Zoning Issues for Off-Grid Cabins

I have thought about living off-grid in a log cabin but is not as easy as choosing a piece of land and building a cabin on it, there are zoning issues for off-grid cabin living. Zoning issues are not the only concern.

When building an off-grid cabin, you will need to follow a set of building codes. And depending on the size of your building, you may require a permit to continue with the project.

I have decided to research all about off-grid cabin living and the requirements that come along with it.

There seems to be a reasonable amount of information on those living off the grid and the benefits of doing so. Though, none of the information makes off-grid cabin living seem easy to be attained.

There can be sets of regulations and guidelines to follow when it comes to building your cabin home or choosing the place to set up. I found the answer to all those questions and more.

Building and Zoning Codes


A lot of people believe living off-grid is illegal. When technically it is not. The simplest definition of living off-grid is simply being disconnected from the general public power grid. That is legal.

Though making sure your lifestyle is legal can be quite tricky to find out when it comes to meeting all the zoning and building codes.

Zoning codes basically regulate the development of real estate, so there are municipalities that are split into various zones. They need these zoning codes to protect citizen’s safety, health, and their financial value from which their area is located. 

They protect citizens by requiring them to have a minimum amount of square footage, and they also protect the value of their area by having buildings set back from being built because of their size or height.

If you reside in the state of Idaho, below is a link to the zoning ordinance. 

(Click Here)

Zoning codes are needed for more than just one simple reason, there are in fact three.

  1. Health
  2. Safety
  3. Financial Value


Building codes give out guidelines or make sure how a log cabin or home is built. The codes usually specifically state the minimum amount of standards you can follow. They are basically a way for those choose to build homes or in this case, a log cabin the functionality of the building.

We need these codes in place because they also help protect the health of citizens, and protect them as well as anyone else who resides inside the building. When going about these building codes, they will grant you a permit to proceed with your building process if they deem it safe.

Here is an easy way to go about learning the building codes: Click Here

If you are still confused about the difference between a zoning code and a building code here is a simple way to remember:

  • Building codes can differ from state to state but they are all quite similar.
  • Zoning codes are bigger obstacles to jump through, they require more regulations and they differ entirely through many different areas.

How To Live Off-Grid

It may seem like on the simplest things to achieve, living off-grid, but it is something that takes thought and preparation to complete. When living off-grid maintenance and keeping up with the cleanliness of your home can take a lot out a person.

Don’t worry too much, there are ways to make the entire process easier for the owner. To begin the step by step process, you will need to remember that this all stems back from living a life of sustainability and being self-sufficient.

Step One: Choose your land 

It is important to realize when choosing to live off-grid, this does not mean you will be finding an area where people are relatively nearby or where traffic is booming.

Living off-grid means choosing a piece of land that is empty, and far from any neighbor, you can see. This kind of land is called a parcel of land, and if you are lucky this land can be free from building codes, property taxes, and you get more acreage for the amount you’ll pay.

(Be sure to do your research on the area you reside in or wish to reside in before building a vacant lot. Fines can be given if you do not have the proper permits required to build on the specific land.) 

Step Two: Build (or purchase) your shelter

Once you have chosen the remote piece of land, you can begin on your shelter. It is very obvious that for all human beings we need shelter to survive. Having a place to call home is vital to our mental health as well as physical.

How you want your shelter to look like is up to you. You can have a tiny house, a cob house, a strawbale, a cabin, or a wood frame home.

Those are all shelters you can reside in, and it is important to choose what type you will build or buy before starting to move your things onto your land.

Step Three: Make sure to have a water collection system 

Since you decided to live off-grid, and away from any electrical benefits you will need your own water collection system, and water.

When collecting your own water, most of the time, finding a clean potable water can be easy when living somewhere so remote. Your water will also be accessed from city water or a county water source.

The other resource you will need is a water collection system. This is usually pretty simple to complete, you will need a rain-barrel with a water catchment attached to it.

You can even purchase a cistern water collection system, that basically collects the rainfall from your roof. Easy, right?

Step Four: Don’t forget food 

While most of the world is used to having a refrigerator in their homes, an off-grid cabin will have no working electricity. This means you will have to grow your own food.

That may sound like a treacherous job with a need for a large amount of effort, it is worth it. Growing your own food can be quite rewarding since you won’t be needing to take trips to the grocery store anymore.

Another tip is to learn to preserve your food and know how to store it in order to build up a supply in case of a dire emergency.

Step Five: Have a (power) generation system

Now, this is when aspects of living off-grid come in. As you already know, you will not be connected to a power grid which then means you will be making or generating your own energy.

This will mean obtaining a backup generator that can help you run a few of the things within your cabin home. And while it is helpful to have this energy you will need to cautious about how much of it you use.

Step Six: Have a power storage system 

The downside to having your own power generator that runs on the light from the sun or the wind in the sky is that all goes away when it becomes night.

So it is extremely important to start reserving your energy to use it for when that power does go away. Something that is recommended for use when you power shuts down is a battery power tank.

But, it is expensive so unfortunately a lot of cabin homeowners just don’t purchase the tank.

Step Seven: Your septic system and waste disposal system 

This topic can be quite nasty, and uncomfortable for some but the fact is that its life. Living in the middle of the woods inside a log cabin with no power grid is already quite a transition from the usual modern day living.

There are toilets inside most apartments and homes but in this case, you will need to find a way to create your waste disposal system.

First things first, you have to follow your local guidelines or if there are none your federal guidelines on waste disposal. There needs to be a guideline to follow since dumping your own waste somewhere hidden is not the best idea.

You will need to build a septic system, but because some might even use their waste as a fertilizer does not mean the city, county or federal guidelines approve of you doing so as well.

Step Eight: Be willing to live off the grid 

Out of all the steps listed this is frankly the most important one. Keeping a mindset of wanting to live off the grid is important to enjoying life in that situation. Off-grid living is free from the modern world, you’re surrounded by nature.

One of the hardest things about it is living a life of sustainability and taking commitment, focus and motivation. This lifestyle is usually for those who find themselves to be quite independent.

Related Questions

Is it legal to live off the grid in Canada? Canada, unfortunately, has banned off-grid living. The answer to the question is no.

Is it illegal to live in a house without electricity? It is not illegal for someone to live without electricity, but if one’s household has adolescents or children they can be required to install some electricity to ensure the children’s safety.

What does stay off the grid mean? “Staying off the grid” is easily referred or known as a statement for one who chooses or believes that they do not need to live off of the electrical power grid.

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