Colorado 26X36 - Build has started !

Started by UK4X4, September 28, 2010, 11:03:54 AM

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So I've posted a few times, asked some questions and bought some plans.

So here's my long and winding intro

The build progress will be limited to contracted friends and hired labor and also our summer vacations where we intend to camp and develop the cabin as we go year to year, so onto the background.

I'm a brit currently living in qatar previously of many other locations ............

during our travels we fell in love with Grand Junction CO when we spent a year working there.

offroading - moab down the road, fishing on grand mesa, tubing the colorado river, hiking single laning on dirt bikes.............this location had it all !

My wife is latino and me being from a place where snow only exists every 20 years, we both also took advantage of the skiing at Powderhorn, its a family midsize resort but with zero lift Q's and 40 mins from town we were hooked.

Luckily here we did'nt really get hit by the global down turn other than I was transfered from a small office to a larger one....

being that we are surrounded by sand and gravel and not a hill in the whole country , we yearned for the clear mountain air and a view of the ski that was'nt tinted yellow by the dust.

Cunningly the internet is set up for global shopping, and as every one should know realtors can't be trusted...............

So I'm the proud owner of 10 acres of useless CO mountainside which I can only walk too, this we found out on arrival in CO where we had planned to start clearing and foundations...........

3 weeks of county offices later I have docs that basicly mean we have access, but will take a few years to fight through the courts, legally I have vehicular access but the owners have left the bulldosed trail to slowly return to woodland.

meanwhile we had three great weeks and we rumaged arround looking at other properties, seemingly fate spun us a deal on a small .5 acre lot in the developement next door to the ski lodge..................

needles to say we spent the build money on the second lot....hearts winning over minds

So the build was going to be a small off-grid cabin, the plot we now have has all the utilities but none of the space, so all the plans just got changed and year set back to boot.

Both plots are covered in very tall weeds commonly called aspens, this story will be about the smaller plot.

Due to the hike only option our three week vacation was a washout, build wise, but i managed to coerce a friend into helping me and a plan was set in motion.

Altitude 8500ft on the snowy northern side of grand mesa means snow comes early, leaves late and has a wet bit in the middle where the run off filters through the land.

So solar design .....mmmm in summer yep but the winter days will be shadowed by the 11,000 ft mountain just behind me..........

The plot is a U shape with a road below and behind on a corner, it has good drainage and the down hill side is 20ft above the road.

So I know you all love pic's so here's the start, we contracted my friends to chop tree's and a contractor to level the center of the plot, it the wife and I a day just to chop through from one side to the other with matchete's and a bow saw, to get the lay of the land.

I estimated that we would not need fill and we were right, however the quantity of the timber once down and the pile of roots was decididly rather large and took 5 truck loads to extra cost of course !

By other peoples prices for clearing and excavating I can say that CO is rather more expencive !

anyway enough of the waffling and a few pics !

Looking north into the property from the upper road, basicly it was harvested about 5-10 years back and all the pine removed, the aspens too a liking to the new sunlight and filled the area back with young growth, with logs on the ground bushes and sapling the property could not be walked though without a lot of work.

The day of purchase we hacked our way through from one side to the other with machete's

Seemingly the tall weeds needed some rather large toy's

We left a boundry of new growth on the view side and left the rear and sides with both new and old tree's

The pile of weed roots was larger than thought next to a small human friend

To be continued saving as I go !


Half acre lots generally have restrictions/requirements/ local quasi governments. Does yours?


Grand Junction was on our list of finalists 25+ years ago too. But it lost out.  Good location though. Some good 4 wheeling around there (in CO) as well.

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


The HOA is way easier than the Local government !

the restrictions are mainly on no trailers,and architecturally sticking to mountain designs and letting them know what we are doing

with the snowload you are physically limited to mountain designs!

and frankly why would I want a rancher with stuckpoo....(englishjoke)and and paper and chalk walls when it rains alot and have multiple feet of snow for 6 months a year

So yes went from free and easy into permits up the yin yang.

My first contact with the HOA was chopping down the tree's without their input................well sorry but you can't build the min size without taking out the tree's....

Mind you a few others have cleared 100% and have non mountain type structures .........they look so out of place its a joke

me I like the privacy and the idea to have a house in the mountains is to have trees etc on your lot

even with bears !

Q the bear paw prints on the tree's

To be continued mannana seemingly my uploads failed


We decided on the entrance being where the plot and the road basicly has the same level, the front has the drop down and the rear has a large drop down so just after the bend was chosen.

being that we are season limited I decided to clear the center of the plot and level, trying to gauge where to build was dificult as you could'nt see anything.

The larger aspens were showing sign's of age with half dead branches so rather than have them fall later we took them out with the machinery at hand, 25ft of new growth was left all the way arround and the leaning aspens in the corner left in and also some at the western side of the property.

The site was levelled , but I still left the natural drainage direction in place.

The area cleared is probably larger than we need, but we'll be planting some pines back in when done to add back to the mountain feel.

Here's some more pic's

Any guesses on which furry animal climbed this tree ? we ate all our caniverous animals in England years ago.....Bear maybe ?

Full size excavator makes easy work of moving the cut down tree's

the cleared area ready for building, they did'nt go down as deep as I thought they would need to to get the grade, I was concidering a basement and then a 1/2 story on top with the first floor clearing the original grade and having a deck over it., but it looks to be only about 4-5 ft at the deepest end..


So what to build and how !

My original plans for the off grid was a dog trot type of construction in stages with the central part having dual 6" insulated opening doors rather than walls on each side with inner windows and french doors, in the winter nights all snug and cosy when required and open in the day to warm the interior.

With the build being staged easily over time

the HOA has added a min 1200sqft building to that original small arrangement.

and an engineered foundation.

So post and beam is out, and a Shallow insulated foundation looks like it will be required, cost increases and staged building then becomes more dificult and or expencive.

So I'm juggling 

temp trailer ( will still require a snow roof to protect it)    and build a 20ft wide T building in 1 slow hit

or a Seperate guest starter cabin, then add a corridor -mudroom connection and then a single 20ft wide for the main house.

Cost is an issue too as we spent the build fund, and i don't want to have a loan so we'll be staged both by time and cash.

Permitting etc and admission to the HOA will take time so in order to break ground next spring or early summer I have to submit in jan or so to have things ready in time.

So I'll be posting some sketchs and plans for comment as we go.

Costs wise do we have a cost estimating thread anywhere ? ie floor by the sq ft - wall by the sq ft etc


So the snows due to shortly arrive, and the last touches have been done,some of the saved large aspens stacked for usage as features
a couple or so bucked into 4ft lengths and a barrier setup.

The HOA surprised me with a 6 month build limit.................its not on the docs registered with the county so I'll either fight or ignore that one when I get to it.

My view would be what ever rules in place on the day of purchase are the ones I have to abide by !

The fall colors are out in force enjoy !


Quote from: UK4X4 on September 29, 2010, 03:54:43 AM

Any guesses on which furry animal climbed this tree ? we ate all our caniverous animals in England years ago.....Bear maybe ?

Could be small bear. Sometimes you'll find long slash marks on the bark too. That's when then slide down.

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


6 months limit? Yikes! Where I'm building in SC, it's 6 months max between inspections. The inspector said I could drag it out for many years if I wanted. Of course, we're on acreage out in the middle of nowhere, without HOA's or even zoning.

I'm not poor- I'm financially underpowered.


S enough of pictures of weeds and dirt onto the design !

some of which are re-posted as I included in my questions over the last few months

The first design was based on the 1.5plans but extended under porches on both sides

Construction was basic using simple form

then i messed with the roof line as snow will basicly cover the garage entries

The design firmed up and the construction changed to platform to allow for more versatility and also standard construction

The design was a winner with loads of room-

Costs however were high and really did we really need so much room in a vacation house
main floor had a large master- two more full building width rooms upstairs and an open loft in the center


Downstairs was a double garage and an apartment

reality stepped in and a re-design was in order- or was it the wife !

So out came the electronic saw and I cut off the last 13 ft !

I still wanted a lower seperate apartment accessed through a door to seperate the two entities so I lost a garage- but can always build a seperate workshop later .

Lost the main bed to upstairs-

lost the utility room to downstairs under the rear porch

Added a bedroom on the main floor in its place

Changed the stairway to upstairs to acces via the kitch and add 4 ft to the usable space- I hate corridors

So here is the final design for your perusal !



May this year day of the soil inspection

Snow melt underway but definitly still arround !


Wow! The plans look great - you're certainly a whizz with the drawing software, very impressive.

Now that I have read your post I seem to recall you asked for basement drawings from my plans which I neglected to send you. Sorry about that. If you are still interested or think they maybe useful I will make an effort to send them asap.


We'll Al brought this thread back up- so I thought I should update it- I'm still in planning stage !

last summers visit highlighted the foundation issues in the area- with other owners of land explaining their reluctance to build especially the plot next to mine who's got a running spring where his entrance should be - they were so concerned they bought another plot 10km away and built their cabin there.

The house closest just had a 50k push pin foundation repair - his superior walls and gravel filled 48" trench failed- with 14" drop on the southern side.

While we were there 2 other houses were being repaired- one never even made 1 season before the deck started seperating from the house

The geotech on my plot was completed - sandy silt and clay 2000psi was the outcome
water at 8ft on the lower western side of the plot- no visual signs of movement seen.

The problems with the area seem to be confined to the spring run off- rather than frost heave- the quantities of water flowing through the soil is moving and re-distributing the silts and fine sands- causing the structures to move- think of building on a river bed !

The repaired houses on helical piles and push pin's to date have not required any more helical piles it is for the foundation.

Not cheap but seem's to be working for the repaired houses.

So how does that change things for me- well we have decided to go smaller and lighter- loosing the basement and garages- I have space to build alongside a garage.

Theory being a smaller lighter structure will be easier on the terrain, easier to adjust going forward

Foundation goes to being 12 off helical piles - grade beam and crawl space- The grade beam will be strong enough to be ridged and adjustable down the road- ie we will be using adjustable brakets from day one- not the pile top new build type.

The first supplier I spoke to was surprised at this - don't you trust an engineer ? well my answer was
lets see

if I go permenant pile tops  and in 5 years I have movement- what do you have to do- his answer was cut off the existing ones - install new and level out..

I asked wether the added 10% cost adition for the adjustable brackets would cover the repair ? - he saw my point

He did mention his 25year guarentee..........I asked how easy it was to change his company name..... ;D

So in the crawl space I'll have 12 adjustment points going forward.

The piles I'm planning on are 2 7/8" OD round tubular all angled out from the house to provide more lateral stability.

The first company to quote expects to get too around 20-25ft deep as per another repair done in the vicinty

Costs are about $1200/pin at this depth - I have 3 other companies quoting the work as I thought that was expencive for a days work and some steel pipe !

We'll see what the other companies come back with.

So during our summer trip we stayed on site in a small trailer we purchased through a friend- we had campfires every night watched the deer- admired the stars and loved our time there.

Only one scare - daughter behind the trailer - "Daddy there's a doggy"---"ooohh noo- I don't think thats a doggy" thinks bear and runs arround to the other side to see a small white tail munching on the grass.. 8)

Well the wife liked the trailer even though dad did not fit in the shower, with the foundation worries and not having a clear picture on the piles at the time- we looked for and found an awsome toy hauler trailer with a winter package.

So as we left CO we paid our money - we had some gravel placed and compacted and the trailer parked up ready for our winter trip.

Winter came and the trailer was snowed in till next may- we turned up on the 17th Dec to find 3ft of snow everywhere but my nice friend who's been helping us with local issues and keeping an eye on the place had kindly dug a parking space and cleared arround the trailer. !

So it was -6oC on arrival- I stoked the geny and turned on the propane and we had 22oC within a few hours- turned it all off at night as was worried about the batteries and the cold and not wanting to run the generator 24hrs a day.

it got to -2oC by morning - but the morning sun and some heating soon got us back up to temp.

Nothing like smokey hot wings

In place after we left ready for its winter in the snow

The wifes wondering if we even have to build ?

First snow

Snow while we were there


From both the summer and winter trip we learn't more about our plot- the winter sun in the day streamed into the main trailer window- meaning a nice 20deg c temp with no heating on.

Note to self windows in the southside need increasing in size !

The deck facing the view to the North will be cold in winter- add a ground level deck to the South west of the house for those evening sundowners or winter afternoon BBq's in the sun

Size does matter On review of the cleared plot size- to fit the trailer - garage and house - we'll need to trim the plot out a tadd more.

We were very happy with the trailer size - comfy but large enough- do we really need a huge house--

oops HOA has a minimum 1200sqft- oh the wife wants to invite friend's -- OK we'll need a couple of spare beds.

So the size creeps up again...go arround and measure the flat we are in to get some sence of scale.

Being cozy in the trailer - do we really need a great room two stories high ? thats a lot of space to heat in the winter with no real gain in usability.

Going smaller - entry ways and staircases become an issue- they are always the same size - they don't shrink with the building envelope.

re-sale down the road  a 5ft wide bunk room is fine for a short stay- but if you wanted to live in it - american style- thats just a walk in closet.

So todays plans

26 x 36 house- perimeter foundation above helical piers

downstairs standard 8ft ceilings - plaform construction with trussesd roof- upper walls 6ft high at the sides with a pitched interior roof and squared off at 9ft high.

4 gables 12 ft wide with 3 large windows in each giving a lot of light and views out across the colorado river valley and heat from the sun in the rear.

garage to be built later alongside.

I'll be uploading some plans shortly


 ;D UK, If your going to live in it "american style" in colorado, you've got to get rid of the metric (Celcius, Kilometers ect.)  ;)


The basic floor plan so far

North up and deck to the North

Alan Gage

Regarding the south facing windows for solar heat gain:

Almost all windows you can buy in the US are made to BLOCK solar heat gain (the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient - SHGC). The lower the number the more solar heat it blocks. Most Canadian manufactured windows are the opposite. It all depends on the coatings used on the windows. It was extremely frustrating trying to find what I considered a reasonably priced window with the coatings I wanted.

I found out that Cardinal supplies the glass and coatings to pretty much all the window manufacturers and they have all their different coatings listed on their website with specs. I called the window manufacturer I wanted to use (Gerkin) directly instead of going through the supplier I was using to ask if I could get something other than their normal coating. The only listed options were regular or Low e (the Low e being 366 coating judging from the specs). First they asked why I wanted a different coating and then told me I didn't want windows to let in heat from the sun. I tried explaining it but it was all in vain. In the end they told me that Cardinal used to make a coating like that but didn't any longer so I was out of luck. It was pretty obvious talking to the guy that window coatings weren't his area of expertise.

I spent another couple weeks researching other options and then decided as a last ditch effort to call Gerkin again, hoping to get someone different. I got a gal this time and when I asked if I could get other Cardinal coatings she said, "if Cardinal makes it we can get it." I was stunned, it was too easy!!

And that's just how it worked out. As recommended by her we submitted a full quote through my building supplier (they only sell to wholesale accounts) specifying the 179 coating (now replaced by 180 I believe) for some of the windows. It came back as no extra cost for the different coating. Submitted the order and it didn't take any longer to fill than normal either. Sure would have saved me a lot of grief if she'd answered the phone the first time.

Anyway, it's great getting to harness some heat from the sun in the living room during the winter. I ordered the same coating on all my living room windows even though some face east under a large covered porch and don't really get any sun. Reason being the tint and color of the window coatings is slightly different and I was afraid it would be noticeable on windows in the same room (windows are close to each other on either side of an inside corner).

I guess that's a long way of saying make sure you get the coatings you want and don't be afraid to call the manufacturer directly.



Quote from: Squirl on February 27, 2012, 12:12:57 PM
;D UK, If your going to live in it "american style" in colorado, you've got to get rid of the metric (Celcius, Kilometers ect.)  ;)

Yeah! You're in America, speak English!  d*
"Hey Y'all, watch this..."


The English use the metric system, mostly. Beer is still sold by the pint in the pub I believe. Milk by the litre.  :-\
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Metricated or imperial - so much for your independance still holding on to the old imperial system ! ;D

mm legally the UK is metricated-even our banana's have a european law controlling their radius

MPG is still on cars - but only litres sold in the garage- the price in gallons is too embarressing presently $2.25 a litre !
Pints are now actually 0.5 ltr glasses
Our spirits were in cc and now in ml

I grew up with both systems - the temperature one is the most Fked up in imperial
celcius is easy to understand.........0deg C = frozen water.........100deg c = boiling water

Farenheit to me is like kelvin - no practical relationship between known objects

I ltr of water = 1KG another simple relationship.

Now where they got the meter from - you'll have to ask the French !


Agreed, F temperatures make no F-- sense.  n*  Feet and inches, pounds and ounces are little better. Very difficult adding up a list with measurements given in both feet and inches with fractional inches included for example.    It's crazy, we buy gas in gallons, soft drinks in liter and 2 liter bottles.
The personal dietary habits of people kill more frequently than firearms. Eat healthy and carry a gun.


So plans have firmed up- I have a builder lined up awaiting his estimate, I've seen his work and I like it.

he has to quote plan a and plan b

Plan a is ground work -utilities-foundation only and plan b is complete dry in - nothing on the interior

Foundation has gone full circle - I'm back to a stiffened poured crawlspace structure over a drained crushed rock back fill, basicly a 12ft x 12ft grid of 24x12 and 12x12  footings with a 6" re-inforced slab above poured in one with the 4ft walls with rebar bent through the corners all arround.

1 property nearby built on the micropiles- his house moved laterally - some moved and some stayed still bending beams and causing more problems than I want, his house has water running under it.....also under the closest one to me too.

This is the first time we've visited in Spring and seen the runoff in action, my down hill side is spring free !

I've moved the trailer into one corner so that we have space to build, the HOA has already complained about the trailer being on the property- even after their full agreement last August with no restrictions everyone said yes no problem.

I have sent a suitably rude reply- we'll see what they say

So within the next 4 weeks we should be able to break ground and dig out the 5 ft deep hole for the replacement back fill.

I'll upload some pics and the latest elevations tommorow when I get a chance


dug out and leveled the eastern corner

Positioned the trailer into its spot

Decided that gravel when wet is still muddy- so started on a sectional deck

Deck complete

A friend did the dancing with my daughter