Want to build a shabin (shed+cabin)? Here are three things you need to consider when planning to build your own shabin. Along with the pros and cons of three primary building options.
Welcome to a series of posts on how we built our tiny 100 sq ft. shabin. You can find the rest of the posts here.
What is a shabin?
A shabin is a shed + cabin.
While small, well-appointed sheds may be built into backyards (as a tiny guest house, studio, or office), a shabin is a really tiny cabin.
For us (and five of our friends who also bought vacant land for a vacation property) a shabin was the first step towards setting up a place to stay. For some of our friends, it remained as their only cabin, for others it was a stepping stone towards a more substantial build.
Here are a few factors that you need to consider if you are planning to build your own shabin.
It’s always necessary to talk to the local area planning office before building anything. There are tons of rules that you’ll need to work around with your shabin, and it’s a good idea to know what is allowed so you don’t get asked to take your shabin down.
In general, non-permanent structures (like a yurt or trailer home) don’t require planning permission. In our region, we’re allowed to build a 100 sq. ft. shed without planning permission or building inspections. That size requirement includes deck space, so that is why we designed our shabin without a deck.
The Purpose of The Shabin
It is a good idea to know what is the eventual purpose of the shabin so that you build exactly what you need.
- Permanent tiny home: If your goal is to build something permanent, then you might want to get permission for something slightly larger than 100 sq. ft. We know a family of four who is happy in their 200 sq. ft. shabin. It’s on a really remote piece of property, so they only go there once or twice a summer.
- Guest cabin: A guest cabin is a perfect use for a former shabin. With a larger cabin nearby, guests only need a place to sleep and store their suitcases. I recommend building a loft bed into a guest cabin because it provides space on the bottom floor for a table and chair or a second bed.
- Storage shed: If the shabin is going to turn into a storage shed or a garden shed, then you’ll probably want to build in double doors so that it’s easy to get wheelbarrows and bikes into the shed. You also don’t need as many windows in a storage shed.
It took us a few months to decide what kind of shabin we wanted. We waffled between putting up a quick and cheap shed and starting right away on our final building or spending more money on a shabin that we could use for a few years. In the end, we went for a guest cabin-style shabin. As it might take us a few years to build a larger cabin.
Probably the most important piece of planning required is to decide what you are going to build. Here are the three main options:
1. Non-permanent structures
There is a certain appeal to the simplicity of a yurt or the ease of a camper. It is certainly a good starting place if you can afford it.
- If you want to stay on your property right away, a pre-built trailer or a camper is the easiest option.
- You don’t need planning permission for a non-permanent structure. So you can build a 600 sq. ft. yurt if you want.
- After you’ve finished with your yurt/camper/trailer you can sell it.
- They’re not permanent, so they generally don’t last as long as a proper building. And a certain amount of upkeep will be required to prevent roofs from leaking, etc.
- Non-permanent buildings are expensive. Even a small yurt or secondhand camper will cost you double or triple the price of building a new shed. (This was our primary reason for not choosing a yurt or camper).
- Yurts generally require a deck or platform, which gets you into the territory of planning permission. And campers often last longer under a roof… which again may require planning permission.
2. Shed Kits
There are two types of shed kits: really basic and inexpensive kits and fancy expensive kits.
Regardless, here are a few things to consider when thinking about buying a shed kit:
- Shed kits are much quicker to build. Some of them can be put up in a single day. Even complicated kits will be faster to assemble than building something yourself.
- Everything comes in a kit, so you don’t have to spend all sorts of time picking out siding, ordering lumber, and making sure you have all the hardware you need. This is particularly handy if you’re building in a location that is nowhere near a hardware store. (This was our primary reason for considering a shed kit).
- If you have no idea how to build a shed yourself, then an expensive shed kit is definitely the way to go. A good shed kit should have step-by-step instructions to help guide you along.
- They are generally not as well-framed as a traditional building. So customizing with extra windows, built-in shelving, etc. is all a bit risky.
- All things considered, shed kits are actually more expensive than a self-built shed. Cheap shed kits are cheap for a reason… and well-built kits are definitely more expensive than building the same thing yourself.
- Shed kits still require a proper foundation. Many shed kits don’t come with roofing, paint, and other finishing. So those items still need to be added to the cost of the shed.
3. Self-built Sheds
When thinking of a shabin, most people will automatically gravitate towards the idea of a self-built shed. Especially, as it allows for a creative approach to an off-grid piece of property.
Shabins can be made out of recycled pallets, a funky treehouse, or a three-story tall tower house. Here are some of the considerations around building your own shabin.
- A DIY shabin is definitely the most affordable way to build something that will last more than a few years.
- It is entirely customizable. You get to build exactly what you need and design exactly what you want.
- A small building is perfect for using recycled and second-hand materials. It doesn’t need that much roofing, siding, or flooring, so you may be able to get scraps from a building site.
- It takes a much longer time to build something from scratch. If you’re working on a vacant piece of land then that means camping out while you build, which can be quite exhausting.
- If you don’t have the expertise, then a self-built shabin is probably not the job for you. Not that you have to be a professional builder, but you’ll want to have a basic understanding of the local building code and understand the ins and outs of framing, roofing, etc. (Luckily, we had the assistance of some experienced friends)!
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