20x32 1.5 Story Cabin on its way up in NE Wisconsin

Started by TheWire, June 01, 2008, 12:18:25 PM

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Our 35 year old family cabin in NE Wisconsin was getting a little cramped with multiple families using it.  It sits on 40 acres and other members of our family own several hundred more acres attached to this property.  10 years ago I built a 3000 sq. foot log home near Green Bay and did everything but the concrete, plaster and roofing.  I got the building bug again and I am building a new cabin about 50 yards from the old. 

CountryPlans has been great for our 20x32 1 1/2 story thats well underway.  We completed the foundation and 1st floor deck this fall, then tarped it for the winter.  We started back up this April.  We finished the rafters this weekend.  With having a log home to care for, I'm looking to go as maintenance free as possible on our cabin.  I wanted to share our progress with the pictures below and the full photo album is at: http://picasaweb.google.com/jerry.wenzel/Cabin.   I want to thank everyone in the forums for all the help!


The sight before:


Permanent Wood Foundation (With the old cabin in the background):

1st Floor Framing:

2nd floor joists:



Quote from: TheWire on June 01, 2008, 12:18:25 PM

You maybe should post up under the king studs on that upper window , all the way to bearing ( ie to the ground / perm. wood foundation). That ridge beam point load is pressing and will till it wins, if you allow it to win that is. Same goes for the other end if it's similarly framed.

Seeing you don't have a box sill on that gable end , a 4x or at least doubled up 2x post would be wise.

Looks good all in all.  8)
When in doubt , build it stout with something you know about .

John Raabe


Nice posting and very nice work on the cabin. Good to see your progress.

I think you're the first to show a PT wood foundation. Did you do it on gravel trench footings? I think it has great potential for sites where concrete truck access would be difficult or overly expensive.

Information on PWF from Southern Pine

PS - Having seen what PEG points out, I concur.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


Quote from: TheWire on June 01, 2008, 02:22:13 PM

Thanks for the feedback.  I know I have several spots where a point load "appeared", aka not noticed until the framing above it was complete, that I need to take care of by providing better support underneath.  I should make mention also of the lack of a box sill on the gable walls.  I used I-Joists and framed the gable walls 11 7/8" higher than the walls the I-Joists sit on.  That way I save money on rim board, blocking, etc and the top of the 1st floor gable walls are directly tied to the diaphragm of the 2nd floor deck.  I haven't seen any negatives of this approach yet.  Any comments?

I'd rather see the  "One piece" floor and box sill approach. As far as savings , maybe you say a few bucks on material , but you still need  backing for sheet-rock  / or other interior finish surfaces to be fasten to , so something ends up being used anyway. And LSL is pretty cheap which could have been used for the rim joist.

With your method your totally relying on shear strenght of the cleat you've attached to the side wall to hold up your floor dead load , this could lead to squeaks and or failure of those fasteners.

You'll also relying on the pull out strenght of those same fasteners to hold that wall in , so lags should have been used so cost again go up. Yes nails may hold fine and houses have been build with a lot less "hold together" stuff than we tend to use today.

All that being said even if you had a box sill blocking under those king studs would still be a good idea , direct or indirect "point loads" should be carried to direct bearing. 

So all in all what you did is fine , mostly , just not what I'd or most pro builders would have done. Time is our BIG $$ player if it's faster for us to use more wood it still saves dollars , if that makes sense  ???  Wood is generally cheaper than labor , now NOT wasted / miscut mistakenly used wood , but in your box sill case vs. framing a wall higher and the related "Will catch it Later" related issues it would be cheaper and for the reasons I've given better.   

"Will catchit Later" anyways cost money  I don't like him around. Get it Done / Do it Now  , more betta!
When in doubt , build it stout with something you know about .



I'm looking for a picture to better explain what I did regarding the gable wall to floor intersection, but none of the shots I have show it very good.  The top plate of the gable wall is even with the top of the I-Joists.  There isn't a cleat supporting the floor at the gable wall, its glued and nailed to the top of the wall just like it is to the I-Joists.  But as you mentioned I will need to install a nailer for the ceiling. 


 Ah I gotta ya . I had to do that once on a remodel to tie a car port roof to the adjacent living area,  with a 4x4 involved as well to tie the two areas together. That's plenty strong , maybe over kill , but thats MTL what you wanted  :)
When in doubt , build it stout with something you know about .


We spent the last couple weekends getting the eaves, roof sheeting and underlayment on.  See photo album at: http://picasaweb.google.com/jerry.wenzel/Cabin for more pics.

I took PEG's advice and got the last 1/4" of sway out of the knee walls.  I think the rafters and eaves are straighter because of it.

This was my first experience with synthetic underlayment.  With the exception of having to pound a lot of plastic capped nails, this stuff was nice to work with. 

I used Permafelt.  Its rated for 6 months of exposure and I had a hard time pulling it off a 8d nail let alone a plastic capped nail.  The literature said it reduces slippage and I had my doubts that plastic was going to be less slippery than the wood roof sheeting.  But, it is "grippy". The nearest I can explain is its coated with something like the glue on Post-It notes.  It was on sale for $90 for a 10 square roll which I could easily carry the roll up the ladder and the 1 roll covered the whole roof.
This is a good way for those of us who can't get the finished roof on right away to protect our cabins and not have to worry about a storm blowing off tar paper.



I am curious about the shallow foundation?  You are in Wisconsin, right?  With a shallow crawl space, I was wondering about frost heave?  Is that a valid concern?


From http://www.oikos.com/esb/43/foundations.html

"Frost heave can only occur when all the following three conditions are present:

1) the soil is frost susceptible,
2) sufficient moisture is available (soil is above approximately 80 percent saturation) and
3) subfreezing temperatures are penetrating the soil.

Removing one of these factors will negate the possibility of frost damage."

I built on top a hill with fairly sandy well drained soil, put in gravel footings with drain tile and put a 2' wide band of foam insulation around the inside and outside of the footings.  It should be protected from frost heave in multiple ways.  Foundations have been done this way for decades in Scandinavia and I think they are starting to get some interest here in the US both for cabin and large home builders.


Feedback wanted on a rain screen installation.  (Sorry, this has gotten a little long)

I'm ready to install a weather proof barrier on the exterior walls of our cabin.  This forum and other sources on the internet have me thinking that black felt is a better long term solution than house wrap.  This is mainly in regards to the felt's ability to get rid of liquid moisture in the wall system better than house wrap.

Also, the forum & ScottA have turned me on to the concept of a rain screen. Which, while its more work, seems like a good way of dealing with moisture that will get behind most types of siding during periods of wind blown rain.

Here is what I'm planning to do:

Cover the cabin with 2 layers of building felt.  The felt could be exposed from now to next spring so I want the outer layer to take the beating from the elements and the inner layer to stay pristine and water proof.

I would install the vinyl windows on top of the felt and use bitumen tape to seal the window flanges to the felt.  The vinyl windows have a built in brick mould which is about 1.25" thick.

Using 2" wide furring strips cut from 1/2" PT Plywood, put vertical strips up every 16" O.C.  The furring strips would extend up into the soffit space to vent the top of the air space. (I realize I need to use special fasteners with the new pressure treated formula)

This would get a dried in cabin and I'd do the next steps just prior to siding.

I planned on putting a wainscoting of corrugated metal siding up 4' from the bottom of the cabin. The bottom of this metal will likely be embedded in decorative gravel around the cabin.  This would be covering the lower 4' of sheeting which is pressure treated .  I would not have the airspace behind this metal only the felt.  Instead the air space/rain wall would end and drain slightly above the flashing on top of the metal wainscoting.

I plan on using wide 2x6 trim around the windows and at the intersection of the wall and the soffit.  At the soffit the trim would sit on top of the furring strips and the airspace behind it would be screened to allow air, but not bugs to flow from the top of the rain space into the soffit space.  The bottom opening will also be screened.

I'm planning on putting a rabbet joint on the vertical window trim to hide the edges of the cement or vinyl siding.

At the windows, I would apply caulk between the brick mould of the window and the trim which would extend beyond the thickness of the brick mould.

The top of the trim would have Z flashing installed.

Cement or vinyl siding would then be installed over the furring strips.

I'm looking for feedback on any pitfalls on my approach and thoughts on whether cement of vinyl siding may have problems with support across 16" OC furring strips.

Thank you,




Looks the tops Jerry, I'm extremely envious, hoping to make the big move in the next 18 months to the U.S all the way from Moscow (Russia not Idaho) via the U.K, then I can do like-wise...

glenn kangiser

I think it sounds pretty good, Jerry.  The felt and screen wall are about the safest trouble free wall you can have.

I have a question about the corrugated on the bottom.  I assume it is vertical which would make it need support under it.

If you stop your screen wall above it seems you need an horizontal cut in your felt to make it drain over the flashing rather than under it and into any tears - fastener penetrations etc.

Do you have sheathing under the felt? Maybe continue the screen wall to the ground and support he corrrugated on either short horizontal spacers - gapped an inch or so from the verticals to allow drainage and attach at the verticals also.  A drip edge angle under the z flashing above could also be used horizontally to make a place to attach the corrugated with self drilling metal fasteners. (Just thinking of drip edge as it is readily available and small enough I think.)

Just kicking out ideas -- you probably already have a better way in mind.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

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


I'm not clear on how you plan to flash above the metal at the bottom. Be sure you lead the water out before the metal starts. Also your metal flashing will prevent water from wicking up the back side of the felt onto the sheathing. That's why I ran metal around the base of all my exterior walls. Looks like a good plan all in all.


Glenn & Scott,

The intersection between the rain wall and metal siding is a little hard to explain so I attached a sketch.  I plan on having the 2 layers of felt from the rain screen overlap the flashing on top of the metal siding and will leave a drain gap between the siding and the z-flashing for water to escape.  I also thought about continuing the rain screen behind the metal.  But, as  Glenn brought up, I would need to provide more support for it than the veritcal furring strips.  I'm thinking the chances of water getting behind metal siding are less and if it does, the corrugations would provide some drainage and its up against PT plywood with caulked seams. 

Thank you for your feedback!

The sketch is "exploded" to show the layers of materials

glenn kangiser

Looks like you have it figured out, Jerry.  I think that should be fine.

As PEG says - think like rain and I think you have it covered.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

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

glenn kangiser

Quote from: TheWire on July 19, 2008, 08:18:09 AM
I'm looking at a solar power system for our cabin.  The expected loads are task lighting (LEDs), area lighting (Compact Flourescents CF), RV Type water pump, cell phone & other small battery chargers.  It would also be nice for occasional use of a microwave/toaster or other small applicance. 

I'd like to run the LED task lights and a RV water pump from 12 volts and have the rest of the loads on an inverter that I could keep shut off most of the time.  I'd size the solar panels and batteries for a typical weekend use, giving the panels 5 days during the week to replenish the batteries.  I'll also have a generator if needed for occasional high use times.

I have some questions:

Does anyone have experience using the multi-LED lights for task lighting such as reading, bathroom, kitchen?  They typically only take 2 to 3 watts but supposedly put out as much light as a incandescent 10 times the wattage.

We use them for walkway lights and around the pool as well as a larger patio light around the pool.  I also use a 5 led head light when prospecting in old mines.  They work fine, but the best description I can give them is that their light is great but vague and disagreeable.  I like them for lots of light and small but semi-focused in a small area and rather disagreeable color for general seeing and reading.  I suggest you go to Costco or somewhere that carries them and get a headlight to try before you decide.  I like CF's best for reading and general use.  More agreeable slightly yellow light similar to incandescent.

110VAC CF lights are cheaper and easier to find than 12VDC.  Any thoughts on 12VDC vs. 110VAC Inverter powered CF's?  I'm planning on CFs for lighting large areas because I don't think the LEDs will provide enough light to fix dinner/ play cards/ etc.

12v is too much trouble for me - inverters are very efficient now and I won't run back and forth swapping things or pay extra looking for and replacing 12v stuff.  It's the pits to have to wait for shipping or find a 12v when the other one goes out.  120v stuff is everywhere.

Does it make sense to size the inverter and batteries to handle running a 1200 watt kitchen appliance or to use a remote starting generator to power these loads?  Do short periods of high discharge wear out batteries faster? 

I use mine hard and abuse them - light batteries won't hold up.  I suggest minimum 2  L16's for 12 volt, 375 AH.  Automotive batts even deep cycle are a wast of time and money.  Minimum if you must would be golf cart batteries but they don't have the capacity or longevity of the L16's.  We use 12 L-16's and are going to 16 soon. First sets are 4 years old and the Desulfator people claime top be able to increase the life possibly up to 15 years.  We'll see.  Cycling an L16 hard is not a problem - it kills automotive deep cycles.  Running a microwave is a short term thing and not a problem or even that much of a power hog if figured in KWH due to the shorter run times.

Any reccomendations for an inverter?  (Efficiency, pure sine wave and low idling power seem to be qualities I'm looking for)

I haven't used but can safely recommend the Outback Sine wave inverter -big enough to run your microwave.  An electrical engineer neighbor tests for them.  I use the older Trace inverters and like them but have heard that the Xantrex who took over Trace wasn't quite as reliable - maybe just a rumor


The inverters with battery chargers built in are more expensive than a standard inverter.  I don't plan on charging a
lot with the generator, is there anything wrong with using a seperate car battery type charger to charge the batteries with the generator? 

That could work - more to mess with.  I don't think 12v is good if you ever plan to go bigger than one of the above inverters.

Some other low end solar systems are using RV/Marine deep cycle batteries in parallel or golf cart batteries in series?  Any thoughts on which is better/cheaper/other type of batteries?

  RV/Marine deep cycle batteries are a waste of money - believe me - I've wasted plenty. I doubt they would make it over a year under heavy use from my experience.  The golf cart batteries would be a minimum and I won't use them either.  The L16s are cheaper in the long run after you figure destroying or replacing a bunch of the small ones - running out of power etc. A 12 volt inverter will pull a lot of amps to make 120v @ 2000 watts - say.... a microwave and another thing or two.  Use heavy cables lik 2/0.   Note that low charge for long periods and sulfation are the major problems.  MPPT controllers with matched solar panels and PWM chargers (built into the MPPT) as well as equalizing -suggested monthly - water level maintenance - clean terminals and getting the charge back up if run down. 

It's not a weekend thing with us-- it's the way we live here at the underground command center. :)

Thank you,


"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

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


My 0.02 worth....

1.  12 volt DC based systems need large diameter wires unless the space is small.

2.  I believe 24 VDC based battery banks are better.

3.  Having a mixture of 12 VDC and 120 VAC gets messy to my mind. It also can get confusing to someone else who might need to change/service something. I had planned on using such a hybrid system and gave the idea up when I was trying to explain to my wife. I might not be there/here all the time and it wouldn't have been fair to her. But that's my personal thoughts on the matter, OMMV.

4.  Running a generator, even remote start, is a pain. Plus short runs are not good for the engine. Get a big enough inverter so you can run the microwave and other things at the same time without having to think about whether or not the system will be able to handle the load. Reason; see #3 above.

5.  If you have batteries you will need to run the generator once a month to do an equalization charge on the batteries. Get the inverter with the charger built in that can do that.

6.  The only drawback to L16 batteries are their weight. Depending on many different things that may be a concern, or not. Golf c art GC2's can work IF you remember your maintenance requirements.

7.  My very limited exposure to multi LED lights is that they are too directional for me, even for task lighting like reading. However I do have some contrast problems with my vision that others may npt be bothered with.

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


Thanks for the great info Glenn and MtnDon.

I looked up the L16s they are about $265 each and 115 pounds.  That's a price I can handle for a pair.

A couple more questions,

How much can the L16s should be discharged over a weekend without cutting the battery life short?

Can I leave these batteries in place in the unheated cabin during the winter?  NE Wisconsin.  Below 0 at times.

Can these batteries reside inside the cabin?  Do they put out much gas?

Thank you,


glenn kangiser

Charged batteries will take a much lower temp without freezing than discharged ones.

QuoteJohn Mitchell wrote:
> I live in B.C. - same problem. I top up the batteries with watter and charge
> them up - slow charge. Then disconnect the + connector. Leave them all winter
> - top up with the charger in the spring and reconnect. I have had rv batteries
> last 8 years this way.
> Hope it helps.
> John Mitchell

It would actually be better to leave the trickle charger on the
battery.  The freezing point of the electrolyte varies directly with
the charge on the battery and therefore the concentration of
sulfuric acid in the electrolyte.  At full charge, the freezing
point is very low, lower than -10 deg F, if my scratchy memory
serves.  As the battery (self) discharges, the acid concentration is
reduced until at full discharge the concentration is very weak and
the freezing point rises to approach the 32 deg F FP of water.  When
the freezing point and the outdoor air temperature intersect, a
frozen and almost always ruined battery results.

Trickle charging does something else useful.  It inputs a small
amount of heat to the battery.  This allows the battery to withstand
even lower temperatures without freezing.  I use the little 1 amp
battery maintainer chargers sold at Wal Mart for my infrequently
used delivery trucks.  Never had a battery freeze plus the trucks
are ready to run even after extended idleness.  Not that we have had
to worry about freezing for the last couple of "toy" winters. 


John De Armond


You have 12v at 375 AH - ideally not over half that but I have done it many times and over 4 years on my first sets with no signs of problems.  Key is charging them back up and not leaving them set discharged.  These batteries have extra heavy lead/antimony plates that will handle the heavy discharge pretty well.  The other day we had been short on power and my inverters pulled the batteries down to 20.6 volts or so.  Most inverters have a shutoff that will stop making power when the batteries reach a certain level but factory settings are usually for the most power to you for the longet semi-safe time -- not necessarily the best life of the battery, but they usually can be reset as you desire.   I leave mine at default settings so 20.6 I think is it.  We are just getting retuned after a new fridge (power hungry brute) and a pool installation.  I charge my batteries on bulk charge at about 150 amps with no problem for the 12 of them.  I would suggest the desulfator also - it can run all the time if desired.  It buzzes also.

You might make a room for the batteries like a closet with a closable vent and your inverter on the back inside - some give off sparks so should be a bit away from the batteries.  Note - inverters buzz if that bothers you.  Gas is not too bad off of these batteries but you may also make the room so it is easy to hose out in case of battery cleaning  - rinsing out acid that tends to collect a film on top after while from charging and discharging.  Baking soda and water is great for neutralizing and cleaning off acid.  Mine are in the greenhouse by the shop so I rinse them off about once every month or two.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

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


FYI, the NEC does not allow an inverter to be mounted directly over batteries. However as Glenn suggested having a solid plywood backing board with the inverter placed on the opposite side is allowed. Do not allow the batteries to vent into the living space as there is an explosion danger. Also the fumes can cause corrosion. My makeshift enlarged battery box on the RV is showing signs of mistreatment.  :(

A fully charged lead-acid battery will not freeze until the temp drops to around -77 degrees F.  :o So if they are left over a winter, water them up properly and leave the PV panels and charge controller to do their job. Everything should be okay after several months of winter.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


I picked up my standing seam metal roof today.  The roof was about $2000.  However they want $450 for the mesh vents that go under the ridge cap >:(.  I didn't get the vents and want to explore alternatives from this rip-off.  The foam closure strips are about $1/foot and the vented closures are almost $7/ foot.

Does anyone have any thoughts on a cheaper ridge vent for a metal roof that doesn't involve cutting holes in the roof?  Would gable vents work?

glenn kangiser

Sure - leave the ridge cap foam closures out where you want to vent and screw 1/4 inch hardware cloth under the vented area, allowing excess width so you can slit the screen a bit and stuff it up into the ribs and stop major insects - bats etc. or some variation of that.

Maybe make the hardware cloth a couple inches wider than the gap at the top High enough to come to the top of the ribs at the slits - likely 3 inches wider than the gap at the top -- (created by leaving the sheets a bit low at the top) --as most sheets have 1 1/2 inch ribs, and slit as required to make tabs to screw down.  After screened put the ridge cap over it.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

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


After an August break to catch a couple weekends of vacation, we started back up on the cabin. 

Here we started the standing seam roof.

The metal went on nice and fast.  The ridge was a different story, the standard ridge cap was not wide enough & once we got the wider ridge, straddling the ridge, not bending the ridge,  keeping the vent foam in place and trying to keep things straight was a challenge.

The rain screen on the front.

The staircase.

Temporary digs upstairs.

Even thought the nights have been in the 60 DegF range, the kids still get pretty cold without the insulation.  We bought the insulation and a woodstove and that will be our next project.


Only 1 of your pictures showed up. The one looks great though.
Pittsburgh Pa for home

Tionesta Pa for Camp


Thanks Peter.  I'm not sure what happened, I had them in the preview.  We can chalk it up to a Bill Gates issue. ;)

I edited the preview post with the correct picture links.