Introduction: Reclaimed Wood for Verandas, Small Cabins...

Picture of Reclaimed Wood for Verandas, Small Cabins...

INTRODUCTION

Mos of us used old materials, including wood of all kinds and sizes. I had a lot of such experiences, from a few reasons: it is cheaper (or free), looks good and was appropriate for my needs and I do not like to trough it away if it is still usable... Sometimes wood is left-over from my previous project(s), or got from friends, or bought cheaply at surplus sales, or found abounded somewhere around as unnecessary material and furniture (and junk-yard were too far away with complicated and expensive procedure)...

Beside some smaller projects when I used various pieces of various kinds of wood, the first bigger one was when I helped my older brother to build small cabin on metal barrels – river raft on our river Sava in Belgrade... Everything was built using old wooden materials and components (plates, boards, girders, windows, doors – including the main frame over barrels)... Unfortunately, not one sketch or photo is saved in spite that we used it a few years before he sell it...

The second bigger project was to build closed porch as attachment to small reconstructed house in Zemun (part of Belgrade) where I lived some 15 years before I arrived to Swiss. That “veranda” was positioned between old and new part of house with dimensions of circa 4.0 meters x 5.0 meters ~ surface 20 m2. Sketches, if survived, could be still at attic of house but photos should be attached here, on next pages.

After closing veranda with glass-roof and old windows at walls, I reconstructed attic for my teenager son (with separate entrance, but controlled from our living room). The same, most of used materials and components were reclaimed as mentioned above. No sketches were made and photos are attached...

Third bigger project was garden house here in Bern, but most of material was new, except something that I found left in garden by previous renter and something left on streets that was used for interior. Again, no sketches, just photos attached.

Generally, this isn't usual inscrutable, from a few reasons:

as mentioned, I do not have sketches for projects and didn't make detail photo-strip trough building process;

my needs (planed and finished projects), my circumstances and conditions were specific and hardly could be repeated somewhere else without many and crucial modifications;

materials and components (all wood) were what I had, of all kinds and sizes, in various condition - so they couldn't be found somewhere else in the same variants just before starting a project;

Therefore, all that will be presented on following pages, was more a story about what I did with what I had, and could be useful as inspiration for similar situations and fuel for imagination and example that everything is possible even with modest resources...

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Step 1: RIVER CABIN ON BARRELS (RAFT)

Picture of RIVER CABIN ON BARRELS (RAFT)

In Belgrade and around, there are a few dozens of thousands, smaller or bigger river cabins (some real houses), any sometimes used as restaurants on water... Problem is to find and rent free space, so when my brother bought such place from older couple (their cabin was pulled away by ice during winter and finished nobody knows where), we started to make plans (in our mind) and collect materials and components. Nothing was bought new - from metal barrels and steel cables (for anchoring raft to trees on shore), then wooden girders of 15cm x 15cm for base frame of floor, floor boards thick 2” (thickness of boards we usually measured in inches), finally wall and roof material. Everything was got from friends for free, the same as old motor-oil for impregnation of construction and outside surfaces... Doors and windows were got form some small demolished house... Walls and roof were made as sandwich construction: frame of 2” x 1” lattices, covered with plates thick 3 mm, known locally as “lesonit”, mostly used in construction of doors. It is almost water-resistant, but with old-motor oil it is water-proof, at least for decade-two...

Dimensions of cabin was 4.0m x 2.0m, quite enough for bed, small kitchen and toilet – most of time was spent outside on big open deck – the same dimensions I used for present garden cabin... The most important was to have a lot of air even when windows and doors are closed, but that cabin could be isolated against cold winds if used in such weather. Boiled whine or brandy (known as “Serbian Teas” similar to grog) were very good during winters, when cold wings were blowing around and we had small furnace inside...

As I said, no sketches or photos of that small, cheap and simple, but nice cabin – but a few of similar are attached... Therefore, just small story to refresh memories on my brother, our cabin and small motor-boat – all gone as water of river Sava is going to the river Danube, and together to Black Sea, now and millenniums ago....

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Step 2: CLOSED VERANDA FOR SMALL HOUSE IN ZEMUN, BELGRADE, SERBIA

Picture of CLOSED VERANDA FOR SMALL HOUSE IN ZEMUN, BELGRADE, SERBIA

Because our son started Zemun High School (know as “gimnazia” in Serbia), we decided to move there, so he had shorter way to school... We bought old small house and the same year add new small part with ground floor and attic, planed to be adapted for our son... After a lot of thinking and many sketches, not one saved and kept here in Bern, Swiss – I started construction of closed porch – veranda, that would be covered by glass-plates (got for free) and with self-made walls.

Construction of walls was made of many wooden girders of 12cm x 10cm dimensions, left in our yard by contractor that was building new part of house. They were used as construction for “building scaffolding” (proper name?) – good quality and longer that I needed (that wasn't a problem), but dirty and covered a lot by mortar (plaster), paint and lime. Therefore, a few days were spent in cleaning them, using electric hand-planer and electric hand-sender... Beside that, used were: small electric circular, electric drill (mostly as strong screw driver) and many hand-tools from home-workshop...

The first was made stairs for attic – because I became tired of climbing over ladders, bringing material up and down (keep tools and wood at attic, under roof)! They were made super-strong, because I had such boards: long 3-5 meters, wide 40 cm and thick 5”... The same as girders, they were left in our yard by contractor that built new part of house, used by him for the same purpose.

(probably that I paid all that included in general price of building – so, he didn't care to take it when finished)

Old windows that I used at veranda's wall: I bought four of them cheaply from a family that was reconstructing their house and change old windows with modern, but expensive PVC-framed (plastic) with double glass... Two of them I used on front side of veranda and two instead of older and worse windows on old part of house... Between two old windows at front side of veranda, I install glassed wooden-frame got from a friend that reconstructed his flat – it was part of glass-wall that divided dining and living room! (he hated it and was happy that I would take it – bringing them down, piece by piece from his balcony to ground, using long boat ropes – elevator was small for that, stairs too narrow)

Two other glassed wooden-frames I used on side wall of veranda, the same as doors from the same construction – to have entrance from open terrace (small patio). It is strange that all that was fixed quite well on small brick-wall over veranda floor that I built a year before, using some thousand of old bricks! Mentioned girders were put between any window or glassed frame! Problem was that I was working alone (my son was over days at school and at evenings in his Ninjutsu Club, or some café or club)... As all elements were quite heavy and tall, I must developed special method for construction process. I started building side-wall fist (after mentioned stairs)... The first girder was fixed to wall – then I put doors on the brick-wall, balancing with them, keeping them by one hand and supporting by head, and used another hand to screw left-side frame of doors to girder at a few places! (I tried with nails first, but that was almost impossible – need “third hand”, as many times before and after that)... Then, I put next girder on brick-wall – repeating procedure, trying (and succeeded) to fix right-side frame of doors to it... Then, I put one glassed frame on brick-wall, then another girder, then another glassed frame and finally corner-girder! Beside my head used instead of “missing third hand”, I used electric drill as powerful and fast screw-driver for big and strong screws... So, construction of side wall was very strong, but unstable – moving like piece of paper on wind (and there was wind that day!). Therefore, I continued work deep into night to install the first window to front-side of veranda – making construction something more stiff and rigid (angle of 90° improved stability of all that)... Next day, I repeated the same procedure: new girder > new glassed frame > new girder > new window > last girder! (son help me keeping it for a minute, ready to go and have some fun outside!). On top of all that mentioned I fixed two long girders (one for the side and one for the front) of 2” x 4” dimensions, using long and strong screws, from above to: girders, glassed wooden-frames and window-frames... So, entire construction became more stabilized, but still flexible (mentioned windy days) – I temporary connected it with a few long battens to terrace on attic and one diagonally over corner of construction... Later, I replaced them with two strong girders from the same kind as other were...

Next was to install some dozen of girders of 2” x 4” dimensions, as base-frame for the glass plates – but that was new wood – and another story!

Entire construction was covered by mixture of green paint and wood-protecting oil... Later I closed side-wall with floor-boards on lower part and with some smaller windows that I had as left-overs, at upper triangle of wall... The same artificial floor-boards were at lover parts of walls – from inside...

Later, some of construction was painted in cream colour by my ex-wife...

Finally, I built the main entrance doors to veranda, using old wood left-overs and small windows... So, entire veranda was closed to keep it wormer during cold days, the same as both part of houses... There are many openings to make draft during worm weather and keep it pleasant for seating...

Just to mentioned that the main entrance from terrace to house is made by three old office doors with glass... Reclaimed wood again!

Everything is simple (as looked – but not to build) and quite modest, as entire house and back-card – could be seen from attached photos.

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Step 3: RECONSTRUCTION OF ATTIC FOR MY SON

Picture of RECONSTRUCTION OF ATTIC FOR MY SON

After closing of the veranda, I moved to small attic for reconstruction and adaptation as living place for my son...

Almost all was done using reclaimed wood left from reconstruction of old part of house... I fired two contractors and found third that finish the job. But, two previous contractors bought a lot of unnecessary materials (trying to make expenses bigger) and after they run away, material was left in back-yard – they never return to take it or to ask for money invested... So, I had a lot of materials to finish attic, including son's bed and some furniture...

For thermal insulation I used double layers of pressed bulrush (cane) fixed between roof rafters, with 2” additional space of air (air-pockets)... Over that I fixed floor-boards thick 20 mm...

For easier work and to avoid many climbings up and down over ladders, I used two metal

barrels as base for walking bench made of big ladders covered by thick floor-boards. Construction was strong to keep me walking over it and working, high enough to reach the top of attic and wide to work on sides...

On concrete floor I glued wooden parquetry removed from living room of old part of house... After it was sanded by professionals and lacquered by myself it looks quite good … Good parts were used, bad finished as fire for barbecue...

Attached photos should show more than words...

Step 4: RECLAIMED WOOD FOR SOME DETAILS OF GARDEN HOUSE

Picture of RECLAIMED WOOD FOR SOME DETAILS OF GARDEN HOUSE

Some time ago, we rented small parcel in one of communal gardens in wider centre of Bern, Swiss! I could use more reclaimed wood and components if officials are not so strict about building at gardens: all dimensions, surface, material and colour must be standardized, the same as type of “standard-looking house”!

So, I used just some boards, girders and battens from nearby wood-work workshop... All of them have big open containers for material and components removed from reconstructed of old houses and it is free to take anything... (they are happy if people take-away the most)

Then, I used four old girders left from previous owner (corners of his shed), more for style then necessity – monocoque construction of cabin was strong enough...

Once, I found on street small classic wooden locker, without doors – with notice “GRATIS” and later put it at veranda of cabin.

Another old cabinet got from wife's uncle (brought by car from Paris!), I reconstructed a little and put inside the cabin...

Again, on street I found left kid-bed with written “GRATIS” on attached paper, made of nice wood, in nice honey colour. It was dissembled, so easy to put in my small car. Wooden boards I used for kitchen cabinets and elastic battens for seats at dinette combination (more air).

Stepson's working desk was destroyed and abounded, but upper plate was still in good shape and I used it for folding table at dinette combination.

Table at veranda is combination: frame and legs from reclaimed wood and new-bought plate...

Finally, on street was found classic wooden hat-stand that now have place in cabin...

As there is no electricity in garden, I use only hand-operated tools, except cordless drill (mostly used as powered screw-driver) – and the most important were multi-functional folding aluminium ladders (that could be used often as working bench), light warehouse trolley, big metal angle-frame (corner of 90°) and long level (to help things be true vertical or horisontal). That is necessary for any bigger project and some of that I missed working on my mentioned old house in Zemun, Belgrade...

As I was working alone all the time, a lot of planing and imagination was needed to use only two hands and sometimes head or legs to held or support parts and components during fixing at place... Good to have mentioned experience with construction of closed veranda in Zemun, Belgrade!

Attached photos should show how all that looks now...

(garden cabins are modest and simple creations, the same as mine is)

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Step 5: CONCLUSIONS:

Picture of CONCLUSIONS:

At the beginning, I mentioned advantages of use reclaimed wood as material and components... It is obvious that even serious projects (big objects) could be constructed using free-cost or very cheap materials, with some luck to find right things that we need, at near place and right time.

However, there are some disadvantages, too:

mostly, we had to plan objects before finding material, so there could be more-or-less differences between what we want and what we have at hand;

plans should be changed, from time to time, depending of what we have;

process is something longer, depending on availability of proper material – not all at time and place when we need that;

there must be involved more of our work on modification, reconstruction and repair of old material...

In spite that a few times I regret that I didn't use new material, generally I was satisfied with my approach to use old materials and things that still could be adapted to new projects! A little of good luck, and a lot of imagination, with enough of patience and persistence... then – good tools and tolerant, understanding and supportive partner (in my case: the fist wife in Belgrade and the new one here in Bern)...

P.S.: Attached are photos of useful tools (some mine, some taken from internet) that I had and used during work on my projects, and a couple of photos showing my modest workshops, here in Bern. Unfortunately, somebody broke in my garden house and took most of tools...

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Comments

Flenters (author)2016-06-19

Nice. I like the floating house. Interesting instructable. Thank you.

moto-klasika made it! (author)Flenters2016-06-20

Thank you on kind words!

As I said, that is more my story than real instructable, with explanations step-by-step, but could be useful as inspiration...

Our river-cabin was smallest and modest, but gave is many pleasure for a few years. The best thing that it was not far away from centre of town - regular tramway line was enough!

Sorry for mistakes in text and especially in comments on photos - short was time for making and publishing it... (English isn't my first language)

Zoran

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