Shangri La

Shangri La

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Foxes and Porches

Last week the excavator asked me whether or not I wanted him to seal the foundation. With my dwindling bank account in mind, I decided it was time to get some skin in the game. Apparently I would need to break of the form ties with a hammer, fill in the holes with roofing tar, and cover the exterior with sealant up to ground level. Easy enough.

And so it was that I pulled onto the site Sunday morning and was struck by the fact that construction had, in fact, begun. The presence of the foundation transformed the lot and made it, for the first time, very easy to see how our little cabin (and we) would actually inhabit the land. Over the next couple of hours, I found myself again rethinking the design.

We originally wanted the cabin to ‘face’ south, into the land, with a full-width porch that would look down the slope toward the leech field. This presented a couple of problems, though:

1) There would be no ‘face’ to present to the road and driveway. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but houses always seem more welcoming when they face you as you approach them. A house presenting its back seems to say ‘go away’. (I’m curmudgeonly enough to prefer that most people actually stay away, but it would be nice if the house would welcome me when I arrive.)
2) Given that the south side would not be on a gable end, I had (for a number of reasons), decided that I would need 10’ walls on which to secure the porch roof. It was now apparent, however, that that the foundation would rise 4’ about the ground on the south side given the slope of the land. This would mean 14’ to the cap plates, which was higher than I’d prefer to work, given the 12/12 roof pitch and the fact that I myself am well short of 6’. Furthermore, building the deck would be more complicated as it would range from 4 – 6’ off the ground as the land sloped away.

It occurred to me that I could solve both problems and simplify construction by opting instead for two 12’ porches, one on the east side facing the driveway, and one on the west side letting out from the kitchen. Using the gable ends of the house meant that I could revert to 8’ walls, and both porches would give us better access to the leveled portion of the property that wraps around the north and west of the cabin.

When I look back at my sketches over the last few months, it’s interesting to see that what began as a simple 14x24 box kept growing and becoming more complicated, eventually bulking up to 20x30 and sporting a tower facing the road. Once the actual work began, however, the sketches get smaller and simpler as I begin working out the logistics of actually building the thing.

“We only need something like a hotel room with a kitchenette,” the LSW kept saying. “We can add to it later. And she’s right. The simpler it is, the better chance for success.

I hammered off most of the form ties, which – true to form – took longer than expected, and decided to wait until next weekend on the roofing tar. I still needed to check out 3 local campgrounds, and I wanted to get home in time to relax a little before the work week began again. Just before I left, however, a fox emerged from the woods and we stood for a few minutes looking at each other before he casually trotted back into the underbrush. Probably a common site to the residents of Shangri-La, but rare enough to feel a bit magical to those of us trapped in the ‘burbs. I wonder how the Boy would have reacted?

PS: Interim bill for the foundation work - $1967.50 with the rat slab still to go.

No comments: