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An A-frame house is a type of home that is easily identified by its triangular, “A” shaped structure. It has a steep, pitched roof that stretches to the ground on either side of the home. A-frame houses are often found in mountain towns or more remote areas due to their cabin feel and durability in heavy snow.

People like to build A-frame houses on their own from prefab-kits, but you may also be able to buy one. While they are cheaper to build than your standard house, they may only work best as a vacation home rather than as your first home, given their size and other limitations, like lack of storage space.

What makes A-frame houses unique?

Almost everything about A-frame homes is unique. For that reason, it’s no surprise their popularity is surging in the post-pandemic world. Many people are looking to build or buy their own A-frame property as they begin work remotely, travel to new destinations, and stay in unique vacation homes.

An A-frame house is a great choice if you’re looking for somewhere unique to vacation, rent out, or even relocate to. Its features include:

  • Large windows: A-frame houses often have floor to ceiling windows on the front and back walls. This compensates for the long roof that covers both sides of the home. The best part? The large windows provide a lot of natural light. 
  • Loft-style interior: Since A-frames are triangle-shaped, they typically have a bottom floor and a partial second floor. The size of the second floor is constrained by the steep roof, so it’s typically a small, loft-style room.
  • Steep, triangular roof: The hallmark of an A-frame house is its sloping, triangular roof.
  • Wood exterior and details: Most A-frame homes have wooden, cabin-like exteriors. This aesthetic is often carried to the interior with exposed wooden beams and wood walls and floors.

What are the pros and cons of A-frame houses? 

If you’re considering buying or building an A-frame house, review the advantages and disadvantages that come along with this type of property. 

Pros

  • Ample natural light: The large windows in an A-frame house allow for plenty of natural light to enter the home.
  • Beautiful, unique design: A-frames are known for their unique shape and design, perfect for those looking for a home that is out of the ordinary.
  • Cozy, cabin feel: The natural materials and light in an A-frame house give it a rustic feel that is fit for a remote, snowy setting.
  • Easy to build: You can purchase a prefab kit with the materials to build an A-frame house. This makes it relatively easy to build on your own.
  • Energy efficient: A-frames have great insulation and retain heat well, even in cold climates.
  • Open floor plan: The shape of A-frame homes is perfect for airy, open floor plans.
  • The sloped roof is ideal for snowy climates: A steep A-frame roof prevents excessive snow build up and damage, since it allows for precipitation to easily fall down to the ground.

Cons

  • Exterior maintenance is costly: Repairing external damage or replacing the roof is not cheap, and it’s even more expensive when you have an A-frame house. If you have a roof problem be prepared to shell out a significant sum since the roof is especially large with greater than average surface area.
  • Lack of privacy: While they are beautiful, A-frames lack privacy due to their large windows and loft-style layout. These types of houses may not be able to accommodate many rooms.
  • Limited space: A-frame houses are typically quite small (1,000 square feet on average) and therefore aren’t ideal for more than two people. If you’re planning to have a family, you may want to consider another type of home. 
  • Sloped walls. While the steep roof is what gives an A-frame house its defining look, the interior walls are less than ideal. There is less usable space on each floor because of the walls’ steep incline. This leaves a limited amount of room for furniture and storage space and makes it nearly impossible to hang photos or paintings on the wall.

Where do you find A-frame houses for sale?

You are most likely to find an A-frame house for sale in mountainous or wooded areas. This is because they have a cabin feel that fits those regions and they are extremely durable against large amounts of snow. In the United States, you’ll find A-frames in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, or the mountainous regions in the West.

You are also likely to find A-frame houses used as ski chalets in tourist areas because they are relatively inexpensive to buy or build, so they make great vacation homes or rental properties. 

Just because A-frame homes fare well in cold climates does not mean that is the only place you will find them, though. You can build an A-frame house just about anywhere, so if you are looking to buy one, look in a variety of areas. Work with a real estate professional to locate A-frame properties near your ideal destination.

How do you build an A-frame house?

Although the process of building and designing A-frame houses is relatively straightforward, there is still a fair amount of preparation and research required. Read this overview of the process to get an understanding of what it will look like if you decide to build.

1. Research A-frame house kits

Before you start the build process, get familiar with the many types of prefab kits that are available. You can also build and design A-frames from scratch, but kits provide all of the materials and instructions you need for assembly so they are worth considering. Identify the size you are looking for and ensure it is within your budget. 

2. Purchase land and get permission to build

Identify the land you want to build on and submit your plans for a building permit. Location is an important factor if you plan to sell or rent the property. Resale values vary widely depending on the location. For example, since A-frames are smaller and lack privacy, it will be more difficult to resell the property if you build it in a residential, family neighborhood instead of a remote vacation destination.

→ Find out how much an acre costs

3. Hire contractors or build the home yourself

Determine whether you plan to build the A-frame yourself or hire professionals. If you’re using a kit, select one suited to your lot size and the features you are looking for.

4. Assemble the foundation

Make sure your foundation is ready when the kit arrives so that you can begin building. Your foundation should be dry and you may need to consult with an expert to make sure your soil reading before you pour the foundation. 

5. Build the exterior structure

Use the materials in the kit to build the structure of the home. Follow the instructions in the kit and use the drawing of the home to guide you. You will need a drill, screwdriver, clamps, and other basic building tools to assemble the structure.

6. Install installation and interior

Ensure the insulation is air-tight when you install it. This is what will keep the home warm in cold conditions. Install electricity, plumbing, and heating throughout the home. Add the remaining interior elements like flooring, appliances, and windows.

Related: Baseboard heating vs. forced air

7. Finish the exterior

If you’d like, you can paint the exterior of the home and landscape the surrounding area. The home is ready for you to furnish and move in. If you plan to use the home as a rental property, consider hiring a vacation property manager to oversee your online listing. 

→ Learn whether you should sell or rent your home

Are A-frames cheaper than other houses?

Yes, A-frame homes are cheaper to build than other houses. They cost $100 to $200 per square foot on average, so you can expect to spend around $150,000 on a 1,000 square foot home (not including land or additional labor).

They tend to be less expensive because they require fewer materials and are smaller than most family homes.

→ Learn more about how much it costs to build a home

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