NE Oregon 20 x 30+ 1.5 story

Started by CabinNick, June 01, 2015, 11:16:39 PM

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Not to highjack but all pb accounts are going dark unless you pay them a ransom.  I might see if I can just delete mine.


Well it has been an extremely busy year at the property!  Finally took some time to figure out a new photo hosting service so I could upload pictures.  This year we focused on getting our property and infrastructure in place so we can hopefully start building next year.  After getting all the culvert, road work, cabin site clearing/leveling, and swamping done earlier in the summer, my fall has been focused on forest thinning, fencing and seeding.  I got another 15 acres of thinning done.  I cut some of the trees into poles for a buck and pole fence.  We build 620' of 6 foot high buck and pole fence as part of an aspen restoration project - to keep the deer and elk away from the tender aspen shoots until they can get out of browse height.  We also had a contractor come in and build 6,200' of barbed wire letdown fence to keep the USFS allotment cattle out of our meadows and riparian areas.  Also scored 42 neighboring acres to add to our ownership - purchased it in a Sheriff's auction on the courthouse steps! Part of me is sad to see the snow fly for the year and close our access to the property down......but part of me is ready to rest for the winter!

Finally have gates up on our two roads!

One of the buck and pole fences we built around a spring/aspen stand.  You can't see in the picture but there is a carpet of aspen shoots coming up that get browsed off every year.  In 5-10 years this should be a forest of aspen.

One of the young pine stands I am thinning. 


Looking for any feedback on my initial rough plans before I redraft them as final and start figuring out the exact truss and joist/beam sizes.

We are planning on building a 20 x 34 1.5 story based on the 20x30 plans from this site.  I am just learning to use Sketchup so things are a little rough but hopefully you can follow what we are planning from the images below.   

We are extending the walls to 11' which will give us a 2' knee wall on the second floor.  The roof will be 12/12 pitch.  I am meeting with the truss guy next week, but my plan at this point is to do parallel chord trusses to maximize the space on the 2nd floor.  We really want a toilet and enclosed bedroom upstairs.  I spent a lot of time figuring out how to make a half bath and bedroom fit and still meet the code requirements but I got it to work and still have a little wiggle room for changes - but space will be tight and a little awkward up there.  The rest of the 2nd floor will just be open space for additional sleeping/kids playing.  The roof will not have any dormers. 

Downstairs we had to switch the bedroom and bathroom around from the plans so we could fit stairs in that meet code.  We lost some counter space in the kitchen but I think it should work our OK.  I spent a lot of time doing calculations on paper and have the exact measurements for the stairs to meet code - the Sketchup drawing is very close, but not exact to my drawing/calculations. We will need to have a pressure pump and/or pressure tank for water - plan on fitting that in the downstairs bathroom against the kitchen wall.

The driveway and parking are adjacent to the bedroom, so the main entrance will be in the small bump out/mudroom.  Then we will have another door off the living/dining room going out to a small covered porch.  The great view of the mountains is out the large window next to the dinning room table. 

Still working on span tables, joist sizes, etc. but hoping to use 4x12 beams spaced 48" with 2x6 decking for the 2nd floor and 2x12's for floor joists.  No load bearing interior walls.  We will be getting permits, meet code, and inspected.

I have done some interior remodeling, decks, sheds, etc. but never built anything like this before so a little intimidating.  I plan to contract out a poured stem wall foundation, but otherwise tackle the rest myself. 

Any thoughts or suggestions from what I have now would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!


Love the kitchen. Looking foward to seeing your final lay out.


Thanks Rys.  We really wanted a counter with bar stools and felt the layout would work well for our needs. 

Tomorrow I am meeting with the truss company to get specs and a quote on the roof trusses.  Looking forward to getting that piece of the puzzle figured out. 


I have to admit every time I see pics of your property I am a little envious. Looking forward to see the construction begin.

I'm hesitant to try to give advice on your layout, everyone has different priorities.

I'm wondering if that ~3x3 space for the two doors to bathroom and bedroom downstairs is kind of awkward. That bed could end up jammed into a corner so the door opens properly. Not sure if you could squeeze in two doors on that flat wall there either. The other thing that crossed my mind is to just move the downstairs bed upstairs and put the bath where the bedroom was. That corner might be a good place for a kitchen table and make the living space more arrangeable. Depending on your family I could see us sitting at the kitchen counter more than at the table. Some of these details are why we ultimately switched to a full second story.

Are you doing slab/crawlspace? Or full basement? The space under the stairs could make for quite a bit of storage. Make sure the mudroom is large enough for utilities, or just that you have a plan for them. 8x12 was just enough for us. In retrospect if I had made it around 8x13 it would have lined up with the stairwell partition wall better, doesn't really apply here but those details are easy to mix up.


The thinning and fencing work you've done looks like it was quite a chore.  Well done!

Looking at the floor plan, I agree with Nathan about the awkwardness of the "hallway".  Did you consider a much shallower recess with angled walls?

It looks like the front door is going to be close to the drip line from the roof.  I'd be looking for a way to have the entry under a gable rake rather than an eave.  What do you think of building the bump-out with a gable roof and moving your door around to where the window currently is?  That would make the roof slightly more complex but would get your door away from the drip line and reduce significantly any potential snow accumulation on the front steps.

If you did that, you would have some space where the door currently is that would instead allow you to run the stairs as a straight flight.  That in turn would free up some space in the main living area, perhaps enough to expand the downstairs bedroom a little.

I probably should look back and see what you're designing for, but is this to be a weekend getaway place or more closer to full time occupancy?  I ask because your kitchen area looks sized for more full-time use, and if this will only see occasional use you might be able to compress it some.  If the counter stools aren't a necessity you could slide the entire kitchen over a foot or so. (EDIT: Just read your comment to Rys so ... never mind )

For your floor joists, it looks like 2x12 on 16" spacing can span 19' and change, depending on wood species and grade.  That's probably right about the span where engineered floor joists become a better option.  You might want to at least get a quote from your supplier to see how they compare cost-wise.  If it's about a wash, I'd go with whichever makes the plumbing easier.

If you are building this as platform construction, you can make your upstairs wall as high as you want.  The floor upstairs serves as a diaphragm stabilizing the walls, so if you want a 3' or 4' knee wall you can do that, especially if it helps with the stairs.  That's my understanding at least, check with your county for confirmation.

Last question, is the crawl space suitable for housing the water pressure tank?
My cabin build thread: Alaskan remote 16x28 1.5 story


Nathan S, yes we are very fortunate to have been able to purchase the property we did.  It has been a lifelong dream of mine and I still pinch myself to make sure it is actually happening. 

Thank you for the feedback on the floor plan.

Our foundation will be a poured stem wall/crawl space.  The site would have worked well for a walkout basement but it was too cost prohibitive. 

We are trying to keep the bedroom downstairs so we can maximize the sleeping capacity of the cabin - looking forward to packing it with family and friends on the weekends. 

Good point on the akwardness of the little hall between the downstairs bedroom and bathroom.  Haven't thought about it until now, but I might try putting the bedroom door on the other wall of that hall so it is no opening up into the bed.

Thanks again.


ChugiakTinkerer - the thinning and fencing has been a LOT of work, but it is a labor of love!  I call it chainsaw "therapy" that helps me recover from a work week of meetings and sitting at a desk.  I have completed about 50 of the 80 acres; I am going to leave the rest for a contractor with a slash buster head on an excavator! 

As for the awkward hallway - not sure I follow you on your suggestion of a shallower recess with angled walls?  Are you suggesting instead of a squarish hallway, having a triangular recess with the doors on two sides of the triangle?  Nope - never thought of that but will play with the idea.

The bump out would work better with a gable roof, but I have been leaning toward keeping it how I have it for two reasons.  1) The bump out is up against a cut bank so it would be a little awkward walking out the front door and only having about 6 feet until you run into a hill side and 2) We have heavy snow loads and I was worried about a gable roof leading to snow/ice build up.  Still on the fence for what to do, but I agree that a gable roof would look better and be more practical.  I am very intrigued by your suggestion of expanding the stairs into the bump out; need to investigate that idea.

This will be a weekend cabin.  Used most weekends of the spring/summer/fall, a couple extended week stays, and a few weekends during the winter.  The full size kitchen probably shows that my wife and I are kind of foodies and really enjoy cooking. 

Had not thought about engineered floor joists - will get a quote on those. 

All along I have been planning on balloon framing, but am open to platform framing if I end up needing the extra ceiling height.  I am not real excited about working so high up on a 12/12 roof, so have been trying to stay away from making it any taller - but hey falling from 11' vs. 13' probably hurts just the same! 

Not sure if the crawl space is suitable for the pressure tank.  Next on my winter "to do" list is to start nailing down the details of our water and power system.  We have gravity flow spring water, but not enough pressure to flush a toilet.  I assume we will need a pressure pump and tank, but have not gotten very far on planning yet.  Same goes for power; have not thought much yet about where to house the battery bank, inverter, etc. 

Thanks again for all  your suggestions.  Very helpful!


I see the challenge for putting a door on the cut bank side.  But imagine the deepest snow you've seen up there and double it.  Now imagine taking a plow and pushing it through an area 12' wide (half the house width plus eaves).  That's how much snow will be on your doorstep in a heavy snow year.  And if the snow instead is sticking to the roof, once you warm up the cabin it will slide off.  That's a pretty hazardous situation to be having a walkway and door.

I unfortunately don't have a solution for what I see as a problem with your entrance.  Having foot traffic along the drip line is something I avoided in my design because of the snow issue.

For water, you could build a cistern to catch and store the spring flow.  If temperatures don't get too low it could stay liquid in winter.  Especially if you have a light bulb going for heat.

As to the angled recess, you got the gist of my intended communication.  For playing with floor plans, Sketchup rather sucks.  SweetHome3D is great for trying out different ideas, then when you think you have something move on to Sketchup for the full 3D visualization.

Balloon framing works great, that's what I'm doing for my guest cabin (work in progress here).  For 2x6 walls though, they get pretty darn heavy.  If you go that route make sure you've got a crew or some wall jacks for standing up a framed wall.
My cabin build thread: Alaskan remote 16x28 1.5 story


Some friends had a camp built on the Miramichi, by some "design/build"  guys.  Their design allowed this to happen:

So I got the job of moving the door around the corner:

They did a pitiful job of sealing the sill plate of the door in the first place...I also got to put in about 60 sq.ft. of new sleepers, subfloor and flooring, because the melted snow was just pouring in under the door.   
I am a strong believer in being careful of door locations in snow country!!


Sorry that I never paid much attention to this topic in the past. In places where it snow my feeling is that doors belong in gable walls. The gable end door has a shed roof over it with the walkway approaching from the side. We did find that the snow sliding off one side of the main roof slid far enough to flow to the sidewalk that parallels the north side.

Snow guards can help a lot; they vary from metal or plastic "clips" secured at intervals all over the roof to strip or pipe bars near the eve. They hold the snow in place. We added snow guards to help with the snow on the sidewalk issue as well as to save the snow melt in the cistern. We have both the door in the gable and snow guards.

Travel in the Alps and you find snow guards on virtually all the roofs.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


That's a lot of snow Gary. Just to play devil's advocate, looks like there is about as much on that gable wall with the door but someone was trying to keep it shoveled out.  ;D

In my opinion if you own this amount of land, a tractor with loader is necessary evil. It doesn't matter if it's 6" of snow or 6 feet, you can pull it away from the door in a couple minutes. You will spend way more time clearing the driveway.

Gotta decide what compromises to make. Sometimes it seems like all a house is, is one giant compromise.


Well sometimes it helps to have people tell you something you already know is a bad idea.  I have looked at this for a year and not come up with any other good options for the entry, but while laying in bed at 5 this morning an idea hit me - back to the drawing board on Sketchup.  I am working on a design where the bump out will be adjacent to the downstairs bathroom.  That will put the entrance door at the gable end of the cabin and have the entrance into the interior of the cabin between the kitchen and bathroom.  In the end it will decrease the size of the bathroom but should also increase the size of the bedroom and allow me to move the cabin closer to the cutbank which will give us more outdoor space where we want it adjacent to the kitchen.  Appreciate everyones advice. 

NathanS - I agree, I need a tractor!  Can I give you my wife's phone number so you can convince her of that????  My problem is I have the taste and ambition of fine champagne and the budget of warm Budweiser.  All of my funds are going into building the cabin for the foreseeable future, so the closest thing I will have to a tractor any time soon is my own two biceps......

Got quotes for purchase and delivery of trusses yesterday.  $2700 for scissor trusses (12/12 roof and 9/12 ceiling) and $3250 for parallel chord trusses (12/12 exterior and interior).  Not to bad considering at least 4 hour round trip delivery, remote location and 111 psf snow load.

I will post a new plan when I get it done. 


Life got busy and had to take a couple months off from cabin planning. 

I re-designed our floor plan and moved the main entrance/mudroom so the entry way door would be on the gable end of the cabin and not where all the snow piles up in the winter.  The main roof will be 12/12 but will have a 6/12 over the mudroom.  This gives us a smaller bathroom but more room in the mudroom and it seems to fit the topography of the site better. 


Would love to see a picture showing your entire floor layout.


I am struggling to understand how to calculate the size of the beams for the 2nd floor.  I am hoping to have 4x12 DF beams spaced 48" on center with 2x6 TG floor like many people on the forum have done, but I have tried to understand how to calculate loads and beam size and haven't been able to figure it out.  All of the tables I have found end at 2x12 lumber sizes.  Anyone have suggestions on where to start or how to do this? 

Another issue I have to figure out - I am hoping to have an opening for the stairs as shown in the image below.  I assume to do this, I will have to have a load bearing post to support the beam that does not go all the way across the cabin (i.e. load bearing post in the corner just left of the door under the stairs in the picture).

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


They were spanning narrower buildings and/or not checking the engineering. I'm going to walk through stream of consciousness here, it is an iterative process, hold on  :D

This is a heavy timber beam calc I wrote using basic engineering formulas and design values from the NDS.
You can also download the Wood Structural Design Data manual, WSDD, at which will get you there as well.

Assuming you have foundation support under the stair closet corner at the woodstove side it looks like the short joist is supported there. The next long joist is point loaded around midspan by 1/4 the load of the width of that load of the bay over the fridge, which is no more than the other common joists in effect. In other words if the long common joists pass muster I'd say you are good. In other words the long common joists will be the control, check them.

On the calc assuming the span is 20' and the spacing is 4', each joist is supporting floor for 2' on either side of the joist so 4'x20'= 80 sf of tributary area loading the joist. At 40psf live load+10psf dead load =80sf X 50 lbs per square foot =4000 lbs uniform load/joist. 80sf x 10psf=800lbs dead load
That gives you inputs, these are beams and stringers in the calc... I'm getting fails even at the highest grade and I don't like your 4' spacing. drop to 3' and punt...60sf trib x 50=#3000 total load and 600lb DL. Still getting fails in deflection. One way is to continue to decrease the spacing, that is quite a span. You can also decraese span length by wall thicknesses minus about 4" for bearing. Hmmm, back to the books...

OK I used the most conservative numbers for Dougfir-south. If you can source Dougfir in dense #1 the E numbers increase to 1.7 vs  1.2, a good bit stiffer.
Manual input calc here;
E- 1.7
Still failing in deflection...

Drop to 32" spacing, pass in dense #1

But, we just changed the loading scenario on that header joist and the first long common joist it attaches to, there are now joists out on that cantilever so we need to check that if you wish to proceed down this path. If so redraw at 32" spacing and dimension that area.


I wonder if you could sneak a post in at the corner of the breakfast counter and then another load point around stair/bedroom wall. Then you can put in a beam to break the span.

Also for the upstairs bathroom if you want to tile you will need another joist for the 'between joist' deflection. Might need to enclose that space anyway to hide plumbing.


Thank you for all your help Don!  Based on your info and the calculator, I think I will use a spacing of 36" and bump the size of my beam up to 5x12 #2 DF.  I am planning on cutting the beams myself on a mobile sawmill from DF on our place - so we can cut any dimension we need.  I am also thinking we can do as Nathan suggested and put a load bearing post in on either side of the stairs and a third at the end of the breakfast bar - that should eliminate any catelivered joists.  In a perfect world I would rather not have that post at the end of the breakfast bar but it would not be that big of a deal to have.  I will draw up a new Sketchup version and post it later. 


Able make your own, good deal. Bumping up to 5 or 6x will help quite a bit. You might want to consider putting temporary posts at midspan under them until it seasons if you put it up green, the strength will almost double green to dry, that is an old way to help prevent a deflection set during drying.  On the barn job we've been working on a mezzanine between lofts that has a 20' span with joists at 3' spacing. We are only 6' wide  so not a lot of load sharing over multiple members. I ran a 4x12 on each side and a 6x12 down the middle with 1-1/2" thick decking, all in yellow poplar which is not quite as strong or stiff as DF-South. It works but is none too much, that is quite a span.  I'm not sure that you need the post, draw and dimension this when you get a chance, lets keep trying without it first.


I started working on reducing the spacing to 36" between beams, beefing the size up to 5x12, and trying to avoid a post near the breakfast bar.  Problem I run into now is meeting clearance requirements between the lower stairs and the beam.  The only way I can meet code is if the beam that is above the lower few stairs is spaced 4' out from the beam that is inline with the wall behind the stove.  Could I use 5x12's spaced 36" but in that one place use a 6x12 spaced 48"?


My failure to communicate. Keep that stair hole as it is in the drawing above, what I was looking for was where and how many joists you end up with on the cantilever of the header joist running over the stair closet wall to 1st long common joist, that will determine that 1st common joist size. I want to know where along the length of the common the header lands and where along the header joist the short commons land, also the length and free span of the header.


Well I think it is more my ignorance than your failure to communicate! I understand now.  Thanks Don. 


Ok Don; let's see if I can explain everything I have done....

Some important stats:  1) The clear span beams will span a total of 19' from inside edge of exterior wall to inside of exterior wall, 2) the beam that will be supported by the joist will span 113 1/2" from the joist to the inside edge of the exterior wall (this assumes we use a 4x12 for the joist - subtract an inch if we use a 5x12, and 3) the two full spanning beams that the joist goes between must be >80" apart (measured nearest edge to nearest edge) for there to be enough head clearance on the stairs.

Below images are Sketchups that help show what I am trying to do - there are two inaccuracies I have not had time to fix yet - first I have not drawn in all of the other clear spanning beams; second, the top stair will end flush with the joist - not extend out from the joist as it does now.  I am sawing my own DF beams, so I can dimension them however needed.  Outside of the spacing issue around the stairs - I am now thinking 5x12 beams (#2 or better) 36" OC. 

Next are two hand-drawn images:

This one shows the beam lengths and constraints that I talked about above.

This one shows the framing that I envisioned under the stairs/around the door.  Not sure if I framed this correctly to support the load of that joist/beam - but I basically just used a 4x4 on each side of the door.  If that is the correct sizing, the measurements of the wall fit the exact size of the stairs - if not, I can always use larger posts and extend the wall a bit. 

If the spacing between the short beam and the full beams is too great, I could add a second short beam. 

So there are lots of questions in here but the main question I am trying to answer is if I have a load bearing wall under the stairs to support the joist, what size joist and beams do I need?