How Much Does it Cost to Build an Off-grid Cabin?

When building a cabin you’ll want to know just how much it will cost. I have been looking into building a cabin for some time, so I’ll give you a guide on how to measure the cost of your off-grid cabin. 

How much does it cost to build an off-grid cabin? Off-grid cabins cost about $70,000 to build. This is a rough estimate and does not include the cost of electricity and water that you’ll need to provide for yourself. Adding the cost of those elements and your price raises to about $140,000. Further expenses appear in livestock, a septic system, and garden supplies, which bring the average total to around $300,000.

Living off the grid is not something that is easy to do or easy to start doing. As such there are large initial investments required for any off-grid living. Mainly these appear in the areas of applying modern luxuries to your off-grid home. As such, electricity, a sewage system, and food will amount to a large portion of the expenses of living in an off-grid cabin. 

A Breakdown of Off-grid Cabin Costs

Solar/Wind Power$1,000$37,000
Wells & Water$5,000$20,000
Septic System$2,500$5,000
Composting Toilets$100$5,000
Grey Water$500$1,000

For more information about these figures check out How much does it cost to go off grid? 

The overall cost of this venture is dependent on where your cabin will be, what you want your cabin to be, and how you plan on providing energy and heat to your cabin. Additionally, costs don’t just stop once your cabin is built you still have more than you will need to provide for yourself.

Self-Built Versus Professionally Hired Help

As is the case with most things building a cabin yourself is going to be a lot cheaper than hiring people to build it. So if you need to decrease costs than you may want to build the cabin by yourself. However, there are pros and cons to both sides that we need to address. 

Self-building: When you are building by yourself you are very limited in the scope of what you can accomplish. This is purely based off of the capabilities of your body. You need to be carrying large wood planks back and forth and overall it is going to be a tiring and exhausting process that you’ll have to experience.

This problem increases with the more detail that you put into the project. For instance, if you were going for a log cabin look this is even harder as the logs that you’d be carrying for a modern log cabin are usually lifted by cranes. Given that you don’t have the strength of a crane its something that you can’t handle alone. Unless you bought a crane to do it. 

Any additions that you want to put on your house or challenges that the land you are building your house on has is just further struggles that you are likely unequipped to properly deal with. 

Hiring: The biggest concern with hiring to build your home is that it costs money. Much more money. Even if you are able to provide the resources that they need for building the cabin it will still cost you for the labor. Overall, these are professionals they are the best bet for you to get a quality job done, however, that quality costs money.

Continuous Costs of an Off-grid Cabin

Like all times in your life, you will need money to sustain yourself even when you are off the grid. Generally, there are three categories that your continuing expenses will fall into. Food, Fuel, and Necessities. 

Food: even if you are growing you are found in a year-round garden and eating your livestock you will still not have access to certain cooking supplies. Spices, in particular, have historically been difficult to get your hands on. Luckily in the modern world, all that will take is a trip to the grocery store.

However, that means you’ll have to pay for convenience. But trust me its worth having salt, pepper, cinnamon, and sugar in your diet just for a few extra dollars and a few extra miles on your vehicle.

Fuel: Speaking of your vehicle fuel is another high costing expense that you’ll face. When you are off the grid you are often also away from the grid. This means that you’ll have to do a lot of traveling to get to the nearest town. So whether that be a grocery trip or travel for other means gas will be a constant expense. One that is likely higher than it would be should you live in a more standard on the grid house.

Additionally, you will need to fuel your house. I will talk a later about your options for heating a cabin, but regardless of the option that you choose you need to make sure that you have plenty of that resource to use. You don’t want to be shivering all day simply because you didn’t buy enough fuel to keep you warm.

Necessities: This is the miscellaneous category. Everything else that you will need to consistently have on you falls into this category. This can include things like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, tools, and batteries.

Once you start living off the grid keep a budget and record everything that you are spending money. Anything that is costing you money, etc. If you do this consistently you will have a strong marker of where exactly your budget needs to be at and how certain months will cost more from you than others. 

Also remember, that you’ll still have to pay for the items that fall into the more legal field of things. Insurance taxes the items that are always important no matter whether you are or are not off the grid. 

Heating Your Off-grid Cabin

Heating an off-grid cabin falls into three categories, wood gas and electric heating. Wood and gas heating are essentially the same system they just us different fuels, wood or gas. Gas stoves generally provide the option of propane as well as other forms of gas. Additionally, gas is often more compact that wood is. 

Wood however usually comes out to be about $200 dollars cheaper. This is of course based off of the initial cost of the stove. Since you will need a consistent supply of wood you will want to make sure that you have access to that wood without too much of a struggle or expense. Keep in mind that no one likes to be cold, and perhaps more true no one likes to be chopping wood when they’re cold. 

Gas is considerably easier for you to get our hands on than wood. Go to pretty much any gas station and you’ll be able to get gas or propane most likely, so make sure that when you are picking out the gas stove that you want that you are able to get the gas that you want easily. If you are far from a gas station than maybe wood is the better option. 

The reason why gas and wood are so similar is that they are both centralized heating systems. This means that all the heat comes from a single point and then needs to be spread from that point. If your cabin has a ventilation system to spread this warmth throughout the cabin great otherwise these may not be the best options for you. 

Electric heating systems are the most diverse. There are several options to pick from. Because of this, you are able to pick and choose which fits best for your cabin. this diversification allows for more than one source of heat taking care of any centralized heating issues. 

Heat does take up a large amount of energy so if your generators are struggling to supply your cabin with enough energy you will not want to put electric heaters on your energy bill. 

How to Provide Energy for an Off-Grid Cabin

Providing energy to an off-grid cabin is an absolute necessity. Unless you plan on living out a classic Abraham Lincoln life style where you abandon all modern technology you’ll need electricity. However to be off the grid you can’t be connected to any power grid which means you’ll need to generate your own power.

This is expensive, no matter what option you go with energy is going to cost you. You have a couple of options the most popular being solar, a wind turbine, and a water turbine. 

Solar power: Solar power is really popular given how economically friendly it is. There is no damage that really comes out of solar panels. However, this comes at the cost of rather low energy gain.

A solar panel in the best conditions will receive around 7 KWH day. The average American household, however, uses 20 KWH a day. So If you are planning to go with a solar plan than you will need to plan to cut down on your energy expenditure as well.

Wind Turbine: Wind turbines can crack out a lot of energy with capabilities of powering 3,312 European households a year a wind turbine can do a lot. Of course You may not get a wind turbine of the same size but generally, you won’t have much of a problem keeping your cabin electric. 

Water Turbine: Water Turbines can produce a  large amount of energy. They are more consistent so long as you have a river or stream of some kind that is constantly flowing. As long as it is moving the turbine will generate energy.  This means that as long as your river isn’t frozen you’ll have plenty of energy. Additionally, you’ll have enough energy stored to make it through your frozen river times.

Every single one of these systems works off of using a natural resource to your advantage and powering your cabin. If you are in a very sunny area than solar is a good pick. Windy area? Great! wind turbine. By a river that has a strong current water turbine it is. Energy is something that we have so many ways to gain now that you can mold it to your plans. 

Benefits of Going Off-grid

After reading through all the expenses and potential struggles that you may face when trying to live off the grid you may be asking, “Why should I, or anyone for that matter, live off-grid?” This is a pretty common question and there is no wonder why.

The first reason that people sight for enjoying or even initially wanting to go off the grid is because they want to distance themselves from the world. They want to escape the technologically strenuous and demanding world and live away from the hustle and bustle.

There are a lot of benefits in this regard from an off-grid cabin. You are relatively isolated in a cabin, so you are able to organize yourself as you wish and not in a manner that is constrained by anyone else’s rules. However, you have to ask yourself if it is worth putting all the cash into this dream of yours. 

A lot of times you will hear the term escapist fantasy pop up when people talk about living in an off-grid cabin. The same label gets placed on those who read fantasy novels and play video games. It’s not a bad thing, but just be careful that where you are putting your money will be worth the investment. 

Stronger bonds is another commonly sighted benefit to having an off-grid cabin. And this is certainly true. Especially for those involved in the building process you can feel a close connection to them that is exhibited in this structure that you worked together to build it is a firm bond. 

An off-grid cabin is a great place to disconnect and connect to those around you in a more personal way. I love my time in my cabin and I appreciate the opportunities I have spent in it. I hope you get the opportunity to spend time like that as well, but don’t blow the bank over it. 

Maintaining an Off-Grid Cabin

If your planning to live off the grid for a long time than you’re going to have to live with some of the maintenance that living off-grid entails. Even if you only use the cabin every so often you will have to watch out for some of these issues as whether you are there or not; nature is always active.

On top of needing to care for the houses structure and payments on the land and such, there are several resources that you will need to keep up to date or else you will run into issues.  These include toilet paper, water, heating supplies, energy, and food.

Toilet Paper: Toilet Paper is not really seen as a luxury so much as a necessity in today’s day and age. with that in mind unless you plan on using leaves you will need to have a stock in a secure location. TOilet paper has been known to be eaten by mice and rats. Given the great outdoorsis right next door it is likely that mice and rats are around, so keep that toilet paper away from where they can reach it. 

This problem gets worse the less you are at your cabin. Your presence may scare off the rats but if you’re not around then the rats will grow bolder and have a greater chance of finding the toilet paper and even making nests in it. Really not a pleasant experience for those intending to use the bathroom. 

Water: Water has several uses. At the very least it is required for drinking but it can be additionally used in cooking, cleaning, and bathing. Bathing may not be a part of the equation if you have no bath but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid cooking without water. Water is usually either collected or stored. To collect water you will need to either collect rain water or find a nearby source of water.

Regardless of which method you use to collect the water, you are going to want to purify that water. If you plan on storing water you can get some clean water from somewhere in town and bring it to your cabin. Either way, you will need to keep your water clean and stocked. To see more on this check out this Cabin Freedom article on getting clean water.

Heating supplies: As mentioned above it is important that you keep yourself warm. So whatever way you plan on keeping your house warm is the resource that you’ll need to get a hold of. Keep this in mind and see the suggestions in the section above to determine what heating option is the best for you in the location that you are at. 

Energy: I’ve talked about this above as well, but it is another resource that you will need to be on top of. Overall, one of the most important facets here is that you will need to track how much energy you are expending and how much energy you are making. You may need to supplement your energy by using batteries or other extra energy filled pieces of equipment to keep everything running at the level you want it to be. 

Food: Finally you have food. We all need to eat and that means we need food. It is possible for you to raise your own livestock and grow a garden. These are further expenses but if your plan is to go off the grid completely you will need to plan for this. You can hunt of course but that only works during certain seasons, depending on where you are, and is limited to only a certian type of game, as well as how good you are at hunting. 

If you don’t plan on hunting then you will need to carry and store food.  You may or may not have refrigeration, so plan ahead if you have food that is going to spoil eat it first or else it won’t be as enjoyable later. If spoilage is a problem than look into getting a refrigerator. 

Overall living off-grid takes a lot of effort, and if you are not prepared for it than you will certainly pay the price. When you are planning to rely on yourself that means you will need to plan ahead. It can take a lot of time but that is the cost of living off-grid. So be careful, enjoy yourself, and be ready to live off-grid. 

Related Questions

My off-grid cabin is cold despite my heater, what do I do?  Heaters are only one half of the game when it comes to keeping your cabin warm. The other half is insulation. Similar to how we bundle up in the winter out house’s need the right layers to keep them warm. There are several forms of insulation that you can look into such as fiberglass batt, spray in cellulose, and foam.

Is it illegal to live off-grid in Canada? It is illegal to live off-grid in Canada. This also seems to be spreading to certain parts of the United States as well.  in one particular instance, Cheryl Smith was not given a Certificate of Occupancy when her tiny home was found to have no electricity in it. Despite her holding firm to her belief in not using fossil fuels and leaving a large carbon footprint. Her tiny house has not been approved. 

Does it cost more to live off-grid? There is a large initial cost when you go have to live off-grid. However, as you save money through generating your own energy and getting government subsidies from the energy that you are generating yourself you will slowly earn that money back. Overall there isn’t too much of a difference in the how much you would spend in an on-grid versus off-grid home. With the exception of you saving money from energy and having to pay a large amount of money up front. 

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