Complete Guide to Owning an A-frame Cabin

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What Is an A-frame House

An A-frame house is a modern home style that is characterized by a triangular and tall roof resembling the capital letter “A”.

The A-frame house features high ceilings, open floor plans, and steeply angled walls.  This style has been popular in the United States and around the world as both primary and vacation homes and can be found along lakes, in the mountains, and in other resort areas.  They are often a popular choice for second homes or vacation properties.

The A-frame is an iconic modern style and has been trending on social media platforms with their cozy nostalgic style as a perfect place to nest – whether it is used for your weekend getaway or your main residence.

Thanks to their triangular shape, A-frame houses are popular due to the design being structurally sound providing open floor plans and a creative blank slate for modern style.  A-frames can also be less expensive to build and more energy efficient.   Read all the pros and cons of owning or building an A-frame.


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History of A-frame Houses

One of the first known vacation A-frame houses was designed by Austrian architect Rudolph Schindler in 1934. It was designed for his client in California, Gisela Bennati, and it marked the beginning of the A-frame houses’ rise to popularity among the middle class in the United States.

In 1957, A-frames became even more popular when Andrew Geller, an architect from New York, built an A-frame house in Long Island and called it the Reese House. This style was featured in the New York Times, and soon A-frames started to appear all over the United States and the world. Their popularity continued throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Eventually, A-frame structures were in such high demand that many companies decided to offer prefabricated kits. These kits were available throughout North America, were affordable, could be tailored to the local environment and people’s personal needs, and were easy to assemble. Making the dream of owning an A-frame cabin as a second home more accessible than ever.

The popularity of the A-frame style at this time in American history was attributed to numerous factors including the higher disposable income of the American population, interest in obtaining a second home, the inexpensive building technique of the A-frames, and a very adaptable style of these homes. Moreover, A-frame houses are inexpensive, do not require complicated maintenance, and are energy efficient.

Benefits of an A-frame House

While A-frames can be found anywhere, they are often in wooded or snowy regions, such as Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Scandanavia. There are several reasons for this, including the following:

  • Snow management. A-frames feature a heavily sloped roof that does not let snow build up and cause damage. The structure allows snow to slide right off the sides of the house, which helps the homeowner avoid expensive snow removal and roof repairs due to damage. For this reason, many ski chalets in ski resorts are A-frame homes, and they are perfect for outdoor lovers.
  • Natural light. A-frame homes have large windows that provide plenty of natural light. If you want to add even more light, you can consider adding skylights to your A-frame house. There are many prefab kits that include skylights as part of their design.
  • Affordability. This type of home can be among the easiest and cheapest to engineer, design, and build. Whether you build yourself or use a pre-fab kit, the simple design can be budget-friendly.
  • Energy Efficient – A-frames are generally more energy-efficient due to their design, making them popular in cold weather climates.
  • Solid Structure – due to the triangle shape of this style, it creates a sturdy and solid structure that is strong and durable.
  • Timeless Style – the A-frame structure creates a cozy inside with sloped walls and plenty of open space to let your creativity run wild.
  • Affordable Build – whether you use a pre-fabricated kit or build your own, this structure is generally less expensive to build from scratch due to the simple design and using fewer materials.

What Is an A-frame Roof?

An A-frame roof is characterized by steeply-angled sides that usually begin near the foundation life of an A-frame home and meet at the top in the shape of the capital letter “A”. Typically, this type of roof nearly reaches the ground on both sides of the home.

An A-frame roof has many advantages over other roof styles. It is efficient and can keep directs the warm air upwards, which helps keep the house cool all day. It is also easier and much cheaper to construct than other roof types.  Snow and ice will fall off the roof so there is less snow removal and roof maintenance.  On the other hand, you can’t walk on the roof so you really wouldn’t want to maintain it in any case.

The pitch of the roof provides a lot of ground to install solar panels which can be not only cost-saving but good for the environment.

The downside of the A-frame roof is that it creates less interior wall space due to the angled walls.  This can present some challenges for placing furniture and art as well as creating storage areas.  Window frames are limited to the front and back of the house which might require skylights to create more light if needed.

But these challenges can be overcome with creative design and have inspired many uber-cool A-frame cabins that are insta-worthy.

Key elements of A-Frame Design

It’s a unique design that has a sense of timelessness.  But this style is not for everyone so some things to consider before building or buying your A-frame cabin.

  • Other than the front and back walls, there is no vertical external surface in the house
  • The ceiling is what gives this style it’s airy and roomy interior open space but at the same time, it limits nooks and crannies for storage
  • Lack of wall space due to sloped roof makes furniture and art placement a challenge – but one that can certainly be overcome
  • The big triangle shape lends itself to a second level – whether that’s a full second floor or a cozy loft space on top
  • Floor-to-ceiling windows in the upright walls are typical to maximize natural light and views
  • A-frame homes frequently use exposed beams and vaulted ceilings which add character and charm
  • The sloped roof might not be ideal for tall people or large families looking for extra storage space

Is an A-Frame Energy-Efficient?

This style of home can be scaled to any size and built to minimize carbon footprint – overall A-frames require less building materials, typically use timber materials, and are well insulated.

Thanks to the architectural design, heating and cooling an A-frame is an energy-efficient process as long as the house is well insulated and ventilated.

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.

We love A-frame cabins for their cool and classic style but they are definitely unique so may not be for everyone.  There is a lot to consider before building or buying one.