How to Build An Alaskan Cabin


Protection from the elements is the primary consideration when building a cabin in Alaska. Many hunters, fishermen and nature enthusiasts depend on their cabins for shelter, but building a cabin in a remote location can present a huge challenge. Use of simple designs, methods and materials is essential for the do-it-yourself cabin builder. A frame cabin is the simplest method of construction when building an Alaskan cabin.

Things You'll Need

  • Four-way deck blocks, concrete blocks or field stone
  • 2x6 pressure-treated lumber
  • 2x4 pressure-treated lumber
  • 5/8 inch pressure-treated plywood
  • Tar paper or plastic sheeting
  • Roofing material (composition, wood shingles or metal roof panels)
  • 2-inch spiral shank nails
  • 2-inch wood screws
  • Carpenters level
  • Joist hangers
  • Doors & windows
  • Circular saw
  • Chain saw
  • Hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Design your cabin. Plan location of doors and windows for optimum use of sunlight. (Solar panels will supplement generator-provided electricity in the most remote locations.) To help combat winter winds, do not place windows or entrances on the north side of the building. Keep your design compact and simple. A small cabin is much easier to heat.

  • Select a flat, well-drained building site that is not subject to flooding or avalanche. Level the building site, removing all rocks or obstacles. If feasible, choose a site that is sheltered from the wind.

  • Place stakes to indicate the perimeter of the cabin. Measure accurately, making sure the corners are squared. Use four-way deck blocks, concrete blocks or field stone to construct a sturdy foundation. If you elect to pour a concrete foundation, set it at least 4 feet below the frost line. Cabins set on block foundations are ideal for Alaska. Blocks will adapt to frost heaves and settling.

  • Build the floor joists and frame using 2x6 pressure-treated lumber on 16-inch spacings. Nail the joists together using joist hangers and 2-inch spiral-shank nails. Place the frame on the foundation, assuring that it is sitting square and leveled. Check with a carpenter's level. Cover the floor with 5/8-inch pressure-treated plywood. Secure the plywood in place with 2-inch wood screws, installed no farther than 8 inches apart.

  • Construct the wall frames (including window and door frames) from 2x4 inch pressure-treated lumber set on 16-inch spacing. Nail the boards together using 2-inch spiral-shank nails, driven at a 30-degree angle to provide additional strength. After the wall frames are built, raise and position in place one at a time. Because the frames are heavy and cumbersome, having a partner is helpful. Secure the frames to the floor joist with 2-inch spiral nails driven in at 30 degrees.

  • Build the roof frame from 2x6 pressure-treated lumber set on 16-inch spacings. Nail together with joist hangers and 2-inch spiral shank nails. Attach to wall frames with 2-inch spiral-shank nails driven at a 30-degree angle. Cover the roof with 5/8-inch pressure-treated plywood. Secure the plywood to the roof frame with 2-inch wood screws, no farther than 8 inches apart.

  • Cover the roof with tar paper or plastic sheeting. Staple or nail in place with roofing nails. Install roofing. Wood, composition shingles or metal roofing can be used. (Metal is recommended in Alaska's extreme climate conditions. A metal roof helps shed snow and is resistant to fire.)

  • Cover the exterior cabin wall frames with 5/8-inch pressure-treated plywood. Cover with tar paper or weather-proof plastic sheeting. Secure with staples or roofing nails. Cover the plastic or tar paper with wood siding, shingles or metal sheeting. (If available, 6-foot log lengths can be used as exterior siding. Harvest logs with a chain saw and allow to dry. (Green logs can be used. Because the logs are applied vertically, shrinkage is minimal.) Cut the logs in half lengthwise using a circular table saw. Nail to the wall studs vertically using 2-inch spiral-shank nails.)

  • Install the windows and hang the door. Caulk the window and door frame with weatherproof stripping or caulking.

  • Add insulation between the 2x4s of the interior walls and between the joists under the flooring. Cover the interior walls with wall board or wood paneling.

Tips & Warnings

  • An Alaskan cabin can be built from lumber, logs or stone. As many wilderness areas are remote and inaccessible, locally available materials are preferred. Determine the materials you will have to work with prior to designing your cabin.
  • Always wear eye and ear protection when using a chainsaw or other power tools.

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  • Photo Credit mountain cabin image by Paul Moore from
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