Monday, November 11, 2013


Hello! Welcome back to my cabin construction blog.  It's hard to believe, but construction is complete enough to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy, which was issued last week.  It's been an amazing ride. Still a bit of trim painting to finish up, and a few other minor details, but the cabin is totally livable!  Actually, we've decided that it is not a cabin.  We've decided it's a cottage now, just so you know.

A few quick thank you mentions are in order, and then onto the photos.

*Our friends Tim and Pam who own a beautiful house in Margaretville, NY (about 30 mins from our cottage) were kind enough to allow us the use of their home for lodging the past couple of years throughout this whole process. When you combine the number of trips we made Upstate in the year leading up to construction for planning purposes, and all the trips up during construction, their kindness saved us thousands of dollars in lodging expenses.  Thanks, Tim and Pam!

*My dad, having a great deal of woodworking experience, was the guiding force behind the construction  of the kitchen cabinets.  We worked on them over the course of about a year, spread out over several different weekend sessions.  I would not have had a clue how to build them on my own.  It was a "sweat equity" project that saved us thousands of dollars worth of custom cabinetry, but more importantly, it was a lot of fun working with him.  And the cabinets look amazing!  Thanks, Dad!

*Our General Contractor and building crew (three people total) were the most skilled, professional, and pleasant people we could have ever hoped to work with.  Seriously, they were amazing.  One anecdote:  In August, I was up there for a couple of days by myself doing some work and our contractor, who was also onsite doing some work one day, asked me if I had plans later that night.  I didn't, so he invited me to the county fair with him and his family and crew to see a demolition derby in which he sponsored a car being driven by one of the crew members.  It was my first ever demolition derby and it was a lot of fun.  I won't mention the contractor's name here, but if anyone is in search of a contractor in the Western Catskills area for construction, renovations, etc, please feel free to contact me.  You won't find anyone better.

Here's some pics:

The front of the cottage.   The deck runs the length of the house and is 12' deep.

The dining area.  

The living area.

The reclaimed barn board living room wall with Tracey stylin' & profilin.'

From the living area looking into the dining and kitchen area.

From the kitchen looking into the dining and living area.

The kitchen with open shelving and soapstone countertops.   My dad and I built all the cabinets.

View from couch with Mom and Dad in foreground. 

The round Morso 7648 wood stove.  This thing is awesome!  It has a very large glass viewing window and it heats via convection (as opposed to radiant) which allows for an extremely low clearance requirement to combustibles.  It heats the entire cottage, upstairs and down, so we don't have to turn on the electric heat when it's fired up.

This is the downstairs half-bath, tucked cozily under the stairs.  The vanity is only 9" deep and 18" long.  It's slightly bigger than an airplane bathroom, but don't worry, guys, you'll only have to duck when standing at the toilet if you're  taller than 6', 6."  

The downstairs hallway that leads to the beginning of the stairs (barely seen in this pic to the right of  the window).  The barn board wall is the reverse side of the living room wall.

The first few stairs in the back corner lead to a landing, then...

Then the stairs turn and lead to the upstairs hallway.

The upstairs hallway looking into the two bedrooms (the bathroom door is on the right).  We decided to go with carpet in the upstairs for noise reduction (and we probably wouldn't have had enough of the reclaimed floor boards that we used for the downstairs floors). 

The upstairs "master" bedroom.

The upstairs guest bedroom.  Just imagine an air mattress in there.  

Here you can see the built-in shelving beside the closet in the guest bedroom.  Because of the size of the guest room, it will be difficult to comfortably fit a dresser in there.  The shelving (which will eventually contain woven baskets, or something like that) is meant to provide storage for clothing items that would normally be stored in a dresser.  

We had originally planned to do the built-in shelving in the master bedroom as well but we decided against it, as you can see in the left corner.   Since we have plenty of room for a dresser in this room,  we decided that open space would be ideal for a hamper.

Upstairs bathroom pedestal sink

The upstairs hallway window, looking at the wooded hill at the back of the house.

The back of the house is where the parking area and main entry door is located. With the parking area in the back, cars are not seen from anywhere in the house, though if you wish to, you can see you car by looking out the windows at the top of the door.    

From the road.

From the deck, looking into the living room

From the deck, looking into the dining area.

I love this picture.  In the final weeks, the crew moved all dirt-producing work outside on the deck. Not exactly a cubicle.

And finally; Our trusty, dependable 1999 Subaru Forester which has served us remarkably well over the past year.  She already had a lot of miles on her when we bought her and we put a lot of miles on her in a relatively short period of time. She has not complained once.  We call her, Rhoda.

Well, thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks to all who have expressed interest throughout this process.  It was a lot of work but it's hard to believe how fast and relatively smoothly it all went.  For those of you who know me well, I don't have to tell you, I have had a burning desire to build a cabin, or cottage, or whatever it's called for a long, long time.  I'm not sure why, nor do I care to think too much about, "why."  But, THANK YOU for putting up with the endless talk of this for years.  I promise I will talk about other things now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting Close

Hi there!  Welcome Back!  A lot of exciting things have been happening at the cabin.  They've also happened in a relatively short period of time and I've slacked a bit with the blog so I'm cramming a lot of stuff into this post.  Everything has been going smoothly with no major problems. We're very happy about that.  So, here's a bunch of pictures with some explanations. I hope you enjoy.


After the spray foam insulation was completed, sheetrock went up in the entire house (and has since been taped, spackled, sanded, and primed; and most of it painted).  This is looking towards the dining area of the downstairs.

Looking towards the living area of the downstairs
Guest bedroom
"Master" Bedroom

Upstairs hallway looking into the two bedrooms


Another big thing that has happened is that the Board and Batten siding has gone on the house.  Here are some pictures of different phases of that process.  

Here's a shot of the East and North sides with the boards (though not yet the battens).

The final board on the front side of the house is about to be installed.  The pieces of wood trim you see at the top of each window are fastened at this point to secure the copper flashing and the rest of the trim was added later.

This is a close-up of the East wall with the battens installed on top of the boards.  You can also get a better idea of how the window trim will look in this picture, though it is not yet painted. 


A few years ago, I found a small wood reclamation company in NJ on craigslist that was selling old reclaimed barn boards for an amazing price. The boards were in a pretty beat up condition -- the perfect look for the rustic wide plank flooring we had envisioned for the cabin.  Me and a friend, Tom, who is a professional carpenter (and a great actor), took a trip out to NJ to look at the boards.  We spent about 10 hours on one January day, in several inches of snow and temperatures in the 20's, sifting through a huge stack of boards for the purpose of picking out the best ones.

We were very lucky to be able to store the boards at our friends Tim and Pam's house in Upstate NY who have a huge quonset hut on their property.  The flooring we now have in our cabin would not exist without Tom's guidance in picking out the best boards, and our friends Tim and Pam's generosity in letting us store the boards for three years.

The stack of boards in our friends' quonset hut

As I mentioned, the boards were in pretty rough condition and required planing before installation.  Here is an example of how the boards typically looked before and after a couple of passes through the planer.  I planed a bunch of boards while in storage in the quonset hut, and the builders planed the rest before installing.

The builders installing the flooring.

After the installation was complete, I spent about a half day sanding them with three different coarsenesses of sandpaper.  Home Depot has good quality sanders you can rent by the hour for a decent price and they are very easy to use.

Then came the polyurethane!  Wow, that really made the floors pop with rich character.

The weather was a bit muggy so it took around 36 hours for the first coat to dry, before applying the second coat.  The rich amber color became even more  intense after the second coat.

Second coat completed!  One note about applying the polyurethane; For the first coat, I used a lamb's wool pad applicator which in hindsight was not the best choice.   Even though the boards were thoroughly sanded,  old reclaimed boards have imperfections, including old nail holes in our case.  This caused tiny fibers to fray and tear off of the applicator at certain places.  Ultimately, it's not a huge deal because after all the interior trim and final carpentry is complete, I'll give the floors a very light sanding with a very fine coarseness of sandpaper before applying the final coat of poly.  As I did for the second coat, I'll apply the final coat the old fashioned way; down on my hands and knees using a wide brush.  It takes a long time and is not too easy on the back but it'll be well worth the difference in quality.


One of the most rewarding parts of this whole process has been the building of the kitchen.  My dad and I together built all of the cabinets.  My parents live about three hours away in PA so we worked on the cabinets in about eight different two-day sessions in my parent's garage over the course of the past 16 months. I designed the cabinets but I have relatively little experience with that kind of wood working.  My father, however, has quite a bit of experience working with wood and was the guiding force in the construction of the cabinets.  It was very fun working with him on this. First, we purchased all the wood and made all necessary cuts.  Then... 

 Then, the assembly began.  Note: we built all the boxes, facing strips, and drawers, but had the doors and drawer facings custom built as doors are hard to make without professional equipment.

My dad standing next to what will be the island counter
When construction of the cabinets were completed, we began priming them.

The finished product!  Tracey and I knew we wanted something in the green family and Tracey found this "Kennebunkport Green" which we like very much!

My brothers and I installed the cabinets last week!  They will soon have soapstone countertops.  The opening on the back wall is where the stove will slide in.  The sink will be in the island counter. We will be installing open shelving on the back wall (rather than cabinets) for a more rustic feel.  Note about the refrigerator; it came from the factory with only one option re: the side on which the doors open.  We will simply have the doors reversed to be on the right side for better flow when working in the kitchen.  

Here, the soapstone countertop maker is making a template which he will use to cut the stone to size at his shop. He will be returning soon with the countertops ready for installation!

Because the building of the cabinets  spanned 16 months from start to finish (often with a couple of months between work sessions), working out of my parents garage,  we stored the cabinets at a storage facility about a mile from my parent's place so as not to take up their entire garage.  


The deck was built last week!  The deck runs the length of the house (26') and is 12' deep.  

The first post going in.  Holes for the post were dug 4' deep with a cement footing pad placed at the bottom.

All  posts are in and sawed to correct height. Here, the front part of the deck is being set.
Perimeter framed out
Deck complete!
My brothers, Rick and Tim on the newly completed deck.   They were up for  three days helping with the kitchen installation and a lot of painting.  It was a great time!

Upstairs guest bedroom primed and ceiling painted.
Upstairs master bedroom primed and ceiling painted. 

Downstairs living area painted beige.

For the most part, all that remains is the installation of interior doors, moldings, trim and baseboards; bathroom tile; final plumbing and electrical fixture hook ups; installing the wood stove; a little more painting, staining the deck, and one final coat of poly on the floors.  Things that should hopefully be wrapped up in the next few weeks.

A well deserved sit on the deck after a very productive three days of work. 

Well, I guess that'll do it for now.  Thanks for taking the time to have a look at this rather lengthy post.  The next post will probably be the final one as we are fairly close to completion.  Very hard to believe. This whole summer has had a very surreal feel to it.  Everything has happened so fast that it's often hard to process things as they are happening.  All good, though.  Very good.