Is a Log Cabin Kit or Prefab Cabin Right for You?
Getting Started – Your Log Cabin Kits Guide
If you are thinking about getting a log cabin in Utah, then log cabin kits may be the perfect solution for you. Kit cabins offer some unique and compelling advantages in affordability, time-savings, and more!
We assembled this guide to help walk you through the entire process of building with a cabin kit–from idea to construction (click on each resource listed below for more info). We hope you enjoy, and good luck with your cabin!
Building with log cabin kits in Utah offers you a handful of advantages. One of the biggest advantages is that virtually all the thinking and planning has already been taken care of. You can save yourself hours on napkin sketches, Auto CAD, or Google Sketchup.
Additionally, all the materials arrive at your cabin property in one place. That alone saves you hours driving back and forth to Home Depot for one more thing. There are step-by-step directions, and sometimes even instructional videos showing you how to assemble your prefab cabin.
If you haven’t already checked out our tips on buying a cabin in Utah, be sure you look over our buying guide here.
Log Homes vs. Cabin Kits vs. Prefab Cabins – Which Is Best?
If you’ve done any amount of internet searching, the chances are that you’ve come across a handful of differing options and a bunch of results that sound very similar. So first things first, let’s get a little terminology straight.
The term “log home” typically refers to a bigger house (think 1,500+ square foot structure). These are houses that people usually live in as their primary home. More often than not, they have all the amenities that a normal house would, and are connected to grid utilities–they just happen to be made out of logs. Some people just like the aesthetic of a house with a timber frame or log walls (although if you just want the look of a log structure from the exterior, it is possible to clad an ordinary “stick home” in log siding). People will sometimes refer to the “log package”, which is basically just referring to the actual logs used in constructing the home.
Log homes are built on site by general contractors and subcontractors that are (hopefully) licensed, insured, and do construction as their full time job. A log home like this usually isn’t templated in any way, and can be customized infinitely, because really, it’s just a house like any other house is a house.
On the other hand, “log cabin kit” is the term people usually use when referring to a complete set of building materials that is sent to a location to be assembled in a particular order. Kits are a standardized thing, that are made to be built exactly the same way, to a specific floor plan.
Log cabin kits can be put together by contractors, or ambitious DIY homeowners with a couple friends (if the kit is simple enough and the owner is ambitious enough). They usually won’t come with any kind of foundation, finishing materials like floors and cabinets, or anything to do with utilities (like plumbing or electrical). Cheaper than log homes, but usually less customizable and smaller floor plan.
Prefab cabins or modular cabins offer a pretty cool middle ground alternative. They are usually offered by manufacturers in standard designs and floor plans. They are built almost entirely in the manufacturer’s factories, and then shipped to the site and assembled by a professional crew.
They are more expensive than cabin kits, but potentially cheaper than a custom-built log home. Because they are assembled on site by a crew that is extremely familiar with them, the build can be done quickly and very well. Specifically, the terms “prefab cabins” and “modular cabins” are used interchangeably, and essentially mean the exact same thing.
Full Size or Small Cabin Kits
One of the first decisions that you need to make is how big your cabin kit needs to be. It used to be that your range of sizes in kit cabins was somewhat limited, but these days, you can find tiny home kit cabins, as well as full-sized, multi-story options.
Even if a large cabin is possible however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need it. If you will only realistically be using your cabin for short periods of time, or just have a few people that will be staying in the cabin, a small cabin is just fine (after all, part of the charm of having a cabin is being able to spend time in the outdoors right?).
On the other hand, if you will be hosting or renting to large groups in your cabin, or will be living there for large chunks of the year, then you may need a full sized kit. You can get full-sized cabin kits with multiple stories, and room for plenty of other amenities these days.
When people talk about small cabin kits, they are generally referring to kits that can either be assembled on site, usually by an industrious DIY homeowner and a couple friends.
These work awesome as a hunting cabin, vacation getaway, or part time residence, but would usually lack the amenities that most people look for in a full-time residence. The advantages to small log cabin kits are generally price, and the possibility of circumventing the permitting process (most counties have some kind of loophole for structures that are less than a certain size).
How About Building a Hunting Cabin Kit?
Cabin kits are a great solution if you have some hunting property. The chances are, you are probably only up on this land a few times a year (or perhaps you lease it out during the hunting season, so you’re not there are all).
If this is the case, you really don’t need to have amenity-rich accommodations. A small hunting cabin kit is the perfect answer. Because you will likely not spend much time in it, your hunting cabin just needs to have enough room to sleep in. Because game hunts are typically during the later months of the year, it’s a good idea to have a serviceable little wood stove in your cabin as well.
Other than this, you really are good to go. Many hunting cabins don’t have electricity or plumbing (that’s right, build an outhouse or dig a latrine!). For electricity, there are several small off grid solar systems that can be used to power devices such as satellite phones or hunting GPS units.
Forget about the internet, forget about running water, and just embrace the rustic simplicity. On the bright side, a smaller off-grid cabin kit might not even need to be permitted. Check with your municipality on size requirements and other criteria
What’s The Deal With A Frame Log Cabin Kits?
Many people are drawn to A frame log cabin kits because of their unique aesthetic, and whimsical interiors. Given their name because of their distinct peaked roofs that form an “A” shape, these homes were originally constructed to withstand the heavy snow loads of alpine mountain ranges. As modern home-building technologies have improved however, A-frames have become much more of stylistic choice than a functional one.
If you are wanting to build an A-frame cabin from a kit, you are in luck. Several manufacturers offer A-frame log cabin kits. If you are considering this, keep in mind that for as cool as they may look, A-frame design seriously cuts down on usable space. You will have sloping ceilings in every room. While that looks cool on Pinterest, it takes some patience and creativity to make a functional living space.
How Much Do Log Cabin Kits Cost?
Ah, yes… price. Like you might expect, there are log home kit cabin options that span the pricing spectrum. Size, materials, shipping location, and a variety of other factors come into play…. blah, blah, blah.
The short answer is, that as a rough estimate, the very smallest kit cabins seem to start at $5,000 (undelivered). These would be cabins that are about 100 sq. ft. On the far other end of the spectrum, you see cabin kit models that are 2200-3000 square feet, and well into the $120,000’s and up (Conestoga Log Cabins has a beautiful kit that’s $157,000).
Compared to most of the other solutions out there, kit cabins are very affordable. Although if you are a serious DIYer, a cabin kit is not by any means the ABSOLUTE cheapest way to go.
People who purchase cabin kits are those of us who recognize them as a good deal, but also appreciate the time savings of not having to think through the entire project from scratch. It this sounds like you, then a cabin kit in Utah may be the way to go.
Round Logs (Lodgepole) vs. Square-hewned Logs
Next up is the decision to got with round logs, which are referred to as “lodgepole”, or square logs that have been hewn. This is primarily an aesthetic consideration, but there are a couple of functional considerations to think about as well.
The first is that in terms of structure strength, a square-hewn log cabin theoretically has more surface area that is touching, which gives you an advantage over lodgepole. Because there is more surface area touching, the fit between logs is tighter, and thus the strength and integrity of the structure. Because of the flat surfaces, it is easier to have an insulating barrier between the 2 adjoining logs. Another aspect of this, is that because the squared-off wall is essentially thicker in more places (if the diameter of the round and square logs are the same), the insulating properties are greater.
At the end of the day, the way that the logs are stacked probably has more to do with the actual performance of your log cabin kit, as opposed to the fact that it looks round or square (more on stacking styles here).
What Kind of Wood
Cabin kits come in all different types of wood, with different performance attributes associated with each:
It’s strong and serviceable, but on the more expensive side, which makes it not very cost-effective to be used for the base of a cabin.
Similar to Hemlock, Oak is incredibly durable, but not a great choice for the base because of cost considerations.
The reddish-brown heartwood of Cypress trees is excellent for cabins. It is hardy and rot-resistant, but it is hard to find, which makes it a little more on the pricey side.
Cedar Cabin Kits
Because of it’s rot-resistant properties, Cedar is an excellent choice for wetter climates. Its fragerance also makes it an insect-resistant choice as well.
White Pine Cabins
While White Pine can darken or stain, it is extremely prevalent, low-cost, and a durable wood to build with. This is why it is extremely common.
Yellow Pine Cabins
Yellow Pine doesn’t stain as much as White Pine, and is also somewhat resistant to warping and shrinking, so it is also a fairly common wood for cabins.
Drawbacks of Cabin Kits
Of course with all the upsides, there are some downsides too. Because you are essentially purchasing a “template house”, you are a lot more limited with the level of customization. You can’t just pop a wall out another 3 feet to add more space or compensate for furniture.
Another downside is that the price of the ready-to-assemble, prefab cabin kits is frequently more than you would pay if you were to purchase all the materials on your own. Purchasing things on your own allows you to shop deals, scrap yards, classified ads, and otherwise save money on materials.
Even with a few limitations to consider however, cabin kits are an excellent option for many people looking for a simple and affordable way to achieve their cabin dream, and get closer to the Utah outdoors.
If you would like to search for a cabin or some cabin land in Utah, send us an email, and we’ll give you our best suggestions.