Small retreat…..reader shares one example

The following was sent in by “Mo” who was responding to my question about people using sheds or small houses as retreats. This is pretty cool. Thanks Mo! – Rourke

My wife and I went the “shed” route due to county restrictions.  A shed means it has no permanent heating or plumbing.  That designation affects the tax burden.  We had other code requirements to meet regarding access and septic but even in our restrictive overly regulated state we were able to comply.

We looked at Home Depot/Lowes kits but decided that for about the same money we could buy the materials to build a higher quality structure.  We did invest additional money  on insulation and finish materials (the same would be true if we purchased a kit shed) and have been enjoying our time there (10-20% of each year) in all seasons.  Winter can get down to -20* F and we’ve stayed warm using a “Big Buddy” propane heater – because of the upgraded materials we used in the structure we had greater joist and rafter depth which allowed us to better insulate.

The structure is 12′ x 16′ main floor, with a covered 12′ x 8′ porch.  Above the porch and projected into the vaulted interior we have a 12′ x 12′ loft.  We’ve found this size to be very comfortable for extended stays.  A small kitchenette doesn’t take up much room and makes meal prep and food/utensil storage convenient.  A Murphy bed is very comfortable at night and folds up out of the way during the day.  The higher ceilings give a sense of spaciousness.

Because of its size my wife (inexperienced but enthusiastic) and I (a well past his prime 50 something carpenter) were able to construct the structure (from hand digging the footings to getting the roof on and installing front door knob) in 10 days in a remote (no power) location.  Paint, trim, insulation, etc were done in subsequent trips.  The size also kept the costs down.

We spend anywhere from 4 of 14 days there per month.  We’re off the grid so any electrical needs, tools mainly are run using a generator.  We use rechargeable batteries for light.  No internet or TV but we find that is a positive.  Vehicle access can be limited in the winter but hiking in is fun too.

cake nailing

Roof framing side view

July9 Sheathing the Lid

July9 w elevation



20 survival items ebook cover

Like what you read?

Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these innocent little items!

Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link. This will also subscribe you to my newsletter so you stay up-to-date with everything: new articles, ebooks, products and more!

By entering your email, you agree to subscribe to the Modern Survival Online newsletter. We will not spam you.


  1. Nightshift: Unfortunately a wood heater would not be code compliant. With government at all levels starving for revenue I really don’t want to give them any reason to fine and require additional permitting. We just play by the rules and hope that is enough to keep the JBT’s away.

  2. Great cabin,just a thought about metal roofing and snow runoff? Would this have been an option and less money. Just wandering and not bashing a great cabin.

  3. Shed? Wow, I’d call this a VERY nice cabin. But I understand why you’re classifying it as such. You did a great job on the trim and cedar shingles – everything really. Obviously not the first building project you had attempted. Good for you guys!!

  4. Love it! Did you consider putting in a loft? If not, why? Just curious as it would of made a great place to store your preps. Great Idea and a great shed/cabin.

  5. Love this,but please show more inside pictures. Pictures are necessary for those planning a like resort 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the feedback.

    TXM1836: Thanks. Yup, I’ve been in the building trades my whole life so this was and easy and fun project for me.

    Big Jim: We did consider going metal but cost, time and logistics made comp the better choice. We generally don’t get more than 4′ of snow in winter and the wind does a good job of reducing the build up.

    Big Steve: There is a 12×12 loft and as you noted, very handy storage and extra sleeping area.

    Karlene: I wasn’t sure how many to load Rourke down with. We have “jillions” of them as my daughters would say.

  7. Great job! I’m a contractor, and can say I know a good job when I see one. Would love to see more pics as well, looks like a viable option for me! 🙂 thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.