I have been a cabin owner for just over 4 years now and it has been an awesome experience, but being a previous real estate owner does not necessarily prepare you to be a new cabin owner. This is exactly why I wanted to put together this quick guide for cabin remodeling in 2020.
In the same way having experience with previous home renovation doesn’t fully prepare you for a cabin renovation and design. Cabins tend to have different requirements that usually come with cabin life such; as ground that isn’t very flat, wildlife concerns, accessibility, location/space, water and sewer availability.
Hopefully this new guide, well, GUIDES you through your remodel. FYI: I don’t own a log cabin which can come with its own difficulties.
7 Steps to Prepare for a Cabin Remodel
1. Contractor Scarcity in Small Towns
Anyone in the construction business can tell you right now that contractors are not easy to come by and qualified contractors even more so.
This applies to large metropolitan cities and very much applies to small towns, where It may be nearly impossible to find a qualified contractor. Why is it more difficult in a small town?
Well because the possible pool is already smaller, it often takes more local expertise and most of the good ones are already busy remodeling cabins for your neighbors.
The work around I have found that is only slightly easier is to find someone willing to make the drive.
Focus on finding a contractor that is willing to travel from a nearby more populated area to do your cabin remodels.
We were fortunate that we have a contractor that has built our two new builds, and handled the remodel of our kitchen in our home.
Not everyone is going to have this luxury, but finding a contractor in a larger pool of people may be the only way your work gets completed.
Depending on what is being done and if you have working facilities/kitchen in they may be able to stay at your cabin home while they finish the renovation project. Although it is never ideal to live in a remodel, if they are traveling distances this might reduce time and travel costs.
The more unique your job is the more you may want to take the time to wait for a local person (such as log cabin or a lot of detailed wood work). However, if your work is more mainstream your local big city contractor might be your best solution for your project.
2. Small Towns and Counties are Different
Every government entity has bureaucracy as well as often unwritten rules that you need to be aware of.
When it comes to renovating a cabin you are normally working with a small municipality and it is a different process than a larger city. That process might be in your favor or it might be wildly disadvantageous.
For example, in a small town some of their previous records may be literally in notebooks on shelves still, so you may need a little patience. You specifically want to be very kind to the person you are speaking to (since it’s the right thing to do) but also because they will hold your fate.
Unlike a large city where you are just as likely to not get the frustrated government employee the next visit your chances of drawing someone else are diminished in a small town.
So, be very nice so that you walk out with what you need and an advocate for next time. Keep in mind that your small town may also be able to avoid some of the red tape that larger governments have.
That is even more reason to treat them with love and respect because it might just come back several times over. (At the very least you don’t want to be the reason you project sinks)
3. Understand your Septic System
Your place is probably not connected to a city sewer which means that all the waste from that home has to go somewhere.
Chances are that your place uses some sort of septic system which is essentially an on site water treatment facility. Everything from your kitchen drain to toilets usually runs through the septic.
There are multiple types of septic systems so it is important to understand what you have. The size of your septic also dictates how many plumbing fixtures can be supported and what you can add, so your remodel might get even more expensive if you don’t do your research up front. It is not the glamorous part of the job, but it is still necessary for the long haul.
4. Weather can be a Factor
If you are remodeling in the woods in winter, the rain, snow and sleet that the post office works in may effect your remodel timelines.
Your contractor can likely work around the actual conditions, but the weather can limit travel from one job sight to another, or limit access on the job site.
Nobody can control weather, but we can at least have a plan in the event of inclement weather so I highly recommend you have that conversation on the front end.
(Our place is accessed by one of two roads and the easiest road to access can sometimes be flooded with a lot of rainfall. What do you do if your contractor can’t reach your job?)
it is just better to have the convo than not have it.
5. Consider your Style
Cabin style and design is different than home style, so the things you love in your house won’t necessarily carry over directly. If you don’t yet know what your cabin style is and how to bring your own flair into your cabin then google and find inspiration.
Obviously cabins tend to have a lot of wood panels, wood beams, etc., but everyone has their own personal design to find.
When done right the style can be simultaneously modern, rustic, relaxing and inspiring. However, that’s not an easy combo to attain so take your time and do your homework.
6. Keep Resale Value in Mind
Cabins and second homes seem to turn over much faster than someone’s primary residence so even though you love your cabin today plan for the potential of selling it later.
You never know when you get a new job, the size of their family changes or you just realize your don’t like the responsibility of a 2nd home and the beautiful cabin home no longer makes sense for you.
So, don’t go too crazy with overbuilding during your remodel and don’t make choices that are so personalized that others won’t want to buy your place. If the time never comes for you to sell, then no big deal but save yourself the pain later and make decisions as an investment not a forever commitment.
7. Cabin Remodel = Special Order
Home improvement stores only have so much room so, the most common items are available in store or for quick delivery but cabin finishes are often special order.
That means you need room in your lead times to get the wood siding, new interior doors and custom windows to complete your job.
The need to special order can also increase the cost of the project so plan ahead as much as possible to get what you need when you need it.
You don’t want to miss Christmas dinner at your newly remodeled cabin because you waited too long to place orders and you still have a disaster zone.
Enjoy your home away from home because you deserve it, but make the process easier on you by being prepared.
Owning a cabin is one of the coolest experiences we have been fortunate enough to live, but its not all fun and games. Make this something you love but learn from our experiences so that you’re even further ahead.
No matter how long your project takes, if it makes you happy and makes your cabin living more enjoyable, then it’s worth it. I would love to hear about some of your ideas and some cool things you did with your cabin home.
We will probably be doing a new kitchen in the next few years so let’s see what ideas you have that i can steal for my space!