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Man Builds Tiny Cabin for $4k in 6 Weeks in the Woods

This 11′ by 14′ tiny cabin in the woods was built by carpenter Dave Herrle for only $4,000 in about 6 weeks.

He used as much salvaged materials as he could find to complete it and was deeply inspired to create a simple way of life.

After graduating from college Dave got a desk job that he did not enjoy. In 2007 he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail when he was 27 years old and it absolutely changed his outlook on life. He knew he had to make some changes.

The hike gave him the perspective on living simply that he needed to make a positive change in his life. In his words, “It was in the woods that I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend a lifetime doing a job I didn’t enjoy.”

For the longest time I had a hard time not being “normal.” I graduated from a small liberal arts college, got a desk job, and hated every minute of it. In 2007 my life changed dramatically after hiking the entirity of the Appalachian Trail. It was a gut check in life and I’m lucky it happened when I was 27 and not 67. My time in the woods gave me a perspective on the benefits of simplicity. It was in the woods that I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend a lifetime doing a job I didn’t enjoy.
Six years after hiking the trail I am a full time carpenter and have never been happier. To be able to pay the bills while doing something that I am passionate about is one of the greatest things I have found in life. Carpentry has always been my outlet for creativity and now I hope that it will help me in my goal of becoming completely self sufficient…

Ex-Desk Job Worker Builds $4k Tiny Cabin in 6 Weeks


Images © Herrle Custom Carpentry

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Images © Herrle Custom Carpentry


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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!
{ 56 comments… add one }
  • November 23, 2014, 8:00 pm

    The house is beautiful and the life story is inspiring! 🙂

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 10:00 am

      Thanks Dora! Glad you found it inspiring too.

  • Shirley
    November 24, 2014, 10:24 am

    Loved the story and the pics.

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 10:00 am

      Thanks Shirley!

  • Marcy
    November 24, 2014, 10:29 am

    Dave, this place is fantastic! I love how you used salvaged materials to make what is clearly a home (not just a house). I wish I had your skill to do this for myself.

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 10:01 am

      I agree Marcy, fantastic all together!

  • LK
    November 24, 2014, 10:33 am

    Love the story and the pictures. I agree – spending your life doing what you hate is an awful prospect. Fortunately I loved my job as long as I was able to change locations on a frequent basis.
    The scenery is breath taking. Love the deck but I would need a rail since I am a lifelong klutz.
    Simple life doing what you love – bliss!

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 10:01 am

      Thanks LK!

  • Michael Duvic
    November 24, 2014, 10:39 am

    I think this may be the most beautiful small home project I’ve ever seen. On top of that, it’s so much cheaper. Such good quality! Congratulations.

  • Harry
    November 24, 2014, 11:33 am

    Clearly a good idea good luck , we can learn to live with less and have the nice things we deserve.

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 11:11 am

      Thanks Harry!

  • Karen
    November 24, 2014, 11:35 am

    We all need to find our path and walk it . . .yours is beautiful! (But I echo the call for a porch railing.)

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 11:11 am

      Thanks Karen!

  • Roger LaPointe
    November 24, 2014, 11:37 am

    Sweet, I do have a couple of questions though. What happens when the two trees holding up the one end mature and grow up? Also I wonder how the toilet is taken care of? I assume it’s a chemical one but how is the waste disposed of? Please realize I’m not tearing down, I”m wondering so I might use this arrangement on a future build myself.

    • Sue
      November 24, 2014, 4:25 pm

      Tree trunks grow out, not up. Think what growth rings look like. The important thing is to have enough “grow room” for the trunk. However, I sense that this house will not be around in 50 years so it may not be an issue.

    • Candide33
      January 7, 2015, 3:51 am

      It was just a composting toilet, basically a box with a bucket in it. You just do your business then sprinkle some sawdust on it, when it gets full you dump the bucket in a compost heap and cover it up with straw or wood chips and let it turn back into soil.

      I was a bit grossed out about it at first but after I though about it a while, I realized that using gallons and gallons of clean drinking water to flush the toilet was not such a smart idea when there are so many places in America that have run out of water.

      • AmyCat =^.^=
        March 5, 2016, 4:39 pm

        One or two people using such facilities isn’t a problem. However, if too many people start using them, you’ll always have a percentage who screw up. I wouldn’t want to live close to, say, a Tiny House community of a dozen or more who were ALL using DiY composting toilets, because for sure ONE of ’em wouldn’t manage to do it right. I do a lot of historical reenactment stuff, but Cholera and other such diseases from lack of sanitation and safe sewage treatment are NOT things I’d like to experience first-hand! 😛

  • Jennie Killough
    November 24, 2014, 11:39 am

    Very nice! I look the way it’s situated on the land, in the woods. Good size. The wrap-around deck and interesting roof angles really make this house, I think. The sink is pretty 🙂

  • Harold Surguine
    November 24, 2014, 12:04 pm

    When I was 14, I was taken out of wood shop and put into band in my junior high school. I longed to work on wood. Finally I was able to take wood shop again in college… but that was during Vietnam and all I wanted to do was save my skin.
    Now I’m 63 and relatively successful with a life of political bullshit, although have lost most of my money and am trying to find a way to build a small house to end my days in.
    You did the right thing. Believe me.
    Have a wonderful life.

    All the best

    Harold Surguine

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 11:05 am

      Wow. Thanks for sharing so honestly Harold. Best of luck!

  • Andrea Hardy
    November 24, 2014, 12:08 pm

    i agree with all the comment–STUNNING home! bravo!! just shows what can be accomplished with a little determination and a lot of creativity

  • Andrea Hardy
    November 24, 2014, 12:20 pm

    agreed with his observations about work, life and happiness! very smart young man–bravo to you, sir

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 11:00 am


  • Patricia
    November 24, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Very nice little place.

  • Elle
    November 24, 2014, 4:22 pm

    “I’m lucky it happened when I was 27 and not 67.” Amen to that. Your home is quite an accomplishment for the price, even with your skills. Love the setting, too. So peaceful.

    • Alex
      November 25, 2014, 10:59 am

      Thanks Elle!

  • November 24, 2014, 7:10 pm

    You are a smart man – everything that we spend money on means we have to give up part of our life in exchange. So to live simply, manage with what you have, and to spend a good part of your life doing what you really want to do – that’s awesome. Most of us come to that conclusion only once we’re deeply mired in debt. Or after we’ve spent most of our lives working towards what we think we’re supposed to have, rather than what will really make us happy. Good on you!

  • R.A.L. West
    November 24, 2014, 8:40 pm

    This is one of the loveliest of tiny houses I’ve yet seen! The price makes it even more inspiring. This feels truly like a home. So many things I find attractive. I shall begin wondering how something like this might function in the high-desert environment. Sincere thanks!

  • Thomas Tereszkiewicz
    November 24, 2014, 11:10 pm

    Would love living in a tiny home, only thing is I have two cats, a dog, and two studio grand pianos. Anyone have a suggestion on how to efficiently accommodate all that in a small home?

    • Joanie Campbell
      March 5, 2016, 3:25 pm

      Yes! Donate the 2 grand pianos to an old age home or a long term care facility, with the agreement that you can play for the residents whenever you wish. And make sure you build some catwalks into the overheads. Take the tax write-off for donating the pianos and buy a larger mattress so you can cuddle your pets! Enjoy!!!

  • November 25, 2014, 12:18 am

    This is a great little house. Love how the trees were used as part of the design and the walk around the house path. Enjoy!

  • Frank
    November 26, 2014, 1:17 am

    Very well done, I like it.

  • Mason Holiman
    December 5, 2014, 10:31 am

    Love this setup and location, very beautiful, like something out of a movie. Is there any information on whether Dave bought the property he built the house on, or did he just put it in the wilderness? Is that legal? Not that I have a problem with a beautiful lifestyle like this being legal or not 😉 If not how much does he pay to keep his house there? Just curious for future reference in my own Tiny House endeavors thanks

  • Randy
    December 14, 2014, 9:10 am

    This may be one of the most unique tiny houses I’ve ever seen! This dude did a fantastic job! I wish I had 1/5 his skill!! Better yet, wish he’d built one like it for me! 🙂

  • ray
    December 17, 2014, 10:44 pm

    nice choices on life, possessions, travel and work. It’s a challenge at times to live remotely, away from help and security though with some planning those willing can form small settlements offering privacy in nature and strength in numbers.
    i purchase/rebuild old houses in a large urban area retreating for long periods to nature, plugging into it wonderful forces. your hike sounds most interesting to me

  • lucia
    December 30, 2014, 6:47 am

    hi Alex, I’m writing from Argentine, in this country doesn`t exists these little houses, really it`s beautiful, so do yo sell plans? I want to make one like this!!
    for Mar del Sur, in Buenos Aires Province.
    Really pretty!
    My best wishes!!

    • Alex
      December 30, 2014, 11:21 am

      Hi Lucia, thanks! I’m glad you like it. I don’t personally sell plans but I showcase houses and occasionally some of the people and companies I showcase do have plans for sale. I encourage you to join our newsletter: http://tinyhousenewsletter.com if you already haven’t. And you can also download a free ebook I made which showcases more plans from other people: http://tiny-house-plans.com

  • susan
    January 1, 2015, 9:44 pm

    This is exactly how I feel right now in my life. Hate my job. I am working on trying to talk my huband into living in a tiny house, no luck yet. But you are such an inspiration!

  • Martha
    January 6, 2015, 4:31 pm

    This is what I love to see, and is probably the way the tiny house movement started – folks building their own house and using recycled wood and materials where possible. So many people would like to live in a house like this but don’t have the skills to build it themselves, and have them built at a much higher cost. I’m not saying the cost of labor to build it isn’t worth it – I certainly couldn’t do something like this -but it’s gratifying to see that it’s possible.

    • June 27, 2016, 2:49 pm

      This reply is so much later than your comment that you probably won’t see it, but here goes anyway: Yes, you can build one yourself. It might not look as beautiful as this one, it might be a simple box style, but it is doable, and you can love it as an expression of your labor and outlook on life. I’m doing it, and my own build might be janky, but it’s my home-to-be, it’s solid, and I love it.

  • Dick Nellis
    January 6, 2015, 5:12 pm

    The “Talavera Mexican Hand Painted Sinks” can be found on the internet and Ebay

    • Cahow
      January 7, 2015, 2:31 pm

      Dick Nellis: Today, YOU’RE My Hero!!!!

      I have spent the past hour perusing the “Talavera Mexican Hand Painted Sinks” on amazon…now it’s only a matter of which of the designs both my husband and I want to order! The prices are incredibly cheap and we can donate the plain ol’ sink via craigslist to someone who wants/needs it.

      I would never have known what to look for without your help; the Tiny House Community Rocks! Thanks again. 😀

  • Cahow
    January 6, 2015, 7:05 pm

    Well, I’m sure coming late to this party. LOL

    He had me at that sink! OMG, that sink is to die for…stunning, just stunning!

    I was so impressed with this build time, the cost, and his impressive use of colour inside his house. The four different coloured mugs, the wee collection of tiny vases on the window sill with the zinnia, agapanthus and daylily blossoms, the cool buttercup hanger that he has his hat hanging from…and on and on.

    As some others have noted, I’d be twitchy to the MAX with no railing around that drop off, but if he and his friends can manage it, no harm/no foul.

    I’m glad that he found his dream job. I’ve been living my dream job for over 25 years with my current company; before that, I owned two different companies and they were my passion, too. I was lucky; at 18 years old I figured out what I wanted to do and found a way to do it and get paid for it. Rare, indeed, and a joy to live. 😀

  • kid
    January 7, 2015, 12:32 am

    The house looks fantastic. You did a great job on it. Where did you find that sink?

  • LK
    January 7, 2015, 5:54 am

    Love this cabin, would love to visit it. I understand what he meant by not feeling ‘normal’. When I was young we were encouraged not to think about life after high school, just to go to college and get a great job. Fortunately I became a teacher, something that I loved. But the need to ‘be me’ led me to live in multiple towns, in multiple living arrangements, including a converted bus.
    I always encouraged my students to be able to support themselves and to follow their hearts – even when that does not lead to college. Simplicity and living close to the land is a heart calling and if this simple life calls you, you feel empty when you don’t answer. And you can’t fill it with ‘things’.

  • Rosa
    January 9, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Absolutely mesmerizing design! I would also like to know how the land was found and if the cost for it was much more than the money spent on the cabin… (Especially since I know nothing about the value of land in the US, and I doubt this cabin project would be possible in Europe! So I’m curious to compare.)

  • Suzanne howard
    January 11, 2015, 8:26 am

    Want one of these

  • Karen R
    January 30, 2015, 2:34 pm

    Lovely! Sinks like this are sold in the Southwest

  • marvin Bradsher
    January 31, 2015, 10:33 am

    I know different states and counties have different building codes and require permits for this and that and the other. But can anyone out there give me any info on the western part of N.C. Particularly Murphy County. My plan is to be completely off the grid. And I was wondering just how big of cabin can I build without a permit? Thanks in advance for any help. By the way, great job on the cabin and location. Never noticed the sink, what about it. LOL.

    • Kendra
      August 15, 2015, 5:16 am

      You can google the info. I can’t remember the wording I used to look it up here. But it was easy to find. Start with “legal sq ft for home in Murphy County NC.” Come to think of it I think there might have been a link on this site? But if you google it, you will find it.

      Guess not wanting to talk about the land. Have been wondering about this more and more. I’ve read up a lot on it an it seemed to me you had to put a tiny house behind a bigger house. Or in RV park. But a friends husband is a builder and said that they’ve never had an inspector come out to check ANY of the homes built outside of city limits. I’m in TX so there might be a difference. But I would sure check because this is the best way to go if you don’t mind sacrificing the space! Daughter and I are working on the same.
      Btw…saw this sink on Pinterest about a month ago and have been searching for the origin of the pin! So glad to see it again! Totally adore this house! Add 200sq ft and it’s perfect. Blahaha! Ok so we are shooting for “small” not “tiny”!! Lol.

  • JackieRuth Koson
    March 7, 2016, 8:12 am

    I love this tiny house in the woods! Like so many others, I love the sink! I love the use of reclaimed materials. I love how the trees are shooting up through the deck. I personally love everything about it. I also learned at a very young age what was/is important in life. I learned how to live tiny and simply on an old oyster boat moored close to Key West. Just like you, I found my own passion in nature which was working on boats. I went on in my thirties to raise one son and did the house life. Back in 2007, just like you, I went to the woods. I realized that happiness was not coming from living in a home in the Florida Keys that would never be paid for. I invested in 5 acres of my own woods with no zoning in the beautiful Ozark mountains after making repeated trips in to the woods and learning just like you, the importance and meaning of what real life is. I have followed the tiny house movement since bringing my tiny house “The Hobbit House” that I had in Florida to my 5 acres back in 07/08. I am excited to read a story that is so similar to my own. I enjoyed the tiny house off grid and on grid and then my son spent all four years of his high school life living in it in the woods while I went on to create a small cabin just like you using many reclaimed materials. I sold my tiny house a year after my son moved out of it. I am living very simple in a small cabin in the woods. I admire you and thank-you for sharing your story since your story is the most similar story to my own that I have run across. When spending time alone in nature whether it be on a boat on the ocean, or in the woods, it is an opportunity to awaken one’s mind, soul and spirit to visualize what is most important. Wasting one’s life away being miserable doing something that we do not enjoy is not the way to go. I recommend that all people; regardless, of age take time off and step in to nature alone. I personally have found that it takes three weeks of stepping in just to brush off the hustle and bustle of the rat race. Plan to stay longer! Get past that point and you will learn as both of us did who you are and what you want. You will also learn how happy and free you feel from the simplicity that you find around you. It gives you a perspective that otherwise, you would spend a lifetime learning and even if you step off and learn what we have when you are much older, just know that it is never to late to unload and create a simple life for yourself. Material possessions only cause stress and you can not take them with you when you die. I have walked every walk of life in great financial wealth and not, but the most beneficial wealth is not about money, professions or possessions. It is learning what this builder of a tiny house in the woods has found. Once again, I highly recommend to all people that you do as this carpenter and tiny house builder in the woods has done and that is: Step out and spend time alone in the woods for a few months. It will be the most important thing in your life that you could ever do for yourself. Peace and love to all ~

  • May 24, 2016, 2:12 am

    This is exactly the type of little house I’d love to build myself on my own block of land out of town and in the woods. Sadly though in my country it is not allowed, and a lot of rural building is being blocked altogether now.

  • June 27, 2016, 5:54 pm

    Suspended for half as our souls, as a soft nest, in a context of absolute peace, where only the bird singing and the wind is allowed to breathe. Discreet and frendly can be seen with its vaguely eccentric roof, and duble entrances that face (suggestive). The sink a true piece of giazed ceramic art, placed in a context where all the interior and exterior colors converge in it. Everything has its Good Taste Flavor

  • Kurt
    June 27, 2016, 7:39 pm

    That’s great that Dave was able to find a career that he was passionate about. I’ve had jobs that I’ve enjoyed, but I wouldn’t say I was passionate about any of them.

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