Building the Cabin – Part 9 – Stairs, Verandah Roof and Basic Fitout

Been a while between posts!

That is all going to change and we can’t wait to get full steam ahead into 2015 with our farm projects. Alice and I got married in October and spent a month honeymooning in Nepal. Trekking at 4000m in the Himalaya, 10,000km from Kingaroy, it was slightly sad to begin so many conversations with “you know that gutter on the cabin..” or “How about we..”. It is great to have a passion but it certainly is consuming at times. That said, it was a wonderful period and we were conscious of enjoying the moment and the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country. When we got back to the farm last week, we were surprised at how incredbly dry it has become.

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The Sables is now deep in drought with only the dam at the cabin site still having water (at about 25% capacity). On a brighter note, we did spot our first koala which was in a dead tree right next to the dam.

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Getting back to the business of cabin building, before we left, we completed the stairs and the verandah roof. We have also done a basic fitout so that we could move in. There is a lot going on with the cabin at the moment which is quite cool so need to catch the blog up.

There are two ways (that I know of, there are no doubt many more..) to build stair-risers. The first is to measure and cut a thick slab at the precise angles so that one end sits flat on the ground and the other cut surface sits flat on the supporting joist. You then notch in horizontals spaces at identical intervals and slide in the stairs. You would finish by securing the stairs to the riser with a long screw or nail from the outside of the stair riser through the side of the stair. The second option is to buy stair risers from Mitre 10. They cost $300, are made of steel, and come in a 7 stair or 5 stair options. We chose the second option just due to the time required to construct the stair risers from scratch and because we wanted easy access to the Cabin quickly. I have absolutely no doubt however that hand-made risers from a fat slab of ironbark would look awesome.

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Once you have the risers sitting flat on the ground (we dug the bottom feet of the risers into the ground a little to make sure they sat flat and horizontal for the height of our stairs), you then attach the risers through the convenient holes at the top to the supporting joist with bugle head screws (due to their strength).

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Then attach the stairs with flat-top bolts (the smooth, round top ones not the hexagonal normal bolts so you don’t stub your tow) to their stair riser with the nut securing the riser to the stair from underneath. It took only an hour or so to put this together and the stairs were solid and stable.

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At the farmhouse, whose renovation is currently on hold, there was some cypress timber left over from a roofing job. I don’t know the precise measurements but think they are 2×4 and 2x6s and know they were being used as roof beams and battens. In order to save costs, we decided to use that timber to build the roof on the verandah. The dimensions of the roof required were 6m x 3m. 6m is a long span for timber and if we spanned that with a 2×6 piece of timber it would sag and eventually fail over time. The only option we could think of to avoid putting a third (middle) post at the front was to use heavy 2mm steel C-Section across the full 6m on the basis that its innate rigidity would bear the weight of the roof. The first step was cutting the two corner posts to the same height using a level. We then cut the bottom flange off the C-Section and ‘hung’ it on the corner posts. Once it was sitting nicely, we banged some coach screws in through the C-Section into the posts on the side and top.

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We then cut the beams (2x6s) to fit neatly between the C-space and the main part of the cabin and slided them into the C-Section. As nothing is straight or square on the cabin each beam needed to be measured and cut individually. We fixed the beams to the C-Section and the main part of the Cabin with a steel bracket and bolt. The structure was stable.

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Next we slid up the 6m long 2×4 roofing battens at 1m intervals on to the top of the beams and secured these in place with bugle head screws. Lastly, we slid the roofing iron in 3.4m lengths onto the structure and secured this to the battens with roofing “tech” screws. Due to the non-squareness, there is a bit of a gap that widens as you get closer the stairs but it looks good.

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I can’t tell you how much having this new living space improves the general living quality of the cabin. It is a lovely, elevated platform to sit and catch breezes blowing from the North, South or East with a view down onto the dam and up the hill on the other side. Al and I have spent a lot of time there since the weather warmed up, eating most of our meals there – having a drink in the evenings. We have a table out there and a day bed for an afternoon snooze. It is a really comfortable spot. To finish the verandah, we intend to lay timber slabs as flooring (once reinforced) and put up a balustrade for safety.

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Lastly, we have done a basic fitout to make the Cabin livable. We moved in the bed, a sofa set, tables, a closet, bookcases, mirror, a basin in the bathroom etc. Also brought both our little tanks around (500L and 1000L) and connected them to a gutter at the back of the cabin. It was a simple fitout which just catered to our needs but we still had no real plumbing – including running water or drainage. We did rig up a simple shower system using a camping gas hot water solution which has worked well in the meantime but are still hauling water to drink and wash-up. We also have no electricity but moved in the simple 4-light solar system from the cabin tent.

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I am currently cutting several 10cm thick, 70cm wide 2.2m long Blue Gum slabs to build the kitchen. Blog posts on building the kitchen (with fridge/freezer) and the plumbing and electricity solutions will follow this one and that will be the end of the cabin series.

4 thoughts on “Building the Cabin – Part 9 – Stairs, Verandah Roof and Basic Fitout

  1. Hi Matt
    Progress is impressive.
    A suggestion would be to box up a concrete slab (as wide as the stairs and 1 metre out)under the stairs so that in the wet (it might rain again) the base of the stairs does not sink in the mud and put stain at the top connection and also provide a space for a mat (house maintenance made easier).
    Happy to come and help with this.
    Richard

    • Thanks Richard, that is good advice. Might be a little late for the slab and I did compact the clay underneath the risers so hopefully we won’t have any problems but next time..

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