Just like no two fingerprints are alike, the same could be said about cabins and the properties they rest upon. Each cabin has a unique history and story to tell. With countless family gatherings that span generations the cabin not only provides shelter but a communal space for life experiences.
Determining the condition of the cabin was discussed in our previous article “Our Cabin-Remodel or Rebuild” and is a critical step in assessing your options. However, that alone might not be the only consideration when trying to determine to remodel or rebuild.
Zoning ordinances, regulations and local building codes are an immense topic and play a vital role in almost any construction project. We can’t begin to cover all aspects of regulations one might encounter because each municipality has their own ordinances with a variety of limits and exceptions. However, we will try to cover key topics you will encounter relating to your remodel or rebuild project.
What zoning district the property is classified under will determine the majority of regulations one will need to conform with. Existing cabins can be considered a dwelling or possibly an accessory structure depending on what amenities they contain. Also, when the cabin was originally built might determine if it will be considered conforming or nonconforming with current regulations. Since many cabins were built prior to current rules and regulations, they could likely not be conforming to present day standards. However, they might be considered exempt or “grandfathered in” regarding some of the current regulations.
The size or area of your property (lot size) is an important feature in assessing what limits might be imposed on your property. Green space requirements are typically considered surfaces that are permeable, the ability to allow moisture through like lawns or vegetative growth. Impervious surfaces are the opposite or the inability to allow moisture through like buildings, paved areas and in some instance’s decks. The size of impervious area is typically a percentage of your total lot size area. Hence the larger the lot size the larger the buildable area. This can play a critical role in the size of your addition to the existing cabin or a new cabin. Furthermore, the number of dwellings on a lot (density requirements) can also be a directly determined by lot size.
Setbacks from the property lines are also a crucial factor in determining not only building placement but also how it might relate to site lines and other amenities your lot might offer. Typical setbacks include all four sides of your property (front, back and sides) however lake properties also have what is call an Ordinary High-Water Mark (OHWM) setback. These distance requirements usually are different for both the dwelling structure and the accessory structure. There might be additional types of setbacks requirements however these are foremost in most instances.
Another important regulation is the building height. This will limit the overall height of your remodel, addition, or new cabin. Also be sure to understand how the local ordinances define building height. Different municipalities can have different methods in determining building height that can have significant impact on design.
There are additional ordinances that will factor into a remodel or new cabin project however these are a few primary topics when considering your options. A thorough zoning review during the Project Programming or Pre-Design phase can identify those options and assist in determining the best course of action to take, whether to remodel or rebuild.