyone, even if they don’t have any building experience I have even had handicapped students build a vertical log cabin.

Is Owning a Cabin Worth It?

Whether or not owning a cabin is worth it, is a very personal question. If you are really into that cottagecore, off-grid lifestyle that takes you out of the city and into nature then nothing should stop you from achieving that goal.

Log cabins have a unique appeal and are just as good as modern homes. They only need a bit more attention but will last you that much longer.


Building a log cabin yourself was one of the reasons we suggested why you should live in a log cabin.

So in our opinion, labour should cost nothing but hard work and sweat!

If you aren’t able to, or, are considering hiring professionals to build you a cabin, this can increase your build cost dramatically.

If you hire external labour, such as builders, architects and project managers, it will be the single most expensive cost:

Project manager – 5%-10% of total cost, realistically from $5,000 to $50,000. Builder/carpenter – 15-20% of total cost, so anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000.

Actual Cost

The total cost of all the labour for my log cabin was $5,500.

I did most of the construction – apart from site clearance, structural engineering and surveyor activities.

Do I need permission to build a cabin?

You can build a cabin up to twenty five square meters in area if it is not connected to your house. But a better option might be to build an extension to the house. With an extension, you can build up to forty square metres without planning permission, as long as the house has not been extended previously.

4. Use cost-effective foundation solutions

Although a slab or a crawl space is the simplest foundation for a cabin, you do have other options, especially if your cabin is 150 square feet or smaller. “You may want to consider using patio stones, super spikes, cinder blocks, tubes, or concrete piers with small outdoor structures,” says John Hickey of  Summerwood Products.

Photo: Roger Starnes Sr on Unsplash

Timber and Roof

Timber and logs can quickly become the most expens

Timber and logs can quickly become the most expensive part of your cabin build.

For some lucky folks, they will have a natural supply to use. For us, we purchased road-side soft timber logs in lengths of 32FT for just over $2,400 – most of the logs were 14” in girth or greater.

Most logs are priced between $0.2 to $1 per board foot. How many board feet are in a log can be determined using the Doyle Scale.

Once we purchased the logs we got them hauled to a local sawmill to prepare and cut them to size. Then another expense to get the logs hauled back to our camp!

Top-tip: Try to use logs with a girth greater than 12” – this will save you money during insulation.

Weather proofing your logs is essential; there are lots of techniques for achieving this – I decided to use Permachink. If you aren’t familiar with caulking a log cabin, then look at our tutorial.

The Permachink cost $500 and then an additional $550 for foam backers.

I then used Permagard to treat the timber logs once they were delivered to site. This was very time consuming and cost around $300, but it gave me peace of mind that the timber had been treated properly.

Once the cabins structure is built, you will then need to decide upon your roof. Choosing the right roof and color can really finish the cabin to a high standard and make it look great.

Roofing comes as thatch, shingles (felt or cedar), tiles, EPDM rubber, slate or tin.

I decided to use a tin roof because it was the perfect color, durable, and fast to build with.

I used 2m x 950mm Bitumen Corrugated Sheets which cost just under $30 per sheet.

Actual Cost

Our cabins timber and roof bill was $6,600. This includes purchasing, preparing, cutting and constructing the logs.

DIY This Small Cabin

Joalex Henry

Looking to live like Henry Thoreau? You can DIY with this small cabin by Joalex Henry.The expert do-it-yourselfer who built this haven single-handedly shares what you need to know about cabin construction, from picking the best logs to preventing wood rot with a coat of cooking oil. His little abode cost less than $2,500 to make using mostly reclaimed materials.


Many log cabin enthusiasts are excited about having a property that’s close to nature. However, without proper insulation, you can expect a fun escape of ‘roughing it’ to become downright miserable. Insulation keeps the internal temperature of a small log cabin comfortable, meaning cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

The average cost for sufficient insulation in the floor and roof of a small cabin is around $1,800 when using a standard insulation option, like 50mm or 100mm insulation. Plan to spend upwards of $2,000 when adding insulation to the walls as well.

Prefab Arched Cabin Kits

Arched Cabins

Budget-minded DIYers will appreciate the selection of prefab metal buildings from Arched Cabins. How resilient are these galvanized steel structures? All can withstand wind speeds of up to 150 mph and up to 30 pounds per square foot of snow. 

Each DIY kit comes with a construction manual and phone number for the company’s building support team. While all orders also come with everything needed to complete the exterior, foundations and finished interiors aren’t included. Prices for a 20-inch wide, family-size cabin start at $8,400.

Construction Loans Vs. Mortgages

The traditional mortgage is essentially a loan made by a bank for a person to buy a house.  The person pays a down payment to secure the mortgage, then pays monthly installments with interest.  The terms of a mortgage can be for different numbers of years.

Construction loans are much shorter-term than mortgages.  Typically, they are paid out in stages as the home is being built.  The lender gets detailed plans and a timetable for construction, and pays the builder as the log cabin is being built.

Construction loans are offered by fewer banks because some only provide loans on finished buildings.  You will want to find a lender that can provide a construction loan during the building process and will convert the loan into a mortgage when the cabin has been completed.  Construction loans typically require a down payment, but do not require principle payments.  Principle and interest payments only start after the loan has been converted to a mortgage.

Do log cabins keep their value?

A log cabin can be a fabulous investment. It not only adds valuable living space to your garden, it can add, on average, at least 5% – even up to 15%! – to the value of your house.

How To Budget For The Investment

Budgeting for a home purchase is not as scary as it might sound.  It really breaks down into a few simple steps.  Pull out a pen and pad and take a few minutes to give these points some consideration:

  1. First, how much of a down payment can you afford?  

    Your monthly expenses aside, this is a huge part of buying the house.  The higher your down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage payments and the less interest you’ll have to pay over time.  This money often comes from savings, though many people will get creative and try selling a vehicle or something similar to help bulk up their down payment.

  2. How much take-home pay does your household bring in? 

    If you are going into the purchase with a partner, tally up how much income you bring in each month.  Make sure the number is the after-tax figure, as you don’t want to budget for income you’ll have to pay to the government later.

  3. Add up your monthly expenses.  

    These are going to be things like rent, utilities, health insurance, car payments, food, gas, subscriptions, phone plans, eating out, shopping for clothes and more.  Some of these items will be inflexible, like health insurance and utilities.  Others such as food and subscriptions have some wiggle room to help you make a budget work.

  4. Now, make a list of expenses that will be added when you buy a home

    Homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and utilities are all factors when you own a home.  You may need yard work or snow plowing during certain times of the year. You may not have experience with these costs, so try asking friends who are homeowners to see if they can give you some guidance.

  5. Once you become a cabin owner, what costs will disappear from your expenses?

    You will be spending vacations at the cabin, so money spent on hotels will go away or if living full-time in your log home, expenses may be lower than your current residence.  Look at all your expenses and figure out which ones will go away.

  6. Do some basic math to figure out how much you can spend on housing.  

    Add up all income and subtract the expenses you’ll have with home-ownership.  Do not include costs that dissolve in Step 5.  However, leave some room for emergency repairs, health crises and more to avoid an unexpected expenditure from wrecking your budget.

  7. The leftover figure is how much you can afford each month for your house

    The Internet has no shortage of mortgage calculators, so you can start playing around with figures to determine monthly payments and total house costs.  Enter the down payment you would be able to afford, plus the going interest rate, and by entering the total cost of the house, you will see what the monthly payments would be.

7. Look for specialty financing

Your cabin producer should be able to point you in the right direction to find financing. They can recommend a mortgage company that specializes in these projects or may even finance it themselves.

Plumbing and Electrical

Here’s where we get to the nuts and bolts of building costs for a small cabin. Utilities and services — in other words, plumbing, and electricity — can usually be installed for $3,000 to $8,000. However, there are many factors, such as terrain, property size, and distance to the grid, that can affect the total cost of installing plumbing and electricity.

Can You Just Build a Cabin in the Woods?

Technically, yes you can just build a cabin in the woods. However you will first need to acquire some land and make sure that you adhere to local building codes.

Building your own home definitely isn’t easy but there a lot of super helpful videos online that will guide you through the process.

It will involve a lot of research and going back and fourth between designing decisions.

Also, keep in mind that there is not a lot of information out there about specific problems that you may face. And the information that you can find is often highly conflicting.

Not only the permission part but also the construction in itself will take a lot of time if you are not experienced.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Small Cabin?

How much your small cabin costs will depend greatly on the type of material you use, the home size, and the contractors. You can build a small cabin for $15,000 if you are resourceful or you can build one for $300,000 or more.

You may think that just buying an old cabin will be much more affordable than building one from scratch.

But renovations especially of old material can be super expensive and may even end up costing more than a newly build cabin.

Most of the cost of a cabin build is labor. So if you can manage to do it yourself with the help of friends and family, you can save a lot of money.

Using reclaimed wood or even some material that would have been thrown away is a cheap alternative to buying everything from a hardware store.

But don’t cheap out on the materials too much as it will save you a lot of maintance and heating cost in the future.

All building materials need tools to cut or transform them. Maybe you can rent some for cheap but you will definitely need to buy a few.

You will also need to add the cost of land into your calculations. The average value of land in the USA is about $10,000 per acre.

This will be much more expansive around cities or cheaper the further you move into rural or secluded areas.

Overall, for only your cabin you can expect an average cost of $100-$200 per square foot.

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