The Tiny house Blog

What Is the Difference Between a Cabin and a House?

Updated on:
June 9, 2023
A rustic cabin in the woods

A cabin differs from a traditional house in size, materials, construction, location, and purpose. While a house is a family-occupied building in a neighborhood, a cabin is a small, simple wooden structure in a remote/ wild area, mainly used as a temporary getaway accommodation.

Since 1937, when Walt Disney’s first full-length animated movie (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) hit the screens, many Hollywood movies have showcased cabins as cozy places that relax and soothe the soul.

Inspired by these, many people are beginning to embrace cabin ownership. However, one question that keeps popping up is, “what makes a cabin a cabin” or “what’s the difference between a cabin and a house”?

This article will answer this question. At the end of this article, you’ll be one step closer to owning a cozy cabin and enjoying the comfier side of life.

Let’s get started!

What is a cabin?

The dictionary defines a cabin as “a small wooden shelter or house in a wild or remote area.

The “what is a cabin” question arises when building a small off-grid house, especially if the small house is a little too big to be a tiny home.

The dictionary definition of a cabin says it is a house with specific characteristics, such as size, materials, and location. It is designed to function either as a permanent abode or as accommodation for travelers or holiday-makers.

What makes a cabin different from a traditional house?

The dictionary defines a house as “a building for human habitation.” Interestingly, a cabin falls within that definition. It is a building, and it is meant for human habitation. Thus, a cabin is simply one of the different types of houses.

So, asking for the difference between a cabin and a house is akin to asking for the difference between an apple and a fruit. Just as an apple is a type of fruit, a cabin is a type of house.

However, the specific characteristics of a cabin make it different from our traditional view of a house.

Traditionally, we view a house as a family-occupied building in a residential area. However, a cabin is a small rustic building in the middle of nowhere (in the woods, on waterfronts, or atop mountains), mainly used as cozy getaway accommodation.

In this regard, a cabin differs from a traditional house in its

  • Material of construction
  • Size and floor plan
  • Foundation
  • Construction
  • Features and amenities
  • Location
  • Purpose

Difference between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of building materials

The building materials used to construct traditional houses include wood, concrete, bricks, etc. However, cabins are built almost entirely (if not exclusively) of wood. It is for this reason that cabins are often called log cabins.

Modern cabins incorporate other materials (like masonry). However, a cabin is usually mostly a wooden structure.

The main types of cabin construction are:

  • Handcrafted logs. In these log cabins, only the outer bark of the logs is removed. The logs retain all their natural uniqueness. They are placed on top of one another to give a rich organic feel.
  • Milled logs. These log cabins use logs that are precision cut in a factory for a uniform look and size. Because of the logs’ uniform shape, the cabin’s log walls are more energy-efficient than the handcrafted log cabin style.
  • Stick-built cabins. These cabins have walls that are constructed using dimensional lumber framing.
  • Timber frame cabins. These cabins use vertical and horizontal timber structures to create a frame for the building.
  • Modular cabins. These are cabins constructed in the indoor facility of a construction company and then delivered to the construction site for assembly.

You may also like: “What’s the Best Log Size for a Log Cabin?

Differences between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of size and floor plan

Traditional houses are typically bigger than cabins. Typically, a log cabin is a small rustic house. Cabins are usually less than 1,100 square feet. Thus, while they are small houses, they are bigger than tiny homes. 

Traditional houses usually feature three bedrooms and more, multiple floors, etc. However, unlike a traditional house, a log cabin has a simple layout, with only a few rooms.

A typical cabin floor plan consists of one or two bedrooms, a living space, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a front porch. You may often find one with a bedroom with a private deck.

Differences between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of foundation

Traditional houses mostly feature permanent foundations, especially concrete basement foundations. However, a log cabin is less likely to have a concrete base foundation.

True, some cabins are built on a small slab on grade foundations. However, cabins are usually built on blocks, stone, or permanent wooden foundations. Given the popularity of mobile homes, many modern cabins even appear on wheels.

cabin on wheels
La Mésange Verte - an enchanting 225 sq. ft. cabin on wheels packed with many modern and modish features

Differences between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of construction

Traditionally, cabins were built by their owners themselves (often with help from families or friends). Today, it is less common for cabin owners to build the wooden structures themselves.

While cabin owners engage professional builders today, cabins remain simple wooden structures, unlike regular houses that are architecturally sophisticated.

Log cabins usually feature exposed beams, as you’ll often see the structural logs that the building is made of. Also, cabins are always less finished, as the materials are left in their natural state for a rustic look.

Differences between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of features and amenities

Traditional houses can come with a host of high-end features and amenities. However, cabins typically have fewer features and amenities.

For example, in regular houses, you may find smart appliances, like smart lights that dim or brighten on command, smart window treatments, smart home security systems, and more. You’ll also find air conditioners, dishwashers, walk-in closets, and more. 

However, a log cabin does not have such luxury features. In fact, a cabin is so simple that, most often than not, it is heated with a fireplace or a wood stove and ventilated/ cooled via windows.

cabin house
McDonald rustic cabin house - packed with luxuries, such as batteries/ inverter, water heater, bike rack, etc.

Differences between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of location

A cabin is not just a small house made of wood. Where the house is located is an important consideration in the definition.

While a traditional house is a building for human habitation found anywhere, especially in urban, suburban, or rural neighborhoods, cabins are usually built in remote or wild settings.

Thus, a cabin is usually a relatively small wooden building in front of a picturesque backdrop of a sweeping green forest, a refreshing water body, an enchanting mountain, etc.

Their isolation in remote or wild locations is what gives cabins their refreshing appeal. Because of being tucked away in nature, cabins represent a way to get away from a hectic life and get more in tune with nature for cozy relaxation.

Differences between a cabin and a traditional house in terms of purpose

A normal house is a building you live in (probably with your family). However, a cabin is a temporary vacation house that you move to for a refreshing getaway.

In the early days, people built cabins as permanent residences where they and their families lived in. However, as more urban neighborhoods evolved, houses began to feature more architecturally sophisticated buildings.

So, the simplistic log cabins found less use as permanent living quarters. Today, cabins are mainly used as temporary getaways or vacation buildings.

What other types of houses are there

In addition to cabins, there are other house types. These include:

  • Cottages
  • Chalets
  • Lodges
  • Manors

What is a cottage?

Originally, the term cottage referred to the humble rural dwelling of a peasant farmer on their farm. The cottage is part of a large farm and is inhabited by the farmer, his family, and other workers on the farm.

So, a cottage is a small countryside house with enough farmland or garden to feed the resident family.

What is a chalet?

A chalet is a wooden structure in a remote setting with distinctive roof overhangs.

Chalets are like cabins in terms of size, materials, and location. However, while cabins have single or cross-gable roofs, chalets are characterized by a steeply pitched gable roof with overhanging eaves. 

The rustic exterior and decorative roof overhangs can make a chalet look like something straight out of a fairy tale.

What is a lodge?

A lodge is a small house on the grounds of a larger house, occupied by the gatekeeper or other worker for the grounds.

Lodges are small buildings, but unlike cabins located in remote settings, lodges are located in residential neighborhoods. In fact, the small building has to be on the grounds of a bigger house for it to be a lodge.

What is a manor?

A manor is a large country house surrounded by a large expanse of land.

Someone of Lordship historically inhabited a manor house. Today, manors come in different architectural styles. However, they are similar in being relatively large buildings with plenty of land around them.

Takeaway - Get a cabin for your cozy getaway

A cabin is one of the different types of houses. Traditionally, a house is a building in an urban, suburban, or rural environment where a family lives in. However, a cabin is a small wooden structure tucked away in a remote setting.

A cabin’s isolation in the woods, on lakesides, or atop mountains makes it a perfect structure for a relaxing getaway.

Looking for the perfect cabin for a refreshing getaway once in a while? is the ultimate hub for tiny and small homes.

If you’re considering buying a cabin, we’ll show you some of the best cabin houses in the country and across Europe. If you’re thinking of building, we’ll help you with home plans that enable you to design beautiful cabins. 

We’ll also help you navigate zoning codes and building standards so that your cabin is compliant.

Ready to experience the magic of a cabin in the woods? Let us help you. Contact today!

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