We've decided to shift focus on our property and stop work on the barn, and instead build a small cabin.
I'm happy with how the barn has gone so far, but I think I started off with too big a project. Not so much the labor involved, but simply the cost of materials for a structure that large (26oo sq. ft.)
Here's where the barn is now:
The OSB Advantech flooring for the roof is $20 a sheet, and at 1300 sq ft, adds up to 40 sheets, or $800, plus the cost of tax. If you include the adhesive and fasteners, we're looking at about a grand.
The flooring is the next step. The nice thing about the Advantech is it holds up to the weather well, which is good considering the pace at which I build.
After the flooring is in, the next step is all the framing for the gambrel roof. I haven't gotten an exact item by item estimate for all this wood, but I'm going with a ballpark figure of around $1,500.
The metal roofing we did get a price for, about $1,250, plus tax and delivery and of course fasteners.
So it will cost us another 4 grand just to get a roof on the barn and get it "dried in".
And of course that process of building alone or with Patty's help will take months.
And even though we get a roof, which is great, you can't exactly move in, and we'll still have bugs.
So I'm going to build a small cabin instead. In hindsight I wish I'd done that this year, instead of sinking so much time and money in the barn. But I didn't know where to begin, and I naively thought I could finish off the barn rather quickly.
After 6 months of living on basically raw land, and working, every day, all day, one thing I've learned - you must have shelter. Shelter is priority #1. Even if it's small that's fine. In fact the smaller the better as far as thermal efficiency. Anything around a few hundred square feet can be heated with a wood stove. You get out of the weather, away from insects, the sun, you have a place to recuperate. It seems obvious now when I look at it - but sometimes "common sense" things tend to go by the wayside with me.
We cannot go back up there and go back to living in tents long-term. We need real shelter.
The key is in deciding where this cabin should go. I want to stick with the original vision for the property, not start putting up random buildings everywhere and hope for the best. This is my original drawing for how I felt the land should be developed:
It seems counterintuitive to put a building south of your garden, and block it with shade, which is the only qualm I have about this site. But the garden is huge, the building will only top out at 13 feet, and the sun is high overhead blasting this area all day. If the building does reduce the sun to some of the far beds, we'll just plant our lettuce there, and anything else that likes a little more shade and moisture.
The sun takes a while to climb over the woods to the east, so by the time it hits the garden it's quite high - so the cabin may not block the sun to the garden at all. And it might actually serve as a valuable windbreak.
Here's my drawing for the cabin:
I've priced it out at 3 grand. So that's a complete, finished structure, for a thousand less than just getting a roof on the barn. It seems to be the best way to go, and I wish I'd started out that way this past summer. But you live and learn. I didn't even conceive of the idea of a cabin until our last week there.
The cabin will be 320 sq ft, 16'x20', with the long end running along the southern border of the garden. These measurements sort of go with the old slab, which is about 14'x18'. The high side of the cabin will be towards the north, the low side to the south.
I'm going with a shed roof for several reasons. For one I don't want a low ceiling inside, with an attic or upper story. With a building this size that will be claustrophobic. I want a loft inside, for storage, and a kid play/sleep area, and I want a dwelling where all of the space is used. So it makes sense to me to go with a shed roof, and use the high side for the loft. It will be a low loft, but high enough for them to sleep and play and store things. A shed roof is also very easy to build. All the roof framing runs in one direction, with an overlap of the walls to keep rain out. I like the look also.
The reason the high side will be north, instead of south, which doesn't seem very passive solar, is that to the south is just a hill and the dirt road. If we put all the windows towards the north, we'll have a wonderful view overlooking the garden, as well as the rest of the property, and the woods above. I love the idea of having windows where your immediate view is a huge productive garden. And as far as passive solar issues, this is a small stick-frame building (which I will insulate, I want it to be comfortable and complete), that, at least for 6 months of the year, sits in a site that gets hammered with sun all day. It might help us stay cool through that difficult period. And as far as winter, we'll have a woodstove. 320 sq ft shouldn't be too difficult to heat, especially with good insulation, and the sleeping loft for the kids should stay very warm.
The back of the building, or north side, will also have a long narrow roofed porch, so we can sit out back in front of the garden when we don't feel like being inside.
We might ultimately add on at some point, and put a deck on the west side of the cabin. But that would be a far-in-the-future project.
Here's a drawing of the platform that will support the cabin:
The pier foundation will run in three rows, each row 8' apart. The piers themselves running the 20' length will go 10' apart. So 9 piers altogether. I'm going to build them like this:
Dig down to rock-hard clay, at least 12", if not 24" (our frost depth is 6"). Shape the bottom of the hole by widening it out so there's a large foot on the bottom of the pier. Pour and smooth the concrete level, then shove rod in as deep as I can go, two pieces for each pier. When the concrete is dry I'll stack four concrete blocks (looped over the rod), two on top of two, running different directions, then fill with concrete, and put in a long J bolt when I'm sure exactly where it should go (that will be the tricky part - I'll need to do very good site-work before I start, with batter boards and line). It will also be tricky to figure out exactly the right height for each pier - I'll use a laser level and mark a stick by each hole, and smooth out the concrete right at the mark, and I should get close.
The central pier will need to go in the middle of the driveway. So I'll score it with my circular saw and diamond tip blade, then try and punch out the section with a sledge. I'll then dig down and do the pier like the others.
On top of each pier will go a masonry to wood connector (pricy, like $8 - hopefully my local hardware store will be cheaper). Then I'll run treated 10' 2x10s from pier to pier, lengthwise, or east-west. Each run of 2x10 will be doubled into a 4x10 beam. These beams will function as the sill.
Between these beams I'll put in hangers and hang 2x10 joists (8' lengths, untreated, 16" o.c.). I want a sturdy floor. We'll have us, and possibly company, and furniture, and the stove, and a bathtub, a lot of weight. I don't want it moving.
As you can see from the drawing, the central joist on the north side of the cabin will be doubled. The reason is that this will support a post which will support the loft and the roof. I wish I could put this post directly over the center pier, but then I'd have to bring my loft out 8', which I'd rather not do. I'd planned on having the loft come out only 6'. So this is one detail of the plans which makes me still a little nervous, and I'll have to think about more. I could put blocks underneath that part of the doubled joist where the post will be - that's one option. I'm not sure yet.
On top of the joist will go 10 sheets of flooring, OSB Advantech (50 year warranty, and weathers well). The nice thing about going with a 16'x20' dimension, is that fits perfectly with 4'x8' flooring.
At both ends of the length of the platform, parallel with the joists, will go a treated 2x10x16'. This will function as a rim joist.
Here is the guts drawing for what will go above the platform:
The central post will be a doubled 2x6, with another 2x6 attached to the north side as a cleat, which the loft header will rest on (2x8, 20'). The loft joists will be 2x8 24"o.c., so I can tie it directly into the studs and possibly use the loft for heavy storage. The roof framing again 24" o.c., to run on top of the studs, and 2x8 because the roof is low-slope, and if we do get heavy snow (unlikely but possible), it won't buckle.