Size and location matter.....
I would believe that most people here have a limited amount of money to purchase land and build. Trying to get the most for your dollar is important. Rising fuel costs are going to have some say in the future.
Land - What would you consider to be important? Size, location, privacy, ....
Cabin - What would you consider to be important? Size, location, ability to comfortably sleep how many, accomodations, view, deck, number of rooms etc....
I believe that a cabin is an investment as well as a recreational opportunity. While I have found a decent enough piece of property, I will continue to look until I actually purchase it (no rush, the guy said he will hold it until spring). It is 5 acres, 660 foot of lakefront, 330 deep. While not what most Alaskans would consider prime fishing. It has the ability to provide great trophy non-salmon fishing and wildlife viewing. Drawback - no large trees. Semi shallow water where you have to beach your boat. 3 hour drive.
I would like to not have to use my cab-over at all. I love it for me and the wife, but it gets crowded quickly. Having to tote it is also a fuel issue. Taking it off on Sunday and putting it back on Thursday gets old. Having a cabin to crawl into after a long week seems comforting. More room, less during the week "gotta get it done" maintenance and more privacy. No crowded parking lots and campgrounds. After it is turnkey, all I would need is clean sheets, propane, gasoline and a cooler. Worries would include leaving my truck unattended in the parking lot and possible theft/arson.
I am looking at several options for cabin size. It seems like 16 and 20 wide are the most common. Length is a matter of funding. I would like to have 2 sleeping areas for couples, a small kitchen, a large table and chairs, common area around the wood stove and a bath/changing room inside. I plan to have an outhouse and a small outbuilding for the generator etc.
What are your thoughts?
I have done a lot of research into this same question for my retirement home. The university of Nebraska has a paper out on how many acres of standing timber you need for the number of square feet per cabin in order to use it for heating. The rule in the paper was 10 acres per one-hundred sq feet of cabin. If it's only for the weekend or short stays and you can bring our own wood for heating/cooking. I would say 400 sq ft cabin and 40 acres with some usable water nearby.
Why so much??
I had a home that was only heated by woodstove and it did not take this much, though it had 6" insulated walls... Are you talking about for a winter or lifetime? because 3 hugh oak trees would take me through a rough winter no problem.
It will also depend on what trees you had on your property as some wood burns hotter (BTU's) than other types, also.. how well insulated the home is, the size of the woodstove is another factor as well as the number of windows, geography of home (location) and the technical term "load calculation" would bring all of this together.
Oh.. this home was 1100 square ft. and sitting on 40 acres with a wood stove as primary heat source.
That was just what the paper said. When I asked this question of folks before on the forum (general discussion), they all said about the same thing as the paper. I believe this is so because they always want to have a balance between what is taken over what is growing. If you live in an area that trees grow quicker, then smaller acres the better, but the opposite is also true. In order to get what the University of Alaska recommends for insulation values, you would have to have 2x12 walls! (R34).
As for the land accessability/location would be my first concern followed by privacy, then size.
The reason for 10 acres per 100 sq.ft is sothat the forest can replentish it's self at the same rate that you use it without appreciable damage to the ecosystem. This number may or may not include the lumber to build with I don't know.
The cabin, once the land meets the criteria then, site location within the site, size/number of occupants, then accomadations / ammenities.
I have a cabin in Glennallen. We cut every tree we could off of 10 acres to build a 12x20 cabin with 3 sided 6" logs. Some of these trees were over 100 years old. We began trimming and thinning immediatly to clear out the under growth and fire danger. Some of those seedllings are a solid 5 feet tall after 10 years. I grew up in Oregon where you could have merchantable timber in 20 years. Not so here. There are areas that timber grows a little faster but it is not the majority of 'mainland/interior' Alaska.
Southeast is a different animal, and there are areas of nice timber in the Mat-Su valley. Just don't think you are moving to the great north woods.
If you want room for two couples I think you are going to need at least 24X24. Or smaller if you have a second floor or loft.
Build it for energy efficeincy and you will need less fuel to burn.
Your lot sounds pretty nice.
Insulation is key to owning any kind of home in Alaska.
Insulation (spray, foam, or regular, etc <---we have all three). Vapor barrier. What kind of drywall are you using if any?
Is your cabin going to end up being a long term investment... or just something to get you buy until you decide to build another home and use this current one as a rental? My reasoning for asking is that if you plan on eventually selling your cabin, it might be a wise idea to be sure that you have everything inspected to have everything to code.
On that same subject, I had an old co-worker from Salcha that built her log cabin and her septic tank was off by 1ft. Because of this, the new homeowner/buyer had to get an unconventional loan costing him more in the long run because of her septic tank not meeting code. One foot. Obviously makes a difference. He wanted it and was a retired officer from Eielson, so he could afford it.
All in all... take these things into considering when you are building a log cabin.
Oh... and one more thought... even though I am a supporter of outhouses and really don't mind them (because you get used to them <---serious!), my vote is to have plumbing. It's hard... especially if you have to haul in your own water... but hands down worth it.
Size of cabin...
My wife and I (with woogie the female cat) share 950 sq ft cabin.Built on the edge of a bench 500 ft up a mountain side, it has a daylight basement which is a bedroom and full bath.Main floor is Kitchen with wood stove centered in the room,living room, and full bath.Kitchen has an 8' ceiling,Lr has a 11'(12/12)pitch,vaulted ceiling to make the cabin bigger.Conventional framing...2x6 walls.With 11 acres of 100'+ tall fir trees,I don't lack for wood, but do however take great pains in just thinning out enough to get us through each year.We also get a permit for 20bucks,good for 4 cords from the forest service here, so we can mix lodgepole with the fir.All bug kill and good and dry.I think the name of the game would be good management especially with Alaska's slow growth.GR
Here's how I decided about the remote land I bought years back and how I used this to narrow down the list of properties I was looking at.
Access. I liked the Skwentna area, but access requires any of the following, boat, plane, plane with floats etc.... All of which add to the expense of building and after it's built, getting there. Especially if you have to charter out the transportation.
So, my requirements were this.
Easy access, but not overly accessible. Meaning, to get there, you want to go there (to help make it remote and private). So, I decided on property that could be, hiked into or out of if needed, ATV accessible, snowmachine accessible. This narrowed down my list pretty good.
Location not pertaining to transportation. In other words, what's either around the property or close to it. How much privately owned land is in the area, and who owns what as well (meaning land owned by the state or federal land). Where's the water source? What game or fish frequents the area. What's the regs for the GMU the land is in? Can I legally get firewood for the woodstove close by?
Information on the land, some of which is available on line from the borough (if there is one) plats, assessments, deeds recorded, etc... and info from DNR too.
Recorded deeds can help you determine how interested the owner is in selling. Say, you find a piece of property and find out the owner lives outside and has since the deed was recorded (or this info on where the owner lives can sometime be gleaned from assessments), but has never made an effort to improve the land. Chances are, the owner has realized that his dream for the land isn't going to materialize, so he or she is selling. Realtors use this tactic to find property to list.
You can use this information during negotiations and offers. The land I bought (5 acres), the owner was asking $28K for. I found out using what I mentioned above, that he lived outside, and had for many years. I then walked the land, confirmed the owner's whereabouts and when the last time he'd been on the property (and lots of other information about the land and the owners situation) from the person who lives the closest to the property. I offered $6K and the Realtor had a kitten. He said there's no way the owner would go for it. I told the Realtor that's the offer, and gave him an earnest money check. A week later the Realtor calls and says I pissed the guy off because he bought the land during the pipeline days and that he had paid 5 times my offer back then. The Realtor refunded my earnest money. I said thanks, and told the Realtor to make sure to let the land owner know that I'd honor my offer for 30 days if the he changed his mind. Three weeks later, I get a call from the Realtor asking if I'd go through with my offer! The Realtor was hating his commission on the deal and told me that it ended up not being worth his time.
Above all, see the land before you purchase. Preferably without snow cover as to really be able to determine the lay of the land. Trails change as quick as the seasons, so check out the trail system. Determine what's usable land on the property and what's muck. I've heard of people buying land sight unseen, or buying during the winter only to find that they purchased land that more muck than usable. Scout out potential cabin sites. If there's a creek near by and you build on it, you'll have problems sooner or later with flooding or erosion.
Check to see if the corners are marked.
Get a plat. Get your own plat and not one of the mini ones Realtors pass out to potential buyers. Confirm on your own the location of the property. If you trust yourself, do it yourself, if not, get a surveyor to do it. But don't get a surveyor unless you've narrowed the property down and it meets your requirements and you a truly interested in the property.
Don't take for granted the Realtor really knows the location of remote property. Some go the extra effort to actually get eyes on remote parcels they list, others seem to take the information offered by the landowner without confirmation.
Sorry this post is so long. I might add to it later if I can think of anything that might help later.
Good article Ken
I had that work both ways.I purchased this place(11 acres) for 14000, when she was asking 16000.I just last week made an offer on a piece(That I wanted in the worst way).Has deer,turkey and bighorned sheep on it.4.49 acres.She wanted 16000 I offered 14000, and a guy offered her 16000 and it sold.My fault...Just never know.I have a piece at Kindamina (outside Manley) That has easy access all winter, but fly in only all summer.That keeps out a good percentage of the population.GR
In my situation, the landowner thought the cabin / outhouse / outbuildings on the land was still in the same condition it was in when he'd walked away 20 years earlier.
That was his reasoning for the asking price. He thought someone could just come in where he left off.
Unfortunately, 20 years took it's toll on all of the structures on the property.
The only standing structure left was the cabin, and besides the toll mother nature took on it, the bears had worked it over pretty good too.
So, if I hadn't walked the property before the offer and had taken the info provided by the landowner and realtor as what the condition was, I would have been not very happy if I'd paid the asking place or anywhere close to it once I figure out the real condition.
Another note, the landowner on my property wasn't much of a carpenter and didn't know building techniques. The cabin was poorly built. My intent was to try to save just the log walls and rebuild.
So if you're buying remote with a cabin, it might look good in the pictures, but it might not be built very well.