What to Know About Building a Cabin or Second House

Here's a guide that offers helpful information and important considerations on building your dream vacation home.

Cabin On LakeBabus Patrik / 500px via Getty Images

Do you have childhood memories of spending summers at a cabin with your family and friends? What do you recall? Sloshing around in the lake, nightly fireside sing-a-longs, the sound of mosquitoes buzzing in your ears?

At Family Handyman, we’re all about building memories. And this time, we’re going about it by constructing a place where memorable things occur. Enter our Getaway project – a “cabin” for today.

The Getaway is our experiential dream vacation home. In our 70 years of publishing, it’s our most ambitious project. We hope our work inspires you to build your own vacation getaway.

Here, we provide a guide that offers you helpful information and important considerations on starting such an exciting endeavor.


Model Cabin And Blueprints wbritten / E+ via Getty Images

Planning the build of your cabin and/or vacation home is no easy feat — especially if the location is in a remote area. First, you want to consider some basics before building your second home, such as if you can comfortably afford it, how much it’ll cost to maintain and who’ll look after it when you’re away.

You may need to obtain proper building permits and shop around for the right cabin insurance that fits your lifestyle. If you’re really going off the grid, there are a number of power and water systems as well as internet connection options you’ll want to consider while you’re out in the countryside.


If you plan on buying land, there are a number of things you should know before taking the plunge — anything from neighbor proximity, utility access, soil composition to what your property taxes will be. Then there’s the financing of the vacation home itself, and depending on who you are and what your financials are, you may need to apply for a home construction loan to get started.

Contractors, Permits and Insurance

Once you have your finances and a solid plan in place, it’s time to hire a contractor and learn how to work with one smoothly during a home build. There’s also the business of applying for building permits and shopping around for the best cabin insurance that fits you and your family’s lifestyle.


Do your research on the land you’re building your cabin or second home on since you’ll want to know about utility access. If you’re planning on constructing in a remote area, then you’ll want to consider the best off-grid power and off-grid water systems to use. And for those who want to stay connected, be sure to look at all your options on how to access Internet.


Modern Lake House Designasbe / E+ via Getty Images

Whether you’re choosing building materials, installing a fire pit out in the back or adding a modern sectional inside your living space, the construction and design elements of your cabin will be your personal signature that ought to provide both form and function.

You should not only weigh the pros and cons of which building materials to use during construction, but you should also know the key differences between designing for a getaway home and designing for a primary home. And if you’re building a cabin near a lake, then you may want to consider investing in an accompanying dock.

Here are some additional articles on home design:

  • Repurposing Natural Materials for Style: If you’re looking to design your home in a sustainable and creative way, we have décor ideas on how you can repurpose old wood, stone and even tree branches.
  • Cabin Kits on Amazon: Are you on a budget and want to simplify your construction plans? Then explore these amazing cabin kits that range from DIY tiny to impressive contemporary.


A DIY cabin projects checklist is always smart to have, but when you’re ready to get creative, then set your style mood with the right cabin décor. Whether you’re sprucing up your living space with modern furniture or focusing on your sleeping quarters with fun cabin bunk beds for the friends and family, being at the decorating stage is always the best part, isn’t it?

Building Materials

Country Wooden House Under Build Construction Dovapi / iStock via Getty Images

It’s important to have your project manager, contractor and team of builders on board when it comes to the building phase of your home. There are many logistics to account for, among them, knowing the latest innovations in construction materials that are available on the market. If sustainability is important to you, you should consider ways in which you can repurpose natural materials into your build. Another major factor to prioritize is how you’ll be transporting your materials, especially if you plan on building in a remote area.


Older Woman Making Repairs To Her Cabin JAG IMAGES / DigitalVision via Getty Images

Once you’ve built your cabin, it’s important that you maintain both the interior and exterior, the latter of which involves cleaning walls, gutters and windows. When and how often you clean your cabin will also help keep pests away, ensuring your space continues to be welcoming to friends and family.