by Dan Combellick
Again working alone.
I like it most of the time, but there are moments when a second set of hands would be, well, handy.
This new project is on a farm not far from the capitol of Lithuania, Vilnius. This makes it much easier to acquire various building materials. But in general, wherever you are in Lithuania, you are not far from a sawmill, wood being a major export and forests abundant. And being from America, I like to build with wood.
This property had several buildings officially recorded on the title, and I chose the spot for the new construction in the location of one of those official structures, and by good fortune, the footprint is the size I wanted to use, about 24 square meters, approx. 240 square feet. I am adding a second floor, which yields perhaps another 150 square feet of “walkable space,” being under the roof, but also additional floor area which will provide useful storage space.
In this photo you see the site of the original building with the old apple trees cut back so they do not overhang the new roof. I am doing the roof in a traditional material, hand split Aspen shakes. Wood roofs do not enjoy having closely overhanging trees, and I have about 40 apple trees, so the loss of a couple does not discomfort me. Most of them are too old and have not been cared for, anyway. Plus apple makes good firewood.
After digging 8 piers to a depth of 1 meter and into good sandy clay, I placed the foundation on top of them. Working alone there is a limit to how much concrete I can mix and bring in a wheelbarrow in a single day. I broke all concrete work into sections not more than 10 mixer loads (wheelbarrow loads) per day. So the walls and floor were poured in sections.
I filled the interior with sand…
altogether I used, and moved with shovel and wheelbarrow, approx 35 meters distant, 10 cubic meters of sand, in excess of 20 metric tons. The bearings on the wheelbarrow failed, and had to be replaced.
I installed insulation to isolate the concrete floor from the foundation walls and the sand, and after another week or so the floor was in.
Next came the walls. I am borrowing heavily in the design from the indigenous architecture, and this will be a copy, more or less, of the granaries of the old farmsteads of Lithuania. These buildings were used to store grain, but also for many other purposes, so doors and windows are a natural part of the design. The south facing side will have a very broad overhang and be supported by four massive columns, upon which, as I get time, some simple carving should be added.
In this picture you can see the overhang under which the columns will be placed, about 1 meter from the south wall. I am not using any plywood or OSB panels, so you can see some of the cut-in angle bracing that replaces the structural duties of plywood. (Indeed, for hundreds of years this was how wooden structures were made stable, so it did not require any ingenuity to step back in time to this older method.)
From underneath you see the 1X8 subfloor for the second level…
Rafters are up.
Next project were the Dutch Gables or Clipped Gables, another common indigenous design feature which increases the weather protection of the gable ends, an important feature in climates with large amounts of rainfall.
They also give the house a more “cozy” feel, something I value.
Inside this home will be limited plumbing- just a drain from a sink. I will be installing no running water into the house, being quite used to living without that luxury. Being “grey water” this can just be allowed to run onto the ground although one should keep in mind that food particles will also attract mice and rats, so it might be a good idea to dig a small pit it can drain into and then drain from. And after one gets used to having to make the necessary trips outdoors to the outhouse, well, you just get used to it, and it is life.
Here is the outhouse, built last summer in the shade of a wild plum. Detesting unpleasant outhouses- it is only necessary to keep a large pot of sawdust inside, and drop in a cupful after each use, There are no flies and no smell, and quite rich compost can be (must be) retrieved from it about once a year.
So here it is, trying to be ready for the wood roof next week, amidst the frequent rains… The house is located on a small hill overlooking a river valley, and it is quite a beautiful place with much wildlife about. Deer, Hare, Cranes, Wild Boar, Storks, Mink, and an abundant variety of abundant rodents. To combat them I have acquired two little helpers…
At present I am living in the 70 year old log home that was existing, it also has no indoor plumping, but does have electricity, and is dry inside, so I get by ok.
In the future I plan to use this structure for tool storage, and perhaps as a shop for building cabinets and furniture. I have not fully accessed its condition, that will require removing some of the interior wall finishes, but if it is still sound everywhere, it may become a guest house, as the rooms in it are not really large enough for a shop. Eventually, I will plan a garage/woodshop nearby.
I hope later this year to be able to finish this story, and show you a finished tiny house, if luck and weather (and my back) continue to perform in a positive way.
… after a day of hauling sand and concrete
I definitely hear some cans of Lithuanian beer calling to me from my makeshift kitchen….