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|It all began
during a vacation to Deep Creek in Bryson City, North Carolina. Being
from Mississippi, where the summers are hot and humid, we were lured by
the crisp cool mountain creek waters. As a family, we had
enjoyed many fun times tubing, hiking and just listening to the creek.
Wishing for a creek to call our own, Bob's favorite mountain sport was to
spend hours riding around on mountain roads looking for just the right
spot to build a log cabin.
Before you buy land in the mountains (or anywhere for that matter) you have to make sure it will pass a perk test for a septic system unless you are fortunate enough to hook up to a sewage system. Before finalizing our negotiations to purchase the property, we met with the health department, paid the $200 fee and requested a permit for a septic tank. Since the land was situated on a creek, regulations limited the distance between the septic system and the creek. The original plan called for a space to be cleared up on the mountain for the system. If the cabin was built on the flat area near the creek, the sewage would have to be pumped up the mountain to the septic and field lines.
After purchasing the land, we hired Harold Ray Collins of Bryson City, NC to install the septic system. He cut a small space on the mountain for the septic system and realized it would be better to locate it on the lower flat part of the lot. Harold Ray asked the health department to visit the site with him and received approval for a new plan that would employ a panel type system with one field line located on the flat area allowing the cabin to be built on the mountain above and eliminating the need to pump the sewage up. That was in 1995 and that is as far as we went with the project. Through the years we would occasionally visit the property and wish that we had the time and money to complete our dream, but we let other priorities side track our efforts.
In the 7 years between 1995 and 2002 the weeds grew and untamed nature took over the site. It was very overgrown when we visited in June of 2002 and decided to clean it up. Our friends, Charlotte and Carey Evans were vacationing with us and we rented a cabin in Maggie Valley about 20 miles from our property. While there, we spent two difficult days chopping weeds and cutting trees. Poison ivy covering the ground and briars as big as your thumb made for slow progress.
We had visited American Heritage Log Homes model home in Maggie Valley, North Carolina many times. We looked at all their plans and frequented their web site. Like most folks interested in a log home, we had visited all the log home web sites we could find. But at American Heritage Log Homes, we detected that combination of qualities unique to folks in the south: congeniality, hospitality, honesty and friendliness. Additionally, their log kits were of good quality and very affordable. That's why we decided to buy our log kit from them. (Editing note 2008 - Unfortunately, America Heritage Log Homes is no longer in business.)
During our June 2002 vacation, we met with Dennis Cook and his staff in Maggie Valley to order our log kit. The cost of the kit was about $13,000. Having a deed restriction on our property that required a minimum of 800 square feet, we settled on the Fernwood model. It is 24 x 36 (864 square feet) with 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a great room with the kitchen, dining and living area.
The standard plan specified an 8 foot ceiling throughout the house, but we decided to use scissors trusses in the great room to provide a vaulted ceiling. We have also made a few other modifications to the standard plan, including a shower stall as well as a whirlpool tub in the master bath.
It would have been nice if our lot contained a flat building site, but in the mountains difficult building sites seem to be the norm. There wasn't enough room between the creek and the beginning of the steep slope up the mountain to locate the house and the septic system. With a 25 foot setback required from the creek bank and a 5 foot setback from the septic system's field line, we had just enough space for a driveway on the flat part.
The only way to locate the house on the lot was to cut away part of the mountain and make a "driveway" up the slope. Our access to the property was a "deeded access" across a bridge belonging to our neighbor. All things considered, we began the search for someone who had earth moving equipment to cut the drive and the house pad.
Jim Blevins, Smokey Mountain Earthworks in Bryson City, NC met with us during our June 2002 trip. Initially, we wanted to excavate the mountain the amount necessary to create a house pad accommodating the house and the front porch (30' x 36') at an elevation of 10 or 12 feet above the flat area beside the creek. The estimate to accomplish that was over $9,000. That plan would have required a lot of dirt to be hauled from the site.
This news of the cost for site preparation really took the wind out of our sails! The next day my friend Carey and I went back to the lot and cleared the weeds and brush from the little ledge up the mountain that Harold Ray Collins had bulldozed 8 years before. That night we came up with a new idea for site preparation that would not require as much of the mountain to be excavated and eliminated the need to haul off excess dirt.
We sketched out a steep driveway on the right side of the property with a switchback turn up the mountain and a house pad about 20' x 36' with the front foundation wall on a lower level of the slope. Jim Blevins agreed to meet us again the next morning to look at our new excavation plan. Jim said he could do the redesigned project for $3500. We shook hands on the deal. He was to begin the project in 3 weeks.
On the 11th of July, we picked up the final plan drawings from American Heritage Log Homes, scheduled delivery of the log kit for August 29th and secured our building permit from the building inspection department of Swain County, North Carolina. The chief building inspector was extremely helpful. The cost for the permit including an insulation requirement study was $270. Regulations required a portable toilet and the building permit had to be posted in a weather proof container at the site. We were required to sign an affidavit stating that we were building the house for ourselves (not for resale) which allowed the building inspector to waive the requirement for obtaining a general contractor. The affidavit also permitted us to do our own wiring, plumbing, framing and construction.
We rented a storage building ($45 per month) about 3 miles from the property to provide a place for keeping our tools. We didn't want to have to lug them back and forth from Mississippi every time we work on the house.
We met Jim Blevins and his crew bright and early on the morning of July 12 and immediately put up a silt fence along the creek to prevent any excavated dirt for entering the creek. It was fascinating to watch Eddie, the trackhoe operator, claw his way up the mountain. He would dig out an area and then pull the trackhoe up into it then dig out more space. He repeated that operation until he reached the space that Harold Ray Collins had originally excavated 8 years before. He enlarged that area and ran into solid rock which prevented additional excavation without blasting. We didn't want to spend the extra money it would have cost to bring in someone to drill and blast the rock. We had to settle for making the right side of the house pad about 18 feet deep.
The next day the rain set in, but Jim's crew showed up to work and finished the excavation and put down a straw mat on the driveway to inhibit erosion. The final bill was $3000, $500 less than his original quote (there are honest people in this world). Lyda, Charlotte, Carey and I put out 16 pounds of Creeping Red Fescue grass seed on the driveway and the sloped areas to get some grass growing right away. There was a slow steady rain all day which helped set the seed in the soil.
Jim Blevins gave me the names of several people to contact for a bid on the foundation work. Considering the position of the house pad and the elevation above flat ground, it would be a difficult task to move cement blocks up the mountain and pump the cement necessary for the footers. Randy Jenkins, also of Bryson City, NC seemed the most promising prospect for doing the foundation.
We hired James Herron and Associates, Bryson City, NC to do a survey after the excavation to insure that we were properly locating the house on our property. ($590) We already had some boundary markers from a previous survey but it is difficult to judge property lines on the side of the mountain. Our lot is an oddly shaped parallelogram with 100 feet road frontage including the creek. The back property line is 134 feet wide with each side approximately 146 feet. After receiving the survey we made another quick weekend trip from Mississippi to North Carolina (8 hours each way) to put flags where we wanted the house located.
The following week we contacted Randy by phone and gave him directions to visit the site. We also sent him the foundations plans. A few days later, Randy called and indicated that he had visited the site and looked at the plans. He expressed concern about the difficulty in getting materials up to the house pad, but he promised to get me a price for doing the foundation. On a follow up call he quoted us $5,300 to pour the footers and build the cement block foundation. Green Brothers in Silva, NC delivered the portable toilet on July 30th ($50 per month) and Randy planned to begin digging the footers on August 7th.
We contacted Duke Power for a temporary electric service hook up. Their engineer called back indicating that it would take at least a month to process the order. (It is a good thing we have a generator in the storage building so we aren't held up waiting for the temporary service.) The engineer also indicated we would have to help them get access to a power source by contacting our neighbor and asking permission to connect to his pole and pull the elevated wires from that pole to our house.
The neighbor expressed concern about the power company's trucks cutting up his yard and requested that they try to find another route. But, if no other route is possible, the neighbor asked to be present when the connection was made to insure that the power company did not ruin his yard. Duke Power's engineer said he would make another site inspection and then contact the neighbor if necessary to insure that the work is accomplished to his satisfaction.
On August 7th Randy ran into a problem trying to locate the foundation on the space cut for the house pad. He called the building inspector to the site to see what could be done. The front wall of the foundation would have to extend down 8 feet to natural ground and due to the slope they would require an engineer to develop a plan. One possible solution would be to make the foundation 18' x 36' rather than 24' x 36' and have floor trusses made to cantilever the front 6 feet of the house beyond the foundation. That sounds really neat but it would also require an engineering study.
Back to the drawing board! August 8th Randy will meet with a friend who has some heavy equipment to see if the rock can be blasted and moved allowing the whole house pad to be on one level, eliminating the need for the front foundation wall to be so high and eliminating the need for engineering studies. Wouldn't it be nice to have an unlimited budget.
We called Randy this morning and told him about a new idea we had concerning positioning the house. It was one one those ideas that come to you in the middle of the night when you suddenly realize, "Why didn't I think of that before". Rather than cutting into the area with the rock, we should shift the house to the left to avoid the rock and turn the house at an angle with the front left closer to the creek. This would enable new excavation to be on ground with less slope, provide a parking area on the right in the area already excavated and have all of the foundation on the same level.
Randy went to the lot on the 8th of August and tried to dig some with his equipment, but it was evident that we needed larger equipment to move the dirt. August 9th, Randy indicated that he had talked with Jim Blevins, Smokey Mountain Earthworks. Jim said he would move off his current job and bring his track hoe back to the site and do the new excavation for $800. That was a great relief! Jim said he would try to get there on Saturday, August 10th, but it might be Monday, August 12th before his man could move the track hoe.
Randy indicated that he would get the footers dug as soon as the new dirt work is complete. The plan had been for us to go to the site over the weekend (August 17th) and do the floor framing and put down the sub floor. That schedule still might work.
Lyda and I went to dinner with Connie and David Robinson August 9th. Connie and Lyda went to high school together. Even though they live in our town of Clinton, Mississippi, they hadn't visited together in years. David is a builder who builds very fine homes and Connie designs the homes and draws the plans. We had a great time visiting (also played Mexican Train dominoes). David reflected on his experience from years of building to give us a few very helpful pointers. It's nice to be able to benefit from the experience of others who have been in the business and know the pitfalls to avoid.
Jim Blevins moved his track hoe back to the site Saturday, August 10th and repositioned the house pad to provide the room needed to get all of the foundation on one level. We could have avoided this situation if we have had ordered the survey prior to doing the original excavation and had the surveyor stake out the house pad site and observed the slope for rock that would be difficult to move. (Learning through mistakes provides expensive education.)
Repositioning of the house pad eliminated the need for engineering and provided a practical solution to our original problem. On August 12th Randy was able to get the footers dug for the foundation and piers. He also called for an inspection. The inspector asked for additional steel to be placed in the footers to provide the more reinforcing. He also checked to see that the depth of the footers was on natural ground rather than fill dirt.
Bob built a trailer over the weekend to carry the materials up the mountain with a 4 Wheeler. Additionally, he constructed a log dolly to attach to the back of the logs that extend off the trailer so the logs won't drag on the ground. On the night of August 12, we loaded the 4 wheeler, the log dolly and the new trailer on another trailer for towing to North Carolina. Loading a trailer on a trailer in the pouring down rain was quite an adventure, but with the help of the neighbors and our son, Robbie, we pulled, shoved and lifted the trailer onto the trailer and wedged it in behind the 4 wheeler. After attaching some safety chains and securing the load, we took it for a test drive to insure its stability.
We left for Georgia early in the morning of August 13th to install some equipment for Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., Bob's employer. The last of those installations is only 95 miles from the cabin site. Late Thursday night August 15th we arrived in North Carolina. We unloaded the trailer and left the new trailer and 4 wheeler on the lot. Originally, plans called for beginning work on the floor joist, but the concrete blocks didn't arrive until Friday afternoon the 16th. We ordered the floor framing materials ($2200) for delivery on Friday. It was great to see the footings poured and ready for the block foundation.
Friday the 16th, Bob's mom and dad arrived from Madison, Georgia to help with moving the materials up the mountain. We hitched the small trailer to the 4 wheeler and move some of the lumber up to the house level. The hill is so steep that Bob's dad had to sit on the front of the 4 wheeler to provide additional traction. That's quite a feat for a man in his eighties! Unfortunately, it began to rain and the drive up the mountain became a bit treacherous. We had to quit early and didn't get as much accomplished as we wanted.
Saturday morning we began bright and early. The drive slope had dried out during the night and we could move materials again. At noon, some friends from Mississippi, Jacque and Mac McLemore, came by and we stopped for lunch. They just knew Bob would suggest a great place to eat. So we took them to a really good Bar-B-Que restaurant in Bryson City. (Food's good enough to "make ya slap yore mama".)
During lunch the rain came again. We were only able to take one more load up the mountain. With the brakes for the front and back wheels locked, we still slid back down (4 wheeler, trailer Dad and Bob) and that was the end of moving materials. We spent the rest of the day getting our tools ready. Checked out the nailer, air compressor and generator. The generator gave us some trouble so we packed it up to take back to Mississippi for a checkup.
Since we had moved a lot of trees when excavating, we had quite a pile of debris. The dilemma had been what to do with it. Hauling would be a waste of money. Bob visited with the Bryson City Fire Department Saturday afternoon. They said they would like to burn the debris as a training session. That was good news! We made arrangements with Randy to move the rest of the materials up using his tractor and he also agreed to do the floor framing and sub floor. With log delivery on August 29th, time was getting short and we didn't have another free weekend to go back up and do the floor framing ourselves.
The neighbor across the road offered us their house to rent for $100 a week when we come back to put up the logs. I suppose it's needless to say we immediately took them up on their offer. We left at 6am Sunday to drive back to Mississippi feeling that we had accomplished a great deal. We looked forward with anticipation to our vacation beginning August 29th.
We arrived back in Clinton, Mississippi Sunday afternoon. Sunday night somebody stole our generator. It was still strapped down on the trailer and even though we live 2 blocks from the police station, someone had the gall to rip us off. That's frustrating. Well at least it wasn't running!
Tuesday night Bob talked with Randy and he had finished laying the blocks for the foundation. He also called for an inspection of the temporary power pole we had put up over the weekend. He hoped to have Duke Power turn on the service by the time we get there to lay the logs on the 29th. Randy has really taken a keen interest in our project and has certainly worked beyond the call of duty to insure that we are on schedule. He also borrowed a bulldozer and graded the driveway to remove the slick mud that had accumulated with the weekend rain.
A friend from work, Matt Woods, let us borrow his generator so we won't have to replace the one that was stolen. If Duke Power gets the temporary service on we'll be covered both ways.
Mr. Monteith from the Lumber company told us about Sid Ball, who had a 3 wheel tow motor. Sid indicated that he would rent the tow motor and a driver to unload the logs when they arrive Thursday, August 29th. We'll need to beef up the bridge a bit in the center by adding more 3x8 oak runners to insure stability for the center wheel of the tow motor. If the tow motor can move the logs up to the house level it will sure make life easier!
We've been getting phone calls from friends and family who want to come and help us "build the cabin". Our good friends, Charlotte and Carey Evans have been ready to go from the start. Lyda's sister and her husband, Edith and Paul Cassibry, are coming, Paul's twin brother Phillip (from Gulf Shores, Alabama) and his wife Loretta are planning to come. One of Lyda's high school friends Barbara Kent Carver and her husband Tallmadge from Cookville, Tennessee plan to be there for a few days. August 21st some friends from our church who have recently retired called to see if we needed more help. We're looking forward to a wonderful time working together on the cabin.
On Wednesday the 21st, Bob talked with Dennis Cook from American Heritage Log Home, to get the time that the logs will be delivered. Dennis indicated that their Kiln had gone down and there could be a week delay in getting the kit. Bob told Dennis that we had a lot of volunteer help scheduled and that vacation time had also been scheduled and it would be a disaster if the schedule were altered because there wouldn't be enough time to complete our work. Dennis said he would do his best to make the original delivery.
Randy has completed the floor framing and sub floor. He said it's within 1/16th of an inch being square. That's pretty good for a log house foundation! The extra cost for labor to have Randy's crew construct the floor joist and sub floor was $656. The termite treatment has also been completed($233). The footers for the porch remain to be poured but we are ready to begin laying logs on the main house. The footers for the porch are on a difficult slope and Randy reckons he'll have to carry the cement in 5 gallon buckets to pour them. Those can be completed while we are assembling the main part of the house.
Bob made an error when getting the materials. When he ordered the porch framing materials he also got the framing materials for the main part of the house and forgot to specify pressure treated lumber for the porch. So we will have to take some of those boards back down the mountain next week and swap them at the lumber yard. One more opportunity to ride the 4 wheeler up that steep drive!
On Friday, August 23rd the engineer from Duke power called and indicated that he had not as yet been able to complete the access permissions requirements for right of way to get power to us. It would be nice if they could complete those details in the next few days so we can have power while we are laying the logs. If not, we'll use the generator we borrowed. We're really counting on getting those logs on time.
Monday, August 26th American Heritage Log Homes confirmed that delivery of the logs will be on August 29th as originally scheduled. Sid Ball said that he will provide the 3 wheel tow motor to unload the truck. The inspection of the temporary electric pole failed because it wiggled. We'll have to brace it better and call for another inspection. If we wet the quikcrete we poured into the hole that will also increase stability.
The plan is coming together with D day on Thursday. Paul, Edith, Carey, Charlotte, Lyda and Bob will be there for D day. Carey and Charlotte decided to get an early start arriving on Tuesday, August 27th. Paul and Edith will leave Wednesday morning the 28th then Bob and Lyda will leave the afternoon of the 28th for a late night arrival Wednesday.
We arrived in North Carolina at midnight. It was convenient to stay at the house across the road from our lot. We were loaded with tools, windows, doors, etc. Charlotte and Carey were waiting for us. Thursday morning we had a million details to take car of before the logs arrived. Carey and Bob went to meet the guy who was going to provide the tow motor to unload the logs. He said he would be available at noon when the truck arrived.
We went to Monteith Lumber and bought more bridge timbers to beef up the bridge for the tow motor unloading the logs. We also went to the storage building to get the 4 wheeler and all the tools. While we were beefing up the bridge the log truck arrived. He had 5 bundles of logs with 24 in each bundle. The tow motor arrived and began to unload the logs. The bridge held up very well with the new timbers. Unfortunately the tow motor could not get up the hill to the house pad. For a fee of $300 he unloaded the logs in the driveway which left us with the task of moving them up the mountain be ourselves. It was really slow going, we could only move 2 logs at a time. By 6:30 in the evening we had moved about 40 logs. At times it was necessary to have all 4 of us (Bob, Paul, Phillip and Carey) pushing and pulling on he 4 wheeler and trailer because it would get stuck.
At 6:30pm the wives called us for dinner. Black-eyed peas, Country Ham, Cornbread, fresh boiled corn and tomatoes. Wow did that taste good. We topped off the meal with a birthday cake for Paul and Phillip. After super we worked on the temporary electric pole to provide better bracing. We also moved the generator and all the tools up to the house site so we would be ready for David from the log home company to train us on Friday. After a well deserved shower we retired for the evening with lots of new sore muscles.
Friday August 29th started a bit unorganized. We kept discovering all those tools and items we forgot to get. So the ladies had to make several trips to the hardware store for us.
The Hitachi cop saw that I bought on Ebay was missing a fence. The company who ordered the fence for me months ago still had not received it by the time we left so we had to improvise. By putting bolts in where the fence normally mounts we were able to keep the logs straight.
David Uhl from American Heritage Log Homes came around 9 a.m. He brought some tools with him and it was a good thing he did because some we had forgotten about. David was extremely helpful in coaching us to get the job started right. He pitched in and worked like a horse right beside us. We were a bit bumfuzzled about what to do next, but David show great patience in organizing us into a team with different tasks to help the job flow better. If anyone ever decides to build a log home by themselves and the company offers the assistance of a support person to help you get started, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of that opportunity.
At noon the ladies brought sandwiches and drinks. There were a welcome site. We picnicked on the floor of the house. Moving ahead with great speed, David worked and led us through the day. We put up 13 courses of logs in the living room area fitting the spaces for the windows and doors. The heavy logs were a real struggle to put up so we were glad that we had 4 helpers plus David. Carey, Paul, Phillip and Bob really put in a long day's work.
At 5 pm the ladies brought us Ice Cold Watermelon, Wow was that ever a treat. We worked until 7 pm when David joined us for some good ole southern cooking. Taters and Roast, corn casserole and home made apple pie with ice cream. That was certainly a good reward for a hard day's work.
Thanks to David we learned a lot. We're prepared to finish putting up the logs and he said we should be able to finish laying the logs in about 3 and 1/2 days. The trusses are suppose to be delivered Wednesday. That will be a struggle to get those up the mountain.
Saturday, August 31st began with a great breakfast pizza. Phillip showed up about 7:45 to clean up the area so we could get better organized. Paul and Bob took the porch lumber back to swap it for pressure treated. That lumber had to be moved back down the mountain and onto another trailer for transport to the building supply. The process took several hours.
Around 10am we began to cut and place more logs and shortly after noon we had another wall ready to tie in. After a great lunch served by Lyda and Charlotte we ran out of logs at the house site and decided to move more up the mountain. We had only moved about 40 of the 125 logs the day they arrived.
From about 2pm until 7:45pm we moved the rest of the logs up to the house site. What a job. This was the hardest day yet. Since we could only transport 2 logs at a time it took a long long time. About 3pm we looked at the sky and it was getting very dark. Thunder was sounding and we were very worried that it would rain. Rain causes the drive to become so slippery that we wouldn't have been able to move more logs for several days. We asked the Lord to bless us by keeping away the rain. Although it rained all around us, it never rained one drop on our building site. That was a blessing.
After struggling to get those 85 logs up to the site we were very tired. The ladies outdid themselves with another great supper. By the way the house we rented didn't have a working dryer so the ladies used the old fashioned method, note the picture in the photo gallery.
The tools we brought really helped make the task of cutting and assembling the logs easier. The Hitachi 15" chop saw cuts the log in one cut. By placing the round side of the log down the blade just makes it through the log. We put the saw on one of those Black and Decker folding work benches and rigged two Stanley plastic saw horses to support the log during the cut. Depending on the cut it can be a two or three man job to hold and cut a log.
To cut the notches for the modified butt and pass corners we used two skill saws. One was set at a depth of 1 3/4 inches and the other one 1 1/2 inches. To make the female notch we measured from the end of the log 10 and 14 inches and made 5 or six passes with a skill saw set to a depth of 1 1/2". Then we used a hammer to knock out that 4" area of the log and a chisel to clean it up. On the male end we measured a short 4" down from the flat part of the log and cut 1 3/4 into the end of the log. We held a piece of wood against the end of the log and used a skill saw with 1 3/4 depth to cut the round portion using the piece of wood as a guide. When Bob has more time he will take pictures and show that process. It provides a very tight corner and keeps the logs from rolling which can happen with the traditional butt and pass corners.
The 1/2" drill we bought at Harbor Freight worked great for inserting the 12" self tapping screws which hold the logs together. It also was used to drill the 3/4 holes where two logs join. A 3/4" dowel was inserted into the hole along with some wood adhesive. That made joints secure and helps prevent shifting.
We didn't allow enough space for our pre hung doors so we decided to use 1x6 rather than 2x6 as door bucks. It will allow the doors to fit precisely and not have any structural effect. Other than minor mistakes, things have been going very well. Several times we have proven the old adage, "Measure twice, cut once".
Sunday, September 1st was a very productive day. When we got up the air was crisp and cool. The weather was absolutely
gorgeous all day. Thank goodness the position of the house is in partial shade which makes it very pleasant to work even when the skies are clear.
Although we were attempting to level and
square each wall as we went, we were very happy when doing a bias check
diagonally, to see that the house was completely square. That's a major
accomplishment for amateurs that consist of two retired Army Chaplains
(Paul and Phillip), a landlord (Carey Evans) and a computer guru (Bob
Friday, September 6 - Steve and Betsy left to go back to Memphis because of a prior
commitment to help with an Audubon Society event in Holly Springs, MS. But, Bob's Dad came to help for a couple of days.
Sunday morning, Bob Lyda, Carey, Charlotte, Barbara and Talmadge moved the lumber for the porch up into the house for safe keeping. That was the last of the trips up the mountain on the 4 wheeler. It proved to be the best mode of transportation for moving material.
Monday evening September 9th, Bob asked Randy Jenkins (the guy who did the foundation, floor joist and sub floor) to complete the construction of the porch and put in the last set of windows which we boarded up. It will be sometime in October before we can get back to North Carolina to do some work. Then, we can concentrate on outside trim and inside framing.
Everyone has marveled at how quickly we completed the work. Of course it was with very long days and lots of great help. Look for the adventure to continue in October.
Randy called on September 23rd and said he had given some thought to the best way to do the porch. He suggested that we cantilever it back to the house foundation footers in order to keep from disturbing the steep slope. After visiting with the building inspector, he was told that we would need to have an engineer sign off on the plan. Chris Hall, a friend from Bob's office who is a whiz with AutoCad, drew up a quick plan of Randy's idea. Chris also suggested an engineer who could stamp it, satisfying the building inspector.
Randy called again on September the 30th and said that he had completed the porch. His and his crew had worked 22.5 hours, so the cost for labor was $922.50. He said the porch really was solid and looked good.
Of course we wanted to see the new porch!! We also needed to do some on site planning related to the fireplace enclosure and clean the logs in preparation for staining and preserving them. Hurricane Lili passed to the west of Mississippi, so the weather for the weekend of October 5th looked good. We left for a quick weekend trip to North Carolina after Bob got off work Friday, October 4th.
It was exciting to see the new porch. It really completed the look for the cabin and the feel of hanging out over the slope above the creek was just as neat as expected. The porch was very solid and as usual Randy did a great job building it. We were taking a little break from cleaning, sitting on the porch, when we saw a car drive slowly by. We waved, to be friendly, and the car stopped, backed up and drove across the bridge.
We were very surprised to see some good friends from Clinton, Mississippi, Bob and Barbara Wills. Bob Wills recently had surgery and they were on a trip to the mountains to relax and recuperate. They were camping in Cherokee and decided to find our little cabin. Bob and Barbara sat beside us at a Gaither concert the day tropical storm Isidore drenched Mississippi. We had given them the web address for this site. So, they couldn't wait to see it in person and were as surprised as we were when they discovered us sitting on the porch. It was a welcomed break from our cleaning.
We finished scrubbing the logs on October 6th before driving back to Mississippi after a very short but fun continuation of our adventure. By the way, we used creek water, Clorox cleaner and bleach to wash down the logs. Then we rinsed them with more creek water. That process did a good job removing the dirt from the logs that got on them when we were dragged them up the mountain. Plans are to do the staining and preserving the weekend of October 26th.
We arrived on Thursday the 26th of October to falling leaves and light rain all prepared to put PeneTreat on the logs and coat them with Organic Clear (a tinted oil based preservative). Luckily the PeneTreat application called for the logs to be damp because the humidity was very high. PeneTreat is a powered substance needs to be mixed with warm water. It was good that we had rented the house across the street so we had warm water available.
The PeneTreat and water were mixed in a garden sprayer and sprayed on the entire surface of the logs. Since 2 coats were needed, we put one coat on Thursday afternoon and the other one Friday morning. Friday afternoon we went to Montieth's Sawmill and purchased a bundle of rough sawn "green" white pine. We wanted to use it for outside trim around the doors and windows.
Saturday we moved the 100+ pieces of lumber up to the cabin with the 4 wheeler and trailer and spread it out on the porch in order to spray it with PeneTreat. Then we stacked the lumber in the house with each layer separated to enable it to air dry during the winter. We selected the pieces we needed for the outside trim and by 7:30 pm Saturday night had trimmed out the side door and window and the back window. It was so dark that Lyda had to hold a light for Bob to put in the last nails.
Sunday morning we finished the outside trim and loaded up for the trip back home. Since the time had changed that gave us 2 extra hours of work time Sunday before leaving for Mississippi. (1 hour which we "fell" back and 1 hour time difference between MS and NC). Unfortunately the logs were not dry enough to apply the OrganicClear so we'll have to make another trip. Planning will be difficult because it has to be dry and over 50 degrees to apply the OrganicClear.
We are still having problems getting electricity. Duke Power told us they had contacted our neighbor, who refused to allow them to connect a power line for us to the power pole which services his house. The neighbor doesn't want them to change out the transformer on their pole in case they might damage their yard. So, that leaves us with the task of having to contact several other neighbors to try to get permission for the power company to cross their properties in order to bring power to us.
Unlike subdivisions and country roads which have utility rights of way, power lines in the mountains cross from one property owner to the next. Everyone has power because in the past a neighbor was neighborly and allowed the power company access to bring power to each other. It is difficult when a current property owner who has power because some good neighbor in the past was considerate of a previous owner, refuses to have consideration for new neighbors. There are some other neighbors whom the power company say they will not contact because in the past they have refused other connections. So now to get power we will have to come across several pieces of property all owned by different out of state folks.
Hopefully, we can get these details worked out by spring so we will have power in time to finish our construction. Meanwhile we'll have to continue to use the generator to provide power for our tools. Hauling gas up that mountain isn't really a lot of fun. In fact Randy had a helper refuse to work on our cabin because it was difficult carrying the generator and fuel up the mountain.
We closed out our storage building and also asked the PortaPotty company to remove it so we could save those expenses through the winter. We asked Randy for a quote on doing the metal roof and it was about $1900, so we will defer that expenditure until the summer so we can save our pennies to pay for it. We also asked him to provide a quote of finishing out the exterior fireplace enclosure. We will probably do that in stucco over OSB board and later have Randy apply rock for that traditional stone fireplace look.
Our last trip to North Carolina for 2002 was November 8th. We left around 4pm on Friday afternoon and arrived at about 1am. We stayed at the house across the street. It was 30 degrees outside and the house had 1 kerosene heater that had fuel in the living room. So, we spent a very cold night bundled up in blankets and layers of clothes trying to get warm. The first thing on the list for Saturday morning was to get some more kerosene for the other heaters. On Saturday the 9th we treated the logs with a coat of OrganicClear WR-5, a combination stain and treatment to guard against mildew, mold and water. As with the PeneTreat we used a garden sprayer to apply the material. We also used a brush to smooth out the excess that tended to drip from one log to the next. The walnut color added a richness to the look of the logs. We are very happy with the new color. The trick was to find a weekend when the temperature would be above 50 degrees and the preceding several days were dry. On Sunday, November 10th we wanted to apply Thompson's water seal to the porch, but it was raining when we got up so that was out. We'll do that in the spring.
December 23rd brought an update on a possibility for electricity. One of our neighbors who owns property beside and behind our lot has agreed to allow Duke Power to locate a pole behind our house. That would mean that a connection from the people across the street could be made to the pole behind the house and then to our house. We will present this new plan to Duke power and see if they can now make the connection.
The end of February 2003 we wanted to go back to North Carolina and "check" on things. It had been 4 months since we had been to the mountains. Bob wanted to see if the cabin had made it through the winter ok. We left Clinton on Friday afternoon February 28th and arrived in Cherokee that night. Since the campgrounds and cabins around our area had been closed up for the winter we stayed at the Comfort Inn.
Saturday morning we were welcomed with pleasant weather, blue skies and mid 60s. It was good to see that the cabin had weather the winter without any problems. Even though they had lots of rain and a little snow in the area during the winter, the ground was firm and there was no sign shifting dirt. We noticed that we need to close up the area under the eaves from the top of the logs to where the roof to prevent birds from building nests in the cabin this spring.
Bob surveyed the electricity issue and came up with a plan to present to the power company and the neighbors which would route a power line from the Wells across the street to the property just behind the cabin. Bob drew up the plan and faxed it to Duke Power. Bob also took some measurements of the slope in order to develop a plan for access.
Saturday afternoon we went to the Whistle Stop in Franklin, NC a fabulous Antique Mall. Lyda got lots of ideas for decorating. We also visited a small gauge railroad museum in Dillard, Georgia across from Rabin Gap Prep School. It gave Bob some ideas concerning building a track and mine car to pull up the slope for access. Mr. Dess Oliver, a teacher from Rabin Gap Prep School had built the railroad tracks and some rail cars with the help of some of his shop students. It was very helpful to see how that had accomplished it. Bob was able to get the measurements he needed for placement of railroad ties and track in addition to seeing a car the students had built which would be a perfect solution to our access up the mountain.
After arriving back in Mississippi, we went to a Home
Improvement show and talked with a man who sells elevators. He mentioned a
man who used to work for the manufacturer of the elevators, had purchased
the right to manufacture a device called a Hill Climber. Upon
investigation at his web site his solution to move people and goods up a
hill looks like a good one. It is similar to those stair climbers that you
sit on and ride up a set of stair except that it is much larger in scope
and can handle 700 pounds. Of course the real question is how much does it
cost. After we investigate those details we'll have a better idea of which
method to choose, building a rail car and track or purchasing the Hill
Climber. I have included pictures of the railroad car and track in
addition to the Hill Climber in our Putting It All Together picture
August 28th we arrived late in the evening ready for 10 days of hard work, Friday morning we made our rounds to the lumber yard and the sawmill to get materials for the week. Unfortunately Randy didn't get the fireplace enclosure built or the metal roof installed so we decided to make the fireplace enclosure out of log siding and postpone the roof work till next summer. We order 2000 linear feet of "paneling" 1x8 boards tongue and groove and beaded for the walls.
Friday afternoon as we were struggling to move the planer up the mountain on the little cart a couple appeared out of nowhere and helped us push our load the rest of the way up the mountain. They turned out to be our neighbors, Joy and Gerald Sage from Tampa, Florida. We had a nice visit and enjoyed their company. Later in the afternoon Bob's Mom and Dad arrived and we began to plan our work.
Dad had been thinking about our need for a lift up to the house. Since we had already purchased a winch, we needed to decide which way to build the incline. Deciding on the steepest path in front of the house, we needed more materials. Sackrete, landscape timbers and pressure treated wood. We went to Lowe's in Franklin and purchase some of the materials and then ate supper at Fat Buddies, another great Bar-B-Que place!
Saturday morning Lyda and Dad went back to the lumber yard and Bob began digging post holes for the structural part of the lift. Eight post holes was all Bob could manage for the day. Each one had rocks that had to be broken up in order to dig deeper. Gerald Sage came by on his way to the hardware store and Lyda rode with him to get a bar to breakup the rocks. The sharply pointed bar weighted between 30 and 40 pounds and really helped to breakup the rocks.
Sunday Bob dug more holes and Dad worked on the supports. Using a rope tied around their waists, Dad and Bob continued to dig holes and build the underlying structure of the lift. The steep slope prevented them from making very fast progress.
Gerald came by Sunday afternoon and we took a break to go look at the spring site on his property to which we have a deeded access. After digging around, we were able to open up an old spring box and get some water flowing into it. With a little bit of work we will be able to get the spring working satisfactorily. We decided to leave that project for later, but were appreciative that Gerald had taken the time to show us the location and help us get it flowing again.
By the time darkness arrived Sunday night, we had managed to complete the basic structure and get one track installed. We made the tracks from 2x4s, one on its side nailed to one flat, forming an L shaped track. Dad also began to build the cart that would run on the track.
Monday we built the other track, finished the cart ,built a mounting deck to hold the winch and a platform to move materials from the cart onto at the upper level.
Tuesday, we completed the work on the lift and named it the Charlie Horse in honor of Bob's 83 year old Dad who worked so hard to design and help Bob build it. We powered the Charlie Horse with 2 large marine batteries to provide twice the power. We'll keep it charged with a battery charger as well as a solar powered charging panel. We needed a deck beside the Charlie Horse with a ramp to facilitate moving large objects like a refrigerator and furniture. Lyda and Dad went back to the Lumber yard while Bob dug more post holes. With the lift running it was much easier transporting 80 lb bags of Sackrete rather than struggling to carry them up by hand!
Monteith Sawmill delivered the 8" paneling, but made a mistake and brought 2000 board feet instead of 2000 linear feet. That meant about twice the amount of lumber, which would be enough for the walls and ceiling inside the house. With the Charlie Horse ready we knew it would be much easier to move the lumber up to the house. We were also suppose to get the log siding but they didn't have it ready. Bob told them that we needed it by Friday so we could build the fireplace enclosure.
We looked down by the creek and saw a trucking coming across the bridge. David and Elizabeth Hayes, our good friends from Canton, Mississippi had pulled into the driveway. David worked for us for about 3 years rebuilding our old late 1800's house in Clinton, Mississippi. He and Elizabeth were primitive camping in the mountains and had decided to drive up and check on our cabin. They were as surprised to see us there as we were to see them. It is great to have good friends drop by from back home.
While visiting with David and Elizabeth, Carey and Charlotte Evans drove up. We had been expecting them. They had purchased some land about 30 miles from us near Waynesville and were there to work on it as well as help us a bit. Charlotte and Lyda began to move the paneling up to and into the house while Bob started working on the sewer drains and Dad worked on the deck and ramp for the Charlie Horse.
Wednesday, Bob went back under the house to work on the plumbing and Dad finished building the deck and ramp. Dad also enclosed the winch to protect it from the weather. Bob got some of the drains connected (without gluing them) trying to make sure all the pieces of the plumbing puzzle would fit together. We came up a few pieces short and made yet another list.
Thursday morning we woke up to rain. It really came down and that gave Bob and Dad a chance to go to the hardware store and lumber yard to get more plumbing supplies. Bob worked under the house all the rest of the day connecting the parts and pieces.
Friday morning it was a cool 51 degrees and Bob was back under the house gluing the pipes when Mondee Monteith and his son Marvin showed up with the log siding. Friday afternoon Dad and Bob built the structure for the fireplace enclosure and moved some of the log siding up to the house. Bob worked late and completed the plumbing for the drains.
Saturday Dad and Bob worked all day on the fireplace enclosure. Bob cutting the boards and Dad nailing them. Dad worked from the inside of the enclosure. He screwed pieces of 2x4s to the sides and put a piece of decking on them to provide a place to stand. As he was moving up to another level Dad accidentally dropped the deck board and had to stand there with his toes on the little pieces of 2x4 until Bob could cut another board to stand on. He made a stirrup from a piece of rope and climbed up to the next level. You'd never know he was 83 years old.
It was well after dark when we finished putting on the log siding. However, we still had to construct the roof on the fireplace enclosure. By 9:30 pm we had mounted the roof decking and attached some roofing material. That was a very long day.
Sunday morning Dad and Mom left to go back home and Bob went back up to the house to complete the roof for the fireplace enclosure. After putting on the flashing and using roofing cement to make the cracks water proof Bob was really glad to be finished with that part of the work. Charlotte and Carey came and Lyda and Charlotte cleaned up the cabin while Carey put up another wall. Bob applied PeneTreat to the log siding to preserve it. Bob put foam in the cracks where the log siding was attached to the house and put some rough sawn trim to complete the fireplace project.
It was 1pm Sunday by the time we were showered, cleaned up and ready to leave for the trip back to Mississippi. Carey stayed to meet the well drillers at his lot and Charlotte rode with us back home. We made it back around 11pm Sunday night after 10 days of good hard work and a lot of accomplishments.
We hope to go back the
first weekend in October to do some more work. Although we didn't get
everything done we hoped to do this trip we did get the lift built and
that wasn't originally on our agenda. It proved to be a very productive
Armed with hydraulic water seal, a small pick, shovel and sackrete we tackled the job of refurbishing the spring box. After several hours of work the water was flowing at the rate of about 80 gallons per hour. That is a sufficient flow for our purposes.
We purchased a 275 gallon water tank, 300 feet of black plastic pipe, and a pressure tank to use with the pump we had previously acquired. Saturday we finished the project and within about 3 hours the water tank was full. The next trip we will install the water lines under the house, hook up the pump and finish the plumbing.
We stained the log siding
which we used to build the chimney enclosure. Randy Jenkins came by and
will install the metal roofing in the next week or so. He is also going to
close in under the eaves and install a ceiling on the porch.
Thursday, October 23 Carey Evans and Bob arrived in Madison, Georgia to pick up Bob's dad for a weekend of work in the mountains. Leaving from Madison at 5am Friday morning we arrived at the cabin at 8:30 to begin a 2 days work. We were greeted by a shiny green metal roof which Randy Jenkins was installing.
Bob completed the hookup of the pump and pressure tank to the outside water storage tank. Dad worked on the wiring and Randy and his crew came to finish the roof. He had earlier completed constructing the soffit and fascia all around the cabin. They also finished installing the porch ceiling. They used some of the 8" tongue and groove paneling for the soffia and porch ceiling. The rough sawn lumber was used for the fascia.
Friday afternoon we had a visit from Charlie and Royce Ann Saul of Clinton, MS. They were visiting in Ashville and came down to see our cabin. It is really great to see friends from home come by check on our progress.
At the end of a long and very productive day, we made a list of electrical supplies to get a Lowes and went to Waynesville for dinner. Bright and early Saturday Bob went to the local building supply to pay for the metal Randy had obtained for the roof project, about $1300. Randy and his crew had spent 26 hours installing the roof, soffit, fascia and porch ceiling, that came to $1066.00. Again, we were very pleased with Randy's work and the price was fair as usual.
Dad continued to work on the wiring and Bob finished the plumbing under the house. It was a welcome relief to get that completed. Carey finished installing paneling and all walls now have paneling on one side. One side has to remain open until we finish the wiring and have our rough plumbing and wiring inspection.
After eating a fast food supper, Bob and Carey went back to the cabin and worked til 11 pm. As Bob stepped out onto the side steps to lock up for the night he lost his balance in the dark and fell off the steps. Thank goodness the only thing hurt was his pride!
Early Sunday morning Carey
put out 10 pounds of grass seed while Bob and Dad gathered up tools. As we
were driving away the rain began to fall just in time to water the seed
Carey had sown. We took Dad back to his home in Madison, GA. and arrived
in Clinton, MS ten hours after leaving our little mountain cabin.
Camping out in the cabin is loads of fun. Having a cup of
coffee in the early morning on the porch makes it all worth while! Bob put
together a log bed and we are going to use our queen size air mattress on
it until we officially compete the cabin then we'll have a "real" mattress
and box springs. Bob built the meter base and service pole and mounted it
on the house. Pulling 00 wire is a bit of a chore.
The week after July 4th was spent getting ready for and passing the first
plumbing and electrical inspections. We had to replace the meter base with
one that had an outside cutoff because the wire coming from it to the
inside panel box was 2 feet longer than the code would allow (if there was
no outside cutoff). That was quite an ordeal since Bob had to redo the
entire outside service. It was also necessary to use conduit between the
meter base and the inside panel. The reason for the conduit was that Bob
had selected individual copper wires each of which was insulated but not
formed together in one cable. Unfortunately we would get anything other
than Aluminum in the prepared cable and Bob didn't want to use it. I guess
we're from the old school that copper is better.
May 2005, we returned to the cabin and it was wonderful to get back to the mountains. The pipes and drains hadn’t broken from the cold weather which was a blessing! We installed the R38 insulation in the attic. The 12 inch thick fiberglass insulation was quite a chore to install, but it was good to finally get the cabin insulated. On the night of the 17th of May the temperature got down to 39 degrees but we were warm as toast with a portable ceramic electric heater.
We purchased metal siding to install on some of the bathroom walls. It really looks good as an accent material to complement the wood walls. We used Galvalume siding which is coated to prevent rust. The hand held grinder with a metal cutting blade was the perfect tool for trimming the metal to fit.
We found a table made from barn wood at a flea market in Atlanta. Bob modified it to become the sink base for the guest bathroom. He installed a china bowl type sink basin which sits on top and made a shelf from rough sawn lumber on which to mount the faucets. Along with the wood and metal walls in the bathroom the table and sink combined to create a neat old fashioned look.
Next we used some of the original rough sawn lumber we had purchased 3 years ago as trim around the windows. Since rough sawn lumber varies in thickness it was a challenge to keep things square, but the overall look helped to match the rustic environment of the log cabin. Soon we will be able to install the wood on the ceilings and start the finishing touches of kitchen cabinets. We have one more insulation chore and that is under the house. We will have to check with the building inspector to determine what R factor we need to use under the floors.
July the 8th, 2005 we arrived ready to continue our work. We purchase the wood for the ceilings from Mondee Monteith at the sawmill. The 1x8 beaded tongue and groove boards had to be picked up at the kiln in Franklin. We rented a U-Haul truck to transport the wood. By the time we had rented the truck, loaded it, unloaded it and moved it up to the house we consumed a whole day. The price of the wood had gone up about 10% since we had purchased the wood for the walls last year.
Our son, Robbie came over from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on Friday night where he is stationed in Goldsboro, NC. It was great to be able to visit with him. On Saturday we took a little trip down to Madison Georgia to see Bob's folks. Dad had another stroke and we wanted to spend some time with him. He was doing pretty good, but it is difficult to see him not able to talk very well! He has been such an inspiration to us on this project and would like to be able to help some more, BUT doctor's orders are for him to rest and recuperate for a while.
Sunday morning Robbie had to head back to the base and Lyda and Bob started putting up the ceilings. It was a lot of work but thank goodness we had that scaffolding which made the job easier. It took us until Wednesday to get all the ceilings put up.
While Bob finished the ceilings in the closets, Lyda began applying the stain. We chose a product called Log Guard which is water soluble. The folks at Shroeder's Log Home Supply suggested that we would only need one coat and they were correct. The light brown color was just right. The pictures on the web site actually make the stain look darker than it actually is. We miscalculated the amount of stain we needed by about 7 gallons. The specs showed a coverage area of 100-150 square feet per gallon. That may have been correct for the rough logs, but the finished walls and ceilings did not take nearly as much stain. We could have saved at least $200 by purchasing 10 gallons rather than 15. But, now we know and we will use some of the extra for staining the porch and under the eaves.
The staining process took 3 days. Our good friends the O'Dells, who had recently moved from Clinton, MS to Wake Forest, NC came over for a visit along with Lynn O'Dell's mom. The Evans, who had helped us so much during the beginning of construction also came along. The Evans are building a house on the mountain above Waynesville, about 35 miles from us. It was great for the Old Gang to get together again.
Bob had his 60th Birthday on Thursday and we celebrated at the Fryemont Inn for a fine dinner of mountain trout and all the fixin's. We read about the Fryemont Inn in Dr. Walt Larimore's books about his experiences as a young doctor who worked at the Bryson City Hospital right after he finished his residency at Duke University Medical Center. The food was just as good as he described it and the service was great as well. They topped off the meal by serving us a piece of fudge pie with a candle in honor of Bob's birthday!
Friday the 15th Adam Ball of Cold Mountain Enterprises delivered the load of creek rocks we had purchased to use for the fireplace hearth and wall. We also contracted with him to bring several loads of dirt and gravel to finish off the parking area. We asked him if he knew of anyone who had a crew of men to do hand digging. The area behind the cabin had begun to fill up with dirt around the foundation. The dirt had come from the steep incline before we had stabilized it with grass and mesh.
Adam told us to call Roger Millsaps who has a landscaping company and a crew of 5 guys who do that kind of work. Roger came on Saturday and told us that it would take 5 men 2 days to hand dig the area. It was more than we expected but the $1500 charge meant that Bob wouldn't have to do it himself. Sometimes the best tool is cash in your wallet!
About the time Adam arrived with the rocks, Bob's brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Dawn Gilmore, arrived. Paul is a professional photographer and had been working in North Georgia doing a shoot for a Chamber of Commerce publication. They had not visited the cabin before and were amazed at all the work we had accomplished. We took them to lunch at our favorite Bar-B-Que place in Bryson City and enjoyed a couple of hours rest from all the work!
On Saturday morning Bob started moving the 2000 pounds of rocks for the fireplace up the mountain. He would bring up a load and take down a load of trash to put in the trailer for transport to the dump. It took him 4 hours to move the rock and the trash. It was a welcome relief when he moved the last rock!
We finished staining all the interior walls and ceilings on Saturday afternoon, cleaned up and went to meet the Evans for dinner at Maggie's Galley in Waynesville. After dinner we went to see the Evans house. Their construction is coming along a bit slow for them but his construction guy is now putting up their siding. They have a wonderful view of the mountains from their 4,000 foot elevation.
Sunday, the 17th of July 2005 we packed up and headed back to Mississippi. We are a lot closer now to finishing this project. We have the following items left to complete: Install the ceiling fans and lights,. build the hearth and rock wall around the fireplace, install the wood floor, put in the interior doors, build the kitchen cabinets and one for our bathroom. We also need to install the trim and molding as well as insulate under the cabin. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is a good feeling. It would be nice to work in a few long weekends and a week around labor day to get it finished. We are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving at the Cabin this year!
August the 18th, 2005 after a day's work at the office in Mississippi, we
headed out for a long weekend of work on the cabin. We arrived around 1am
and were greeted by a pile of gravel at the base of the Charlie Horse
making it difficult to unload the car. It was evident that our gravel man
had delivered but not finished spreading the gravel and fill dirt we had
ordered during our trip in July.
Bob went to the phone and picked it up and there was a terrible noise on the line. Handing it to the deputy Bob said that evidently there was some problem with the telephone and it had somehow triggered a false call to 911.
Wow, what an adventurous start to our long weekend in the mountains to build a stone wall around the fireplace inside the house. After the sun came up, Bob went to inspect the work that was to have been completed by a landscape company to remove dirt from the back on the house. We had contracted with the company to clean out the dirt that had sloughed off the mountain behind the house.
Unfortunately they didn't move much of the dirt. So faced with having to go to Bryson City to make some phone calls, we did the only thing two hard working people can do when faced with adversity....we went out for breakfast.
calling the phone company and being informed that they could fix the phone
by 3pm Tuesday (2 days after we were going to leave), Bob talked with the
gravel man and the landscape contractor. The landscape guy got his
feathers ruffled because he said that they had moved all the dirt they had
been contracted to move. Bob questioned whether they had in fact put in
the 75 man hours for which we had paid and that made the man all the more
Getting the mortar just the right moisture content was bit of a chore. It
can't be too wet or it will slough off the metal lathe. If it is too dry
then it also does not adhere properly. It took the rest of the day to mix
and apply a coat of mortar to the metal lathe.
Bright and early Saturday morning Bob mounted the mantle on the wall and
mixed a batch of mortar to begin applying the rocks. The left side of the
fireplace went very smoothly, but when Bob started on the right side some
of the stones fell off. About this time Bob realized that he should have
gotten some gloves because he began to get sores on his hands from the
mortar. So Lyda went to town to find the gloves.
was almost tempted to build the hearth right then and there, but common
sense ruled and we headed back to Mississippi knowing that we would be
back over the labor day holiday to finish the hearth and install the 12"
ship lap pine floors!
day weekend 2006 provided a hurricane safe time to come back to the
mountains. Hurricane Ernesto thankfully was in the eastern part of North
Carolina which spared us the agony of working in down pouring rain. We
remembered the events of one year ago when hurricane Katrina prevented us
from coming over Labor Day.
Monday morning, Labor Day while working on the living room floor, we received a call from Simon and Jenny Los telling us they would be up in a couple of hours to see us. Simon works for a company named Agrisoft which supplies software to Cal-Maine Foods where Bob works. He had visited Bob at the office in Jackson, Mississippi several weeks ago and Bob showed him this web site. Simon mentioned that he and his wife might ride their motorcycle up on Labor Day.
Simon and Jenny live in North Georgia, but since it was raining, they came in their car. When they arrived, Jenny was a bit apprehensive about riding up on the Charlie Horse. But, she was a good sport and closed her eyes and gritted her teeth during the LONG ride up the mountain. It was great to visit with them and make some new friends. We took the opportunity to go to Bryson City for some lunch and discovered a new restaurant named Jimmy Macs. The food was good and the fellowship with Simon and Jenny was enjoyable and relaxing. As it turns out, Simon and Jenny will be going to a conference in California in October that we will be attending. So Jenny and Lyda will be able to pal around while Bob and Simon work.
Monday afternoon we loaded up many of the tools and items that we no longer need at the cabin. It is great to get the cabin cleaned up and prepare to put the finishing touches on our 4 years of work. The remaining tasks are to install insulation under the floors, finish the trim work and install a heating and air conditioning system. We also have some lights and a ceiling fan to install. And of course, pass the inspections!
We still need to find someone who can build some steps up to the cabin. We really had hopes for Adam Ball, who had prepared our parking area, but after over a year of waiting, we've given up on him doing the steps. It is amazing how difficult it is to find people to do work in the mountains. The construction people seem to be quite lackadaisical in their attitudes. Maybe we'll be fortunate to find someone before long who can do that job. Bob doesn't really want to tackle the task of building 85 feet of steps up the mountain. It will be necessary to use a small track hoe to dig out and place the railroad ties which will be used to construct the steps.
Another winter has come and gone. It is 2007 and the May flowers sparked our interest in coming back to the mountains. Bob's mother passed away in February and Bob's Dad wanted to come back to the cabin. Since he has had several stokes he has a difficult time carrying on a conversation, but he really gets excited when there is work to do.
We purchased a window air conditioner/heating unit and installed it in the kitchen/living area. Although it stays cool most of the year, in the months of July and August a little air conditioning can be helpful. Bob installed the porch railings which are 42" high and raised 3" off the porch. That provides a very safe barrier between the porch and "drop off".
Russell and Cynthia Broome, a couple from Clinton, Mississippi came by for a visit while they were vacationing in Gatlinburg. It is always fun to see people from back home who have heard about our little adventure and grace us with a visit to see how the work in progressing.
met some neighbors from the Crosspatch area. We asked if they knew someone
who could build our steps and they gave us the name of one of their
neighbors named Wayne Young. Wayne is retired and moved to the mountains
from Tampa. He works with Randy Smith Construction in Bryson City. Wayne
gave us the phone number for
We knew that building steps would be a difficult task, but were not prepared for it to cost $5000. However, we had tried several times to find someone to build the steps and had been unsuccessful. Reluctantly, we shook hands and contracted Randy's company to do the work because they could start right away and we needed to have the steps completed before we could get another inspection.
After we got back to Mississippi, a friend of ours, Joe Wyatt asked if we had thought to ask Randy Smith about installing the insulation under the cabin. We had purchased the insulation in the fall and had it sitting on the porch covered up with plastic. When Bob called Randy, he said that he would be happy to do that since they had been delayed several days getting started on the steps waiting for material.
What a relief to have someone else install that insulation. It is one of those jobs that Bob was really dreading. Several days later Randy called to say they had completed the insulation installation and were starting on the steps. It took over three weeks for them to complete the steps. As it turned out, it was a very difficult job because footings had to be hand dug and filled with concrete to create stable pads for the posts. Four landings had to be constructed to create a proper transition for the 48 steps from the parking area to the porch. Considering how long it took and the degree of difficulty, the price of $5000 now doesn't seem so "steep".
In June 2007, we had another opportunity to work on the cabin and since the steps were completed it was time for an inspection. The last inspection was in 2004, so we were somewhat apprehensive about what to expect. To our delight, we passed the final plumbing, electrical and insulation inspections. The inspector asked us to have an engineer sign off on the plans from which we constructed the porch using a cantilever design. The inspector also said we needed to redo the French drain that had been placed along the rear of the cabin because the mountain had sloughed off and filled up several feet along the foundation. He wanted us to have more heat in the cabin as well a putting some joist hangers in place under the porch.
Wayne Young introduced us to Jeff Coggins from Webster, NC, who will put in gutters. That is another job Bob was dreading because it requires working off of the roof. Randy Smith will have a crew put in the French drain and tie the drains from the gutters together to prevent any additional run off problems with water. The next trip we will install another air conditioner/heater unit which will solve the issue of not having enough heat. Then, we hope to have our certificate of occupancy in hand soon thereafter.
At last, we can really see the completion of this log cabin as a reality. It has been 5 years since we started this project. Even though we live 9 hours away and are only able to spend a few days scattered throughout the year working, we have almost accomplished our quest for a log home in the mountains. The 5 years have passed quickly and it is hard to believe we are so close to finishing the project.
July 27th found us on the way to the mountains again. Randy Smith has completed construction of the French Drain, an engineer has inspected and signed off on the cantilever design of the porch, and all the joist hangers are in place. We purchased another window AC/heating unit and moved the original one from the living area to the guest bedroom. After putting the new larger unit in the living area we now have a total of 27,000 BTUs of heating.
Monday, the 30th of July, we waited patiently for the inspector to arrive. We sat on the front porch, rocked in our new rocking chairs, listened to the creek, read our books and waited. Our plans were to leave immediately after the inspection to drive back to Mississippi. After 5 years of working on this project it was a bit disconcerting to wait with great anticipation for the arrival of the inspector. Finally the inspector arrived. It was 10 minutes to 4 in the afternoon. I could tell he was focused on the list in his hand. Sure enough he looked at the bolts in the band attaching the porch to the house, he also looked at the new bolts the engineer wanted in the support timbers on the cantilevered porch, he inspected the French drain, review the engineer's document approving the design of the porch. Then he looked at the new AC/heating units and reviewed the specs on the BTUs of heating. We waited, the moment had finally arrived. Would we pass the final inspection? His answer was, "we will need to review all of paper work and make sure we haven't missed anything and then we will let you know if we can issue the certificate of occupancy."
We headed for Mississippi with our hopes high that all would be ok. On the way, Bob checked his email and saw that the inspection had written us a note. It said, "we don't have a copy of your termite pretreatment certificate in our file and we need that before we can issue the certificate of occupancy. Now, that created a dilemma. The termite pretreatment had been done in 2002. We couldn't find any paper work to prove that it had been accomplished. Randy Jenkins had contacted the termite company and we had paid for it, but we just couldn't find the paperwork.
Bob sent an email back to the inspector asking for a list of termite companies in the area. He hoped he might remember who did it, if he saw their name. The list came and none of the names rang a bell. So ... what to do? We could pay someone to do it again. Or, we could call some of the pest control companies and see if anyone had a record of having completed our work in 2002. On the third call we reached a lady named Patty at Cherohala Pest Control. She said that her husband had purchased the Cherokee Pest Control company in 2004 and the previous owner had left her very little paper work. But, she would look to see if perhaps there still exists a copy of a contract for pretreatment of our site on Coopers Creek Road. I had almost given up hope when the phone rang and Patty announced that she had found a contract stating that on the 21st of August 2002 Cherokee Pest Control had indeed pretreated the cabin site area.
Praise the Lord, what a miracle that
we would be led to just the right person who could produce the final piece
of paper that would allow us to get that important Certificate of
Occupancy. On July 31st 2007, the inspector called Duke Power and
authorized the permanent connection of our electricity. At last everything
was ready for us to officially occupy the cabin. On Wednesday, August the
1st Duke Power completed the power connection.
And now, the real adventure begins.......
Bob and Lyda Gilmore, August 1, 2007