How to Build a Cabin in the Woods

Looking to commune with nature? Build a 1-room cabin in the woods and get back to bathroom-free basics.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Decide on the roof's height above the frame; enter this value and the length of the cabin's shorter walls into a construction calculator to find the roof's pitch. Using this value and a framing square, find the length and angles to cut the rafters so they extend from the ceiling joists to the ridge board and rest flush against both.
  • Step 2: Nail the rafters to the ceiling joists and the ridge board. Then, install 3/8-inch pressure-treated plywood on the roof and wall frames. Cover the plywood on the roof with tar paper and nail asphalt shingles on it. Paint exterior walls with oil-based house paint to help protect wood from rot and decay.
  • Step 3: Install a door and windows on your cabin. Cover the interior walls with decorative panels and the floor with carpeting or flooring for insulation. Then, enhance the inside however you choose to make your cabin a true home in the woods.
  • FACT: The last U.S. President to be born in a log cabin was James Garfield in 1831.
  • TIP: Extend ceiling joists over the wall frames by at least 12 inches to ensure proper water runoff.
  • Step 4: Measure and cut ceiling joists to fit over the walls and nail them to the tops of the frames. Then, cut a ridge board -- a beam placed at the apex of the roof and running the length of the cabin to hold the rafters in place. Its length should be equal to the length of your cabin’s longer walls. Set the ridge board aside.
  • TIP: Consider whether you need access to commercially provided utilities such as electricity and water when choosing your site.
  • Step 5: Decide on your cabin's length, height, and width; then, set a simple concrete deck block foundation on gravel compressed with a shovel to raise the floor and protect it from rot and insects. Test the foundation with a level, so you don’t end up with a slanted cabin.
  • Step 6: Frame the cabin's floor. Measure 2-by-4 joists from construction-grade lumber long enough to fit your foundation; then cut them with a saw. Nail the joists together with joist hangers spaced 16 inches apart and lay the frame over the foundation. Then, nail 5/8-inch plywood sheets over the frame to build the cabin's subfloor.
  • Step 7: Frame walls using a similar process to the floor. Leave room for doors and windows and add an extra post to each corner to hang interior panels on later. Then, raise the frames and nail them to the floor and to each other. Use a level to ensure the tops of the frames are perfectly horizontal and adjust if necessary.
  • Step 8: Find property for your cabin and obtain all necessary permits; then, choose a level area to build on. Remove any roots and large rocks with a shovel or hoe.

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