Introduction: A Cabin in the Woods

About: My daytime job Quality and Training Analyst for a Control Systems Integrator. When I am not inspecting Electrical Panels and miles of wiring and control circuits, I like tinkering with all types of mechanical…

I have always wanted to build a cabin in the woods, a getaway from the rat race. We bought our farm in 2001 and lived on it for about 4 years. We bought another house in a nearby town and moved there. We actually had our farm up for sale for about a year, but it was back around 2009 and the real estate market was flat. In 2011, my wife bought a 3 bedroom brick ranch house at a auction for $5000.00 We had it jack up off it's foundation and moved to our farm. We spent the next year rebuilding it (that is another story). We moved into it in 2012 and I have wanted to build our cabin ever since.

Fast forward to summer of 2014. I spent about 3 months drawing up plans and eventually finalized on my current design. The cabin itself is 12' x 12' and has a 6' x 12' covered porch on the front of it. The cabin and porch roof is vaulted with a 8/12 roof pitch.

I had a spot picked out to put the cabin back a year or so ago and in July of this year, I took my auger up and and tried to auger 12 holes. Being in middle Tennessee, it was Murphy's law (amazing how that damn Murphy always gets in the way during projects) that I hit rock at about 6" depth of drilling. I had to abandon that site and I took off with my track mounted motorized auger up through the woods looking for another spot. After a couple of days of drilling pilot holes, I finally found a place where I could auger down 36". So, I took my tractor and cleared all the underbrush off and started staking the cabin out. Here is my documented build progress.

Note: All photos were taken using a Nikon D7000, a Nikon S9500 or a Galaxy Note 3....which ever one I had with me at the moment....

Step 1: Looking for a Suitable Building Site

Where my farm is located, we have a lot of soft limestone close to the surface of the ground. It is hit-n-miss when auguring a hole. You never know when you will hit rock @ 3" or be able to go half way to China. My original site selection was a bust when I tried auguring the holes and hit rock at around 6". So, I took the auger and went on a search through my woods looking for a new construction site. 2 days later, I found just the site after drilling many pilot holes. I started clearing all the under brush and scraping the ground down. Half of a day and the site is cleared, ready for the post holes.

Step 2: Getting the Post Holes Drilled and the Posts in the Ground

This part of the process was a little tedious. The ground has 2 layers. About 6" of topsoil and the rest is virgin hardpan clay..........really dry, hard, hardpan clay. My auger is mounted on a rubber tracked hydraulic power plant. The unit weighs about 2700 pounds. It took the better part of a day to get 6 holes drilled down to 36" in depth. You had the tree roots to go through and the clay was very tight and dry. So basically, you were shaving the clay more than drilling it. Finally got all of the holes drilled and got the 6 x 6 treated posts in the ground. And, that was as far as I got for about 2 weeks. It rained and rained, filling up all my 36" holes with water. The clay did a very good job of holding the water, too.

Step 3: Concreting the Posts and Framing the Floor Joists

After it dried up some from all the rain we had, I had to pull all the posts back out of the holes and take a post hole digger and remove all the sediment that had washed in around the posts. After getting all the holes cleaned out, I put the posts back in the holes and squared everything back up and got all of the posts plumb. Each hole got 240 pounds of concrete. That is a total of 1440 pounds of concrete. After letting the concrete setup and cure for a week, I started framing out the floor joists. The floor joists are 2 x 10 treated lumber, on 16" centers. I had some help raising the joists and securing them. I also installed a ledge board on the bottom to help support the joist boards while making sure everything was square and plumb, After the joists were all installed, I laid down the sub floor for the cabin and also put the 2 x 6" treated planks down for the front porch deck. All of the outside joists were lagged to the 6 x 6 posts using 3/8" x 4" galvanized lag bolts. Everything else was fastened using T25 3" coated deck screws. No nails.

Step 4: Putting Up the Walls, Putting Up the Structural Ridge Beam and Installing Rafters

After getting the sub-floor down, I had to wait another week due to more rain. I tarped everything down. I had my nephew help me build the walls and raise them. We built & raised all 4 walls and installled the structural ridge beam in one day. The next day, we cut and installed the rafters and installed the roof decking and got the felt paper down, just in time for more rain. Yes. we used the tractor bucket for a work platform. Much easier than climbing up and down ladders......

Step 5: Building the Roof Over the Porch

I framed the porch structure from 4" x 4" posts. I post notched all of the joints and lagged them together with galvanized lag bolts. The roofline follows the cabins roofline with a structural ridge beam. Once I got the rafter cut and installed, I had to tarp everything for a week, due to more rain. The next weekend, I received in the door and windows and installed them. The following weekend, I got the roof decking and felt paper installed, just in time for more rain.

Step 6: Yes, There Is Electricity.....kind Of......

I put a dual off grid power system in the cabin. The lighting is all 12 volt DC, utilizing standard 120 VAC lighting fixtures and switches. I purchased 12 VDC standard Edison 26 base LED bulbs that fit perfectly in the fixtures. All of this is being powered by 2- 98 AH deep cycle gel cell batteries wired in parallel. I have a total of 4 lighting fixtures inside and out, each bulb pulling 7 watts for a grand total of 28 watts. The bulbs put out an equivalent of a 50 watt incandescent light bulb. So far, the batteries haven't even noticed when the bulbs are turned on. The DC voltage wiring was installed in 12 gauge THHN red and black wiring. All lights are wired up to 3 way switches, so you can turn them off from 2 different locations.

I also have a separate 120 VAC wiring circuit in the cabin that powers a 5000 BTU air conditioner (yeah, you have to have AC when roughing it in the woods), a outdoor duplex receptacle and a receptacle for a battery charger to plug into for the battery storage box. All of the 120 VAC will be sourced from a Honda EU2000i generator, which will be housed in a generator shelter about 30 feet behind the cabin. All of the AC wiring was installed using 14/3 Romex.

I have included the 12 VDC power schematic for the cabin.

Step 7: The Metal Roof Is Installed.

The roof is clad in 28 gauge painted metal roofing material. No gutters. Love the sound of rain on a metal roof.

Step 8: Adding Barnstyle Hardboard to the Outside of the Cabin

I used 4' x 8' sheets of hardboard that looks like barn siding that I picked up at Lowes for around $18.00/sheet. Installing it wasn't the easiest as it had to be cut out to fit perfectly around the windows and the door. I installed it as a sheet, as I didn't want any weird seams showing up in the middle of the wall. All in all, it turned out pretty good. I then took 1" x 8" treated pine planks and ripped those on the table saw down to 2.5" pieces to use for the trim. I came in afterwards with color matched caulk and sealed up every seam, nook and cranny to keep out any bugs. It seems wasps, wood roaches and wood beetles will find any tiny hole and crack and will want to make a home inside of your structure. I also have a termite contract to keep the cabin free of any creepy/crawling/flying pests that seem to want to inhabit your cabin in the woods.

Step 9: Insulation Installation

Before I put any insulation in, I took foaming sealer in a can and foam sealed any cracks, crevices or bored holes, to keep out moisture, bugs and drafts. The walls were insulated with Johns Manfield R13 batts. The vaulted ceiling was insulated with rolls of Dow Corning R19, custom cut to fit. Wow, what a difference in noise and temp this makes. The roof line is vented with a continuous ridge line vent and the air intake is a continuous soffit vent. I used the plastic rafter vents stapled onto the underside of the roof decking so that I have continuous airflow from soffit to the ridge line. Being the cabin is in a mature growth of woods, it won't see much direct sunlight, but this should help ventilate the moisture.

Step 10: Walls and Ceilings

I put the ceiling panels up first. I thought about using tongue and groove pine, but my budget was getting tight. I was going to use 4'x 8' 11/32" sanded ply panels, but being that I am installing this by myself, 11/32 gets a little heavy being balanced on your head, trying to butt and square the panels up on a 8/12 pitched ceiling and trying to grab my pneumatic brad gun to install them with, all at the same time. So, while wandering around the big orange big box store, I saw some nice Luan panels that were semi-cheap and light. These actually worked out fairly well. I am going to leave them natural in color and just spray a poly coating on them in the next few weeks.

The wall panels are 4' x 8' 11/32 sanded ply panels. I will leave them natural in color and just spray a poly coating on them once I am done installing them. I did find it peculiar that a factory plywood panel is not parallel on both long edges. A couple of panels were bowed by almost a 1/4" in the middle.

Step 11: Floors

Being the cabin is located in the middle of the woods and is not inhabited most of the time, I needed a floor that could withstand freezing temperatures, humid conditions and hot temps as well as would look nice and be able to withstand years of wear. I looked online for a few weeks, but the majority of the flooring manufacturers would not warrant an installation that would be in that type of environment. They said the floor would buck in the summer and contract in the winter and the seams would swell and delaminate with the extended humidity they would be exposed to. So, that knocked out anything the big box stores would carry and what most online floor stores carry. I went by my local flooring company and explained the conditions the floor would be exposed to and what I wanted to do with it. I also wanted ease of instalation. The flooring guy recommended US Floors CORETEC PLUS. This type of engineered floor is designed for commercial use. It has a attached cork underlayment, a extruded core and a .7mm wear layer on top. The planks are 9" wide and 72" long and feature a very well engineered snap-lock system. The planks are water proof and are deigned to be installed as a floating floor. Myself and a friend had the whole floor installed within 2 hours of starting. I cut the stagger pattern with the sliding compound miter saw and he set, locked and tapped in each plank. Many beers were had after a job well done........

Step 12: Conceptual Sketches

I have attached copies of the conceptual sketches that I designed and built the cabin from. I will attach this disclaimer for the sketches for the obvious reason:

"These sketches and all information contained within each sketch is for General Reference only.



It is hereby stated that the concepts and dimensions contained within these sketches are not correct, nor will they meet any building codes. By studying and incorporating any conceptual ideas depicted in these sketches, you are assuming all liability for proper construction design, proper dimensions, understanding and implementing proper, sound building techniques which are compliant with all your local building codes and securing all local and state permits necessary to build your project."

In other words, for legal purposes, these are for your viewing pleasure only........

Step 13: More Pictures to Come...

It took me 2.5 years to leisurely finish the cabin, but I got it completely finished in April of 2017. The last finishing touches were a captains bed made out of furniture grade lumber. It doesn't have any drawers in the bottom of it, it is a very solid platform mounted to the floor that holds a queen sized mattress. The top of the mattress is 25" off the floor. I added 1 x 6 weathered Douglas fir base boards, which adds to the rustic touch.

I will add some more pictures of the final finished cabin when I get back up to it as soon as the weather cools off from this blistering hot summer.

Step 14: Thanks to Those Who Helped

I want to thank those people who gave up their weekends to assist me in putting the cabin up. A big thanks goes out to my nephew, Wes, who without, I would have never gotten finished. My sister-in-law, Cheryl, who has to be the most agile 60 something grandma I have ever seen. You rock! My good neighbor Cory, who helped put the outside wall barn wood sheets up and assisted with the finish floor installation. My good friend Susan, who helped wherever I needed her to and last, but not least, to my wife Janice. were patient with me through all these weekends and weeknights that I spent at the cabin site, working away. You came and helped lift, hold and cut where I needed you to and you were the catering service and the gopher. Many thanks to all! Now, lets all sit up on the covered porch and enjoy a few cold ones!

Step 15:

So, now, I will just call the project: A cabin in the woods.

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