Advice for new cabin build please


Hello all, I posted a question a little while ago asking what kind of structure everyone had on their property. Well after much consideration my wife and I decided to build a small cabin. We paid an architect to develop plans for a very simple 28x36 gambrel style cabin with a half loft 2nd floor, tin roof and tin sides. He recommended 3 builders he works with and I have given my plans to all of them and am waiting for their estimates. The cabin plans called for a 4ft footer around the entire foundation and then a concrete pad. The first builder called me and said before he gives me his estimate asked why our getaway cabin is calling for such an elaborate foundation. He advised me there were two other ways to build it to, being a monolithic pad, or a post build, that would be much less expensive. I do not know much about concrete pads to know different foundation types. Please keep in mind this is our 2nd home. What will it be in 10yrs when I retire, I dont know. But I do have my primary residence with a mortgage back home. I have saved for 10 yrs to try and pay cash for this build. We are looking to do nothing more than pad, cabin and frame in the rooms. I then have someone else to do electric, water and blow in insulation(I have all utilities on site, well, septic and electric already). We will do all the rest piecemeal when I get more time and money. So all drywall and finishing stuff will have to wait. We plan on heating with a wood stove and some kind of heat system when not there to keep it at 50 until after hunting season when we will close up shop. Here are some of my questions:

1) What are your thoughts on foundations? Pad, footer and pad or post build?

2) two of the builders recommended running pex through the concrete and doing radiant floor heat for when were not there as opposed to a wall mounted propane heater. This sounds great but again, this is not my main residence, I have to keep budget minded.

3) My father-in-law around the corner just had his Amish neighbor poor a concrete pad and put up a 24x36 barn very, very inexpensively. Metal roof and sides, just like mine will be. It looks great and the wood was all from a local lumber mill, not green hemlock or anything. He said he can build my cabin, he just doesn't do the pex radiant floor heating. His cost would probably be half of what the contractors will be. Any reason not to go with him? He works with the building inspector too so its all legit. Like I said, it just wouldnt have the radiant floor heat. Ive never experienced this type of flooring, I dont know how important it is for a cabin. He would require my spot be graded and level for him to build. I have a 30HP Kioti tractor and back blade, is this something I could do myself or would I need someone to come in and do it because its more complicated then im thinking it is?

Sorry for the long read, and thanks for any suggestions.

I'm not from a cold climate as you so....
The 4ft footers are likely do to the frost line in your area to avoid foundation uplift. You could do the post in the ground more like a pole barn build but there are disadvantages such as the post are in the ground and subject to rot etc. Much cheaper but not much better. You can sleeve the post in plastic to keep them from ground contact but again keep the cost in mind (believe my pole barn builder wanted $30 a pole extra)

Is the Amish doing a pole barn type build?

Keep in mind, radiant floor heating is slow to change temp so if you keep it 50 during the week and then show up on Friday night, its not going to just jump up to 68 degrees quickly. IMO, radiant heat is awesome but I wouldn't think it would be a good fit for a weekend place. Would propane heat the water for the radiant tubes?

Unless you have very light soil, I doubt a 30HP tractor would grade. I know for my pole barn I had to rent an 12k lb excavator but I also needed to dig some big oak stumps.
What is the cost difference between putting in a frost wall on top of footings as opposed the the posts or floating slab. For me personally it would have to be a very significant cost difference. The rest of your house or cabin or shed sits on the foundation, if it moves, heaves, sinks, or shifts it will effect the rest of the building. Doors and windows not closing or sealing up, drywall cracking. For myself anywhere I plan to live or stay I want built on a solid foundation. If its $5000 difference and you plan on keeping it for 20 years that is only $250 a year. Pretty easy to save that much money somewhere else in the course of a year.

For the pex heating in the floor I would at least put the tubes in. Once the concrete hardens you cannot ever go back and redo it. Very easy to put down (with a little research you can figure out how to run the tubes pretty easily), or it is relatively cheap to have someone put down the tubing for your. I have a heated floor in my basement and could not imagine not having it. Even though you will not be heating your cabin year round it 50 degree floor will feel a lot warmer than keeping the inside temp at 65 degrees. When you get to the cabin you can start a wood fire and warm it up much faster, the floor isn't acting like a giant heat sink.

Unless you are experienced at setting grade with your tractor and have a way of hauling fill and compacting the fill I would farm out the excavation. You will need to remove all top soil and organics and then bring the building area up to grade and keep it level. Not rocket science to figure out but takes some thought and knowledge on the subject.
We are very happy with in the floor pex in our barn build. It was not expensive and it was very easy to do. As Gator said pex in floor heat takes a while to warm up but with today's electronics it is very doable to just turn the furnace on using your phone long before you even leave the house. I don't know how the phone deal accomplishes that task but my neighbor had it for years and it worked very well.

We heated with an outside wood furnace for our first 16 years here and last year switched to a gas furnace; changeover worked fine using the pex system in place. We insulated under and around our poured slab and once it is heated up during normal winters it seldom calls for reheating more than once or twice a day.

Most around here just put the poles in the ground and then pour the slab when the building is up. Ours was done that way in 2003 (6 inches thick). For our addition around 2014, we have a monolithic slab. We have had no problems to date except snakes visit in the spring sometimes three a year and sometimes up to 10. A foundation that rises above the ground I presume would stop that. A sledge hammer sits by each door. The snakes are lethargic and easy to dispatch but for some that would be a deal breaker against slab building!

Good luck with your build!
With the slab or footer you will have better sealing and control of pest also.They post build because it's cheaper for barns if you put post in the ground they will rot someday unless you use piller savers.If it's your second home then that sounds like its more than a weekend cabin
4ft footer? Do you mean 4’ foundation wall? I’m a general contractor, so I’d be glad to help, but have never heard of or seen a 4’ footer.

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I appreciate all the info so far, there have been some great points. Please continue with your thoughts and prior experiences. As for the pole barn idea, after doing some research on it it looks like it's not very cost effective to build a pole barn, then frame everything up on the inside. It's almost like doing it twice. Obviously that's not from my own experience but from others I have spoken to. Also, when I spoke with the building inspector the mere comment of turning a pole barn into a habitable residence made him agitated.
A proper foundation is essential if you want it to last. If it were me, I’d do a monolithic pour. Like others have said, add the pex. Usually (and I’ve run into this a lot), architects are designers. Rarely are they also engineers. If you have questions, pay a good engineer to look at it. Often, contractors will know more about cost efficiency/effectiveness than an architect. It’s the one thing you can’t really change after you build, so do a little homework. It ain’t rocket science and confidence in it will keep you from lots of worry later on.

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Well this is way off where you were thinking but sheets n grins... here goes ...your needs and wishes at retirement (10 years from now I think you said) can be light years from what your thoughts are now what if you built this unit framed out (material/style of your choice) with overhead doors openings framed out then within the overhead door area that would already have the load bearing truss/facing in place to where the fill in wall n windows could be removed in 10 years to make this unit become your garage all plumbing,hvac in one corner then build open ceiling plan with walls 2X4 partition the height of precut studding ...maybe not as nice as first envisioned but you will never regret having just a garage (so to speak invested) and a whole new slate to create exacty what you minds eye envisions in 10 or so years ...and trust me ... the 28X36 size you mentioned is just about the right size once you add 2 cars,ATV, mower, canoe,2 kayak, tractor, snowblower etc,etc, ....all of a sudden the toy shed gets real small

Bear, love the idea and great outside the box thinking. The only problem I would run into there is the space I'm putting this is where I need the residence to be. It's the only flat spot left up from the septic and by the well.
Well you have to have a large toy shed and garage have you have enclosed parking make it level enough to do it all ..and do it right guy with a small dozer can PUSH a flat spot cheap's hauling dirt that gets expensive ..heck ...move the laterals or tank...I promise you will want all one level for retirement

Thanks so much for all the comments so far. Im wondering if i could get some opinions on cost for this build. Here's where Im at thus far. I have handed out copies of the architects plans to 3 separate builders. Two have come to my property so far to see the land, they both almost said the same thing. Due to the slight grade they suggest a foundation and the low end will show about two feet of block as it will need to be raised up. Both recommended the radiant floor heating as well. They both also think its an easy job as im not doing a turn key cabin. One of them told me his three guys would be done start to finish in 3 weeks. I haven't gotten either of their estimates back yet. Heres what im doing:

-Excavation to include 4ft foundation and concrete pad (we are in western NY). No fill needs to be removed as I have space all over it can go. The land is mostly clay after topsoil and that can be moved to go behind my pond or wherever.

-28x36 gambrel cabin, 8ft walls with 1/2 loft. Tin roof and sides, some windows and doors, all standard sizes. The interior will have nothing finished in any of the rooms other then being framed in. No plumbing, electric, insulation, drywall, etc. done yet. That will come after its done as I will be doing some of it myself with friends and family in those respective trades.

I am trying to think to myself what I should expect for this basic shell and foundation. Ive thrown some numbers together in my head and would like to know your opinions on whether I am thinking too high, low, fair cost or im crazy.

Foundation work, 7-10k
building materials, 18-22k
Labor, 15k
Total +/- 45k ish

What do you guys think? Massey I know you said you are a GC, am I close?

Thank you all.
I can see it pushing 40K. Anyway, a concrete floor is going to be cold and you will feel cold even with good wall heaters. A garage is one thing but, if your using it to reside in I would definitely put heat in the floor. As Chainsaw said you will need to insulated under and around the concrete slab so You will need to add that into cost.
That’s a good ball park #. I think you might be a little low on labor, but don’t know what your labor market is like.
What a yard of crete go for up there? When you say Tin, do you mean steel? Tin roofs are for chicken coops lol. Standing seam? I wouldn’t put any exposed fasteners on a roof meant for a dwelling. Depending on # of windows and doors, I can see you pushing 50k.
Trusses or stick built roof?

Take a set of plans to a local lumber yard and ask them to do a take off for you if you’re not confident doing it yourself. Often, rural, smaller lumber yards will do this for free or a small fee. It will give you an idea of the retail material cost.

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If you will be 2 blocks high at one end, down to grade on the other, there will be a lot of fill needed under the slab. It adds up quick.
Thank you sir. I'm not sure on some of those questions. I don't know what concrete goes for here or anything about seams. A couple things I do know, yes metal, no chicken coop materials, lol. I called the local lumber mill and both contractors that came to my property use them. They guy told me once I get my estimate they will be able to tell me what the materials are price wise. As for trusses this mill makes them for gambrel barns so they will be pre-made right from the mill.