My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin

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

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Quote from: Barry Broome on May 12, 2013, 03:19:21 PM
Perhaps I should have asked that question a different way.....

Makes no difference Barry. I just haven't looked in here for a few days.

Note; my two girders are four layers of 2x10 #2 something ( hmm S-P-F or maybe Hem-Fir. I forget) Good to over 70 psf snow load at 7-11 spacing according to tables in IRC.  (mine are at 7 ft)

Cantilever should have been limited to no more than the depth of the floor joists, but I didn't know that back then.

What the girder size and spacing boils down to is needing to know what the girder may be asked to hold up before answering the question. Snow load can make quite a difference; as can high winds, width of cabin, how many stories high, planned dance parties or large metal working machinery, etc.

ground snow loads in IRC
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Barry Broome

Thanks for that link. Looks like I'll be fine with 3 girders 2-2x10 for the sixteen by sixteen.
"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."


I did something concrete over my summer vacation.   :D

Placed some concrete that is...

Back in 2010 we made a walk from the cabin entrance to the shed. We used 16x16 patio pavers. They worked well enough but we were in a hurry to lay them on the ground as winter was coming.  LINK Even that was a rework of the original single wide path. The problems have been the uneveness made it difficult to shovel snow and the sideways tiltiness made walking a tad odd.


We re-purposed the 16x16 pavers here at home in the back yard and I formed up and made use of my old concrete mixer. All solar powered over a course of a few days.

At the bottom of the stairs we retained the rectangle of patio pavers that had been laid nice and level in 2009. However the PT timber along the side the camera is looking at had warped badly. I replaced that with a cast in place monolith curb. Two 'landing pads will be added soon at the level of the lower curb surface. One new brick walk to the left driveway and one that will head to the gazebo.

The old logs alongside the old walk had also rotted some and we did away with them...

The new walk is side to side level with a slight incline up to the shed end.

Some of the old 16x16 pavers now connect to the utility yard and the barn/shed.

I also made a concrete floor in the barn. Much nicer than just earth

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


You have been busy Don.  Puts my summer projects to shame.  Looking good.


Well, we did do some other things too; took a 10 day camping, hiking and 4 wheeling trip to Colorado for example. But some fun things we wanted to do got curtailed when the local forest was locked down because of extreme fire danger. That's when we got a lot of the work done around the cabin.

We also cleaned up more of our forest. Stage one was cleaning the ground deadfall clutter on an acre of slope. Stage two was burning some of that. We had loads of rain in Late July and early August. That lifted the burn restrictions. There is still more to do. We have more like the following to clean up...   

We want to turn it into something more like this...

Stage three will be cutting down standing dead tress that we left during ground cleanup. Then we'll decide on the final living trees to cull for general forest health and wildfire reduction purposes.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


We decided we needed to add to our here and there loosely organized system of waterbreaks. This we decided after some heavy rains in the past month. We haven't had any for so long we'd forgotten that we thought of doing more three years ago.  :)

I found a deal on used highway guard rail timbers. 8x8 x 6 feet long and PT.  I got 33; mostly good, a couple with a defect here or there. $8 each for the 30 I selected, plus three I rejected thrown in for free. I may get a few feet from them.  Hwy Dept is changing some to new steel posts.

Now we just have to get them placed....

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




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


We spent the last week at our cabin.

Good news / bad news....   Good news was were were able to drive right up to the cabin, didn't even need chains. Probably could have stayed in 2WD drive too, but I have 4WD and there was some snow/ice here and there so I used it.  Bad news is that we really need more snow and lots of it so we can have the spring snow melt help with the drought conditions.  Watching a small patch of ice on the concrete walk slowly disappear over the time there I realized that most likely the same thing was happening with the ground snow. The ice/snow was transforming directly from a solid to a gaseous form; evaporating into the low humidity air. No ground water replenishment at all.

We did our usual winter thing; burn slash and deadfall debris. I lost track at 12 burn spots, several of which we kept going for two+ days with slash/logs from the "replenishment" piles we made nearby in summer and fall. We used the ATV to get around on; not a lot of snow cover to deal with, though it was fun to steer with the throttle in some of the snowy areas. Also read some books, watched NYEve on TV. We came back a day or so earlier than planned as we were somewhat bushed from our labors.

Lows of 21-22 and highs of 40-42. Blue clear skies and starry nights.

Hope it snows a lot here this month and February/March.

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


Same here (not a whole week though).  Burned a lot of slash and we have a pretty good perimeter, or so we tell ourselves.  The slash burned like it was --- dry. 

Some parasite is killing the big Junipers, which is a shame because they are gorgeous trees. They die off very quickly.  The smaller Junipers don't seem affected.

Drought seems to really affect the trees, and my wife says the PJ woodland landscape will be quite changed in 30 years.  She is starting to do a study of the change on our property. The woodland is changing to something more like it was in New Mexico around 1900.  Have you ever seen that book that compares locations in New Mexico from around 1910 to now? Can't quite remember the name, something like "New Mexico: Then and Now".

Here's the before and after:


Haven't seen that, till now.  Thanks

Old bookmark, that still works. NM & climate from NM Tech
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Fantastic book!  Maybe the library has it.


Not in RR. Didn't check ABQ

I may have to buy it
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


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


Probably in the "Special Southwestern" collection at UNM. You know, the one you can't look at.  d* d* 

Reading that NM Tech article now.


I showed my wife the graph on page two and she says that average temps continue to trend up sharply in the NM mountain areas since 2000, but not so much in the lower areas, which are stable or trending downwards a bit.  It's all very complicated, we struggle to understand, and there are no easy conclusions drawn. Look at what temperature did in 1910 on that chart -- dropped way down -- one of the really striking aspects of those 1910 pictures is how much less tree cover and vegetation there was overall in the state. Some or maybe a lot was due to de-vegetation (heavy sheep grazing and logging was going on).  Not sure how temp or precipitation were related.  ???  William deBuys has some good books on drought and human impact on the area that I am making my way though. He's a good writer and I think quite perceptive to change over time.

Adam Roby

Hi Don,

Great thread, thanks for sharing your build.  I went through a first pass mostly looking at the pictures but plan to go back through it to read it all... when I some spare time (loads of content in there).  I have a few questions about what you would do differently on a future build, sorry if this was already covered.  This is not meant to critique any of your decisions, more to get your opinion for my future build.  :)

Quote from: MountainDon on July 22, 2008, 11:09:36 PM
EDITORIAL NOTE:  Since designing and building this cabin I have learned more about foundations. I would no longer build on piers and beams. If I had this to do over today I would use a different method, perhaps a permanent wood foundation, perhaps a full perimeter concrete footing and block wall crawlspace. I'm not sure which. However since conception of this project I have had contact with professional engineers and have learned about the shortcomings of pier and beam. I have since made modifications to the foundation that should help head off any movement. That was a great deal of work and was much more difficult to do than if I had done the foundation by the code book in the first place.

I understand looking back and thinking it could have been better, especially after learning about the different possible pitfalls of piers.  The part I am not sure I get is how digging a few holes could me much more difficult than doing a complete foundation?  If you had to make a footing and lay blocks for example, you would have needed to dig a trench (3-4' wide for room to work in) on the complete perimeter of the building.  Doing that kind of work by hand sounds like a lot more work to me. Perhaps you mean by hiring someone to do it with a backhoe?  If so then it is more of a cost than an effort difference, since you would outsource the work.  A foundation like that would have cost how much more do you think?  ($4000-5000).  Have you seen any lifting or sinking, or your peers going off level at all yet?  I realize it is still a fairly new build, just curious if it is "so far so good". 

House wrap, I noticed you used a tar paper around the entire face of the cabin as well as the roof.  Is that to code in your area?  In these parts, we need to use a house wrap, and it has other rules like wrapping under the bottom sill plate, and taping all edges for a more water tight seal.  For the roof they also recommend that the first 4' from the edge be a rubberized membrane.

Interior insulation, would you have considered an additional vapor barrier over the paper-backed insulation?  I have read on a few sites where they say it is not a complete vapor barrier.  Taping all the edges makes it more of a barrier, but plastic makes a better barrier, and a spray foam insulation the best because it provides both insulation and vapor barrier with the least chance of settling or missing spots.  (Also the most expensive option, but like the foundation you want to get it right the first time)

Again, thanks for sharing, it is a great build and I hope to have something half as nice as this one day.  Your lot is also beautiful, albeit a bit scary with that fire!  I wish my wife was as accommodating, I probably would have already started my build.  :(


Glad you enjoyed the read and happy you may benefit from my experience. Critiques, questions, applause are all accepted.  ;D

Three areas of discussion; foundation, water resistive barrier and wall insulation.
Tar paper (building felt) is code here. Most of the USA uses the IRC in one form or another.  Section R703.2 Water-resistive barrier, states "One layer of No. 15 asphalt felt, free from holes and breaks, complying with ASTM D 226 for Type 1 felt or other approved water-resistive barrier shall be applied over studs or sheathing..."

I'm puzzled how your code folks expect the wrap to be wrapped under the sill plate though. We install the barrier overlapping the wall structure to lead water to the exterior at all times.

The water-ice shield membrane on roofs is a good idea in many climates. The IRC words it kind of loosley... if the area has a haistory of ice damming it is recommended. The problem is caused when heat from the building interior escapes melting snow along the eves. That freezes and a build up occurs causing melting snow to back up and leak into the roof someplace. In our area I have seen some structures with ice damming. Those with cathedral ceilings seem to be the worst offenders.

I must have done the ceiling insulation well as I've never seen any differential melting of even light snow across the roofing.

If there is an online listing for the code used in Quebec it would be interesting to compare notes. Is QB code different from the rest of Canada?

Wall insulation / vapor barrier. I am happy with our cabins insulation level. Once warmed in winter there are no annoying cold spots and certainly no drafts. However knowing what I now know if I was building another cabin I might do it differently. But first let me say at the time of the projects conception I wanted to have damp blown cellulose insulation in the walls, but could not find a contractor who would consider doing the job up in the boonies at a price I wanted to pay. It was a small job and a distance over bad roads.

Vapor barrier requirements or recommendations vary with climate. Ours is fine with the paper backed fiberglass batts.

However, once again if I was to build a cabin today I would use a different approach. I would think hard on using rigid foam sheet over the exterior sheathing. That would likely be two layers of 2" thick foam, maybe more. Then 1x4 vertical furring strips screwed through to the studs and the Hardi cement fiber lap siding nailed over that. The final foam layer would be polyisocyanurate foam with foil facing. I would use 2x4 studs on 16" centers. No insulation in the stud bays. We have retro-fitted our suburban home with exterior foam like that.


Foundation. The retro-fitting of the shear walls was truly a PITA. Low clearance to work, hard ground. The more I think about it I believe I should have done a permanent wood foundation. No concrete as the trucks won't venture deep enough into the woods without a Cat on hand. No concrete blocks as I don't have that skill. Yes, it would have cost more than some 6x6 in holes. No doubts on that. However, in my case my neighbor would have done the digging with his skid steer for the cost of the diesel fuel used. He would still do that today, so if I was building a cabin there today I would have him scoop out an area to permit building a crawl space framed in the PWF method. I would think about installing our water cistern in the crawl space area. I would put the batteries in there too. Probably the water heater. Room for storing other things too.

So there you go. I would guess there are likely not too many folks here who don't have a short list of what they would do different the next time. Some might have a longer list.   ;)
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

North Sask

Quote from: MountainDon on January 04, 2014, 12:00:26 PM
Is QB code different from the rest of Canada?

Yeah, it's written in French!  8)
It would be greatly appreciated if you stopped by my thread and left your two cents.
Great Northern Saskatchewan Adventure...Round 2

Adam Roby


OK, I don't know if y'all have ever heard of Mike Holmes, he has a few different TV shows (Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection, Holmes Makes it Right), they are all based on construction, and how builders don't even follow minimum code, and even more so how he feels that minimum code is not good enough.  I like the shows for the most part, he does go a bit extreme but shows all the "best practices".  He mentioned the "under the sill" thing on at least two episodes but I spend a good part of the day yesterday looking for any reference on the web or in the code (which he claims is minimum code) but I can't find diddly.  When I first heard him say it I thought I misunderstood, then I heard it a second time and have been trying to figure out just what he means.  The only thing that sounds even remotely similar is on some forum mentioning to do it as a kind of sill plate gasket.  He mentions in his show that it is to tie in the vapor barrier to it, using caulking at the base of the inside of the room for an airtight seal (keeps out any drafts). 

Quote from: North Sask on January 04, 2014, 10:56:30 PM
Yeah, it's written in French!  8)

Yeah, that's why I don't bother with Quebec code and stick with Ontario code for my reference!  :)   Quebec code is insane...  I have tried at least a dozen different communities over the past 20 years to see if I could build a cabin and each time I am told no.  You need a minimum of 40,000 square feet of land, the foot print has to be a minimum of X by Y  (30x30 for example), and you have to have it completely built within 1 year of purchasing the land.  Permits up the wahoo... and the yearly taxes start at $1k per year regardless of the size of the land.  They are insane...

I call BS on my own comment until I can find something in writing from some government agency.

Sorry for the thread-jack! 


On a side note, the room I did with exterior foam benefited greatly with intrior R19 insualtion in the walls.  Seems the R10 foam wasn't near enough but when combined with the R19 walls it made a big difference.

I can say, however, that a neighbor only uses two layers of R10 in the roof and tells me it's all he's ever needed up in our area (temps can easily drop below zero in the winter with cold snaps dropping below -10).


Spring Break just ended for us. We spent a week at the cabin.  For Spring Break in the Jemez of NM it snowed a little, the snow melted, the sun shone, we had a couple of shirtsleeve afternoons followed by 32 degree nights, we thinned more trees, and I now have all the firewood needed for next year, cut, split, and stacked.   :)   Some is from tress cut some 6 months back and is almost ready for use, the rest is still as green as it was at the beginning of the week when it was standing tall.

We also finished off the concrete paver brick sidewalk, but I forgot to take photos. Karen raked a whole lot of pine needles from the ground around the cabin, shed and barn. I have a few more pines earmarked for thinning in the cabin vicinity, then we;ll call it good for this year.

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

small cabin dreamer

Mt. Don,
your 15.75 wide, this is the joist and the end caps total correct? I am going to start building a 16x24 and have come to find that the T&G is obviously not 4 feet wide due to the tongue/ groove. I just dont want the joists and end caps to be too wide for when I put the subfloor on.


The floor platform width is 15' 9" as measured from the outside face of the rim joists on one side across to the other. This was done because of the actual coverage width of T&G sub flooring. That makes a much better floor structure than using a filler strip along the edge where the panels would fall short if full 16 foot joists had been used.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Over the last weekend we carried on with some more tree thinning. This time it was some larger trees near the cabin that in the interest of wildfire safety. Seems a shame on the one hand but it is better. If there was someone I knew with a sawmill nearby they could have produced some beams, 2x or 1x. Lots of firewood for friends though.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.