Arched Cabin Experience – Summary

We are excited to announce the upcoming publication of our book, Big to Tiny to Small. In it, we detail how we came to the decision to downsize the way we did and how we found our 5 acres of land. Later this year, we will be releasing our build process book (covering the construction of our arched cabin), where we consolidate what we published to the blog as well as add loads of other helpful details.

We hope these resources will benefit those who are trying to decide if an arched cabin is right for them and aid them in completing the build in a timely fashion.

If you would like to be notified when the book(s) are available, please subscribe with your email at the top of the sidebar to the right.

———–

The purpose of this summary post is to comment on our purchasing experience and elaborate on the things we appreciated and other things which could have been improved. These comments are nearly entirely to do with the crew (the particular distributor we worked with) and do not reflect our feelings about our current living experience. 

Update 7/8/2016

Long story short:  The 20 x 24 Arched Cabin – as installed by Arched Cabins – is a quick way to get a dried-in steel structure with a pier-and-beam foundation and a transcendent cathedral ceiling.  However, keep in mind that the height and curves make things somewhat tricky for the rest of the build [if you don’t need a cathedral ceiling, a more conventional 2×6″ stick built gable-roofed approach is probably easier].  If you’re interested in having one of these built with the endcaps, here are four recommendations –

  1. Request OSB [or better yet, plywood] sheathing with house wrap instead of LP Smartside.  That way you’re code compliant, the windows / doors can be installed to spec and the nail gun can do no wrong.  LP Smartside has a variety of tedious installation requirements.
  2. Request that only the rough openings for windows & doors be made by the crew.  That way you or someone else can take time to properly install them according to manufacturer instructions.
  3. UPDATE: Request a guaranteed levelness spec (e.g. 1/8″ over 10ft) for the subfloor, especially if you are planning on tile.  Use tongue and groove plywood as the subfloor material if possible.  NOT OSB or STURDI-FLOOR.
  4. Request these particular details on the invoice so everyone is on the same page.

Update 7/30/2015:

In case you don’t feel like reading any further, know this – We are very glad to have our home nearly dried in.  The Arched Cabin kit allows you to have a house shell very quickly.   We like the unconventional look of it, the high ceiling and the fact that we can modify it in the future to add more space (with a loft).  Our recommendation for anybody building one – purchase the kit from the company, hire them for everything but the end caps (and specify that they should cover the subfloor in a torrential rain) and hire a local contractor for the end caps.  Also see the other recommendations throughout this post.  

Since beginning work on the house, we have discovered some issues that have been surprising and/or disappointing.  They are sprinkled throughout our build posts, but since most people will likely just refer to this page, we wanted to list them here as well.

  1. Untruth – We were told the long screws were used to install the top door hinge.  They weren’t.
  2. Untruth – We were told they would caulk under the door sill.  They didn’t.
  3. Untruth – We were told they would caulk the seams of the end caps.  They didn’t and on the last day told us we had to do it.
  4. Untruth – We explicitly asked for a one foot overhang during the order process.  We were told that would be done.  It wasn’t (it is about 6″).
  5. Issue – The roof panel channels around the top ridge collect some rain and the wind whips it off in front of the house.  We had planned on building a deck off the front of the house so we will now have to divert this water first.
  6. Issue – The crew did not install enough studs on the end caps and as stated in the section below, they did not properly attach them.  Nearly every panel was bowing out and un-sturdy feeling before we started reinforcing them.  If you knock on the side of a house, the wall panel shouldn’t shake.  We have been adding studs to give the walls rigidity and provide proper attachment points for the siding.  Combined with having to re-nail every single nail they installed (and caulk over their nail holes), this is a fairly tremendous amount of work.
    1. This point flared up as an issue yesterday when we realized we had to add more studs and further delay painting.  Also, yesterday I drafted a post listing out what we paid and I was reminded that each end cap was $2,200 (total of $4,400).  That’s a lot of money for poorly installed siding, inadequate studs and improperly installed windows/doors.
  7. 8/31/2015 – Read flooring comment below in the “build details” section.

[Original Post:]  Things we Appreciated-

  1. The crew – they were awesome.  They didn’t constantly pester us with questions while we were at Bean Vivant but checked in daily and called whenever there was a matter of importance.  They got back to us promptly when we texted/called.  They built a solid metal structure (despite frequent interruptions from heavy rainfall).  All five of them were nice and easy going.  Perfect match for us.
  2. The company – thank you for existing!  Thank you for taking the risk and starting the company.  And thank you for having enough internet presence to come up in google searches as an option for tiny house living.
  3. The transparency and ease of the entire process.  When we decided to add the cross beams, the answer to our inquiry was “They’re $40 each so just let us know how many you’d like before we ship the supplies next Thursday.”  There was no sales pitch or pressure to purchase more (i.e. “If you purchase 5 or more, you’ll save $5 per beam!).  The price grid for the entire structure is on their website.  You just pick and choose which features you want and add up the associated costs.  Wanna hire the crew?  Simple – pay their travel and a fixed labor cost.  All very straightforward.
  4. During one of the window installations, the crew made a small hole in the screen.  They didn’t call us to report it and they didn’t leave it in disrepair; they took the screen to be fixed and pre-paid prior to their departure.
  5. During the final walk-through, the crew leader spent time with Brian, answering all of his questions and making suggestions on materials and tools for the next stages.

Things that could have been smoother

  1. Communication in the beginning – when we first inquired about the arched cabins, our emails were going to the main headquarters in Cypress, Texas and were answered by one of the owners.  He answered our questions with abundant detail and responded fairly promptly.  At some point, we started talking via phone with the distributor in New Mexico (who would be doing the work) and henceforth had a lot of triangle conversations.  We’d email a question to the owner but speak on the phone to the distributor and sometimes get different answers.  It was confusing at times.
  2. The money part, again in the beginning – we agreed to the house build via email, learned that they needed 50% down to order the materials and schedule the crew, sent them a check and eagerly awaited the arrival of the crew.  When the distributor arrived, he said he needed 50% of the remaining balance in cash and the other portion could be check.  The name on the check was also to be different than our first check.  This all came as very much a surprise and we got very nervous.  It was at this point that we realized we didn’t have a written contract for the work and what if these strangers just ran off with our savings.
    1. As soon as we were asked for cash we spoke to the owner and he confirmed that the distributor can ask for payment in any method he chose.  Understood.  It would have just felt better if we would have known upfront how it was going to work.
    2. The distributor explained to us that the crew has traveled a few times to places far away (like Silver) and were burned upon arrival.  In other words, they may have received 50% upfront, but then they paid to get to the job site, paid all of the men, etc only to have the customer say something like, “We can’t pay right now….”
    3. It was our fault for not requesting a written contract in the beginning.  Had we done that, the cash requirement would have come to light and we would have felt some sort of protection from the sheaf of paper.
  3. Scheduling – This wasn’t a terrible issue but it was a bit of an annoyance.  We were originally scheduled for somewhere in the 20s of June and were rescheduled three or four times; always the night before we were expecting them to arrive.  We had been originally hoping to get their portion done by the end of June and we’d finish up before rent was due again August 1st.  It wasn’t a serious issue but it made us feel insignificant in their planning and contributed to our confusion and doubt when the money issue came up.
    1. Now that we’ve seen them work, we understand their past rescheduling and delays.  Our job was supposed to take 4-5 days and today is Day 6.  So if there was someone scheduled for today, they’ve now been pushed back.  The weather can be an unknown and also material supply.  The only real hardware store in Silver closes on Sunday.  Therefore, their productivity was limited yesterday; they may experience this same thing in other towns.

Some build details we would have done differently

  1. We would have covered the floor during the big rains.  There is some cupping in the subfloor that we may need to sand down before we lay the tile.  8/31/2015 Update – The cupping was more difficult to uniformly flatten than we first guessed.  Additionally, about a third of the floor joists were found to be floating up to an 1/8″ above the steel I-beams, and we found a few spots where board edges are unsupported because they didn’t line up with a joist.  It is frustrating to spend a large amount of time correcting the subfloor, especially because it holds up progress in other areas – i.e. installing the door, framing the bathroom. (In case you haven’t read up to the post with the price sheet, we paid $2,400 for them to do the floor and joists.) 
  2. Tyvek [or equivalent] housewrap was not used as a moisture barrier on the stick-built endcaps [as is the standard in the industry].  We were told at the outset that there would be Tyvek but it was skipped during the install.  This came as a surprise (given we thought we were paying for it and its installation) but we realize it does make air sealing a bit easier in this case.  Additionally, it would have been a very frustrating situation if the building inspector told us we had to tear down the end caps and install it.  For future projects, such an unorthodox move should be run by the the client and/or inspector beforehand.
    1. This is an example of why a contract is a professional protocol and how it protects both parties.
  3. In a typical build, the window fins are nailed to the OSB sheathing and siding goes last, overlapping the fins and protecting the window from moisture even getting near the window opening (along with the tape, caulk etc in there too).  However, in this case, the LP Smartside board is the sheathing AND the siding on the endcaps.  And although the windows could’ve been nailed to the framing before the Smartside went on, our windows were installed as the last thing, outside the Smartside board, so there is no redundant ‘belt & suspenders’ protection from moisture sneaking behind the window fins when it rains.  It will be entirely up to the power of Pella Smart Flash foil-backed butyl tape to protect the openings.
    1. On the other hand, while our windows may not be redundantly weatherproof, the seals are easy to access and maintain if need be.  In a typical build, the windows are sandwiched between siding and sheathing, making non-destructive repairs or investigation quite difficult.  Again, we’re okay with the way ours were done, but we wish we’d known ahead of time.  Then we could have had our weatherizing materials at the ready in order to protect the structure before the next storm. (See next point)
    2. Upon asking about weatherizing the windows, the crew immediately suggested Pella Smart Flash tape.  It was great to get such a stamp of approval on a particular product and we felt it was worth the 4 hour drive to get some before the next monsoon attack.  However, this step should really have been done during the window installation and not left as a high priority afterthought.
  4. You may have noticed the insulation under the roofing material in a few posts back.  It was a few inches longer than the house.  To tidy things up, the excess was trimmed back to be flush with the endcaps.  We would rather that it had been left uncut and folded under the siding instead, creating a natural insulation overlap with the endcaps.
  5. The smartside siding should have been installed with nails every 16 inches (horizontally) and every 12 inches (vertically) and the nail heads should have been flush with the surface (not sunk halfway through).  It appears their nail gun was set too high for the whole process and the spacing was way too far apart.  Since this siding is known for expanding/contracting with moisture, we have had to re-nail everything to spec, add extra nails in the gaps and caulk their nail holes.  This is a LOT of extra work that we thought we had already paid for.
  6. The cross beams were welded too close to the arched wall, with most of their corners jabbing into the insulation.  In order to reduce thermal bridging and prevent cuts in the insulation, we will be trimming off the corners with a sawzall.

We love the idea of an Arched Cabin and are excited to have one to call our home.  You really can’t understand how cool it is until you stand in one.  The crew did a great job on the metal aspects of the project, as well as on the foundation.  However, we feel the end cap work was amateur when compared to the striking precision with which the foundation and metal frame were constructed.

41 thoughts on “Arched Cabin Experience – Summary

  1. Anthony Martin

    What was the ballpark cost after the structure was finished with the end caps and utility hookup?

    Reply
  2. Angela

    Thank you for all of this great info. I have just started my research into arched cabins and I had a lot of questions. It will be a bit before I can pull the trigger, but you have answered a lot of my questions here, especially about electrical/plumbing and finishing the interior. You did mention you would break down the costs of finishing the interior but I am not seeing it anywhere on your site, did you by chance post that somewhere?

    Thanks!

    Reply
      1. Jane leichter

        We too had and have a love hate type relationship in the build of our 20x 24 cabin. It survived and F1 tornado last July when hoop barn behind, and every power pole on the next road was snapped. The crew has much better steel experience than wood frame because the framing on the ends was not to true. I have had nothing but nightmares with local construction crews in the finishing. I’m am experienced builder. But I’m a-woman and a Yankee. Two deadly strikes . We paid to have RN 49 solar gard insulation, yet the locals refused to install the extra insulation to bring the ends to R 30.
        It was sitting there. Lots of little stuff but we are pretty tight. Heating with a RINNAI propane furnace.

        Reply
        1. Jane leichter

          Here we are with ano there question. We just realized that we have significant water and damage starting at floor level and so far, up about 3 feet or more, but just on one side. We had a tiny bit of this noticed after just moving in a year ago . At that point we were told it was OUR fault, for not installing flashing, to have been stuffed up under the bottom of the steel to prevent wicking. I immediately stuffed vinyl siding up under the steel which I was told was an acceptable alternative.
          Evidently not. I had to tear off the paneling inside. So far only the first couple of feet. Interestingly, this seems to only be on the east side of the house. We just found this and I can see the walls on the west side..no apparent issues. My new contractor, who is here building an animal barn, said we can fix it, but I’m still concerned about the source. It is on the side AWAY FROM the bathroom and kitchen.
          Has anyone else had this experience?

          Reply
          1. admin Post author

            We are not exactly sure what area you’re describing – around the windows? Where could you access the bottom of the steel to stuff vinyl siding? We have not had any problems – dry as a bone.

  3. Samuel

    We’re considering an arched wall cabin to serve as a summer-only cabin on some seasonal access property we own about 2 hours from our real home. The cabin would require no plumbing at all, but we would want it wired for solar/generator and a wood stove. We would build the end caps on our own. Given the problems you experienced, would you recommend the arched wall cabin for such a use?

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      An arched cabin would certainly do the trick. The foundation they offer is extremely smart / versatile and the structure would be ‘dried in’ very quickly. Just keep in mind that, especially with the larger [taller] ones, finishing the inside might require some serious scaffolding. Also, everything with the endcaps can take relatively longer because of all the curvy cuts.

      Reply
  4. Jennifer

    Hello and thank you for posting details about your experience. I just started researching Arched Cabins, and have been reading all I can to get a better grasp as to what’s included and what to expect. My question is regarding the electrical work, plumbing, sewer, etc. of your cabin. Is this something that the crew has any part in, or are they strictly working on the main frame and stairs?

    Thanks so much! =)

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Perhaps different Arched Cabins distributors offer different things, but I imagine the Arched Cabin crew proper would probably be focused on erecting the shell, and third party contractors would be called in for utilities. Note that an advantage of the raised steel I-beam foundation they offer is that it makes DIY plumbing relatively easy.

      Reply
  5. Nancy Hynes

    Appreciate your blog on both Silver and Arched Cabins, and gold stars on your personal takeaway. Avoiding mishaps with water would be top priority for me and you added clarity on that point.

    Reply
  6. Brian

    Hello would you happen know if 5ft out of the 11ft total height of this structure would hold up below ground? There would be a stairway down to the end cap, they would not be underground,only the sides.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Interesting; you should probably double check with Arched Cabins but if you were talking about the first ~ 6 feet being in direct contact with earth I would be concerned about water infiltration if the ground got real wet and also and frost heave forces in the winter. And the roofing material is probably not rated for underground use so you’d have to figure out an alternative. Anyhow it’s a steel frame at its core, so if you mounted the structure on a slab and did some kind of rugged water proof subterranean cladding, I’d think it would hold up ok.

      Reply
  7. Don

    Thank you so much for posting all the info and your experiences. We are looking at options at replacing our old A-frame in the mountains of Wyoming. A big problem we have is keeping rodents out. I am concerned that the arched cabin design overtime due to expanding, etc., will allow gaps to form along the sides of the building allowing critter access. Any thoughts or experiences so with rodentia? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Don,
      Time will tell but we are building to minimize or eliminate air infiltration and I don’t foresee any expansion/contraction induced gaps in the sides of the building or the endcaps. Anything that looks like a gap during construction will blocked with a flexible caulk, tape, gasket or butyl rubber. No rodent invasions so far but the area we are concerned about is under the house in the joist bays. We plan to encapsulate the joist bays with a layer of mesh or plywood once the underfloor insulation & plumbing is in place. Initially we were thinking of just using tar paper instead of mesh but we’ve been told animals would nibble right through it.

      Reply
  8. Brian Shaw

    Very interested in one of the cabins. Have they been used in Southern california? We have the craziest building laws. Would do concrete floors.

    Reply
  9. Sharon

    We Contracted with Arched Cabin’s David Cruey to build a cabin in January, with the promise of having it completed March 14th. I cannot explain the stress we have endured up till this point with trying to get them to complete the cabin. As of today, October 23rd, 2015, it is still incomplete. Inferior work. Patches on the wall, no stair case at the back. Incomplete staircase leading to the front door. Leaky faucets and sink, No trip around the doors, just pieces of wood badly nailed to it. Doors and windows that do not close. No screens as promised, sinkholes by the septic, and badly placed electrical and water outlets outside. Very disappointed in this venture. Will unfortunately be forced into taking legal action to get this project somewhat completed. A great concept, but be warned, protect yourself and have everything written out. We trusted David Cruey since this was out first experience building, and he turned out to be totally unreliable. I would never do business with him ever again.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. Hopefully, other people learn from our experiences and approach Arched Cabins with clearer expectations. They appear to be metal professionals – the rest of the project should be completed by someone who has experience with the other aspects. Please link our blog to others who are interested in doing business with them so they understand what’s involved. [The only jobs and reviews we found online prior to contracting with them had been done for members of their crew or their distributors. There wasn’t even feedback on their facebook page from past clients. Maybe that says something.]

      Reply
    2. Jessi

      Wow… Im sorry you are going through this! Thank you for posting this. I was thinking of doing an arched cabin. Sounds to me like building my own A-Frame is the right answer. Good luck with getting a resolution.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        Thank you for the comment. We definitely had some issues in the beginning with the build quality of the Timberon, NM install crew but that is not a reflection of our feelings about the Arched Cabin. There are added challenges in working with such a tall structure and with accommodating the intersection of a curved wall and a square wall, but otherwise, we’re happy we went with this kit.

        Reply
  10. Lois Monaghan

    Hello and thank you for sharing the building of your Arched Cabin with us! My husband and I are in our late 50s and are thinking about purchasing one of these as our Primary home. We live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. My questions to you are do you think it would be affordable for us to have the home shipped this far? Also it would probably be more affordable for a contractor Here to erect it? With the problems that you had with your building did the manufacturer offer Any kind reimbursements? Lastly what kind of Warrenty comes with it and when it’s all said and done what do you think the Total Cost will be when the interior is finished? Thank you so much for taking time to read this! Best Regards Lois Monaghan. P.S. what size is your cabin?

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Shipping is calculated based on the distance from their headquarters at zip code 77429. Shipping to Scranton, PA, for example, would be $3,200 – $4,000 depending on the size of the kit you purchase. You can see their prices here.

      In terms of contractor cost – It depends on how much work you have the crew perform and what labor prices are like in your area. The Arched Cabin crew can erect a kit in 2-4 days for $1000 per day. So you’re looking at $2,000-$4,000 for labor if you’re not having the crew build the end caps (They told us it was an additional day per end cap. The price grid has changed since our project so you’d have to check with them).

      Foundations are VERY expensive where we live because there is only one concrete company for 2 hours; so they charge whatever they want. Having the Arched Cabin crew pour our foundation AND do the metal work was a financially smart move for us. You should call around your area and get estimates. We are glad the Arched Cabin crew did our metal work because it’s their specialty and we figured they’d do it better and faster than a local contractor would. However, we would not hire them again for the end caps. You can likely hire a carpenter to do them for less and it’d come out MUCH better.

      No warranty that we’re aware of and the company did not offer us any reimbursements.

      We are finishing the interior ourselves to keep the price down. The rest of the floor part (under-layment, tile backer system and tile) will be the most expensive aspect to the interior and will likely cost us about $1500 when it’s all said and done. The lighting and plumbing fixtures (including the shower, toilet, sinks and kitchen counter) will cost about $1200. We aren’t choosing any fancy options and are not having custom made cabinets. The windows and door were about $1700 and our ‘appliances’ (heating/cooling unit, HRV, fridge and hot plate) will cost around $2,000. There have been plenty of other expenses along the way (tools, hardware, etc) so we’re probably at another $1000.

      If you have some of those things already, it’ll be less. Our cabin (with labor) was about $20,000 so the whole sha-bang will probably be around $28,000.

      Our cabin is 20×24 and here is the price grid for it.

      Reply
      1. ashley carro

        HI
        Thank you so much for this article I have been looking thru the internet to find someone who had one of these made, other than the site itself.
        I will be moving to northern new mexico in the next coming weeks and looking for a smaller home build thats economical. A couple questions
        – do you think a homeowner could erect a 20×24 cabin as a DIY project?
        – what did you do for insulation, did you use their r25? We were thinking maybe having the unit spray foamed.
        – do you think the structure is a quality, will it last for several years?
        – did you have a loft installed?
        i really appreciate your response, thank you

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          Smaller ones might be easier solo but a 20 x 24 would be either really slow and/or really pushing it solo. Getting the roof panels on by yourself would be real tricky without a crane. With a team of 4 you can do a thing with ropes and a lot of yelling – drawing them up and levelling them out before attaching. Yes we used the two layers of solar guard offered by arched cabins on the arch walls and damp spray cellulose on the endcaps/floor. The catch is you don’t want the foil insulation to get dusty, so it’s a lot of work keeping the cellulose from doing that. As a precision steel structure it will certainly last. High winds and storms don’t even shake it. We opted for no loft so as to avoid onerous code-mandated stair requirements eating up the lower floor space and egress windows where we don’t want them.

          Anyhow if you are building something yourself, I think this would be the way to go:
          2×6 stick built
          8′ walls and a gable roof (easy ladder access is HUGE)
          pier and beam foundation
          blown in cellulose insulation throughout

          Reply
    2. Brandon

      Hello,

      I’m planning on ordering an Arched Cabin this spring. Just wondering if you felt your main negative issues were with your work crew or the company as a whole? I’m ordering through one of their east coast distributors (to save shipping) and will be working with them. I know any contractor is a crap shoot, but hoping to go forward without questionable work all ready on the table.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        Every crew will be different. If we could go back in time, we would go check the quality of their work and meet the crew prior to agreeing to work with them. Also, as mentioned in this post, we would insist on a contract so everyone is on the same page. The Arched Cabin concept is great, and we will be glad to call one home. That being said, I would suggest interviewing their distributor/contractor just like you would any other contractor. We assumed that because they were the creators of this product that they would install it best (and we were told hiring them for the endcaps would be smart because they know how best to build them). This was not the necessarily case. As mentioned above, they did the metal work well and the foundation was great. The other details are listed above.

        Best of luck!

        Reply
      2. Catalina

        Hi Brandon,

        You mention you are ordering from an East coast distributor. Where exactly are they located? I’m in Georgia and plan on buying an Arched Cabin.

        Thanks
        Catalina

        Reply
  11. Emily stocker

    I would love to speak to you guys directly. I am just in the beginning process of my build. I’ve bought the property and paid arched cabins 50 percent.

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
  12. Taunya

    This very much looks like a company I would tend to avoid. The lack of communication and contracts until pressed for is a bad sign in my book.

    Reply
  13. Linton

    Neat cabin and good writeup of your experiences good/bad, with pic’s. Could you possibly share your actual itemized project budget and what you wish you’d done differently budget-wise? It would be interesting to see for the many readers following your experience.

    Reply
  14. Attilla

    I read all, and you have learned lessons, I’m happy to hear, I’m sorry to hear about the poor construction and improper insulation and water proofing.
    I would like to correct you and all home builders out there, please please for your own good, do not use osb, or mdf please only use premium plywood.
    The scientific reason I’d easy, mdf and osb week where they get went and dry unevenly, usually leaving behind an deformation whilst plywood swells and dries more evenly. I have over 20 years of construction experience on to of being an architect, interior designer and green associate, as well as a Love for doing things right that will last for a long time. Please feel free to contact for web site that will help you and anytime else out on proper construction. It’s not my web site, and I don’t want to promote another’s site.

    Reply
    1. Lynn

      Thanks for the info. I am planning to build a tiny structure soon and would love to have the website you mentioned for a reference. Thank you. 🙂

      Reply
    2. admin Post author

      Yep if we were to do it again, we would probably specify plywood subfloor & sheathing. In any case, we’re in a pretty dry climate here and based on experience with other local buildings, the LP Smartside [MDF-type panelling] does seem to hold up just fine if installed properly.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *