Friday, January 1, 2010

The cabin

It began as a joke a little hut / shack idea while waiting for dinner to finish one afternoon. I had found a neat little book on simple outdoor structures, (the name fails me now, but it is a great little book) and was leafing through it and suggesting wacky ideas for the guys to build me one of each item in the book in typical female fashion . I came across a cute little standing stick "cabin" like structure and I mentioned that we needed a little cabin. What we ended up with was nothing like what the original book plan was and is a close relative of an authentic pioneer style cabin.

One of us was a tree surgeon, one a construction worker(not a builder) and I a dairy farmer. The tree surgeon was apprenticing with a local builder,so he had limited knowledge and he sketched out a basic model of what we were plotting out. The next day he came in with "the plan". This "plan" was merely a piece of notebook paper with stick logs and some basic measurements in order to keep it a non permitted issue(12x14 + no utilities ). The only real thinking on the build we did was to figure out approximate numbers of logs needed and diameters. Later, this was basically thrown out because it evolved into what the pics show.

Long story short, no real experience, no real plans, just trying something in our own head first, talking with the others and a whole lot of testing it out in the process of building. The locking of the logs on the ends was the biggest issue( a lot of rolling the log into position then rolling it back out and cutting more in order to get them to fit like we wanted.) Working with the logs as we went was important. We originally tried to number each log as it would go up on the cabin, but it didn't work out that we used them in numbered order. Some logs just fit other logs better than others so it was more trial and error to get the smallest cracks between the logs as we could and to have them each be level after a new layer of logs was added.

As far as resources, other than the lil originating thought book, we used none. We had a little experience between the three of us but not more than an average joe would and as you can see I am not very good at explaining how we did it because I really don't know how three bumbling hippiehillbillies were able to accomplish it in the end. You could always come n visit n have a look see and draw some plans up from there.

The cabin measures 12x14 and it has the loft that is half the size. It is a dry cabin and no electric either. Power source now is candle with switch to solar when money (roflmao) allows. There is an outhouse nearby and a"shower" . In front of the cabin is the kitchen for use up there and a small herb patch. Eventually we would like a barrel and rock oven as well as a guttered water collection system. It will be a completely self contained lil survival residence.

All the trees were taken from here on the property and measured between 5 and 10 inches in diameter on average. The larger ones went at the bottom and they got smaller as we went up. We used a chain saw to cut the trees and we skinned them green. The main beams were also taken from here out of a tree that fell when Ivan came thru a few years back. We did buy the rough cut lumber that is used as we could never get in contact with a small mill to come here on the property and mill them for us. I dont think most would suggest using green logs to build with and skinning is easier when dry and they are much lighter.

To skin the logs we just duct taped the handle of a machete and sat on the logs that were usually propped up on one end and then when we completed a side would simply roll the log. At the time we could not find a draw knife anywhere near us , we found them just as we were finishing and decided the machetes were fine .When we first began the logs took about an hour a piece, by the time we finished we could do 3-4 an hour.

The cabin is not sitting directly on the ground, it does have a pressure treated foundation etc underneath. At some point we would like to jack it up and build a small crawl space under and insulate the floor. The floors are rough cut lumber as well as the loft floor, gables (i think thats what they are called) and roof . This was the largest expenditure we incurred.

At about 6 or 6 and half feet we stick framed and used the rough cut lumber to finish the gable then insulated the inside and used tongue and groove to finish. The roof is not insulated and is shingled . We wanted tin or shake but because of both financial and time constraints we went n got mix n match cheap shingles n made a pattern. (I was pattern designer, not a roofer ) The roof I believe, if remember correctly is on an insane 13 /12 pitch whatever that means... Ideally eventually we would like to build a frame over the top of the existing roof ,insulate it and then at the very least put a metal roof on it. We would love a shake roof of course,however i dunno about splitting all the shingles and cedar shake aint cheap. We also talk of putting a living roof on it.

The only power tools we used were the chain saw and a drill for the core holes for the 16 inch long spikes. There was no special blades used on the corners or anywhere else. We used approximately 125 pounds of spikes to hold the logs. (don't ask why lol). To tie the windows and doors in to the structure we drilled pilot holes then put some big ol spikes down through the logs. From there we used conventional framing for the door and window casings and left a lil bit of room for shrinkage and settling.

The windows in the loft area are both old recycles. One we found on top of the mtn and another we got for 5 bux at a flea market. we originally bought two windows for the lower area for 5 bux a piece but decided we wanted windows to open and close for summer months. The door was an old one hanging around that we cut about 8 inches off of and hung upside down. The "knob" is a mutatedblobthing from a tree.

For the chinking between the logs we originally used foam that is used for sealing cracks etc in construction. We went this route because we used green logs so we knew it would take a while for them to stop shrinking. We would just fill in cracks as they appeared. I also used the foam to seal the gaps in the floorboards as the rough cut lumber shrank. We again for monetary reasons chose to use a cement mixture to chink. We scraped the foam down and then chinked over the top and smoothed it out.

Under the cabin we treated with borate products and we have those stick in the ground termite contraptions around the perimeter. As the cabin was being built it was washed periodically and water sealed. For the first three years it was done at least once a year. Now we will switch to every 2-3 yrs . We figure 15 gallons should keep it protected for a while.

To build to date , we figure it has about 1500 hours into it. With the trim on the outside and in that still needs to be done there is about another 100 or so hours. It was basically built by three of us. I wasn't much help above 6 foot. (Me n ladders are dangerous). There were a few others that helped when they were passing through but the majority of the work was done by the three of us. None of us had any experience in building before and several hours were spent pondering just how to get a log to fit right and lifting and dragging logs or scraping . We all said we would never build another but lately we have pondered the idea a lil bit and think that if we had a tractor and about 12 sets of hands we may... we have even pondered the notion of having a "camp" to build a cabin, kitchen and "bathrooms" over a two or three week period.

The kitchen is directly in front of the cabin and also framed with logs. It is also 12x14. There is a tarp and stick roof at this time but am hoping to get vines to create it more like an arbor this year . There will also be a rail to one side of the kitchen and the funky rock pile in the pics is the beginnings of a new barrel stone kitchen. To the back of the rock pile is a small herb garden with most of a kitchens everyday herbs. We are going to gutter one side of the cabin for a rain water collection system and storage.

I hope this gives you an idea of the process and how we did it. It was a lot of work and quite frankly had we had to build it in a summer and grow crops raise animals etc, we would have probably died our first winter. We actually spent over two years building i , it sat dried in for well over a year before we finished it to the point it is now.

total price was about a 1000 dollars. The insulation and foam we used was free. The wood stove and pipe kit were also free.

Here are a few pictures of the cabin, outhouse and the kitchen at the cabin. I am working on the photo blog of the building process and will post it later.

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