We love the iconic A-frame cabin. Its cool and quirky style is defined by its face shaped like a capital A with its steeply angled roof that begins near the foundation line and meets at the top.
It’s become a popular style, especially for vacation homes, often thanks to its ability to reflect the nature — the peaks of mountains, the heights of trees — that surrounds it.
In 1934, architect R.M. Schindler brought the style into the modern era when he built the first modern A-frame house, for owner Gisela Bennati, in Lake Arrowhead, California. After World War II, these homes grew even faster in popularity as they were relatively inexpensive to build, especially given the fact that they came in pre-fabricated kits and sold by fashionable retailers such as Macy’s department store.
Before you set out to build an A-frame home, however, we lay out some pros and cons for you to consider.
Advantages of A-frames
Pro: They are available in pre-fabricated kits.
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The pre-fabricated kits that originally made the A-frame popular after World War II still exist today, and they come in a variety of sizes, meaning you can easily scale an A-frame whether you want a grand primary home or a luxurious, but smaller vacation home. These kits work in a variety of environments and are easy to install and will often save you money compared to building a home from scratch. Check out the beautiful designs from the Everywhere Shelter Company or budget-friendly options from Den Outdoors.
Pro: They are designed to save money — and energy.
The pitch of the roof of A-frame homes gives you a lot of areas to work with if you want to install solar panels. This makes the homes not only cost-saving but good for the environment as well. And during the hot months, these homes tend to be easier to cool since most of the living space is on a lower level and no vertical walls are cutting off the flow of air.
Pro: They are strong.
The triangle shape of the A-frame house makes them stronger than other designs, which can help them stand up to harsh climates such as wind, rain, and snow. But, because the triangle A-frame style of these homes is the distinctive feature of the home, it can mean that they are inflexible in how they are designed and what they look like. Instead, it’s up to the homeowner or the architect to find ways to make them their own.
Pro: They’re great for snowy climates.
The pitched roof of an A-frame home makes them perfect for living in snowy climates. These roofs can easily withstand the snow, especially when they are made out of metal.
Pro: They are good for views.
If you are building your A-frame in the woods, the mountains, or by a body of water, get ready to enjoy that beautiful scenery. It’s easy to install windows in these houses that will allow you to enjoy the view no matter where you are.
Pro: They have open floor plans.
Open floor plans are one of the biggest requests today’s homebuyers are looking for and A-frames give you that. These spaces have limited vertical walls, meaning there is little to cut off-site lines throughout the house. In addition, they meet some of the other biggest asks of today’s homebuyers such as high ceilings, large scenic windows, and an uncomplicated design.
Pro: They make great vacation homes.
A-frames are uber-popular in mountain towns, ski resorts, and lake areas because they allow you to have undisturbed views of the scenery. At the same time, the lack of storage and fewer rooms means that while they don’t always make the best primary homes for large families, they can be fun vacation homes you can escape to every year.
Disadvantages of A-Frames
Con: There are extra materials costs.
According to builder Avrame, A-frame houses come with 20% more surface exposed to the elements. This means you need 20% more materials for building the home. However, there are ways to offset that cost, for example, many A-frames have metal roofs which are significantly less expensive than installing exterior cladding on a wall. At the same time, the metal roof will have a longer lifespan than the cladding, meaning you are saving money on repairs down the line.
Con: The roof can be an expense.
When an A-frame roof becomes damaged, it can be expensive to replace. At the same time, if it’s not well insulated it can be an energy suck and leave your home without proper temperature control.
Con: There are no external walls.
This could be a pro or con depending on how you look at it. For some, the con is that this limits the surface area you have to decorate the area. For others, the fact that the walls you do have serve as doors and windows, letting in an abundance of light that give the home a bright and light feel that you may be looking for.
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Con: There is no conventional storage space.
Storage is a big issue for many families — and it seems we always want more. If storage is a big dealbreaker for you then the A-frame might not be the right style. That’s because A-frames have many vertical walls and limits the space for building closets is limited, meaning you’ll have to get creative about how you add storage area to your A-frame.
Con: They aren’t great for large families.
The limited vertical walls, limited storage space, and a limited number of bedrooms mean that large families may not be comfortable in an A-frame house. Instead, these homes make great primary homes for single individuals or couples or second homes.
At the same time, many A-frames homes make a concerted effort to have ample outdoor living spaces such as big beautiful decks where you and your family can grill out or simply relax during your vacation.
There’s a reason many cabin lovers opt for the A-frame style. Its iconic design evokes memories of vacation and relaxation – perfect for your cabin getaway. While A-frames have surged in popularity in recent years, the timeless style and design of an A-frame will never really go out of style.
Featured Image Credit: Alex Robert via Creative Commons