All posts by exploRVistas

We are full time RVers on a mission to find America's story. We feel that by moving our house to a location and living among the locals for a bit, we allow ourselves the opportunity to understand that area's people. Our motto is "Don't just see it...BE it"©

Prime Time!

Leelanau County, MI – September 17, 2021 – Written by Jim

September has been a bit of a whirlwind for us. When we last posted, we were about to prep the interior of our cabin for priming. After vacuuming the ceilings and walls, we used dry Swiffer floor dusters to go over all of the walls and ceilings. What a dusty job that ended up being!

Once the prepping was done, it was time to prime!

Our goal for this fall was to prime everything and to paint the ceilings. The reason for that was to allow the electrician and HVAC trades to finish their work and get their final inspections. Diana tackled our nine closets while I rolled away at the rooms. It wasn’t long and we had our goal completed. We then decided that I would paint the great room and hallway, as we needed to mount some of the cabinets for the tradesmen to do their work.

Diana then set out on a mission to put the final coats on the closets.

It’s amazing how many square feet of drywall there are in these spaces. We used the same amount of paint to do the closets as we did to do the entire great room and attached hallways!

Once the great room was painted, I started assembling cabinets.

Check out this old cabinet maker…he’s still got it! We purchased our cabinets through a company named Lily Ann Cabinets. There isn’t a bit of particle board in them. They use a dovetail system to put them together. So far, I am pleased with the quality.

Within an hour, I had the first one on the wall!

These are the cabinets needed to mount the under cabinet lighting and the microwave. With that done, we let the electrician and HVAC tradesmen know that we were ready. It turns out that they were backed up a few weeks, so we kept on painting. One room led to another and before we knew it, the entire place was painted!

Prior to starting the priming, we had a nice visit from our friends Michaelena and Bob!

They winter two sites down from us in Florida. While they were here, we hiked and toured Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, visited a few wineries and caught up on what we’ve been doing with our summers. It was great to see them! We also had a visit from our college friends Paul and Sheryl this week. While we failed to get a photo, we had a great evening with them! 😊

The leaves are turning, which is a signal for us to start wrapping up our projects for this year. Stay tuned to see what we manage to get done before we head south for the winter. Who knows…we might even have a few visitors pop in! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Wrapping Up the Outside

Leelanau County, Michigan – August 28, 2021 – Written by Jim

It’s funny how things seem to come together sometimes.

When we initially planned our cabin project last winter, we knew the first priority was to finish the outside, so the building was weathertight. Our portion of the interior work couldn’t begin until the drywall finishers were done anyway, so we devoted all of our attention to getting the siding completed. Amazingly, those two portions of the job wrapped up within hours of each other.

When we last spoke, we were finishing up the siding on the front of the cabin.

That took a day longer than planned, but it is complete nonetheless. I moved around to the window wall on Monday, August 16, the same day the drywall finishers started.

Siding this wall has been similar to an unwritten song that has played in my head repeatedly for nearly a year. I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to play out until I actually started pounding nails. The wide band between the windows is not in line with the fascia on the front and back of the house, which messed with my symmetrical mind when it came time to locate the dividing board between the shakes and the main siding. At one point, we considered not using shakes on this side at all and siding the entire thing in blue. In the end, it was a non-issue, as we filled the entire space between the windows with white PVC, which made the windows look like one system.

With the divider in place, I began the shake siding. The window angles and the roof angle are not the same, which added to the job’s complexity.

It was at this point that our friends Rick and Linda showed up. We took a much needed break from construction to tour the Leelanau Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We had a great time!

The next morning, Rick was at our place, ready to work. He helped me erect the scaffolding to full height and then we started siding in earnest.

Having him cut pieces and hand them up to me saved me many trips up and down the scaffolding. He helped out for two days and moved the project forward in a big way.

Thank you for the huge jump start, Rick! We then were fortunate to have a visit from our niece Becky, her husband Dan and our great nephew Miles.

It sure was good to see them!

Meanwhile, the drywall finishers were working in earnest inside.

At one point, the dust was rolling out of every window and door in the place! I was quite content to be working on the outside that morning. It was at this stage that I wondered who would finish first…them or me. I also wondered if I would have enough shake siding.

Luckily, I had three pieces left over from the barn project. I ended up only having one full piece at the end.

Here I am with the final piece, which thankfully meant that I was able to remove the top level of scaffolding, Thats a long way up!

I then went about the process of filling in between the windows with white PVC.

Piece by piece, I worked my way across. When we manufactured cabinets in my working days, our saws would cut within a thousandth of an inch. Houses are not built to those exacting standards. The spaces between each window varied a bit, which added to the challenge of filling the voids. Add to that the fact that the PVC didn’t come wide enough to cover the gap. I ended up slotting the sides of the boards and splining them.

Here I am fitting the last piece into place. I used a little silicone caulk to fill in the gaps and …

…that’s a wrap! In the end, I was competing with a weather system that was rolling in the next day (Friday). That was the day the drywall guys were supposed to get done. They ended up finishing on Thursday a few hours before I did. Friday ended up being a bonus day for us, as Diana and I purchased supplies in the morning and I used the shop vac to suck up drywall dust the rest of the day.

I added a PVC extension to reach the ceiling.

I had to repeatedly knock the dust from the filter, as the dust caked on it. A nasty job, indeed. Diana and I are going to Swiffer the entire place today to get it ready to prime. Stay tuned for that in our next post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

It’s Starting to Look Like a Cabin!

Leelanau County, MI – August 14, 2021 – Written by Jim

We’ve had some funny moments with our subcontractors this summer, and one statement in particular has stood out. One very busy day when a myriad of tasks were being completed, our plumber skipped off our porch, proclaining “S**t’s gettin’ done!” It’s been our mantra ever since…especially these past few weeks.

No sooner did I finish the siding on the west end of the cabin, the insulators showed up. Our choice for wall insulation was blown in cellulose, which is basically ground up recycled paper and cardboard. It’s mixed with a binder that allows it to stick between the studs.

That’s all fine and dandy, but it also means that I wasn’t going to be hammering on the outside of the walls to put siding up, as I didn’t want the insulation to fall out! So that meant waiting for the drywall to get hung before I could resume that activity. Within a few days, the drywall supply truck showed up.

A couple of days after that, the drywall hangers began working. While all that was happening, we decided to tackle the porch ceiling.

While Diana was putting the finishing touches on the pine carsiding, I was working on the soffit on the back of the building. Once the boards were dry, I put them up.

Once that was done, I proceeded to wrap the beams with white PVC. Never needs painting!

By the time I completed that project, the drywall was hung on the inside.

Once that was up, we were able to get the insulators back to blow 14” of cellulose into the attic. The cabin is fully insulated! The finishers start next week. And since the wall insulation is held in place by the drywall, I am able to get back at the siding.

It wasn’t long before the back of the cabin was completed. We will wrap the posts and finish the decks next year. And just how was it that I fastened that little top piece of siding in the peak of the porch? Well, here is a short video that explains the process:

Here I am on my new 12 foot ladder, installing the porch fascia.

Those two large pieces of white PVC in the peak were pretty tricky to get into place. That material is expensive, so it was a ‘measure twice, cut once’ situation. Or was it ‘measure once, cuss twice’?

I finished wrapping the windows on the front of the cabin this morning and put up most of the siding.

I should easily have that completed tomorrow. From there, it is on to the window wall! I will most likely complete that before the drywall finishers are done, so I am hoping to be able to get topsoil and grass seed on our hill below the big deck before moving inside to work. We’ve had a few gully washers recently and we need to stop the erosion.

On the social side of things, we have been fortunate to get together again with Diana’s cousin Jerry and our friends Lane & Patti and Rob, so it hasn’t been all work. Still we are in need of a break, so we have some visitors showing up this week and also next weekend. Stay tuned for that! Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

And the Color is…

Leelanau County – July 26, 2019Written by Jim

As we were finishing up the barn last year, we started picking out colors for this year’s cabin project. We had always intended to tie the two buildings together by accenting them both with the Wicker shakes in the gable ends and the wide white PVC trim, but we wanted each to have an independent field color. We had settled on a horizontal taupe, and even painted the shed doors to match.

Well, the pandemic-affected supply chain had other ideas…

It turns out that taupe pigment was not available to make our siding, so we had to come up with a Plan B. Time to get creative! Our supplier actually suggested the Certainteed brand of siding for availability, which Menards just happened to also carry at a much cheaper price. Lop another 11% off of that with their summer-long rebate sale and they practically gave us the siding! So what color did we choose?

Pacific Blue!

We are happy with the way it looks with the barn. One side done, three to go!

This past week has been a mix of working on the siding and other projects that have to be buttoned up before the insulation and drywall crews arrive. Two of the four insulation crews have come and gone, along with the electrician. The electrical inspector approved the rough electrical and the building inspector approved the rough framing. We are good to go!

Down in the crawl space, I was able to put the top 9” of foam board up along with the silver seam tape. Once the HVAC, plumbing and electric finish work is completed in this area, we will put a reinforced white liner on the floor. The foam board, liner and rim joist insulation are what make up a ‘conditioned’ crawl space, which is required by Michigan building code.

As much pre-planning as we did, some things came up that required some quick thinking. Placing backing to mount the vanity lights and mirrors were one thing we hadn’t considered. A rainy day trip to Menards to pick out the mirror and lights gave us the measurements we needed to mount the backing board.

While we were there, we decided on our porch ceiling, as that needs to be done before we can put the siding up on that wall. I’m on the upper level of the wood storage rack getting ready to hand down 32 pieces of wood to Diana in this photo. We chose 1 x 6 pine carsiding that we will finish with a clear spar urethane. Stay tuned to see how that comes out.

We also realized that building a shower niche requires knowing the measurements of the tile that will surround it. After picking out our tile, we decided on the size and placement of the niches in our bathrooms.

Here is the one in our main bathroom. I have to wait until the outside wall is insulated before I can put up the rest of the cement board in this room.

Our master shower cement board is nearly complete, as these are all inside walls. I will trim out the niches in both baths when the drywall behind them is installed.

This past weekend, we bid a Leelanau farewell to our friends Rod and Mary, as they sold their cottage here and will be living full time in their Florida home.

Patti and Lane arranged an evening at The Ridge at Verterra Winery and then dinner at Nittolo’s in Lake Leelanau. From right to left: Mary & Rod, Paul & JoAnn, Lane & Patti and the two of us. We all met at Wild Cherry Resort back in 2015. We sure are going to miss having Rod and Mary here, as well as their dog Gracie. Fortunately, we will catch up with them in Florida!

Our friends Terry and Diane also stopped by with their grandson on their way north to the Upper Peninsula to go fishing. It was good to see them again!

Stay tuned for our next post where we will hopefully have insulation and drywall installed, as well as more siding. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Seeing What is Not Normally Seen

Leelanau County, MI – July 16, 2021 – Written by Jim

When building a structure such as our cabin, there is a unique opportunity to go through and inventory what is within the walls. There is a short period of time between when all of the plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems are installed and when the insulation and drywall go up to take photos of what is between the studs. We’ve never done that with past houses, and were left wondering if there was a wire or pipe where we wanted to put a screw in the wall. For us, that inventory takes place this coming weekend.

There is a lot going on in these walls! We are happy to report that we have our rough plumbing and mechanical inspections complete and the rough electrical and framing inspections happen on Monday.

Here is our crawl space during the plumbing and mechanical work. Once all of the contractors are done with their final connections, we will install the floor liner.

While all that was going on, we were able to get the fireplace framed.

In this photo, I am holding two small maple logs from our property that will act as supports for our mantle. The two small squares in the framing is where those will go. The small square boards in the back of those spaces are pieces from a board that Diana’s dad had a vice mounted to. When I mounted that vice to my bench, I kept the board. I cut the squares so that each contained a hole that Bud drilled to mount the vice. I will put a screw through them to help hold the logs. So in essence, his work lives on in our cabin. We know that he would’ve loved to have helped with this project.

Above the fireplace is where the TV will be. Until we are able to get HGTV on the screen, you will have to settle for my mug. 😊

Our other project over the past week was to get started on the siding. We want to get the one end of the building completed so the mechanical team can install the outside air conditioning unit. Since that side involved a very tall gable, the scaffolding was called into action.

After doing the first section, I realized how many times I would have to set up and tear down the scaffold to complete the project. I had to come up with a plan. When the roof trusses were delivered, they had a 40 foot long I-joist underneath one side to help secure the load. When the trusses were rolled off, the I-joist came off with them, ending up on the bottom of the pile. Since it was essentially scrap, I just tossed it aside on the edge of our driveway to cut up at a later date. Well I am glad I saved it.

I cut it in half and made a set of skis for my scaffold! Good thing I did this, as I had to move the structure many times in both directions.

It slid along nicely using the tractor and a tow strap.

Working at these heights, I secured the scaffolding to the wall with those large deck screws I showed you in our last post.

After a week (including two rain days), I installed the last piece yesterday! With all of the climbing up and down, I will be very happy when the other gable is completed. I’ll do the lower sectional this side this weekend in a different color. That will be revealed in our next post.

On the social side of things, we were treated to the music of Mulebone, a group we spoke of in past years. This blues/roots duo hails from New York City and is a pleasure to listen to. We also had a get together with our friends John and Julie. John was a suite mate of mine in college and they also own a home in Leelanau County. On top of that, we got together with several couples at George and Grace’s new place farther north on the Leelanau peninsula.

Stay tuned for our next post to see how much further we get on our project! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Zig-zagging with the Subs

July 5, 2021 – Leelanau County – Written by Jim

One thing we’ve found on the cabin build this year is the fact that things don’t always move in a straight line. Just about the time that we will think we have our day planned, one of the subcontractors will have a need that requires our immediate attention. It’s all good, as problems and solutions are forward progress! With that being said, excuse us if this post zigs and zags a bit, as it is representative as to how the past few weeks have played out.

Since we last posted, our build has been dominated by the HVAC (heating/vent/air conditioning) team and the plumber. Wanting to stay out of their way, I went to work installing the deck posts and bracing on the large deck. As I was framing, “hey Jim…can you come here for a minute?” would ring out from inside. So far, every issue has had an adaptation`. 🙂

The twelve posts around the deck perimeter are installed, as is most of the blocking in between the floor joists. The unusual blocking at the outside of the deck is needed for the triple picture framing method we are planning for this particular deck. More on that in a future blog post when we install the deck boards. In order to secure the deck posts, we had two products available for us to use. Both were made by a company by the name of Simpson Strong-tie. As the inspector was looking over our place during the deck footing inspection, he had noticed some splitting in a few roof trusses, caused by the screws we used to tie them to the walls. He said “Simpson makes a screw that doesn’t do that”, so we decided right then and there that we would use Simpson products from then on.

The brown screws with the big heads on them are what we chose as our fastening method. The chart we used to determine the length called for 5” and 8” screws, but since our deck has double beams extending out from the cabin, we needed to use 10” screws to go through those.

That is one formidable fastener! No pre-drilling required and, true to what the inspector said, they did not split the wood. At a dollar each, we would hope that they wouldn’t!

Meanwhile, the plumber and HVAC guys were busy drilling holes in the walls and floor.

This photo is taken with my back to our wall of windows on the one end. All of our rooms have vaulted ceilings and each of our closets are capped at 8 feet high. That allowed us to open up the area above the closets to give the hallway a more open feel. The closet on the right (you are seeing the back of it) is where the first issue arose. The washer, dryer and utility sink live in there. As you can imagine, the water, sewer, electric and dryer vent all have to go through the back wall. The problem arose when it was discovered that a I-truss floor joist was directly below that wall. That meant all of those utilities would have to jog around the I-joist. The closet isn’t deep enough to scoot the washer and dryer further from wall, so our only solution was to build a platform for them. That allowed the piping to jog around the truss under the platform and go back into the wall.

Now we won’t have to bend over as far to get into the front-load machines!

Next up was the bathtub. While the framers made sure the drain didn’t land on an I-joist, they forgot to take into account that the tub had an overflow drain that hung below floor level. You guessed it….it ran right through the top of an I-joist. Our only choices were to either raise the tub and put molding on the front edge where it meets the floor, or notch the joist. Not wanting a molding on the front of our tub, we chose the latter. That involved an engineered repair from the I-joist company.

After several emails back and forth with Menards corporate, we had an engineer stamped document in our possession that detailed the fix. I immediately went to work on that. A little side note: when hammering boards into place between floor joists, be sure to wear hearing protection. The first whack of the hammer cranked up my tinnitus threefold, and it took a few days for it to return to baseline!

By the time I finished that, we met with the electrician to discuss switch and lighting placement. That was an exciting process to discuss where our lighting would go! One situation cropped up in the main bath had me tearing apart a doorway and moving it over 4 inches to make room for switches. By this time, I decided the deck would have to wait and that I needed to concentrate on the interior walls. That’s when Kris from HVAC requested blocking on the exterior of the house to allow the piping to exit.

In order to do that, we needed to first install our skirt board, the white decorative band that separates our siding from our foundation. That required a phone call with our inspector, as we are not supposed to side the building before the rough framing is approved. That comes after the rough plumbing, HVAC and electrical. Thankfully, we have a great relationship with our building inspector, as he knows we like to do things right. Once I had permission, I zig-zagged to that installation. The plumber jumped in and requested blocking for the outside faucets, so I took care of those at the same time.

About the time I finished that, Kris informed me that he could set the outside air conditioning condenser if I finished the siding on that end of the house. Another call to the inspector confirmed that we indeed could side the ends before the rough framing inspection, just not the front and back. I quickly called the siding supplier to get the shakes for the gables (same as what’s on the barn), only to find out that they were out of stock. Surprisingly, this was one of the few Covid-related stock issues we’ve had, as the supply chains are still out of whack on siding. Not to worry, as their Grand Rapids location had plenty for us to pick up. So we made the six-hour round trip to GR on my birthday to get material! It was a gorgeous day for a drive. 🙂

Before I could take the scaffold down from the inside of the cabin, I needed to finish installing the jambs on the trapezoid windows.

I can almost see Traverse City from up there! I finished that and all of the interior blocking for towel rods, cabinets and grab bars…as we aren’t getting any younger. I am going to frame the fireplace today and move on to exterior siding from there.

Jumping back to the space above the closets, our master and guest closets are back to back and sit directly below the peak of the cabin. Not wanting to lose that space, we came up with a plan:

We built a solid floor directly above both closets which is open to the master bedroom side. Our closets have two-panel mission style doors, with one panel being larger than the other. We made the opening the size of the larger panel, and we will cut a set of bifold doors to fill that space. They will line up directly above the ones below. We’ll access that area with a step ladder and put long term items in tubs up there. Our attic access hole is also up there.

On the social side of things, we celebrated the return of Music in the Park in Northport! This weekly event was cancelled last year, due to the pandemic.

Patti, Lane, Rob, Diana and I chilled to the reggae group Soul Patch on the shore of Grand Traverse Bay. It was wonderful to be able to enjoy live music again! We also enjoyed a great afternoon on Independence Day with Diana’s cousin Jerry.

Stay tuned for our next post, when we should hopefully have our rough permits approved. Once that happens, we can get the insulation and drywall started. Our plan is to finish the siding and decks while all that is happening. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

All Dried In

June 20, 2021 – Leelanau County, MI – Written by Jim

It’s been a whirlwind the past few weeks, and I’m happy to report that our cabin is dried in! When we last wrote, we had the roof deck on our trusses.

Once that was done, the framers moved inside to frame the interior walls. Having vaulted ceilings throughout complicated matters, but the trade-off was that 2/5 of the house is wide open. Richard and Paul did this while Ryan worked outside.

Meanwhile, I dug out the trunks of a few of our trees that were buried during excavation. I had to build a rock retaining wall to keep the hill in place. All rocks were unearthed during the crawl space dig. I left a gap for the propane line to be run from the tank.

Ryan put on the roof underlayment and then framed the smaller decks on the north side. Following that, he and Paul put in the windows and doors.

Ryan then shingled the roof, while Paul, Richard and I dug holes for the main deck. Paul is even more of a rock sleuth than I am, and he was in all his glory on our hill. He knew the scientific name for each boulder or rock we exhumed. He even found a piece of pyrite, otherwise known as fools gold. The straw you are seeing in the above photo is on the steep hill that I had to reseed after the excavator tore it up. There was only one way for him to backfill that side and it involved making a mess of my landscaping work from last fall. I’ll reseed the rest of the lawn as I find time.

Here is the front of the cabin, all dried in!

And here is the back. With that, we bid our framing crew farewell. It is difficult to comprehend that we have only been back in Michigan for two months and we have accomplished this much. We feel very fortunate and are extremely grateful!

One thing we found out during framing was that we would not be able to work on siding until we received approval on our rough framing. That doesn’t happen until the rough mechanical, rough electrical and rough plumbing are approved. Wanting to keep the ball rolling while those trades did their work, we scheduled an extra inspection for our deck posts. Those were subsequently approved, so that allowed us to fill the holes around the posts and start finishing the decks.

Since I could still poke my head between the joists, I figured this was the best time to put landscape fabric and rock underneath to keep the weeds to a minimum. I used larger rocks found on the property along the bottom edge to keep the gravel from sliding down the hill. That is 2 tons of gravel that I picked up on Friday, the most I was willing to put on our utility trailer. I’ll get more this next week.

On the social side of things, we went to see George and Grace’s home they just purchased elsewhere on the peninsula. We met them at Wild Cherry Resort in 2015 and they have also volunteered at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You may recall that we visited them at their winter home in Rockport, Texas, six months before Hurricane Harvey came ashore at the end of their street. While their house survived, the town around it was devastated. They have since moved their winter home base to Austin. We also had Rod and Mary over to our place to see the progress, as well as our neighbors Jeff and Renate.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we will hopefully show some progress on the decks and the interior of our cabin. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

To Top it Off…

June 6, 2019 – Leelanau County, MI – Written by Jim

What a difference a week makes! When we last wrote, our framer had the front and back wall of our cabin in place, and had one of the end walls ready to go. They started in earnest on Tuesday morning and by the end of the day, had the other two walls standing!

They even put the upper trapezoid windows in place before standing up the last wall. We did run into a glitch, as the company that Menard’s used to do the takeoffs from the prints made the outer windows an inch too short. The team at the Traverse City store put in an immediate reorder, so we will just pop them in when they come. We left the old ones in place in order to keep the building dry in the meantime.

The crane to install the trusses arrived on Thursday.

Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars!

Seeing that 80 feet worth of crane against a waning crescent moon was pretty exciting!

Once the first truss was set…

…the rest just went right into place. Ryan and his nephew Tyler did the high work, while Paul fed supplies from the ground. Richard manned the truss lifting hook and the rope to guide the trusses into place.

In a little over an hour, the last truss was set into position.

Talk about a spider web of lumber! It was fun to see what our ceiling height was going to look like.

By the end of the day, the guys had the roof sheathing on the main portion of the cabin.

This will pretty much be our view from the kitchen and living room. Over time, we will do some selective tree trimming to open up our long view across the valley. All of our lower windows open, so we will get a nice breeze through the home.

On Friday, Ryan and Paul finished up the entryway. They first set the posts…

…and then put on the roof sheathing. With that, they called it a week.

Besides our building project, we found time for family and friends! We started out on Memorial Day with Diana’s cousins coming for a visit.

Reed, Nancy, David and Jerry and us went to a local pizzeria that opened up this year. If you find yourself in the town of Lake Leelanau, we recommend checking out Nittolo’s. It was very good. We also had our friends Lane and Patti over to see our place, along with our friends George and Grace.

On Saturday, we headed south to the Detroit area to attend a viewing for my Aunt Pat, the last family member from that generation. It was good to see my cousins again. From there, we headed 10 miles south to our great-nephew’s first birthday party.

Miles wanted that cake that his dad is holding…

…and he sure had fun with it once he got ahold of it! A great time was had by all. As a good friend said to me, it was definitely a circle of life day for us.

Stay tuned for next week’s progress as the framers tackle the interior walls, windows, deck framing and the roof. That will be a huge week, should they succeed in getting all of that done! Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Up it goes!

Leelanau County, Michigan – Saturday, May 29 – Written by Jim

Our cabin has begun rising from the foundation!

©️2009 Disney/Pixar

Well, not quite like that, but we do have progress to report! Our framers showed up this week and went at it in earnest. Prior to their arrival, I took the opportunity to insulate the lower four feet of the crawl space.

Getting this much done while standing straight up made life a lot easier. The insulation is two pieces of 1-1/2” thick polyiso board. Putting it up was a fairly simple process:

Drill a hole with a 5” long masonry bit.
Insert the 4-1/2” masonry fastener.
Tap it with a rubber mallet until it is tight.

The top part of the insulation will be finished once the floor joists are mounted to the top of the crawl space wall. I will also use aluminum tape to seal the joints in the foam board. Time for me to stand back and watch the framers build!

Ryan, Paul and Richard dove right into it. First thing they did was to assemble the center beam and support it with posts. Then came the treated wood sill plate on top of the foundation walls, along with a foam strip of sill sealer between them. The sill plate is attached to the block wall below with anchor bolts that the mason set into concrete. Follow that with the I-joists that span the entire width of the cabin and the rim joist around the outside.

It was then time for me to get back in the action. With us getting our material weeks earlier, I stored all of that high-priced OSB flooring in the barn. We purchased pallet forks for the front of our tractor last year and I was able to bring out several sheets at a time. They mentioned how it really helped them speed things up. Speaking of high priced lumber: This time last year, a sheet of 3/4” subfloor like this was in the $17 range. We purchased it in March at Menard’s for less that $30 a sheet. We thought that was crazy. Well, it is a good thing we bought it when we did, as we had to purchase two additional sheets to finish the floor. The price? A whopping $72 a sheet!

The crawl space is getting dark down there. Other than whatever comes through the hatch in the center of the cabin, that space hopefully won’t see daylight for a long time! By noon the next day, the floor was complete.

As the framers started building the walls, Adam from Peninsula Excavating started backfilling. He worked all afternoon and an hour the next morning to level things out. We had some steep areas below the cabin that were difficult to mow, so he used the extra dirt to soften them. It really came out nice.

By the end of the day, we had a wall!

The next day, they assembled the opposite wall in two sections. Here is a video of one of those going up. They use an electric wall jack to raise it. You can also see these clamp-on forks on my tractor bucket.

They had me push the button on the second half, as Ryan had to be by the wall joint to finesse the two together. That was fun!

Once they completed that, they framed an end wall until the end of the day and called it a week. They will be back on Tuesday.

Even the beams for our covered entry are in place! They can be seen extending out from the wall on the left side of the photo.

This morning, we had to go to Lowe’s to pick up our flooring. As we were getting in the truck, we heard a roar through the trees:

A hot air balloon! Looks like our cabin isn’t the only thing going up in Leelanau County. 😊

That’s our update for now. Stay tuned to see how much the framers get done next week. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Making the Grade

Leelanau County, Michigan – May 24, 2021 – Written by Jim

When building a structure, one has to take into consideration the surrounding grade of the land. The last thing anyone wants is for the top of their foundation to be below grade and have water pour over the top in a downpour.The code book here in Michigan requires one 8” block showing above grade and that the surrounding soil slopes away from the building.

While our cabin site itself had only a moderate grade to it, the surrounding land varies in elevation quite a bit. We determined the high corner at the time of excavation and let that decide how deep to dig. Our plan was to have a 6 course deep layer of concrete block make up our crawl space, which would bring us up 48” from the top of the footing. After the footing was poured, we decided we wanted a bit more comfort to ensure we had sufficient runoff. We had the mason figure in an additional course of 8” block, bringing us up to 56” above the footing.

This past Wednesday was block day! Jim Ricketts and his crew showed up before 8 AM and immediately went to work laying out the foundation.

Measuring from corner to corner insures squareness. Prior to him arriving, I drove my tractor into the center of the footings and smoothed out the floor and removed the larger rocks. I will explain the reason for that later in the post.

Soon after the lines were chalked, the block truck showed up.

Of all of the varied soil on our property, that truck is parked over a vein of the softest and purest beach sand you could ever imagine. The driver took it all in stride and hung the tail of the truck right over the edge.

Before too long, the crew had the block spread out and the first courses were laid.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, the four of them had three walls complete!

Look at that smile! Diana is very happy to see walls rising. Also, in the process of adding a course of block, we discovered another benefit:

Our crawl space is now tall enough so I don’t have to crawl in it!

On Thursday, Jim and his son Chris returned to finish the last wall.

They were finished by noon. Jim and I then took a chalk line and held it to predetermined marks while Diana snapped it to mark the lines. That set the top level for the waterproofer. As Jim and Chris were cleaning up, the waterproofer rolled in and went to work.

That hot tar will hopefully keep the water out. As you can see, our finished grade will vary quite a bit! Within a half hour of the waterproofer finishing up, the inspector rolled in and approved the foundation. His words “Let the fun continue” were music to our ears!

Part of the mortar-making process involved having coarse sand on hand to mix with the cement. The block supplier brought two huge containers of it and dumped it outside the perimeter of the foundation. There was quite a bit left when the job was complete, so I had a plan for it. To help explain, here is a photo of a conditioned crawl space:

The walls get 3” of foil-faced foam board applied to them and the dirt floor is covered with a thick plastic membrane. This completely seals out any moisture or radon coming up from below.

The edge of our footing is a little wider than 3”, so our friend Rod suggested piling dirt against it to soften that sharp corner. A sharp edge could tear the plastic membrane. That left over sand was just what I needed. I scooped it up with our tractor and dumped it inside. I then used my dad’s favorite shovel (he preferred using it to shovel snow) to spread it around the edge. I still had quite a bit left over, so I spread it out over the smaller rocks on the floor.

In addition to all of this, we’ve found time to play a little. One day, we took off and visited several of our favorite places in the area. One of those was Suttons Bay Ciders.

In addition to enjoying a flight of cider on their deck that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay, we purchased a bottle of their maple syrup. Some of the maple sap from this syrup comes from our friends John and Julie’s property. We’ve also had a harvest of our own up here on our hill:

It’s Morel mushroom season! We are blessed with a decent sized crop of them.

We’ve also enjoyed the daffodils, tulips, iris that Diana planted last year, along with the peony that her mom and dad gave us quite a few years ago. It was planted at our first house in 1990 as a housewarming present and has moved with us. During our time on the road, my sister Judy cared for it at her home. She also kept some of Diana’s aunt’s lily of the valley for us. And our friend Mary gave us some forget-me-not and some rhubarb, both of which are doing well. This is all in addition to the explosion of wildflowers in our woods. Leelanau doesn’t have an overpopulation of deer, so we have a LOT of trillium!

With all of that, we are ready for the framers! We will wait to backfill the outside until after the main floor is constructed. That will brace the block walls from the external pressure exerted on it by the soil piled against them. Stay tuned for our next post as our cabin rises up from our property. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!