Building on an Island



Is building on an island difficult?  So many times, I’m asked the question:




The answer I often give is: “Almost the same way you build one anywhere else.”


 Yes, everything has to be shipped in, but the process (once you get here) is the same.  

Many of the islands have residential contractors, who have established relationships with “mainland” lumber yards and sub-contractors. They know how to expedite the building process and save you costs on transportation. 

They can explain such things as the value of building in the summer vs. winter and choosing the right lot to minimize excavation costs.


Is it expensive to build on an island?

These days, it’s expensive to build almost anywhere due to the increase in costs for building materials. The increased costs that are unique for building on an island are primarily related to transporting materials and labor. Scheduling can be difficult if weather and/or tides don’t cooperate. Organization and timing is key for keeping the costs down so you need to hire a contractor who understands this and knows how to build as efficiently as possible.

Most will only give you an “estimate” of your costs and if you ask for a formal bid, they will have to add 20-40% to cover for unforeseen factors. If you can, contract for Time + Materials (T&M) and you will probably save money.

Two-story cabin on Center Island

Can kit or pre-fab construction be a more affordable option?

Purchasing a pre-cut kit through a company like Panabode may make your construction project more efficient and save you money. This is an exciting time for creators of alternative housing options and many choices are available. A few that I enjoy exploring are Method Homes and Lindal Cedar Homes.


Building on the islands seems to bring out the “creative” side for many people and they may choose an island cabin that fills a lifelong dream.  One couple’s project was featured in Seattle Metropolitan magazine in this article.


 A current “wave” of interest is in building smaller, beautifully designed homes that are unique and fit their particular setting.  On this note, some companies that are fun to look at for home ideas are: