My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin

Started by MountainDon, December 20, 2006, 02:03:09 AM

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Barry Broome

Well the last couple of weeks we've been around Cuba, NM and Jemez Springs. The air is so dry here it's taken me about 3 weeks to get used to it. Back home in Mississippi the air is so saturated with water it's really like being in a sauna.

Anyway we've worked on a few Reservations and looks like the rest won't be a problem. Granted, you'd better make sure you go through the proper authorities. The Jicarilla Apache Reservation has a $700 fine for anyone caught working without the I.D. card. My I.D. card is good for a year, though I won't even need it anymore. It will be a nice souvenir to look back on years from now  ::)
"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."


Gilman tunnel on Hwy 485 / FR 376?  I must admit I have not been up that road for a number of years. Time to do it again, I guess.

Yessir. Now you know what dry air is like. Drink lots of water. Remember if you aren't peeing at least every couple of hours you are dehydrated. Sometimes that is hard to realize as you are seldom wet with perspiration here.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


If you are going to be in the Jemez hwy 4 and FR 10 area next weekend (Nov 3 -5) drop me a PM or email using the links in the sidebar or my profile. Do that before Friday night if you would like to come to the cabin one day
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Barry Broome

I hit that tunnel on Hwy 4 or Hwy 126 just north of Jemez Springs. From there you're in the Santa Fe National Forest. A beautiful area but you have to watch out for the cows!!  :)

"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."

Barry Broome

Thanks Don I'll let you know. Just depends on how much work I'll have next weekend  [cool]
"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."



Holy Cow! It couldn't have been any better. The weather was always sunny and the air temperatures were high 50s to high 60s. It was breathtakingly beautiful and always wonderful; that may be because I am in love with leaves, moss, ferns, lichens, rocks, creeks, rivers, and hills/mountains. It was non-stop with all of those! The fall colors...reds, oranges, and yellows were wonderful in Tennessee and Virginia. In West Virginia the leaves had fallen to the ground in most areas. It was great to be able to see the forest floor covered in leaves, to be able to see through the forest and to be able to see the ridge tops through the trees. AND this trip was wonderful because this time the love of my life, Don, was with me AND we celebrated 35 years of marriage!

THE DETAILS: We flew American using air miles, into Knoxville, Tennessee via Dallas and Chicago. First class all the way to Chicago was fun. (Left Albuquerque 9:15 AM and got to Knoxville 5:15 PM, NM time). We picked up our rental car and drove to the Olive Garden that Don had bookmarked in our Garmin Navigator. We ordered the buy one dinner get one take-home; for $30 we had Saturday and Sunday dinners. We then went to Walmart (also bookmarked) and bought a cooler, blender, fruit, greens, cereals and canned sardines, chicken etc. so that we could make breakfast green smoothies and lunch anywhere we chose. Our hotel was very close by.

Sunday we drove to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As we approached, HOLY COW, the clouds were lifting perfectly and looked exactly like smoke clouds rising from the mountains! We stopped in the visitor center and learned that every day in October is as busy as any other. We drove the Cades Cove one way Loop Trail very slowly, stopping to visit the old homesteads along the way (explained in detail in the tour book). The log homes, barns, etc were very interesting; the scenery was gorgeous, the operating mill and operating blacksmith shop were educational.

Then we drove Laurel Creek Road and Little River Road, twisting and turning through the dense deciduous forests. The last mile into Gatlinburg was backed up and took about 20 minutes. Our hotel room was on the back side and the walkway/balcony overlooked the creek 30 feet straight down below. After our Olive Garden micro waved dinner we rode the tram to Ober Gatlinburg...indoor shops and ice skating rink. The views were awesome.

Monday we drove the Newfound Gap Road (spine of the mountains) to Newfound Gap (5,046'). We could see many ridges in the distance on either side of the road. Then we drove to Clingman's Dome (6,643'highest point in Tennessee) and hiked the .5 mile up and up to the observation tower. The views all around were spectacular; we saw Mt Mitchell (6,684') in North Carolina (9 ridges in the distance). There was some white haze (pollution). I worried about my knee for the downhill part; with Don as my cane, it did just fine.

We returned to the hotel to eat lunch and take a nap. Then we drove the one way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (Cherokee Orchard Rd). There wasn't any open valley, just a narrow rolling paved road through the forest with several old log homes (Bales and Reagans) and tub mills along the way.
We hiked the 1.3 miles to Grotto Falls over a trail often covered with tree roots and rocks. We passed a man leading a chain of llamas with packs that supply a back-country lodge. The falls were very pretty. We had dinner at a Grill on Main Street where the number of tourist shops would put any other town to shame! We didn't hit a single one. :)

Tuesday we drove the 321 Scenic Byway to Newport, Greeneville, Johnson City, Elizabethtown, Hampton, (Watauga Lake) and into Boone, NC. Then it was 421Scenic Byway to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drove 50 miles on the parkway and stopped at many pullouts, often viewing ridges from either side of the road. VERY BEAUTIFUL! We left the parkway to go to Sparta, NC and then into Virginia to Elk Creek where Don and Michelle Pridgen own 36 acres. We found Don at work in his sawmill. He showed us around his storage barn and then we drove up his steep hill to his beautiful cedar lap sided home. The design and materials are beautiful. Michelle served up delicious roasted ham, sweet potato, salad and homemade fruit sorbet. We had a wonderful tour of their property which included Don's extensive geological history and vegetation identification. They have a workshop, gypsy trailer chicken coop, greenhouse, large garden and hills covered in hardwood trees and large rock/boulders. The ridge is high above and surrounds them. Their dog, "Wolf", looks and sounds like a wolf.

Wednesday, they drove us around the beautiful countryside and we saw the home they contracted to frame two years ago and that is currently nearing completion. We toured the Jefferson National Forest Area (Cripple Creek) and went to the top of Comers Rock via a short hike. GREAT VIEWS again! We ate a picnic lunch at the picnic area. Don took us on a short hike to a cave where we listened to the water flowing under the rock. I could drive the beautiful country roads of Virginia forever!

For dinner Don and Michelle made delicious barbecued kabobs of chicken, pork, pineapple, and peppers. Three kinds of homegrown corn were very tasty, as was the rice and salad. Don and Don spent a lot of time discussing construction, tools, equipment, etc. Oh, and we both really enjoyed the hi-tec massage chair!

Thursday we followed Michelle into Elk Creek for gas, then followed her on Rte 21 north to Wytheville where we waved goodbye. We took I-77 north to Beckley, West Virginia, I-64 East to White Sulphur Springs, and Hwy 92 north through the Monongahela National Forest to Hwy 39 where John and Sarah Casto live.

John and Sarah live on 53 acres of grass!!! AND forest!!! Their home sits on a knoll overlooking the 700 foot long driveway and bridge perfectly centered on their front door. The dormers and the flower boxes all along the front porch make for an impressive looking home. John drove us up the road (he made) behind his home and up into the forest: great view! We checked out his storage barn that used to be a log home. John led the way to his cabin in the woods (higher elevation) two miles away (our private residence for 2 nights). OMG It is a ten star resort: cherry hardwood floors, marble tile floors (kitchen and bathrooms), stained T&G boards. The walls of the kitchen space are made from the logs of an 1870 log house. The walls of the living room are made from the logs of another 1800's log house. The living room has a cathedral ceiling. The ceilings throughout are stained tongue and groove. The ceiling boards in the kitchen and downstairs bedroom are stained a light transparent white color and their other side (the upstairs bedroom floors) are stained a dark walnut. The stairs are made from one log and stained dark walnut as are the columns and the ceiling beams. The large center fireplace and chimney are beautifully done with cultured rock. There are two bedrooms and a half bath upstairs. The back deck wraps around to the sides and has a cultured stone fireplace. The partial basement houses the water heater, inverter and batteries, and workspace. The generator and propane tank are outside the basement double doors. The large front porch has a swing at each end and rocking chairs on either side of the front door. The aesthetics of design and materials are beautiful. The cabin is accessible in the winter because John can plow the 1 ¼ miles.

Sarah brought dinner supplies up after work. We enjoyed barbecued chicken, baked potato, salad and peanut butter crèam pie outdoors on the deck in the moonlight and lamp light! We enjoyed meeting 12 year old Emily; 18 year old Steven stopped in when he got off work.

We slept comfortably with a fire burning in the fireplace. The individual room propane heaters made the early morning bathroom toasty. John came by at 7:30 and made us yummy pancakes, sausage and fried apples. We felt like royalty. Then John drove us through Marlinton to the Red Lick Recreation Area, the Highland Scenic Highway (150), the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area where we walked the boardwalk through the cranberry bog, ate a picnic lunch at the CG Visitor Center, hiked the Hills Creek Falls trail with three waterfalls and well over 300 steps (we all made it back up), Beartown State Park hike on a boardwalk through large rock formations with wild erosion patterns, thick moss, thick ferns and thick lichens...truly other worldly looking. We then drove past Pearl Buck's childhood home and through beautiful Watoga State Park. This was a very small portion of the Monongahela National Forest. It deserves a return trip to see more.

We went to Sarah's moms house in Marlinton and picked up Sarah and Emily for a trip to Hillsboro and dinner at the Pretty Penny Café (formerly a country store)...four Fletchers (fish and chips). Then we all went back to the cabin to sit by the fire and visit. Don and I slept well again. We slept in the next morning and then had our tea/coffee with John for a short visit. We ate lunch, had a short nap and then headed on our way.

Saturday, we drove East on Hwy 39 into Virginia...Goshen, north on 42 and 254 to Staunton, then I-64 East toward Richmond, bypassing Richmond on 295 to the airport. We unloaded our things at the Best Western, ate dinner at Mexico Restaurant, filled the car with gas, returned the car, and took a shuttle back to the hotel. We set the alarm for 4:30 AM and went to sleep early. Sunday morning we took the 5 AM shuttle to the airport and boarded our flight at 6:25. This time we flew to Dallas and then Albuquerque. We were back in our home by noon (2 PM Eastern). It was ESPECIALLY NICE to be home considering that the East coast was canceling 1,000 flights later that day due to Hurricane Sandy. Monday we ran errands in 70 degree sunny weather while Virginia experienced wind, cold and snow. WOW.

THANK YOU Don & Michelle, John & Sarah!!! You made it a dream vacation!!!


It's been a while since I posted some of the latest projects / improvements. Too much fun over the summer and fall.  

One of the larger projects as far as energy expended will never be seen by anyone. After several conversations with Pete the professional engineer about the pitfalls of pier foundations I decided to see about implementing his suggestions. The plan was to construct a shear wall between piers across the two cabin ends, to improve the resistance to lateral forces on the long sides of the cabin. The original plan was to excavate a couple of feet between the end piers and build a shear wall that would in effect be much like what is found in a Permanent Wood foundation.

The plywood used in the shear wall is the material that supplies the bracing, the lateral shear resistance. Ideally it would be nailed to the piers and a floor joist. The 2x framing is there to keep the plywood from buckling. There are only two pictures as I forgot to take the camera the weekend I did this.

I spent some time under there and decided that the low clearance, the hard dirt and a left arm that didn't like being worked at an acute angle combined to make the task extremely difficult. Believing that a short shear wall would be beter than no shear wall I decided to forgo the excavation.

About this time I encountered a second engineer, this one local with knowledge of the Jemez geology. He concurred with Pete that a shear wall would increase the stability. He also noted that he would never sign off on such a thing if the plan was to be submitted for a building permit. His experience with the geology gave him confidence on the stability of the soil though; well drained and well compacted pumice.

The underside of the floor joists were covered with 3/8 plywood. I commenced with the removal of a section across the west end. This was to facilitate tying the shear wall to the floor diaphragm. This tie in would have been easier if there had been a floor joist directly above the location the shear wall was to be constructed, but that was not the case. With the 4/8 removed a panel of ¾ plywood was lifted and temporarily screwed in place. A chalk line was snapped between the piers in alignment with the face the plywood would be nailed to. The plywood was dropped and hauled out from under. A 2x4 was nailed to the plywood with the nailing done from the plywood side into the 2x4 using 7D ring shank nails. The other way around would not offer the same strength. That done, the plywood was raised into place again and once alignment was confirmed nailed every 3 inches or so into the floor joists with 8D galvanized ring shank nails.

Next I measured and built a wall frame assembly beside the cabin. Just like a regular wall there is a top and boyyom plate and vertical studs. Where the two sheets of plywood would butt doubled studs were used. This was slid under the cabin and rotated into place. Blocks and shims were used to seat it tightly up against the 2x4 nailer that was fastened to the underside of the plywood. Then it was nailed into place with 12D ring shank nails; the end vertical 2x4 studs into the piers and the top plate into the upper 2x4 nailer strip.

PT ¾ inch plywood was ripped into panels 22 inches wide. A full 8 foot length was first trimmed at one end to fit around the beam on the pier top. That was then nailed to the pier and the 2x4 framing with hot dipped galvanized ring shank nails every 3 inches or so. With that completed the same thing was done at the east end.

These two images were taken with a cell phone. The first shows the framing, at least some of it. The plywood has been applied on the other side. The 2x6 in the hangers are the supports for the battery box on the east end.  The second shows the plywood face nailed to the framing

This was a lot of work. It would have been easier if done in the beginning as a proper permanent wood foundation. This "fix" gains some stability assurance but is no where the same as a full wood or CMU foundation. In retrospect, after the additional learning since the inception of this project, a PWF would likely be the method I would choose if building a cabin again. (Concrete transit mixers will not venture up to us; a dozer to pull them up the steep hill might induce them, but all that is not cheap. )
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Since the above I have also framed in between the piers down the long sides for a couple of shear wall segments in the long direction. I've not done the entire length of each side, and I've been looking for the pictures I was sure I took. However, they are no where to be found. ???  I have installed ribbed metal roofing material as a skirting around the full perimeter, as well with screened venting spaced up and down the north and south sides. (predominant winds are in the south to north direction, or the reverse. We selected charcoal grey as the color and it looks good.

The idea of the skirting is, in part, to keep the underside free of blown in combustibles such as leaves, pine needles and small branches. I made one section of skirting panel easily removable in case I require access.

Now to search out the photos some more....  ???
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Still being worked on is a small pole barn.

It's 9 x 16 feet as this suited some of the materials we used. We re-purposed some metal roofing we had purchased a while back and used some panels we had used on a lean to shade shelter in the city.

The PT posts are 4x4, each one about 4 feet in the ground sitting on a poured concrete footer. The roof has rafters on 12" centers to provide a hopelfully never needed formidable snow load ability. Decked with 7/16 OSB and covered over with metal ribbed roofing. Four poles across the front and three in back. Double 2x10 across the rear for beams and double 2x8 across the front. Simpson brackers for supports as well as nailed above the 2x's into the posts. The west end wall is sheathed in plywood to add to the rigidity. As well a panel was added to the rear wall inside to brace that wall. With roof sheathed plus the wall sections the structure is quite rigid. The walls weill be all covered with either ribbed metal or flat metal. The flat metal is what the ribbed metal is before it's run through the machine. It was left overs.

A metal security type door allows access. The front section to the left will receive a double door. The ATV will go there. More pictures at some time.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Think you should have made it twice that size.   ;)  Would make a good woodshed.


HI Don,
When you say that you would of built your cabin with a PWF, how would you have designed that?  would you of made the whole foundation go below the frost level if you did?  would you of added a basement to your cabin as well if you did? 


As far as the design, I would have followed the handbook I have. I'd reference it right now but I'm rushed and heading off. There is a link here someplace; perhaps someone else will reference it before I return. It is a time proven system when the prescription is followed.

Well yes, the PWF would go below the frost line; it would be asking for future trouble if any of the foundation did not go that deep. The frost heave worry is why I did not place the lower edge of the newly constructed shear wall or deep beam, on the soil surface or slightly below.

A basement? Most likely not. That would have been vastly more digging, more work and as attractive as the space might be for storage, I'm thinking, No. But I have not spent much time searching my soul for the answer to that one.

IF I could get a concrete truck up there the other choice would be a raised concrete slab. I like slabs a lot, have a monolith that out home is built on. But using a portable mixer for large amounts of concrete is too daunting a task.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


thanks Don for clarifying for me.  does the extra support you made really make that much difference in the strength across the width of your cabin?  I had always understood that the original way you built your cabin would of lasted for a very long time without the addition you did.  the cabin i will be building would be 12 feet wide by 20 feet long.  Would doing the addition you did be worth it, or do you think that because i'm only 12 feet across it would be unnecessary?  would you recommend me building the way you did originally or do you feel that PWF is now the way to go for all cabins.  Sorry for these rookie questions I'm just looking to do the best build i can the first time :)

John Raabe

Here's an old post with some helpful information and links:

Having looked at this post and followed most of the links I see that a lot of the free information has dried up!

However, with a bit more sleuthing I was able to find a copy of this manual from 2001 and uploaded it to the CP site. This may not be current with the all changing details of code interpretation but will provide a good "foundation".  Image below is an overview of basement construction.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


"Hey Y'all, watch this..."


northernspirit,   been out of town. and it seems my faithful laptop is dieing/dead so I'm on an ooold desktop that sucks.

Maybe I did not make the reason for the shear wall clear. Or maybe I interpret the statement "in the strength across the width of your cabin? " incorrectly.....

The shear wall is not meant to provide vertical support for any loads. It is designed to provide lateral resistance between piers. Lateral, or sideways, force would include things like strong winds blowing on a long side of the cabin. It is not uncommon for wind gusts of 85 -90 mph to occur anywhere in the country. I have recorded a 61 mph gust a year or so back. Lateral forces could also come from the earth shaking, as in an earthquake. Some areas have poor soil and piers may move due to soil conditions such as can happen when the soil becomes saturated after heavy rain or snow melt.

Piers can act individually rather than as a unit as with a PWF or concrete or concrete block perimeter walls. If one pier moves a little that can overload other piers.

So, what I did was to head off any potential for lateral movement. Our long sides face north and south, which happens to be the directions the winds mainly come from. Those long walls can create high forces if hit by high winds. Som I did some remedial work. It was not easy and it is still not the same as a proper foundation that acts as a unit.

PWF is not the only way to go; the aforementioned perimeter walls of concrete block or poured concrete are very good as well. Then there is also the concrete slab, my personal favorite for where basements are not wanted or needed. (Our home is on a slab)

I hope that helps you.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


thanks Don, for explaining the shear wall for me. It makes a lot more sense now to me. :)  I was under the impression before that it carried vertical loads.


Quote from: Redoverfarm on November 01, 2012, 05:58:32 PM
Think you should have made it twice that size.   ;)  Would make a good woodshed.

In a colder climate, or here with full time use, I'd agree it would be a fine woodshed. And if it was fulltime, yes it would have to be larger to be a useful barn. But for what it is intended, I think it'll do. Plus, remember "stuff" expands to fill the space available.  :)

Last weekend I got the doors installed and the metal siding and trim pretty much done. What I didn't get completed doesn't show in the pictures. I'm not sure I'll be able to get the T1-11 painted this year. I did give it a coat of linseed oil that had been sitting around un-used for over a year.

There's a PT 4x6 timber in the ground under the door threshholds.

The doors are a pair of flat slab steel exterior doors, a right and a left outswing variety. Outswing are not all that common but just what I needed. The hinges have non removable pins and protrude and have a bend so they can fold flat and clear trim. They came as complete prehung units. I removed the jamb on the latch side of the door. The lockset holes receive blank cover plates. There is a space between the doors and there will be a "cover strip" 1x4 on the inside to act as a stop. I have a couple of bent steel straps that will be inside mounted to hold an oak "bar". The steel security door will have a Schlage deadbolt lock.

The floor is presently just loose pumice. In spring I may turn it into a pumicecrete floor.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Would have been nice if you would have had enough metal to cover the front as well.  Yes for a temporary dwelling it is probably the apprioate size.  But anything with a roof usually gets filled up faster than you anticipate.  At least it does at my house. ;)  Nice looking shed.


Mountain Don and Karen,

Just finished reading through your entire blog :)  3- 4 weeks well spent.  Thanks for taking the time to document everything for posterity as a lot of us newbies can learn a ton, by following such posts from beginning to the end of a project.  So, thanks again.



I've gone through most of this story a second time. Once again I have to say it is one of my favorites. In part the surroundings and to a great degree the cabin. I do have a preference for single floor with flat normal height ceilings. Seems to me it's much easier to be warm in cool weather and still have a moderate temperature in the sleeping area. And from what I gather in reading other topics here it is easier to end up with a nice strong roof and walls compared to a cathedral ceiling.

You haven't posted much recently but I suppose as you get things completed there is less to talk about and more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The personal dietary habits of people kill more frequently than firearms. Eat healthy and carry a gun.


Quote from: Carla_M on April 26, 2013, 07:12:52 PMI do have a preference for single floor with flat normal height ceilings. Seems to me it's much easier to be warm in cool weather
Actually you are compleately wrong if the structure is properly built. If you take a look at thebold construction of the deep south there is a reason they all had ten to fourteen foot cielings. Heat rises, the use of transom windows at the top of the walls allows convection to let the heat exit up high thus pulling cooler air into the windows below.
  Now if your sleeping in the loft yes it can be hard to regulate the temps however by placing your return air vents in the loft and your heat/ac vents downstaris it can accomplish the same thing.
My sons bedroom will be in the loft however i am using a split ac system which is ductless. It is essentially seperate wall units like a window ac except the compressor is outside. The wall unit is just a fan so there is no compressor noise. Also i plan to build his bed into the wall with heavy curtains he can pull to help keep his heat or ac in.


My referenced quote: "I do have a preference for single floor with flat normal height ceilings. Seems to me it's much easier to be warm in cool weather"

Your quote CjAl: "construction of the deep south there is a reason they all had ten to fourteen foot cielings. Heat rises, the use of transom windows at the top of the walls allows convection to let the heat exit up high thus pulling cooler air into the windows below."

No argument with the logic of the tall ceiling construction of the old south; a good natural way to help with being cool. However, I was talking about keeping warm in cool or cold weather, and meaning keeping or being warm on the main floor, not the loft. Southern tall ceiling homes were designed, as you say, to help keep the people cool in the hot 'n' humid weather. A different kettle of fish from what my focus was.
The personal dietary habits of people kill more frequently than firearms. Eat healthy and carry a gun.

Barry Broome


I'm planning to build a 16x16 structure (light weight camping cabin). Gonna use 4x6 for my piers. Do you think I can get by with using 4x10x16 for my girder (nailing a couple of 2x10" together)? I see that your girder was 3 layers thick. Also, how close should the girders be located to the edge of the structure?

Thanks, Barry
"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."

Barry Broome

Perhaps I should have asked that question a different way. If you had built 3 girders, instead of 2, could you have gotten by with using a 4x10x16?
"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."