Are A-Frames Good in Cold Climates

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The iconic A-frame cabin has universal appeal as a way to retreat from the world and embrace the natural environment.  Their simple design has endured the test of time.  Scroll any social media channel these days, and you will see them trending  – looking as hip as ever. They have been embraced by design and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

An A-frame cabin in the snow definitely sounds romantic.  If you are dreaming of your own A-frame cabin for your winter basecamp, you may be wondering if these types of structures fare well in cold and snowy climes. The short answer is yes – that’s why they’re often found in ski resorts, mountain retreats and tucked into snowy woods.

While there are a number of pros and cons to consider for A-frame cabins, below are some considerations for A-frame living in cold climates.

Contemporary new large country house standing in mixed forest in front of camera

Roof pitch

The steep pitch of the A-frame roof comes with some pros and cons (you won’t be climbing one anytime soon).  But in terms of heavy snow, it’s a good thing.  Snow slides off its steep pitch eliminating the need to get up there and do it yourself.  We call that a win.

There’s also little chance of damage from snow or ice to a pitched roof given the steep pitch compared to a traditional build.

The pitch of the roof  also provides plenty of space to install solar panels which can be not only cost-saving but provide solar gain in colder climates. Making the cabin even cozier.


A-frames are generally well built and well insulated by their large roof.  Their simple design lends itself to be an energy efficient structure.  Presuming the A-frame is well insulated, you should be cozy inside even through cold winters.

If you’re considering an old cabin that has not been properly insulated, you can still add ways to insulate it more efficiently. There are two main methods of insulating an A-frame.  For the interior, insulation between and under the rafters. On the exterior, insulation between the roof deck and the shingles, shakes, metal, or tile.  Consult with a local contractor to look at the cabin’s insulation and if there are ways to improve it to keep the cabin warm in the coldest months.


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The large windows you typically see in an A-frame structure are part of it’s stunning design and appeal.  They should also provide plenty of natural light and solar gain which is an advantage in a colder climate.

However you’ll want to check the efficiency of your windows – older ones could be causing heat loss in the cabin.  In which case you’ll want to look at replacing your windows with more energy-efficient ones to ensure that the heat in your home is not escaping through leaky windows.If windows are positioned correctly, they should provide solar gain to help heat the home.

If the current windows are not letting in enough natural light, another option is to consider installing skylights or solar tubes on your roof.  A skylight on the roof will let in significantly more light and heat than a vertical window and will make the living space feel airy.  You’ll want to ensure the skylights can handle the average annual snow load.


The structure of the A-frame means that heat rises to the top of the house and can result in it being too warm at the top of the house and not warm enough in the main living space.  While heating an A-frame can be a challenge due to it’s shape, there are solutions to efficiently heat an A-Frame.

One simple solution is installing a ceiling fan and running it whenever your heat is on. This will help circulate the air throughout the cabin to keep the room temperature even throughout. The air circulation from the fan distributes the heat more uniformly and make your heating system more efficient.

Wood burning stoves or fireplaces are often the heart of the A-frame to keep the ground level cozy and warm.


Final Word

The construction of an A-frame cabin really makes it quite ideal for all types of weather.  In cold climates, a well insulated A-frame cabin with proper heating is going to be comfortable.  Add a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove and you’ve got the perfect cozy cabin to make your  base camp for creating memories all winter long.

If your dreams include owning an A-frame cabin in a winter climate, there are plenty of ways to keep it warm and cozy all winter long.