Building the Cabin – Part 8 – Cladding the Walls and Windows

With the floor down, roof connected and wall framing complete, the cabin was really starting to take shape. We could walk around on the floor platform and see and feel how the cabin sat in the landscape.

And now, with the framing up, we were ready to assemble the walls. As mentioned in a previous post, we would have loved timber slabs for the walls but the stumps and raised profile of the cabin made that impractical.

Ideally as a second option, we would have had second-hand weatherboards. They give that lovely QLD country feel, last forever and would be apt for a bush cabin.

Weatherboard ShackSource: redbubble.com

I still kind of wish we had done this as know how amazing it would have looked on our little cabin. However, we ended up settling on cement fibre sheeting. The reasons were;

  1. Much cheaper than weatherboards. One large sheet cost around $50 and the whole cladding cost was less than $800. Weatherboards (2nd hand) are about $4 per linear metre and the total cost would have been over $2000 to clad.
  2. The cement fibre sheeting is very strong for its weight and completely weatherproof.
  3. The cement fibre sheeting is quick to go up, you just cut to size and pin it to the framing with screws. The weatherboards needs to be cut to size, fitted to a string line so they are horizontal and nailed into place. It takes a long time and you can easily stuff it up.
  4. Weatherboards are difficult to source, you need to buy from newspaper ads, knock on doors etc, it would be possible but requires a fair amount of effort just to buy them. We were keen to get on with the job.
  5. The cement is fireproof – this is a big deal when you are building in a very fire-prone area and with a forest to your back – this was certainly the clincher for us. We intend to take a number of fire-proofing measures ultimately with this one being key.

So in terms of process, you do need one special tool which most large hardware stores carry. It is a ‘fibro cutter’ and it is essential as it neatly slices the cement sheets without damaging them which would not be possible with a saw or normal bolt-cutters.

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We would knock in some off-cut chocks at floor level below where the sheet was to go, sit a full sheet on the chocks (needs two people – thanks again Alex), measure roughly to size with a pencil, then take off the sheets from the chocks and put on the sawhorses. Grab the fibro cutters and cut to size along the pencil lines. Put the sheet back on the chocks, pilot hole with the drill through the sheet into the framing timber and then impact drive in 50mm countersunk timber screws around the edge of the sheet (and middle if you can find the framing stud). They sit strong and rigid once screwed in properly.

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The whole cladding process (about 30metres around the cabin) took us probably 3-4days. The cutting around wavy timber posts is challenging and every sheet needed measuring and cutting to size which was what took the time.

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A big downside of this method is the dust from the sheeting as you drill pilot holes is toxic and hard to avoid. We wore masks but by the end of these weekends, the nose and sinus cavities would be filled with recently dried cement which was not cool. However, the strength and stability the sheets give to the whole structure was certainly worth it and it was an awesome feeling to have an enclosed space off the ground after working so hard for so long.

Once the cladding was up, we were able to install the windows. All the windows were casement-style windows which were salvaged from old family homes or the demolition yard. Some had frosted glass and whilst we matched up pairs for specific areas, the different styles about the place give it a nice eclectic feel.

Salvaging the family windows means a lot to Alice and I, taking something which has seen so much family history and reusing it to see some more in a different setting is worthwhile in our book. Something which we might point to someone and say in 20 years, that came from “Tallyabra” and that came from “Merriba” and then bore them silly about what those places are and the memories they evoke.

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As you saw in the framing post, the frames for the windows had been measured and installed so the window job should have been as easy as screwing the hinges into the frames and closing them up. No such luck. Whilst the measurements were pretty good (within say 10mm), the frames had moved diagonally, sagged in the middle or done other weird and wonderful things so very few of the windows fitted neatly into their allotted space.

In order to make them fit, we just removed wood from the frame as required with a chisel and hammer until the window would close. This is a pretty easy process, you hit the chisel along a square line that you have drawn around the area you want to take out – always do the edge first. Then just chip out the inside, if you have etched the edge properly, the material you are removing will only be from within the pencilled area. It is quite fun once you start and you really get a feel for the wood. Just keep going until the window swings shut. We tried to keep it as tight as possible so that it was just a matter of pulling the window shut rather than installing a stopper, bolt etc.

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With the cladding in and windows on, we were able to move the bed in and spend the night which was pretty exciting given it was mid-Winter and the tent wasn’t cutting it. Unfortunately, the that-day-installed pair of windows right above the bedhead had a 1 inch crack through the centre and gaps at the top and bottom. At -5C that night, the cold breeze drifting in continuously and then sinking onto our faces had us sleeping crossways near the foot of the bed.

Still, we were inside sleeping in a bed that was sitting on a floor, under a roof and surrounded by walls. Not a cold breeze on the planet could detract from that.

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