For the last week or so the temperatures have been above 0°C and the snow has started to disappear. Not that we had a bad winter. It really only started to get cold in January and then it really only started to snow in February. And now it’s looking like at least another week in these tropical temperatures so we may have a green Easter, even though Easter is incredibly early this year.
And it’s got me thinking about the cabin.
We’ve only been to the cabin once this winter and it wasn’t really all that fun. We discovered that due to the lack of snow, the cabin wasn’t quite as insulated as it was last year. Last year, the snow had drifted up the sides of the cabin, entirely covering the dead space under the cabin. It had also insulated the roof with several feet of snow on top. But this year, any heat we created inside the cabin, quickly leaked out the thin walls, old windows and creaky floor. It took us hours to get the main room up to a bearable temperature. And then it took a whole room full of wood to keep it there.
After that, we reluctantly decided to wait until spring until we visited again.
So I’ve started dreaming about our projects for this year. We learned a few lessons last year that we will keep in mind when doing our projects this year.
Lessons We Learned Last Year
- Everything takes longer than you expect.
- Work hard in the spring and fall and leave time in the summer to play.
- Having no electricity is annoying when trying to renovate.
- Having no running water is annoying when trying to clean up when trying to renovate.
- Working with salvaged and repurposed materials is cheap but not as easy or pretty as Pinterest makes it look.
As fall and then winter progressed, we slowly accepted the fact that getting a roofer for spring would be next to impossible. So we went and spent some of what we had saved for our new roof on tickets to Iceland. (My other blog – Steph the Wayward Pilgrim – is an ode to my other passion.) Since that massive, time and money-consuming project is no longer on the table, we have come up with a different list of projects – smaller and hopefully a little less expensive.
The Third Room
This is the biggest of our smaller projects. This 8×10 room is currently the storage room, hence the very unexciting name. The bedroom that we currently sleep in happened to be the room in the best shape when we took possession of this tiny cabin. However, it is also right beside the deck, the driveway and the path to the outhouse so in the early morning and late evening, there is a fair amount of traffic going past the window. The room we call the Third Room is on the other side of the cabin, facing the woods and beyond that the marsh. It will be a much quieter place to sleep.
First, we want to make it bigger. There is a “closet”-type room next to it that we want to add to the bedroom. After removing the wall, it will add enough floor space to add a small wood stove. We currently heat the main room with a cook stove, which needs to be stoked every 15 minutes or more. It eats wood at an ungodly rate and doesn’t produce the long-lasting heat of a wood stove. After experiencing the cabin this winter, this extra stove became a priority.
We will remove the water-stained square ceiling tiles and then insulate the ceiling. We’d like to install a pallet wood ceiling when we’re finished to keep a rustic feel and the costs low. We also need to insulate the outer walls. Luckily, there are two windows in this room and the ceiling is sloped so there isn’t a lot of wall space. And if we’re going through all the trouble to insulate the room and add a heat source so we can actually use the cabin in the winter, we should probably install decent windows. Last but not least, we scored laminate flooring in a dark finish from Kijiji for a great price last year. We bought the underlayer on sale. So basically, this room will be entirely redone. Which sounds like a lot of time, effort and money but right now, there is nothing in it – no insulation, it’s already missing some ceiling tiles, the floor tiles are in horrible shape and taking out the wall shouldn’t be too much work because it’s not a support wall. (I know, I know, see lesson #1.)
Here’s a picture off of Pinterest that I used for inspiration. (I know, I know, see lesson #5.)
The Main Room
The 9×11 main room also has to be insulated. This will take a bit more work because there are more windows and doors. But the interior beadboard is already starting to warp and separate from the wall in places due to moisture build-up and extreme cold. And since we spend most of our time in this room, it makes sense to insulate and finish it properly in order to enjoy the cabin all year round.
And again, we should probably install newer windows. We have four windows along one side and one window that looks out to the patio table. We’d like to reframe the window (since we’re taking off the walls anyway) and insert a window that opens up almost entirely in order to pass food and drinks through it. Of course, on Pinterest, I found this fabulous idea of creating a bar-like table on the outside.
I like calling it the terrace because it sounds more sophisticated. The ground is very uneven where we are. Which means that one corner of the cabin, and one door, actually sits very close to the ground. But there are five steps up to get to the door on the other side of the cabin. The plan is to put flat stones on the part that is level with the cabin and as the ground descends (and the cabin gets higher), use pallets to create a deck like we did last year on the other side. Last year, I scavenged enough flat rocks to puzzle-piece together a small patio space outside the door. This year, I need to find more rocks to extend the patio and start assembling the pallet deck.
The window table and high seating would take the place of the shelf that is against the side of the cabin in the photo.
The Outdoor Shower
We have a lake to swim in but the unwritten rule of the community is not to use any cleaning products, no matter how environmentally friendly, in the water. So proper bathing or hair washing in the lake isn’t an option. As of right now, this isn’t a big deal because we only ever spend a few days at the cabin at a time. Swimming is good enough until we get back to the city and a proper shower. But this summer, we’d like to build a simple outdoor shower. We have a Coghlan solar-heated water bag that hangs from a support with a shower nozzle attached. We would like to build an enclosed space where we could semi-permanently hang the shower bag and have a little privacy. I’d like to post pictures of ideas I have but I told Soldier Boy, he could do this one and I have no idea what he’s got planned. Which scares this Type A personality a little. But the rocket stove turned out better than I expected so I just have to let this one go.
There is currently a small piece of sheet metal underneath the cook stove. Please don’t call the authorities, we know it’s not up to code. Which is why we bought leftover tiles on Kijiji for next to nothing. Adhering the tiles to a piece of cement board and grouting it will create a nice-looking, inexpensive and much safer hearth for the cook stove.
I think these projects will take up most of our time and money for this year. There will be other, smaller projects that pop up unexpectedly, I’m sure. But these are the big ones we’re planning for.
A few years ago, I never would have believed that I would be re-imagining a small cabin. I can’t believe how much I enjoy the planning, the searching for and finding of salvaged materials, the shopping for the new materials, and even the work involved in sanding, staining, tearing apart and rebuilding. I used to watch those TLC home reno shows and wonder, “Is all that work worth it?” Yes. It is. There is no better feeling than looking at your final product and saying, “Wow. With a little elbow grease and some help from our friends, we created something unique and beautiful and entirely ours. Who wants a beer and a burger?”