1-1/2 story Alaska Cabin

Here are photographs and the story of a rustic owner-built home
in remote Prince of Wales island in Southeast Alaska.

Here are Nevada Mike's photos  - Scroll down for earlier construction photos

alaska cabin owner built

Starting to get that lived-in look

alaska cabin owner built

Our evening wear.

alaska cabin owner built

We are in Alaska after all!

In early January of 2011 Mike sent an email update and narrative on his
experience building this house. Here's his report:


I really don't know where to begin with comments.

I picked a plan from Country Plans for the design and affordability.  Like most of us everything is always a stretch financially and this was no different!  I wanted a plan that used common materials and dimensions to keep costs down and this was it.  One step at a time and my cabin came to life.  Finding a lot with a low initial cost and easy financing was first and the University of Alaska made that happen. Each step was the total of what I had available to put into the cabin.  I did not buy the lot and imagine the cost would be X dollars. There would have been no cabin if I imagined the total cost of construction.  After purchasing the lot, my only focus was getting building site cleared. The focus was then the foundation and so on.  I had no idea how long the cabin would take. Each time I would begin collecting what I needed from a variety of places.  I became a fan of Craigslist!  I would watch daily and collect things such as a $50.00 wood stove and the slate remnants to put behind it.   With no timelines, costs go way down. Everything was exciting and became part of my dream as I imagined it being used.

As construction began, the dreams developed into memories.  We went from camping on a gravel pad to a cabin over 5 years.  We froze inside with a roof over our heads but no windows or heat and tar paper on the exterior walls.  But in the morning we woke up to our dreams again.  The steaming cup of coffee quickly made us forget that we were "roughing it." Windows and insulation WOW now we are living the high life! Pasta and Ragu cooked over a camp stove teetering on a scrap piece of plywood made into a makeshift kitchen counter and we may as well been at the Ritz! I really can't express how exciting each step was for myself, my family and friends.  I have never regretted starting my Cabin.  If I were 5 years into it and had just a one room 12x16 with a simple plywood loft and an unfinished interior, I would still be as excited as I am today.

So what is the point of all of this babbling?  In the words of the Nike marketing department, 'just do it!'  I was as excited as a kid at Christmas with just a set of plans and a dream.  Now I have a cabin, a heart full of memories and family and friends with a place they can use for life. It was one step at a time.  Make no mistake. My friends put in countless hours of blood and sweat into this cabin.  For that I will always be grateful, and I hope they have fond memories as well. My advice to others would be to just get started and look to the great help of the Country Plans members for assistance.

Thanks, John, for creating Country Plans.  If I had not found your site with cabins for all of us, I very well might still be dreaming.

Mike Cowan

Here is a recent photo of a clever bench seat/table Mike
built into a section of the wraparound porch.

table bench for porch

Below are a few snapshots of the house and life on Prince of Wales island.



fish  stars


There is an older forum thread and a newer thread with comments and photos of
projects that have been inspired by Mike's cabin project. 

Earlier photos below were taken before the dormers and upper walls were sided.

Alaska 1-1/2 story cabin

wrap around porch on alaska cabin

Click HERE to see another version of the same basic house plans (these folks did not do the porch and have a shed dormer).

Here is an earlier report from 5/4/05

owner-built 1.5 story cottage in Alaska

These photos and information from Nevada_Mike building in Alaska.

6' wide dormer framed between the site built trusses. The trusses are doubled up 2x6s where the roof is slanted. This provides the needed room for R-30 insulation. The second 2x6 can be put in later to reduce the lifting weight of the truss if desired.

The plans have dormer diagrams for a gable (doghouse) dormer as done here, and a small shed dormer (lower pitch flat roof).

Truss made for the dormer. Two of these for each dormer.

Connection of the trusses to the wall with blocking between

The stairway framing and bedroom and bath behind. Mike reversed the floor plan from the standard plan layout. Note that he has carried the loft floor all the way over the great room and kitchen. This area can also be left open and cathedral.

This will be a rough view to wake up to...

Earlier Photos of Foundation

Remote Alaska site

View from the air of a remote site on Prince of Wales island in Southeast Alaska. The nearest town is Coffman Cove. The view from the site is looking over the inside passage and when the clouds are not in the way, snow covered mountains are in view and we sometimes see whales. For reference, Ketchikan Alaska is across the passage to the right about 50 miles.

Pouring the footings

The concrete batch plant is 2 hours away. Our "grey gold' arrived wet wet wet. I don't need to tell you that it was expensive. The locals thought I was crazy for not just using a post and pier foundation. I will admit they are obviously smarter than me on local building best practices.

The finished pour. It appears that Mike has done a concrete footing and short stemwall with the footing resting on a well drained gravel pad. A wood stemwall was then built on this to enclose the crawlspace.

Click HERE for more information on the plans the owner worked with.

ORDER FORM for the plans - # P010-A - a materials list is available - # P010-B

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Click Owner Builder Gallery to see the stories of other projects.