Single Mom Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio

The following is a guest post from Kelley. Thanks again for sharing your story Kelley!

We’ve been building a 192 sq ft cabin with a sleeping loft and front and back porch right on our lake shore.

Our cabin sits on the shore line of a small lake in the woods just west outside if Columbus, Ohio. The building is 16’x12′ with 16′ ceilings, a 4′ front porch and 8′ back porch that overlooks the lake. The sleeping loft is 12’x8′ and has 2 full sized beds. The downstairs is complete with an open great room, kitchen with bar, and bathroom with a sink, standup shower, and composting toilet.

I am building this cabin myself with help from friends and we are slowly but surely making progress! Our cabin is off grid and powered by a gas generator and will have a water pump and filtration system with water being pulled from the lake. We also have a woodburning stove and are building a stone hearth, of course complete with a small flatscreen TV that hangs above the stove.

All of our windows and a lot of our building supplies have come from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, as well as Craigslist! I am a single mom of 3 young children and we are building this together as a family while I am teaching my children what it means to work for something and then be able to enjoy your hard work when it’s completed. This project is a labor of love and serves as a getaway from busy city life and a place where we can just focus on being a family and enjoy what life is all about; complete with fishing off of our back porch!

We will utilize this cabin as a weekend getaway, which in turn has already made us appreciate our small home in Columbus, a home we were feeling was too small, but is greatly larger than our 192 sq ft cabin! Our 1,100 sq ft Columbus home is definitely more than enough and I even go as far as to say I think our 192 sq ft cabin feels even larger!

We are a “go-get-her” kinda family. Working hard together and inviting neighbors over along the way and throughout the process. Building small houses becomes a community event and that’s my favorite part about it!

I started this project when I became a single mom of 3; to give my 3 children and I an opportunity to begin starting over and moving forward. Throughout this process, we have more than moved forward, we have grown closer as a now family of 4 and have empowered ourselves by learning how to do things we never thought we could ever do, such as my 6 year old can help frame walls, my 3 year old can help paint, and my 2 year old loves to help clean.

Me, well I’m learning being a single parent doesn’t limit me and my abilities AND I can build a cabin! I am creating a very special space for my family and I, a space we built together, created so many memories together, and will have around to enjoy as a family for years to come.

Family Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio - Kelley's Family Portrait

Family Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio - kids helping out

Family Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio - porch

Family Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio - loft

Family Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio - interior

Family Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio - bed in loft

26 Comments Single Mom Builds Off-Grid Lakeside Cabin Near Columbus, Ohio

  1. Schneb

    Inspiring story! AND nice little cabin–virtual high five for all that you’re doing and hope you find more of the rewards of such efforts. I’m sure your kids will take away great memories and values from this. Great that you made them a part of the project. I hope others will follow your example.

  2. April

    Amazing!!! I’m close to Bellefontaine, OH so nice to see something like this so close to home :) Love that it’s off-grid too. What a lot of great memories you and your kids are going to have in that cabin!!!

  3. Randy Kohr

    You really need to install some collar ties on your rafters or your roof may start to settle and splay your walls outwards… Collar ties should be 2 thirds down from ridge. This may cause some headroom problems but other folks should be aware this is a very important part of a building.

    1. Dave

      Collar ties could be installed but the pitch of the roof will keep most of the snow from accumulating and the loft over half the cabin should keep the roof from bowing out. I am a little concered about the short-wide window on the side. There is a double 2×4 directly under the loft and over the center of the window. I would be tempted to install a 2×6 header spanning the window to take the load off the window.

  4. Danni

    Awesome job! Love how the kids want to be involved, and the memories your all are making! Hope you share pics when completed!

  5. Linnea Eriksdotter Ekencrona

    WOW! You are not only beautiful but a wonderful creative and strong woman! I am so inspired by you. I bought a small cabin in the woods seven years ago. No water but just what I could afford. I didnt want big or fancy, just something that I would love for years and years to come and morgage FREE!
    I wish you all the best and a wonderful future for you and your beautiful family in this house!!!! We women can do ANYTHING if we just put our minds to it!
    Love from Sweden! Linnea

  6. Mim Stewart

    What an amazing job you have done. I have four boys and have wanted to build a rustic cabin for a few years now. I thought a 16 x 16, so no waste for sheeting. Did you buy a book, work off a web site, just curious as to how you planned it and got a material list together. Thank you for sharing your photo, what an inspiration you are :)

    1. Meg

      I stumbled upon this article, and I love what you’ve done! My husband are have been researching tiny houses and living off the grid. We plan to retire in 5-8 years. We are also looking into small (less than 500 sq ft) earth-sheltered or straw bale homes in which we could live debt-free without many bills. We currently live in Delaware County, OH. The building codes in this county are outrageous and cannot see building our tiny house here. If you don’t mind, would you share approximately whereabouts your cabin is located? We would like to find a small lake to live near. Thanks!

  7. shanna

    I hope there will be more pictures in the future. I am very interested in the the stone hearth and TV as well as the bathroom. I also think the sleeping loft enclosure is a perfect solution for the small space thats pretty high up with little ones. There has only been one other sleeping loft that i really loved and it was sort of encased with decorative rot-iron. This is exactly what i would like to do with my family in the next few years. Ive always wanted a place on some undeveloped land but i wasnt sure how to go about the living arrangements until now. I love the fact that these tiny homes are small enough that we could add more and save land space as my boys get older for them to use for their own families. What an inspiration! Please please please start a blog add more pictures….:)

  8. Amy

    Hello, I am a single mother of three children. I have a group of other single females with children that would like to start a non- profit working farm and winery. Where women can stay to get back on their feet again. I am in Ohio. I at this point don’t have the land or the farm house to build this settlement around. Please let me know if you would like to be a part of this” pay it foward” type settlement

    1. Rebecca

      I am also a single mom and have had the same vision for years! It’s only been recently with the emergence of the tiny house movement that I’ve been able to see how to practically address the needs of single moms without having to be “supported” financially by a government program/non-profit/church. I’d love to connect with anyone else who would be interested in really moving forward with this sort of idea of a tiny house community with supporting business.

      1. Samantha J.

        Where have you ladies been all my life! When you guys start drawing up plans please let me know. I’m itching to work some soil. Did I mention that I am a city gal!

  9. Jon

    I live in Johnstown, and work in Hilliard. My concern has been state and local laws preventing living in such a small house.
    can anyone shed some light on this?

  10. Bear

    Wonderful cabin and a good job. High five to you and your kids! So inspiring to read about it….Thank you

  11. Lois Parshley

    Hi! My name’s Lois and I work for Adventure Journal. We’d love to feature Kelley’s story in our Weekend Cabin feature. Would it be possible to get her contact information? You can reach me at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

  12. Alex

    Love your cabin!! I also live in Columbus Ohio and I’m trying to find a place to build a tiny home. Any suggestions? Right now I’m in the research phase.

    1. Kelley

      Hi Alex,

      Good for you to take on this project! Look in outskirt areas, there’s lots of areas with land. I wanted land with water though, so that was harder to find. I’m on Lake Sylvan in South Vienna Oh, but if you just want land, find a place that’s outside highly zoned areas with lots of restrictions. I had to build under 200 sq ft so I didn’t need a building permit. Let me know if you have any other questions. Also, sorry for the late reply, I just saw your post : )

      – Kelley

    2. Valerie

      Buckeye Lake has small inexpensive lots to build on; however the minimum square foot requirements are 850. Not exactly tiny but getting closer than many communities.

  13. mark. Hourigan

    You have done. A Great. Job. , I’m working on a 12 x 16. shead Doesn’t. Look near that good . Again your doing a. Awesome Job !!!!!! God. Bless. You. & Your. children . PS. Will. be. Praying. For. You & your children. Mark

  14. Rhoda Holton

    Wow, this is great !! Bravo to you for taking on such a ‘BIG’ project with little kids. Also, thanks for shopping at the ReStore. It is a great resource for those who need a little extra help, and all the proceeds benefit Habitat and their mission of ending poverty housing. May God bless this project, and your family !!

  15. Darin Hadinger

    Congrats! It’s looking good! I’m a single dad of two. I’m in the Columbus area, getting ready to do the same. finishing up the design. Teach Renewable Energy and sustainable building as well. Glad to see some more people doing this.

  16. Sandy

    I LOVE this! I just found your blog on line. I was googling tiny houses in Delaware county Ohio because this is what I want to do. Would love to pick your brain some time. I will be going back through your posts. You are really inspiring! THANKS!


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