Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

The land is cleared and SketchUp is my new best friend

After spending a long Labor Day weekend with a rake and axe, I managed to clear a small patch of ground on a the pad next to where my trailer is parked. When I bought the land, there was a graded pad where the house should sit to take in the maximum view (270 degrees of  magnificent mountains). I placed the small cabin where I could still eventually build a larger house and have the cabin become a separate guest bedroom.

Building codes will only allow me to build an un-permitted structure of 120 square feet or less so 10′ X 12′ it is!  I’ve laid out some old boards to indicate where the cabin will sit. There is still 22′ of driveway to allow construction vehicles to squeeze by and plenty of unobstructed view even if a larger house does go up.

The cleared pad

I recently took a free SketchUp class offered by my union here in LA. I was amazed at how easy to use and powerful it is. After much trial and error and lots of “small-house” web surfing, I’ve decided on this design…

Cabin4Cabin4 viewR

The large 8′ tall commercial windows are salvaged from an old movie set and will allow me to have a free wall of glass. I chose a flat roof with a second slanted roof above because I don’t think I’m ready to be cutting so many angles on the sidewalls and with the drywall inside. The basic rectangle shape will allow for maximum use of stock-sized materials and no angle-cutting!

The tall windows face the main mountain view and with such a small space, the sliding patio doors require no inside clearance to open. They will face 2 gorgeous oak trees and the smaller green ridge beyond. A 36″ X 48″ slider window is located in the rear, over the headboard. With the patio slider open and screen closed, this will allow a bug-free and cool summer  (as well as spectacular nights sleeping in cool mountain air).

The slanted roof will hold solar panels and act as a shade overhang. It can be built and mounted again, with very little angle-cutting.

I’ve estimated the material costs at $1,800 for the whole cabin and since I can build in fits and starts, I’ll start with the foundation and floor, going upward as I can afford more. The only thing I’ll need to bite the bullet on is the patio slider doors. They are about $500 at Lowes or Home Depot and I can’t seem to find a good used pair yet.

2 responses

  1. Just a thought… and I haven’t done the math… but it might make sense to angle your roof toward the sun. From the drawing it looks like it slopes away from your south wall. If you go the other way the eave should shade the glass wall better in summer and your PV panels will point into the sun without much more help.

    Love the double roof design too… that really seems to help keep things cool in hot locations. Be sure to check out the little swamp cooler John Wells built at


    September 25, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    • true dat James, the roof does take advantage of the sun, it faces South

      September 25, 2009 at 1:47 pm

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