Small Cabin Advice

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New Member
Jan 9, 2024
Olympic Peninsula, WA
I've been reading a lot of threads on here and researching elsewhere, but given every situation is so different I thought I'd try to get some custom advice from all you knowledgeable folks.

I've got a ~400 sq ft cabin with cathedral ceilings and a loft. Total cubic area: 22' length x 18' width x 15' height = ~6,000 cu ft (I think I'm doing that right....). It will be very well insulated but has lots of big windows. I do intend to have a ceiling fan. I've attached a skethcup mock I've done with the fireplace location as well as a picture of current state for reference. Cabin is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, so relatively moderate temperatures - maybe gets into single digits occasionally (fahrenheit) during the winter. For the next 15 years while my kids are growing up this will mostly be a weekender. Once they're grown, I'll live in it full time until I die and hope to pass on something built to last for generations. I do care about cost of course, but my hope is to only buy once so I want it to be the right one and won't let cost inhibit me, while also not spending unnecessarily.

What I think I've narrowed it down to so far (in no particular order):
- Blaze King Ashford or Sirrocco 20 (or 30? thoughts?)
- PE Vista Classic LE
- Jotul F45
- Woodstock Ideal Steal
- Drollet small or medium sized model

I know that is kind of a lot. And I'm at the stage of getting really confused when bouncing between these and having a hard time seeing my way through to the "right" decision. So any advice is much appreciated! I am especially interested in any thoughts on the size as I think the floor area suggests small, but cathedral ceilings and windows suggest maybe a medium. One other thing, in the mock you'll see I'd like to build a short dividing partition behind the stove. Any recommendations on what that should/needs to be built out of? Thank you in advance!

cabin mock.png Screenshot 2024-01-09 094616.png
Welcome, looks like a really nice start. What part of the penninsula will this be at? The stoves listed are a huge range of stoves, the Ideal Steel is twice the size of the Vista. Will there be any other source of heat in the cabin? Will the plumbing be set up to drain to avoid freezing?

400 sq ft is a small space, but if it has to be brought up from freezing to 65 then I would recommend going with a ~2 cu ft sized stove. It takes some extra heat to warm up a place from the cold. Instead of the Vista, the PE Super would be better or the PE's value version is the True North TN20. Both of these stoves are N/S loaders. The Jotul F45 is a good choice and most like the PE Alderlea T5 with its cast iron cladding. The difference being that the PE stove is easier to clean with the removable baffle. All of these stoves can be loaded N/S for a full firebox. If the need will be to bring the place up quickly from the cold, this doesn't sound like the best setup for a cat stove. In the Drolet line, the Escape 1800 will work. It's a bit more of an E/W loader, but can be run N/S with shorter splits.

The ceiling fan will be essential to circulate the heat. Without it, hot air is going to pocket toward the ceiling peak, making for a hot loft.
Thanks for your reply and helpful information! Per your questions: This is just above Crescent Beach, so directly on the Strait of Juan de Fuca looking across to Vancouver Island. I do not intend to have another source of heat in the cabin, other than being able to use a small propane heater if needed to speed up the cold start heating process. Plumbing will be set up to drain. (In full transparency, I'm kind of on the fence on this decision but this is where I'm leaning.)
Awesome. Let me know if you are considering rental :)

For full time living, heating this small of an area with only wood will be a challenge, especially in mild weather, but that's down the road several years and who knows what will happen, you may expand it or put in a mini-split heat pump then. In the short run, mild weather will take burning partial loads once the place has warmed up, feeding just a split or two on the coals at a time.

Will the cabin have power? Seal the place well, it gets windy on the straits.
Ahh I see you are in South Puget Sound too - I am in Puyallup. If we ever do end up going the rental route, I will let the forum know :) I am trying to maintain high quality throughout while doing the vast majority of the work myself. Which between time and costs associated means I expect it to be a couple of years yet before its "finished".

And yes, the cabin will have power. There is a transformer on site now and I'm just waiting on getting the utility lines dug and the meter base in hopefully later this month.
You might consider a mini-split heat pump for it. The basic units come in kit form and can be DIY. There are some good postings in the DIY forum here on Mr. Cool units. This can be done for less cost than a wood stove. If one was installed, then a small Drolet Spark or Nano would be sufficient.
That is a very appealing option. I had been hesitant to take up any wall space, as there is precious little, but I think I could do it and realistically is probably the best option for maximum comfort + ambiance.
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Don't hesitate to ask for more info if you need it for either option, or both.