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A large shack near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Shack in Pigeon Forge, TN by Zachary Davies.jpg
A large shack near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

A shack (or, in some areas, shanty) is a type of small shelter or dwelling, often primitive or rudimentary in design and construction.


Unlike huts, shacks are constructed by hand using available materials; however, whereas huts are usually rural and made of natural materials (mud, rocks, sticks, etc.) shacks are generally composed of scavenged man-made materials like abandoned construction debris, repurposed consumer waste and other useful discarded objects that can be quickly acquired at little or no cost and fashioned into a small dwelling.


In areas of high population density and high poverty, shacks are often the most prevalent form of housing; it is possible that up to a billion people worldwide live in shacks. [1] Fire is a significant hazard in tight-knit shack settlements. [2] Settlements composed mostly or entirely of shacks are known as slums or shanty towns.

In Australian English shack can also refer to a small holiday house with limited conveniences, for instance it may not have running water or electricity.

In Canadian oilfield drilling, a shack can also be the word for a wellsite trailer. These structures are notorious among oilfield workers for being cramped, uncomfortable and generally unpleasant to be in.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, tar paper shacks consisting of wooden frames covered with tar paper were a common form of very low-cost housing in the rural United States and Canada. [3] [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House</span> Building comprising a single dwelling

A house is a single-unit residential building. It may range in complexity from a rudimentary hut to a complex structure of wood, masonry, concrete or other material, outfitted with plumbing, electrical, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Houses use a range of different roofing systems to keep precipitation such as rain from getting into the dwelling space. Houses may have doors or locks to secure the dwelling space and protect its inhabitants and contents from burglars or other trespassers. Most conventional modern houses in Western cultures will contain one or more bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen or cooking area, and a living room. A house may have a separate dining room, or the eating area may be integrated into another room. Some large houses in North America have a recreation room. In traditional agriculture-oriented societies, domestic animals such as chickens or larger livestock may share part of the house with humans.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slum</span> Highly populated urban residential area consisting mostly of decrepit housing units

A slum is a highly populated urban residential area consisting of densely packed housing units of weak build quality and often associated with poverty. The infrastructure in slums is often deteriorated or incomplete, and they are primarily inhabited by impoverished people. Although slums are usually located in urban areas, in some countries they can be located in suburban areas where housing quality is low and living conditions are poor. While slums differ in size and other characteristics, most lack reliable sanitation services, supply of clean water, reliable electricity, law enforcement, and other basic services. Slum residences vary from shanty houses to professionally built dwellings which, because of poor-quality construction or lack of basic maintenance, have deteriorated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Building material</span> Material which is used for construction purposes

Building material is material used for construction. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, rocks, sand, wood, and even twigs and leaves, have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more and some less synthetic. The manufacturing of building materials is an established industry in many countries and the use of these materials is typically segmented into specific specialty trades, such as carpentry, insulation, plumbing, and roofing work. They provide the make-up of habitats and structures including homes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Log cabin</span> Dwelling constructed of logs; mostly used in a log house

A log cabin is a small log house, especially a less finished or less architecturally sophisticated structure. Log cabins have an ancient history in Europe, and in America are often associated with first-generation home building by settlers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vernacular architecture</span> Architecture based on local needs, materials, traditions

Vernacular architecture is building done outside any academic tradition, and without professional guidance. This category encompasses a wide range and variety of building types, with differing methods of construction, from around the world, both historical and extant, representing the majority of buildings and settlements created in pre-industrial societies. Vernacular architecture constitutes 95% of the world's built environment, as estimated in 1995 by Amos Rapoport, as measured against the small percentage of new buildings every year designed by architects and built by engineers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cottage</span> Dwelling type

A cottage, during England's feudal period, was the holding by a cottager of a small house with enough garden to feed a family and in return for the cottage, the cottager had to provide some form of service to the manorial lord. However, in time cottage just became the general term for a small house. In modern usage, a cottage is usually a modest, often cosy dwelling, typically in a rural or semi-rural location and not necessarily in England. The cottage orné, often quite large and grand residences built by the nobility, dates back to a movement of "rustic" stylised cottages of the late 18th and early 19th century during the Romantic movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tar paper</span> Construction material

Tar paper is a heavy-duty paper used in construction. Tar paper is made by impregnating paper with tar, producing a waterproof material useful for roof construction. Tar paper is similar to roofing felt, historically a felt-like fabric made from recycled rags impregnated with melted asphalt, and today evolving into a more complex underlayment of synthetic mesh or fiberglass strands waterproofed by synthetically enhanced asphalt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dugout (shelter)</span> Hole or depression used as shelter

A dugout or dug-out, also known as a pit-house or earth lodge, is a shelter for humans or domesticated animals and livestock based on a hole or depression dug into the ground. Dugouts can be fully recessed into the earth, with a flat roof covered by ground, or dug into a hillside. They can also be semi-recessed, with a constructed wood or sod roof standing out. These structures are one of the most ancient types of human housing known to archaeologists, and the same methods have evolved into modern "earth shelter" technology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shanty town</span> Improvised human settlement

A shanty town or squatter area is a settlement of improvised buildings known as shanties or shacks, typically made of materials such as mud and wood. A typical shanty town is squatted and in the beginning lacks adequate infrastructure, including proper sanitation, safe water supply, electricity and street drainage. Over time, shanty towns can develop their infrastructure and even change into middle class neighbourhoods. They can be small informal settlements or they can house millions of people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Diepsloot</span> Place in Gauteng, South Africa

Diepsloot, Afrikaans for "deep ditch", is a densely populated township in Gauteng, South Africa. It is located in the Region A of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. There are high levels of crimes here including illegal electricity connections and theft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mountain hut</span> Building in the mountains with food and shelter

A mountain hut is a building located high in the mountains, generally accessible only by foot, intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers, climbers and hikers. Mountain huts are usually operated by an Alpine Club or some organization dedicated to hiking or mountain recreation. They are known by many names, including alpine hut, mountain shelter, mountain refuge, mountain lodge, and mountain hostel. It may also be called a refuge hut, although these occur in lowland areas too.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gecekondu</span> Turkish word for a house "built overnight"

Gecekondu is a Turkish word meaning a house put up quickly without proper permissions, a squatter's house, and by extension, a shanty or shack. Gecekondu bölgesi is a neighborhood made of those gecekondular. Gecekondu neighborhoods offer an affordable alternative for shelter for many low-income households who can not afford to purchase or rent formal housing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Villa miseria</span>

A villa miseria, or just villa, is the informal term for a type of shanty town slum found in Argentina, mostly around the largest urban settlements.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kibera</span> Urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya

Kibera is a division of Nairobi Area, Kenya, and neighbourhood of the city of Nairobi, 6.6 kilometres (4.1 mi) from the city centre. Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. The 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census reports Kibera's population as 170,070, contrary to previous estimates of one or two million people. Other sources suggest the total Kibera population may be 500,000 to well over 1,000,000 depending on which slums are included in defining Kibera.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hut</span> Dwelling

A hut is a small dwelling, which may be constructed of various local materials. Huts are a type of vernacular architecture because they are built of readily available materials such as wood, snow, ice, stone, grass, palm leaves, branches, hides, fabric, or mud using techniques passed down through the generations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Earth lodge</span> Semi-subterranean building

An earth lodge is a semi-subterranean building covered partially or completely with earth, best known from the Native American cultures of the Great Plains and Eastern Woodlands. Most earth lodges are circular in construction with a dome-like roof, often with a central or slightly offset smoke hole at the apex of the dome. Earth lodges are well-known from the more-sedentary tribes of the Plains such as the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara, but they have also been identified archaeologically among sites of the Mississippian culture in the eastern United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tŷ unnos</span>

Tŷ unnos is an old Welsh tradition that has parallels in other folk traditions in other areas of the British Isles. It was believed by some that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. There are other variations on this tradition, for example that the test was to have a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning and the squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Home construction</span> Process of constructing a home

Home construction or residential construction is the process of constructing a house, apartment building, or similar residential building generally referred to as a 'home' when giving consideration to the people who might now or someday reside there. Beginning with simple pre-historic shelters, home construction techniques have evolved to produce the vast multitude of living accommodations available today. Different levels of wealth and power have warranted various sizes, luxuries, and even defenses in a "home". Environmental considerations and cultural influences have created an immensely diverse collection of architectural styles, creating a wide array of possible structures for homes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Illegal housing in India</span>

Illegal housing in India consists of huts or shanties built on land not owned by the residents and illegal buildings constructed on land not owned by the builders or developers. Although illegal buildings may afford some basic services, such as electricity, in general, illegal housing does not provide services that afford for healthy, safe environments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rooftop slum</span> Type of illegal housing

Rooftop slum or penthouse slum generally refers to illegal housing on the rooftops of apartment buildings. In Hong Kong, some people are unable to afford traditional apartments and are forced to wait years for affordable public housing. They therefore live in squatted shacks on top of buildings. According to the Hong Kong population census, there were 47,091 rooftop dwellers in 2011 and this number is likely to have dropped as working class areas are redeveloped.


  1. Planet of Slums, Verso, 2006
  2. A Big Devil in the Jondolos: A report on shack fires by Matt Birkinshaw
  3. "Tar paper shack in Minnesota cut-over area, Beltrami County, Minnesota". Library of Congress .
  4. "Flashback Friday: Carrie Ingalls & Her Tar Paper Shack".