Outdoor lovers, design devotees, and aspiring cabin owners alike can appreciate the versatility and accessibility of a prefab home. Often modern in design, more sustainable than traditional building, better suited for remote sites, and generally just designed in an approach that is very of-the-times, prefabricated homes and cabins are becoming increasingly popular among those who are interested in alternative dwellings. Understandably, it has been raising eyebrows and questions about how to procure one of your own. That’s why you’re here, and what we aim to answer below.
In this comprehensive piece, we cover (almost) everything you need to know about prefab homes and cabins, what they are, how to get one, and most importantly the ins and outs of choosing the best prefab for you.
What is a Prefab Home?
A prefab home is short for a "prefabricated home," which is both a whole structure or parts of a structure that have been designed and manufactured at a factory and then delivered to a building site. The term “prefabricated” can be used broadly to describe a method of construction and design that also encompasses similar types of prefabrications, such as paneled small cabins and tiny cabins, modular log cabins, or turnkey homes. A prefabricated structure is versatile and often cost-effective that can come in many different shapes, sizes, and styles.
What Can a Prefab Cabin Be Used For?
There are a variety of reasons to consider purchasing a cabin. Prefab cabins are easy to understand, attractive, and, let's be honest, make great vacation cabins. Prefab log cabins also work well for those who want a more nature-inspired home. Small prefab cabins can be used as a backyard office or outside studio. They are cozy and inviting, and if designed just right, they bring nature indoors.
Modern prefab cabins bring the comfort of luxury living to a location of your choice, with all the modern conveniences of a standard stick built home. And, if you go the prefab lob cabin route, it’ll blend in a unique rustic charm not easily found elsewhere.
What Is The Difference Between A Modular and Prefab Home?
A modular home is a type of prefab home because it has been designed and manufactured at a construction facility. However, what differentiates it is the modular shape and design, which functions like one individual component within a larger system. You can think of a modular home in terms of a “module”, which can either stand-alone or be built onto by adding more modules to create a larger structure and expand your floor plan, like the Backcountry Hut’s modular cabins. However, that’s just one type of prefab construction. Within the umbrella of prefabricated homes are four main types of builds that have a lot of crossover:
- Modular Home - A completed modular build that can be added onto, and arrives to the buildsite with all of the exterior and interior finishings. You can expect a modular home to have roof, doors, windows, plumbing, electricity, etc. it’s available in different styles and aesthetics.
- Panelized Home - A panelized home will arrive to the build site as individual panels (like walls) and is assembled by the company so you don’t need to hire contractors or DIY, great for tiny house hopefuls. It’s not fully-finished and thus, can be customized and added.
- Shipping Container Home - Popular for their sleek industrial look with aluminum siding, shipping container homes function much like a modular home, but are more difficult to transform into a residence. They can be a great option for a homeowner who wants a unique place and is willing to hire contractors, architects, and other professionals with the right experience.
- Pre-Cut Home - A pre-cut home is manufactured in a factory and shipped as a prefab cabin kit to the build site (so, yes, a kit can technically be a prefab home, but not all prefabs are kits, got it?). The main difference is that the homeowner is responsible for assembling the prefab cabin kit themselves or hiring a contractor. Depending on which type of prefab cabin kit you buy, it might not come with all the finishings, e.g. windows, roof, and doors.
What Are the Benefits of Prefab Home?
As with any home build, it all depends on individual wants and needs. However, this option has a lot of perks which for some, might make buying a prefab modular home better than a site-built home. Typically, a prefab home is about 10-20% cheaper than a new construction, depending on the size of the living area and square footage, and takes as little as a few weeks to several months to assemble.
The most obvious benefits of investing in a prefabricated home are in the name itself: it’s built offsite, in a climate-controlled facility, with precise and prefabricated measurements. This inherently removes a lot of the variables that might otherwise occur during new construction or onsite builds, leaving you with a reliable and well-made home, with the flexibility of choosing everything from a tiny home to a hunting cabin or a fully-finished log home kit.
Not only will you know exactly what to expect, but the materials will also arrive in good condition — not warped or negatively impacted by the elements. As a bonus, these modern prefab homes are often more environmentally-friendly because the fine-tuned process is able to eliminate waste of unused building materials. Additionally, there won’t be months of traveling to and from a construction site, less disturbance to the area (except for pouring a concrete foundation), and the engineered building process creates a durable home that will last.
Do Prefab Homes Meet Building Requirements?
Excluding shipping container homes, a prefab home is required to be built in accordance to state and local building codes. For that reason, there buyers have a lot of freedom to assemble their prefab cabin where they want — picture a log cabin in a dreamy remote location — which makes prefab homes even more awesome. Make sure to check in with your local municipality to find out if you need a permit to build your prefab cabin. This varies depending on the size, location, codes and regulations of each jurisdiction, so do that research before delivery day.
The Best Prefab Cabins You Can Buy
Your log cabin is more than just a structure, it will be your home—or home-away-from-home if you are building a vacation cabin. That means the best prefab cabin is the one that you love the most, be it a modern prefab, prefab log cabin, shipping container house, or DIY cabin kit made of CLT panels.
The perfect cabin should fit into your budget, of course. But be wary of cheap prefab cabins. When looking for prefab log cabins for sale ensure they are made from quality materials and are easy to understand and provide everything you want and need to properly build.
Still, there are a few ways to make your budget stretch a bit further, like doing much of the work yourself (if you’re particularly handy and experienced at building) or opting for slightly less expensive cabin plans or fixtures and fittings for your timber home. Regardless, be forewarned that since the onset of the global pandemic, prices and delivery timelines for materials like timber, glass, and tools have increased dramatically. They will eventually level off, of course, but for the time being, it’s tough out there for us on a budget.
What You Should Consider Before Buying a Prefab Cabin
Where will you put it?
Before you buy and build a prefab log cabin, you need to have space to put it. The land where you plan on building your cabin or small log house should be large enough to accommodate the structure along with any outside living space if you plan on having this.
You don't necessarily need a lot of space to have your very own cabin. Small prefab cabins are ideal for those who want to enjoy nature on a smaller footprint or add an ADU to their existing property. These prefab tiny cabins could just be a simple room or a couple of modular cabins placed close to each other to create a mini cabin compound.
Cabin style and design
All prefab log cabins are made of wood in some form or another, be it unfinished logs, cross laminated timber (CLT), or post and beam construction. Still, there are many design elements and features that you can add to make your new cabin unique. There are different floor plans to choose from; you can add features to enhance the aesthetics of your log cabin or keep it simple and functional. More rustic-looking log cabins can give off a classic lodge vibe, while more modern prefab cabins can better adopt a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic.
Is the plan customizable?
Most prefab modern cabins and prefab log cabins for sale are available in pre-designed floor plans, from retailers like Den. It is possible to find a layout that you love, but getting a custom prefab cabin will allow you to make changes to the existing plan (we suggest consulting a number of manufacturers—because many prefab houses and cabins are made with modular designs, adaptations and customizations are often an easy request to accommodate). Many prefab tiny cabins, log houses, and modular cabins, can also be expanded down the line if you’ve have fallen in love with cabin living.
Prefab cabins' prices depend on the size of the cabin as well as the features and fittings you wish to include. Some manufacturers, like Backcountry Hut Company, will assemble a water tight cabin kit shell on your site, leaving you to customize the interior to your liking. Whereas a prefab maker like Manta North offers a fully built house ready to be lived in within hours of delivery. Depending on the manufacturer, they may install the structure for you, or leave assembly in your hands like the A-Frame cabin kit by Den. This all affects the price, of course. A simple 10x10 foot structure, like the aforementioned Den A-Frame, costs $27,000 USD. Larger prefab cabins and log cabin kits may be priced as low as $75,000 or as high as a few hundred thousand dollars.
How to Pick the Right Prefabricated Cabin Manufacturer
Look for a prefab home manufacturer who will provide high-quality materials, service, follow-up or aftercare services, and a warranty of 5-10 years. The company should also offer delivery and installation (even if you decide not to use them) with clear instructions on what you should expect and any heavy machinery needed for assembly. It’s a good idea to connect with the owners and/or designers of the cabin you plan to buy beforehand to establish the lines of communication and feel more confident about your purchase. Overall, try your best to establish a pleasant working relationship with the cabin manufacturer before, during, and after you buy. You can also ask other prefab homeowners to recommend builders in the area.
Financing and Insuring
A factory built home may qualify for a Home Construction Loan if it meets the lender’s requirements, so you don’t have to pay the total cost upfront. As usual, this depends on the type of prefab construction and location, however, you can work with the prefab company to get all of the right information, such as detailed plans, specifications, home value, and hiring a licensed general contractor to sweeten the deal.
Utilities and Other Expenses for Prefab Homes
Before you buy, ask the manufacturer what is and isn’t included in your prefab cabin. While a modular log home might come move-in ready and assembled by a professional construction crew, a panelized prefab cabin could arrive on the scene half-finished and in need of finishing and fixtures, not to mention assembly in the first place. Or maybe it’s a prefab home that comes with that already baked into the total cost. As previously mentioned, others offer more flexibility to customize the home, leaving the remaining expenses up to you, which could be a cost-effective option or an opportunity to go big — choose your own adventure.
No matter how much is included, the unavoidable out-of-pocket expenses of a prefab home are always the cost of land and site survey, foundation, and utilities, such as water hookups, electricity, waste management and cable. Knowing that, you can budget accordingly for your dream home!
Designing Your Own Prefab Cabin
Check with the prefab company to find out if they offer customizable options or home packages. Since many prefab companies rely on streamlined, mass manufacturing to keep output consistent and prices accessible—meaning plans have already been created and the precise measurements down to a science—you may not be able to design the home, but consider buying a cabin design that offers more flexibility. This way, you have options to add on a kitchen, a porch, or solar panels. Panelized or pre-cut kits are also a great choices for personalization, or portable cabins, because they will arrive with just a modern wall system or timber frame of a log cabin that allows you to fill in the blanks.
What Materials are Best for Prefab Cabins?
A modular or prefab home can be an affordable option thanks to the relatively lower cost of building materials. Wood, concrete, or steel for the frame are commonly used to build something as basic as the wall panels or more involved turnkey prefab homes. Not only does it cost less because of the reduced waste, but a factory built home is more energy efficient due to tight seams which improves heating and cooling. Many companies offer eco-friendly options or design these manufactured homes with sustainability in mind, so ask about their priorities as it may vary. They can work well in remote locations and as a sound structure a modern prefab cabin can handle heavy snow loads (looking at you, A-Frame), resist the wear and tear of harsh elements, and be easily transported to a rugged site.
Delivery and Assembly
Do the leg work well in advance to make sure the delivery and assembly of your prefab home goes smoothly. Of course, there will be bumps in the road, but you’ve already come this far, so here are several ways to prepare for a successful prefab cabin assembly.
Plan Ahead: Communicate with the cain manufacturer ahead of time. At this point, they should have given you a clear idea of what to expect for delivery and assembly. Ask them about delivery, transportation — do they need a wide-enough road for a semi-truck to drive to your site, or heavy machinery like a forklift to assemble the prefab cabin? — are they providing builders or are you in charge of hiring a crew? Is it a DIY kit? Each one varies so talk to the maker first.
Prepare the Build Site: It’s crucial to have everything onsite to assemble, transport, and store build materials if necessary. Plan ahead for any inclement weather, make sure you have enough daylight to get it done, factor in travel and temperature (this affects the wood and shape of the log walls as much as you!) so you are ready to go. Make sure to settle or level the ground and pour concrete slab foundation big enough for your cabin before it arrives.
Building Materials and Supplies: Once again, good communication with your prefab house maker and a solid understanding of what’s required for assembly will allow you to stock up on the best tools and supplies. While the needs of assembly may be unique to your prefab, here are a few items to have ready for construction: carpentry and power tools, tarps and shelter from the elements, detailed plans and instructions for your prefab home, and any heavy machinery.
Who Makes Prefab Cabins?
A quick search will serve you a vast number of prefab cabins or cabin kits for sale, but it's tough to know which to trust. Prefab log cabin kit companies make it easy for their customers to order and build their own prefab log cabin homes. And others deliver their prefabricated homes on a flatbed truck ready to be placed on site with a crane. Either way, really, once you have a suitable plot of land, choosing a reputable company to make your prefab cabin dreams come to life is the most important decision you can make.
Ideally, the company should be registered with the National Association of Home Builders or the International Log Builders' Association. In addition, they should use quality materials and employ skilled professionals, both in the manufacturing and in transportation. Lastly, they should provide excellent customer service (a quick scan through customer reviews can help you gauge this). Below are two lists of prefab cabin manufacturers that currently ship to both North America and Europe. Though it’s up to you to do diligence before you dive in head first.
10 Modern Prefab Cabins Available in North America
Backcountry Hut Company
This Vancouver, BC-based company produces simple, recreational structures designed for remote locations and delivered flatpack-style.
Price Range: ~$150 per square foot
Based out of SoCal, this 20-year-old prefab company specializes in midcentury-inspired cabins for your backyard or further afield.
Price Range: $28,000-$87,000
A45 by BIG
The brainchild of notorious architecture studio BIG, the A45 is a sleek almost-A-Frame kit with serious Hygge-vibes.
Price Range: ~$122,000
Latvia-based cabin maker Manta North makes ordering their contemporary, nature-inspired cabins as easy (and fun) as ordering a pizza online with their intuitive website
Price Range: $169,000+
Get creative with Tennessee-based Modular Dwelling, a young company that allows customers to design their own cabin from the ground up, then builds it for them.
Price Range: $90 per square foot
Canadian newcomer Aux Box designs compact studio cabins for bonus space wherever you need it-at home, or as a nature escape.
Price Range: $18,000-$58,000
Based in Finland, Pluspuu designs luxurious cabins, saunas, and holiday homes that are a far cry from the standard prefab cube.
Price Range: $18,000-$183,580
Run by an all-women team from the Czech Republic, Australia-based Ecokit produces unique modular cabins based on classic A-Frames, rural barns, and Mid-Century urban homes, with pricing based on floor plan
Price Range: $45,000-$475,000
Jyubako Tiny House by Snow Peak
Designed for Snow Peak by Japanese architect Kengo Kum, this much-talked-about mobile cabin only recently hit the US market after a successful presence in Japan.
Price Range: $60,000
One of the more unique prefab cabins on the market, Iglucrafts have traditional shingled exteriors and domed interiors, for a distinctly Hobbit-hole feel.
Price Range: $31,000 to $60,800
5 Modern Prefab Cabins Available Exclusively in Europe
Hergest Lee Based out of Wales, Hergest Lee's countryside cabin is available for rent, but the company also sells variations of the Frank Gehry-inspired model as flatpack kits. Price Range: $25,950 and $42,355
Oslo-based Norske Mikrohus builds stylish mobile cabins for a range of prefab-connoisseurs
Price Range: Starts at roughly $100,000
Based in Belgium, Tortiga's colorful, playful prefab domes are best suited for creative outlets or work retreats, but they'll work just fine in the backcountry too.
Price Range: Starts at roughly $32,400
Hello Wood's Grand Cabin A-Frame was designed to accommodate up to 20 people for creative events, although it certainly makes an awesome camping shelter too.
Price Range: $70,600
While Estonia-based Kodasema offers a variety of sleek, contemporary prefab cabins, it's their houseboat model that takes the cake, because who doesn't want a floating cabin?
Price Range: $200,000
Putting the “Fab” in Prefab
Now that you’re ready and able to go out into the world and discover your modern prefab home, we’ve got plenty of architectural inspiration, design ideas, and prefab dreams to help you reimagine your next dwelling. Check out our favorite prefab companies and creators in the ever-expanding Field Mag archive: