Our Cabin

There has been some interest in the cabin we are constructing.  I will dedicate this page to nothing but the cabin.  We first planned to purchase a used RV which we could take out to our land to rest and relax when we were out working the berry patches or working on the house we plan on building.  We looked and looked and looked some more.  Our budget was not large and after seeing many junk RV's we decided to go a different direction.  I am sure everyone has seen the prefabricated buildings sitting in front of Home Depot, Lowe's, and many other businesses.  There are even companies that rent these to own.  We stopped into the Sutherland's one day and just looked at several types of these buildings.  We found one that we fell in love with.  It was 12x14 with a front porch and a loft inside.  It looked like it was built just for our land, kind of rustic with some charm.  The only problem is they wanted nearly $5,000. for it.  There is no way I was about to pay that much money for something that I could build myself for half the price if not less.

The inspiration for our cabin
We decided we could and would build ourselves a little cabin.  It would be our retreat, sanctuary, hide out, a place we could just sit back and relax.  We planned on building nearly identical to this cabin only we would make it 12x18.  After doing some research, planning, making plans, and scouring the internet we decided we would switch it up a little and build a cabin that is 12x16 with a 4 foot porch along the entire front (16 feet long.)

Rendering of our cabin from Sheldon Designs
I found some cheap plans for this cabin on-line from a company called Sheldon Designs.  The cost of the plans was $35 and included a materials list and complete plans for building the cabin.  I could have probably built the cabin without buying the plans but I think it was a good investment.  The plan is for the Wilderness Cabin II #CW192.  We received the plans within a day or two and I was very pleased with what I got.  I would highly recommend this company to anyone planning on building a small cabin. http://www.sheldondesigns.com/

We began planning the cabin the end of January 2011.  Due to inclement weather and other reasons we did not get to start the actual building until sometime in March.  We had originally planned to place the cabin in the woods next to our wet weather stream.  It is a good thing we didn't because it would have been in the middle of a swamp due to our wet weather stream and all of the rain and snow we have had this year.

We selected a new site and cleared the trees and brush.  It faces the south and overlooks our raspberry patch.  We should be in a good position to be able to use solar panels to provide our power.

We watched the local lumber yards cull lumber piles and scored big time.  We managed to get enough lumber for the floor and loft joists and rafters, and all the headers we will need for less than $200.  This was a significant win for us as we are trying to build this on a budget.  We had to rip all of the lumber down to the proper sizes and ended up burning up the motor on my 15 year old table saw.  I think I paid $100 for the table saw new when I bought it so I certainly got my monies worth out of it in the past with all the lumber it has cut.
Our contrived rig to rip the lumber
Our cull lumber score

We were finally able to get out to the land to get started on the cabin.  Whenever we could make it out we would take a load of 2x6's we needed to begin framing the flooring.

I believe it was sometime in March when the holes were dug.  We dug down three feet and removed all organic materials.  The dirt was tamped and we added several inches of gravel.  We then used 4"x8" solid concrete blocks and set the precast concrete piers.  I did not want to use posts because we may want to move the cabin in the future.  I deviated from the plans and beefed up the beams and the floor joists.  I used 4x6x16' beams and used 2x6's for floor joists although the plan called for the use of 2x4 floor joists.  I did not want any flex in the floor and wanted it to be able to withstand being moved in the future if we need to.  The site we selected is actually where I would love to build the house but that depends on the cost of getting electricity and water to the site as well as the cost for building a driveway that long.

Once we were able to get out to the site the work went pretty smoothly.  Our wet weather stream actually cuts off the front part of our property from the back at the only opening in the woods.  Needless to say we have had to use four wheel drive to get to the back of the property all spring.  Once it starts to dry we get more rain.

This is the pass from the front to the back of our property

Loaded down
We stopped at the local lumber yard and picked up everything we needed to get the building started including the sub flooring and all the 2x4's we needed to start framing the walls.  It ended up being quite a load as we also had 2x4's in the back of the expedition.

We kept our oldest out of school for the day.  I wanted to show her that what she was learning had actual applications in the real world.  She saw how we would use algebra and geometry when building, earth science and biology, and various other real world applications of a good solid education.

Getting the foundation square
The hardest part of getting started was getting the beams square.  We spent a good couple of hours just making sure everything was where it needed to be.  

After we had everything in place and knew where the beams needed to go it actually went pretty smoothly.  I thought we had all the floor joists pre-cut and ready to go but I then remembered that when you purchase lumber it is always a little longer than the specified length.  In some cases a 12 foot board was 12'6 so we had to cut all the floor joists down to the proper length.

Checking level

This picture depicts the pre-cast blocks and concrete piers we just under the beams.  We backfilled the holes with dirt.

As anyone who has ever built anything from scratch can attest, the hardest part of the build is getting everything square, level, and plumb.  It can be frustrating and challenging but it is very important to get it right at this stage.  A building that is not level or square is difficult to finish out later!

The floor joists were installed every two feet on center on top of each beam.  I could have just as easily utilized joist hangers and hung them in between each beam.  I am on a budget and plan on adding blocking to stiffen the floor so this is the approach I took.

My daughter and I installed all of the floor joists in just a few hours.  If I would've had more help and not had to stop to turn the generator on to make cuts, and used my nail guns it would have gone faster.  I did enjoy the time I had with my daughter non the less.  We keep a hectic schedule with my work and the kids school and extra curricular activities that one on one time with any of the kids is short and I want to try to make the most of any we do get.

Getting closer to having the sub-floor framing complete.  Do you notice anything missing?

We intentionally left out the middle supports as we are adding them later.

The plans did not call for blocking but we decided to added 2x6 blocking in between each floor joist at each end and on the middle beam for the floor.  this stiffened the floor up nicely.

This picture shows how I used a floor jack to raise the framing to install the missing support in the center of the structure.  The 4x4 block also received two bracing boards at a 45 degree angle attaching the post to the middle beam.

Once the missing bracing was installed and I checked to ensure that everything had been properly nailed we were ready to begin installing the flooring.  On this day it was just my wife, toddler, and myself to do the work.  I used sub-floor glue and nails to secure each piece to the floor joist.  It actually went very smooth and we were done in just a couple of hours.

Once the flooring was installed we loaded all of the 2x4 lumber and usable scraps onto the decking and covered it with a large tarp to keep everything dry in case of rain.  It was a good thing we did this because it was only a day or two later that I ended up spending nearly a week in the hospital with pneumonia and was unable to visit our land for over two weeks.

One thing everyone asks is how much does it cost to build a structure similar to this.  I will answer the question at the conclusion of the build by outlining all the costs.  This is all I have for now, I was recently released to return to work and I plan on spending the first week of June at our land mowing, installing our irrigation for our berries and then I will begin framing the walls.  Stay tuned...