Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cabin part 6: Buttoning up for winter

We accomplished an amazing amount in the period between Labor Day and October 15 (the photo above shows what the land looked like in June). We got our building permit the Thursday before Labor Day, which gave us the green light to start clearing the land for our 16x20 hand-scribed log cabin, which we had purchased in June from the Great Lakes School of Log Building in Isabella, MN. In that six-and-a-half-week period, here's what we did. Full posts of each part, with lots more photos and descriptions, can be found in the list at right (in October posts).

  • Part 1, August 30-31: cleared 15 trailer loads of brush and small to medium trees and hauled it to the local brush pit (Teresa and Bruce)
  • September 1-4: supervised the excavation of the building site (done by Gale Quistad, an excavator who lives on Birch Lake); we assisted in clearing the material down to bedrock, then Bruce gave the bedrock a good power washing until it was totally clean  
  • Part 2, September 9-11: we had finally located a masonry company (Elias Masonry, based in Cloquet, MN) that we were able to wheedle into doing our project--we'd been talking to masons for months and everyone was too busy or we couldn't commit to them because we did not have our permit secured--and in mid-September we watched as they built our stepped foundation and two ICF walls. Bruce stayed on for a few days afterwards and did cleanup and additional clearing around the foundation.
  • Part 3, September 20-23: installed drain tile around the foundation and put pebble board over the ICF walls to protect them from damage and the pressure of backfilling (Teresa and Bruce, assisted at times by Don Wendel, a wonderful neighbor), then assisted in the backfill process
  • Part 4, September 30-October 3, and ongoing: arranged for a construction contractor (Nace Hagemann Construction, right down the road from our Birch Lake lot) to put up two stick-frame walls, two floor systems, and a stairway to connect the lower and upper levels
  • Part 5, October 11-12: watched in awe as Greg Tibbetts Trucking from Finland, MN disassembled the cabin in Isabella, and re-assembled it on our site with the assistance of six able helpers
The photos below were taken from roughly the same position... I missed a few steps!

To have the cabin in its final home, after a summer's worth of wrangling with permits and contractors, was almost more than we could believe. The siting is perfect; the log level will be accessed directly from a door (yet to be cut) from our upper parking area, and the lower level is a walkout to the sloped, tree-filled area below.

Below is a photo looking south towards Birch Lake, peeking through what will be the door from the log level to the upper-level deck. We've got a fabulous view of Birch Lake, nearly from treetop level. We'll remove a few more trees in the spring, to improve the view but also for fire safety; too many trees that are close to the structure are a fire hazard, particularly when they're balsam fir (which the locals call "kerosene trees" because they ignite so readily during a forest fire).

At left is a photo looking from the lower level out into what will be our outdoor living space. We'll do some terracing and landscaping to make a nice walkout patio from this door; the patio will connect to the nicely forested area on the west side of the lower level. The two framed-in areas in the photo will be windows that look out towards the patio and will also have a view of the lake.
We tried to find a contractor to put a roof on the cabin before winter, but just ran out of luck. So on October 26 and 27, we put a temporary covering over the roof trusses and closed in the open rafter ends, ably assisted by our wonderful neighbors Oscar and Deb Meyer, and Bob and Kirsten Berkemer. We could not have done this without their help; thanks, friends!

It was about 15 degrees when we got up in the morning, and quite gray; it "warmed" to about 25 during the day, and we had periods of sun mixed with snow flurries. Kirsten brought us homemade hot chocolate, and Deb fixed a wonderful hot stew for lunch (and also ran the chop saw to cut boards for the crew in the rafters). When the tarp was all secured, we had a nice bonfire.

Over the next two days, Bruce and I closed up the door and window openings to prevent snow from drifting in, and also put treads on the interior stairs so we can easily move between the two levels; the carpenters also came back and put some finishing touches on the deck and also wrapped the lower level with Tyvek. So now we are just waiting to see if we can get a contractor to do the roof this winter; unbelievably, even though temps are likely to be below zero and there is the probability of a lot of snow, contractors do work up there during winter--even on roofs. If we can't get someone to agree to this scheme, we'll have to wait until spring--and hope that our tarp holds up! In the mean time, we'll be dreaming and scheming about the work that faces us next spring, and how to approach it. Lots to do! But we know our little home in the woods will be waiting for us.