Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

Archive for March, 2010

In like a lion, out like an insulated lamb

Yo yo yo! After a long bout with a very bad flu and a very bad job, I ran up to my mountain a few days ago. Despite the recent torrential rains, mudslides and freezing weather, the cabin stands strong!

I was worried that during the severe rains we had, mud running down the driveway would veer off course and slam into the back end of the cabin. NOT! My grading of the pad worked like a charm and the mud followed it’s God-given course around and away.

It’s been almost 3 months since I was up there but El Cabinito stayed watertight and upright through the winter storms. I even used the giant level on the floor to see if the footings had shifted or settled and to my surprise, it was a level as the day it was built …like a rock!

The bee in my bonnet has been to finish off the interior walls so I could sleep in a comfortable baby goose down bed. The trailer’s beds are fine if you like cheap foam mattresses and freezing all night, but it’s getting old. I had $125 credit at the Home Depot and I calculated the insulation cost to be about $120 so off I went.

The rafters are 2×6’s on 16″ centers and need R-19 insulation, the walls are 2×4’s on 16″ centers and take R-13. I know that some eco-cats want me to use shredded denim or blown recycled sheep shearings but I’m an old-school kinda guy, comfortable with fuzzy fluffy shards of glass. To my amazement, the local Home Depot was having a close-out sale on pink fiberglass R-13 and R-19! It worked out to $.22 sq/ft, well below half of normal cost.

My total bill was $120, including staples and a coke. I bought packs of 93″ batts so that they would install easily (another reason I framed everything 16″ on center based on 8’high walls).

Installing insulation isn’t rocket science, but can be a pain-in-the-ass.

First rule with fiberglass is PROTECTION! I wore long pants, thick socks, a hat, leather work gloves, protective eye shields and a dust mask. You don’t want this stuff anywhere on your skin.

I did the walls first, it seemed easier and would get me into a rhythm. You basically lay the 93″ strips in the space between rafters and staple down the tabbed edged to the studs. If you’ve framed the wall height to 96″ (on the outside), the batts fit exactly in each opening. When I got to a different sized opening, I used a carpet knife to cut the batts to size.

The ceiling was more difficult since you’re stapling toxic fibers upside down over your head, but using the second 8′ ladder to hold up the other end of the batt, I soon had a system going.

One note though…I started out using 1/2″ staples but they were too long and didn’t sink all the way into the studs. I needed to use a hammer to tamp them completely into the wood. I’d suggest 1/4″ or 3/8″ staples.

Labor time to insulate the entire interior (including a lunch break) was 4 hours.  2 hours on walls, 2 for the ceiling. I was done in enough time to shower, make a cocktail and enjoy the rest of the glorious, sunny afternoon.

As I’m sipping my drink, a car pulls up the driveway. This is unusual since I’m very remote, the driveway is hidden and no one knew I was up there this week. Out steps what looks to be a county building dept. official, clipboard, badge on a lanyard, stern expression. I got nervous.  Turns out he was the local census guy looking to collect data on all us hermits.

We had a good conversation, he admired my new “storage shed” and as he was leaving says…”it’s almost dusk, you wanna be sure and watch out, there’s a lot of mountain lions up here.” (HAHAHA) He told me the woman down the road a few miles was having a hard time keeping her livestock alive due to the pesky critters. Most of the ranchers in the area had noticed a sharp increase in lions this year. Mr. Census said he had a bobcat problem on his property. Bobcats are actually kinda small and cute but on his side of the mountain, bobcats the size of coyotes were carrying off the neighborhood dogs.

I told him my lion story and he laughed, said I was lucky it wasn’t hungry, at that distance I shoulda been dinner!

Next stop…Drywall Junction, Electrification-ville and Deck-Town!