10 Life Lessons Building a Cabin in Alaska Has Taught Us

Framing the roof.

Framing the roof.

Scott and I started building a log cabin in McCarthy, Alaska in 2012. We expect to finish the project this September. This isn’t the first time we endeavored to do something big. In 2009 we rode a tandem bike all the way down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver, Canada to the Mexican border. In 2011 we toured on individual bicycles from Kaliningrad, Russia to Paris, France. In 2014 we started and completed the Year of Beer Paintings project. So working on a time-consuming, long-term task is not new to us, and we have a 100% completion rate so far. Each endeavor has taught us important life lessons, and this cabin-building project is no exception. So here are the ten things we’ve learned so far.

1. We don’t like to take steps back. When we make a mistake, we try to find a way to work with it, rather than starting over and fixing it right away. The farther along we get, the more evident the mistakes become as they pile up. Sure, had we gone back to fix every error, and started over with a new log, or made a new notch, we wouldn’t be as far along as we are today, and would have had to buy more materials, but the house would have fewer flaws. We’re hoping all of our errors will be smoothed out by finishing touches.

2. We stopped expecting a perfect cabin. When we started, we had high hopes that every notch would fit perfectly, and everything would be square, but the reality is that this is our first big building project, and we’re not professional builders, so we had to get over the disappointment that our cabin wouldn’t turn out as perfect as the Parthenon.

3. Plans will change. Scott spent countless hours researching how to build with logs, and drawing plans. We have a stack of graph paper with different versions of cabin plans, and when we settled on the one, we really did intend to build it as planned. Yeah right. Once we got started, we realized what would actually work, got new ideas, and plans changed. Not dramatically though.

4. When working with your spouse, give compliments on tasks well done. Compliments are encouraging and do wonders for boosting morale.

5. A stitch in time saves nine. Before beginning a task, think about what you’ll need and get everything ready. That saves so much time and frustration.

6. While building a cabin, your social life will suffer greatly. We were in denial about this during our first building summer and made a special effort to be social butterflies, but now that we’re building the roof, going down to town is just not a priority.

7. Don’t start building a log cabin if you don’t have a lot of spare time. You’ll end up hiring someone to finish it, or it won’t get done.

8. Women can build too, when the right person is teaching. Men have to be patient and explain things really well. That’s how Scott ended up having a building buddy who works for free.

9. Quit working when you’re tired. We set goals for each day, but when we get tired we start making mistakes and that costs more time and materials later. Also, most injuries happen when people are tired at the end of the day. So just quit for the day.

10. You can accomplish big projects if you break them up into smaller stages, and just take one step at a time, and don’t stop until you are done.


1 thought on “10 Life Lessons Building a Cabin in Alaska Has Taught Us

  1. Pingback: “What else do you do to make money?” | Real Art Is Better!

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