Shangri La

Shangri La

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adventures in Building

Now that we’re no longer waiting for an additional septic test, I've been agonizing over cabin options: I want something that will go up quickly and easily, but I know that I could do it the hard way for about half the price. And with a budget of less than $30k, that 50% differential will likely determine whether our water will come from a well or rain barrel.

I'm confident that I can build the place myself. From car engines rebuilding to Windsor chairs making, custom trim work to guitar playing, I haven’t yet found a project that I couldn’t tackle if I set my mind to it. But how can I convince the LSW that my optimism isn’t misplaced? And – to be honest – prove to myself that I’m not underestimating the work?

The answer came to me as I passed thought the only tunnel in New England (so I'm told) on my way home from work last Friday: Build a gardening shed in the back yard. Armed with this one construction stone, I could kill the following birds:
  • The LSW gets a modicum of assurance
  • I get practice in framing
  • We get a gardening shed
  • The current gardening shed (the garage) can be liberated for cabin supply storage
  • I can gauge current lumber prices to refine my budget
  • I can get an idea of what is likely to be tricky, and where help will be needed
I hated to take the money out of the cabin fund, but the LSW agreed that it seemed a prudent investment.

And so it was that I spent the weekend buying materials, leveling the site, and constructing the floor framing for an 8 x 10 gable-ended shed. Materials included:

(6) Cinder blocks
(4) 2 x 10 x 12 PT (10’ lengths weren’t available)
(30) 2 x 4 x 8
(8) 2 x 6 x 8
(4) 2 x 4 x 10
(3) 5/8 floor sheathing
(3) ½ roof sheathing
(10) T-111 siding
(2) Packages of roofing shingle
(1) Package of 6 mil poly film
(1) Roll roofing felt
Galvanized Nails and deck screws, various sizes
(2) Saw blades

The total cost was $1,100, which didn’t include window and door (both of which I will build myself) and trim (which will come from leftover white pine 1x stock I have in the basement). I consoled myself with the fact that a manufactured shed of the same size would cost at least a third more.

And what did I learn from day 1?
  1. Purchasing materials can easily take an entire day
  2. No matter how carefully you plan, there will be return trips to the lumber yard and/or the local home warehouse
  3. White pine shiplap isn’t always available, and cedar shiplap is a very, very expensive alternative
  4. T-111 siding becomes more attractive when you understand how (relatively) cheap it is
  5. Leveling and preparing the site will take at least another half-day
  6. Sandwiched beams of 2x10 PT can get heavy very quickly
  7. Computer work does not adequately prepare your hands (or muscles) for a day of hammering and lifting
  8. Slicing your thumb open on a joist hanger is infinitely more distracting when you discover that your wife has locked you out of the house while running errands
  9. Thinking you can have the floor AND walls framed in a single day is wildly optimistic
  10. Dogfish Head IPA tastes best when enjoyed after 10 hours of manual labor
  11. If you think you’re sore at the end of day 1, wait until the morning of day 2
The lesson of day 2 was that multiple blisters on your hammering hand combined with very stiff muscles will necessitate taking the day off.
Stay tuned.

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