A wave of excitement comes when you think about your portable cabin being delivered to your property. But then, you ask yourself, “What do I need before my cabin arrives?” Your mind automatically goes to the foundation, thinking of what and how the foundation should be built.
In this blog, we evaluate 21 portable cabin foundations and some pros and cons for each one. It is crucial to know all your options to choose the one that works ideally for you. Let every step of installing your portable cabin be a positive experience.
Table of Contents
What Is A Portable Cabin?
A portable cabin is a transportable structure designed as a living space, vacation getaway, or workplace. The cabins are built off-site and transported to the desired location where they are placed. Portable cabins come in several different styles, including a standard cabin style as well as a lofted cabin style.
Do I Need A Portable Cabin Foundation?
Yes. You should have a foundation for your portable cabin foundation. A foundation will make your cabin more stable and easier to maintain over the years. In adding a portable cabin foundation, you will add longevity to your building as it will not have doors that stick or floors that are uneven.
21 Best Portable Cabin Foundations
The type of portable cabin foundation you may need is dependent on several factors. To help you decide which cabin foundation is best, we have compiled a list of 21 options. So, let’s dive in to see what cabin foundation option works best for you!
1.) Skid (No Foundations/direct to ground)
The first option is simply placing it on the ground without a foundation. (Though many people do this, we do not recommend doing this.) However, the ground moves when warming or cooling and settles unevenly; over time, your cabin will start to break down. We only recommend this option if it is a temporary solution. If you do not have time to build a foundation before your cabin arrives, you can place it on the ground for a short time without any damage. At Gold Star Buildings, we build portable cabins with a substructure that can handle being on the ground for a short period of time.
Using gravel for a portable cabin foundation is an excellent option. Gravel makes a stable foundation if installed properly; it also makes a cost-effective, easy installation option. Gravel is a good option for remote locations where it may be difficult to make a concrete pad. This type of foundation also allows water to pass through for natural drainage.
We recommend that your gravel base is at least 4”-6” deep or more, depending on the size of your portable building. Additionally, you should level and tamp the entire gravel area before placing your cabin. For a step-by-step guide, this is an incredible resource “How to Build a Gravel Shed Foundation – The Complete Guide”.
3.) Metal Kit
A metal foundation kit can be very beneficial. Although it can be used by itself directly on the ground, we recommend that the metal foundation be used with a base material such as concrete piers or gravel. You can also pour concrete within the frame, using the metal frame as a concrete form, giving you a very durable and long-standing portable cabin foundation.
4.) Metal Jacks
If you already have a foundation but it is not quite level, metal foundation jacks might be what you are looking for. These are adjustable jacks that are placed directly underneath the building to level the building and can be great for making minor leveling adjustments. Again, we do not recommend that you use metal jacks alone as the portable cabin foundation but when used in conjunction with gravel, concrete, or pavers, this can give you that extra leveling you need.
5.) Concrete Blocks
A quick and easy portable cabin foundation is concrete blocks. They may be difficult to get exactly level, but with some adjustment, you should be able to get it there. Doing a foundation like this is ideal for a location where installing a more solid foundation would be difficult, such as truly remote cabin that would only be accessible via walking or ATV.
Over time, you can expect some uneven settling, so it will be necessary to relevel every several years if you want to keep it in its best condition. Additionally, we recommend that you use solid blocks over open-core blocks, as open-core blocks tend to crack and crumble after several years.
Pavers can make an excellent portable cabin foundation. If installed properly, these foundations are almost as good as a pout concrete pad.
Pavers are especially ideal if you want to extend the foundation to make a patio or fireplace beside your portable cabin that is cohesive. Also, pavers could be easier to haul into a hard-to-reach area than concrete or gravel.
7.) Permeable Pavers
If your cabin is in an area that often has water pooling up, permeable pavers can be your best friend for easy installation and water drainage. Permeable pavers are designed to allow water to pass through, allowing your portable shed foundation to drain any liquid away from the foundation.
Having moisture near your foundation is not an ideal situation as it can cause the wood to deteriorate at a faster rate than hoped for. If you live in a rainy area or one that has a lot of water runoff (downhill), this type of foundation is ideal.
8.) Deck Blocks
A quick and easy foundation solution is a deck block. Concrete deck blocks can make a similar foundation as regular concrete blocks. However, they have grooves that can create a more stable connection.
This means that your building is set in place very well without the ability to shift on top of the blocks. Deck blocks are also available in a plastic version. However, they may not offer as much elevation as cement blocks have to offer.
Overall, deck blocks themselves are not ideal but are an affordable option that is slightly better than cinder blocks alone.
However, when used with gravel or pavers, they are an excellent choice and allow water to pass under your portable cabin easily.
9.) Gravel Pad
Gravel pads and gravel foundations are fairly similar. However, a gravel foundation is slightly better than a gravel pad, primarily because of the way that they are laid into place.
Gravel foundations are dug below the surface and are often thicker, with 4”-8” of gravel. On the other hand, gravel pads are on the surface and are thinner, closer to 3”-5” of stone.
A gravel pad is a simpler version of a gravel foundation but may not perform as well in the long run. However, a gravel pad can be a decent option for a portable cabin foundation, especially if you don’t want to be hassled by performing any excavation.
10.) Helical Piers
If you are installing your portable cabin foundation on an area that has recently been filled in with soil or gravel, consider something that reaches down to solid ground.
Helical piers allow you to reach down for that firm foundation by going below the frost line. Although this foundation can be more challenging to install than other foundation types, they keeps your cabin from settling directly on the ground and causing potential structural issues.
11.) Post And Beam
A post and beam foundation consists of posts dug into the ground below the frost line, with beams sitting on top of the posts.
This is an excellent option for an area likely to settle because the pole rests on the solid ground below. Ideally, there is a concrete or stone footer for each post to give it a stronger hold.
The cabin rests on top of the beams, giving it a crawl space underneath. The additional crawl space will give you access to the bottom side of your cabin while also keeping it off the ground.
A post-and-beam portable cabin foundation is one of the best options for you to consider if you want to keep your building stable and desire to do the work yourself.
12.) Concrete Piers
Concrete piers are very similar to a post and beam foundation, except that concrete is used in the ground instead of lumber. There are two types of piers: prefab and poured. Prefab piers come already made and can be lowered into the post hole.
For poured piers, you can pour concrete directly into the post hole and fill it up to the level that you would like. If you want it to stick above the ground level, you must frame a concrete form ahead of time.
Either concrete pier option is an excellent choice for your portable cabin foundation.
*Pro tip: If you are considering pouring your own concrete piers, there should be at least 2 50lb bags for each footing for proper stability.*
13.) Concrete Slab
One of the best portable cabin foundations is a solid concrete slab. Although more expensive than other foundations, nothing can beat the stability of a concrete foundation.
You can pour a concrete slab directly on the ground if you choose, and it will serve you well. This style is known as a “free-floating” concrete pad.
If you want the top tier of portable cabin foundations, we recommend the next option.
14.) Concrete Slab With Foundation
Adding a foundation to your concrete slab will create a solid resting place for your cabin. TO have the best concrete foundation, we recommend constructing a 4” stone base that is well-tamped. After that has been set into place, you can pour your concrete directly on top of the stones with a form in place.
This will give you a foundation that will stand the test of time without causing hassle. A concrete foundation is essential if you use your portable cabin for a living area or a vacation spot. If you want information on installing a cabin base, read our article ”Building A Shed Base For Your Shed”.
*Pto Tip: If possible, angle your concrete pad towards the center on all sides and place a drain in the center. This will allow water to drain away from the structure and give you the best foundation possible.
15.) Combination Foundation
Using multiple methods for your portable cabin foundation is very effective. An example of a combination foundation is using concrete blocks and gravel together. Some other options that we have seen people do are concrete with deck blocks, metal kits with pavers, and concrete piers with gravel. Other combinations that you like can make an excellent foundation as well.
16.) Steel Skids
If you have never heard of steel skids, it’s the same idea as a wooden pallet, but instead of wood, it is made from steel or other composite metals. These steel skids can be a versatile and resilient portable cabin foundation. By combining galvanized steel with gravel, you can create a very stable base for your cabin. This is a good option if you want a metal base.
17.) Modular Foundation System
If you want a prefab foundation option, using a modular foundation system can be a great solution for your portable cabin. These foundation styles are made from concrete panels that are set on a footer and create a raised foundation for your shed. This is a great option if you have access to equipment to excavate and set the prefab panels.
18.) Recycled Tire Foundation (Like Mulch)
Recycled tires can create a portable cabin foundation that will allow water drainage and allow you to choose an eco-friendly option for your foundation. The tires should be in a shredded form and can be installed similarly to a gravel pad. However, you should have your foundation done with 6×6 treated wood sides to keep the rubber from washing away. Over time, rubber mulch can become uneven and easily washed away, so expect a fair bit of maintenance with this option.
If you would like to keep your portable cabin mobile, consider putting your cabin on a trailer. With the cabin on the trailer, you can park it wherever you desire and make the trailer its foundation. Use concrete blocks and metal jacks to make the trailer stable. Install a set of steps and a ramp in order to access the shed easily.
Depending on your situation, you may want a raised platform for your portable cabin foundation. If you want to place your shed on a hill, a deck can create a perfect place to place a shed. By using a post and beam foundation type, you can create a level spot anywhere. Instead of placing the shed on the beams, create a platform first, similar to a deck.
By building the deck larger than the shed, you will have room to maneuver or work beside the shed. A deck foundation is a great way to utilize some of your hill space.
21.) Fiber Glass Piers
Fiberglass piers can be used similarly to a post and beam or concrete piers. An added benefit to fiberglass is that they will not rot. This makes these foundation types, are an excellent option in a marshy area. You will need a bracket to fasten the beams to the fiberglass.
If you want to see the portable cabins that Gold Star Buildings can offer, we have numerous locations that you can visit. Find the location or dealer closest to you and explore the possibilities before you!
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What Portable Cabin Foundation Is The Best For Wet Climates?
The best portable cabin foundation for wet climates is a well-draining gravel foundation. By using washed gravel, water will drain through the foundation easily, keeping the shed as dry as possible.
If your cabin is in an area that has a lot of standing water, use a concrete or fiberglass pier foundation to elevate the building off the ground, saving the shed from rot.
Do I Need A Portable Cabin Foundation For My Cabin If I Live In A Warm Climate?
Yes. No matter the climate, a portable cabin foundation will extend the lifetime of any building. In a warm climate, the ground doesn’t expand and contract as much as in colder climates. This may allow you to use a thinner foundation style. However, a foundation is necessary to keep your cabin in good condition.
How Deep Should My Portable Cabin Foundation Be?
If using concrete with a stone base, figure at least 3 ½” of concrete for small buildings and 4”-5” for large ones. For gravel, use 4”-6” of washed, crushed stone for a small cabin and 6”-8” for large cabins. The depth of your portable cabin foundation is dependent on a number of factors, including your climate, the size of your building, and the type of foundation you have.
What Is The Most Affordable Portable Cabin Foundation?
The most cost-effective foundations will be concrete blocks or deck blocks. Both of them can be purchased cheaply and provide a decent foundation if enough of them are used. If you use this style, make sure there are as many connection points as possible.
What Is The Best Method For Building A Portable Cabin Foundation?
The easiest method for building a portable cabin foundation is to hire a contractor to install it for you. Businesses like Site Prep will prepare the site for your cabin from Gold Star Buildings.
Building the foundation yourself is the cheapest option. If you have the correct tools, putting in a foundation is not incredibly complicated. For a more in-depth look at installing a portable cabin foundation, read our article “Building A Shed Base For Your Shed”. These buildings are built pretty similarly, so the same principles apply to foundation construction.
What Portable Cabin Foundation Needs The Least Maintenance?
The portable cabin foundation that needs the least amount of maintenance is a concrete slab foundation. This durable foundation will need little maintenance to last a long time. A post and beam foundation also will need little maintenance, especially if the bottom side of the shed is open and ventilated.
What Is The Best Portable Cabin Foundation For Me?
Ideally, the best portable cabin foundation is gravel. In general, gravel foundations outperform the others when taking all the factors into consideration, such as durability, drainage, stability, and price.
That said, each situation is different, so the best foundation can be different in each situation. The chart below shows a comparison among the best 8 foundations for most situations. We hope that this makes it easy to choose which foundation will serve you best. The numbering system ranges from 1-3, with 1 representing the bottom of the foundation spectrum and 3 representing the top of the spectrum.
If you are looking for a portable cabin in Pennsylvania or Ohio, take a look at the standard cabins and the lofted cabins at Gold Star Buildings. We are a family business that works hard to provide quality cabins at an affordable price. Contact us if you have any questions about our products, or check out our inventory!
To give you the best opportunities possible, we offer Shed Financing and Rent-to-Own options for our excellent products. We are dedicated to our customer base and will work tirelessly to bring building solutions to you!
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