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A-Frame cabins are proof that good design and the great outdoors go hand-in-hand. Built to last with an iconic design that seems to fit in all too perfectly in beautiful, rugged landscapes, who could blame you for wanting an A-Frame of your own to escape to? For those who aren’t interested in building from scratch or buying a pre-owned home, the prefab A-Frame house kit is the solution.
This guide to prefab A-Frame house kits gets down to the studs about the pros and cons of the A-Frame design, what a kit is exactly, what makes the classic shape so great for all types of terrain, and how to choose your dream cabin. (Or just rent an A-Frame and save your self the fuss.)
What Are The Benefits of an A-Frame House?
Versatile and timeless,A-Frame houses are sturdy builds that create a secure structure with the least amount of materials. This popular tiny home design does a lot with a little, thanks to its triangular shape and roof trusses. It eliminates the need for additional forms of structural support typically used in a traditional cabin or residential construction—making it a more affordable and more minimalist choice by nature. Its recognizable form has a universal appeal that will satisfy design lovers with a sleek, Mid-Century Modern silhouette; and please outdoor recreationalists, as the A-frame is well-suited for remote or rugged environments.
Whether it’s a cabin kit or an A-Frame vacation home that’s built from the ground up, the design's relative simplicity makes it a scalable build that’s also easy to alter. For those who want to start off small and add on, the A-Frame is a perfect jumping off point that can evolve with exterior and interior finishings such as dormers, skylights, a front porch, or even a larger addition that expands the whole structure. It’s modifiable enough to create a custom design (go ahead and add a big living room or upper loft why don’t ya) without breaking the bank, but the A-Frame itself is a pragmatic choice and an iconic basecamp in its own right.
The main benefits of an A-Frame, at a glance:
- Timeless architectural style
- Simple, minimalist design
- Secure and strong structure
- Requires fewer materials
- Adaptable and versatile
- Good insulation
- Works well in cold and warm climates
- Scalable build
- More affordable than a classic four wall home
Despite its many perks, the biggest pitfall of an A-Frame cabin is a modest floor plan and less room for interior finishes and that results in limited living, wall, and storage space. Additionally, window frames can only be placed on the vertical front and back of the house—but large floor-to-ceiling windows aren’t such a bad trade-off with all that natural light. An upside to such limitations is the creative solutions that an A-Frame inspires, which really isn’t such a bad thing at all.
Are A-Frame Houses Energy Efficient?
Yes. An A-Frame house is arguably more energy-efficient than a typical timber frame home or log cabin, simply by design. From the beginning, the build doesn’t require as many building materials and consequently doesn’t produce as much waste throughout the construction process (especailly if working from a prefab kit). The entire home is a relatively eco-friendly choice, given that many modern A-Frame cabins and cabin kits have a smaller square footage (although, not quite tiny home size) built with sustainably-harvested timber that isn’t treated with harmful chemicals.
However, it’s the architecture that makes the A-Frame inherently energy-efficient on its own. The three walls create tight seams so it’s naturally well-insulated, and since the heat rises it’s a cinch to keep bedrooms in the loft space warm, while the lower living area can stay heated with a wood-burning stove or fireplace and plenty of sunlight. As long as there aren’t major energy leaks and good ventilation, this structure doesn’t require much help. Consider adding a solar panel system, or putting on a metal roof on your A-Frame house to help deflect some of the sun’s rays and keep your interior cool without running electricity when it gets warm.
What is a Prefab House?
Prefab is short for “prefabricated”, meaning either a whole structure or parts of the structure have been designed and manufactured offsite at a factory and then delivered to a building site. The term “prefabricated” can be used broadly to describe a method of construction and architecture that also encompasses similar types of prefabrications, including A-Frame houses, log cabins, tiny cabins, modular cabins, and often utilizes innovative building techniques and materials, like cross-laminated timber (CLT).
If you’re wondering if a modular and prefabricated house are one and the same, keep in mind that a modular home is a type of prefab home, but what differentiates the two is the modular shape and design, which functions like one individual component within a larger system, much like a steel building or shipping container made into a livable steel home, or scalable tiny house kits (or Backcountry Hut’s modular cabins.) Think of a modular home like a sectional sofa—you can add any number of predetermined units to expand the house (or couch) shape to fit your need. This eliminates many of the costs and challenges of custom building and allows for efficient expansion as needed.
For prefab A-Frame kits for sale now, check out our article, The 9 Best A-Frame House Kits Available Worldwide.
How Much Does a Prefab A-Frame Kit Cost?
A modern prefab A-Frame is versatile and can be cost-effective, but like any manufactured home build, it all depends on how you choose to do it and where you are. Additionally, outside circumstances like a sudden influx in interest, as we're currently seeing as a result of the pandemic, may cause costs to rise dramatically in response to higher demand for contractors, builders, land, and materials. In many regions of North America the average price one can expect to pay per-square-foot of a build has nearly doubled, though only time will tell if such constraints will become the new norm or drop back to pre-pandemic prices.
Not all A-Frame houses are prefab kits, but many are available, and typically, a prefab home costs about 10-20% cheaper than new construction, depending on the size of the living area and the square footage. The price can range from as low as a couple thousand to well over $200,000 USD for a fully-assembled kit home.
Buying a prefab cabin kit automatically saves you the time and money that would be spent on hiring an architect plus should save on the construction crew, too. It's important to keep in mind a general contractor will in most cases still be needed to assembled your kit. Depending on your budget, skill set, and whether or not you have experienced builders to help build your own prefabricated home kit, building an A-Frame house kit or modular home isn’t always the cheapest option, but it can be. There are still many expenses that come with an A-Frame house kit and the total can add up quickly, however, many modern building kits are intentionally designed to be more affordable.
What You Need to Know Before Buying A Prefab A-Frame Kit
Before you buy, ask the manufacturer what is and isn’t included in your prefab kit. Even if it can be completed during a long weekend with as few as 2-3 people, like the 10' x 10' micro cabin by DEN, assembling a kit will very likely require the assistance of skilled professionals, some heavy machinery, and construction materials. Plan ahead by checking all of these things off your list before delivery day:
- Prepare your build site - Level the ground, pour a concrete foundation big enough for your cabin—or install ground screws or another alternative foundation of the like—and make sure there is easy access to the area. Have a professional crew ready to help unload the kit on delivery day.
- Get a permit - Check with your local municipality to find out if you need a permit to build your cabin kit. This will depend on the size, location, codes and regulations of each jurisdiction—most local governments require a permit if square footage is to exceed 150, though it's important to do that leg work well in advance.
- Plan for delivery and assembly - Ask the prefab manufacturer what to expect for delivery and assembly. Ask them about transportation—do they need a two lane road for a semi-truck to drive to your site, or heavy machinery like a forklift to receive and assemble the prefab cabin? Are they providing builders or are you in charge of hiring a crew?
- Detailed instructions and plans- The most vital resource on assembly day are the plans and instructions that arrive with your cabin kit. These should be provided by the manufacturer at the time of purchase, well ahead of delivery, and will give you the most detailed information on how to construct your cabin.
No matter how much is included, the unavoidable out-of-pocket expenses of a prefab home are always the cost of land and easy-to-overlook diligence that comes along with site prep—this may include engineering fees for a site survey and soil perc testing to confirm septic compatibility, substantial costs for septic installation and well drilling—or hookup fees if connecting to municipal utilities like water, electricity, sewer, and cable. Foundation work is also key to considering. Researching each cost (which can easily add $25k or more to the process) is extremely helpful and necessary for accurate budgeting.
Pro Tip for Budgeting: Always round up when estimating costs. It's better to be prepared to pay more and be pleasantly surprised when a service or material is cheaper than find yourself scrambling to cover unexpected costs.
Craving more cabin content? Check out more escapist architecture from around the world in the Field Mag cabin archives.
- A Definitive Guide to the A-Frame House: History, How to Build & More
- Everything You Need to Know About Cabin Kits, From Cost to Construction
- Tiny House Kit Maker Klein Launches First Design, the A45 Cabin
- Prefab Cabin Company Bivvi Introduces First Portable A-Frame Cabin
- 9 Affordable A-Frame House Kits Available Worldwide
- A Ready-Built Prefab Sauna System S From Backcountry Hut Company
- A DIY A-Frame Cabin in the UK, Inspired by Dutch Minimalism
- 9 Affordable A-Frame House Kits Available Worldwide