It's a fantastic little retreat for the whole family. We can sleep in it, relax in it, listen to music, entertain friends and have people stay over night. I often just sit in there strumming my guitar. There's a radio, a record player and a bar, but I've purposely not put a TV or Wifi connection in there just as a way of disconnecting from my hustle and bustle of everyday life. It's like having a holiday home at the top of our garden.
From the frames of an old greenhouse and potting shed I always intended to build an "amazing space" for my family, inspired by the George Clarke series that me and my wife Kris had watched religiously. Lockdown was the ideal opportunity. All self built with some help from my son and with little previous experience of such a project. Starting in March 2020, both buildings were in a pretty bad state of repair. A skip provided the home for the massive amount of junk we had accumulated over the years and just chucked in there. Once cleared, I decided that a new concrete slab floor needed putting in the greenhouse. With the loan of a cement mixer and valuable advice from a Builder friend of mine, me and my son Joel set about mixing the concrete to lay on top of 100mm of insulation and suitable DPC. Once cured, me and Joel had great fun dispensing of the glass, which consisted of smashing every pain with a broom as very little could be salvaged. The gable end of the greenhouse and eaves wall were removed from the potting shed and so the tricky task of tying the two roofs together commenced. I positioned a new ridge beam in the potting shed and extended the greenhouse ridge beam into it. Additional rafters were cut to the greenhouse and back of the potting shed. I then cut and positioned two valley beams essentially tying the two roofs together. I found it extremely difficult to cut and position the valley rafters because of the skew cuts at the ends but I got there eventually with my head truly battered! I then tried my hand at bricklaying, tying in the two walls of each building, not a bad attempt for my first time and the salvaged bricks provided a sturdy structure.
As a result of laying approx. 250mm of concrete floor, the old doorway to the greenhouse was now too low to walk through without banging your head (which I did many, many times), so I decided to extend the entrance up to a suitable height, essentially building a "dormer roofed" entrance. This again was particularly difficult to build what with positions of the valley beams, but I got there in the end and was really pleased with how it turned out.
I managed to get two large double glazed wooden windows from a neighbour for the price of a bottle of Kraken rum and fitted them at the gable end of what was the greenhouse. I sourced a second double glazed window for the front of the cabin from Terry, a local supplier of second hand windows for the grand sum of £45. I then clad the two buildings together with OSB board, leaving an opening for the double glazed window to the required size. I then wrapped the building in a breathable membrane and positioned battens to fix the cladding to. Fortunately, I had measured and purchased the log lap timber cladding in March and was storing it, covered, at the side of my house. Time to clad. It all fit beautifully and was great to work with. I must have spent a small fortune on wood screws to fix the cladding, but it was really starting to look like the log cabin I dreamed of.
I spent a good amount of time researching roofing systems on YouTube, which was an invaluable education for a novice like me. I opted for a lightweight roof that comprised of composite concrete roof tiles that fix at the bottom with a copper pin to prevent wind uplift. I fitted a breathable membrane to the roof and fixed the battens. I laid the valley gutters using lead sheeting and commenced the tiling. All was finished with the ridge tiles which I found really tricky to fix. I left out the roof tiles where I would run a flue for the wood burning stove that I intended to fit. This didn't happen until January of 2021 as everyone was buying wood burning stoves during lockdown, so I waited in anticipation of the delivery. With guidance from the stove supplier, I purchased everything I needed to install it successfully.
The second double glazed window was fitted into position. This was subsequently removed and refitted once we got the three seater leather couch in that my wife, Kris, found on Facebook Marketplace for £50! I used the old potting shed door for the main entrance and there was no chance that couch would fit through it. The window for the potting shed end was provided by an old stained glass window I had left from when we had double glazing installed to the house. It must have been left at the side of the house for about ten years, but with a bit of attention and a lot of wood filler, it was soon fitted with some old style cast iron hinges.
Now to clad the inside. I chose 12' x 6" Douglas fir planks from a local wood supplier. The only problem was that with it being January, I had to scrape the snow and ice off each plank and stack inside the cabin on two upended pallets at each end. The wood burner was essential for helping to dry out the planks ready for fixing into position, again with a multitude of woodscrews. Each plank was lovingly sanded with a random orbital sander, but not too smooth, just enough to prevent splinters and give the inside a rustic appearance. I fully insulated the walls before fixing the internal cladding to the walls and ceiling.
Once all the external cladding was fitted, I needed to install a drainage system. I fixed facia boards below the eaves and ran the guttering around the whole of the cabin, apart from the gable end. I have two water butts collecting the abundance of rain water that falls here in the North East!
Once clad, I set about building a pallet bar and pallet wood store for the wood burner logs, positioned just outside the front door.
In all, I spent about a year on the Cabin Project and have to say that I loved every minute! Everyone that's come to visit has been very impressed and I'll dine on it for a good while yet. Kris and I love spending our weekends in there. My Son, Joel, and daughter, Neve, have their friends over to stay and it will continue to be a source for entertainment for many years to come!