How to Build a 12x20 Cabin on a Budget




About: Just a normal guy trying to make it in life .Good paying job but mindless sometimes .I enjoy making things in my garage to keep my mind going .. Its fun making something new but its more fun taking somethi...

Building a cabin yourself is much more economical than buying a prefab storage shed. The cost of materials for this build, including doors and windows, was around $2,200, which was about the same price as the install would have been on one of this large size if I’d purchased it from a hardware store. I know this for a fact because six years ago I bought a 12x16 shed from a well-known company close to where I live and it cost $2,000 for them to build it and drop it off. Today that same building would cost $4,200. With such a big price increase I decided that if I wanted to add a cabin to my property I had to build it myself.

If you decide to do the same, remember to check with your local authorities to make sure you don’t need a permit. It’s not likely that it’s required for a building of this size, but you never know.

If you would like to see the finished inside of the cabin 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

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

Step 2: Drilling and Planting the Posts

1st picture: shows my ford tractor and my neighbors post hole digger he let me borrow.

2nd picture: shows the posts planted and the bottom 2x10 stringers.

3rd & 4th pictures: show the upper 2x10x12 and the 2x10x16 upper stringers being nailed in at 7 feet 8 inches.

Step 3: Setting the Center Rafter Board

This picture shows the center rafter board. I measured over 6 feet 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.

Step 4: Making the Angles for the Top and Bottom of the Rafters

1st picture: shows using a quick square. Put the pivot point at the top of the board and turn the square until the 5 on the * COMMON TOP CUT* line graph lines up with the outside of the board. Then draw the line to make the angle.

2nd picture: Once you cut your first angle then you have to measure from the tip of your cut down the length of the rafter to get your measurement for the seat cut. Once you have that measurement then you put the pivot point on that mark and turn the square until you get your 5/12 angle again. Then measure up that angle 2 1/2 inches and draw that line.

3rd picture: shows taking the edge of the square and lining it up with the 2 1/2 in line and turn the square until the tip is lined up with the edge of the board. Then draw that line.

4th picture: shows the angle seat that I just drew cut out.

Step 5: Setting the Rafters

1st picture: shows the rafters being set next.

2nd picture: shows the rafters on and the starting of the purlins being put on the top of the rafters for roof support. This is what the metal roofing is screwed to.

3rd picture: shows the tails all cut to 9 inches long and shows the steel roofing over hanging the roof by 2 inches to support the facia boards.

4th and 5th pictures: show the roofing installed.

Step 6: Adding on a 4 Foot Porch

Here is where it started to get complicated for me. I was looking for a 12x16 cabin, but once i looked at it I decided I wanted the whole 12x16 for floor space so i added a 4 foot porch to the 12x16 to make it a 12x20 total building instead of a 12x12 inside living space.

Step 7: Side Wall and Purlin Illustration

Step 8: Lag Bolting the Outer Joist to the 4x4 Poles

I had to screw (36) 3x3/8 inch lag bolts to all the outer joists into the 4x4s for stability.

Step 9: Hurricane Studs

1st picture: shows the (20) 13 inch hurricane studs with the 5/12 pitch angle cuts.

2nd picture: shows them installed.

Step 10: Floor Joists and Insulation and Floor

1st & 2nd pictures: show the (14) 2x10x12 floor joist installed

3rd & 4th pictures: show the 1x2 furring strips nailed to the inside of the floor joist 1 inch below the top of all the joists.

5th picture: shows the 1 inch insulation board between each joist before gluing and nailing the floor to the joist.

6th picture: shows my Dad lending a hand nailing down the floor.

Step 11: Rough Sawn Lumber for 8 Inch Board and Batten Siding

1st - 3rd pictures: show my dad cutting the siding boards to 8 foot long.

4th - 6th pictures: show the boards up on the wall and the soffit and the facia boards being put on.

Step 12: Studding in the Porch Ceiling

This picture shows the studding in for the porch ceiling, 16 inch centers and 4 foot long studs.

Step 13: Studding in the Front Wall and Door Frame

Studding in the front wall and front door frame, it was a hot day!! Here's my dooraggin' Dad! Just had to take a picture of this! He-he-he...

2nd picture: my friend Josh came over for a day to lend a hand on the mitre saw.

Step 14: Gable Ends

Here are the gable ends finished with the batten strips attached. All that's left for them are the two vents.

Step 15: Finished Cabin Structure

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    345 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago

    The building code here limits sheds to 10x10 before it needs a permit. What would i need to do to shrink it?

    3 answers

    Answer 1 year ago

    Ok ,this guy built something rather nice and shared it with all of us, so I get it about building codes, but lets just look at it for what it was intended, a simple share for someone that may want to creat this, again, nice project.


    Reply 7 months ago

    You obviously did not understand my comment. I was asking how it could be made to fit the constraints in which we live. I made NO comment about the project itself. It just doesn't work for my situation and I was trying to find a way to make it work. Next time, please READ the comment before you make one.


    Reply 12 hours ago

    Just use your imagination and plan it on a smaller scale. Not really that hard...


    Question 6 months ago on Step 4

    Where's the material list, the length of the 4x4 posts for example


    Question 6 months ago on Step 9

    I can't find any information about "hurricane studs." Are they serving the same purpose as hurricane ties?


    Question 8 months ago

    Is there a complete bill of materials available?


    1 year ago on Step 2

    Do you have a list of all the wood you have used? Also I want to build a 12x2 without a porch. How do I adjust for that?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 months ago

    Just don't build a portch.


    8 months ago on Step 13

    What is the distance between the sides and the door?


    Question 11 months ago on Step 3

    I'm too lazy to search 342 discussions. I'd rather get a picture or at least more info how you secured the roof struts??


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    8 replies


    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.

    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).

    MassSpec Manmegnwayn

    Reply 2 years ago

    This is also true here in the USA. People here just don't know it. If I went to get a permit to build a structure it has first to be 10 feet from any property line. Any electrical or building has to be done by a licensed pro who has passed tests. The people here just do not know the law because there is no one to enforce it. And no one would ever go to get permits because it increases the value of your property and so the local governments increase your taxes. Everyone avoids the permit part. There are no enforcement of laws here any longer. No one gets fined or caught. When selling a home a home inspector never asks for any documentation, their job is just to assess the property and look for safety concerns. They just put the safety concerns on a report for the buyer or for equity concerns, loans. In the USA you are responsible for protecting yourself. You have to be an everything to protect yourself from chemicals, fraud, etc. We all have to learn before we act or we face serious consequences. No one looks out for anyone else here.

    WayneW84MassSpec Man

    Reply 1 year ago

    All of those things obviously vary depending on locality and even municipality. Major cities and their neighboring 'strongholds' have the most restrictive codes / requirements. Rural areas tend to be less 'domineering'.

    rundmcarlsonMassSpec Man

    Reply 1 year ago

    This isnt true at all. My property taxes are on the value of the property, and dont include my home or any of my assets/structures on my property. People avoid permits because they are time consuming to obtain and make things more expensive because they bring your changes to light and force you to follow standards instead of taking cheaper shortcuts.

    Many standards, stipulations, and permits are not required if the structure is not habitable (like a storage shed). If it needs a cert of occupancy, thats when most of the permits and inspections come into play (depending on where you live).

    scook9MassSpec Man

    Reply 1 year ago

    Any electrical or building has to be done by a licensed pro who has passed tests.

    Not entirely true. Just about every jurisdiction recognizes the owner of a property as their own contractor. It's commonly referred to as "owner/builder." Electrical, plumbing, or general construction can be performed by the owner provided all relevant permits have been applied for, and all work is carried out according to local codes.