Construction Journal for 1995, Part 1 of 4

1/3-5/95 I went up to the property for three days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There was about three to four feet of hard frozen snow on the ground. The temperature was about 15 degrees during the day, and zero at night. The poor little furnace in the trailer ran constantly just to keep it livable inside. The propane tanks were low on Wednesday, so I went to the Parkside Store and filled them. They took 10 gallons, so I was lower than I thought. Good thing I didn't try to make it through another night.

I worked on the cabin design and finished sawing the second plank from the sawlog.

Earl Landin stopped in for hot chocolate on Tuesday afternoon. He looked at my plans and advised me to keep the plans general that I submit to the county. He said any details that I include will lock me in to that design later, and if the county wants more detail, they will ask for specifics.

On Wednesday I talked to Mike Tutino and asked about using BCI for rafters. He said you have to use the 11 7/8 size to accomodate the required insulation. He also said that the county requires support for a 95 lb./sq. ft. snow load regardless of the pitch of the roof.

I called Marson & Marson Lumber and found out that they will deliver 40 foot lengths of BCI rafters with no problem. I also called the Longview Fiber sawmill to get a price quote on logs. The only person there that will give a quote is Ron Simons at (509) 548-6254, cellphone 669-5224. I tried to reach him but couldn't.

1/6/95 I called Ron Simons and he told me they are paying $56 /ton for Douglas Fir and $50 /ton for Pine. He said the density varies as much as 45% so he wouldn't give me a value for density. He also said the price of logs is down about 30% from a peak a year ago. Their mill only buys small, straight logs that are exactly the size I need for the cabin.

I built a spreadsheet calculating the price of logs using the quote from Ron. The filename is LOGPRICE and at the quoted prices, 3100 lineal feet of 10 inch Doug Fir logs would cost $1894. Adding 10% for the logger as Skip recommended brings this to $2083. For Ponderosa Pine, the prices are $1353, or $1488 to the logger.

1/10-13/95 I went up to the property intending to stay Monday through Thursday, but since I was on a roll, I stayed until Friday.

Since I decided to build a concrete foundation, and put the rocks on the outside of that, the rock piles are in the wrong place. Not only would it be awkward to have to take them through the crawl space door in order to use them, but they will be in the way for building the foundation not to mention the footings for the wood stove and the columns. Therefore I decided to move the rocks out of there. On Tuesday, I built a ramp out of snow and two planks. The planks form a bridge over the foundation trench, and the ramp goes over the bridge and up nearly to the top of the big rock pile. At the bottom of the ramp, I dug about a 10 foot square hole in the snow where I want the new rock pile to be. I was able to test the ramp before dark and it worked great. I put a sled at the top, load it with rocks, give it a little nudge, and it slides gently down to my new rock pile. I put these first rocks in the new rock pile and called it a day.

I moved rocks in this manner pretty much all day on Wednesday and Thursday and also Friday morning. It snowed off and on the whole time, sometimes mixed with rain. It didn't seem to bother me, but I caught a cold just before I left so maybe it did. The propane tanks were just a little under half when I left.

1/23-25/95 I went up to the property for three days: Monday through Wednesday.

There was about six inches of new snow on top of the old snow, and the old snow hadn't melted or shrunk too much so my ramp and bridge were intact and still worked great. After moving my gear to the trailer and getting water at the spring, I spent the rest of the day moving rocks.

On Tuesday, before I started moving rocks, I called Mike Tutino to get his opinion on heating systems. He said that from the people he talked to, the opinions on heat pumps in that area are divided. Most people say they don't work, or at best are marginal. The other group, who seem to be mainly rich people, claim that they work great. Mike said that high electric bills probably don't bother the rich people.

He also said that heat pumps cost around $6000 and are a constant maintenance headache. He chose an electric forced air furnace which cost around $150 and he installed it himself including the ducting. He said it was easy and went together like a kit. He said that electric baseboards were more expensive and noisy but you could control individual zones that way. He installed them in his bathroom so that it would always be warm.

He suggested that I take my plans to the Chelan County PUD and have a talk with Fred Swilke. After I hung up with Mike, I called the PUD and talked with Fred for quite a while. He told me quite a few details about their Super Good Sense Program and the state building code. I made an appointment to sit down with him and talk over my plans on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

By Tuesday afternoon, my propane tanks were nearly empty, so I took them over to the Parkside Store and filled them. Again, they took about 10 gallons, so it was a good thing that I did.

On Wednesday, I moved rocks until noon, and then after lunch I took a saw and a hedge clippers and cut trees and branches that had fallen or bent over the trail to the spring. I had been fighting these and ducking under them for the past several weeks and I figured it was time to make it easy to walk the trail again.

By the time I left, the bigger of the two old rock piles was down to about two to three feet below the level of the ramp, and the new rock pile is two to three feet above the bottom of the ramp. I now have to lift the rocks at each end, but gravity still moves them from one pile to the other for me.

1/31-2/2/95 I went over for just two days - Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday, after moving in and getting water, I moved some more rocks. It rained all day, but there was about five or six inches of new snow since the last time I was there, so my ramp and bridge were still intact and they had a nice new surface of snow. It was actually a little easier to move rocks because since the temperature was above freezing, the rocks weren't frozen solid together like they were before.

On Wednesday I had an appointment in Wenatchee at 9:00 with Fred Swilke in the Energy Department of the Chelan County PUD. I got up at about 4:30, did my exercises, had breakfast and thought I had plenty of time. I left the trailer about a half hour earlier than I needed to. Unfortunately the pickup got high centered in the snow and was good and stuck right where I had parked it. It took me about 40 minutes to dig and winch it out. This made me about 10 minutes late for my appointment with Fred.

We talked about energy and building requirements and related topics until a little after noon. He gave me a bunch of material that will help me understand my choices and the requirements of the code. With what I learned from him, and from the stuff he gave me, I think I can make the choices of heating, ventilation, and insulation that I need to, and I think that I can fill out the necessary related forms to complete my building permit application. It was a very useful meeting.

On the way back to the trailer, about a quarter mile away from the property, I picked up Earl Landin who was out walking. I backed the pickup into the same parking place I was stuck in in the morning, and Earl and I went in for a cup of coffee. We chatted until about 3:30. He left and I started packing to go home. I had a dentist appointment the next day, or I would have stayed longer.

I was ready to leave by 4:00, but the pickup was high centered and stuck again. It took me 30 minutes to dig it out this time. While I was digging, I resolved to learn from this experience. From now on, if the weather is warm and the snow is wet, I will dig the snow out of the driveway BEFORE I park the pickup. That's a lot easier than digging it out from under the pickup after it has been compressed into a cake of ice.

1/8-10/95 I went to the property for three days: Wednesday through Friday.

There was no new snow on the ground and the old snow had shrunk and was frozen solid. You could walk over the top of it almost anywhere. I easily parked the pickup in the old ruts without any shoveling or problem.

The ramp had shrunk to the point that the plank bridge needed new abutments. This was a good time to rebuild it anyway because the big rockpile was now so low that I had to lift the rocks up a couple feet to get them on the ramp. I will leave them for when the snow is out of the way. I moved the ramp to the second rock pile and moved the bridge over to it. I spent most of the three days moving rocks from this pile to the new pile.

I talked to Paul Hanson at Marson & Marson on Wednesday and also on Thrusday. He gave me a lot of useful information about joists, rafters, insulation, fasteners, etc.

I checked the overflow pipe at the spring and found one dead caddisfly larva. This was a surprise. Now I will start checking the pipe regularly again and do some research on the caddisfly to try to explain how he got in there.

On Thursday, I checked the spring again and found that the overflow pipe screen was almost plugged and water was squirting out the top in little streams. I took the pipe off and found it contained about a half a cup of sand - no caddisfly larvae. I don't know how this sand got in there, but the flow of the spring is about as high as I have seen it. I cleaned the pipe out and the next day there was more sand in it but not as much.

I called the Temp-Cast masonry stove company and talked to the president - the guy who answered the phone. He gave me some references and some information on the construction of the foundation for the stove. He also told me that the firewood length for the stove is 21" maximum and 18" nominal.

On Friday, I talked to Bob of Bob's Heating Service to get an idea of the tradeoffs between propane and electric furnaces. He said gas furnaces are hotter, but they cost about $600 more not counting the propane tank. Propane is also more maintenance hassle and more dangerous. An electric furnace, however, requires a higher level of insulation in the house. With this information, and what I learned from Paul Hanson, I think I can decide what type of heat to use.

2/15-17/95 I went up to the property for three days: Wednesday through Friday. There were no caddisfly larvae in the pipe but there was some more sand in it.

There was about a foot of new light powder snow. It was easy to shovel out the parking place with a big aluminum scoop shovel. The ramp and bridge were in good shape and I moved a lot of rocks on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Thursday and Friday I did a lot of calling and talking to various people. By Wednesday evening I was pretty discouraged because it seemed that there was no way to meet the energy code requirements. The problem was in figuring out what average log diameter to use. According to the way I interpreted the rules, my average diameter was about 6 inches. By choosing electric resistance heating, the requirements for windows is U-.31 which makes them prohibitively expensive. By choosing another heat source, the requirements are more relaxed, but in talking with Terry Mylan, a heating contractor, I didn't like any of the alternatives for a heating system. I also learned that if wood is the primary source, then the secondary, or backup, cannot be electric.

On Friday morning, I was on the phone again with the building department, the PUD, and Marson and Marson. They had all done some additional research for me and I became encouraged again. The key new information was that I could use an average log diameter of 9 inches because of the way I plan to chink them. This raises the window requirement to U-.40 which is a standard reasonably priced window. The plan now is to use electric resistance forced air as the primary heat source, and a masonry heater as a backup. That way, I can build a remote thermostat control so that I can call up a computer in the house and have it set the thermostat up some predetermined time before we plan to arrive at the house. Then when we get there, the house will be all warmed up and we can build a fire in the masonry heater and it can take over the heating job from then on while we are there. In the beginning stages of construction, I will install the iron wood stove we have on the masonry stove pad temporarily while we finish building most of the cabin. Then, later, build the masonry stove and chimney.

I made an appointment to review my plans with Paul Hanson at Marson and Marson on Tuesday, 2/21/95, and choose windows, joists, and rafters. After that, I think I will finally have everything I need to submit the building plans to the building department. I knew this permitting process was going to be a hassle, but I didn't expect it would discourage me as much as it has. I'll be glad when it is behind me and I can get down to some serious building.

The propane tanks were empty so I took them home to fill them.

2/21-22/95 I went up to the property for two days: Tuesday and Wednesday. There were no larvae in the overflow pipe.

On the way up, I went to Leavenworth first and met with Paul Hanson at Marson and Marson. He looked over my plans and gave me a lot of good information about building and what to specify for the building department. In particular, we figured out what windows to use. I think I now have all the information I need to prepare the building permit application.

After that, I stopped in and talked with Terry Mylan about heating system options and about log house construction. He is a heating contractor who lives three and a half miles from Leavenworth up the Chumstick. He gave me some literature about propane and heat pump equipment.

I got to the property about 1:30 and after moving in my stuff and getting water I moved some more rocks.

On Wednesday, I moved some more rocks and cleaned out the creek just below the spring. It had backed up so that the overflow pipe was completely submerged. The temperature was 40 degrees so there was a lot of snowmelt runoff.

2/27-3/3/95 I went to the property for 5 days: Monday through Friday. There were no larvae in the pipe. That one might just have been a dead carcass from last summer that got flushed out by the high volume of water.

I spent Monday afternoon through Wednesday at noon working on drawings and forms to get the building permit application ready. I finally got it done on Wednesday and felt ecstatic and relieved. As I had anticipated, that was the least fun chore for me in this whole project.

Wednesday afternoon I moved more rocks. I had to carry them by hand because the snow had melted enough so that I couldn't use the sled on the ramp. The plank bridge was still ok for me to walk over though.

On Thursday and Friday, I worked on the design of a computer program to draw perspective views of the cabin (or any other figure for that matter). I am a little concerned about whether there is enough room for the southern corner roof support column and still leave enough room on the roadway. In order to explore options for solving this problem, it will be helpful to be able to see perspective views of the various options from various viewpoints. That is what the program will help me do.

During the week, I shut the furnace off each night when I went to bed and then turned it back on again at 3:30 or 4:00 AM. The temperature got down to 12 or 15 degrees at night outside and down to 35 or so inside the trailer. By the time I got up, the temperature in the trailer was back up to cozy. This seemed to conserve quite a bit of propane, because after the 5 days there was still about 3/8ths of each tank left. I didn't bring the tanks home to fill them.

3/5/95 I got the perspective drawing program to work and to display pictures of the future cabin. It will be very useful in making decisions later.

3/6/95 Ellen made copies of the building permit application package.

3/7/95 I mailed the building permit application off to Wenatchee.

3/8-10/95 I went up to the property for three days: Wednesday through Friday. There were no larvae in the overflow pipe.

There was about four inches of new wet snow over the top of the shrinking old snow which was still a couple feet deep in most places. I spent most of the three days moving rocks. With the new snow, I was able to easily make the ramp and bridge work again with the sled. The ramp has been shrinking at about the same rate that the rockpiles have been shrinking so the only things that change much are the slope of the ramp which gets gentler, and the height of the new rockpile, which gets higher.

By Friday night, the propane tanks were about 1/8th full and I wasn't sure if they would last through the next morning. I took a risk and didn't get them filled at that time. They lasted fine, probably in large part because I turned the furnace off at 9:00 when I went to bed and didn't turn it back on again until 4:30 in the morning. I did take the tanks home with me when I left and they felt very light.

3/15-16/95 I went up to the property for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, with Chuck Kleeberger. We found no larvae in the pipe.

I had a minor accident soon after we got there. On the way up to the spring to get water, I fell through a snowbridge and ended up with my face and shoulder under water in the creek. Aside from getting wet and muddy, there was no harm done and we had a good laugh over it.

We spent the better part of both days moving rocks using the wheelbarrow. The snow was melted too much to use the sled. We finished moving both rock piles. The only rocks left are the big ones that will be easier to move, or break, after the site has thawed and dried out.

We also strung the hose from the spring to the creek behind the trailer. The flowing water will keep the hose from freezing, and I don't think we will get enough new snowfall this spring to cover and pinch off the hose.

4/10/95 I bought 10 frames of scaffolding from Ray and Vera Aldrich and about 40 sq. ft. of one inch marble. We think the marble will look good as a hearth for the wood stove.

4/11-14/95 I went up to the property for four days, Tuesday through Friday. There were no larvae in the pipe, and the water was still flowing nicely from the hose into the creek. That makes it handy to get water for my jugs. It is still too early to de-winterize the trailer, so I still use jugs and basins for my water. I hadn't been up to the property for three weeks because I spent two weeks replumbing our house in Seattle and one week visiting Larry and Karin at their ranch.

Most of the snow was melted but I still couldn't get the pickup up to the trailer. All of the snow was melted from the building site, though, and it looked pretty good now that all of the rocks were moved. The new rockpile seemed a lot bigger because the last time I saw it there was about four feet of snow all around it.

On Tuesday I carried the scaffold frames up to the building site and about half of the marble.

On Wednesday, I carried the rest of the marble up and built a rack to store it. It rained all afternoon but I dug a footing trench for a new rock wall that will widen the roadway in front of the cabin by about three feet.

On Thursday morning after lying on the floor of the trailer doing my back exercises, I found a tick crawling on my arm trying to bite me. He must have come into the trailer on my clothes the night before. I was walking through a lot of brush the day before carrying the marble so that must be where I picked him up. Needless to say, from then on, I was extra alert for itching sensations, and I was a little more careful to avoid brush.

I dug some more footing and started building the wall for the road in front of the building. I also finished digging the footing trench for the southwest wall of the building and used the dirt to start backfilling the road. The new wall puts the edge of the road right on the edge of the cliff and it makes the roadway about 13 feet wide, even where the corner of the deck will be. I was concerned about whether the roof support column for that corner would interfere with the road but now I can see that it will fit ok as long as I rake the roof back about 6 feet at the corner, I think that will work and look nice.

It started raining and then snowing about 4:30 in the afternoon, so I quit working and had my dinner. Later, the weather cleared up, so I went back out and worked from 7 until 8.

I worked on the digging and wall building Friday morning and then packed up and went home. The propane tanks were about half full.

4/17-20/95 I went up to the property for four days: Monday through Thursday. No larvae in the pipe. On the way up, I stopped and bought a used temporary power pole from Ray and Very Aldrich. I also got some more marble from them.

I spent most of the afternoon moving a big rock (I estimate it weighs 1200 lb.) from the building site to the road retaining wall. I used scaffold frames as derricks and hooked come-alongs to the tops of them. This, together with wooden rollers, worked pretty well. I moved it about 30 feet before I called it a day.

I called the Chelan Co. PUD and asked about getting temporary power installed. They said they would send me an application to fill out. They also told me that I need to bury a 3 inch UL approved conduit 3 feet underground, but not to start digging until an engineer looks over the plan and decides where to dig.

On Tuesday, I carried the power pole and the marble up to the building site and stashed it. I also hauled up a roll and a half of roll roofing that I bought at a garage sale. I will use it to roof the woodshed some day. After that, I finished moving the big rock the remaining ten feet into its place in the wall. I had just finished this when Earl Landin came by. We had a nice visit over coffee for a couple hours.

On Wednesday, I built a little more wall, backfilled the road, and began cutting and stacking firewood into the woodshed. When I talked to Ellen Wednesday night, she told me that we had received the information from the PUD.

On Thursday, I called the building department to find out about my application. They said that there was a high volume of applications and that they would probably get to mine in a few days. After that, I built roof supports for the woodshed and installed them, and then spent the rest of the morning cutting and stacking firewood.

The propane tanks were just a little over a quarter full, so I didn't bring them home.

4/21/95 I called Dennis Clark of the Chelan County PUD, who had sent me the information on electric service, and he answered a lot of questions for me. He said that I can be my own electrician as long as it is for my own home. Our furnace size would probably be 15 KWH, possibly 20 KWH. A 200 Amp meter base would be sufficient unless we planned some unusualy large power requirement later on. A 200 Amp breaker panel would also be sufficient. Voltage should be 120/240. I can use the overhead temporary pole I got from Ray for underground service as long as it passes inspection by the state inspectors. I don't need to determine the location of the nearest transformer or of the temporary power pole; he will help determine that after he sees my application.

He also said that I need to get a permit from the Department of Labor and Industries in order to have power turned on. I called them in Bellevue at 453-6589 and they said they would send me the information I need to apply for an electrical permit.

I prepared and mailed the Customer Request for Service to the Chelan Co. PUD.

4/26-28/95 I went up to the property for three days: Wednesday through Friday. No larvae. I spent the time excavating the remainder of the main footing trench, which I didn't quite finish, and building the retaining wall and roadway in front of the building site. For the big rocks, I used two scaffold frames chained together at the top as a derrick. Using a come-along from this derrick to the rock, I was able to easily drag the rocks to where I needed them.

This was the first time this year that the snow was melted enough so that I could travel the back trail without snowshoes. When I went back there, I discovered that a big tree from the Forest Service land had fallen across the property line during the winter. It seems to me that I should be able to take the portion of the log that is on my property, but I will check with the rangers before I do anything.

The propane tanks were a little over an eighth full so I left them for one more trip. 5/3/95 Denny Clark of the PUD called and said that he got my application and had been up to see the property. We talked quite a while about requirements and alternatives. The distance from where he puts the transformer to the meter must be within 150 feet. This is called the secondary line. The trench for the secondary needs to be 30 inches deep. If the transformer is located on my property, the ditch to it (called Primary) needs to be 36 inches deep and if I provide the ditches, it costs about $800 more than if the transformer were located off the property.

At this point, it looks like there are two reasonable alternatives. The first is to locate the transformer just to the west of the driveway and outside the property line, and run the secondary trench up the steep slope more or less directly toward the west side of the building. The second alternative is to locate the transformer somewhere near the trailer, or further up the hairpin turn, and then run the secondary up the roadway to the east side of the house.

The first alternative is most desirable since it is about $800 cheaper. The only catch is that there may not be a route for a ditch through the rocks.

I told Denny to hold my application until I have had a chance to go up and explore the feasibility of digging a ditch up the steep slope. He said he would put it on hold until he hears from me.

Denny described the sequence of steps to getting temporary power installed:

1. I determine which alternative for a secondary route I want. 2. Call Denny Clark, tell him the route and to take my application off hold. 3, He sends me an estimate for the work. 4. I commit to the estimate by paying and providing necessary easements. 5. Denny issues the Work Sketch which goes to Leavenworth 6. I submit the Work Permit Application to Dept. of Labor & Industries. 7. I build the temporary power pole. 8. Dept. of Labor & Industries comes out and inspects my temporary pole. 9. PUD crew from Leavenworth install transformer & hook up pole.

On step 9, if the pole inspection hasn't been completed by the time the PUD installs the transformer, they will come back later at no extra charge and hook up the pole after it has passed inspection.

1995: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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