Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cabin part 9: Starting on doors and interior

On May 22, we loaded up the trailer with two gas-burning Quadra-Fire "woodstoves"--one for each level. These look pretty much like regular woodstoves, but use LP gas instead of burning wood. If you're thinking of old fake fireplace logs that look awful, think again; these things have really come a long way and look really nice. No mess from hauling logs in, no ashes to haul out, no sparks shooting out the chimney to start a forest fire... a concern up there.

Between the two stoves (still crated), a dolly and hand truck we planned to use to help moves the stoves, three screen doors strapped to the roof of the Jeep, and various other things, we were loaded down pretty well. All we needed was an old rocking chair strapped to the top of the load and we would have looked like Jed Clampett and Family heading for the North Woods! We stayed for 10 days, with the Memorial Day holiday in the middle of the trip.

On our previous trip, we'd done some "2x4 art" and built some rough-and-ready bunk beds in the lower level, and the Memorial Day trip was the first time we stayed in our own cabin. We also had built a long workbench in the lower level, which served as a temporary kitchen area. I brought up an electric skillet, hot plate, coffee maker, small microwave, an assortment of cookware, and tubs with utensils and food, and was ready to set up camp.

A corner staircase connects the lower level to the upper level. We put a big sheet of foam insulation over the opening at night, to help retain heat and to discourage bugs. But the carpenters were still working on the roof during the day, and all their tools were stored in the upper (log) level, including their compressor. So every morning, we heard the compressor roar to life upstairs at about 7:30. We also were constantly being showered with sawdust, small gravel and general dirt that came down the stairs.

Upstairs, we had similar organized chaos. The carpenters' tools were scattered all over the place, as were various supplies of ours. There was a big stack of 2x10s along the east wall, and a pile of plywood and other sheet goods against the west wall. It was tough to even walk around at times. The upstairs stove added a touch of class to the situation, though. It's sitting up on its platform, which we will cover with slate or some other natural-looking material. We also added a temporary screen to the deck door; it's two sheets of screening that open in the middle, and after you go through it swings together and closes itself with magnets (the dark square in the center). It's a good temporary solution for us until we get the real doorway squared and framed.

As you can see from the photos above, the outside was just about as cluttered as the inside. There were piles of lumber covered with tarps, stacks of wood and log ends laying against a tree, a drying rack for the trim (which had to be stained before it was put up), stacks of scaffolding, and just general chaos both outside and in. I spent Saturday afternoon staining some trim in the driveway.

Later that day, we had our friends the Meyers (from the cabin next door, which we'd stayed in so many times) over for drinks and snacks on the deck, followed by dinner al fresco at the picnic table.

We stayed through the week of Memorial Day. The shingling was finally completed during this time (including installation of the vent stack for the upstairs gas fireplace). When we left on June 1, there was still scaffolding in front of the main entry because the carpenters were still working on the peak over the main entry.

On June 11, we headed back up, and were delighted to see that the lilac I had planted last summer was in full bloom. This lilac is very special; it's a memorial to my mom, and I scattered some of her ashes in the hole when I planted it. Because Birch Lake is so far north--our lot is 2 miles from Canada--I searched for a special variety that is hardy in that region, and it is doing very well.

One of our top priorities for this mid-June trip was to install a screen door and a temporary entry door in the main entry. We'd been unable to do this earlier because the scaffolding was blocking the doorway, but now that it was gone we could work on this much-needed improvement. First, we had to complete installation of the "buck," a special type of door framing that is used in log construction.
Because the logs continue to settle for years, door and window frames can't be attached to the logs. A special channel is cut into the log ends, and a 2x4 is inserted into the channel; this 2x4 is called the spline. Then a wider piece of lumber--in our case, a 2x10--is attached to the spline to make a T. The door jambs are attached to the spline, and extra space is allowed above the door header. This entire assembly is called a buck, and is required for all windows and doors in a log building.

Steve the log guy had cut the channel into the main entry, and Bruce did some fine-tuning with the chainsaw. In the middle photo above, you can see the channel; the photo next to it shows the 2x4 spline inserted into the channel. I also stuffed some insulation (ground-up blue jeans, which we used in between the logs as the cabin was being reassembled on our site) into the gaps next to the spline.

In the photo at far left, Bruce has attached the 2x10 to the spline, and is pulling it out to be sure that it is working properly; it needs to fit snugly but still move. In the next photo, he's pushed the spline assembly fully into the channel. We added a similar spline assembly to the opposite side, then attached a header board across the top, leaving the extra settling space above the header. As the logs settle downward, they slide along the spline, so the space above the header becomes smaller.

Once the buck was done, we installed a screen door and a temporary solid door on the inside. It is so nice to be able to enter the cabin without having to crawl through scaffolding, and also super nice to have the screen door to let in breezes without bugs!

Next, we built some temporary pieces in the kitchen area upstairs. This is the best way to try out our kitchen layout before we order cabinets and countertops. Because the cabin is so small, space is at a premium, and our kitchen is a galley-type layout with two cabinet runs. The photo above left shows both of them. The one in the back runs along the stairs that go to the lower level, and will contain the sink and stove; we've got a two-bowl stainless steel sink in place right now, and the stove will go to the far left where the blue towel is sitting.

The other unit is an island that will have 16-inch-deep base cabinets and a full-width top (we've found a wonderful butcher block top for this one), creating an overhang that will have swiveling stools. This makes an eating area, or a place for someone to hang out while I'm cooking. Right now, we've got two logs in place as temporary stools; not the most comfortable, but they were on hand and we just cut them to size.

The fridge is tucked against the east wall, and there's room between the fridge and the island for someone to walk through; the stairs to the loft are in the corner to the right of the sink. There's also room on the end of the island to open the fridge door. We will have a small, counter-height round table under the window on the east wall (currently covered with plywood) and two swiveling stools the same height as the ones that tuck into the island. The rough layout above gives you a better idea of what we're planning.

We hung a hummingbird feeder on the second day, and got action shortly after. I spent some time trying to take photos of them, but it is pretty tough! They move fast, and it is hard to focus on them. Below is a shot showing a hummer visiting the feeder (and a corner of our beautiful soffits!), and two enlargements. That's about it for now. Next time we go up, we hope to install two windows in the dormer face, and eventually finish it off with cedar board and batten. Stay tuned!


  1. Your cabin is starting to look real uptown, T. Love the lilac story and pix of hummers.

  2. Well, Paula, I'm not sure I'd use the word "uptown"... particularly about the lower level! But it is becoming habitable, which is a huge step for us. Been a very long road!