My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin

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

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Greetings Don.  As a recent arrival to this site, I must say how much I enjoyed reading about your build from the beginning.  I'm not too far from starting my mountain cabin project, and I'd like to borrow your gazebo idea.  Our site will be 20 acres shared by four people.  The gazebo as a common area is the perfect 'first improvement' for our site.

One question, which I'm hoping is not redundant (sure didn't see it specified anywhere)... what are the dimensions of your gazebo?

Thanks for sharing your experience.  I've learned a ton!



Thank you!  

The gazebo is 10 foot square. That seemed to be the minimum that would suit us. The plan had included a louvered set of covers for the cupola sides, however, we've seldom missed that. (It was to assist in keeping rain out, but that has not been a big deal.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Would composting the pine needles be an option?

glenn kangiser

I think that might be hard.  Seems those things last forever.

I studied a bit of composting when I had about 210,000 lbs of horse manure here.

Composting requires a specific ratio of carbon, nitrogen, air and water.  Horse manure straight is nearly the perfect composting mix for a quick change to soil.  Loosen it - dampen it and turn it every week and it will be smoking, changing to soil in about 4 to 6 weeks.  It can catch fire if not taken care of and in too big a pile.

Pine needles would be heavy on carbon - likely very little nitrogen so they or other carbon heavy materials require a heavy source of nitrogen such as chicken manure or fertilizer to compost quickly.  Chicken manure needs carbon to compost quickly so they work together.  If you add carbon such as mulch to a garden, it will rob nitrogen from the soil if mixed in, so you need to add nitrogen or all purpose fertilizer to keep things growing better to make up for the nitrogen loss.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.


like he said. One needs to give it a lot of help. The layers of needles go several years deep and remain idnetifiable for several years. Then it gets more and more broken down, but very slow. A ton chicken$hit or fertilizer would help.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Not much happening up at the cabin except for a lot of relaxing.   ;D   I blame my jaw work for my lack of enterprise. 

Actually we have done some clean up on the south, north facing slope; getting rid of the fallen trees and dead branches there.  I wonder if this will ever end? 
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


"Are we there yet"  I mean it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  And no it will never be over as long as you have trees there will be needles, leaves or limbs to discard but that is something you can do at a more relaxing pace Don,  Glad you are getting along OK.


I was PM'd by someone about the water system as installed in opur cabin and asked if it was working well and if there was anything I would do differently if I was faced with another similar project.

Well, by coincidence, I have just now actually almost completed the bathroom. Yes, that has been a while coming. Anyhow, the water runs into and out of the bathroom now.   :D  I have some door trim to finish and a few small details. Pictures and story on that will be coming soon.

Some comments and observations of the water system... Cabin water system inside is setup much like an RV)

I also never posted much in the way of pictures, so I'll remedy that today.

I used a Shurflo 2088 pump, the same as the one in the old RV. Even though Shurflo states that the pump is capable of a 6 foot lift I do not recommend using it above the height of the tank bottom. I had installed it on top of the tank to conserve floor footprint. Bad idea. That was well within the allowable distance even allowing for our elevation. (pump ratings should be decreased for higher altitudes.) It was only about an 18 inch lift but I noticed the delivery volume to be less than that in the RV. The RV pump is mounted at the level of the tank bottom.

So yesterday I finally got around to remounting the pump. It is now at tank bottom level. It's performance has been noticeably increased; much better volume delivery and the pump doesn't sound like it is working as hard. I never thought that small lift would affect delivery at the faucet.

Water flow at the shower seems to be adequate, but we have not showered in the newly completed shower yet. We're waiting on the shower curtain track.

More later, including some pictures. (have to run off right now)

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


One other thing I might do differently...

In such a confined space it is difficult to take advantage of the flexibility of PEX tubing. It does bend, but not too sharply without the use of "bend supports".  

I did not think ahead to include these in my box full of fittings and installation parts. If I had I could have used fewer 90 degree fittings for direction changes. 

An alternate to bend supports for the PEX would be to make greater use of the flexible hoses with braided coverings. As it was I used some of them for faucet connections and pump connections. The pump requires their use for vibration isolation.

Here's a general view of the under sink works...

The wiring to the pump will be lengthened next time to place the wires more out of the way. I'm going to try to position the pump so it's motor is not directly under a water fitting, just in case something leaks some day.

The RV water heater has extra layers of foam insulation. The next shot illustrates the tank connections. The bypass valves and hose are barely visible. That allows the heater tank to be isolated from the system; handy in freezing weather or other times the hot water heater does not need to be in service. Maybe more important in an RV than the cabin, maybe not.

Also seen are the shut offs that permit the shower supply lines to be turned off and isolated from the main portion of the system. That's something that has been handy while the bathroom was in a state of limbo. As well, it will be handy to be able to isolate the shower for ocassional cold weather use when the duration of cabin use does not warrant the use of the shower.

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


So this week I took time off my leisure time to do some inside work. I have the bathroom / shower in an almost ready for prime time condition. It has sat with cement board on the walls, ungrouted tile and no door until this week. Hopefully I'll keep my nose to the grindstone next week and have it completed and ready to show. For now here's a shot of the end wall with the shower fixture shown. Yes, it is an unusual asymmetric layout; it suits us fine. Those walls are FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) panels. Off white or almond. 12 VDC Thinlite fixture.

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

John Raabe

Shower looks good Don and the chronology at post 1 is a great idea that could work well for others with long project threads.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


I won't tell you how long ours has sat w/cement board (Glenn painted it white a couple months ago)  :-[  But that's a great idea for the walls!  I'd like some glass blocks above it to let in light - the ceiling is really high & we would get light from the uphill patio (right now we have plastic  d* )

Your idea should simplify the process  :)

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free


HD, Lowes, others sell the FRP panels. They are glued up to the wall using an adhesive formulated for FRP panels. I have used several brands of the adhesive and find the Liquid Nails brand to have better initial "tack". It though also reeks of chemicals much more than the low-VOC types I have tried (LP and Locktite). Those required the panels to be blocked in place with bracing or "clamped" wit blocks/strips of wood and screws at the edges.

There are special corner moldings made to match the FRP color but I elected to glue and seal foam plastic fake redwood moldings into the corners instead.

In case anyone wonders what that is on the upper left, I'll explain. I'm a water miser. I hate running perfectly good water down the shower drain while waiting for warm water to arrive through the pipe run. I have a quarter turn shutoff valve installed in the hot supply line. When opened, that allows water in the hot line to be returned, via an extra line, to the water storage tank. When the base of the vale gets warm the valve is shut off and then you will have hot water at the shower mixer valve right away. No waste.

This will not work with a conventional water system where the water comes directly from the municipal system or your own well. It needs to have that non pressurized water storage tank as a place to return the water. The same thing (saving water) can be accomplished with the use of a recirculating hot water pump in a standard system. But that requires another pump. My 'Rube Goldberg' system does the job for us. OMMV.

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


Woo-Hoo!!  Except for the shower curtain track and related hardware the shower / bathroom is completed!  The track is coming soon, I hope. It's a ceiling mount RV type and will suspend the curtain over the shower pan. The track will allow the shower space to be enclosed so the water should stay in the shower pan. The curtain will be stored, rollered around the U-shaped track, against the blank wall.

Here's the installed and trimmed out pocket door from the main room. It's Honduran mahogany skinned, nothing special. S/S hardware. Finished with clear satin Minwax Polycrylic.

Here's a shot with the door open looking to the shower end. The rug is removed for shower use, of course. This will strike many as an unusual layout, but it is very much like what many RV's use.

Door open and looking the other direction, towards the end outside wall with the window. The floor and lower 36 inches of wall are tiled with the same tile as the balance of the cabin floor.

Looking at the shower end with the door closed. The wood that came with the pocket door kit was paint grade, but very nice. So we did something unusual and simply clear coated it. The darker spliced in piece fits in well with the use of pine and redwood. To us at least, OMMV. The standard shower head was replaced with a hand wand type. That makes rinsing off easier while conserving water use.

Here's looking at the window end. The original plan was to install the Sun-Mar composting toilet under the window. However plans changed and at this point the Sun-Mar will remain in the shed. We are using a portable toilet in here strictly for nighttime or emergency use. The towels are from the Eclectic Collection.  ;D  The upper wall behind the towels is the same FRP panel material that was used at the shower end. That was also used above the window. That's a 1x8 pine shelf above the window; abbreviated to allow for a 30" towel bar

Last week while at home I decided to clean out a corner of the garage / workshop. Hidden away, on the upper shelving, I rediscovered a stash of exotic boards. Left overs from old projects they have been stacked for 20+ years. Shuffled through from time to time to make some special do-dad , the boards were mostly collecting dust and using space I could use for other stuff. Then I had a brilliant idea. Or so I thought, OMMV. I hauled it into the house and laid them out on the floor. After much rearranging Karen and I (mostly K) decided on a layout for the orphaned section of wall.

From the top piece of redwood trim down... 3/4" Honduran Mahogany, 3/8" Padauk, 3/4" of something from the Ebony family (it may be Macassar Ebony, very dense and heavy), 1/4" Padauk, a three inch wide strip of 3/4" Walnut, 1/2" Jatoba, 3/4" Lacewood and 3/4" Padauk. The outlet plate is some unknown fine grained wood (Lowe's). All the wood received 5 coats of clear finish. The edges were are rough sawn, but straight. I left the rough sawn edges as a decorative detail. Sorry no closeup.

The white pipe protruding from the Pine T&G ceiling is the vent for the composting toilet. I'll leave it there "just in case", but have to disguise it somehow.

I have a few other scraps of exotics and am planning a small shelf unit to hold odds and ends under that wood wall.

They were all glued to the cement backer board with construction adhesive.

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


Nice utilization of surplus material.  Maybe you could convert the vent to use when the shower is operational to avoid condensation.


Finishing details here and there....

At long last I lifted the wood stove so I could slide the copper sheet that we bought a year ago, under it. I was almost getting used to seeing the grey cement board under the stove. Here's the copper...

We've left it bare, uncoated and will watch to see what sort of a patina may develop.

I received the shower track and mounts but not the curtain drops or carriage rollers. So here's the view up to the ceiling and track. That was a straight length of 8 foot aluminum track. It is hand bendable. I measured carefully and used two quart size paint cans as the form for bending the radius. Worked out well...

As well, I finally boxed in the water pipes to the shower and added a shelf above the range for storing the cooler we use going back and forth from home to the cabin. I made the shelf brace from a left over piece of the battery bank copper buss bar stock.

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


Also, at long last, I fitted a handrail on the porch stairs. It's just a piece of standard railing from HD. I made 'returns' on the two ends from pieces of 1x pine. Not fancy, but it prevents coats, etc. from getting caught going up or down.

Lastly, I made a foot board for the bed from some of the old project odds and ends. Red oak uprights, a walnut top piece and padauk corner braces. The braces are dadoed into the oak and walnut and there is a biscuit joining the oak to walnut.


The main purpose is to have something to fold the quilt over so it doesn't slide to the floor.  It's mounted to the bed frame with plywood gussets for now. I have a couple of brackets planned that I'll form from steel. They should look better than the plywood scabs.

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


Everythings looking great Don. Very hommey for a camp.


Thanks Scott. Yes, we got a little fancier than originally envisioned back in 2006. 

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


Don, your cabin is really taking shape. I really like the wood work in the bath and footboard.  [cool]


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


Glad you made it safely Don.  Hope you enjoy.  I can just imagine all of the ideas you come up with over there to bring back to NM for your retreat.


Your place is looking great, like how yo used the different types of wood.

I'm envious!  Would love to see Germany - the place you are staying at is beautiful!

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free


Spass. Trink ein bier auf mein wohl.  :)