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Man Builds Small Cabin in Virginia Acreage

This small cabin story is a guest post by Chris Brock (submit your story here)

I started a cabin project a few years ago and we’re just about done. I’ll attach a few pictures. I bought 3 acres of land near Basye, Virginia in Shenandoah County in 2012. It’s in northwestern Virginia, just east of West Virginia and about 40 miles north of Harrisonburg, Virginia. The property is about 116 miles from my house in Arlington. I can get there in less than 2 hours if traffic isn’t bad – which was important, as I wanted to be able to get to the cabin easily.

My cousin is a builder and he agreed to take the lead on the project. He still works full time and I work full time in DC. So it’s taken us a little longer to complete the project than anticipated. We’ve had a few helpers along the way, mostly on the framing, roofing, and foundation.

The original design of the cabin was 24×30 with a sleeping loft. So 720 square feet, plus the loft. We decided to raise the ceiling in the loft by about 8 inches and add a half bath upstairs. There are 2 bedrooms downstairs and I plan to put 2 queen beds in the loft. Counting the loft space the cabin is just under 1100 square feet (1060 sq. ft.). The biggest expense was the septic system. Due to the terrain/slope I had to install a “fast drip” system, which cost just over $20k with the design and permits (lesson learned: always buy a lot that has a septic permit!).

We used pine log siding. Expanded the front porch (from the original design). Tiled the kitchen and baths. Laminate wood floors. Used Ikea butchers block tabletop for the kitchen counters ($300). There’s a crawl space, which is quite large. Tongue and groove ceiling. Stained the ceiling, stairs, railings, and beams. Plan to install a wood stove later. Installed 2 PTAC units for ac/heat. The total cost of everything came in just under $110,000. I still have a few other expenses (rock for the driveway, install of the wood stove, curtains, etc).

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thanks for your website and ideas. It’s very enjoyable.

Chris Brock
Arlington, VA

Man’s Small Cabin Project on his Virginia Acreage

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Images © Chris Brock

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Images © Chris Brock

Our big thanks to Chris for sharing his inspiring small cabin story with us!

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Kelly Libert November 19, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Good to know about the septic permit and they’ve done an awesome job.

    But, I no longer consider an almost 1100 sq.ft. home as small. Wasn’t that about the average home size not too many decades ago?

    And is it the size or the land that has made it so pricey? The interior materials don’t seem out of hand price wise and, even discounting the $20k septic system, $90k seems like a hefty price tag for something you’ve built yourself.

    I’m still learning and curious.

  • Jeremy November 19, 2014, 12:53 pm

    Looks like you’ll have a beauty of a cabin once it’s all done! Although I’m curious, does the 110K include the price of purchasing the land?

  • Karen November 19, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Lovely! Please let me know if there is space for a 415 well built tiny home and another that is smaller (total of three adults).

  • Dennis B November 19, 2014, 2:02 pm

    Basye, VA is a family oriented resort town. Bryce Mountain Ski area, Golf Course, Mountain Biking, Zip lining, Snow Tubing, Cross country skiing, and Lake Laura are a few of the activities. Three acre lots can be $20-40K back in the woods. On the golf course and trout stream $400,000 for the 3 acre lot. Just outside the resort the lots are half the cost of inside the resort. Only $5K in places like the Shenandoah Ski and Hunt Club less than 3 miles from downtown Basye. I always see chickens in the Hunt Club. Not in the resort. Inside the resort roads are maintained. There is water and fire hydrants as well as a fee to hook up. Insurance savings help with having fire hydrants close by. Also the resort has Security Police. Basye has a Fire Department and Rescue Squad helped by the resort. They are making snow tonight to start the ski season at Thanksgiving.

    Chris’s lot looks fairly flat. Not an easy feat. The are lots of “steep” lots at bargain prices. We are are in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Basye. Basye has it’s own airport. Checkout “Bryce Mountain Resort” and “Lake Laura Vortex”. If you want to leave the Washington/Baltimore area but need to get back to the “rat race” on Monday. Basye is the place.

    I guess you can tell I like Basye too.

  • Kaleb November 19, 2014, 3:22 pm

    I think it is simply lovely. I would use the loft as a office with a daybed for myself. lol
    I am sure you will be very happy once it’s finished and you are moved in. On the other hand, sometimes it is more enjoyable to be on the journey.
    Best wishes and thank you for sharing.

  • Chris B November 20, 2014, 2:06 am

    Thank you for all of the comments. Thanks to Alex for posting.

    I understand this cabin is not “tiny”. The original plan was for 720 sf, w/ a small sleeping loft. After we got started we figured it wouldn’t cost much more to increase the size of the loft and add a half-bath. So that brings the total to nearly 1100 sf. I built this as a getaway from the city and it will be able to sleep 8 adults very comfortably. I’m very happy I added the full loft. Also, this will help in the resale value (as I plan to leave the DC area after my working career is over). I consider it a “small”, but comfortable cabin (you should see some of the “cabin’s” around the area! Unreal how big some of them are!).

    To answer some of the questions:

    (To answer Jeremy) The total cost did include the land. I got a pretty good deal on the property, lots in the area are listed for $27K-$40K (I paid about $15K through a broker). The tax assessed value was $27K on my lot, so I think I got a pretty good deal.

    (To answer Kelly Libert) My cousin is a builder, but I am the owner. So he did not do the work for free. I did get a “family discount”, however I did pay him for his work. He is very skilled and talented. He/we did everything except the septic (which included a perk test and engineering design firm) and the plumbing.

    The cost included excavating, which included renting the equipment. The land was not cleared when purchased. We cleared over half an acre.

    The actual cost to build the structure was less than $70/sf. Which I feel is very reasonable. I’ve seen some of the “tiny” houses listed on this site going for well over $100/sf, and some over $200/sf (there’s one on here right now – a tiny house on wheels – that’s 200 sf listed for sale at $36,ooo!).

    Dennis B described the area very well. Bryce Resort is about 5 miles from my cabin. It has a small ski hill, golf course, lake, zip line course, pool, restaurant, etc. It’s a great area, plus it’s close to DC/Arlington. And yes, the top of my property is pretty flat, but it slopes down towards the back (as you can see in one of the pictures). Dennis, I’m surprised more people from the DC area haven’t discovered this gem. It’s the closest, most affordable area easily accessable to the DC metro area that I’ve found. Like I said, I can be there in about an hour and 45/50 minutes.

    (Kaleb) After a year and a half, I’m ready to get this thing finished! Should have the final CO inspection done soon.

    (Sally) I was not interested in a composting toilet. I like to flush and be done with it!

    Thanks again for the comments. I’ll provide Alex with an update when we finish.

    • Alex November 20, 2014, 8:36 am

      Thanks Chris!

    • Jodie Dew January 14, 2015, 7:03 pm

      Hi
      love love love ur cabin! I am breaking ground on a similar one myself at first thaw. I cant wait…but it has to get done before the beginning of may…my daughter that lives w me..her baby is due may 12…she is also my electrician on the project. I will be submitting pictures to alex as soon as I can…u did an awesome job and I hope u enjoy it for many many years to come.

    • Maureen May 27, 2015, 6:40 pm

      read your article and saw the photos. I would like a tiny house in Northern Virginia (metro DC) but I haven’t been able to find any builders who are willing. Ideas? Your cabin/house is very attractive and is the size I am looking for. I want/need to keep working for about 5 years, and my family lives in the DC metro area, so I am here for the knowable future. Ideas? thanks.

  • Bret Brock November 21, 2014, 10:36 am

    Hey Chris,
    Nice Work. Met you in Columbia Forest earlier in the year. If you are ever in the neighborhood, look up the Brock’s in Star Tannery/Shenandoah County and stop by. We are home building / real estate family in Arlingtonand we take time away to relax in the Valley.
    Enjoy!

  • Billy Sullivan December 8, 2014, 11:23 pm

    I was wondering if plans or at least a floor plan was available for this house.

    • Alex December 9, 2014, 3:23 pm

      Not that I know of, Billy, sorry!

    • Jodie Dew January 14, 2015, 7:07 pm

      I designed my own using poster board. It took me a few weeks to get it exactly the way I wanted it but I finally did. Howecer since I am building in the city I then had to pay an architect to convert into blue prints. Cost me abt $1300.

  • Kay December 23, 2014, 9:53 am

    I, too, don’t consider this a tiny home. I live in a 920 sq foot house and it feels spacious for my husband and I, so I base my thoughts on this. However, this home is gorgeous! I love the entire house. You did a wonderful job and are to be commended.

  • David January 2, 2015, 8:07 pm

    I think this is more of a small house than a tiny house.

  • Deb January 4, 2015, 11:20 pm

    Beautiful! Great work on everything. Tell me about insulation and the roof, pls.

  • Juanita Barton January 14, 2015, 3:58 pm

    720 sqft + loft, is not to tiny! I would love to see the floor plan for the lower floor. I assume there is a bedroom, bath and laundry room/pantry. This floor plan is basically what I wanted for my lot in NC. The loft being guest space with a shower bath, no walls, all open except lol, the bath. I wanted to use screens if privacy was needed for the guests. I envisioned my bedroom, bath, laundry/pantry under the loft, the rest open for the kitchen, family room. I also would like a wood stove, placed in the middle of the structure, to distribute heat evenly. I LOVE the porch!
    Juanita

  • Sarah January 15, 2015, 9:18 am

    I have been looking for a way to fit my family of 5 in a tiny house or at least a small house and this has some great potential. Thanks for sharing. If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them I have 2 boys and a girl so we could really use 3 different sleeping spaces.

  • Cassie February 20, 2015, 6:02 am

    omg finally a fellow Washingtonian who loves cabins like me and has a love of the Shenandoah valley! Whoo hooo! I can hardly wait to do the same. Th price is awesome when you pay triple that or more to have a home in the metro area

  • Rob February 20, 2015, 7:19 am

    I too would like to know the name of the model, and if study plans are available. This cabin is very much like what I am leaning toward. Chris, can you tell us more about how you increased the loft space? I know the Shenandoah area well and regularly visit it.

  • gretchen February 20, 2015, 10:21 am

    Yes, this is nice. It is not a cabin or small house. This is a house. The guy has money and uses it to have a weekend get away! Sorry but I’m interested in being able to stretch my hard earned dollar and see people in lower class incomes afford real housing.

  • Sue February 21, 2015, 5:57 am

    I agree with Gretchen. However, great point brought up that is crucial to discuss-under 70 sq. ft. To build com

  • M. Kerr March 25, 2015, 8:14 pm

    This is very nice, but I don’t think I’d do the vaulted ceiling – they are huge energy/space wasters. Better off doing a total second floor. I too, would consider this a normal to good size house. Mine is 300 sq. ft. smaller and it’s pretty much a normal house.

  • Dave November 26, 2016, 10:21 pm

    Hey Chris B. I just happened across this site and Thought how great your place looks. I have been planning to build something in that very same area Shenandoah county, Woodstock, Bryce etc area. Thanks for the info on the septic. Get one that already has a permit ok. I will be doing most of the work myself just need to find a builder that will do a shell for around 20k or less. Well 4k, septic 5k. How difficult were the permits, County etc. In that area? any advice??

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