How many times did you feel like you wanted to just get away from everything and everyone and to spend some time in a small cabin in the middle of nature, surrounded by freshness and beauty? Achieving all that is easier than you think, especially with so many prefab cabins and affordable design options available on the market right now. There are many advantages that come with the idea of a prefab cabin and we’re hoping to pinpoint the most important ones in the examples that follow.
What is a Prefab Home?
A prefabricated (prefab) home is essentially a home that is built off site and then shipped to you in sections that can easily be put together. These homes can be very cost-effective because the components are standard and once assembled, can be customized however you like. The savings vary based on the extras you add to the basic prefabricated structure, but in general a prefab home or cabin is about 10 to 25 percent less that a traditionally built one — called a “stick” home — and it goes together much, much faster. So far, prefab homes have been slower to gain market share in the Unites States while in Europe they are much more popular, according to Forbes magazine.
There are different types of prefab homes and it’s important to understand the differences to make sure you’re getting what you want.
- Modular homes are built much like a traditional home but are made from modules that are transportable sections. These are transported the site and assembled.
- Manufactured homes – which used to be called mobile homes — are constructed atop steel beams and the fully built home is transported to the location and set atop a foundation.
- Kit homes are typically cabins, domes or other structures used as studios and she-sheds. These are made from pieces that are pre-cut per specification in a production facility and then shipped to the buyer for assembly.
They Have Better Energy Efficiency
Most prefab homes are super energy efficient because they’re tightly constructed and generally will have a lower carbon footprint because you’re not doing as much on-site work and disturbing the property. They also include energy-efficient elements whenever possible and if they are embellished with extras that are environmentally mindful – like gray water recycling or solar energy – it makes them even more eco-friendly.
The Transportation Issue
Depending on where you want to put the prefab home, the cost of having it shipped can vary widely. Transporting a prefab home to a location in the suburbs is going to cost far less than having one delivered to a remote lot in the mountains.
Pick the Right Builder
Even though construction is easier with a modular home and customizing of hooking up a manufactured home to utilities is not complex, you want to make sure that you choose a builder or contractor who has experience with your type of home. There can be some specialized equipment necessary or procedures that should be followed to make sure it goes together properly and is not damaged in the process.
It Has to be on Your Own Property
Before you rejoice in the fact that prefab homes are more cost-effective to build, you have to factor in the cost of purchasing the land that the home will sit on. Depending on where you will be locating the home, the cost of the lot may be more than the cost of the house. Moreover, you must make sure that local zoning regulations allow for prefab homes on the lot that you want to buy.
The Extras Will Cost You…Extra
As with anything, the most important step before buying a prefab home is to do your research. This applies not just to the land, which we already mentioned, but also to the home itself and what is and isn’t included in the price. While larger modular homes might come with extras like appliances and other interior or exterior elements, more modestly prices ones may not. And, if you’re looking at kit homes or prefab cabins, these will likely be very basic structure with everything else up to you. Extra costs can include, but are not limited to, installing electricity, insulation, foundations, plumbing, cabinetry and loads of other interior elements. And, in most cases, you will need to cover the cost of hooking the home to local utilities, bringing electricity to the house or installing a septic tank.
The Evolution of prefab Kit Houses
One of the popular types of prefab homes are kit houses. The forerunner of today’s kit homes was the Sears Modern Home, which was sold through the retailer’s famous catalog from the early 1900s until 1940. Today’s kit homes are now sold online and are generally shipped straight to you as pre-cut and sometimes partially assembled materials. If you’re handy, you can build it yourself, or if not, you can hire someone to build it for you.
Overall, these are usually quite basic with doors and windows typically included. After that, it’s up to you if you’re going to turn it into a get-away cabin with electricity and plumbing or if it will remain as is and function as a rustic spot or backyard studio or she-shed. Again, checking your local zoning laws and any homeowners documents is a must, even if you don’t plan on pouring a foundation or hooking it up to utilities.
Do you think a kit house is just what you need? Check out these great options:
This versatile DIY structure by Allwood was a top seller in the UK and France in 2015 and in the US after it as introduced in 2016. The Allwood Sommersby has a number of features that appeal to buyers, and the big windows that let in lots of natural light are just the start. It has wide double glass doors that can be left open to let the outdoors in. Made from sturdy Nordic spruce, the wall planks are 1-3/4″ dual tongue and groove windblock and the style looks like a fusion of a classic cabin and a garden house.
Putting this garden house together takes two adults just a day or two thanks to the step-by-step directions that re-included. Surprisingly, minimal tools are needed for constructing this 176-square-foot structure. This kit includes all the parts and hardware except for the roof shingles and any foundation materials. Factory protection against termites is also available and it is possible customize it by adding extra windows or skylights purchased from another vendor. One happy reviewer noted that being no expert, the assembly was still fairly easy and praised
If you’re dreaming about a getaway cabin in the mountains or by a lake, this 12×20 Log Cabin Kit (Stockade) from DIY Cabins may be what you’ve been looking for. The size is compact but the layout very functional with its living area, kitchen area and bathroom. The exterior is made of logs and the interior has 2×4 stud framing, highlighted by a fiberglass door and two wood windows.
This kit includes the shingles you need for the roof, however it does not come with interior ceiling materials. The rest of the interior is your to customize however you want to fit your heart’s desire, whether that’s a fishing cabin with a place for all your equipment or simply a rustic retreat in the forest for relaxing and reconnecting with nature.
The cutest little cabin or cottage, the Allwood Avalon is ideal for the beach, lakeside or garden. The very functional 540 square-foot ground has room for all the essentials and a 218-square-foot sleeping loft provides even more options for configuring how you use the spaces. Like Allwood’s other kits, the Avalon is made from Nordic wood and features wall planks that are thicker than usual at 2-3/4″.
The energy-efficient design of the Avalon is great for colder climates and can be ordered with double or triple glass windows and doors. In general, it takes two adults about a week to assemble this solid wood cabin, which comes with simple step-by-step directions. The kit also includes all the parts and hardware except the roof shingles and foundation materials. Ni appliances or bathroom fixtures are included. Best of all, this cabin is not a stock item and is made to order and insulation can be added to the structure for fold climates.. And after that, the interior can be customized to the limits of your imagination – and budget.
If you’re looking to create a studio or separate office space on your property, Allwood’s Arlanda XL is the perfect choice. The contemporary styling of the exterior is a great alternative to the typical cottage style and means that it will blend easily in today’s suburban areas. With an Inside floor area of 193 square feet, there’s plenty of room for a spacious desk and seating, or art supplies and work surfaces. Whatever the use, you’ll have plenty of natural light from the large windows and glass door.
Inside, an optional wall in the kit allows you to create bathroom space or a sleeping area and still have plenty of room in the main part. The Arlanda is a great DIY project because two handy adults can assemble the Nordic Spruce structure in about three to five days with the help of the included numbered drawings. Minimal tools are required for the assembly and the kit includes all the all the parts and hardware you’ll need except the roof shingles and foundation materials, as well as any interior additions you’re planning. The small window on the left end of the structure is not included.
For a versatile design that can double as a garden house and a spot for storage, the Estelle 5 from Allwood fits the bill. The solid wood cabin kit is a great little prefab home for the backyard or to function as a lake cottage, guest house or studio. It features two sections that are separated by a wall. The large room is 106 square feet and the second one is 51 square feet, making it ideal for storage or for a sleeping alcove or bathroom space.
This model also is assembled in about three to five days with two adults working. Instructions come as numbered drawings for ease and accuracy and you’ll only need minimal tools. Best of all, the Estelle is not a stock model and will be made to order for you. The kit includes everything you need – including one window – except for roofing and foundation materials. This prefab home is covered by a five-year manufacturer’s limited warranty and an option for a Factory Deterrent Against Termites should be available soon.
From a backyard she-shed to a guest cottage or studio, the Allwood Escape has room for whatever you want to do. This prefab home has one feature that many others do not: an extended roofline in the front that creates a generous overhang. Add a deck to the front or just arrange some seating and you’ll have added space to enjoy. The Nordic spruce wood cabin kit has a Dual Tongue Windblock pattern at the joints and takes two adults about three days to assemble.
This DIY cabin kit includes assembly instructions, or you can hire a third-party installer, which typically costs $750 or more. The kid includes everything you’ll need except for the roof shingles and foundation materials. Also, remember to budget for stain or paint for the cabin as well as any interior additions. If you plan on using this prefab home year-round, the manufacturer recommends adding insulation, which in most locations just needs to be for the floor and the roof. A reviewer said that shipping took more than a month and there were a few issues with slight warping of the planks.
A rustic look and a great little front porch make the Timber Frame Post and Beam Vermont Cottage from the Jamaica Cottage Shop an ideal lakeside or forest getaway. Of course, it’ also ideal for a backyard studio, office of guest house too. Rugged hemlock post and beam construction features rough-cut lumber looks very authentic and is super durable. The siding is Eastern White Pine Board and includes the fascia and corner trim. All the parts of the kit are pre-cut and marked with color coded stickers that match up to the inventory list DIY instructions. It even includes a 29 gauge corrugated metal roof, barn sash windows with screens, a 2″ thick windowed pine door, the porch, loft and loft ladder.
This kit creates a roomy little prefab home with a 240-square foot main floor area and a 96-square-foot loft. The front porch is an ideal 80 square feet. The assembly of this post and beam cottage is 40 hours for two people. The result is an interior with an open floor plan that you can customize in any way that you like, including by adding a kitchen area or a bathroom. A happy reviewer says that these are great structures with fantastic quality and excellent customer service.
The old-fashioned charm of a prairie wagon makes the Allwood Mayflower 117-square-foot garden house a cute addition to any property. Crafted from high quality Nordic wood, it features decorative wheels and an open plan interior that you can customize to fit your exact needs, whether that is for a kitchen, bathroom, office or specialty studio. More than just a decorative element, the wheels also mean that the structure will not need a permit in most locations.
As a DIY project, this garden house should take two handy adults about three to five days to assemble with minimal tools. The kit comes with instructions, numbered drawings and all the hardware and parts you’ll need except for roof shingles. A window also comes with the kit and can be installed at either end of the cabin. The entire prefab home can be built on a trailer for portability if desired. It is covered by a five-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.
More Amazing Prefab Cabin Designs Around the World
The cabin dormitories of the Colorado Outward Bound School
What you see here is a set of cabins designed for the Colorado Outward Bound School. They’re meant to serve as micro dormitories and they embrace the landscape in a beautiful manner, offering views of the distant mountains and of the forest. Although these are individual structures, they act as a collection, a community organized in such a way that social spaces are created as a result of the relationship between these modules.
These prefab cabins were built in three weeks and installation was easy. The assembly involved connecting the two elements of the structure, the box and the frame. The cabins have covered porches and snow roofs and this really cool and modern design which makes it seem as if the roof is floating, sitting at an angle and not really touching the rest of the cabin. It’s a design which allows natural light to enter the interior spaces from all sides.
A group of rolling cabins in Mazama
In 2008 someone purchased a site in Mazama, Washington with the main goal of allowing the landscape to return to its natural state. The site used to be an RV campground and is now occupied by a series of stylish prefab cabins designed by Olson Kundig. The ideas of wanting to revive the landscape and that of putting a bunch of houses on the site are quite contradictory but the architects found a very clever way to make them both work. They raised the cabins off the ground and placed them on wheels.
Each prefab cabin is basically a steel clad box set on a platform. The interior is quite small but there’s also a generous outdoor deck protected by the roof which extends the living area outside without even interfering with the land below. Each cabin is oriented towards a view of the maintains and away from other cabins and this way they all enjoy a good amount of privacy while remaining clustered together.
A portable prefab cabin for two
Probably the coolest thing about prefab cabins and other similar structures is the fact that they can be transported pretty much anywhere and installed on site. That’s actually what makes the ÁPH80 series so cool and interesting. The project was developed by Ábaton Arquitectura. The prefab cabin design which they came up with is able to accommodate two people and can be transported and placed almost anywhere.
The cabin is simple and sturdy and features a gabled roof which makes it look really cute and stylish. The interior is organized into three different areas which combined measure 27 square meters. The spaces include a kitchen and living room zone, a full bathroom and a double bedroom. The materials used throughout are sustainable and recyclable for the most part. The main material used throughout the cabin is wood. It comes from regulated forests and it gives this prefab cabin and very simple and at the same time warm and calming appearance and ambiance.
Plug-and-play prefab houses by Cocoon9
A lot of architects and designers are focusing on small-scale living and offer inspiring solutions and ideas in this sense. An example is the company Cocoon9 which specializes in designing and manufacturing prefab houses, offering a variety of options to choose from. The smallest structure they produce measures only 15 square meters but that doesn’t stop it from being packed with function and style. The company describes there as “plug-and-play houses with the sophisticated features of a custom home or luxe resort”.
There are three types of floor plans to choose from, one having a separate bedroom and two having open layouts. There prefab cabins or micro homes, whatever you want to call them, manage to offer the perfect blend of user-friendliness, function, looks and flexibility. Use them as garden home offices, forest cabins, guest houses or whatever else you want. You can choose between three types of materials for the exterior cladding of these prefab cabins: wood, stone or metal.
Geometric prefab cabin by BIG
The prefab cabin prototype designed by BIG stands out from other similar projects thanks to its unusual geometric design and eye-catching form which is defined by clean and sharp lines and angles. The cabin is unusual in more than one way and there are a lot of cool and interesting things about it. For example, the fact it has triangular walls is definitely not standard. From one side it looks just like a regular A-frame house but that’s just an illusion. The structure has a square base and a minimal footprint measuring 17 square meters in total. Inside there’s an open-plan living area, a sleeping area and a small kitchen and a bathroom.
Minimalist prefab boxes by Alchemy
Located in Santa Rosa, US this pair of contemporary structures were a project by Alchemy Architects which illustrates just how awesome working with prefab structures is. The buildings were designed in Minnesota, built in Oregon and then shipped to California. The accessories such as the stairs and the porch railings were prefabricated by the architects in Minnesota. It was all assembled on site.
The project consists of two separate structures. One of them is clad in whitewashed oak and incorporates an open living, dining and cooking area plus a bathroom and the other structure houses the sleeping area and some storage space. Both of these prefab modules have steel frames, sliding glass walls and corrugated steel elements.
A tiny prefab cabin for writers
The idea behind this project is simple. Author and designer Cornelia Funke needed a private space where she could go to find inspiration and to get over writer’s block so she went to New Frontier Tiny Homes for help. The studio offered her the perfect solution: a small prefab cabin which can be transported to virtually any location in the world. The cabin has a modern and simple design with rustic accents and comes equipped with a desk, storage for books on the walls, a library ladder and a small kitchen with a loft bedroom above it. The cabin is designed with writers in mind but can also adapt to other types of requirements as well.
Sophisticated prefab cabin in Brazil
In Brazil there’s an amazing region called Catuçaba which has only recently started being explored. It’s where you can find amazing prefab structures such as this stylish and modern cabin designed by MAPA in 2015. The region is not exactly suitable for traditional building techniques and so alternative options are being used. Prefab cabins are perhaps the best option. Surrounded by dense vegetation and mesmerizing views, this cabin was transported as several modules and assembled on site using crane trucks.
A prefabricated retreat in Uruguay
Since prefabricated cabins can be manufactured in one place and then transported to almost any site out there, this gives architects and designers the opportunity to be creative and to not be limited in their projects by trivial inconvenience. This also makes it possible for anyone to live off-the-grid and in comfort. An example in this sense would be this beautiful retreat from Maldonado, in Uruguay. It was a project done by MAPA and the structure was prefabricated 200 km away from its site.
The E.D.G.E. stands for Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment and is a project developed by Revelations Architects. It’s a minimalist structure situated in Bayfield, US. It was partially prefabricated, the major goals of the project being to offer high quality living conditions at an affordable price and in the form of a structure which can be easily assembled and dismantled for easy relocation. The project is a hybrid which combined traditional crafting techniques with digital fabrication and the result is this simple and at the same time eye-catching building with a small and compact form and tons of functionality.