How to Build a Small, Lean-to Type Cabin

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Building a small lean-to cabin can be a fun weekend project for your family. And, the resulting structure can be used by your family as a shelter while fishing and camping, for toy or tool storage in the back yard and as a protected outdoor grilling area. As this lean-to is a basic structure, it is an ideal project for those with only basic carpentry skills. To simplify the project even further, have your home improvement supply store cut your lumber to size for you in the shop. This article details a six foot-by-six foot lean-to with no door (as is traditional for hunting and fishing.)

Items you will need

  • Four eight foot 2-by-4 boards

  • 14 six foot 2-by-4 boards

  • Five six foot-by-six foot pieces of plywood

  • Shovel

  • 40 pounds of gravel

  • Saw

  • Hammer

  • Box of four-inch wood nails

  • Ladder

Measure and mark a six foot-by-six foot area for the lean-to cabin. Make sure to mark the corners clearly using rocks, cones or another visible marker.

Dig a two-foot deep hole at each corner mark. You will sink your corner posts for the cabin in these holes. The holes should be big enough to fit a 2-by-4 into and also should be pretty uniform in size from corner to corner.

Sink the corner posts. The eight foot 2-by-4 boards are your corner posts. Have someone help you secure these posts by holding the boards upright while you pour 10 pounds of gravel (mixed with the dirt you dug up when creating the hole) into and around each board at each corner. When you are done, only six feet of the board should be above ground and all of the two-by-four corner posts should be facing the same direction.

Build the frame. Start by putting in a six-foot 2-by-4 baseboard in-between each corner post. Attach these boards to the corner posts using two wood nails on each two-inch corner and three wood nails on each four-inch corner. Next, put in the top boards using the same method (though you will need help to hold the board up while you nail it into place.) This creates a rough frame.

Place the support beams into the frame. On three sides you will put an additional six-foot beam in between the baseboard and the top board at the three foot mark between the corners. Secure the board via nails through the top board. On the fourth side, you will need to use two boards to create an opening for a door. From each corner measure in 1 and 1/2 feet and mark. On those marks insert and secure two six-foot beams. This will create a three-foot door opening.

Attach the sides of the lean-to: Nail around the perimeter of the six foot side/frame to attach the six foot pieces of plywood to the sides. Measure and mark the opening for the door in the fourth piece of plywood. Cut it out with a saw, leaving a small lip at the top so that you can attach it to the frame. Attach the fourth side using the same process as the first three, adding extra nails to secure the plywood to the door frame.

Attach the roof. Have someone help you lift it onto the top of the lean-to cabin and attach it with nails along the perimeter of the structure. The lean-to cabin is now finished.


  • If you wish to add a door to this cabin you can simply attach the plywood you cut out of the fourth wall to the door opening with hinges. Or, try hanging a thick blanket on the inside of the lean-to cabin for a less permanent door.
  • If you use this structure for outdoor grilling you will want to cut a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.
  • This quick lean-to also makes a great backyard fort or storage area for bikes, skateboards and scooters.