Hannah and Jesse of Rough Draft Farmstead have spent about $9,000 on their 560-square-foot cabin so far. They estimate they need about another $3,000 to $6,000 to finish the project, including solar and water. What lessons have they learned from cabin construction?

LEARN FROM A BUILDER: “We did hire somebody to build our place. We didn’t want to learn how to build a cabin on our cabin,” Jesse said. “If we had done it ourselves, when we were done, it would have been ‘Now we’re ready to build a cabin.’ So we hired somebody who helped us and showed us what he did as we went along. So now if the same situation arose, we would be more confident to do it. We wanted something very solid that we could rely on for 25 or 30 years.”

HOW TO BE FRUGAL: They spent about $7,500 for structural lumber, tin, the foundation and labor for their carpenter/designer Steve Yancey. Another $300 was spent on insulation, $450 for drywall and supplies and $400 for sassafras siding. Everything else—windows, doors, trim, flooring and so on—was either salvaged or purchased affordably from Habitat For Humanity or friends. They estimate about $200 was spent on those items.

Building A $9,000 Dream Cabin

A rough design of Hannah and Jesse’s cabin.

ASK FOR HELP: Hannah reiterated how important having help was in building the cabin. “Learning to ask for help was a big lesson. You want to be able to say that you did it all yourself, but that isn’t always possible. And we feel good about paying others to support their business and do what they are good at,” she added. “I think there are things that are worth doing yourself, but we didn’t have the time or the carpentry skills. We wanted to mill the wood for the siding ourselves, but a friend pointed out to us that we would still be working on it in a few years, and he was right. We had other things to do—like starting the farm. So we went and purchased sassafras for siding.”

DREAMS COME TRUE: Hannah and Jesse feel confident that anyone really committed to living off-grid could do what they have done for a similar price or possibly less. “We salvaged a lot of the materials, but you could be even more gung-ho about it. You could do all of the work yourself and save even more on the construction costs.”

The important thing to remember when working to build a budget cabin is to keep it as small as you can and to focus on what things are important to you. Hannah and Jesse knew they wanted to have power eventually, so they went ahead and spent the extra money to wire everything while the cabin was still under construction. Though solar panels might be years away, the space is ready for them.

To learn more, visit roughdraftfarmstead.com.

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Spring 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.