We have been busy lately with the school year winding down. There were banquets and trips and concerts and just lots of activities to round out the school year. There just hasn’t been time to do much of anything…including write anything on here. That changed this weekend! We finally got back up to the country and were able to work some on the executive deer stand. It’s a small cabin but we do not want to be without amenities. Mainly, by amenities, I mean a bathroom with actual running water. Awhile back, I cut holes in the floor for the shower and toilet drains to exit the building. We started to tile the floor but then winter came. This weekend, Isaac and I finished cutting and laying the tile one day and Emily and I grouted it another day. Finally! Progress!
Installing ceramic tile isn’t so bad…with a good helper!
We had originally planned on this place being pretty basic and not too pretentious. It is a deer stand after all. But, like all things with me, it comes down to price. It turns out that if you lay it yourself, ceramic tile is about as cheap as you can get. We found tile we really liked for a really good price. I mixed the thinset mortar and grout by hand so that keeps the price down as well. And dang! It looks great!
Tile near the shower basin
So, now with floor down and grouting done, I have no real reason not to connect the toilet and shower to the drain system. In a solid day’s worth of work, we could actually have a real pot to….well, you know what I mean. It would make our time at the cabin much more pleasant!
Deck framing is done on one side
We were not totally exhausted by tiling so we worked on the deck too. I don’t know if you remember but our place is built on posts and piers so it is well up off of the ground. Look back at this page and you can see that we had to climb a ladder to get up into the building. Of course, I know it sounds like a lot of fun, but we have grown tired of free-climbing our way up into the house so the deck is a welcome addition. It isn’t finished by any means, but we framed a 10′ deep deck on one side of the place that allows us access into the house from ground level!
One of four decks framed!
There is much debate among the wage earners in my house about whether to deck it with treated lumber or composite decking. Composite is 3-4 times the cost but should last a lot longer. We will need around 600 sq feet of decking which will be pricey either way. We’ll see what comes of it but at any rate, we can now get into the house without a ladder!This entry was posted in Cabin, Family and tagged Break's over! Back to work!, Cabin, Family by warren
It has been hectic around here lately but I did manage to get out to the place a week or so ago and do a little work. We had a hard time deciding what to do to enclose the underneath of the executive deer stand. We looked at steel underpinning, rock, brick and T1-11. After looking at the prices, we decided to just use treated 2x8s!
Treated plywood is pretty expensive, especially in a thickness that seemed worthwhile. T1-11 is not cheap and once you add primer, paint, and pain in the butt, it isn’t cheap either. I did some ciphering on the price per square foot and treated 2x8s worked out to being only slightly more expensive and well within the “close enough” factor.
I like working with individual boards because they are manageable for me to handle alone. I can hold a board and nail it all by myself. I think that the bigger draw for me is that the finished product looks log-cabin-ish. Much like a log cabin, I will let the boards shrink to their dried out size and then use caulking as a sort of chinking in the spaces between the boards. I am not sure whether we will do anything else with the wood at all. We may stain it or we may leave it alone. Either way, I like the look, it will be nice and sturdy and it will not rot or get termites!
Closing in the bottom space makes it finally feel as if we are closing in on the completion of the outside work!This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin, Will it ever end? by warren
It was pretty nice this weekend so I decided I needed to go up to the place and do something involving concrete and me in the sunshine. It has been wet and all that and there is plenty of exposed mud so I knew it might be interesting up there. Still, I was so excited to be getting some time outside that I poorly planned my todo list. I hustled out to the lumber store and bought 15 bags of concrete. I was all prepared to pour the remaining piers we need to have in place before we build the decks. I crashed through mud puddles and pulled into the hay field. It was then that it occurred to me that I had not brought rebar, the generator, the angle grinder or sonotubes to form up the piers. I did however, have 15 bags of mud-puddle-soaked concrete that would not make the trip back home. I guess I was excited and not fully thinking things through…
Plans changed but I was still in the sun so it was all good. I did pour the 15 bags into an area near the foundation that needed concrete anyhow. I also finished the wall framing under the house and was able to shovel a lot of the dirt back up against the concrete blocks of the foundation.
Progress seems slow lately but this add-on foundation may finally be coming to a close (thank the manufacturer!) so we can build the decks, get electric connected and finally hook up the porcelain alter so Abigail will stop complaining about her time with Mother Nature! I may not always think straight, but Abigail makes it very clear to me her position…and her thoughts on that subject are very concrete!This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin, What was I thinking? Wait! Don't answer that one! by warren
I went up to the deluxe shed by myself last weekend. We are pushing pretty hard to get a few things done before the snow flies. I was doing a lot of work under the house and had successfully ducked the cross beams for a couple of hours. Towards the end of the day (luckily!), I misjudged my duck and smashed my head right into the cross beam. I had a hat on which sort of protected my head, but I got a little messed up. If you are easily grossed out, do not continue reading!
I was not painting with red paint…
I was wearing work gloves to protect my dainty hands so they were pretty dirty as you might expect. When I hit, it dropped me right on the ground. It wasn’t a matter of teetering around and then sitting down stunned. It put me down hard. My hat came off and I knew I had done damage. My hat was off my head and I immediately put my nasty gloved hand on my head. Sure enough, I was bleeding and had just smashed dirt into the cut.
Glad I had big band-aids and candy!
I staggered over to the car where, luckily (once again) I had remembered the first aid kit. We keep a fairly well-stocked first-aid kit with us when we are working. Since we are working with power tools and low hanging beams, it only seems wise.
Yes, that is a piece of skin in my hat
Anyhow, I self-doctored and texted Emily… It sort of makes me laugh a little when I read it now. As I was texting, I went back to my hat. I found the chunk of skin that was ripped off still in the hat. I decided not to keep a souvenir. I think that was the right decision. I will always carry with me, though, the memory of the squeaking noise that skin being ripped off my head made. It was awful and that is how I knew for sure I had done damage. It looks ugly and gooey now but I think I will make it through ok. I definitely need a better story to explain the scar though…This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin, Ouch by warren
We started on our deluxe shed just over a year ago. We often aren’t able to work more than one day each week on it and it has long seemed as if we might never get the place to a point where we could enjoy it. We are still a long way from being done but last weekend, Emily and I were able to make great progress on the stem wall that runs around the upper side of the house. It’s weird but that step alone makes it look like a nearly-completed project!
We are three quarters of the way done with the stem wall and should finish it pretty easily. We also started back-filling the foundation which says the foundation is complete like nothing else could. I really hate digging dirt and I was super concerned that all of our trudging over the piles of dirt and all of the rain and snow we have (already) had would have packed the dirt but I was pleased that it wasn’t so bad. I would love to have a skid-steer, but in lieu of that, I suppose this job wasn’t so bad by shovelfuls.
A few weekends ago, we poured the piers on which one of the decks will rest. It is possible that we may actually be able to walk right into the house rather than climbing up a ladder to get in. Simple decks go up quickly too so we may see even more progress quickly. Finally, I am starting to see it..this house is coming together. I am enjoying most of the work we are doing on the house, but I am so ready to be able to move inside to the finish work. I know Emily and the kids will be glad for that too…indoor plumbing is really high on their list. That’s the first priority after we get the outside work finished. Now, if only the snow will hold off….This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin by warren
Emily and I finished up digging the footer a while back so that left the best part…mixing concrete! We mixed and poured 184 bags of concrete into the footer ditch. Just to save you the math, 184 bags of concrete is a metric crap-ton! When you pour concrete for just about any purpose, you need to add steel rebar which gives the concrete something to which to bind. You can buy nice pre-cut pieces or you can buy large pieces for about a quarter the price and cut it yourself.
The perfect tool to cut rebar is an angle grinder. I happen to have an angle grinder with a metal cutting blade on it. Running an angle grinder is a bit of an adventure! The same blade that cuts steel with ease and throws sparks like a 4th of July show, spins mere inches from the user’s fingers. Mostly, when the user is not exhausted, it is a simple task to keep separation between fingers and blade. A few weeks ago, I was in a fatigued state and co-mingled my left index finger with a spinning blade. I am incredibly lucky to still have my finger and am even luckier to have only cut a nice gouge in my fingernail.
I both cussed and bled, for roughly the same amount of time, before I surveyed the area for a first aid kit. We are usually pretty conscientious about keeping first aid supplies on hand, but in our fatigued state, we left home without one. I have always been one to improvise and really, my solution is not terribly new, but I am still proud of my first aid solution…duct tape!
I was able to continue on with work for the day but I was much slower and continued to mumble bad things off and on through the day. It was not a lot of fun though and I still have a nice bit of concrete filler in the gouge where my fingernail should be. Friends, I have to tell you, if you feel an urge to trim your fingernails on the work site, DO NOT use an angle grinder. Stick to a metal file or cross-cut pliers or even tin-snips…but not an angle grinder!This entry was posted in Adventure, Cabin, Thoughts and tagged Adventure, Cabin, Thoughts by warren
Did you ever have a project that seems like it would never end? It seems like we have been working on our faux-foundation for a hundred years and only now is the end somewhat in sight. We were able to dig a portion of the foundation with an excavator but half of the dig could only be done by hand. The best part of course, is that the front half of the house was only 2-3 feet off of the ground…it makes for lots of head bumps and crouched-over digging…and poor Emily, she is old!
Some people assume that I do all of the heavy work while Emily sits by and buffs her nails and stuff. Nope…not my girl! Emily has muled (yup, that’s my verb) 80 pound bags of concrete and 45 concrete blocks every bit as much as I did. She dug a large part of the footer which is the only reason we got it done. Yes, that’s right, we got it dug!
I don’t like digging or working with concrete. It is absolutely miserable work and I am absolutely thrilled that we were only temporarily employed as human backhoes!This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin by warren
The saga of our building a foundation after we built a house continues…in this latest episode, our heroes are positioned to build a wooden wall atop the block wall that they completed in our last episode. Will they get splinters? Will the Mrs. pummel the Mr. because of his stupidity? Stay tuned viewers and find out!
Ok, so we built a wall on the back side of the building. Of course, the idea is to eventually frame in all four sides with wooden framed walls on top of the block base. We could have blocked the walls all of the way up but we both decided that we do not like lifting blocks any higher than we have to and that I am better and faster with wood. We added a sill plate on top of the blocks and secured it with j-bolts embedded in concrete we used to fill in the holes in the blocks. On top of that, we used treated 2x4s to build a traditional wall. I made the fit tight for the wall boards so it will, in fact, provide a level of support to the entire structure as well. The bulk of the weight of the building will remain on the posts and piers but the outer walls will have additional support.
Did you know that the outer walls carry the bulk of the weight of a building? All of the weight of the roof (in our style building, anyhow), is evenly spread between the outer walls opposite the gable ends? I learned all sorts of stuff building this house, and, in particular, the way loads are carried and how to balance the weight of the house. In reality, the house is not all that heavy. Of course, you wouldn’t want to be under it if it fell, but spread out over its base, the pressure in a given area is not as bad as I expected when I first started ciphering on this place. There are all sorts of calculations one needs to do related to live and dead loads, soil bearing capacity and component strengths when you build a house. I had no idea but it’s pretty interesting to read and makes sense when you even realize these things are indeed things.
Anyhow, we finished the tallest of the “basement” walls and have blocks laid for half of each side wall. We now need to dig additional footer space at the front of the building and the remaining halves of each side. It should not be a terrible job but it will have to be done by hand as the excavator arm will not fit under the building in the remaining spots.
Our heroes have an interesting (not really) weekend ahead of them. Stay tuned to our next episode…”Human backhoes”This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin by warren
I know, I have been posting way too much about the (slow) progress we have been making on the deluxe deer stand. Sorry but that’s been a large part of what we have been doing lately. So, we have been digging and concreting and cussing like mad to build a foundation under our already-built house. Originally, we built the place on a post-and-pier foundation and that will remain the true foundation but we decided to add a traditional foundation (sort of) to give us some storage under the place and to cut the wind/cold in the winter. So, we have been adding footers and new concrete block walls. The first day of concrete, Emily and I mixed around 3200 pounds of concrete which I had to carry, bucket at a time, from the mixer (electric…thank goodness) to the footer form we dug/built. We double handled the weight and that was a drag…
Those of you who know about foundations know that the footer is traditionally poured in one pour so there are no joints. That was not an option for us and since this isn’t a true foundation (except we are building it to spec aside from the joints), it should work for us. We will have a few cold joints but they will be connected by rebar and buried well below the frost-line.
Emily’s grandfather, Emily and I set the corner last weekend. The corner blocks have to be level/square/plumb and can be a pain the the hind-end. So, it took us 5 hours to lay 5 blocks (also, see cussing mentioned above…there were a few missteps), but our corner is excellent! Emily’s grandfather is 87 and worked every bit as hard as we did. He slung block around and stood in the ditch all day helping us get things right…it was amazing!
This weekend, Emily and I went back and laid 50-some more blocks and got the bottom third of the footer above grade. I have to tell you, if I had it to do over again, I would definitely build my foundation before the house. I am still quite pleased with the post-and-pier foundation but traditional foundations should definitely be built where there is plenty of room to work!
Setting block is tough work and I cannot wait to have this part done. It’s hard and I wish I had dishpan hands! Concrete is hard on my delicate digits! I’ll show some more details of how we plan to enclose this bottom part later but I promise to get off of this kick for a little while…bear with me?This entry was posted in Cabin and tagged Cabin by warren
My buddy with the excavator came out again the other day. He was able to dig some of the foundation out for me (more on that soon) but had to run to another thing he had going on. Bravely, he left the excavator for me to use to dig additional footers for my pump house.
I have run an excavator exactly one other time and that was somewhere around 2001…and that was only for 20 minutes…and it was on flat land at our place in Nashville. Here in West-by-God-Virginia (the one true Virginia…sorry East Virginia), there is nary a piece of flat land to be found.
So, my buddy left and I went to town. The basics of running an excavator are not hard but the devil is in the details. I guess I ran the machine for about 3 hours and dug an ugly but usable footer for the pump house and was able to move a little additional dirt out of the way. I had a good time doing it and didn’t get bored for even a second. I also felt like I was still on the machine 8 hours later, swinging the arm back and forth bumping and bouncing.
I think one thing I have learned in building this house is that folks who do any sort of construction work are probably under-appreciated. It’s hard to run an excavator well. It’s hard to make sure walls are plumb and it’s hard to cut miters. I think that is why Emily and I are building this ourselves and why we are particularly proud of how things are turning out. I also appreciate that I do not have to do this every single day!This entry was posted in Cabin, Thoughts and tagged Cabin, Thoughts by warren