In Summer 2008 I had the urge to build something from scratch. I have owned some land in Southern Vermont for several years, including a very lovely spot next to a stream that cascades about 100 vertical feet into a beautiful river. The land borders the Green Mountain National Forest and is quite secluded, yet is accessed with a decent year-round road. The site is a 5 1/2 hour drive from my home in Philadelphia, so I don’t get there more than about five times a year.
Posts under ‘Vermont Mini Cabin’
One of my goals for this project was to tread lightly on the land.
The high spot of the site was a boulder maybe 16 ft. x 8 ft. and protruding 8 ft. above grade at one end. I decided that a nice approach would be to set the structure on the boulder. I reasoned that the boulder probably extended several feet below ground and was probably not going to move much over my lifetime.
Here I laid out the structure with some 2×4s to figure out how to orient it relative to the boulder. The boulder is covered with moss and lots of wet organic stuff as is typical of this part of Vermont.
Here is what the Vermont Mini Cabin cost me:
Pressure-treated lumber (Home Depot) $100
Rough-sawn lumber (Eagle Saw Mill) $704
3/4″ plywood $568
Nails, screws, other misc. supplies $200
Ship-lap pine siding $600
Metal roofing panels and flashing (Fabral) $936
Clear pine for trim $180
Steel door $100
Windows (12 Pella ProLine casements w/screens) $3623
Stove (Morso Squirrel) $1100
Chimney and stove pipe (Simpson) $500
Flooring (Forbo Marmoleum Click) $502
Cost before adjustments $9458
Forgone BMW purchase ($44,260) …’cuz that’s what my friends are buying instead of doing stuff like this.
12 days labor of high-priced innovation consultant (not thinking about that)
Net Savings $34,802
Incidentally, I purchased the site for $8500, plus another $1000 or so in legal fees and transfer fees/taxes. (One of a half dozen lots I was able to aggregate in a largely defunct development.) So, even including the land costs, this project was well under half the cost of the BMW, and I believe it will be around a lot longer than that car would have been.
Incidentally, Dunn Lumber has an excellent site with prices listed for most lumber-yard items. This is a great reference for cost estimating, even though you most likely will not purchase from them unless you live in their service area.
Dimensional lumber used in framing (i.e., 2×4, 2×6, etc.) is usually sold after planing and kiln drying. That’s why a 2×4 is actually 1.5″ x 3.5″. The stick of lumber from which that 2×4 was made was originally sawn to dimensions of 2″ x 4″. The length of these “rough sawn” boards is the nominal length plus at least 2 inches. So an 8′ 2×4 in rough-sawn form is 2″ x 4″ x 98+”.
The framing of the cabin was straightforward. We used rough-sawn lumber and 3/4 inch plywood sheathing. I used a simple framing scheme with no headers above the windows and a single top plate on the walls. I used 3/4 inch plywood power nailed to the lumber with ring-shank nails to tie everything together into a strong and stiff wall system. I was confident that with this heavy sheathing, the minimal structure would be plenty strong.
Zoning and building permits are both good ideas. They keep Vermont pretty so New Yorkers can enjoy it. They also help ensure public health and safety. Worthy objectives.
I grew up in a house with gray vertical ship-lap pine siding. Maybe that’s why I chose that siding option for the shed. The siding is often called “rough-sawn pine” but it is actually planed smooth and then wire brushed to make it “uniformly rough” on one side. I pre-stained it on both sides with Behr premium siding stain. By “I” I suppose I mean that my father and mother and two kids stained the siding. This was definitely a task that benefited from a bunch of extra hands. They laid down some plastic sheet on the road and went to town. I remember we were listening to NPR while doing this. This was the morning John McCain announced Sarah Palin for Veep–thus the look on my mother’s face.
The mini cabin is topped with Fabral painted steel roofing panels. The lumber yard can order this type of roofing in custom colors (Hartford Green in my case). This is a robust, proven roofing solution, and is not very expensive. I’m quite happy with this choice.
My father and I ran purlins (rough-sawn 2×4s perpendicular to the rafters) at the eave, at the ridge, aligned with the side walls, and then spaced evenly (at about 22 inches on centers) from the ridge down. We then screwed the roofing down with 2-1/2 inch galvanized roofing screws with heads painted green to match the roofing. (Fabral sells these with the roofing.) We used a conventional drill/driver with a 1/4 inch hex drive to put these in. Next time I’ll use an impact driver. A few hundred screws are required even for a small roof like mine, and many are driven at odd angles. Your wrists will thank you if you use the impact driver. The link here is to the DeWalt unit I own, mostly because I’ve standardized on the 18V lithium battery pack for my tools and chargers.
I put a simple loft at a height of 7 1/2 feet in the back half of the structure. This is a cozy space, which my kids love.
I had experimented with propane space heaters and concluded that I needed somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 btu/hr of power to keep the Mini Cabin warm in the dead of winter, when temperatures drop below 0 F. (Specifically, I found I could maintain 30F temperature difference between inside and outside at 10,000 BTU/hour. BTW, for the non-US reader, 10,000 btu/hr is about 3 kw.) I also reasoned that I could always open an upper window if things got too toasty. Still, 30,000 BTU/hr is a very small wood stove. So, I went looking for the smallest nice woodstove on the market. I chose the Morso 1410.
I chose Forbo Marmoleum for the mini cabin floor. I’ve used Marmoleum in two other projects– my church house kitchen (twice actually) and in a commercial project at work. I like the material quite a lot. Marmoleum is a trade name for a type of linoleum, which is a composite sheet material made from sawdust, linseed oil, dyes, and a jute backing. It is very forgiving, durable, and comes in a lot of funky colors. The sheet version comes in a 2 meter wide roll, which is really the only weakness of that form, requiring seams for most applications. The material is very heavy, so I knew I couldn’t haul a roll down the trail. Fortunately, the material comes in tiles, which are roughly 1 ft. x 3 ft. This version is called Marmoleum Click, because the tiles are supposed to click together.