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James' log cabin build

 
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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It's been a banner couple weeks since my last update. A lot of big, noticeable things have gotten done to the project, which is a real motivational boost. Gutters have been installed, the concrete back patio has been poured as well as the pad out at the basement door. My crooked and "hand made" retaining walls at the basement door were filled with concrete as well, which will allow me to finally backfill against the basement and those small hills of soil on that side of the house will be tamed and graded to a final slope. Aside from the back patio, I built a small deck at the mudroom door. I no longer have a giant step to get into the house. I still have to build some stairs to get to the deck, but for now a couple pallets and a discarded log make do. I really had my eye on the tape measure when marking for the footers for the new deck. Missing the mark on the front porch piers may not be demoralizing and irritating anymore but they are still fresh in my mind. My neighbor again came over with one of his farm tractors and augered the holes for the form tubes for me, and I proceeded to fill those with sack concrete. I almost missed the mark again, but my deck posts do land on the concrete piers, barely. I've decided I'm just not good at calculating where those need to go. In addition to the exterior work, my brother helped me get the interior doors hung, which not only is a great step forward but those doors have been piled up in the bedroom since June. Having those in their final place frees up space and will allow me to chink the interior bedroom walls and get the floor done. Getting all these steps in the process completed not only boosts morale but has really gotten us closer to the finish line.
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James Freyr
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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I'm happy to say that more progress has occurred at the cabin to wrap up the year. It's been a slightly crazy month, not because of the holidays really but because it's getting down to crunch time to do my best to not only try and have the cabin ready to move in come January/February, but also trying to finish sprucing up the current house my wife and I live in to get it on the market and hopefully sold come first half of January. We've been cleaning up the garden, mulching the landscaping, recoating the deck, packing, cleaning the garage (which I'm ashamed to admit had become a sort of dumping ground and was cluttered pretty bad) and taking carloads to goodwill, and everything else involved in moving. I last moved ten years ago, and I didn't bring a whole lot, and now I look around and it's amazing the stuff that accumulates over a decade of not just living in a house but building a life with a counterpart that grew from girlfriend to wife during that time. We have for a few years now been adjusting our lifestyles to be less of a consumer and continually evolve to repurpose, reuse, create and make-do, and we are both excited to be moving into a smaller house and have enjoyed the downsizing process. It's been great for us to give things away that we no longer need, will use, or don't want to take with us and focusing on taking what we need such as things to cook food on/in, less furniture (like having one bed instead of also having a spare bed for guests that never come), and less clothes for example (we both had what I think were a lot of clothes that haven't been worn in a year or more, so off to goodwill those went).

Back to the cabin, it's largely been a bit of a flooring extravaganza, with the tile in the half bath getting finished as well as the hardwood throughout the rest of the house. I still have to set tile in the laundry room and master bath, but that's all I lack for flooring. I've also been doing other small tasks like running another plumbing vent stack thru the roof, finishing the water heater vent in the attic, and devoting a day to cleaning up around the cabin and running cardboard to the recycle center. Here's some pictures of the floors that I've been working on and many thanks to my brother who came and helped me make a marathon finish to the hardwood flooring. (The first pictures of the small room is a bathroom, and that's porcelain tile that looks like hardwood)
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pollinator
Posts: 167
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
43
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I love the look of your bathroom tile. And I can completely relate to the joys (and hard work) of downsizing your stuff. My husband was in the Navy for the first 13 years of our marriage, and we never had accumulation creep. The following 12 years though ... lots o' crap! Now we're getting out from under that, finally.
 
James Freyr
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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Thanks Erica. I find the crap accumulation phenomenon interesting. It's like I turn around one day wondering where it all came from. No one else put it there and I realize I brought it home like one bag at a time or the UPS driver brought it to me one box at a time.

Bingo! That's my new years resolution, but not just for a year. I vow to continue to consume less, and not accumulate crap. Time for more concious living.
 
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Very nice James. My wife and I started our log build this year also. We pretty much have done everything but the roof including harvesting and milling the logs last year. We are not as far along as you are, we just now got it dried in.
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Brad Robinson
Posts: 4
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A couple more pics
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James Freyr
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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Nice place Brad! What kind of wood did you use? I like the round style and those jumbo timbers on your porch. Are the wall logs coped or is there a chinking gap? Are they also round on the interior?
 
Brad Robinson
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James Freyr wrote:Nice place Brad! What kind of wood did you use? I like the round style and those jumbo timbers on your porch. Are the wall logs coped or is there a chinking gap? Are they also round on the interior?


James, we had a bunch of red pine on the property so we cut them down and used those. This a post and beam style build. This is my 3rd log home build using red pine. I milled the logs flat on the top and bottom with my saw mill. foam sill plate insulation was used in between each coarse as a gasket, and then I filled all cracks and voids with spray foam, and eventually everything gets chinked. Yes the logs are round on the inside as well. I will finish the partition walls with lumber that I milled.
 
James Freyr
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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You have a really nice looking home in the making Brad. I hope you will share some more pics as the work progresses towards the finish line!
 
James Freyr
master steward
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Location: West Tennessee
928
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The last several weeks have found me trying to make steps towards completing some details that make a house function, such as a working kitchen sink and a shower. The granite guys delivered and installed the countertop and only then was I able to plumb the kitchen sink, which in turn allowed me to turn on the water heater. Oh man, hot water is so nice, especially after so many weeks or months rather of freezing my meat hooks trying to do dishes or wash up outside with the garden hose. Appliances were delivered at some point and I got the dishwasher and range hood installed. In the master bath I finally plumbed the mixing valve and riser, got the shower pan set in a mortar bed and the cement board hung and taped in the shower. I also installed the vanity, wood top & sink, and set a toilet in the little half bathroom. That room still has a little ways to go before being complete. The closet got finished in 12 inch wide rough sawn cedar and I hung some sheets of bead board in the pantry, which really just look like sheets of plywood in the picture. Shelves will installed hopefully in the next two or three weeks. And lastly just two days ago I set the tile in the laundry room. My wife found these funky rustic wood looking square tiles, and I’ll post another pic of the floor once it’s grouted.
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pollinator
Posts: 367
Location: PNW
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So pretty!  Love the updates.
 
James Freyr
master steward
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Location: West Tennessee
928
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Thanks Sonja!
 
James Freyr
master steward
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Location: West Tennessee
928
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I got that tile in the laundry room grouted a week and a half ago. Since that floor is finished, I could now build a little table/bench for the sink going in the laundry room to rest on. I went back up to the old dilapidated cabins previously pictured and pulled out some 2x4's and lightly pressure washed 70+ years of dirt off of them. It turns out they're made from poplar, and one of my favorite features in old lumber are sawmill marks, which a lot of the lumber in those old cabins have. I used some of the same oak that was installed on the bedroom wall to make the little shelf. I think it turned out real nice, and I like giving that lumber a second life and repurposing materials that were laying around. Also in the last two weeks I worked on the floor in the master bath. We chose to do some in-floor heating, and this style of floor heating is electric and comes on a mat, which gets unrolled over some insulated cement board. The mat and heating wire adds some thickness, not much maybe 1/16th of an inch, so now the heated area is a little taller than the rest of the cement board, so I decided to skim a coat of thinset over the entire floor, to help bring everything back to one level. After a couple days of that curing, I installed the tile, which took two days time. Also, I installed some trim in the closet, but before I did that I sprinkled diatomaceous earth in the expansion gaps between the hardwood floor and wall. These gaps often end up being bug highways, and I figure now's my chance to take proactive measures for indoor bug control, especially since I refuse to spray bug poisons. I used a shim to scoop DE from a mason jar and sprinkle it into the gap before the baseboard was installed.
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James Freyr
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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I've got some catching up to do. Quite a bit has happened since my last post for those that have been following along. I think I'll turn this into two posts. Picking up where I left off, the bathroom floor was grouted, and I installed the vanity along with its countertop, sink, faucet and corresponding plumbing. My wife and I also decided to use some bead board on a few of the walls in the bathroom, which we recovered from the two old cabins down the driveway mentioned earlier in this thread. I lightly pressure washed it to knock the dirt off. It was made from old growth pine and I’ve included a picture of the end grain to show the growth ring density. It had a really peculiar piney smell when I was making cuts with the mitre saw. I also applied a waterproofing coating to the cement board in the shower stall and got it tiled and grouted. A few weeks passed before I installed the shower door, and I'm waiting on the valve trim and shower head to arrive.
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James Freyr
master steward
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Location: West Tennessee
928
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Another item that arrived and I got installed with the help of my neighbor was the countertop for the island. We found a guy in the state that did woodwork and he made it from 8/4 red oak. I finally got the little half bath finished, well almost. The only thing lacking is to stain the door. I’ve also been working on the mountain of trim carpentry I have to do, and I got three exterior windows cased with trim boards. It feels good to have those three done as they are the only ones that are not under a porch roof or have the eave directly over them. They were the most difficult of all the windows since I had to be on a ladder to finish them. I always enjoy getting the hard stuff done first leaving the easier things for last. My brother came back for a day and he helped me with a few things, including installing a storm door. Just yesterday I tiled the backsplash behind the stove. It's a mosaic made from glass tiles. The pieces are stuck onto a plastic sheet and are installed in approximately 1 foot square sections. I used white thinset mortar to affix them to the cement board. It helps reflect light back through the glass tiles as opposed to using a grey mortar. It was the last of the five tile jobs to do in the house. All that remains is to grout it when I return on Monday, then I can put away all my tile tools. Hurray!
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James Freyr
master steward
Posts: 2919
Location: West Tennessee
928
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I'm finally coming down the home stretch. I'm getting soooo close to having this cabin completed. This last weekend in March, I think the date being the 29th, marks one year to the day from the first picture at the beginning of this thread with us standing around the little trackhoe digging the first scoop of earth, breaking ground for the foundation. I can't believe an entire year has passed. Man time flies when you're having fun. I think somewhere in this thread I mentioned my wife and I planned to have the house done in six months, or last October. That just makes me laugh now, I had no idea just how much goes into building a home. I mean, I kinda had an idea, I knew the process, but having not built a home from scratch before, and trying to do as much of it myself as possible to save money, it's just taking way longer than I ever thought. Here I am, an additional six months later, finally getting near the end.

Anyway, since my last post I've been working on a lot of finishing details. I grouted the tile backsplash under the range hood (yay I'm done with tile!!), got the two bathroom exhaust fans in the ceiling ducted in the attic and vented through the soffit and sloping so condensate that collects inside the duct drips outside, built shelves in the pantry and started installing trim. The same trim is being used for baseboard, crown, and window & door casings. I had what seemed like a small mountain of trim, a pallet of approximately 100 twelve foot pieces that I've stained outside on sawhorses before cutting to length and installing. It's been a slow process, but a slow and steady pace wins the race and I think I have about 75% of the trim done and installed.  I think there are three weeks of work left, including cleaning up and organizing the basement so it's no longer a construction site and it becomes a home we move into. We'll see how it goes, I might need double the time... I may need six weeks.
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Erica Colmenares
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Posts: 167
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
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Everything looks so lovely, James. I hope you're proud of all the great work you've done/are doing!
 
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Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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100% over estimate for a house build is damn near ahead of schedule! In all seriousness, I think you've done an incredible job with the time you've spent thus far.
 
James Freyr
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Location: West Tennessee
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Erica & Kyle, thank you for the compliments! I really appreciate it.

Erica, yes I am proud of the work. One thing I've become aware of, is what we set out to build and how it's turning out. What I mean by that is at the beginning, we set out to build a little, no frills, rustic log cabin. My wife and I are a team, and it's her home too, and she picked some things out that she liked and we picked out some things together. For example, she chose the countertops, and all the tile we chose for the floors and in the shower was either on sale or was discontinued to try and save money. Looking at it all coming together I think it's turned out a little too fancy. I really liked reusing the barn wood, it's old and worn and beat up. I think my favorite room is the pantry, because it's simple; it's just plywood, sheets of bead board, and leftover 2x4's that were stashed under the front porch out of the rain, all of it bare wood. I do like it, it's the home we built together, and I'm really excited to get it finished and be done so I can get outside and put my hands in the soil, and start gardening, working on fence, and building a little homestead.
 
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Perfect!  Looks like you did great work.
 
James Freyr
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Location: West Tennessee
928
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After a final push of long days I got the cabin "finished enough" to move in, and move in we did. It's practically done, with minor details that I can work on while living here, such as building closet shelves which I did last week, and making some real steps to get from the ground to the deck and porch instead of the pallets we've been using as make-shift stairs which are starting to decay. The stairwell going to the basement needs attention, as I haven't even taped and mudded the sheetrock. I'll get to it in due time.

Building this cabin is the biggest project I've ever done. I've put in a little over 3000 hours in the last thirteen months working on it. It's changed my life and I've learned a lot about myself and working with other people. I learned how to set aside expectations, and accept things for how they turn out instead of something short of what my imagination created. It's difficult to swallow sub-par work done by others that sell an image of doing quality work, which I have to go back behind them and correct mistakes they made. Fortunately, only a few sub contractors were hired for parts of the build, and most did an excellent job, or if there was a problem, they gladly came back to make it right. It's the two that don't care and are just chasing a paycheck that leave a bad taste in my mouth and are difficult to forget. At least I withheld monies or negotiated a lower price with those folks, so I didn't completely get the short end of the stick. But still, it's sad when people don't care about what they do.

I also learned patience. It's incredible how many simple, little things go wrong that just require more time. We ordered a water heater, company shipped the wrong model, gotta send it back, wait for the correct one. Not a big deal, and certainly a first world problem, but what was supposed to be a water heater in three days turned into two weeks. I ordered something online which the website says is in stock, then a few days later get an email saying it's back ordered and will be three weeks. Or in the effort of trying to plan ahead and only pay one shipping fee, order some items which sit around for four months before opening the boxes to realize I ordered the wrong thing, and having to explain my mistake to a customer service rep on the phone. They were understanding and accommodating, I just had to pay the return shipping. I think the most difficult thing for me with things like this is it kills my momentum. I make plans to work on certain things on a given day, get started or half way thru it then have to stop because I didn't buy enough copper, ran out of screws, have the wrong item, ran out of lumber, etc. It's hard for me to shift gears and pick up working on another task when I was in the groove doing something else. There were a few days I just put the tools down, got on the four wheeler, and drove around the farm day dreaming about having cows and what my farm will look like in five or ten years. I just needed to think about something other than building, which some days would overwhelm me. During the project sometimes I would stop and think to myself "what did I agree to do?". Maybe I bit off more than I could chew, and it took twice as long as I thought it would, but it's nearly complete and my wife & I & cats are living here now.

In my experience working with people in rural west tennessee, everyone is very nice. I think people want to be nice and are nice. From the clerk issuing permits at the county office, to the state inspector, the tax assessor, the electricians, the ups and fedex drivers, the postal workers, the power company, the gutter installers, the well drillers, and more that I can't remember, are all very nice people. They're cheerful and polite, smile and look me in the eye, and are pleasant to interact with. It's such a refreshing change from Nashville.

I've been making time to try to at least get started with a few things on the farm, like keeping the thistles from blooming. I've filled two giant garbage bags of thistles with developing or fully developed flowers to prevent any seed from spreading, and I've got probably one more bag to go. All the smaller thistles without any emerging blossoms I chopped and left on the ground to wilt. I think I've chopped five hundred thistles, and maybe have about a hundred or two to go. I let some get away from me last year, and now I'm paying the price for it. I've also been working on getting my garden started, and I still haven't planted or sown anything yet and it's May 10. I've never been this late before starting my garden, and it'll be interesting to see how it goes this year. At least some garden is better than no garden.

Would I build another cabin again? yes, if I had to, and maybe a little differently. One thing is for sure, I prefer to never move again if I can avoid it.
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James Freyr
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Location: West Tennessee
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cat purity trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
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I've just about finished the cabin. We moved in a couple months ago, and I've been slowly finishing the project. I still have a few minor details to do, such as installing two storm doors, putting up a shelf in the bathroom that my wife asked for, staining the interior of the windows, and I'm sure there are a couple more small items I can't remember. I'm kinda burned out. I want to be done building. I'm ready and eager to get started on the real reason we moved out here; designing, creating, building, maintaining and enjoying our version & interpretation of The Krameterhof.

*The Kramterhof is the name of Sepp Holzers permaculture farm in Austria

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James Freyr wrote:Yay windows!!! Finally, we have windows installed, but not without a hitch. Man is it ever apparent that if something can go wrong, it will. When windows are ordered, the rough opening size is the information given to the companies that then order windows from the manufacturer. Generally, either the window company themselves or the manufacturer will then deduct a 1/4" on three sides of the rough opening measurement so the window will fit into the rough opening. Someone somewhere failed to make the deduction and the windows were made and shipped to me the same size as the rough opening, meaning they didn't fit. Not a single window.



If you gave ROs then the screw up was DEFINITELY not your fault.

Gorgeous home, James.

 
James Freyr
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Location: West Tennessee
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Thank you Terry!
 
Enjoy the full beauty of the english language. Embedded in this tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
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