Category Archives: Land

We’ve been busy

Time has sort of flown with the holidays and everything.  We worked on the deluxe shed around Christmas vacation, again on New Year’s vacation and then again this weekend.  It’s been pretty warm as Januaries go so we plan to just keep on working until the caulking won’t stick any longer or until we freeze our hind-ends off (which is a real danger as we rough it in the woods if you catch my drift).  Anyhow, the last time we reported in, we were still working on getting house wrap up to protect the cabin in case we finally do get into winter.

Housewrap on our small cabin
The front of the cabin
Housewrap on our small cabin
The back of the small cabin
Putting housewrap on our small cabin
Yeah, it's steep
Putting housewrap on our small cabin
Housewrap in the wind!

Just this weekend we finished the last of the housewrap.  The peak at the back of the cabin is around 30 feet in the air.  I have a 24 foot ladder so I have a problem that requires creative bending of the laws of gravity.  It’s done now so, honestly, I am relieved.  We also got 4 windows and a door installed which leaves 2 windows and a door left to go.  The best part about having a door installed is that we can leave a few things in the cabin.  But shhhhh…don’t tell anyone.  I don’t expect any trouble and there really isn’t anything of value there but I am glad to not having to load and unload goofy stuff each trip.

Cutting out the window opening
Getting the window opening ready
The window opening happens to be over the stairwell
The window opening happens to be over the stairwell

There is a good tale of danger and daring that I need to tell you for my ego’s sake.  Last weekend we had 40 mph wind gusts so it seemed like the perfect time to install the window in the high peak in the back of the cabin.  The real problem was the window was open and unprotected from the weather so we felt like we had to get that area weathered in since the wind clearly blows against that area.  Honest to goodness, the gusts would blow us back a few steps (luckily into the house, not out) which made installation interesting.  The wind rattled everything and sounded like a freight train rolling through the uninsulated house.  At one point, we thought the roof was going to come off.  We went out to look and it was, in fact, about to come off.  The guys I hired to install the roof had forgotten to install one screw (I really have no complaints…it was an easy thing to miss).  The wind got under that spot and was wreaking havoc.  That leaves my butt holding on to the ladder for dear life to add one screw.  I got about half way up on the first attempt and it started to blow me and the ladder over.  Emily caught the ladder in motion and prevented its continued slide but without her I would have been in a bad way.    Huh…when I write it out, it seems much less dramatic that when we were doing the work.  Trust me, it was nuts!

Adding the window frame
Adding the window frame
Peeping in the (almost) window
Peeping in the (almost) window
Peeping out the window
Peeping out the window
Not a bad view from the new window in our small cabin
Not a bad view from the new window in our small cabin

We found pretty quickly that the slowest part about installing the windows is installing the adhesive-backed flashing that should water-proof the window/door opening and further prevent water from entering the building.  It is slow and tedious but super important so we have been taking our time to do it right.  I know, it seems like a pretty big change for us, but we do try to do the important stuff right.

The moon was huge as we were packing up
The moon was huge as we were packing up
Sunset over the forest at our land
Sunset over the forest at our land

I think the best part about going up to our place is that we are always greeted by something beautiful. Sometimes it is rosy cheeks and sometimes it is a beautiful full moon on the horizon…that’s the important stuff and it always seems to be done right!


See all of the progress on the cabin

Wrapping it up

It’s been hectic.  I mean it is always hectic at Christmas time but it seems like my work and the kids’ activities are much more wild than normal.  We have been fortunate with our weather though and that means we have been working on the cabin the last two weekends.  So, in the last episode, we left our heroes working on the cabin, hoping to get the gable ends framed in and covered with sheathing.

Window view from our small cabin in WV
The window view...not framed in yet
The open gable in our small cabin in WV
Our cabin is pretty high in the air
That's a long ways down!

The dastardly weatherman called for snow and rain to thwart the attempts of our heroes to get the place weathered in before the snow  ruined all of the hard work and industrial glue used to hold together the over-priced plywood and OSB used throughout.  Ok, I can’t stand the wait…no cliff-hanger here.  We got the sheathing up and put  house wrap up on about half of the place the last two weekends!

One gable end framed in on our small cabin in WV
One gable end framed in!
Sheathing on our small cabin in WV
The high parts are done!
Red Riding Hood
Red Riding Hood

House wrap, it turns out, is some weird stuff.  It blocks water from the outside.  Water vapor can freely escape the other direction though so moisture from inside the house can get out.  The problem is that if larger water particles get behind the wrap, they are held in place…only water vapor can escape.  Sometimes that makes things rot as water usually does.  I read a bunch of stuff on the internets about whether house wrap was a good idea or whether old fashioned tar paper was better.  It seemed like I found a pretty mixed story about it.  Most people said tar paper was really good and that it lasted forever and has been used successfully for a long time.  House wrap is only popular because it goes up fast which is important to home builder.   That fact is also popular with my wife so we (she) finally decided to use house wrap.

House wrap going up on our small cabin in WV
The first of the house wrap
About half of the house wrap up on our small cabin in WV
About half of the house wrap is up!

We have about 4 months to get the house wrap covered with siding before UV rays from the sun start to ruin it.  If anyone remembers my other remodeling experiences, you will recall that a 4 month deadline is pretty tight for me!  The kids have really enjoyed hanging out with their great-grandparents as we do this final push to get things done though.  Another few months would suit them just fine I think.  Great-grandparents, it turns out, really like to spoil great-grandkids.  Apparently it is in the Constitution or something.  Anyhow, as this year (and probably the nice weather) wraps up, I really owe a lot to all of the family and friends who have helped in various ways to get this place under cover!  I am so tired of wrapping so your Christmas presents are in the mail!


See all of the progress on the cabin

Under roof!

The deluxe shed is under roof!  The boys from up on the ridge recommended a guy who does construction work for a living to put the roof on the place for us.  I had no interest in trying to tackle that project and I am certain it was the best money I have spent so far.  But let me back up and tell you the story of getting to that point.

I called a local metal manufacturer to get help on what all I needed.  I talked to one guy the first time I called and he was super helpful and told me all of the measurements I needed to get.  I called back a short time later and a different guy flat out refused to help me with anything stating that he preferred to work with contractors rather than homeowners.  I was mad as a hornet and decided that I would not use the local company under any circumstances.  I so much wish I could name this company but I guess it’s better if I don’t.  I looked around some more though and found that they were really about the only game in town.  I called back another time prepared to climb up someone’s hind-end but I got another guy and he was super nice and helped me get the order in.

Initially, he told me it would be three days for delivery (which would have been perfect as I was planning to be at the property then).  Just a few minutes later, he called back and asked if he could deliver first thing the next day.  Of course, it was supposed to rain like mad the day I ordered as well as the next day, delivery day.  He assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem and that they had 4-wheel drive trucks and could get across my hay field (which does not yet have a driveway) to drop the metal right beside the building.  Of course, I got a call on delivery morning to tell me that they could not navigate the mud (which I had already guessed) and asked what I wanted to do.  I had no other option but to have them drop it by the road.

Metal roof on small cabin

Now I have no worry whatsoever that the folks who live up there would leave it alone and would, in fact, try to keep an eye out on the pile for a week, but $800 worth of metal roof might be too tempting for some passerby.  I drove up that night in the rain and dark and proceeded to drag the metal pieces across the field to the work site.  Holy cow is that metal heavy!  It was pitch black and raining and muddy so I had quite a time of it.

Enough of the whining…the roof guy and his crew came out on Sunday and spent all day putting the sheathing and metal on the place and it looks good in the pictures I have seen.  I haven’t even been up there yet to see it in person but Emily’s grandparents and Susanna, our neighbor both sent me pics.

Our small cabin

I know, white is not a typical color for a roof but we are all about the energy conservation at this place and the white roof has the maximum capability to reflect sunlight and heat back away from the place in the summer time when the energy costs would be highest.  It had to be metal because we plan to harvest rain water to fill our cistern.  We are not yet committed to a color of siding yet so we will need to find something that will go with the white roof I guess!  Caprilis asked in a comment a few posts ago whether we had considered adding skylights.  We did consider it but decided against any extra holes in the metal which would be prone to leaking.  It would be awesome though.  I guess we could always cut them in later if we decide we want them.  We’ll see…

Metal roof on small cabin

We still have a little more work to do to have the place dried in for winter.  It is supposed to be nice (but cold) this weekend so we are hoping to get everything else in place so that winter can come.  I was in Beckley, WV on Wednesday for business and they are enough higher up in the mountains that the snow dumped pretty good.  They got a few inches in a hurry so winter is definitely upon us.  Just having the roof in place gives me a little peace during the evil they call winter.  I am off to hibernate…

See all of the progress on the cabin

The sleeping loft

We have busted it pretty hard and the place is finally looking like a house (or at least a deluxe shed)!  I took Thursday off from work to frame in the gable ends and add collar ties at the top of the rafters. For the uninitiated, collar ties are boards that are added at the peak where each side’s rafters meet.  The collar tie helps to ensure that the boards cannot separate and splay out causing the roof to fail.  In typical trusses that most people have in new houses, all of the internal pieces are connected by several cross beams (which also make the attic area of most new houses almost unusable.

The gable end of our small cabin before I framed it in Getting ready to frame in the gable on my small cabin.  Check out the overhang on the roof

The open gable ends, about to be framed

Anyhow, I got the collar ties in and the gable ends framed including large windows in the front and the back.  I had to run the generator to power the saws of course, but I shut it down whenever I could and it was so peaceful up there.  I could just imagine standing in the top of the place looking out over the woods and hearing only the wind and water.

Collar ties Collar ties

The collar ties are the horizontal boards near the peak of each set of rafters

It was in the 20s on Thursday morning so all of the rain that had fallen into the open shell was frozen on the floor.  As I was working alone, it was pretty treacherous and kept me on my toes.  It really highlighted how urgent a roof overhead is to keep things safe and intact.

Beginning to frame in the gable ends Beginning to frame in the gable ends

Making progress on the gable ends

What made the collar ties and gable framing so urgent is that I have decided to hire a guy to put the actual roof on the place.  I have no safety equipment and since the roof is a 10:12 pitch, it is far too steep to easily traverse without it.  Without the work I finished up, however, it would not have been safe for him to be up there either.  Hopefully the roof will be on this weekend so I can finish buttoning up the building for winter.

Big window framed into the gable of our small cabin Big window framed into the gable of our small cabin

I got a big window framed into each end of the gable


Cleaning up near the stairwell of our small cabin Cleaning up near the stairwell of our small cabin

A little cleaner…mind the gap!

So, after I finished up that work, I cleaned up the 25 pounds of sawdust that I had generated and sat and enjoyed the view.  It was such a nice day and I started really seeing the place come together.    There’s no shortage of work left to do but we are nearly to a point where I can start to really employ child labor to finish the inside…”Hey kids, momma and I are going to take a walk…don’t fight and hang some sheet rock, would you?”


See all of the progress on the cabin

On the way to the outhouse

So, we are building our cabin, right?  The land is completely raw so there are absolutely no amenities, if you catch my drift.  So, we work hard about every weekend from morning until dark.  We drink fluids and nature does with fluids what nature is supposed to do with fluids.  Yeah, we have to pee sometimes when we go out to the property.

Last week and this week are deer hunting season in WV.  I promise this is related.  So, let’s pretend that one of the females who may or may not be my wife, drank some fluids during deer season on a piece of raw land out in the woods in WV.  As nature takes its course, such a person may feel a little fearful of being mistaken for a deer….a white tailed deer in that exposed condition, while dealing with…uh…natural things.   The obvious solution to such a dilemma is to announce one’s presence in the woods like so: “I am not a deer.  I am not a deer.  I am not a deer”.  So far, there has been no mistake and we have had done very well with this method.

Mushrooms on a log Mushrooms on a log

Now let’s say that a guy who may or may not be me also had fluids while working on a piece of raw land out in the country in WV.  Now for a guy, the world is pretty much a fair target.  Oh yes, it is all about the challenge of a good target.  Anyhow, with the world as a man’s urinal, the concern over being confused as a deer is less pressing.  Instead, a man is able to take in the sights in Nature’s lavatory.

Mushrooms on a log Mushrooms on a log

It seems very late for mushrooms, but the whole point of this story is to lead up to how a guy who may or may not be me, found a really cool log that had the most exquisite collection of mushrooms growing on it.  I like to touch mushrooms.  Is that weird?  These mushrooms were silky and really fleshy and difficult to stop touching.  That’s weird I know, but I think it is fascinating that there are things in the woods that keep the place cleaned up but still look so delicate and soft.  I mean, they were chewing up a log for goodness sakes!  I have been making far too much contact with wood as I build this cabin and my head is suffering greatly from how hard wood is.  These beautiful mushrooms eat the same wood for breakfast!

Even in the most basic of times in the woods, I am continually amazed at the power and beauty that is around me all of the time.  I like to pay attention to these things, even on the way to the outhouse.

Black Friday

I set the alarm for 5am today and drug my weary bones from the warm covers to join the teeming horde.  Well, I thought there would be a ton of people out.  I was out of the house by 5:15 and out to one of the home improvement stores by 5:30.  There were people out but not bad at all.  It seemed like the people were centered around a few stores.  Luckily, my stores were not involved.  So, anyhow, Black Friday and shopping in general are not usually high on my list but I decided to participate this year to get…a new trailer!

My new trailer

Tractor Supply had an ad for $200 off of a 5×8 trailer so I figured I would try at the local big home improvement stores before I made the trip out to Tractor Supply, 40 minutes away.  So, the big local stores had nothing comparable, so I hit the road and got to Tractor Supply by 6:15.  They opened at 6 supposedly but the lines were already to the back of the stores when I got there.  Anyhow, I waited in line for 30 minutes and walked out with my new trailer and a 25 million candle power light.  Yeah, the light was an impulse buy but for $20 I couldn’t pass it up.  I hauled trailer back to Charleston so we could go back to the lumber yard to get wood for the deluxe shed.

Hanging the ridge board Hanging the ridge board


Rafters going up on our small cabin in the woods

We made it up to the place around 10 and hung the second ridge board and started on the remaining rafters.  My buddy came to help and we made great progress again.  We should finish the rafters tomorrow and hopefully hang some/all of the sheathing.   The only other thing I got on Black Friday was a nasty scrape on my head.  I tested and sure enough, my head is weaker than the wooden rafters.  My scrape happened early so the band-aid also left a cool little tanline too!


Most of the rafters in place on our small cabin in the woods

So, my first (and likely last) Black Friday was a huge success.  We’ll head back to the place tomorrow and try to get the place under roof before we get snowed under!  Wish me luck!


See all of the progress on the cabin


Country Neighbors

I grew up in the country and it was just a natural thing then I guess.  People always waved to each other and talked as you passed and left extra zucchini on your porch and helped out when you needed it.  It’s been 20+ years since I lived in the country though and my city life has sort of become ingrained.  We moved to Nashville and it was a huge culture shock to me…from a town of 600 or so people to a town of a million and a half.  I remember as we drove in to Nashville on one of our first visits, there was a guy in a car ramming another guy in a car going full speed down the interstate among how-ever-many lanes of traffic there were then.  It wasn’t a wreck…yet.  They were road-raging and ramming each other.  I knew this wasn’t quite like where I grew up.

Ridge board to support rafters Ridge board to support rafters

The ridge board that supports the rafters at the top end

So, I became a city boy and all that friendly stuff had to be put on the back burner.  It’s not that people in a city aren’t friendly once you get to know them… it’s just that you have to find a way to get to know them first and sometimes even neighbors aren’t interested in getting to know one another.

Getting ready to raise rafters on our small cabin

So, fast forward a bit.  The folks from whom we bought the property still live on the land they retained the next hillside over.  Larry, Granny Sue’s husband, delivered some scaffolding he had over at his place a few weeks back.  He showed us how to set it up and use it and has let us keep it up there as long as we need it.  And then last weekend as we were working on setting up our rafters.  One of the boys (they are grown men but we call the brothers that live near us, “the boys” and I think they would be ok with that) came by on his 4-wheeler to ask if he could hunt on our property.  I told him that any of the boys and their family could hunt but I didn’t want anyone else who didn’t live up there hunting.  I would have never known whether they hunted or not during the week but I am really glad he asked.

A bunch of rafters in place on our small cabin Securing the rafters in place for our small cabin

Anyhow, we agreed that he could hunt so I figured he would go on to do other things with his day.  Instead, to our surprise, he asked if we needed help.  I was thrilled because Emily and I were trying to maneuver 16 foot long 2×8 boards around by ourselves on the second story of the deluxe shed.  It was going to end up with a bout of intense negotiation.  So, our friend climbed up and we started to work.  We worked an hour or so before we had to head home.

Half of the rafters done in our small cabin

That’s about half of the rafters done!

Now that’s one thing, helping a guy for an hour, but the next day we got up there and my friend came over and brought his brother with him!  We worked together all day long and got half of the faters in place and secured!  They were a huge help and I was delighted to get to know them a little better.  We had met on other occasions, but we hadn’t really talked or goofed around before.  Aside from their tremendous help, I absolutely loved the sense of community and belonging that we have felt up on the ridge.   The neighbors across the way (she’s a sister to the brothers) came to visit the first day we showed up.  Our kids have played with their kids every time we are up there.  They invited us to a potluck dinner one night where we talked about all sorts of things and may have solved the world’s problems.  The brothers who helped with the rafters along with Larry and Granny Sue have been so kind and helpful as we work on the new place.  With the utmost respect I say that I am so glad to have country neighbors!


See all of the progress on the cabin



Well, we can’t really go up stairs at the cabin yet, but this weekend we finished the flooring in the upstairs!  We finished all of the first floor interior walls which allowed us to then install the floor-of-the-sleeping-loft/ceiling-of-the-first-floor.  I had really hoped to start hanging rafters but we had 20 mile/hour winds both Saturday and Sunday.  Besides that, we had to fix a problem with the second story floor.

Interior wall framing for the small cabin Isaac using the pasolode propane framing nailer

Early on when we we installing the beams, we discovered that the wood we were using was not all cut the same length.  Ten foot boards are supposed to be 10 feet long, end of story.  We got burned on one of the beams, the hard way.  I hate the thought of having to measure every board I use but it almost seems necessary after we discovered another board-length issue this weekend.  These “shortages” are not obvious until something farther down the line just doesn’t work out.

Interior walls and sleeping loft framed in our small cabin
This is the floor of the sleeping loft

So, we had to rip up some stuff and make it right which slowed our roofing progress.  Our goal this year is to get the roof up to keep the snow out so any screw-ups this late in the year hurt.  Still, we should be ok if we can get clear weekends.

Sleeping loft floor in our small cabin
The subfloor laid in the sleeping loft. The extra height of the exterior walls gives us a knee wall for added headroom

So, it’s hard to see the rooms but we have a living room, kitchen and bathroom on the first floor.  The second floor is a sleeping area.  With the floor in place, I think it is a bit more obvious why we made the outer walls 10 feet tall.  The extra 2 feet of height before the roof cuts in should give us a little more room in the sleeping area.

Another view from the sleeping loft of our small cabin
Another view of the subfloor...the view is going to be so cool!
The stairwell to the sleeping loft in our small cabin
The stairwell into the sleeping loft

Abigail stayed with her great-grandparents this weekend while Isaac, Emily and I worked.  We taught Isaac how to measure precisely and he even ran the chop saw quite a bit.  He understands sixteenths better than a lot of adults I have seen so he did a really great job cutting boards for me at the exact length I needed.  He knows about “leaving the line” and “cutting the line”.  He knows when I say, “cut a board a skinny 77 inches” means I need a sixteenth short of 77 inches.  It surely saved my knees a lot of up and down the ladder.

Learning to measure a board
Learning to measure a board
Measuring a board by himself
Measuring solo!
Using the chop saw
Isaac using the chop saw solo

We probably won’t get much done beyond weathering in the place, but I do plan to close in the area under the building.  I am considering doing a cord-wood wall structure around the base but I am not yet sure.  Anyone have any opinions?   Luckily, I think it won’t hurt if we don’t get to it until Spring.  In the meantime, I will probably work on getting stairs in place so I can actually go up stairs to get to the upstairs part of our deluxe shed!

See all of the progress on the cabin

8 feet is too much

We worked on the place again and made good progress.  The floor needed another layer of OSB to really suit my tastes so we got that installed and screwed down first thing.  Oh wait, the first thing we did was finish getting the second sheet of OSB hung around the outside walls.  Then we did the floor.  We laid down the last piece of flooring and check out how well it fit!  I am so thankful that everything is square:

We also persuaded Isaac to involve himself with the building of this place.  He did a great job screwing down 2 sheets of flooring.  My brother bought me a new Makita impact driver which is AWESOME!  It is so fast and light.

Anyhow, Isaac was running that and got a bit of the Dirty Harry feel going for him.  I guess he was feeling like he needed to pick on Abigail some though as he split after sheet #2 was installed.  Still, it was a great thing seeing the boy work!


The inspector checking on things…

So, after we got the outer walls done and the flooring down, we started on the inner walls.  On Sunday, we were able to get the interior walls for the bathroom and kitchen built.  We also hung about 1/3 of the sleeping loft’s floor joists.  We should be able to finish that pretty quickly which will make all of the high-up work like the last of the outer walls’ OSB and the roof rafters go up pretty easily.  The only thing that I though I was going to like but don’t is the 8 foot ceilings in the bathroom and kitchen (and eventually, everywhere else).

We installed 8 foot boards beside the 10 foot wall studs to support the sleeping loft floor. That leaves us with just under 2 extra feet for a knee wall in the sleeping area
Working on the sleeping loft
Shazaam! The bathroom and closet!

It’s too high and we lose some of the advantage of the added height of the exterior walls.  I am not redoing it now though so we are going to have really nice high rooms in our deluxe shed, or, as I have been calling it, the city-slickers’ deer stand!

See all of the progress on the cabin

Four square

So I mentioned in the last post that we made good progress last weekend. In fact, we got the fourth wall put in place including the door and window. All together, we have 4 windows and two doors framed into the first floor. When we were framing the first window, we were in a hurry and just threw a header in place above two of the windows. At the time, we didn’t think anything of it, but as I looked at the pictures, it occurred to me that we did it incorrectly. Ugh, I couldn’t live with it being messed up, so we had to redo it. Of course, that slowed us down some but with the last walls, we were on a roll and framed everything pretty quickly.

We noticed right away that we got the header in cockeyed, but it wasn't until I went back to look at the pics that I noticed we had done the whole thing incorrectly...we needed cripple studs to support stuff better...see the next pic for the fixed window!
Proper header and cripples in place!

We used my precision adjustment tool, also known as a 10 pound sledge hammer, to aid in moving the entire wall into line with the others. We started to nail the last corner together but decided to do one last square/plumb/level check, and thank goodness we did! With a final bit of precision adjustment, we persuaded the last wall a little farther and checked everything again. Success! It turns out we have a square/plumb/level shell deluxe shed!

I am not sure if I described it adequately before, but we are building a pretty tall building. Instead of using the typical 8 foot long boards in the walls, we are using 10 foot boards. We will still have 8 foot ceilings on the first floor but the longer outer boards will provide a little extra space in the second floor sleeping loft by adding 2 extra feet before the roof cuts in. It’s like a built-in knee-wall.

We have been waffling back and forth as to whether we want to extend the sleeping loft to include the entire second floor or if we wanted a taller ceiling in the common area. We decided to make a solid second floor. Aside from giving us extra space, the solid floor will make it easier for Emily and me to frame the loft/rafters.

So, this coming weekend, we plan to get the remaining OSB hung. As soon as we do that, I plan to build a few inside walls to separate the kitchen and bathroom and then we will frame up the loft. Since we have a square/plumb/level house, the loft should be much more straight forward. So Huey Lewis and I are hip to be square!

See all of the progress on the cabin