If you’ve decided to go off-grid, please understand that as awesome as the idea may be there are a lot of practical challenges that you have to overcome. These challenges are not going to go away. Even when you’re plugged into the grid and live the typical lifestyles of most Americans, these challenges remain.
First and foremost, you need to think in terms of shelter. In your current lifestyle, shelter is well-taken care of. You probably live in a single-detached home, condo, or apartment. Your shelter is nice and dry and cool during the summer and warm during the winter.
You’re plugged into the grid so it’s well-lit so all your electrical appliances are working. You also get ready access to gas, power, and light. What more can you ask for? Well, you have to think along those lines when it comes to shelter out in the woods in an off-grid setting.
You still have to think about what your current shelter and housing provide you and how you can replicate that when out in the middle of nowhere. While it’s awesome to think about the freedom that you enjoy out in the woods, you’re not going to enjoy that freedom much if you lose sight of these key parameters.
What to Expect from A Shelter
Before I go into the basics of building a simple cabin in the woods, you need to wrap your head around the basic considerations that you should expect from such a shelter. At the end of the day, a cabin is just a shelter. And well-made shelters share common qualities.
This is crucial for not only ensuring that you build the right structure but to make sure that you continue to enjoy staying in that structure for a long time to come.
It’s too easy to just get taken in by the moment and just build anything that will shield your head from the sky and keep out the wind but that’s not enough. You also have to focus on key parameters so you not only have something that would protect you from the elements but can also be scalable.
You have to keep this in mind because you just can’t focus on what’s in front of you and your current situation. You also have to think 5 or 6 months or even several years ahead. So what are these key design factors and considerations that you need to be on the lookout for?
Protection from the Elements
The most basic is that a simple cabin must do a good job in protecting you from the elements. I’m talking about snow, rain, and the sleets. You should not put yourself in a situation where you’re freezing in the winter and breaking out in sweats in the summer.
You know you built the wrong cabin if this happens. This means proper insulation and design. This also involves proper site selection. I can’t emphasize this enough. You may have bought a nice tract of land out in the woods so you may be under the impression that any area in your property is as good as any. Wrong.
Take a long, hard look at the lay of the land and what other vegetation is out there. Pay close attention to how vegetation will shelter you from the wind as well as the snow. Take a long, hard look at how water flows through your property if it were to rain really hard.
Using this information, you should pinpoint the ideal area in your property to build a cabin.
Scalability is not just a question of space. This is how most people define scalability when it comes to where they live. They want a design that can easily keep up with them if they want more space. If they want to put in a new bedroom, the layout should be able to accommodate that.
Otherwise, they have picked out the wrong plan. But scalability goes beyond this. It also means you have changing needs. If you were to put on solar panels, will the structure be able to support it? If you’re thinking of putting up a wind turbine or even tapping hydroelectric resources that may be available in your area, would your site selection be able to do so?
You have to keep this in mind because your needs will grow over time. Right now you’re excited about striking out on your own, bringing your family to the great outdoors far away from the civilization and the grid.
I congratulate you. It’s a great idea. You’re also positioning yourself well in case there is an unexpected natural or man-made emergency that leads to the shutdown of the grid. That is all well and good but you also have to think about what your needs will be five or even ten years down the line.
This is one feature of a simple cabin design that a lot of people, even homesteaders, lose sight of. They think that everything will be hunky-dory when it comes to peace and safety in their area. After all, we live in the United States where there are usually no law and order problems in most of the 50 states.
If there were any issues, they are temporary and often restricted to certain areas. But if you’re out in the woods, it’s easy to get the impression that you wouldn’t have to defend yourself. You have to understand that you not only have to defend yourself against other human beings but there is also wildlife that may come onto your property. It’s a good idea to pick a cabin location that can be well protected from encroachment by local wildlife as well as trespassers.
You have to understand that if you are preparing for the unexpected, part of that preparation must be against civil disturbance, riots, civil war, and that kind of thing. So the key is to build your cabin in an area that can be well defended.
Usually, this is a raised area because the elevated position of your home enables you to see people or animals as they approach. At least give yourself that fighting chance. What follows is a stripped-down and highly simplified series of steps that will help you build a simple cabin at your preferred location.
Keep in mind that this is a stripped-down version and I’ve written it with the assumption that you’re going to learn as you go along. The key is to view these steps as a holistic or a broad overview of what’s involved but you will only know how to put everything together when you’ve rolled up your sleeves and started to do the work.
The good news is a lot of it is intuitive. In other words, you will know it when you see it. And it’s easy to just take care of issues as they present themselves. Before you know it, you have yourself a nice little cabin out in the woods,
- Depending on your budget, you can build a Cabin using different types of wood. You can either use massive tree logs (which can be very expensive), Pallet Wood, or any size or type of log/wood.
- Get the measurements and create a floor plan for your cabin.
- Look for the ideal building site for your cabin, clear the area by brushing and scraping.
- Build the foundation- post holes , and posts to the ground. Add concrete, stones or cement the posts and add frames to floor joists.
- Once you have finished with the floor, start putting up the walls, the structural ridge beam and start installing the rafters.
- Install the roof decking.
- Start building the Porch roof- it has a structural ridge beam and follows the roofline.
- If you are living off the grid, use a portable generator for electricity. Install lighting fixtures and switches. You can also opt to have an airconditioning unit for your cabin.
- Roof Installation – don’t forget to install roof lining and insulation to keep your cabin from absorbing too much heat from the sun, and also blocks colder temperatures.
- Install the logs and seal the cracks between the logs to fill the gaps.
- Assemble the floor and arrange the placement of the stones for your balcony and concrete murete.
- Install the doors and the windows.
- Treat the wood to help preserve it, and it can also improve its finish.