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Off-Grid Hut in the Middle of Nature – an Interview with Self-Builder Chris

– Where are you building your cabin?
The cabin is in the western part of Virginia.  It is a rural area on a hillside overlooking a valley.  There are farms nearby and a significant population of Amish folks.  The area feels very old-timey, but the cabin is on a large enough piece of land that you don’t see this unless you want to.
It’s about a 3,000 ft elevation and forested.

– I have noticed the batteries, solar panels, and control units. Is your cabin completely off-grid? How is heating and hot water solved?

Yes, the cabin is completely off-grid.  All electricity comes from the sun (though I am considering adding a windmill).  
Water comes from a spring and is stored in a tank.  Hot water heating is done via a tankless hot water heater called Joolca.  It is propane powered so I will have to restock the propane tanks every once in a while.  
Internet comes from a wireless hotspot.

– Your construction is made out of a combination of steel and wood framing, which is quite unusual. What is the reason for this?

During the pandemic, lumber prices spiked a lot.  This made the metal more reasonable.  The other reason I chose metal was because I found a metal building distributor near me, who could provide the pieces.  I was nervous about being able to find all the lumber or supplies running out, which is why I liked the idea of having a complete kit of the exterior.  I did have to make some design modifications though.  For instance, I don’t have the front roof overhang which I would have liked.

– Are you planning to live in the cabin permanently, or is it just for vacationing?

The cabin is just for vacationing.  One thing I did not factor in well was insulation.  The cabin is pretty chilly and is not usable during the winter.  I have some ideas to address this, but that will have to be for later this year.

– What became the most challenging thing for you during the whole process?

The location was pretty challenging to get all the supplies to.  It rained a lot and the location is secluded and up a hill.  Eventually I put a gravel driveway in but initially it was just a dirt (and oftentimes: mud) driveway.

Concrete foundation slab of the hut

– How long did it take to build your cabin?

Technically the cabin still isn’t finished.  However, the foundation began in June and it became livable during October.  It wasn’t being worked on full time though.  There were slowdowns due to weather, supplies, etc.

– Any recommendations to new cabin builders who are just about to start their building journey or decide to buy our plans? 

I wish I had considered insulation more than I did.
I found the SolarDIY subreddit really useful and friendly.
I ended up getting a small external building to house all of the ‘utility’ items.  The cabin was the only building on the property which seemed fine, but ultimately I needed space for  the chainsaw, weed whacker, pruning shears, shovel… etc.  The cabin is the right size for living in but doesn’t have space for these utility items.
Expect it to take longer than you estimate!