There and back

Made the first cabin trip of the year, just to check things out. Actually got in this time: the glacier road was thawed and not too bad to drive on. Even so it didn’t help the aches and pains I already had from cutting up a neighbour’s tree for him and then splitting four barrows of wood for me. The jostling of going down that gravel highway at 60-80 clicks didn’t make anything any better. Fortunately some neighbours out there had already been in so I didn’t have to clear any trees off the road. Fergus was first in, and had to cut five. I could have gone in last weekend but herself was away at daughter’s wedding. Look, it’s too confusing even for me to understand so I suggest you don’t even try.

Same ol’ place.

The good news is no big damage to anything and the batteries were full up. The bad news is a packrat tried to move in and made a mess, including dragging tools off. They have a king of jackdaw behaviour about shiny things like screwdrivers. Now I get to see how well the new flooring, along with a lot of other stuff, cleans up from rat mess.

The lake is high.

Now I’ve got to come up with some kind of plan for tackling all the things that still need doing there, along with the clean-up. This includes removing that travel trailer, a process which I dread because it’s big and heavy and will end up clogging the driveway at home. Assuming I can get the van going to move it, and somehow get it up the hill at the cabin and through the tight trees and … yes I know I got it in there. Getting it out is another matter, believe me.

First loon of the year.

The other things working against me include ambient temperatures that run between 0 and 10 Celsius, and a forecast of pretty much cloudy with rain for the next two weeks. This is problematic when your electricity comes from solar panels because despite claims to the contrary they do not produce power in all weather. PVs need direct, bright sunlight to work. Anyone who says otherwise is either stupid or a liar. Possibly both. I can say this because not only have I designed numerous installations besides my own, but have fixed even more systems that were concocted by people who definitely did not know what they were doing.

So when the sun doesn’t shine the batteries have to be recharged via the generator, and gasoline is $1.95/L here now which makes for damn expensive electricity. Like about $1 per kilowatt hour. This also ups the cost of going to and from the cabin, as well as increasing the expense of self-harvested firewood for winter heating at the house. Or Summer heating at either/both places due to the lousy weather we’re having. And no I would not be surprised to see it suddenly flip into hot and dry with wildfires everywhere again. It has happened before (2017, the year of the worst fires).

I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. The bathroom needs a complete overhaul and the upstairs needs finishing and the exterior needs restaining (it weathers horribly on the windward side). Never mind all the other chores of daily life like lawn mowing. Oh yes; the wood trailer needs some serious repair.

You know, the best plan might be to take the year off and just enjoy life instead of trying to undertake all these big projects that ultimately I will not see the benefit of. It’s going to be one horrifically expensive year no matter what I do, that’s for sure.

What I’ve been up to

The big project this month (or indeed this year) was the replacement of the flooring in the main section of the cabin. It’s almost 600 square feet, and up until now has been a collection of mis-matched and crumbling vinyl sheet goods, rotting old industrial carpet, and bare plywood. All uneven and tattered and really, really ugly. Even with rugs down the ugly came through.

The replacement wasn’t easy as it could only be done in sections; there was no place to move everything to in order to get one big empty space to work in and on. So I compressed everything into one end of the building and got at it.

There were places where the subfloor was rotted due to past roof leaks. Mould clung to the old vinyl as well. Clean-up, cut out, throw out. After that new underlay had to go down to build up the level to where the end vinyl planking would match the existing tile kitchen and bath floors, as well as the laminate I succeeded in installing in the bedroom last year. Vinyl was the only choice here, as the floor structure and surface and very uneven. It slopes off in various directions and dips and rises. “Undulates” would be one way of describing it.

Here are some of the progress pictures. Even though you can’t see what it started out like, you can see it is now much better. Not done yet, of course; it’s a house and houses are never finished.

First section completed.
Second section completed. (Note how everything is crammed into the far end.)
Third section completed.

Of course most of it will be covered in furniture and rugs (dogs slip on vinyl) anyway but it will be contiguous, and even (but not level) wherever it is.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t level the whole thing and put in, say, hardwood I assure you that was not a practical option: straightening up a log cabin that was built wrong to begin with and then had 70 years to settle as it wished is not a simple thing. Most likely it would have suffered major structural damage with any attempt to rapidly push it back to level, and as for other methods of flattening the surface (like self-leveling concrete) the distortion was too extreme for that to be viable. Example: I measured one spot as sloping 2″ in 4′, far beyond what can be simply filled or raised with shims.

We’re not after ‘perfect’ here. That would require a complete replacement of the whole building. Just “good enough”, and certainly far better than it’s ever been.

Past work

It’s raining again this week so I’m not out taking pictures or harvesting wood. Instead I’m digging back through files to present some older images.

One of the things I use photography for is documenting projects. Some of them have been extensive, like this whole-house renovation done in 2016. Never mind the story behind it, as it’s one of those “how did I ever get myself into this?” tales. The house itself is a brought-in-on-a-truck-and-bolted-together up/down design that filled many of the streets around here as the town expanded rapidly in the 1970s. Since then it went through numerous ‘upgrades’, many of which inflicted serious problems I had to correct. You just wouldn’t believe what I found. Good thing I’m an engineer, eh?

The bedroom pictures pretty much tell the story: bad design with no closet yet still intruding into the next room. An amateur finishing of basement space:


So, gut and re-frame (I literally was able to tear the walls apart with my bare hands) to make the space more practical:

And finish it off nicely:


The kitchen was a ‘simple’ update, which involved refinishing all the cabinets, moving the dishwasher, fixing plumbing errors, correcting wiring mistakes, and …

Here’s the livingroom with the renos partially started. That knee wall was to replace a flimsy iron railing that was merely screwed to the floor and yet was expected to keep people from tumbling down the stairs:


Much nicer once the work is complete:


One of the biggest challenges was the patio door in the dining area, which had been installed without a proper header. Retrofitting that (without disturbing the door or outside wall) was not easy:



Outside the now nice (and safe) door you can see the redone deck, which had just broken plastic trellis screwed on to keep people from going over the edge. I like the yellow boards better, for both safety and aesthetic reasons:


It’s hard to imagine, but this is the second time I’ve totally renovated an entire house (meaning every room needed work) by myself (no assistants). In this instance I hired someone to do the floors as I was running out of time. In fact the people were moving in while the floors and details were being finished up. Hopefully it will be the last time I try anything so foolish. The first time was our former residence (back in 2009 – I was already having health problems then), and I’d be hard pressed to say which was more work. In time this one was quicker: six months as opposed to nearly two years, but I didn’t have as many interruptions.

I found this toy car while I was doing the place up, so I “renovated” it as well: