When we closed on our land in the summer of 2014, we were living 10 miles from Chicago, IL, and Trace and I were both working full time jobs. We put our house on the market, but by the start of the 2014-2015 school year it had not sold. We knew we didn’t want to wait to begin working on our property. A lot needed to be done, such as clearing and widening the driveway and tearing down the existing house.
Several weekends during the fall of 2014 we would drive north to work on our property and found ourselves forking over $150 a night to stay in a hotel. This was not sustainable. It could be years before our home in Illinois sold. We started tossing around ideas of temporary housing we could purchase, such as one of those tiny homes on a trailer, a used RV, a single or double wide trailer, etc. However, we knew that once our house was built we would end up having to sell any of these options, not to mention the cost of the above are not cheap.
Trace did some more research and found a company called Jamaica Cottage Shop, which sold cabin kits that were much cheaper than any of the other options we were considering, especially since we would not be paying labor costs to build it. Additionally, we wouldn’t have to worry about selling the cabin in the future as it would always be part of our homestead. After reviewing all the cabin kit options, we decided on the Vermont Cottage B, and chose a package that included the following:
- All the lumber for the frame
- 2 windows for the front of the cabin (we wanted to maximize wall space on the interior of the cabin)
- 1 front door
- Metal roofing
- All the exterior rough sawn pine siding
All the interior finishes we would have to purchase ourselves. We also opted to not install any plumbing or electricity inside the cabin. The property did have electric hooked up, allowing us to run power tools and saws by stringing multiple electrical cords across the property.
The cabin kit arrived on our property via a semi-trailer truck over Christmas break 2014. The first few steps in the building process, such as laying down the concrete pillars that the cabin would sit on, building the frame, wrapping it in Tyvek (house wrap), and starting the roof, we completed as a family (while freezing).
Every following Saturday, Trace would get up at the crack of dawn to drive 2 hours north from Illinois to work on building the cabin (usually with the help of his father, to which we are very grateful) and then drive 2 hours back home.
Spring break 2015, Trace and I worked 4 days straight on finishing up the interior of the cabin, installing the laminate flooring, the paneling on the ceiling, and finishing up the wood stove installation. We then thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned the inside out as a family and stayed in it for the first time!
Building the cabin ourselves allowed us to reclaim materials from the existing house on the property, while initiating the tear down process at the same time. Talk about killing two birds with one stone 😉
MATERIALS WE RECLAIMED TO BUILD AND FINISH THE CABIN
- 2 X 4’s were stripped out of the interior walls of the existing house and used to frame the insulation cavities of the cabin.
- We decided to finish the interior walls of the cabin with the cedar siding from the existing house (which just happened to be a rustic greyish color that I love). This process involved removing all the nails, followed by scrubbing each board (both sides) with wire brushes to remove all bugs, dirt and debris, and then cutting them to the correct length.
- One of the rooms of the existing house had newer laminate wood flooring, which we ripped up and used as flooring in the cabin.
- We found unopened boxes of ceramic tile in the existing house that we used as a platform for the wood stove.
- The cedar battens that covered the existing cedar siding on the house was used as trim throughout the cabin.
- Extra cedar boards that we had leftover were run through a wood planer to remove the paint layer and then used to make our “kitchen work bench” for our cabin.
PICTURES OF THE FINISHED INTERIOR OF THE CABIN
The summer and fall of 2015 we tried to stay at the cabin about twice a month to work on clearing the driveway and tearing down the existing house. We soon realized however, that not having a porch on the cabin was proving to be difficult. Because we were cooking on a propane camping stove, which needs to be outdoors, we found ourselves eating and doing dishes under a screened in tent during thunderstorms, getting soaked. There was also no place to remove muddy shoes without stepping directly into the cabin.
This made us think about the winter that would soon be approaching and the new set of issues that would have to be dealt with. So, we decided to build a closed in porch.
We started building the porch July 2015, and we finished just in time for opening weekend of deer hunting. Trace added screens to the windows of the porch with drop down plexiglass panels that could be opened in the summer and closed in the winter. He also rigged a spot in the floor of the porch for one power strip to run so that we could hook up exterior lighting and charge cell phones on the porch if needed.
The porch has been a great addition to our tiny cabin. We had two old tables in storage that we placed in the porch, which gave us extra space for food prep, cooking, and washing dishes. We reclaimed old hooks out of the existing house and hung them inside the porch to hang coats, dirty work clothes, hunting gear, etc. The porch also provided us an easily accessible place to grab extra fire wood in the winter.
Deciding to build a cabin on our property has been a great family experience. We’ve had to figure out innovative ways to do dishes and bathe (both in the summer and winter) since we haul all our water to the cabin in buckets and carboys. We have discovered that normal everyday tasks take longer without electricity and running water, forcing us to work together more as a family.
Overall, we are happiest when we stay there. There are no interruptions from electronic devices. Dinners in the summer are around a campfire under the stars and in the winter around the wood stove surrounded by tons of candlelight, but most importantly good family conversation.