Building your own small cabin can be a fun and rewarding project. But all too often such projects are attempted with reckless abandonment. Floors are built, walls thrown up, a roof added, and before you know you have a structure. It may be functional or then again it may not. So it is very important at the early stages of this game for you to plan out your project before you start.
Things You Will NeedAll you need in the beginnings of your project is a planning pad (I like the ones with 1/4" squares) and possibly some sort of software for doing floor plans. You don't need the software though, the paper will work just fine!
Step 1The first thing to do is to determine how many people will routinely be using your cabin. I say routinely, but you may also want to give some consideration for that odd trip when you have a few guests. A simple rule of thumb when first planning the size is to account for about 60 to 70 square feet per person. As an example, I needed to sleep five routinely in my small cabin. So I planned initially for 300 square feet (5 x 60 = 300 square feet).
Step 2Once you have a starting size it's time to begin drawing your cabin floor plan. Sit down with your planning pad and doodle away. Start by drawing squares and rectangles that give you the square footage you want. As for a scale, allow 1/4" square on your paper to equal one foot. So 14 squares by 14 squares would be representative of a 14 foot by 14 foot structure.
Take your time in this part. Plan out where your sleeping arrangements will be and what type of arrangements you will have. Plan for a bathroom and shower if you are going to have those in your small cabin. Think about where your heating source will be in the event you use it in cold weather, and where you will cook when it is too nasty to be outside. Consider all of these things and draw multiple floor plans so that you have a pool of ideas to pick from.
Remember when you are planning that in addition to your initial floor, you have the option of adding some loft space if you are creative with your roof and wall design. In fact, a loft is a great way to add a little extra space for use when you have those few extra individuals over that you didn't count on.
Don't get in a hurry with this part of the project. Take your time and draw out several layouts before selecting one to build. As I mentioned above I started with 194 square feet and a 14 x 21 footprint. With a little tweaking and forethought, I wound up with a partial loft as well by using a gambrel style (barn roof) roof. This put me at approximately 396 square feet and enough room to sleep eight people comfortably in a pinch. It also included a cooking area and a small bathroom with shower.
Tips & WarningsTaking the time to make sure of your plan is absolutely imperative.
Secondly, if you are comfortable with computers you may want to consider one of the many house design and layout programs available. Some are free and others not. The one I am most familiar with and have used on my project is 3D Home Architect. One nice thing about such software is that these programs often contain large libraries of fixtures, cabinets, and furniture to allow you to populate your design and verify that you will have enough space inside your little cabin.