June Update

June 2011

I finally got the chance to work on my cabin over the last two weekends.  Between a busy schedule and the lousy spring weather in Wisconsin, this was the first chance I have had.  Unfortunately though, I’ve had to spend the time taping and mudding drywall – definitely not my favorite pastime.  This is something I really wish I could have hired out, but I just couldn’t find anyone to do it for a reasonable cost.

Of the five people I approached, one quoted me 2 grand, two never even sent me a quote, and two others said they would do it but bailed out in the end.  One of the guys that bailed on me was even an out of work drywaller.  Anyway, it’s about 90% done right now and I just need a few more hours for some finish coats.  I plan to start painting after that and then get the kitchen and bedroom finished.

Current interior

In lieu of working on the cabin in the previous months, I have made several trips to Ikea to acquire my furnishings.  Nearly everything, including the kitchen sink, will be from Ikea.  I really like the design of their furniture, and while it may not be the highest quality, it will be more than adequate for a cabin that is used maybe 30 days a year.  I did set up some of the furniture, as you can see in the pictures, even though the walls and floor aren’t finished yet.  While I have to move them around a lot, having just a few comfort items there makes all the difference when spending a weekend up there.

Future interior

I do have a couple of gripes with Ikea though.  First off, they have well known inventory problems.  It’s frustrating to travel 240 miles round trip to an Ikea store to find that they are missing a critical component.  In my case, they are out of stock on their solid wood kitchen countertops and do not expect them in for another 10 weeks.  Secondly, their customer service sucks.  I had to wait 40 minutes to return an item right after I bought it due to a mistake by one of their kitchen designers.  I guess this is the true cost for cool furniture at reasonable prices.

Outdoor lighting

There’s not much happening with the exterior right now as I’m first trying to make the interior as livable as possible.  I did add some LED Christmas tree lights to the outside for night lighting though.  I would normally consider this quite tacky, but I’m kind of forced into using them for the power savings with my meager electrical system.  If my next door neighbor did this where I usually live I wouldn’t be happy, but fortunately I don’t have any neighbors that can see my cabin.  The lights only use a total of 9 watts of power, and give off just the right amount of light to see where you’re walking and still enjoy the night sky.

View to the south

One last thing.  Even though I’m not a farmer, I love living in farm country.  Wisconsin is so beautiful in the summer, and the farms are a large part of that.  Most of the farms in northern Wisconsin seem to be cut out of the surrounding forests – a far cry from the endless farms in the flat states to the south.  The best part is that I get to enjoy the view without doing any of the work.

24 thoughts on “June Update

  1. Terry

    Looking good Steve – the drywall and furniture makes all the difference!
    I think the Christmas tree lights are a great solution. If they look too Christmassy you could always buy a 6 metre length of clear plastic hose and run the lights through the middle. It would look like custom LED lighting!! (And give extra weather protection and stop them from getting cobwebby too!!)

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Terry:

      Having walls and just a bit of furniture does begin to give a feel of how everything will flow inside. Interesting idea with the clear tubing, but I have very little clearance between the door locking rods and the furthest purlin. What I would like to try someday is LED rope lights. Unfortunately though, its several times the cost of LED Christmas tree lights and uses more than twice the energy. I think my Christmas tree lights only cost about $20 at Walmart.

      Steve

      Reply
  2. Penny Nelson

    Hi – not sure if the US IKEA’s website is the same as ours in Canada, but there is a way to check stock online per location before traveling there. Annoyingly, this doesn’t mean they’re willing to actually help one out and keep whatever it is you’re driving miles to buy so if stock is limited, it might have been sold by the time one gets there! But it’s useful to check beforehand anyway. PS I LOVE their kitchens – have one in my home. Did you know they are manufacture to meet California’s VOC standards? An environmental consultant told me that – he builds LEED homes.

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Hi Penny:

      Our Ikea website also has a stock prognosis, but if you wait around until something is in stock, then usually something else you need has gone out of stock – very frustrating. I do like their kitchens a lot. Lots of good designs to choose from, you can see them set up in the showroom, and take them home with you the same day – if they’re in stock.

      I’m not too familiar with LEED standards, but I doubt my cabin would meet them. Green building materials and methods aren’t common in rural northern Wisconsin.

      Steve

      Reply
  3. Alex Green

    This is such a great looking project. You could probably get this in Dwell Magazine, it’s that good.
    Ikea was the main source for furniture in my 20′ container cabin too. For a kitchen counter I spent $200 for professional kitchen stainless steel work table. Looks great and super functional. Built some shelves behind it for storage, etc. Works well and very functional in a small space.
    Christmas lights are very functional, and heck, they don’t look THAT bad.

    Reply
  4. Woody

    Steve:

    Wish I knew you were coming to the Ikea in Schaumburg. Would have liked to have met you and taken you to lunch because you are a great inspiration.

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Hi Woody:

      I still have a few Ikea runs in my future, so maybe we could meet there for lunch sometime – I really like their Swedish meatballs. I’ll let you know next time I’m coming down.

      Steve

      Reply
  5. Rob

    Amazing work, Steve. Thank you for all your accurate and well worded documentation… my wife and I can’t wait to see more progress.

    We just bought 50 acres (8 open, 2 pond, 40 wooded) up here an hour from Buffalo, NY and I’ve been scheming and using SketchUp just the same way you have, in the hopes of building a similar cabin for hunting and small getaways.

    Keep up the good work, and keep the updates coming!

    Rob

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Hi Rob:

      Thanks for the encouragement, and I hope everything here helps with your plans. Please let me know what you finally end up doing, and I’d love to see some pictures of your property – it sounds beautiful.

      Steve

      Reply
  6. Jose

    As you’re about to find out, drywall compound dust is magically attracted to ANYTHING. Move anything with cloth (furniture, drapes, etc) outside and upwind before starting the sanding or you will be sorry for a long time!. Or sand with a wet sponge.

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Jose:

      I decided to avoid the whole sanding issue by just texturing all my walls. I’m using thinned joint compound applied with a roller, letting it dry, and then knocking it down a little with a wet sponge. I’ve already done the bedroom this way and it actually looks pretty good. I’m still refining my technique and will probably be proficient at it by the time I’m finished ;).

      Steve

      Reply
          1. Jose

            There is a paint intended for this effect, but you achieved the same for a whole lot $$$. Congratulations!.

          2. Jose

            There is a paint intended for this effect, but you achieved the same for a whole lot $$$. Congratulations!.
            Should have read “a whole lot LESS $$$”.
            Carpenters say Measure twice, cut once. Guess it applies to proofreading also!.

    1. Steve Post author

      Jose:

      While this will most likely be the subject of a future post, I can give you a quick overview here. Plumbing will be minimal at first, and I may or may not improve it over time. Since I already have a nice outhouse, there’s no need for a real septic system. My plan is to install a simple drywell to take care of greywater from the kitchen sink, tub/shower, and waterless urinal.

      The water supply system will be similar to that of an RV with a potable water storage tank inside the cabin. A 12V DC water pump and small pressure tank will provide water on demand to the sink and tub. The storage tank will be filled from water I bring along, at least until I get my well drilled. The well will only have a manual pump, although it will have a hose adapter on it to fill up the tank in the cabin.

      One comfort item I won’t be installing, at least for the time being, is a hot water heater, and I’m not sure I really need one. If I need hot water for dishes or cleaning, I can just heat some up on the gas or wood stove. I’ve researched a lot of options for hot water heating, and most of them are more complicated than I want for a simple cabin.

      Steve

      Reply
      1. Jose

        I would consider some sort of internal toilet, running to (and sitting on) a frozen seat is probably way too much fun……

        Reply
      2. Jose

        For hot water, at least during warm months, probably a tank painted flat black and exposed to the sun will do it. It will have to be vented and drained during winter, but I think it will work (and free).

        Reply
      3. cheryl

        Composting toilet would be a possability for the winter.
        Jose’s comment about a black tank/hose does work for warming water in the summer and place it on the roof of a small stall you can have an outdoor shower.

        Reply
        1. Steve Post author

          Cheryl:

          Composting toilets can be a problem in unused/unheated cabins during the winter – everything freezes and composting basically stops. Outhouses always work all the time. Mine is very nice and has a great view out the glass door. 🙂

          Steve

          Reply
  7. Adina Hirschmann

    When I went travel trailering with my family, we had RV toilets, both freshwater and recirculating. I think the recirculating was called a Monomatic, made by Thetford somewhere in the Midwest. I remember this blue chemical solution added to the water to help break down solids—it may also have had anti-freeze. There was also a pull-around curtain in the bathroom to protect the sink area and a handheld shower. For hot showers and washing dishes, there was an on-demand heater that used propane. Same with the stove. The refrigerator operated on gas, electric and 12-volt power (when off the grid.) For heat, there was a forced-air furnace. Lighting was half-and-half electric and 12-volt, for campground power or not. LEDs weren’t around back then. There was also an on-board generator for charging up the 2 marine-style batteries when not hooked up. BTW, did you rough in any wiring for home entertainment? There are plenty of automotive systems (audio and video) that run on 12-volt power. I had a pretty good sound system in my 1985 conversion van.

    Reply
  8. Adina Hirschmann

    I forgot to mention there were no solar options back in the 1970s for water or interior heating. Still, propane is a good backup on dark days.

    Reply
  9. Rane

    Hi Steve,

    Just started reading a lot about container homes. I’ve read that dry walls have health hazards. Can you share your thoughts please? Do you know of any other alternative to using dry walls? Thx.

    P.S: I love the finished product of your cabin. Well done! 🙂

    Reply

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