15 December 2014


Last week was spent doing a final layout, marking and cutting the rafters (which are also walls for an a-frame). More tedious than anything so not much to write about.

The rafters are complex cuts since I need the angle at top cut and then also notched to accept the beam. Then the bottoms need to be cut so they are flush with the floor. Seems pretty simple but those two angles are twelve feet apart and need to be right or else I have to haul another very long board out and that is a delay on everything that I don't need.

After all that I only had time to haul the wood up to the site and then the door which is very heavy and required some improvisation to get way uphill without breaking. But I made it!

How to move a large door with a small trailer
So this weeks installment is where things start to come together, uprights and framing begin and we finally it begins to look like a cabin.

       Plenty of helpers today.                              Getting 40# sheets of plywood up the hill took some ingenuity.


I couldn't have done any of this today without a great assistant! (left)

Standing 2 x 6 lumber at an angle is no solo job. She's good with a drill too. And tying off a rope to support a frame. And lots more.

(right) A Jenga-like move to support the beam on an upended pallet and spare pallets stacked to make a work platform.

(below left) mating the rear frame up took a couple of tries.

All the bracing is temporary until next time when more wall pieces firm things up.

ready for side braces

The work site with the generator working nicely today, it'd be a bear to do all this without it.

measure twice, cut once

She got the best shot of the day.

After getting all four corners fitted with gussets it was time to close up shop.

Snow is forecast for this weekend so I can't plan too much unless that changes.

30 November 2014

Stage One Complete

Oh man, being blessed with great weather and the long weekend gave me time to get a lot done!

All the floor decking is done, I need to saw off the stubs and put up one last 2x6 on the end.

dog tired

looking good and feeling sturdy

ready for building up now

Next will be some plywood for sub flooring and then building the A frame! I'm excited because next weekend could be more good weather.

23 November 2014

More on the floor

Another day with great weather, I was able to measure and cut lumber, haul and generally screw around. Having planned to be in Florida last week worked out well since it was totally freezing at home. Decent temps prevailed yesterday but today it's pouring rain so here I am posting instead of working.

nice day for working, adding the second row here
Picked up where I'd left off by adding the 2x6 joist and outside band. After adding pallets 4 and 5 to the floor I could tell it was sturdy.

The 5th pallet was in but all the screws were used. I did some prep work drilling pilot holes for some of the hard to reach spots with an eye on making number six install easier. Still there was just enough daylight and good weather to run to the store for more screws so I did.

Wish I'd gotten an earlier start, to the reader it probably looks like I'm slow but it just takes a lot of time to strap things down and haul them uphill. Getting things level without a helper takes more time too so I'm using bar clamps to hold things in place. Also there is a lip sticking up since plywood will cover the pallet joists. I have to keep that lip even.

(above left) No problem supporting my weight at all.

(left) Blocks counterweight the floor joist while I add another pallet.

Almost wrapped but out of daylight and battery.
Coming back with more screws I added the next 2x6 so the outside band is complete for runs one and two. Got it even with the pallet and then tilted it up to level out the whole game.

As I started tacking the last pallet in place the screwdriver battery ran out completely so I had to call it a day.

Next time I will not bring the stubborn Corgi, short legs does not like going uphill much. She cost me some time. Funny though, once I got here up there she rested up and hiked her way further up in the woods just to lounge in the leaves.

I should be able to complete the third and fourth rows and thus the whole floor if we get another day with decent temps. That's my main hope before winter really stalls the project until spring.

15 November 2014

And now for something different

Most of my work is done on the weekends so don't expect much more than a weekly post but we're out of town this week so I'm just going to pass along this excellent video my neighbor shared. If you like small spaces then you'll dig this one!

Really cool space, at first you think there is not toilet and then you're shocked out how the bed is placed. Definitely he used the given space a lot of thought to maximize it and make the most of the balcony.

See you next week!

09 November 2014


Last week was such a loss but this week I made good use of time even with the days getting so short. The weather cooperated and temps stayed above 55.

Where to start?

First I'd recommend to anyone looking at a pallet project to think about sizes. There are no real standards for pallets but you'll usually find them between three to four feet per side. I should have started stacking them by size from the beginning so learn from my hindsight. I had no time constraint in collecting pallets nor any serious project at the time but I found a supply posted free on Craigslist.org and it was on the route to the farm anyway. This also meant I could be really selective, I passed on many second rate pallets and spent my effort on quality. Sure there are cracks, just the nature of working with pallets. If space allowed every now and then I'd take a junky pallet just to put on the ground and stack better things on top.
(below) Stacks and stacks in the barn but not very uniform. (right) I started measuring and chalking sizes.

I found most of my supply was 38" stringers with 44" decks. Trying to build the floor 10' x 17' I figured tripling 38" gives 114" which is half a foot shy of ten feet. Workable yes but then I found I had enough 40x44 pallets that one on each row would get me closer to my plan. Once the band of 2x6s are around the outside it should work out nicely. Not having to cut pallets will save lots of time.

Buddy came along to help today. Not much with a hammer his talents lie elsewhere. He checks out the build site and counts materials.
How to get pallets from the road up the hill? Strap three at a time to a trailer. The hard part comes in carrying them by hand 40 yards into the woods. I call that a CrossFarm workout.

Checking for a level foundation.
Joined the first two pallets and ready for the third.

Things start to get heavy at this point.

Barn and road barely visible looking down into the valley

Add another inline with the first two and a good days work hauling, measuring and screwing ends like this.

If I'd already brought up the 2x6x10 treated wood then I could have quickly done both sides of this piece and started adding a second row but there was not enough time left in the day so I'll pick up from here next time.

Back down at the road and heading home.

03 November 2014

Murphy's Law

My Sunday plan to finish foundation work and start on floor joist was a bust. 

Planning to make some cuts I loaded up the generator but wanted to fire it up before heading out. No sense in loading up everything only to find out the generator won't work, this unfortunate event has happened before, and guess what?
About the 4th tug and damned pull cord came right out! Crap, I had just replaced it because the folks at Honeywell made a nice quiet generator BUT the eyelet for the pull cord is a piece of junk. Seems it is at a poor angle and when you pull the starter cord it actually wears through the thin metal eye after about 6 uses which then cuts the cord!  

My one bad eye
Someday I'll write a HOW-TO on fixing the generator. About 2 hours later I finally got on the road. With most of the daylight gone I decided to just make it a lumber run; get the 14 foot 2x6's needed to start the frame and maybe lay things out for a perspective before starting cuts.

What else could go wrong.

While unloading the wood my truck door closed and wouldn't you know it I found myself locked out and in the middle of nowhere. Keys staring up from the seat.

3G didn't seem to be available now so I had to hike half way up the hill before the phone could Google "AAA" and once I got the website it was not fruitful. I ended up calling my wife to get the AAA phone number. Ten minutes later they tell me it will be about 3 hours before help arrives. Ugh!

Well in the meantime I cut back some of the blackberry plants - at least one item off my checklist was done. Also hauled a couple more pallets up to the build site. It does look like a work site but was too dark for a picture. After checking measurements from the Sketchup drawing it appears I need a few more feet and that a twelve inch cedar tree is in the way. Rather than cut it down I decided to rotate my plan 90 degrees. This will end up with the door being in a better place anyway.

The sun went down so I put away the lawn tractor and closed up the barn. It was getting cold and the tow truck was still over an hour away. Why don't they ever just send a locksmith for such a simple task? It was time for a warm fire.

Now if only my beer wasn't locked in the truck with my jacket :(

01 November 2014

Sole Searching

As in SOLE plate,ha ha.

 In my last post I mentioned the plan for floor joists and how there are lots of pallet buildings to be found but all seem to use standard floor framing and pallets for other elements. I did dig deeper yesterday and eventually found this build which looks to be set on blocks about four feet apart. I am shooting for five feet but may be able to adjust that a bit if the rocky site will allow it.

I wonder how well this is holding up today?

Also from that search this image jumped out and I followed it to the Tiny Pallet House blog and see a single layer pallet floor but seems to be going on top of a trailer which doesn't match what I'm doing. A metal trailer will give much support. Here's the layout used on the trailer, I think I'll proceed with my crisscross plan and decide how stable it seems when done.

Very sadly Mr Janzen wasn't able to complete his little pallet house but he wraps up The End of the blog with solid tips for people following in his footsteps. Readers - heed his advice!

On lessons 1, 2 and 5. Having a place with free run gives me a lot less hassle but it is an hour from home so I plan my trips and time carefully. Can't just run down the block to get more screws or whatever. I keep a list on my smart phone, what to buy and load up for on the next trip.

Having already hauled 25 or so concrete blocks about 500 feet uphill into the woods means I understand the commitment well. At some point I'll be hauling a generator up there to run tools for finishing things, not looking forward to that but desiring a remote spot means overcoming the obstacles. What can be cut down at the barn will be done there, dry fitting things then going up to the site and doing final assembly.

Lesson 3 and 4, I'm starting on this floor setup as an experiment. If it isn't quality when I'm done then I'll share that, salvage anything I can, and move on with traditional joists. But if it does work out then I'll share thoughts. Either way a few hours of my experience will let others know if it is worth their own time or if they can improve upon the design.

Number 6, if my plan was to save time then I'd do it a lot differently. I can afford to run out and buy all new materials if I wanted but then I'd only be using skills I already have and not pushing my limits. Everyone has their reason for the route they take, that is part of life.

Some time I'll have to look for Mr Janzen's next blog, something tells me he isn't done with projects.

30 October 2014

Floor joists substituted with pallets

One thing I'd like to see feed back on is this plan to make the floor joists using pallets. I have scoured the internet for terms like "pallet structure" and such, I have looked at many sheds and small house designs but so far any real building projects appear to use traditional floor joists the same as standard houses are built upon. So if anyone has attempted this or has engineering knowledge I'd like to hear from you. More than likely I will just find experience and post my thoughts here later.

I found one person who built a deck in their yard but that is not the same since they had a level spot and just put pallets on the ground and decked over it. Even if this project is not very permanent I can't go with that plan. A. my site is definitely not level. B. I'd never put even treated wood right on the ground, it won't last more than two years without a problem. Considering there will be a decent weight on top of my floor I don't want to deal with rot if I can avoid it. C. by being elevated if there is any problem underneath I will be able to get to it.

So my floor will be elevated a few inches at the least and a few feet at the other end. Building on piers and trying to keep them about five feet apart as best the terrain will allow.
two layers and foundation piles
notice each layers orientation

To get pallets to be rigid I will do one layer on bottom with another on top but turned 90 degrees which I hope will be strong enough. Likely to add some 2x6 material in there if necessary. Atop the "joists" will be a layer of playwood for subflooring and should aid a little to prevent flexing.


underside with one pallet highlighted

Anyone who wants to check out the plan more can find the Sketchup file here. The three sizes of concrete blocks can be seen in the breakdown.

29 October 2014

Rough Sketch

I started using Sketup just to detail this design with the hope that a decent plan will lead to my measurements working out better than just winging it.

Here is the first draft I built using Sketchup. Click and spin it around! 
You can download the file here and change things. It requires Sketchup which is free for Windows or Mac.

Front oblique

Rear oblique

Side looking in

I snagged a pallet file for Sketchup and used it to space out the flooring. The actual floor will be different but possibly will be made from used pallets.
For the subfloor I created 4x8 plywood sheets and then made the frame elements 2x6 and 2x4 lumber.
One side will open up, I thought Deek at Relaxshacks.com had a good idea and it will suit my need for a casual reading spot in the woods.
The front door fits measurements of an exterior fiberglass door I snagged on craigslist for $40 and the rear window is just a place holder for now.
It is 10 feet deep to accommodate a couple of benches and bit of storage.