House of Fallen Timbers

David Lottes contacted me recently about a tiny log cabin he is building and a blog called the House of Fallen Timbers that he is journaling his progress on. I’ll let David take over and tell us more about his project.

The property is located in Central Illinois near the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River. My girlfriend Anne and I have about three acres of woods most of which is at least 60 years old.

First Course of Logs

Over the last eight years many of the standing dead elm trees have fallen over and gotten hung-up in the surrounding trees. This makes walking in the woods kinda scary on a windy day. I got into the habit of waiting for them to come down and cutting them up but our wood pile is now larger than anything we could hope to burn before it rots.

So I started thinking of other ways to use the wood. At first I was going to build a simple three sided lean-to to stack wood under but once I got a firm count on how many good sized dead trees I had standing in the woods I started thinking why not build a cabin.

Floor Joists

I have lots of corrugated sheet roofing left on the property by the previous owner and the neighbor had some heavy duty decking piled up on a fence row. Once I dug the old utility pole up and examined it’s condition I decided to go for it.

I have no experience with this kind of thing so your blog has been an invaluable resource for ideas and links to other similar projects. Right now the goal is to be under roof by August and chinked by winter.

The footprint is 12’x12′ but the enclosure is only planned to be 8’x10′ with a small loft above a three foot porch on the entrance side. It may end up being a simple summer shelter for weekend cookouts or it may end up being a full blown year round guest house.

In any case I have no intention of harming any live trees or my bank account to build it. So far I have spent approximately five dollars on it to buy gas for the chainsaw and the tractor. But it does look like I’ll be spending another twenty soon for a new saw chain.

Be sure and follow David’s progress at the House of Fallen Timbers blog.

Installing the Floor

Saddle Fit

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Elizabeth Goertz - May 25, 2010 Reply

Great idea, but please get it up off the ground! it will be easier now than later, just pile up some stones under the corners or it will rot before you get the roof on!

David - May 25, 2010 Reply

Thanks for the advice Elizabeth. I have a few bricks. I’ll work on it.

Tim - May 25, 2010 Reply

I checked out your blog, how fun that must be! I have always loved the old cabins from our past, and to be able to build one like them would be a blast, I hope you have a lot of fun building it, and can enjoy it for years to come!

While reading your blog I was reminded of Richard (Dick) Proenneke’s story, I believe there is even a page on tiny house about him, anyway, your cabin reminded me of him, if you havnt read/heard his story do a google search for him, there is even utube video, you might enjoy the similaritys to what you are building, have fun! Tim

David - May 25, 2010 Reply

Thanks Tim!
I have heard of Mr. Proenneke. Our local PBS station ran his story a few years ago. I’m sure he’s been in the back of my mind ever since. What an amazing man he was.

Val - May 26, 2010 Reply

Foundation is everything.
Please do some reasearch on this..
center support beam should be wider especially if you are gong to butt joint the flooring. I wouldnt…I would stagger the joining.
It will be a nice story when it is done, having gotten all the logs form your own place but i think you will want to have the story last longer and the building last as long. So, protect your inestment of time and do just a tad more…
I would also do something with the ground itself. Gravel, 4 or 5 inches of fields stones, propper pitch for water runnof and then the pilons. There is a reason for there to be a 3ft about the ground. It is so that you can get UNDER the place for necessary maintenance and access.. Have fun, Make tight joints,

    David - May 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks Val
    I did replace the center joist after realizing it wasn’t wide enough to tack down the flooring. I wish I could stagger the floor but I already cut it up for butting so I’m going to stick with that. I spent yesterday afternoon tightening up the notches. A couple of them were really sloppy. I appreciate your concern about the longevity. Thanks for your comments. I’m sure they will help anyone reading this. Sounds like you really know your stuff.

Benjamin - May 26, 2010 Reply

Are dead trees strong enough to make a structure? Wouldn’t they be rotten in the core?

The reason I ask is that I was thinking of making a handrail around my deck with fallen redwood branches but was worried that they wouldn’t be strong since they had fallen and that would seem to me to indicate they weren’t sturdy.

    David - May 26, 2010 Reply

    It’s a good question Benjamin
    Some of the wood I have is not at all sound. Other logs are solid as a rock. I think it depends on a “log by log” basis. I would put whatever piece your planning to use to some kind of stress test before building with it. Also keep in mind that a standard pine 2″x4″ isn’t real solid either. When I cut the trees down and then cut them into sections I can see what shape the heartwood is in. If it is rotting it just goes into the wood pile to be burned.

David - May 26, 2010 Reply

Also I have to say using dead trees has a couple of advantages. First they are pre-dried (less shrink factor) and second they are mostly peeled.

pam - May 26, 2010 Reply

HI, what a fun project this is turning into for you and for those of us who get to share via your blog. Years ago my daughters dad and I built a cabin very similar. It was quick up and provided good shelter for several years before returning to the earth. Our roof was recycled metal barn roofing with a sheet of plastic under that and it worked just fine. Have a wonderful time putting this together, enjoy living there, and blessings to you both…

David - May 26, 2010 Reply

Thanks Pam!

Elizabeth Goertz - May 27, 2010 Reply

There is a saying, give a house good boots and a good hat. It is mostly used when speaking of old building methods like cob and straw, but applies to log too. Keep its feet dry and give the walls the protection of a big roof over hang and you should be fine. I think its great that you are not killing trees, we need more not less! And that your costs are so low. I balk every time I read an article about building a small house for 20,000 or more! what are the poor and the homeless supposed to do? That on top of the cost of the land?

Carey Huffman - May 27, 2010 Reply

You are living my dream! I’m excited to have been introduced to your blog near the beginning of your journey. I applaud your approach of using not only fallen timber, but limiting your logs to those coming from your own land. Your blog has been an immense pleasure to read and I look forward to future entries. Best of luck and thanks for taking the time to share your odyssey.

    David - May 27, 2010 Reply

    Thanks again for the help Elizabeth and thank you Carey for taking the time to give me a look. I have a three day weekend coming up and hope to have lots of new photos on the blog next week. What a great community this is!

David A. Lottes - January 14, 2012 Reply

The blog is now available in “Blook” format! 32 page 9″x7″ paperback with 15 color photos and selected entries from May through October of 2010. Available now at:

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