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Small Cabin Forum / Cabin Construction / Deciding cabin size
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Lili487
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 10:26
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We purchased lakefront land and are in the process of having cabin plans drawn up. We are struggling pretty badly to determine the best size for our family. We need two bedrooms and a loft area for kids (2 soon to be 3) and we want an open concept living/dining area with large windows. We’re trying to maximize space and minimize cost. We were originally given plans for a 28 x 38 cabin but the cost came out higher than we wanted so they came back with a 24 x 34 plan but this one seems too small to us. Is there a sweet spot? Is it worth spending more for the larger sq footage?

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 10:51
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28x38 = 1064sf
24x34 = 816sf
Our old house is 940sf. Yep, our 'house' is a cottage size , our cabin is smaller.
At first it was wife, daughter and me, daughter grad'ed HS and moved out. This square footage is a nice size for the two of us. I can only imagine how it would be with 3 kids. I know old-time folks raised families in smaller but....
Long ago I heard it said,"nobody ever builds a garage or pole building big enough"; I suspect that may be said of a lot of cabins too?

travellerw
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 10:51
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I would bet a 24 X 34 would be larger than the cabins of most of the active posters on this board.

I think you need to put it into perspective that you are building a cabin and not a house! Adopt the small house mentality of things are smaller, tighter and you must use space more efficiently... or you spend the money as each extra sqft has a cost associated with it.

Is it worth it? *SHRUGS* tough question to answer as that answer is different for everyone. Personally, I went smaller and will use the savings for better finishings!

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 11:22
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Use a free interior layout program to figure out how big you need.


Quoting: travellerw
I would bet a 24 X 34 would be larger than the cabins of most of the active posters on this board.

Not really. I have plans for a 20x24, not including the porch, bathroom or 12x20 second floor/loft with 9ft ceilings. We wanted 2 separate bedrooms and I would guess that the OP with 3 kids would also want at least 2 bedrooms.

I have slept in lofts, one room cabins and dont want my own cabin to be like this in any way.

BRADISH
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 11:25
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As you can tell, cabin sizing is a very unique question given who will be using it and their desires/requirements.

I don't think there is a good or one size fits all answer. Personally I'm building a 20x28 two story cabin with a 10x10 entry area. It's larger than most of builds here, but its what we determined will work for us.

Our main considerations was that the wife wanted true bedrooms rather than an open loft. At 6'3" I wanted full height ceilings instead of a pitched roof loft style. For us being in Alaska, we know the cold often drives us inside which made us want to build a little bigger, in addition to hosting our family (Which is very interested in the cabin, despite having no desire to build their own with us ).

The best advice I can give is to weigh out what is most important to you (in terms of your use), minimize where you can, and it often makes sense to build at multiples of 4' to reduce waste in materials.

If you don't have much experience with cabins, I'd suggest trying to find something small on AirBnB to rent for a weekend and see how you like it. Take notes on how they maximize space and storage, and see how much area you really think you'll need.

Best of luck! Sounds like wonderful property.

snobdds
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 11:59
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You only have one chance to build, build what you want. I have a 32x36 under roof, including porches. I only use it in the summer so porches were a must. Plus, I am in deep snow country, everything needs a roof.

I should have gone 36x36 because ergonomical stairs take up so much room. I was trying to minimize material waste, which I accomplished, but hind sight is 20/20.

You really can't have too much space

Aklogcabin
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 13:17 - Edited by: Aklogcabin
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Yeah everyone has different tastes n needs. Building restrictions or locations. They are all nice.
Keeping a good attitude n staying positive helps. Your the one who can see what you want. And it will probably change a bit along the way. You'll get lots of antidotal advice. Take the positive n keep on building.
We did a log 16x24 with 10' tall side walls. Full upstairs for the bedrooms. Works very well for us. And sitting on the deck upstairs having morning coffee fresh from the percolator coffee pot. With my beautiful wife is fantastic. You can check it out on this forum.
My best advice would be to try n stay with what you want. Stay positive n have fun

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 4 Feb 2022 14:30
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I should note that if you need to save money for an extra year or two to swing a bigger cabin than wait the extra time. You will live with to small of a place until you sell it or die.

Steve_S
Member
# Posted: 5 Feb 2022 12:20
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Some ponderings for consideration.

- It is cheaper to build UP rather than out as the foundation costs can be quite significant.

- A "Cube" is more efficient to set spaces into as opposed to long & narrow. Hallways are a terrible waste of space.

- A Round House (The oldest known method of design & construction) makes the most use of square footage... Goes back to the Stone Age and also used in Asia Major & Minor and the Africa's and elsewhere in various forms.

- Apply the Rule of KISS, Keep it Sweet & Simple ! Open Concept as must as possible walls & halls are all barriers and can be wasteful.

- Apply Well Learned Lessons from our forefathers before us. Transom Door Ways to allow airflow and Double Hung windows that allow cool air in at the bottom & hot air out at the top make a Huge Liveability factor.

- Keep the dimension "Normal" to the materials being used. Calculate using 4', 8' lengths for things. This reduces wastage and simplifies design. I built 3x 8'x8' wall modules that got assembled to 24' Length. Could have built 2x 12'x8' because lumber can be bought that is 12' long but it costs more than what would be saved.... it's a premium above 8' length.
* My Cabin is 20x24, used 2 sections of 10'x8' for front & back walls each and 3x 8'x8' for the side walls.

- For a Loft setup, there are options. If you have a 1/2 Story (4' high sidewall) it may not actually count as a full "story" but rather as a Story & a Half. Depending on your region, this would cut taxes & insurance BTW. This could be accomplished with 12' tall sidewalls with the second-floor and the 2nd floor (loft) at the 8' level. There are different ways to do so. Using a setin Ridge Board is most common.

PLEASE DOWNLOAD this Reference form common room sizes as defined in Architectural Design Course.
https://www2.d125.org/im/ACAD/pdf/room_sizes.pdf

Keep the Water Heater as close to Point of Use as possible to minimize long runs which are wasteful to the extreme. It's generally easiest to locate Bathroom next to Kitchen with Water Heater Closet between, such can also be a Laundry Room BTW. *On-Demand Hot Water is the most cost & energy effective.

Your location is not mentioned.
Consider that any single wall exposed to Sun or Shade, Heat or Cold (ie direct wind in winter) will be the "point" that affects the home. Minimize this as much as possible, like a 30' Wall exposed to direct heat will thermally exchange that with the house while a 20' wall with same expose will transfer less in/out.

Winds and how they affect the home can also create Hot / Cold sides because as winds furl around the home certain places do act like a Vortex and catch a back draft.

PLEASE, Look carefully at the land how the rains get absorbed and where it drains. Look at the wind patterns on the property, are there trees to use as a windbreak or as shade trees for sumertime to keep the direct sun off the structure. Look at the Snowfall and where it will make drifts or pile up. Putting the house in the wrong location can end up costing a LOT more to Heat & Cool and or get flooded out. Best to seriously look at these things in all four seasons.

Hope it helps, Good Luck.

Shadyacres
Member
# Posted: 5 Feb 2022 12:58
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Do you plan to sell your house some day and move to the cabin ? If so make sure you make it big enough !

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 5 Feb 2022 13:44 - Edited by: gcrank1
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Tips worth paying Big Attention to!
The prev owner of our current cabin built in a spot that the tall pines just to the west affected the stove draft horribly; swirls, updrafts then downdrafts then backdrafts into the room......we Never had a decent draft that lasted any length of time. It was educational to sit on the hill overlooking and watch what the smoke did.

Lili487
Member
# Posted: 6 Feb 2022 03:58
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Thank you everyone! Your advice has been super helpful and we’ve decided to go with the larger layout!

Lili487
Member
# Posted: 6 Feb 2022 04:00
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Quoting: Steve_S
Keep the dimension "Normal" to the materials being used. Calculate using 4', 8' lengths for things. This reduces wastage and simplifies design. I built 3x 8'x8' wall modules that got assembled to 24' Length. Could have built 2x 12'x8' because lumber can be bought that is 12' long but it costs more than what would be saved.... it's a premium above 8' length.
* My Cabin is 20x24, used 2 sections of 10'x8' for front & back walls each and 3x 8'x8' for the side walls.


With this being said, would us going from 28 x 38 to 28 x 40 make more sense or would the increase in size offset any savings from doing increments of 4’?

Steve_S
Member
# Posted: 6 Feb 2022 07:04
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It's one-half of a dozen situation here. The goal is to build the house with minimized waste which is just chucking dollars into a pit.

The best way to work it out, use a House Design software or even just use paper cut outs of the room sizes you want (don't forget closets in bedrooms, pantry and other things like laundry) and play Jenga with it to see how it fits together, the previously linked to PDF has all the normal room sizes used.

Many things depend on the land you are putting this on and how it will fit onto it as well.

Also seriously consider the Orientation of the house for solar gain, shading and more. Most especially if you want solar on the roof , you'll want to set the house with a long southern roof with good exposure. Also to use the sun and work with it to make a more comfortable & less costly home to operate.

ALSO really importantly, as this is Lakeside, you also have to consider what will come off the lake and hit the house weatherwise and you'll want natural wind breaks but again it all depends on property how it is situated and where the sun moves and how the prevailing wind currents are on that spot.

A small story for context.
4 years ago a fellow decided t build a new house on a property he had his cabin on. He knew the lay of the land, where the water went during rains & spring thaw etc... Great property actually and perfect to make a Really Efficient Home. They went off and decided to put the new "High Ranch Stype" house into a DIP and with that a poured concrete basement without insulation (exposed 3' above grade = major heat sink in winter). The house is 30x40+ attached garage, it is oriented North South (Bad for solar gain and smack against prevailing wind currents. Wife did not like the trees close to house so they Clear Cut around the house. The build is a standard 2x6 Stick Framed insulated with fiberglass, no thermally broken walls and an A-Typical 2x4 Trussed roof, not a cool roof or anything.

Now, they complain that it takes 1400 Litres of Propane a year for the joint. The basement is always cold and leaks in spring because all the melt flows into THAT dip where the basement is... They wanted solar and can't install it on the house so they have to go Ground Mount and Missus doesn't want that ! They have dug up the foundation 2x to fix it and still never insulated the exposed concrete (DUH what a Heat Sink! sucks the heat out.) Everything is working against that house and they complain how costly and uncomfortable it is.

The takeaway, they "Imposed" the house on the property without paying attention to the land's characteristics and how to best place the house on it... He lived there 10 Years, new Missus and she made the decisions without thought or considering the experience on the land. They'll likely sell this year as it's become a major "issue" as it will not serve as their retirement home now.

I really cannot understate the importance of working "with" the land rather than against it. Again Lakeside, up here we get Real Winters and in spring with the ice thawing and breaking up and landing on the shore + flood potentials it also a consideration to be Hi & Dry and out of harms way.

Sorry for the ramble but things to consider for the longer term.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 6 Feb 2022 07:04
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There is really hardly any savings in keeping things in 4' increments. If you have studs left over, return them. If you have 2ft of plywood left after one wall you use it on the other size wall. Even with building materials being very very expensive how much are we really expecting to gain by increments of 4'?

ICC
Member
# Posted: 6 Feb 2022 10:27
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Quoting: Brettny
There is really hardly any savings in keeping things in 4' increments. If you have studs left over, return them. If you have 2ft of plywood left after one wall you use it on the other size wall. Even with building materials being very very expensive how much are we really expecting to gain by increments of 4'?


I agree.

Lili487
Member
# Posted: 11 Feb 2022 02:11
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Thanks everyone! We’re going with the 28 x 38! We won’t regret the size, as you’ve all suggested!

WILL1E
Moderator
# Posted: 11 Feb 2022 07:59
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You mentioned the property is lakefront...as a previous owner of lakefront property have you made certain that you don't have any minimums or restrictions in regards to the cabin size? I know on the property we had those regulations is what ended up causing us to sell the land. There was a minimum square footage (way bigger than we wanted to build), restriction on overall roof heights, had to have all utilities, had to be a certain distance from water, trees couldn't be cut depending on location from water, etc, etc.

Secondly, i would think about what the neighboring properties are. Are they big shacks and your place will be small and not fit in well with their places causing tension. Or will your place be the opposite and be overkill compared to theirs. While others opinions shouldn't weigh to heavily on what makes you happy, something to consider if you or your kids ever go to sell the place as it could effect the resale.

JaffH
Member
# Posted: 22 May 2022 07:57
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Agree with Steve.
It is true that bathrooms are better located adjacent to Kitchens. Obviously you'll need a water heater. Keep it as close as possible to the point of use to save long runs, which are extremely inefficient.
I'd also recommend choosing a stock cabin design. In terms of design time, materials, and labor, custom designs are more expensive. Most log and timber home builders have a large number of stock plans that they have constructed several times. Many faults have been removed in these designs, resulting in a seamless installation that saves you time and money. Or, Choose a simple roof system. One of the most costly material and labor line items in your budget is the roof. As a result, the simpler the roof system, the lower the cost. A basic, single ridgeline with a short pitch is the most cost-effective roof. Hips and valleys with a steeper pitch, which are more intricate roof systems, are more aesthetically intriguing. They are, however, far more costly.

Hope this is helpful

paulz
Member
# Posted: 22 May 2022 08:53
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Quoting: BRADISH
For us being in Alaska, we know the cold often drives us inside which made us want to build a little bigger,


That's a very good point. In Hawaii you can live in a grass hut.

I'm in a mild climate, 40s in the winter, 80s in summer. Only a very rainy day keeps me inside. Our 350sf cabin is all we need for the two of us. One big advantage is the small size makes keeping it organized, not one of my virtues, mandatory.

We have a 1,600 sf house only a half hour away, but are only spending one or two nights a week there anymore.

happilyretired
Member
# Posted: 22 May 2022 08:58
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A good layout can make an 800 sq ft cabin feel just as big as a 1000 sq ft cabin. Minimize hallways and dead areas, bedrooms can be small because all you do is sleep in them.

If you're going 28 x 38 you will have plenty of room with an efficient layout. With 3 kids I would even consider an ensuite, it doesn't have to be a full bathroom...you can fit a half bath in a 42" x 72" (or less) space. If it's on a common wall to the living area or main bathroom it will also provide an additional sound buffer. You mentioned a loft, so you could tuck a half bath under the stairs.

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