40'x13' with 15'x16' extension Cabin Rebuild

Started by Adam Roby, November 06, 2018, 06:14:29 PM

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Adam Roby

I figured I might as well start a new build thread since I officially made my offer to purchase a new 5 acre lot of land with an abandoned cabin.
The seller already accepted my verbal offer, I am just waiting for the signed paperwork, with a tentative closing date at the lawyer in mid December.

The place has been neglected for some years, and will need a lot of work so I will post my progress here.
I am excited, eager to get started, scared at what I am getting myself into... I guess the same as anyone else here that starts something like this. 
Its not a fresh build, but rather rebuilding from something that is already very rough and weathered.  We'll see if the decision was a wise one or not.

This is the first image I took when visiting the property (posted in another thread already).

This is the layout I did based on some very basic measurements (hence everything labeled as "approx").

It seems like this was originally a 32' x 13' cabin, built in 1981.  In 1986 they added 8 feet out the back, 8' off to the right, and another 8' "carport of sorts.
The plan is to clean out the place, replace what's bad and get it critter proof next spring.  Hopefully I can afford to put new tin on the roof, replace the floors, and get it to a point where I can stay the weekend with relative comfort.  End result I am aiming for is a weekend cabin, no running water or septic, with basic solar powered lights.  I already have a "real cottage" in the Laurentian Mountains of Northern Quebec, which its nice and all, but its just too much like a house, too many accessories, and creature comforts.  This new cabin is meant to be more of a guy shack, a hunting cabin, a place to get away from the city, the lights, electronics, and just be in the woods.  If I don't go for 3 months I don't have to worry about exploding pipes or stolen stuff since nothing will be left there other than my tractor and basic tools.   

There probably won't be much action until next spring but I am too excited to wait.  Planning everything now will keep my mind busy over the winter.

Adam Roby

I am planning to add a small roof over the front door.  Considering the house is on blocks, I don't want this overhang to be supported by blocks in case it moves separately from the main structure.  Idea is to slip in 8' long 2x, 4' hanging out with 4' inside connected to the existing trusses.  As extra support, I was thinking to have an angled wall. 

1)  Figure this would be strong enough?
2)  Does it look funky?

The cabin needs some curb appeal, I am not sure if this would give it a better or worse appeal.

Migraine Craftsman

Adam, I like it it's got a futuristic look to it like it belongs on star trek. Get a couple more opinions though lol, I like it because it's different.

As for strength it all depends how you frame it. I do small porches like that on my homes and the way we frame it it ain't going anywhere.

I can't wait to see this project get going, /cheers.


Adam Roby

I am still waiting for the lawyers to call me for the signing date.  I actually went down a couple weeks ago and changed out the locks.  I hope the old owner doesn't try to go up, they'll be in for a surprise.  The doors were actually not closing right, and were being held by wire.  I had to readjust everything so they would close right and locked it up.  I don't think anyone has been there in years, and the agent said they'd lost the keys years ago.  Meh, so in the meantime I was working on a few plan ideas, too much energy being wasted waiting.  I think this plan works pretty well.  Its a screenshot from Sketchup but the bathroom door I did manually in Paint because I originally had it facing the kitchen which removes too much counter space and makes access less... accessible.

The pink square behind the table and chairs is for a patio door.  Once I find one I will know what measurements to make that opening.  I've found a few free and a few used for a decent price, all depending when I am ready for one will decide which one I get.  I'd like to change the doors as well.  Kitchen will be up in the air for now, not much I can do with no electrical... probably just be my camping stove and sink/bucket for now anyways so I have time to design.  Main challenges this spring/summer will be getting it buttoned up with a new lid to keep it from deteriorating more.  Still, Its better to have the design ready for the day I start working on the inside.  If I have to redo some framing, knowing where extra windows or patio doors, or even stove pipe exits will be is important.  The left wall on Bedroom 2 is part of the original building so it can't move (structural) but the other interior walls are adjustable if anyone has ideas for improvements.  The plan is no electrical, no water in, no water out... but, we all know how plans can change.  There's already electrical running to the building so... I will probably wire the place before closing it in just in case.

Edit:  Looking at it now, I think the bedroom 2 door should be from the kitchen, giving an extra wall for a second sofa... 


Adam Roby

Right now it has nothing.  Will start with my camping chem toilet, and maybe do an outhouse eventually if permitted.

Adam Roby

I am planning to jack up and level out the cabin.  I need to find (borrow or buy) bottle jacks, but I am not sure what size I'd require.
The main structure is 13x40, single story, completely empty (studs with ply on exterior only).  The smaller the jack, the more I can use at the same time (money wise) for more safety, but I don't want to use anything undersized.  If you are lifting one section at a time to straighten the blocks, what would you use... automatically a 20-ton or can a couple of 10-ton suffice?  I want to prepare ahead of time, and if I need to buy then wait for specials or look for used.  There are two layers of shingles on there now, if that changes the weight calcs. 

Nate R

If it's empty, you should be able to figure this out pretty close. You can find the weight of 2x lumber online, sheeting, shingles, etc. Shoudl be able to add it up, the siding, etc and maybe tack on 25% for safety?

Worst case, what, 10 lbs/sf roof and floor? (Just off the top fo my head, not any calcs there) That's 10,400 lbs there. Add the walls, 1100 lbs or so, sheathing/siding, (not sure what your siding materials are), might be another 4K lbs worst case? Looking at under 8 tons total maybe? If that's the case, 2 10 tons should be WAY more than enough.

You'll have to do your own math with what you know on materials that are there.

Some good #s here: http://www.naffainc.com/x/IRC2000/TABLES/WeightofMaterials.htm


I usually get several 12 ton jacks when I start a project like that. I've typically bought 4 at a time then they seem to wander off. Walmart often has the best price. Plenty of 6x6x4' cribbing from a local mill and a smattering of lvl cutoffs to sit the jacks on, steel plates to put between jack and wood above. Remember blocks cannot take serious point load. Never trust block to not crush and disappear at the worst time, use wood cribbing to jack from and support the structure while working not block. Don't trust the jacks with your body, crib and shim things as you work. Go slow and thoughtfully, not meaning to sound like a nanny, I've been hit by flying jacks twice and had blocks crush a time or two, be safe.

Adam Roby

Thanks fellas, I will start shopping around for a few.

Also thanks for the warning Don.  I am a wee bit worried about jacking up something like this.  I have to remove part of the floor, so I am hoping to work from inside the cabin if possible at first to at least straighten things out.  If I can add a full length girder under all the existing joists, leaving the existing beam in place, then I'll feel a bit safer adjusting the existing blocks.  Once I have a "double support" system in place, then I want to start leveling the place out.  I'll be alone most of the time so getting pinned, if not immediately fatal, will not end pretty if nobody knows I need help.  I think I will do as you suggest and add as much cribbing as I can, just to avoid any mistakes.  I don't mind leaving all that there at the end either.

Adam Roby

FINALLY closed last week. Damn things move slowly jn the US.  4 1/2 months from offer to closing. Started cleaning this weekend... So much work to do but happy tp finally get started.


Congrats!  My understanding is all real estate deals need to use attorneys for closings in New York, tends to slow things down.  In PA we can get it done as quick as the title company can clear the title. 

Anyway, Look forward to your progress.....


Adam Roby

Finally had some nice weather last weekend.
The weeds, mostly thistle, which has large very painful thorns, had overgrown the entire area around the cabin making it very difficult to get around.  I decided to put the old Belarus tractor to use and scraped away the top layer of soil and weed from around the cabin.  Was at it for some 4 hours.  Tough tractor, but man is it hard on the arms and back with no power steering.

Prepped an area to park the popup camper (for eating and napping while rebuilding the cabin).

Different areas, had a bunch of overgrown apple trees which I trimmed and cut some away.

This it the back of the cabin

Started tearing out the ceilings, walls and insulation.
Brought a first load of old mattresses and bags of garbage to the landfill.
Will post more pictures once the inside starts to take shape.


Looks good Adam. My tractor doesn't have power steering either...it sure is a lot of work to turn with a bucket full of dirt. Still can't believe how well you cleaned that old tractor up.

Adam Roby

Thanks Nathan!

I just had the starter rebuilt and I installed an industrial battery with 1100 cold cranking amps.  It starts so easily now...  its really awesome. 
Last little hiccup with it is that it has no brakes.  I've learned to quickly drop the bucket when rolling down a hill to stop myself, but its a scary thing when you are caught off guard.  I'm just happy to finally be using it.  Felt a bit bad that I did so much work to restore it and she just sat in an open field for 2 years.  I sure am happy now that I did it, every weekend she gets at least an hour of usage if not more.

Adam Roby

Are there any tricks to removing OSB from a ceiling?  The attic is too short for me to work in, and there is also a layer of plywood on top of the bottom chord of the rafters.  I am trying to pry off the ceiling using a (30" maybe) crowbar.  The person that installed it used 2 1/2" spiral nails.  If you manage to get nails out of one full row (4' across) then pry, the OSB just snaps off at the next truss.  So every 24" you tear off a piece, deal with the garbage left by the animals in the attic, then deal with another row of nails.  I spent about 3 hours on Sunday and got 1 1/2 sheets down...  cabin is 13'x40'... its gonna take all summer at this rate.  Once the underside is done, I might use a 2x4 and jack to pry up the plywood from the bottom chord.  Temped to just run my chainsaw but don't want to accidentally cut any of the trusses.

Definitely more work to rebuild than it is to build fresh...   hope this pans out.


If both are coming out the chainsaw or a sawzall would be my choice. You should be able to see the rows of nails where the trusses are, just run down the center of the bay. It will be easier once you can pop up into the attic and look around at the next one.
Be careful with a saw overhead and make sure there isn't anything on the attic floor that'll get you into trouble, loose boards or a chunk of pipe, etc.
A respirator is a good idea when working in that yuck.


Quote from: Adam Roby on June 12, 2019, 07:36:08 PM
Thanks Nathan!

I just had the starter rebuilt and I installed an industrial battery with 1100 cold cranking amps.  It starts so easily now...  its really awesome. 
Last little hiccup with it is that it has no brakes.  I've learned to quickly drop the bucket when rolling down a hill to stop myself, but its a scary thing when you are caught off guard.  I'm just happy to finally be using it.  Felt a bit bad that I did so much work to restore it and she just sat in an open field for 2 years.  I sure am happy now that I did it, every weekend she gets at least an hour of usage if not more.

Hey Adam I just saw this... too bad about the breaks. One thing I learned a little more recently than I'd like to admit is that without power steering, when you're moving stuff with the loader being able to independently break each rear wheel makes a huge difference in ease of turning. I found that out after spreading 14 yards of stone.  d*

It may be worth fixing them for help with steering alone.

Adam Roby

Quote from: Don_P on June 17, 2019, 09:34:13 PM
If both are coming out the chainsaw or a sawzall would be my choice.

Tried the chainsaw technique finally, works a lot better.  Thanks for the advice on that one.  I do wear a full face mask with canisters, and a body suit when doing that stuff.  Don't want to get sick.

It has been such a busy summer I've barely had time to work on the cabin.
The eves are still all open from the OSB soffits the builder had used and had rotted away.
I had to at least tackle that to keep the animals out, so I went up on Friday after work.

I started off by cutting the edges of the existing roof rafters that were soft, and sistered 2x6 lumber to the bottom chords, extending the roof line a few inches.  Each of the ends came out a different length so I had to make a straight line somewhere.  Over that I put a 2x6 to the ends to complete the framing. I then starting installing the vented soffit under that.

And then started to add the metal ends over that.

By this point it was getting pretty dark so I made a fire, ate dinner and retired to the camper for the night.
It rained quite a bit over night and only cleared up around 7:00 AM so that's when I went out to have a look at my work in the daylight, and realized a mistake.  The fascia had rotted from water getting in from the ends of the roof, and now that I had put the soffits in, that kind of just made a holding place for all that water.  After peeling back some of the shingles, 1-3 inches of the plywood was also rotted and letting water in.  So I took out my spare car battery, my 30 year old Ryobi 18V drill, plugged them up and starting to cut back the roof line.  I had a new 4x8 sheet of plywood that I ripped into 5 pieces of approximately 9 7/16" x 8' pieces, then lined up where I wanted it to end, and chalk-lined where to cut.  It went pretty well all things considered, first line was a bit crooked from the saw that kept jamming, and I did it in 8' lengths in case it started to rain and I had to stop, I didn't want it to be left too exposed for too long.

The only peel and stick membrane I could find that was the right size was for metal roofs, at 12" the plan was to slide 2" up under the existing shingles to provide some temporary protection until I can redo the roof next spring/summer (I may remove what I did, or if still in good condition just layer over top of that with 3-4' ice guard peel and stick).

Its not an ideal solution, but it should be better than it was anyway.  I only got about 16' completed out of the 40' long roof.  The other side is actually still in OK shape for now.  I still have about 20' of old soffit and fascia to remove, rebuild, cap, cut the remaining roof, replace plywood...  at the rate its going I'll be lucky to button it up by the time the snow flies.  A lot of the delay was with trying to figure out what to do, now that I have a plan it should go quicker I think.  I may also bring the genny and real power tools the next time, just to speed things along and make the cutting go smoother.

Adam Roby

It has been almost a year and a half since I have been to the cabin.  Was too busy after the fall of 2019, then in the spring Covid hit before I could go which closed the borders.  At this rate, I am not sure when I will get to go.  Canadian Gov't says we should have our vaccines by sometime in September 2021, and from what I am hearing we'll need that proof before being allowed to cross the border (if it is even open by then).  The endless weekends of cuttings saplings and thorn bushes to make a useable yard will no doubt need to be repeated, nothing mowed in 2 years.  There were two widow makers, large dead trees right in front of the cabin that needed to be taken down.  Tractor, 4-wheeler, trailer, and camper, all sitting in the yard - tarps most likely all torn to pieces by now.  Wondering if they are even still there or have been taken, damaged, vandelized... or if the resident raccoons have take it over again, destructive little buggers. 

I guess it could be worse, as it is for many other who have lost people due to this.
If anyone is looking for land on the cheap...  I still have a 7.5 A parcel just sitting there...  upper NY state, cheap cheap cheap.  :(

I just depressed myself. 


Hey Adam.  That is a difficult situation you are in. I have friends in MB who own properties in AZ where they usually winter.  They at least have neighbors who live there and have watched their homes. Not knowing what the condition of what you have would be a hard thing to live with. Take care. Stay warm.

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


I feel you Adam.

We haven't seen my wife's family in a year, and who knows when the next time will be.

Adam Roby

Hey everyone, haven't been on for a long while.
I managed to finally get to the cabin since the US re-opened the land border and Canada lifted the mandatory $200 COVID test to re-enter (more on that later).

Before I left the last time, I put in some chicken wire along all the soffits to keep out the raccoon for the winter.  2 years of no human activity, those little buggers got creative and decided to chew through the roof instead.

Instead of just having piles of poop to deal with, now I have a completely destroyed ceiling and floor...  I think the old cabin's days are numbered.
Need to check with the city if they will allow me to tear it down and replace with a much smaller dry cabin (no water in or out).  I really just need somewhere to hang a coat when I go for day trips, possibly use a cot for 1 night and a chem toilet.  This cabin has been a challenge from the get go.  That is, unless I give up completely, which is a real possibility.

The plan was to do a quick check, then go back with the necessary tools to do some patch and repair work.  As it stands, that hole is far to up on the roof with over a foot of snow, so I don't much want to go up there and risk breaking my neck.  I am also not very well equipped up there... but the bigger issue is the next paragraph.

Coming back to Canada, I was asked if I filled out the mandatory paperwork before leaving Canada.  I've been watching the news religiously, waiting for all the silly border laws to lift so I can go assess the damages.  I never heard of any paperwork to fill out prior to leaving.  Apparently, neither did thousands of others.  I was held at the border and threatened with a 2 week mandatory quarantine in a government appointed hotel along with a $2000 fine.  I blew a gasket, came damn near close to getting arrested.  Only after the supervisor of the supervisor of the agent came out, and I explained the amount of money I am already going to lose as a result of the closure, I guess he felt bad or just didn't want to deal with me anymore and let me go with a "warning".  I was only there for 2 hours after-all.  If I don't fill out some app (I don't even have a smart phone) before leaving, the next time I will get an immediate fine and quarantine.  Illegals can cross the border and Canada will give then a welfare check and put them up in a free hotel, but a full fledged tax paying Canadian citizen is treated like a criminal trying to get back to his own country.  If I could, I would leave this God forsaken place and move to the US for good.  Only other alternative is to abandon my dreams, sell off both land parcels and call it quits once and for all. 

Anyone else fed up of this COVID crap?  I was fully onboard with it, even had 3 doses of vaccine, but I think it is starting to go a bit overboard.
I will wait for spring, let a cooler head decide the fate... but it doesn't look promising .


I'm right with you Adam. We finally got to see my wife's family after almost 2 years, spending several hundred dollars per trip in testing. The in-laws also finally got to come down to our house and despite spending several hundred dollars on tests to return home they were "randomly selected," for additional testing and quarantine.

We have been planning to try to cross this weekend (several hundred dollars again), but the website now says random selection is being increased to 100% of travelers. Talk about newspeak! It took many calls to try to find out what is actually going on, and there is obviously no certainty in what is written or said in these revolutionary times.

I just can't believe that over the past 2 years it has been effortless for inanimate objects to so easily be freighted back and forth across the border for profit, but that it is too dangerous for families to see each other.

I am disgusted by all of it.

Adam Roby

I went down to the cabin this past weekend and the roof / water damage is significant. 
The extension that was added by the previous owner is also not very secure, sagging in places.
I think if there is any chance of saving this structure, my best bet is to remove the entire extension and concentrate on the main building (the original structure is still there, old roof is inside the new roof).  

Long story short, I need to move the door since the floor under the existing door is shot.  I decided I should plan how I want the layout now, so I can place the door in the best possible place now, and not have to move it again later.  The new footprint will be approximately 13' wide by 32' long.

I am keeping this as a hunting cabin, with no water in or out, no electric other than some LED lights and car batteries.  The  bedroom will be 8' wide by the 13' width of the cabin, more restricted by the existing windows, which can be moved but for now this seems fine.  "Bathroom" would be a 4' x 5' room with chem toilet, and I have an airplane sink (from an aircraft - my sister works for a manufacturer).  A bit strange to have the bathroom door coming off the bedroom, but I need the wall space for a kitchenette counter on the other side.  Kitchen will have my camper fridge in the wall (runs on 12V or propane), the water tank from the camper mounted to the wall and filled in the spring, mostly for dishes.  My popup camper smells of old basement and mouse poop, don't think there is much chance of saving it - so I will reuse parts of it.  The wood stove is in its current location.  It can be moved if necessary, but it's heavy...  and the patio door is just an idea.  I moved the front door over towards the bedroom to leave some wall space for the table and sofas.   I welcome any ideas... 

I may tear off the roof and rebuild it.  I can sell off another parcel of land to pay to have it done, or do it myself.. but before investing anything, I need to kill a family of raccoons that have been causing all this damage.  I have ideas how to build to help protect from them gaining access, but ultimately I think I need to reduce the population first.  Ideas for either killing/removing them or helping to keep them out are also welcome.   

If there's time, this summer / fall will be about fixing the damage and limiting more damage.  Hopefully next spring remove the extension, keeping as much lumber as I can to repair anything that may be rotten in the main building.  All the plywood needs to be replaced, roof replaced...  still contemplating knocking it down and starting fresh.  I wonder if my 1974 Belarus T-250 would have the power to knock it down?  Depending how annoyed I get, I may just give that a try and tell the city a tree fell on it... or cut down a tree and let it fall on it to see the damage.  As you can see, I have lost a lot of inspiration... still, I love being there in the woods, playing with the 4-wheeler and tractor.  Maybe replacing the cabin with a camper would be a better idea moving forward...  I need a cost effective way to sleep there a few times per year, but leaving anything alone for 2-3 years just begs for animals to come destroy the place.  Ultimate goal is to also build a deer blind and use it every fall for hunting, but it will never be a fancy place with real wood floors or running water, and I refuse to have a TV there.