12 x 24 in Cape Breton

Started by Alasdair, May 05, 2009, 09:10:21 PM

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So we're just about ready to break ground this weekend  :) - provided the neighbours tractor backhoe is working (He's waiting for an altenator but reckons he should be good to go by then.) Did think about digging it by hand but the ground is so strewn with rocks that it would just result in much needless suffering and we want the process to be fun.
This weekend past we set out the cabin we are going to concentrate on first.
We eventually plan to build the a 20 x 30 1 1/2 storey on a daylight basement but we know we can't afford to finish it this year so we need somewhere to live/camp and store our tools/posessions. We first thought of a 12 x 16 similar to the one BishKnite built but decided we would need a little more room as we may well end up living in it full time until the house is habitable. We have settled on 12 x 24 based again on John's small house plans and other projects and ideas from country plans. Having had a long winter to bargin hunt and plan we have all the windows, doors, bathroom set etc. for the cabin already to go.
Here's a few pics from our preparations.

Window frames made after seeing Snatapov's Ontario cabin. The frames fit glazed door inserts which we managed to pick up either second hand or clearance price.

My painter examining the windows for draughts.

This rebar for the cabin founds we got second hand, 90 pieces for less than a dollar each. They are about 5' foot long plus 20" bend.

My cleaner scrubbing the rusty bar ..

Setting out for the cabin. The watering can with a bit of clear hose doubles as our level.

site ready to dig for bigfeet and sonotube piers

The bank on the left behind the well head is where the daylight basement will be eventually.

Tomorrow I'm running some more tools and materials down to the site (about an hour away from where we rent) and I plan to pick up the footing molds and tubes too.
Hope to have made some more progress and pictures to post next week.


"Officium Vacuus Auctorita"


good luck with your project. if i were you...i would build the house, it is only a little bigger than the project you plan now. i have been taking my time with my cottage (2 years now). my lot was a perfect for a walkout basement.  but i still went with piers for cost reasons.  so far i have about 15,000 into it.  like you i bought when when the deal was to good to pass up.


Miman, I hear what you are saying. A few others have said the same. Several of my neighbours put makeshift roofs on their basements and lived in them for a year before they could finish their houses. However our choice boils down to finances and timing. As a recent immigrant I have no credit rating and  am unable to borrow in Canada (not that I want to anyway.) We can get a long way towards completing the cabin for what little we have but could barely get out of the ground on the house. My aim is to have a habitable (not necessarily finished) structure by the end of July so we can stop paying rent (our biggest outlay) and live on site instead of having to camp or travel an hour everyday. Also it will give us a chance to learn and practice on a smaller structure. Although I have been involved in a few friends builds I have never taken on a complete project myself before and I'm certain there will be a lot of things I've overlooked or misjudged in my preraration.  As the house will be our primary residence rather than a hunting cabin or holiday cottage we are happy to take our time go with the basement etc and to put the cabin on piers - in the future the cabin may be a rental, workshop, guest accommodation etc etc.

glenn kangiser

Great Start, Al.

The painter looks pretty Jolly.  She must be having fun. :)
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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

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Congrats Alasdair...Ive been lurking here for about a year with the intention of building a small cottage /house in the maritimes. Where are you in Cape Breton?  I looked at quite a bit of land there last summer and will probably purchase this summer. Good Luck with your project..i'll be watching for updates


Pretty jolly and jolly pretty I've always thought :D

Retired Poor,
Our site is about 10 minutes out of Port Hawkesbury along a dirt road off the 105. There's a fair bit of land available at reasonable rates but as my neighbour said "once you move to Cape Breton you're never moving anywhere else." I thought he meant it was so beautiful you would never want to - but he meant you'll never be able to afford anywhere else!  ;)
One of my neighbours is selling some land on our road PM me if you want and I'll find out more about it .

glenn kangiser

No question there, Al. :)

I think you will enjoy your small cabin while waiting to build the big one also.
"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.


Spent the morning on the phone getting quotes for the house basement and the afternoon making wire and rebar cages for the cabin footings. Basement is coming in at $12,500 CND for ICF and $10,500 for regular formed and poured concrete. These prices are for a 20 x 30 daylightbasement with no extras and the floor still to do. Both seem like reasonable prices and might not be much in the big scheme of things but it's a lot to us just now! I guess we have to work out if it will cost us $2,000 to insulate the regular basement to the same standard as the ICF. I know this one must have been done a few times on the forum I'll have a search and see.

Anyway here's my cages - not as tidy or hardcore as Beaver's job but more than enough for my piers which will only show 1ft above grade. I used no.5 rebar and pig fencing wire to support it all.


have you thought about a concrete block foundation to save some $$? 


Oh Al....there are things you don't know that you don't know....but its ok, because it seems that they come up when one is ready to learn them.   Things as simple as door knobs...I bought the front door...no door knob.  Ok, so you buy the door knob....except there are "Thousands" of different kinds of door knobs...who'd a thunk it.   

I think planning and preparation is good, even wise....but like the Pirate's Code, I found the plans to be more like "guidelines". 

I'm pleased to see you join the forum, and the folks here are wonderfully helpful, and have gotten me through many a time when I have come up against something I knew NOTHING about. I knew mostly nothing about building when I started.  I've learned a lot, but mostly have a greater appreciation for how much I still don't know, and the cabin is about 1/2 done.  I know you can do this, if I can, you certainly can. 

Thanks for posting the pictures as well.  I really enjoy them.


We did briefly consider a block foundation but for a variety of reasons have decided against it. (I must admit the cost factor was very attractive.)

Thanks for the well wishes, it's great to be here and finally be building! I'm already discovering how little I know - but I'm pleased to have a great forum like this to help me muddle through.

So here's the weekend's progress..

Bigfeet and sonotubes plumbish, squareish and levelish - ready to backfill and pour. We wanted to pour these on Monday but the building inspector was pretty busy and didn't show up til the afternoon which scuppered our plans for concrete that day. Pretty frustrating since we both took time off and missed a days wages in order to be there to pour the concrete. (Lessons learned - "the morning" is a very flexible term in the Maritimes! Don't try to do too much at once)
Still we are happy with our progress.

The well trench started and nearly ready to install pump and pitless adapter

We made some forms for pavers in case there was any concrete left over - the rocks are there to stop them blowing away.

Our camp on monday morning when we woke up ... there was an inch of unforcast snow ... it was not a warm night in the tent ... I will say no more

Still the neighbours seem to be getting on well with their building projects ...

Al and Anita


That's some nice looking country you are building in...great view too! 

I can't really tell from your photo's, how did you secure the sonotubes to the bracing? 
I'm still trying to get mine braced and have been doing a little  ??? ???


I found your pictures very helpful when I was making up my rebar cages. Thanks.  :) Are those any relations of yours down the road from us? They sure build a nice dam!
The sonotubes - I just screwed 2x4s right onto them with a few 2 1/2 inch deck screws. Then I double checked it all for plumb and square and fixed them to stakes at the other ends of the 2x4s. I also fixed the bigfeet to the bottom of the trench with a few ground staples we got at a garden store. I just drilled some small holes through the mould and hammered them in at an angle. (Quite a few bent on all the rocks but enough stayed firm.) The building inspector seemed quite happy with this and it seemed a pretty sturdy arrangement to me. The bracing is just to hold them in place whilst I backfill. I will remove to use for framing before we pour. I have backfilled around the footings by hand to make sure there was not too much movement and we will hopefully do the rest with a machine.


glenn kangiser

Looking great, Al and Anita, and what an industrious group building the dam.
"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.


Thanks for the info Al, glad my pic's were helpful.

The Bigfoot footings look like a real slick deal...would be nice to be able to pour the whole thing at once  instead of doing the footings seperate. 


Yes the bigfeet certainly make it simple - there's another company that makes plastic footings and tubes all in one - even easier still.

Well, we backfilled on Saturday and will pour the piers early this week.

I'm making up my lumber list right now and Anita is making up her seed/plant list.



So we got our concrete poured on Wednesday and are moving along in our usual haphazard style...  :)

The concrete truck was early (!) by half an hour which put me on the back foot for the rest of the morning - My photographer had to work so I was by myself during the morning and didn't get time to think about photos until I had leveled all the tubes and set the post holders.

Here's our home made pavers...

and here's what we did with some of them ...

Whilst we were waiting for this to arrive ...

Naturally the lumber we needed first was at the bottom of the piles so the next job was to handball the whole lot the other way round!
before ...

and after ...

Next I laminated up some beams from 2 x 12s and 1/2" ply. They were glued and then nailed from both sides.

A little tip for anyone else as daft as me - if you're by yourself, build the beams right where you're going to use them or else you will have to resort to some silly techniques to move them around - they are NOT easy to move!

I had expected to have to shim some of the posts but surprisingly, didn't need to, in the end they were bang on for level!

I had a visit from the neighbours that evening - wondering what all the noise was about ...

some brought their toys with them ...

even Rocky the building Inspector showed up...

here's our well line trench and, in the background floor joists, crowned and marked out. We plan to install the well pump and line this coming week before fixing the joists.

Here's a little trick for marking out if you need to measure and mark 3/4" under.

That's all for now - hope to have some pics of well pump installation by the end of the week

Al and Anita


Wow, you are making great progress & I love the steps you made with the pavers!

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


Looks great Alasdair..off to a great start

glenn kangiser

Looks like you two are making great progress Al.  Makes me tired just looking at your pictures. :)
"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.


What Glenn said!  ;D

Is that all of the lumber for the framing, or is there more to come?
At this pace you guys should be dried in within a month or two!


Thanks for the kind words all.

   that is most of the lumber for framing - there will doubtless be more stuff I forgot or 'misunderestimated' but it was at best an educated guesstermation anyway. I wasn't worried about being too precise as we plan to build a 1 1/2 storey straight after so any leftovers will get used and it's not far to nip out and pick up anything we forgot.

Got our well pump installed in the last couple of days. As it took me quite a while to sift through the info available on the internet and work out what was good and what was B.S. I took a lot of pics in the hope that it will help someone else. I'm not suggesting that this is the best way to do it but it made sense to me. (Sorry if like us you are on dial up - now is the time to make a cup of tea...)

First we checked the well depth. The report said it was 99ft deep with a static level of 12ft. In fact it was deeper than 100ft with a static level of 6ft. (How much deeper I don't know the tape was only 100ft.)

First we had to cut through the casing to install the pitless adapter.

Here it is ready to install. The handle remains in the well for any future maintainence. We stuffed a polybag in the pipe to stop the female part sliding off and down the well. Don't forget your safety rope - or to remove the polybag!

Here it is nipped up on the casing.

Here is the pump being prepared. We opted for a grundfos 3 wire pump. It has a slow start feature which is supposed to stop the torque jerking the assembly and chafing it on the sides of the well at start up.

The heat seals for the wire splice.

The "torque arrestor" - another anti chafe device required by law in Nova Scotia. There was some debate surrounding these between local pump intallation folks. Some held that it was more likely to cause problems if loose rocks dropped off the well sides on top of it making the pump difficult to pull - I made sure it was a loose fit. Note that the wire doesn't run under the hose clamps.

I slid some spare pipe over the splice as this area will be one of the weakest and most liable to chafe.

I also put a good amount of slack in the wire as the pipe can apparently stretch. The wire was taped to the pipe about every 5 ft. I also slid another couple of short sections of pipe over it to help protect it.

The pump ready to drop. The wire and pipe has been run out straight along the ground next to the well and safety rope attatched.

Down we go...

It really helped having someone else in the trench to help locate the pitless adapter.

The well cap with wire and safety rope.

Some metal conduit to protect the wire where it enters the ground.

The water line is attatched to the pitless adapter.

We protected the wire and waterline with some heavy duty poly pipe we picked up that was the remains of old fish farm cages. The "soil" was pretty much rocks and gravel some of it quite sharp.

The wire and pipe entering our homemade inspection chamber...

and exiting it ...

I fixed a few bits of bigger pipe together like so -

this means if there is any frost heave the pipe should "telescope" with the movement.

We slid yet another piece of pipe over the wire and waterline and into the chamber - this is the area in danger from freezing. We insulated the pipe and placed a heat tape inside it. I put some expanding foam around the top to seal it all. If there are any problems with freezing or the heat tape we should be able to remove/replace it easily.

Here's the finished results with the floor joists. It will eventually enter the cabin under one of the cabinets in the kitchen area.

Now we're ready to insulate and lay the subfloor.

Hopefully by this time next week we'll be thinking about walls!

glenn kangiser

Looks great to me, Al - but then what do I know... :)
"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.


When it comes to wells, quite a bit more than most of us! I'm glad to have your seal of approval.  :)