Guest Post: Homemade Face Mask

As many of you might know, my wife is a talented seamstress. With all the scary news about catching Covid19, she decided to make her own face masks. Her instructions are below: 

20200324_190119

I know that a homemade fabric mask is not the same as an N95 mask. So I wasn’t going to even bother making one until my friend who owns a pharmacy put out a desperate plea for help. “We’ve been told to use whatever measures we can to protect our staff and I can’t get any masks even though I’ve been ordering them since February,” she said. “If you want to make some I’ll give them to my staff and my at-risk patients. Something is better than nothing!”

I decided to download a couple of patterns from the internet and try them out. I was disappointed because the masks didn’t fit snug next to my face, and I could actually feel my air flow going in and out of the gaps above my nose. I also didn’t like the masks that had elastic gathering up the sides of the mask.

But I took the parts of the mask patterns I liked and combined them with my own ideas and came up with this pattern. It is simple to make, and because there’s a pipe cleaner over the nose, it hugs your face. I made some masks for my family and we noticed that the masks get sucked inward when we breathe in, so they must be working!

mask-materials-effectiveness-0.02-microns-en
Enter a caption

I read this article that lists the effectiveness of different materials against 0.02 micron particles. I made several masks out of some of these fabrics and I will tell you down below which ones work the best with my face mask pattern. You can download the pattern and instructions here as PDF: bestfacemask.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I couldn’t wait to try making my mask out of a tea towel. I even wanted to double it to make the mask more effective. But the towel was way too thick and bulky, so I had to settle for just one layer, and no lining. I turned all the rough edges in and zig-zagged them. I put the pipe cleaner in and zig-zagged over it.

I think the tea towel mask looks cute, but it’s hot and hard to breathe through. Also, because the towel is so bulky, the pipe cleaner doesn’t get bendy enough to conform to my face well. This one’s a fail.

20200325_220433
100% cotton t-shirt

Next, I made a face mask for my husband out of a 100% cotton T-shirt. I used the T-shirt for both the mask and liner, so the t-shirt is doubled. The t-shirt was a little bulky, but not too bulky to prevent the pipe cleaner from working. This mask stretched a lot as I sewed, and doesn’t hold its shape very well, but my husband likes the comfortable stretchy feel and says it’s easy to breathe through. Win!

20200325_221944
quilting fabric + cotton t-shirt

Then I made a mask out of some lightweight quilting fabric and used a cotton t-shirt as the liner. It’s a little bit warm but overall works well. Win!

20200325_221823
Cotton sheet + flannel

I read that hospitals that use homemade masks suggest using flannel as the lining. The flannel is soft against the skin, and it absorbs moisture from breathing. When I tried this mask on, I told my husband, “Oh! It’s so comfy! Try this one!,” and he tried it on and said, “mmmmmmm!”  Unfortunately, I think it would be too warm to wear for an extended period of time, but maybe that’s because the flannel I used is really thick.

20200325_221726
Ralph Lauren bed sheet

The last one that I made is similar to the striped one. One layer is 50/50 cotton/polyester bed sheet, and the other layer is a 100% cotton Ralph Lauren sheet. It’s lightweight, easy to breathe through, and cute! Win!

20200325_154728
Very comfy and good coverage

Update:

After washing these masks in the washing machine, I noticed the pipe cleaner worked its way through and was poking out of the T-shirt fabric and the flannel. So, I would mark those fabrics as a “fail” for this pattern, unless you bend down the ends of the pipe cleaner to make them not pointy.

Gutters!

20200215_165453
You can’t hardly see the gutter in this photo

I didn’t think I would do gutters. In some parts of the LHBA world, gutters are a dirty word. The thinking goes like this: with enough roof overhangs – usually 4′ for each story, and 8′ on the gable ends, gutters aren’t needed. I’ve mentioned before that the finished home will have wrap around porches, thus the reason I only have 4 foot overhangs on my two-story house.

I found out about a month ago why, when the wind blows, the rain still comes in – even though I have the roof finished. Mosseyme says without the chinking, the gaps in the logs are big enough that when the wind blows, there’s nothing stopping it from going right through the house. It makes sense if you think about it- wind is forced to go around a solid wall, but it blows right through a fence – therefore, if there is rain along with wind, it’s going to go right through the “fence” (log walls) until I get it chinked.

In my last post, I talked about installing a porch. I even dug some preliminary foundation holes, and then foolishly thought it would stop raining long enough to pour concrete. I was a fool. Sure, last weekend, we had our first full 2 days without rain this year (it’s the middle of February). But when I checked the forecast last weekend, I saw that more rain was predicted this week. And that made me mad. Ok, not mad, just frustrated. I already knew gutters would cost a bit, but they also install pretty fast. So I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of 5″ gutters and the hardware. And some flat black paint because – really – white gutters on a log home look really tacky.

20200215_164607
I hadn’t quite connected two gutters together in this photo. I fixed that. Also note the porch post holes in the ground below…

Preparation

I was surprised at how far spray paint has come in the last few years. The label on the can specifically said, “dries in 10 minutes”. I was thinking, “yeah, right. Maybe ‘tacky in 10 minutes’, but I doubt ‘dry’.” But it was cheap. And it was dry in 10 minutes, just like they said.

A ten foot gutter takes almost an entire can of spray paint. I had 6 gutters and 4 cans of paint, and barely had enough. I didn’t paint the inside or the top edge because the paint will eventually flake off in the rain, and you’ll never see it from the ground.

Pre-install

I researched gutters carefully. I wanted something cheap, yet durable, and with availability for replacement parts. I have done a vinyl gutter on a previous home, and the while the main hardware (gutters) seemed inexpensive at first, I got nickled and dimed to death with the special hangers and foam/plastic connectors.

Having them professionally made is intriguing- they come out with a machine and make the gutters in one piece out of a roll of sheet metal. They are bent into the correct shape by a machine with rollers. But it’s not economical for the guy to come out and make them and then let you install them. And you can’t buy a single gutter in a 60′ length and have it delivered, either. (It’s a great business model, actually….)

I ended up settling on good old fashioned aluminum gutters- light, strong, won’t rust, can be painted, hardware available almost anywhere. Also stupid proof.

Install

I put a nail in the middle roof on the eve board, about an inch down from the shingles. I stretched a mason line from one end of the roof to the other and used a mason string level (it shows declination angles of 1/8″, 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ per one foot of length). I stayed just this side of the 1/8″ per 1′ line, hoping I could get it down to 1/16″ per foot. Then I nailed the blocks described below along this line for the entire length of the roof. This ensured the gutters are slightly angled (not level) so the water will naturally flow towards the downspouts. My mason string bubble with grade markings (the white one below) came in handy:

empire-levels-83038-64_1000

My eves are actually on an angle compared to the ground, while the gutter instructions say to make sure you install the gutters so the top edge is parallel to the ground. Since my roof is a 6/12 pitch, this means that I could use blocks with a 30 degree angle to offset and make the gutters level, so I got out the chop saw and nail gun and put up blocks every 2 feet on the eves:

20200215_130653

Also, they say to install downspouts every 30 feet or so. This became a problem because to do this, I would have a downspout right in the middle of the house, and two on each end. I decided against this and came up with finding the middle of the house, and angling the gutters down on both sides from the middle towards the edges. Also, with 8 feet of overhang, there isn’t anything to tie the downspout to right at the corner, so I attached the downspouts near the corners of the log walls. The gutters angle down in a very wide ‘W’ pattern, with the downspouts attached at the bottom of the ‘W’, and the middle and corner of the roof being on the three high points of the ‘W’. You can’t even tell from the ground, since the grade has a slope of about 1/16″ per foot. Over 30′ of gutter on each side of the middle of the roof means the gutters only drop about 1 – 7/8″ over that span. Here’s an exaggerated diagram- red represents the gutters, blue represents water and downspouts, and black represents the logs and the roof. The downspouts ended up being in the outside, rather than the inside corners:

Capture

Unintended and happy consequences are – since the roof already has a bit of a wave in it, adding gutters only help draw attention away from the roof. I can’t tell from the ground anymore that the roof has a bit of a wave in it. It’s the principle of art where the “eye loves a line”.  <- I read that somewhere in a history of mathematics book. Off topic: did you know that straight lines rarely exist in nature? It’s only humans that like (and make) straight lines. In nature, everything twists and turns- there are beautiful spirals and perfect circles, hexagons, elipses, etc., – but no long straight lines.

It was scary installing them with my scaffolding. The scaffolding instructions say to only use it on hard flat surface, but I threw the instructions away. I had to make do with rolling it around in the mud and dirt, which wasn’t always level. A few times I thought the scaffolding was going to tip over just from my using my air nail gun. But it didn’t, and I’m very blessed.

20200215_124616
18 feet tall scaffolding. scary at that height. Oh, and a gutter.

Downspouts

I used self-tapping sheet metal screws to hang the downspouts. Cutting and fitting at that height is a bit challenging, but doable. Eventually, the downspouts will lay on the porch roof. I’d like to attach rain barrels and use that to store water for the dry season at the end of summer.

Next steps

I’m pretty pleased with the results. It rained 2″ after I got them installed. I wasn’t there while it was raining, but came out later and saw where the water had washed out onto the ground. All the logs on that side are completely dry, and I’m pretty tickled about that.

I’ve sanded two outside walls, so they are ready for stain. I’ve sanded almost half the inside walls. I ordered some stain this week, but I need to wait for a few dry days where the overnight temps don’t drop below 40 before I can apply it. Carpenter bee season is in just over a month. If everything works, it’ll be slim pickings for them.

Porch needed

This might be another post where we are getting ahead of ourselves, but I wanted to capture this discussion as well.

The logs are still getting wet. You can see it in this video. This was part of the plan, even after the roof was finished. I was hoping to just finish the roof, move in, and then add the porch. But while filling bee holes, and with the heavy rains we’ve received lately along with wind, I see the bottom layers of logs still getting wet. This is somewhat expected. But they are also getting wet even when there’s no wind. If the rain is heavy enough, it is hitting the ground and splashing up on the logs. Even with 3′ of height from the ground. This is unexpected. There are a few factors I know, and some I recently was informed of:

  1. The roof has such a large surface area (56’x30′ x 2) , that it drains a lot of water. 3′ of height to the first log apparently isn’t enough to stop the splashing.
  2. This is “The South” where we get a lot of water.
  3. It’s a 2 story house. If I was not installing a porch, I would have planned on having 7′ overhangs (3.5′ overhang for every story).
  4. As it is, I have almost 8′ overhangs on the gable, and 4′ overhangs on the eaves. The plan was always to install a porch, so I didn’t see the point of overkilling the roof overhangs (longer rafters = longer sawmill track = bigger trees = more decking, more roofing, more osb, more shingles, etc.), because I knew a wrap-around porch was in our plans. Just not now.
  5. This was new to me, thanks Mosseyme: Without chinking, there is nothing to stop the wind from blowing right throw the house (gaps in logs). Over that 23′ drop (see #3) or so, rain has space for the wind to blow it off course and into the house. Normally,  (Ok, scratch that) I’m learning in the South that nothing is normal, and the weather can do whatever it wants.

So, I’m rethinking the “wait another year + before adding the porch” because the logs are getting wet now, and will be until I get that porch built. But all is not lost. My wife reminded me that we could just build the roof over the porch, and leave decking it until later, which would

  • get the lower logs protected right away
  • save me time on installing the porch decking

I like this idea. With that in mind, I started drawing to answer the question “What should our deck look like?” Here it is:

20200116_102743

Notes on this drawing:

  1. I was originally envisioning the West side of the house in this view. But I realized all four sides would have similar views, just with stairs or the carport. Ahh- the carport- more on that below….
  2. My biggest question is still how do you wrap the porch around the pass logs that stick out at the corners? I don’t know. I assume I’ll have to shave them off. For now, I’m going to build a “West Porch” and an “East Porch”. I’ll build them as far as the corners of the house, and not wrap them around just yet because my gables aren’t framed in. After the E-W porches are built, I’ll frame in the gables. Don’t need the porch getting in the way of my scaffolding and hauling materials up to the gables. After the gables are done, I’ll frame in the North and South Porches and figure out how to wrap the whole porch around the house.
  3. Gutters. I’ll get this out of the way- gutters do help direct all those thousands of gallons of water away from the lower (porch) roof. I’ll route them down the side of the porch beams, and eventually into water barrels for use in the garden or whatever. Yes, it still gets dry in August sometimes.
  4. Roof slope. The main roof is 6:12 pitch. But that doesn’t look right on the porch roof. And there is no hard and fast rule on matching the slopes of two roofs. Normally, the porch roof slopes slightly less than the house roof. I’m going with 3:12, which is pretty flat, I know, but you’ll see why below with the carport…I know 3:12 is below the recommended pitch for shingles, so I’ll have to add “special underlayment” to compensate for the lowered drainage rate.
  5. Carport. We’re tired of getting wet on the way to the house. However, I don’t want the garage attached to the house because fumes. Yes: “because fumes”. So, we need a carport and a detached garage. From my figuring, I need about 10′ of width for each car. But if we keep the carport roof slope the same as the rest of the porch, it would get pretty low before reaching the width needed for 2 cars. Julie had a great solution- park the cars perpendicular to the house- let the headlights face the house instead of parking parallel to it. This means the carport can be 14-17′ long, and we can just make it 30′ wide – enough for 3 cars.
  6. Dimensions:
    1. Porch roof height: about 9 feet, I figure.
    2. depth: 10′
    3. roof overhang: 12′.
    4. deck height vs inside floor: it’ll compare to the inside finished floor height in this manner:
      1. inside floor: 12″ (11.75″) joists, 3/4″ subfloor, 1″ finished floor = 13.25″
      2. outside deck: 10″ (9.75″) joists, 1.5″ decking = 11.25″. Later, we may enclose part of the porch into a large laundry room by adding 3/4″ subfloor, and then 1″ finished floor to bring the height to 13″. Trying to plan ahead….
    5. deck height vs ground: hoping for a deck height below 30″, so I can avoid handrails. Wife might override me on this one….

Here’s a bird’s eye view:

20200116_144009-1

Notes on this one:

  1. it’s a lot of roof. A lot. But you only live once, right? And we do want to see this thing still standing in 400+ years, right? Ok then. Roof it is.

I’ll let y’all know how it turns out….

Wood floors

20200110_172016
I work on it at night. 

Yes, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but this discussion has started and I wanted to capture it.

You’d think you just go down to the big orange or blue box store and buy some hardwood. But no, that’s not how we’ll do it- mostly because they don’t sell what we want. There is a confusing amount of choices to make when it comes to floors. For our cabin, we get the luxury of installing the same floor throughout the entire 1st floor BEFORE we ever install any interior walls. It’s a perk of a LHBA log home because:

  1. 1. we don’t have any load bearing walls on the interior like they do in every episode of HGTV.
  2. 2. cutting the floor material every time you need to meet up with an interior wall is a pain.

What is the best type of floor for the home we are building? And by “best”, I mean:

  1. Durable
  2. Easy installation
  3. Cheap
  4. Long lasting
  5. Beautiful
  6. Practical

There are a lot of options, but here’s what we’ve looked at doing:

Type of floor

decorative-concrete-institute_52255
concrete floors – http://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/interiorfloors/design-ideas/log-cabin.html

There are concrete floors– Ronnie (of LHBA) does this a lot- and they look great. He installs pex before pouring, and then hooks it up to provide radiant heating. This requires at least a concrete slab, so it wasn’t an option for us since we planned on having a pier foundation. Plus, I really did want the pier foundation for two reasons: 1. lots of airflow to keep things cool under the house during the hot, humid summers we have in the south. 2. Even though our property shows up on the FEMA map as being 600 feet from the outermost band of a 1,000 year flood zone, I’m still not taking any chances, and piers gave the house an extra 3 feet of height, just in case.

log-house-kitchen-with-stone-tile-work_7062
tile floor: https://www.offgridquest.com/images/1596/Log-house-kitchen-with-stone-tile-work_7062.png

Tile floors– this would be nice for spills and leaks, but I worry about getting it right everywhere- it must be perfectly level everywhere. Also, I have a piano to roll in there- I really don’t want to break tiles with that thing. And even though we have hot humid summers, my toes told me they don’t like cold tile in the morning.

stock-photo-spacious-log-cabin-living-room-with-high-vaulted-ceiling-and-carpet-floor-view-of-antique-stove-198322286
carpet with wood

Carpet – Well, we entertained the idea, but when looking at cabins with carpet in them- we both decided it just looks ugly to us. Maybe for the upstairs, but not the main floor. I personally feel like carpet holds dust, dust mites, and is generally bad for the air, but I was surprised that there are studies on both sides of the issue, and there’s a lot of disagreement on this idea. Either way, we thought it looked ugly in practice, so we’re not doing it.

This leaves wood. But not so fast- what kind of wood? engineered? solid? Hardwood? Softwood? What shape of edge- flat boards? Shiplap? Tongue and Groove (T&G)? What type of attachment method? Face nailing? Blind nailing? peel and stick? glue or no glue?

Wood Floors

I asked around on the LHBA forum- Rod said even the engineered stuff isn’t staying flat- he installed it in his camper. That was surprising. I thought it might be better, but I’m actually a snob and want real wood. So that narrows our choice down to either hardwood or softwood. The heavy piano is a problem. Even though I believe shellacking it *could* make it hard enough, I’d rather just install oak or something and *know* it’s hard enough.

But still- not so fast. I put red oak in my old house in Utah- it worked out great, but the boards were only about 2″ wide. For this cabin, we both agree that we want really wide planks- like 12″ wide. But the orange and blue people don’t sell them in that width normally, so we are going to have to use a lumberyard.

That still leaves the attachment method and the edge- T&G would probably be expensive for the mill do for us. I imagine shiplap to be cheaper and easier. Or, I’ve heard folks just doing planks with no edge and face nailing the planks. LogHouseNut (LHN) did this, and then used tung oil to protect the wood.

And on the face nailing issue, Rod was a purist- advocating “cut nails” over standard nails from a nailgun. I looked into cut nails- there’s a company that makes them using civil war era equipment – no joke. But LHN said he’s been disappointed that even though he went through all the trouble to use cut nails, not one person has ever asked about them. Probably because once they’re installed, the average person can’t tell the difference between the head of a cut nail and a regular nail.

00e0e_hupyt5rmzkj_1200x900
This guy has 1″x12″x12′ oak planks. And the same in pine. 

On a not-so-satisfying-note about wood floors- everywhere I read, they all agreed that wood floors must be installed cross-wise of the floor joists. My floor joists will have to run N-S, due to the layout of my pier foundation, which means my finished floor will have to run E-W, which means when you enter my front door, the floors will run left and right- I wanted them to run front-back (N-S). Oh well. I mean, I can’t easily move the piers…. 🙂

Capture

And finally, there are a lot of determining factors on the width of the plank- some websites say they can only be installed in an area where the humidity only varies “a little”. They say Colorado is a terrible place for wide planks because the humidity can vary so much. But here in the south- we have high humidity most of the time- is this also bad? Nobody knows. And what do they mean by “bad”? Some say it doesn’t matter if you have an AC system. Also, they say don’t install wood floors before you have the AC working – need to keep the humidity level. But that would mean I’d need the house to pass the final inspection (can’t turn on the power until I get an ok from utilities), meaning – what? – I just leave the subfloor until I’m ready to move in? I don’t think so. No. I’m thinking these ‘experts’ might not be so expert when it comes to the real world.

Summary

We’d like to go with very wide – hopefully 12″ wide – oak plank floors, made from rough-sawn lumber, installed E-W, probably glued to subfloor, face-nailed with ring-shanked nails, and then slightly counter sunk. Floor sanded, stained, and then sealed. Oh, and it’ll come with a “if you ever want to remove it down the road, good luck” guarantee.

One guy on C-list sells a rough cut oak board (1″x12″x12′) for $18 each. I’ll need about 1600/12 = 133 boards. It looks like I can get 1600 square feet of  the stuff for about $2400 or less. I have never seen pictures of a floor with planks that wide in a cabin. If I can get out to the local mall, I might take a few of a floor I saw there with very wide planks. When I saw it, I just stopped and stared. I don’t even know what they sell in that store, but the floors are awesome!

Buffing logs

 

20191012_105409.jpg

I know you guys are all excited for me to finish the house, but we are low on funds at this point, so we are working on projects that don’t take a lot of money, but do take a lot of time. Hang with me, I’ll get there……

Now that we are under roof, the logs will stay nearly dry forever (we hardly ever get sideways rain here in the South), which means we need to borate them one last time. We’ve only done two things to the logs since we cut them down- peel them and borate them. I’ve written about the peeling and borating in the past. According to Skip, the man behind the LHBA Butt & Pass method, that’s all that needs to be done. Gray weathered logs are not a problem with the LHBA style, due to the large roof overhangs and the borate. But gray logs are ugly in my opinion, and my wife and neighbors agree. So, in anticipation of borating and staining the logs one last time, I pressure washed them. Some still had bark that I missed while peeling, and all of them had chunks of dirt from being dragged over to the building site. They really needed a good cleaning.

There are actually two ways to clean the logs- wet (pressure washing), or dry (corn cob blasting or with sand or glass media). The dry method involves renting a machine, buying a bunch of crushed corncobs, and spraying the thing. That costs lots of money. The pressure washing just requires a pressure washer, and about “4,000 gallons of water”, according to a frantic call from our utility company, ha ha…!

The problem with pressure washing, I found out, is the fuzz that is left over afterwards. It’s a gloppy paper-like residue that sticks to the logs- really, it’s just the sun-burnt or bleached  outermost layer of logs I sprayed off. You need to get it off the logs before borating or staining – otherwise, it will soak up the stain and borate and waste your money. And it looks ugly anyway.

Sigh.

Fuzzy logs = More work.

It’s surprising (not surprising) that there aren’t better methods to get the fuzz off (I know- corncob blasting is the method)….But seriously- you’d think there would be a cheap attachment that you can stick on a drill and brush the logs with. (Sorry, I’m not doing this by hand). But no – there are expensive attachments, but I couldn’t find cheap ones. And a drill is not made for cleaning the fuzz off of 6400 sq ft+ of logs. In defense of the expensive attachments, Slamasha reports it working very well, and he’s happy with the results from his $99 nylon cup brush that attaches to a power buffer, like the kind of buffer you use to wax your car.

I kept researching and found a nylon bristle brush for $20. That sounded much better.

815w8032blrl._ac_sl1500_

Why nylon? Why not sandpaper or wire brushes? Well, I tried sandpaper on an inconspicuous part of a log – and it scratched up the logs. The wire brush was worse.

I also tried green scrubber scotchbrite pads – the kind you use on that 9×13 lasagna baking dish. mmmm….Lasagna….Sorry- the scotchbrite pads hold up well- except when you get close to a knot or a sliver- then they get destroyed.

Plus the idea is to buff the logs, not sand them- they are already pretty smooth.

After buffing, I can then borate, and then stain the logs. I’m so glad the staining part only has to be done once in a while, and the buffing and borating only has to be done once.

Bee holes

20191004_174031.jpg

Unfortunately, our logs sitting out on racks for a year attracted carpenter bees. The borate doesn’t help in that situation because the bees don’t actually ingest the wood, therefore, the poison doesn’t hurt them. However, I found a few helpful websites that claim to know how to get rid of the bees. Here are some of the suggestions:

  1. Fill in the holes with caulk (or dust and then caulk), then cover with wood filler, and sand smooth. The bees are attracted to previously used nests, so this covers the holes.
  2. Get plenty of bee traps- a 4×4 with a mason jar screwed to the bottom. Bees go in, but they don’t come out. Some folks are complaining about killing the bees, but I’m a fan of the Bible, where man was designated as lord over the whole Earth. Dominion means being in charge. I don’t mind carpenter bees- but they do not belong in my house. And I’d like to meet a naysayer who has a more ‘environmentally friendly house’ than mine, that is of a similar value. Trust me- I like nature, but I also value order. The two can co-exist.
  3. Stain the logs. Carpenter bees are apparently very attracted to a log in the early stages of decay- I mean, they aren’t attacking standing trees. Staining the logs preserves the wood, and is less attractive to bees.
  4. Not mentioned on any articles I found, but bees don’t seem to like to burrow into wood that is shaded. It’s curious, but I found when working out there in the spring that the bees would be busy on the sunny side of the house, but not in the shadows. As the sun moved throughout the day, so did the bees. They would even leave if I waved my arm and caused a shadow over a place where they were trying to land. I think our wrap around porch will help in this area.

It is a very time consuming, but necessary step. And with the sudden cold weather blast we just had, this is putting a lot of our progress on hold, as we can’t apply stain if the temperature is less than 50.

20191024_165519.jpg
On the left: done. On the right: in progress.

Staining

Lots of debate here. But what I found was stain is made for specific things- you shouldn’t use deck stain on a log house, according to most manufacturers – something about stretching and peeling. Some folks think that is bunk, but I think I’ll go with the specialized product on this one.  There is also oil based and water based stains. We like the idea of an odor-free home that isn’t off-gassing dangerous smells, so we looked at water based stains, which have come a long way in the last 20 years.

We settled on a company called Sashco. I checked their website for dealers in my area, and found one nearby. I called them for samples, and received them the very next day. We read the literature, which was mostly advice for kit log home owners, and went outside and stained a log to see if we liked the colors.

20191006_151536.jpg

I can’t tell the difference between the two colors, but it does look nicer stained.

On the inside, Sashco doesn’t recommend staining the logs, but instead recommends just putting a nice clear coat on them. From what I’ve heard from other LHBA members, the natural look on the inside makes the build go faster, but dust tends to settle on the logs and is really hard to remove- you can’t just wipe them down. The clear coat helps with dusting.

That’s all for now!

 

How to use Ropes & Knots to build a log cabin by hand

31121933387_b468a62321_z
Up close cradle on triple blocks (bottom block is homemade).

I’ve always been intrigued with rope and string, and the many uses for it. A few years ago, I even took up knitting, and I’ve come up with my own designs for socks, sweaters, hats and scarfs. The idea that clothing can be made simply by looping string together is quite astounding when you think about it. And building a cabin with ropes and pulleys is a fascinating step back in time. Some of the pulleys I used were 100 year old antiques I found on Ebay. But I made others myself.  Now that I’m all but done using ropes, I feel I should document the various knots and holds I utilized to help build the house. As a former Boy Scout and as an outdoor enthusiast, I already knew most of the knots I would use. And yes, I can tie a sheep-shank. But there are some new ones I had never used.

Out there in internet land, there are many “how to” articles. Most are written as puff pieces by folks who have never actually used the ideas they are promoting, mainly just writing for clicks for advertising. Rest assured that I have used every knot and method below, and everything works just as I describe. These are all the knots you will need to build a cabin using block and tackle.

The rope

I’m using 5/8″ triple ply dock rope (poly rope) available on Ebay for about $130 for a 600 foot roll.  I’ve used about 1500 feet of rope so far (3 rolls). It has a working load of about 700 pounds, and a breaking strength of about 4,000 pounds.

NOTE: LHBA now recommends using double-braided rope if building with lifting poles and block and tackle, due to its increased strength, compared to the same diameter of triple-ply rope. But I decided against double-braided rope for two reasons:

1. Cost: double braided rope is much more expensive.

2. Ease of repair: Triple ply poly rope is easy to splice. Double-braided rope cannot be easily spliced. This means you must buy it in the length you need for use- for me, it would have been 220 feet each. If it breaks, you must buy another 220′ length. This seemed impractical for my build, and I decided to take my chances with the somewhat weaker triple-ply poly rope.

Why so long on the rope? If using triple blocks, the rope will pass through the blocks seven times. 7 * 30′ (lifting poles) = 210′, plus enough to tie onto your tractor.

Various manufacturers will give different load calculations, so check when you’re buying. The 5/8″ rope I used said it was rated for 700 lbs of load, and had a 4,000 lb breaking strength. The lower number is the one you don’t want to exceed. The upper number applies to the force (mass x acceleration): as in when a log begins to fall and the rope suddenly stops it. Finally, I found a helpful method to loosen a knot I can’t untie: I hit it with a hammer while turning it over and over.

Now that I am finished with the part of the build that requires a lot of rope, I can say the triple-ply rope held up almost perfectly. I never had a triple ply rope break when it was used properly. Note that I built the largest cabin designed by LHBA: the 40×40, using logs that average 17″ diameter, and weigh up to 6,000 lbs.

Safety

I did have several close calls where the rope broke, but these breaks were always due to the rope being bound up in one of my antique pulleys, and then getting sliced by one of the pulley faces. And these close calls luckily always happened when the log was only a few feet off the ground. I always keep children and dogs away from whatever I’m lifting. Also, never allow anyone in the line of sight of a stretched out rope- if that thing were to snap, it’ll act like a whip and could take out an eye or worse.

My rules are pretty simple- don’t ever put a part of your body you’d like to keep under a log you are holding with rope- this means don’t walk under a log, don’t stick your hand in between two logs to get a tool, be aware of the location of everyone on site while you’re working. Warn everyone you’re about to lift, make sure they acknowledge you, stay clear, etc., and on and on. Check and double check what you are about to do. Know what it will look like when it is finished before you start lifting.

And now, onto the….

Knots

Note: The links for each knot take you to a video I made on how to tie that knot.

Capture
sheet bend

Sheet Bend: Don’t use a square knot that can jiggle loose or become impossible to undo when you can use a sheet bend. This is a great way to tie two ropes together, and comes apart when you’re done. I’ve used this one recently when removing a motor and transmission from a car using a length of seatbelt scrap. And if you loop the last end instead of pulling it tight, you can untie it even more easily. Not that it’s difficult to untie in the first place, but….

Capture
figure 8 knot

Figure 8 knot: don’t use an overhand knot when a figure 8 knot is better. I use this one when I need to take up some space in the rope (like to make sure the rope doesn’t get pulled through a hole), or when I need to shorten the strap around the log. They tend to be easier to untie than an overhand knot when you’re finished using them.

Capture.PNG
bowline

Bowline: This knot creates a loop that will never get too tight, and also can hold people and tools. It can also be tied using one hand.

 

Holds

Capture.PNG
prusik knot

Prusik Knot: This was a game changer- it suspends the log so you can move the tractor to a better position. Doesn’t look like it will hold because of the thin rope, but it does- along with the triple blocks, I’ve dangled 6,000 lb logs in the air with this knot.

Capture
tent hitch or tautline hitch

Taut line or tent hitch: I use this on my safety line to keep it tight. Sometimes the lifting poles shift when a heavy log is attached, so this knot is nice and easy to re-tighten, or loosen so the rope can be re-positioned.

Capture
double half hitch

Double Half Hitch: I use this knot to tie the rope to the tractor. Easy to tie, easy to untie- never gets too tight.

Capture
telephone lineman hitch

Telephone lineman cable hitch: Ok, I don’t know what the real name of this hitch is. But this is what I call it. I used to use it at the phone company for pulling cable through a conduit. As long as you keep tension on it, it will hold. As soon as the tension is released, it will fall apart. The secret is making sure you throw the loops on the piece correctly. It works for pulling 20 foot- 2×10’s up onto a 25′ roof, too.

Loops

40672344940_2b1b309a52_b
You can turn this log to the right or the left, depending on how you loop it. When the rope is pulled on this log, it will turn towards the left.

Sometimes you need to turn the log up in the air. Depending on how you hook up the strap, you can force the log to turn whichever way you need. The trick is to pass the free end of the strap through the loop in the end of the strap such that when the strap is tight, friction forces some rotation at the connecting point. I used lots of 6,000 lb 6′ loop straps available from Harbor Freight. Four on the top of the lifting poles, and four at the bottom  of the pulley.

Also, don’t forget the quick release pins I used when installing the rafters. See this video. This makes it possible to release the lifting straps from the safety of the ground when using a crane to install rafters. Sure beats shimmying out onto a rafter 25 feet off the ground to loosen a strap.

Splicing Rope

Unfortunately, rope wears out or frays and becomes dangerous. You can splice two ropes together using a “long splice” and almost maintain the original integrity and strength of the rope. I’ve never had a long splice fail, even with logs that weigh thousands of pounds. Here’s how to splice rope in a way that keeps the integrity of the rope, and yet will still pass through a pulley. For use with 3-ply rope.  This method connects two pieces of rope using 3 splices, and each splice contains 2 “sub-splices” using 1/3 of each strand. The best video for it is also the most boring one:

Long splice

 

That’s it for knots. If you have one you like, let me know!

 

Pressure washing

I’d love to say I’m installing the 1st floor, which will mean installing ledger boards around the inside perimeter of the house. But I’m not. They rest on the piers, and are lag screwed to the 1st layer of logs. Two 2×12’s are bolted together and run the length of the inner piers. Floor joists are hung from the ledger boards, and butt into the two 2×12’s – like this:

Capture
Thin vertical lines are joists, thick horizontal lines are the 2×12 sandwich. 90 joists needed.

I need about 90 joists. I’d like to use the “I-Joist” engineered beams because they are stronger than 2×12’s, and they don’t bow. I called around- looks like Discount Builders almost has the best price- $2340. The craigslist “recycled materials” guys say $1500. And $800 shipping, so $2300. I’ll pay $40 extra because Discount has treated me right every step of the way. And they are local.

nordic-i-joist-residential
Nordic engineered I-Joists

I also asked about just regular 2×12’s, and Discount said that would be $1700. Much cheaper. But again- they bow. And I would really, really like the floor to be perfectly flat, so $2300 seems worth it.

Preparation for the task

Installing the subfloor gives us something for the scaffolding to roll around on so I can (more) easily work on things like electrical, chinking, windows, and frame in the gables- the open triangle on both ends of the house near the roof.

While thinking about it, I realized there are other tasks I should do before this- such as pressure washing the house. I figure it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pressure wash the house after I install the subfloor, since the pressure washing will get the subfloor all wet, so I decided to pressure wash the house before I put the subfloor in. And then since it will be clean, I should borate it. And then probably stain it.

Which means I needed water at the house to connect the pressure washer.

Installing a water line

Which means I needed to dig a trench to install the water line. Luckily, Alabama has no real “frost line”. Code says the water line should be minimum twelve inches below grade. I borrowed my late neighbor’s trencher attachment, and easily got the job done, after sweating and working hard doing about 30 feet with a pick and a trenching shovel. On a side note, the sewer line will have to wait- it has to go down five feet, and the trencher might go two feet, if I work at it. But that can happen later. I got the water trench dug:

Trenching a Water line

I talked to the city, and they recommended 3/4″ PVC pipe for the main. Their connection is 3/4″. Seemed to make sense, so I installed 200 feet of 3/4″ PVC for about $60 and got the water line up to the house. Then I talked to my fellow LHBA friends, who informed me I’d never be happy with 3/4″- and I should go with 1″ or larger. You wouldn’t believe the amount of math that goes into determining what size of water line to install. I went to Lowe’s and bumped into a plumber who worked there and told him my dilemma.

He said, “no, 3/4″ will be fine, it’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.  How many bathrooms did you say you had?”

“Three.”

“Three, huh…..Ok….well…….maybe you should put in one inch pipe….”

I guess the theory is that even though the flow is constricted to 3/4″ at the road, the fact that I’m 200 feet from that connection means the line has time to build up pressure over a long enough run, so a larger size pipe can be used. I ended up ripping it out and replacing it with a larger pipe. I can still use the 200 feet of 3/4″ to reach the back of the property, I guess. The goal is, after all, to turn the whole thing into a small farm, so….

I stuck a faucet on the house. And one by the blueberries, just because. I’m not sure why I think it’s amazing to drink out of a faucet next to the house, but I’m tickled that I can now do this.

20190910_164907

Started pressure washing the house

And then I decided instead of borrowing a pressure washer, I should buy one- it’s going to get a lot of use. Craigslist to the rescue….

20190910_164841

I broke the “new” pressure washer after using it for 3 days- I didn’t notice when I bought it that it was missing one of three bolts on the pump head intake manifold. Bolt #2 broke while using it the other day, and water game gushing out of the thing. When I looked closer, the 3rd bolt had sheared off years ago. I bought an “easy out” bit and drilled the sheared bolt out of the hole. Then I replaced with new bolts, refilled the water pump with the recommended gear oil, and tested it at home. Seems to work pretty well.

I think we’re going to need to stain the house – we like this straw-yellow color we discovered under the sun-bleached gray logs, but it will eventually fade if we don’t protect it.

Water based or oil based stain? I was guessing oil was probably better, but it stinks forever, and smells are something we just don’t want. But then I talked to several suppliers of both types, and all of them agree- water based stains have come a long way, they don’t stink; they are better for the environment, clean up easier and are similar in cost.  I’m sure we could have a lively debate between which is really better, but it comes down to the smell for us, and ease of clean up.

We looked into it- looks like a 5 gallon bucket will run us about $260, and will cover just the outside of one wall. Protecting the outside of the house is going to run us around $1000. Wow!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next steps

The weather has been hot and dry- perfect for pressure washing. I can’t imagine pressure washing while soaking wet in January. Shiver! The cool thing is that the other day, it was 95+ degrees, but I was actually cold working inside spraying. I came out of the cabin to take a break- and noticed the temperature went up about 10 degrees. Even with all the air gaps, the inside of this thing is much cooler than outside.

Hopefully, this heat wave will hold out long enough for me to get done pressure washing and then sanding, and then cool off some so we can start staining, but not freeze. And then we’ll either do some chinking or get the 1st floor installed. Haven’t decided if rain is blowing in from the outside through the cracks yet.