How to Build a 12x20 Cabin on a Budget

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Picture of How to Build a 12x20 Cabin on a Budget
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 I wanted to have a cabin on my property for quite some time now but with the economy, The prices of having one built has more than doubled... So i had to build it myself . Six years ago i bought a 12x16 shed from a well known company by where i live. It cost 2,000.00 for them to build it and drop it off.  Now that same building  would cost 4200,00 dollars.After i was finished with this building with the door and 3 windows the total amount i spent was 2200.00 dollars

If you would like to see the finished inside instructable please click here ...

If you would like to see the matching modern outhouse Please check this out ...
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Step 1: Floor Illustration

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 Here is the 12x20 floor plan showing where the 4x4s and the floor joists would be located.

Step 2: Drilling and planting the posts

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1ST PIC*  Shows my  ford tractor and my neighbors post hole digger he let me borrow.
2nd pic * shows the post planted and the bottom 2x10 Stringers.
3rd & 4th  pic* Shows the upper 2x10 x 12 and the 2x10x16 upper stringers being nailed in at 7 foot 8 inches.

Step 3: Setting the center rafter board

This picture shows the center rafter board . I measured over 6 foot to the center . The roof is going to be a 5/12 pitch roof so the rafter board had to be 30 inches to the top of the board .
coolbeansbaby68 (author) 28 days ago

The base is all pressure treated .. The studs in between are what you nail the interier ship lap walls.... I put vents in the 2 gable ends. They are not pictured here. I will check out this fiber cement siding

meisenbaugh1 month ago

I see major mistakes here!

1st. Any wood touching the ground or mounted to a concrete slab should be pressure treated, I give a year or two before the entire base of the structure begins to rot or mold. This also goes for the eves as well.

2nd. Wrapping the exterior in Tyvec House Wrap will create a moisture barrier protecting the interior studding.

3rd. I see wall stud layout where a lot of material was wasted by putting several rows of 2 x 4's in between vertical studs (Windows yes it's needed).

4th. There is no attic or craw space venting through the eves and tip of the roof pitch, this will make the rafters become petrified or rot due too moisture being trapped as well as hold in air pressure above with massive heat build up.

Now a inexpensive exterior walls idea. James Hardie 48" x 96" Fiber Cement Panel Siding is a product that is tough as nails but easy to install and comes in colors and patterns (Lowe's or Home Depot both carry it) and cost around $25 to $30 a sheet.

Tip: Construct each wall on a fairly flat surface first then anchor the base of the wall to a concrete slab or other supporting type base(nail a temporary 2 x 4 at a angle to support your wall until your able secure it at the base and adjacent walls.)

spylock2 months ago

That would work for me fine,around my neck of the woods the structure is not the big problem,the land however very much is.One could consider themselves lucky to get an acre for $20,000-$30,000 which I wont be able to swing unless I hit the power ball.I can go north 20 miles and get the land for around $5,000-$10,000 tops.Really nice build though,Im gonna bookmark your "able",and then copy this to paper tomm.

coolbeansbaby68 (author)  spylock2 months ago

Why thank you Spylock. I started it mid June and finished it around the beginning of november..

Six month is not bad,I assume you worked at your own pace,also I saw where a guy was giving you a hard time about the electric not being up to code,but from what I see it will be fine as long as you dont run a whole lot on it.He never did tell us why he thought the wiring was so dangerous,first sign of envy is one being critical,It wouldnt hurt to get a smoke detect. and fire ext. though,if you havnt already,not because of the wiring but because they are cheap,and anything can happen.Again great job,and screw the haters.
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  spylock2 months ago

Thanks . Yeah i got all the outside finished before the bad weather and the time changed . I hate working in the dark or rain. Check out my modern outhouse . I enjoyed making that also..

spylock2 months ago

How long did it take to put it up?

ATN660607 months ago
Ok thanks
ATN660607 months ago
I live on a farm and we have a lot of 4 year old wooden flats. Would that be ok for the floor of the cabin. And also could I put carpet in? Because I'm worried about moisture getting to the carpet
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  ATN660607 months ago
I have plenty of air flow running under neath the the floor . i also insulated between the joists. Yes you can put carpet in. I would use quality 3/4 inch plywood for the flooring .
nterry18 months ago
Hmm. This give me an idea....
greensail8 months ago
Great job!!! thanx for sharing!!
csherry11 months ago
i like it! as far as the snow load problem just adjust the pitch of the roof as you ( the builder) see fit. A good source of ideas would be to look at sheds , garages, etc. in your neighborhood..... and as for the horizontal braces use the width of the board, not the thickness. but overall like i said "i like it!"
maewert1 year ago
I enjoyed this instructable. Nicely done and well thought out.

At first I was concerned about the roof system, however. (I'm used to building in the mountains where we could get a 3 foot snow load so I'm a little paranoid.) My concern in that over time a heavy snow load would press down on the roof, and the forces would tend to bow the center rafter board at its center, which would pull the center 4x4 posts away from each other at their tops. While the two 2x10 stringers would hold the corner posts together (one at each end of the building) the center post 4x4 tops are mostly held in by the strength of the 4x4 itself (being held straight by the concrete base). The double stringers on the long sides would provide some resistance for the center 4x4 tops from being pressed outward but their real strength is set to provide sagging resistance for the rafter boards. Of course if this began to happen you could always add another internal stringer between the center 4x4 posts (either made of wood or metal) but this would be a shame to break up the nice open internal roof space.

Maybe your snow loads are light enough to never see a problem! I just would hate to see heavy snows and wood bending over time to ruin your good work.

Best Wishes
I would have to agree with your assessment.
I one of my first jobs in life was building houses and this is not a "cabin"; just a "shed".
It is not fit for habitation if that is what this poster is going to use it for.
Granted it looks nice and that is about as far as it goes.
Snow load is poor due to the roof constructed; I would put money down it collapses when there is heavy snow or starts to cave in after a number of snows.
The posts buried in to the dirt with no concrete footing as well as they are now termite magnets. Also six basic legs supporting an x number thousand or so pounds of roof that can and will fall on you when it collapses.
Very poor horizontal and vertical bracing in the walls; good storm and the wind will push it over..
I would have sheeted the outer wall with either plywood or the current sheeting used on houses; far cheaper than what was used.
As one poster pointed and I do as well as I now buy shipping containers instead.
Way Way stronger and way way more secure. I just construct a gabled roof and bolt it to the top and cut my door and windows. I also sheet the outside with the current housing wood sheeting and it really looks nice; steel underneath it..
An easy fix for the snow load concerns is to simply put in some collar ties, either 2x4 or 2x6 which ever makes you feel better..... 2x4 would be just fine.

You do not have to put them in at wall height, and if you just did them in the area in question (say, oh, about an 8’ to 10’ section dead center) and sheeted the bottom of it you could have a nice spot to mount a light, or use as storage for fishing poles etc.... or you could put two sets in said area, one set about 1’ under the ridge, and the second set 1’ to 2’ above wall height …….. Either way, this would hold the outward pressure on the walls, from any weight exerted on the roof system.
(removed by author or community request)
coolbeansbaby68 really does beautiful work, however, I thought that I would be remiss if I did not point out what I thought to be a design flaw (especially one which could result in injury) and I provided a solution as well which could be added later if problems surface.

My comments were meant to be constructive only and were not meant to be picking his instructable apart.  My apologies to coolbeansbaby68 if this is how my comment was perceived.

Best Wishes
yes, a better set up would be a 2 ply 2x10 glue lam beam and a 3/8 inch thick plyboard core with 2x6 truss planks secured to the beam by hurricane clips. i would have also added 2x4 studs set at 16 in centres, maybe even adding a couple more purlins. then again, mother and i always over engineered our projects lol.
danzo3211 year ago
Board and batten is very handsome but why not tongue+groove, or even the sheathing plywood with the little grooves?
considering even 3/8 osb is about 12-14 a sheet, i'm sure this is a cheaper alternative.
OSB does not take the weather well, you still have to side over it .... thats why he didn't use it..
Oh, and rough sawn lumber is what is customarily used in board & batten siding ... Also I think he wanted a "cabin" look and feel.

Also, you don't get rough sawn at your local Lowes, you go to your local sawmill and get it.
god i feel so stupid now. i should have known that since i've had a few years of carpentry construction and helped my mother build a 2,800 sq ft house from the ground up. you're right...thanks for setting me straight on that.
You are welcome ...... I'm a Residential Framing Subcontractor ...I've built houses for the past 20 yrs or so.... didn't mean to insult you or whatever, just trying to help.
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  danzo3211 year ago
The toungue and grove would have cost a lot more that the rough sawed lumber..
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  danzo3211 year ago
The toungue and grove would have cost a lot more that the rough sawed lumber..
jwzumwalt1 year ago
I have built (and taught carpentry) many such small sheds but there are several techniques that are new and I will try the next time I have one to build.

One suggestion would be to mention hurricane straps on the roof joists at least in a couple places.

You have negligible eves/soffit and your picture shows a well sheltered area surround by trees but other builders may not be aware that a stiff wind will catch the porch overhang and tear the whole roof off. This could happen at about 75+mph. Most places in the US have strong winds at least once a year. In the old days trappers would use large tin cans or roof tin and metal snips. Now we have it easy with straps from the hardware store.

Nice job, and thanks for sharing!
Did you read step 13? Hurricane studs? Just the old-school way of doing hurricane clips... uses scrap lumber so it saves waste, and also saves money on the purchase of the clips form the store. . . .
Step 9 includes hurricane studs which will do the same thing as the straps, but even more secure than straps. I have used that method before and it really connects the roofing to the frame. It has been in winds that blew barns down and the shed still stands.
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  kndnnyj1 year ago
Absolutely correct. It also stiffens everything up once your finished
While I do not disagree that the design is wonderful and sturdy, I have lived in 4 western states and they all require "metal" restraints. As with many "custom" design techniques that deserve merit, the local building dept won't normally approve waivers unless there is an engineering sign off. It's such a small thing to ovoid a confrontation with the inspector (if you plan to have it approved). Of course it varies with the area you live in. In the Seattle area the State really takes time to inspect properties and they usually take pictures every couple of years. In the Boise, ID area they have a much more relaxed attitude. Of course the merits of what is reasonable intrusion by the govt quickly gets started with this type of discussion.
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  jwzumwalt1 year ago
I put pictures of the hurricane straps in this instructable.
look at my very cheapo version of this I just posted its not as nice but it will do
Tarp and strapping shed very cheap
Dr. P1 year ago
Nice job! You do good work. I like the simplicity of materials and plan. We're toying with a similar idea, but in south Georgia (USA), we'll have to put it up off the ground a bit. Can. Not. Wait. Thanks for the straightforward instructions. Now, any changes you'd make? Lessons learned?
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  Dr. P1 year ago
Well 1st thing is you always want it bigger hahahaha. The 2nd thing would be maybe 2 story or at least a steeper pitch roof.Other than that its pretty much what i was looking for ...Thanks for the compliment...
megnwayn1 year ago
Don't try building this in New Zealand! It does not comply with the Building Code and you also risk a substantial fine if it is constructed without a Building Consent.
coolbeansbaby68 (author)  megnwayn1 year ago
What are your building codes ? Why doesnt this work

Building in New Zealand is governed by the Building Code and by NZS 3604:2011 (Timber-framed building standard.)

This instructable infringes the NZ standard in so many ways that it would not pass initial scrutiny by a Local Authority if a Building Consent application was to be lodged.

A few points -

1) The joists are too close to the ground, are attached to the boundary "bearer" with nails in shear and have no approved metal hangers.
2) Foundations can be either a concrete slab with footings and steel reinforcing to suit the site or piles (set in concrete) which support bearers which in turn support the joists. A "pole" building such as this does not comply.
3) Wall framing must be by way of studs (size and spacing to NZS 3604) - a building of this sizs would need guaged 100mm x 50mm studs. Walings fixed to posts to support cladding is not acceptable for a habitable building. The entire floor, walls,roof and cladding on this instructable are supported by coach screws in shear.
4) The rafters are not connected be either ceiling joists or collar ties to prevent the walls being forced apart under live roof loads.
5) There are no moisture barriers in floor, walls or roof.
6) There appears to be no head flashings to the joinery.
7) Bracing, under the code, is inadequate for wind and earthquake.

I do not suggest that the building causes danger to its occupants - just that the NZ viewer was thinking of building it in their yard and by doing so would cause much trouble for themselves.

coolbeansbaby68 (author)  megnwayn1 year ago
Sounds like a head ache for you guys
No - not really. It just means that tried and tested building methods are used -, which perform well in our local conditions. In addition a structure which requires a Building Consent can only be built by a Licensed Building Practitioner (tradesman carpenter).

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