Skip to Content

How To Build The Perfect Low Cost Cabin – 4 Secrets To Building The Cabin Of Your Dreams!

Looking to build the perfect little low-maintenance get away cabin that has all of the comforts you need – and keep the cost as low as possible in the process?

If there is one thing that we have become all too familiar with on our farm the last two years, it’s building small cabins. We built our first little cabin as an extra place for our older kids and family to stay when visiting.

But then, friends, locals and even a few blog followers began to ask if we would be willing to rent it out as a weekend get away when it wasn’t in use. It wasn’t long until the cabin was full almost every day. So, for some crazy reason, we decided to build a few more to handle the requests!

how to build a cabin
Our very first cabin we built at the farm. At just 600 square feet, it is surprising how big it still feels inside!

There really is something special about life in a cabin. Keeping things simple. Enjoying quite time. Taking a hike in the woods – or even sitting around a campfire at night. In fact, truth be told, we sometimes still head to one of our little cabins on the property for our own little getaway for a night!

The Cost Of Building A Cabin…

But what does it take to build a cabin? And how can you build it to be comfortable, but not cost an arm and a leg in the process? With all of our articles and videos on our past and future cabin builds, we certainly get a lot of emails with those exact questions.

With that in mind, we thought it might make for a great article to share some of the best of the best secrets and tips we have found that can make the dream of building an affordable cabin come true!

4 Secrets To Building The Perfect Low Cost Cabin

#1 Maximize Your Floor Plan

One mistake many cabin builders make is to try to fill every single want, need and convenience into their floor plan. Not only will it send the price soaring, it also turns a manageable size cabin build into a small house building nightmare.

First and foremost, start by narrowing down what is most important to you from your space. For instance, if you love spending time outdoors, then build in a covered or screened in porch. If a fireplace is a must, then put it in the plans. But stick with your top three or four needs – keep the list of must haves to the must haves!

main cabin floor plan
The main cabin plan for the first floor. For us, we built in what was most important to enjoy what we like most – and that meant room to cook and an outside covered porch for sitting.

But here is where it goes south for many would-be cabin builders. You can’t have it all. It’s a cabin, not a house. That means you can’t and won’t have space for everything. See: The Pine Ridge Cabin House Video Tour – A 600 Square Foot Cabin In The Woods!

Saving On Space…

When it comes to storage, closets take up a lot of floor space. As do cabinets. And they can be quite expensive and add a lot to the cost! So for these things, you have to think about conserving space and money.

For storage, instead of closets, think about putting storage drawers under beds. Use benches with storage space in them. Cabinets can really make your cost soar as well. For these, think instead of using open shelves where it’s practical.

It saves room and big dollars on the budget. And the more simple you keep it, the more affordable it will become. Besides, as you will see below, it’s more important to spend money where it counts most – longevity and low-maintenance!

#2 Creating The Perfect Foundation – How To Build The Perfect Low Cost Cabin

People ask us all the time about foundations and cost. One thing is for sure, don’t skimp on the foundation. Remember, it will be holding up your cabin for a long time, so getting it right means keeping your cabin upright!

Concrete foundations
Concrete foundations are strong – and with on demand radiant floor heat added – they are amazing!

For us, nothing can beat the strength, durability and cost-effectiveness of a concrete slab. Especially when that slab is heated with radiant heat by an on-demand gas water heater. It works incredibly well with a traditional energy hook-up, or if you want to go entirely off grid with propane.

We use a concrete slab and radiant heat in all of our cabins and in our house. Compared to other heating methods, the up-front cost is less expensive. And it also heats amazingly well for little and takes up a fraction of floor space to install. Best of all, they are simple and less expensive to install, running us a total of around $6k to put it in a cabin!

Simple & Cost Effective

A propane or natural gas on-demand water heating unit is all you need. It can heat the floor – and your cabin’s hot water for showers and more. You also won’t need to put any ductwork in for a heat system. And it uses very little fuel to do so.

In fact, we heat our 2000+ square foot barndominium with this method for less than $125 per month in propane in the dead of winter. The system is excellent for off-grid applications with propane too, making it really nice for cabins that are way out of the way. See: How To Heat A House Cheap! A Look At On Demand Radiant Floor Heat

how to use acid stain on a concrete floor
We acid stain the floors before the walls go up. It gives us flooring costs at a fraction of the cost. Best of all – they are extremely durable and easy to clean!

To save even more cost on building our cabins, we also acid stain the concrete. It gives a marble like finish and eliminates the cost of additional flooring. For us, concrete slabs are the ultimate win-win!

#3 Air Conditioning For A Cabin – How To Build The Perfect Low Cost Cabin

Not everyone wants AC in a cabin, but if it’s a must, our take is to always go with a split A/C unit. Not only do they install easily, like on-demand floor heat, split AC units are extremely efficient and totally eliminate any need for duct work or piping.

Combined with slab floor heat – it is the only way we heat and cool all of our cabins. They save money up front – and they save money in long term operating costs.

#4 Create A Low Maintenance Exterior – How To Build The Perfect Low Cost Cabin

We saved our best hint as our last hint – and we learned this from experience! Build with low maintenance and longevity in mind. We built a wood cabin at our old farm that looked great new – but was a lot of work to keep it looking that way!

When you build a get-away cabin, you don’t want to spend all of your time there trying to maintain it. So when building, the best course of action is to create with a low maintenance exterior in mind. Not only can it make your annual chore list short – it can save big money in the long run.

perfect low cost cabin
Everyone’s ideal dream of a getaway cabin is different. But one thing to always think about is the long-term maintenance. This metal roof will hold up well over time – but the wood siding will need constant attention to keep it looking good!

Wood siding may sound cozy and natural – but it needs frequent painting, caulking and more. Even worse, in a woodland setting, it can be even harder to maintain. And, of course, you also have to deal with carpenter bees, termites and carpenter ants too!

For us, we are adamant about keeping our exteriors low maintenance. That means using metal roofs on all of our structures. The cost of shingles is not much cheaper these days than metal. Especially if you install it yourself, which metal roofing is fairly easy to do with.

Check Out A Few Of Our Cabin Projects At The Farm Below…

See : The Perfect Single Floor Cabin House – Simple, Elegant And Practical!

See : The Perfect Small Cabin House – Living Large In 600 Square Feet!

As for the sides of your cabin – although a bit more, metal, brick, stone or even hardy board can keep termite and insect damage worry away. Even better, it also means never having to repaint!

For all of our cabins, we use brick or stone. We then use textured board and batten metal siding on wall portions. With a 50 year warranty against painting – it lets enjoying the cabin take center stage!

Think Long Term – How To Build The Perfect Low Cost Cabin

One final thought on the exterior, although the above options do add a bit more to the original cost, always keep in mind long term maintenance and time costs. If you are having to repaint every few years, those paint and time costs can easily top the additional costs of materials.

Here is to building your own little perfect low cost cabin – and to enjoying time away from the hustle and bustle of life any time you need it! Happy Living – Jim and Mary

Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. The two are frequent speakers on all things gardening and love to travel in their spare time.

As always, feel free to email us at with comments, questions, or to simply say hello! You can sign up for our free email list in the subscribe now box in the middle of this article. Follow us on Facebook here : OWG Facebook. This article may contain affiliate links.