Monday, August 22, 2011

Building a small off the grid cabin year 1

Setting up camp when we arrived, Jun 30.
 This year we spent the whole month of July in central Wyoming building a small cabin.  The cabin is 16' by 24' with an open floor plan and a small loft.  Currently there is no source of water or electricity but we plan on working on that next year

 The first step to building a cabin is creating a foundation.  Our foundation is a post and pier foundation.  We dug holes 4 feet into the ground (that is the frost line here) then dumped a bag of quikcrete into the hole and set a 6x6 post.  These posts must set overnight to before building the floor.  Our cabin required 10 posts for proper support.

After the foundation, a floor is laid.  First we positioned joist hangers (metal brackets to  hold the floor boards in place) 16" apart on center.  Then 2x12x16 boards were placed in the hanger and screwed.  The 4 center floorboards were doubled up for added strength.  Then plywood was positioned on top of the floor boards and screwed down.

 The walls were built with 2x6 studs to allow for extra insulation.  The windows and door were measured and the walls were built to fit them.
 It took four men to raise the walls and secure.  There are temporary supports inside to protect the walls against the strong Wyoming wind.
 After the walls went up, plywood was screwed to the studs.  A sawzaw was used to cut out the windows and door.  Supports were added to the top.
House wrap was stapled to the outside to provide protection against the weather.  We had two gables pre-made for us to exactly fit our roof and desired pitch.  This made it easier to cut and lay the rafters.  Putting the gables in place was difficult but made the rest of the roof easier.

 The most difficult part is pictured above to the left.  Placing the ridge beam.  The beam is extremely long and heavy. After the rafters are in place, plywood is laid on the roof, pictured above right.

After the roof is complete, windows and a door were put into place.   Now it looks like a house!

The whole project costs us about $6000.  It took about 23 days to build it with a few days of down time.  We had only about 3 people actually working on it.  A 4000 watt generator ran all the power tools needed for construction.  We had a friend that has previous experience in building that measured and cut all of our materials.  He also had a tractor that was used to clear the plot and dig the foundation holes.  We ran into some issues with materials because our original plan was not drawn to support the weather in Wyoming and we had to make adjustments.  These adjustments cost us time and money because we had to return materials and purchase new ones.  Be sure to have someone evaluate your plans and material list before purchase to ensure it will withstand the conditions.  Although my husband has had years of experience in construction, having a friend that had built cabins in the area was a HUGE help.  He provided so much knowledge to our building process.  Building a structure from scratch is not easy, no matter how much construction experience you have, especially in a different climate.  I strongly suggest seeking help from an experienced individual to help you with your project. 
We purchased the siding and enough lumber to build a porch but unfortunately we ran short of time.  Our future plans include building a cistern water system and a solar and wind electrical system.  We need to add insulation and a woodstove for the cold months.  We also would like to build foldable bunk beds for the kids. 

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