before + after: chronicles of an 1820’s log cabin – days 25 thru 31

before + after: chronicles of an 1820’s log cabin – days 25 thru 31
written by David
pictures by Stephanie

Day 25: Rain, rain go away, come again… after I finish!

Alarm is going off but it’s still dark outside? Really! What the…RAIN! Well, I guess it had to happen sometime, circle of life and all.  Hopefully it’s one of those quick downpours, over by noon things, so I can keep rolling.

Before I proceed, I forgot to mention in our previous post that our “Red Neck Summer” continued Thursday night. As a follow-up to the Bull Riding and Rodeo at the Clark County Fair, last Friday night in Berryville, Virginia,  we headed over the Blue Ridge Mountains and across the Shenandoah River, again, to Charles Town, West Virginia, this time to visit the Jefferson County Fair. Our good friend Max Bauer, of Otium Cellars in Purcellville Virginia, was competing in the Demolition Derby.  Easton and I drove the 20 or so miles across the State Line to show our support! OK, if you have never witnessed a Demolition Derby and Smash-up in person, and this was my first, I highly recommend doing so! It was AWESOME! The entire evening each time Max’s name was mentioned, Easton would tell anyone who would listen, “…Hey, that’s my friend Mr. Max!”

Day 23 #1

But I digress, so back to reality. The Electrician is plowing toward rough-in completion. This meant it was time to tackle the “mud room”. The room had served as the back entrance to the house vis-à-vis the kitchen. The room is roughly 6′ x 6′ and is accessed, through an exterior door, by a flight of stairs, with no landing, running along the side the house. Once inside the room, there was a right angle turn with an additional step and another exterior door just to enter the kitchen. The current layout basically rendered the room unusable. The reconfigured mud room will have a new door at the gable end, aligned with the kitchen entrance. Gone is the second door and the kitchen entrance now features a wide cased opening, making the space a more welcoming part of the house. We raised the floor of the mud room to match the floor height in the kitchen and we raised the ceiling height into the gable to create spaciousness and interest.

day 23, #2

The new mud room will contain a stacked washer and dryer and a custom bench with cubbies and storage. As a final touch, the new tile floor will come complete with electric radiant heat. Oh no, I gave up some future details… call it a lure! You’re all  gonna have to say tuned now to see how the finished product turns out. But for now, back to framing.

Lonely afternoon…no Masons! Damn rain! I argued that mortar can cure under water… they laughed and hung up on me! How’s that for respect.

Knocking off a little early today. We are going to Otium Cellars to see Max to celebrate his WIN in the 4-cylinder Smash-Up and to have a glass of their newly released 2011 Dornfelder Reserve. Hasta manana!

Day 26: Is it a bulkhead or a valance?

In the master bedroom, on the second floor of the cabin, we have some exciting things planned. Originally, the ceiling height was lower than 6 feet and the cramped 2nd floor space was accessed by a narrow steep staircase. Now, a new wider open stairway graces the cabin leading to a second floor with nine and one-half foot ceilings following the pitch of the roof line. The old collar ties that were removed are to be re-installed as decorative elements and the collar tie tails, along the wall edge, are to be cut back and re-framed as a “valance” that will contain recessed lighting to illuminate the newly re-pointed log walls. After finishing up in the mud room, I was off to the master bedroom to begin work on the valance. I truly LOVE working with reclaimed materials and this is no exception. Even in its rough form, without drywall or finish, it is clear that the valance will be one of the defining elements in this amazing space.

Day 27: The shed-style porch roof has to go and the art of squaring a half-hip roof against a 200 year old log wall.

…and just when I thought the demolition work was finished! Not so! After much deliberation and many banged heads later, it was decided to remove the low-beamed shed-style front porch roof in favor of a much taller hipped roof version. Time to break out the crow bars, pry bars and sawzall. Time to make yet another mess.  Actually, it’s turning out to be quite a day around the cabin for a Sunday. The front porch is coming down, the new brick chimney is rising at the hand of Mason Dave Ratcliff on the side of the house, Mason Alan Cochran was inside the cabin pointing up the new stone fireplace and the Owner was busy playing in the septic tank!

day 25 #1

Inside, on the fireplace profile, Alan was using a traditional clay-lime mortar that he was troweling into the joints in a projecting “vee” . The mortar he was using is an age old mix that dries to a creamy light yellow and tan straw-like color; a color that is quite complimentary to both the stone and the log.  The same mortar will be used to chink the logs. Out on the chimney, Dave was setting the brick with a clay-lime mortar prepared with the deep red-orange Virginia clay. The chimney mortar dries to a rich patina matching the beautiful deep colors of the brick, making the new brick crown look as if it had been there for generations.

day 25 #2

Back on the porch, the metal roof was off along with the purlins and the rafters laying in a pile on the ground. Now, to remove the beam and the posts. During the demolition, I noticed that the beam and posts had been wrapped.  As we stripped away the wrap, we were greeted with an awesome and unexpected surprise, the original porch roof framing. The beam, actually a hand-hewed log, squared at 6″ x 6″ and 20 feet long. The wrap was also hiding four beautiful hand-shaped posts that had been mortise and tenon joined to the beam held in place by hand-carved wood pegs.  WOW! The salvaged posts and beam will be re-purposed as framing for the eat-in bar in the new kitchen.

Day 28: The reality of attempting to square half of a hipped roof against a 200-year-old log wall.

The porch roof is gone! You know that dropped to the ground, loaded into the back of a truck and hauled away kind of gone! Actually, it was gone yesterday, so with a relatively clean slate it was time to set the new posts, construct and hang the new beams. For the record, the porch is approximately 6 feet wide… that is to say is 6 feet – 1 3/4 inches on the left and 6 feet – 3 inches on the right. So, that’s approximately 6 feet…right? More on that later. First, we needed to set the posts. Regarding the posts, we always use 6″ x 6″ cedar. Yes, cedar is more expensive than treated but the benefits far out-weigh the cost. Cedar will not rot, twist and it is more dimensional and stable than treated posts. Seeking the maximum amount of head room, I notched the corner posts so the beam top height would be at 8 feet. I then set the posts in place with temporary bracing to hold them plumb. After I had constructed the doubled 2″ x 8″ beam, it was time to place it on the posts. Since I work alone, I had to position a ladder at either end of the porch and set the ends of the 20 foot long beam on the top rung of each ladder. I had blocked across the notch at one end to safely hold the beam secure while I lifted the opposite end into place. Once the beam was set and nailed, it was time beam over to the wall… and then the real fun will begin.

Day 29: Another day of the reality of attempting to square half of a hipped roof against a 200-year-old log wall.

Day 2 of porch framing and I am 100% certain that I think I might just know what I am planning to do. With only the beams in place, it’s still not to late to make changes. After today and once the hip framing is in place, there will be no changes so, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” that’s just how we are going to roll. Oh yeah, almost forgot… to further complicate things, it’s raining.

Since this is only half of a hip roof, the ridge and square rafters will act as a ledger attached to the house. These elements will be installed first followed by the hip rafters and the common rafters across the front. The front log wall is not square to the beams so I am saving the creeper rafters until last. In order to install them square, they will have to be individually cut and adjusted so that I can match them on either side of the hip rafters. I am planning to finish the underside of the porch roof with beaded tongue and groove fir following the invert of the hip. So, matching the framing is imperative. Working alone, this is going to be a slow process…two ladders, one at the house, one at the beam, up and down…up and down.

Day 30: I will finish this… in much the same way an ant eats an elephant…one bite at a time!.

day 28 #1

Today is the day to finish the roof framing, run the sub-fascia and get set up to deck in the AM. Intermittent rain continues to slow the framing process so I shift gears and “dry set” one of the new windows. I can not begin to tell you how far out of square the existing window framing inside the logs is…suffice to say at a minimum it is INCHES out. Luckily it looks as if the windows will fit and with a little effort I think I will be able to get them plumb, square and possibly aligned. Even still, we are definitely going to have to be very creative with the window trim.

Finally, the rain has stopped and the roof framing is complete and if I have to say so myself… damn tight. No rain tomorrow so decking and felt. I sense victory from the jaws of defeat!

Day 31: Victory is MINE!

What a start to the day, over-cast but no rain and heading up to 90+ degrees…a stack of 5/8″ CDX plywood decking is sitting on the ground, the porch deck 5 feet up and the roof deck another 9 feet above the porch. Now, how do I get 6 sheets onto the roof by myself? I have an idea… just like the ant eating the elephant, one sheet at a time! But first, I’m gonna need another cup of coffee. The best part about Day 31 was that I had a little help today, and I do mean little…my 9 year-old son Easton decided to join me on the roof. I honestly cannot tell you how proud I was of him when I turned around after setting the second sheet and found him standing on the decking without a trace of fear. He was actually quite a bit of help handing me the circular saw and the nail gun or by running down the ladder to get racks of nails. With his amazing help we finished the decking by noon and we were ready to roll out the felt. VICTORY is mine!

day 29 #1

day 29 #2

After 31 straight days on this project time for a few days off. Our family is heading to Bethany Beach, Delaware for a long weekend of R&R. Don’t be surprised if you see a post from the beach!

PlanetDwell ICON 300 res

We look forward to the days and weeks to come and hope you will continue to follow us on the “Chronicles of a Log Cabin.  We welcome any and all comments on our posts.  We would love your audience and implore you to “follow” and “like” us here on our blog.  We also encourage you to “share” our blog posts among your friends.

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