Building a wooden cabin: what are the regulations?

Have you ever dreamed of building a log cabin? This construction, which awakens in us beautiful memories of childhood, is subject to different rules that it is better to know before starting to cut its logs. Tool shed, children’s playhouse, cabin perched in a tree, chalet to live in… all cabins are subject to the same regulations. Once you know it, it will be up to you!

Hut at the bottom of the garden? Pay attention to the location.

A hut is a temporary or seasonal shelter, for people or for goods, which the town planning code defines as a transportable or dismountable dwelling. Even a simple tool shed is considered a “light leisure dwelling”. Any treehouse is subject to this classification, and the rules that flow from it, even if you build it in a tree. These light dwellings are subject to the common law of town planning permits.

Is your land buildable?

The location of your future cabin is important. Even in your garden, you can’t build it just anywhere… First, make sure your land is buildable. This is the first condition for building legally.

If this is not the case, the floor area of ​​your cabin must not exceed 5 m2. On non-constructible land, however, you have the option of installing a mobile home-type cabin (tiny house or mobile home), provided you can move it easily. No question of installing it permanently.

If your garden is building land, it is the size of your wooden cabin that will decide which regulations to follow.

In the garden some precautions are necessary.

Even if you are in good standing on the ground, your wooden cabin must respect a distance of 3 meters from the neighborhood limits (hedge, fence, etc.). Also be careful not to locate the cabin too close to a tree. Its roots could over the years come to damage the bases of the cabin. Of course, you must be aware of the specific town planning rules that apply to your land. In some municipalities, and depending on your area of ​​residence, the construction of a garden shed may be more or less regulated, or even impossible. The town hall will inform you about this.

Is your garden in a natural area?

The Local Urbanism Plan prohibits any construction in natural or forest areas (with the exception of buildings meeting the needs of agriculture). If you own land in a natural environment, start by contacting the town hall of your municipality. In some cases, the mayor can authorize the installation of a permanent light habitat on a non-constructible land, under the Alur law of 2014. Similarly, it is possible to install a tree house of a space protected, provided certain rules are followed.

In a natural area, it is not possible to build a hut to settle there in a sustainable way. Wherever it is, your dream shed can in no way serve as your main residence. At most, you can stay there for up to eight months a year, which still leaves you time to observe the butterflies…

The rules change depending on the size of the cabin.

If you want to know what administrative procedure you must take before building your cabin, the first concepts to integrate are those of floor area and footprint (see articles R. 421-1, R. 421-2, R 421-8-2 and R. 421-9 of the town planning code).

How to calculate the dimensions of your cabin?

Until 2012, urban planning documents referred to Net Outer Work Area (SHON) and Gross Outer Work Area (SHOB). A new law has replaced these concepts with those of floor area and footprint.

The floor area includes the floor areas of the different levels of the construction, calculated according to the bare interior of the facade (not counting balconies, terraces, anything that overflows). For complex cabins, the final calculation is made after removing certain spaces (spaces with a ceiling height of less than 1.80 m, non-convertible attics, voids under the stairs, etc.)

The footprint is defined by the volume that can be projected onto the ground by the construction, which includes the floor area but also the thickness of the walls, the facing stones or coatings (anything that can cover the walls) and additions such as a terrace , porch, roof overhangs, etc. This even applies for a cabin that you want to install in a tree in your garden. And even on stilts, your cabin will still have a footprint!

What regulations apply to the size of your log cabin?

If the surface of your hut does not exceed 5 m2, you are exempt from any procedure. No permission needed. Attention: if it is more than 12 m high, the prior declaration of work becomes necessary.

If the surface is between 5 and 20 m2 : in this case, you must send the town hall a prior declaration of work. You will find the necessary CERFA form on the internet. Just fill it out and drop it off at the town hall.

For a footprint greater than 20 m2 : this time you have to apply to your town hall for a building permit. You will need to submit a file with the following documents: a ground plan of the cabin showing its location, a location plan of the land, two photo-montages of the location, a sectional view of the house and the other structures (garage, barn, etc.) with their location.

Am I free to choose the style of my cabin?

Not quite… It is better to consult the Local Urbanism Plan or the Land Use Plan of your town hall. You will discover there the possible obligations in terms of color and style of your hut, as well as the imposed materials. This may vary from region to region, depending on the natural or urban environment. Even in your garden, all construction is subject to these constraints, more or less strong depending on the environment.

Be aware that if you order a cabin from professionals (for example a cabin for children), they generally offer to manage the regulatory procedures, work request or building permit for you. The paperwork is theirs, the pleasure of the cabin is yours!

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