The Process of Finishing the Eco-Cabin:
A Retro Post from April 2021

My Dear Readers,

I am writing to share some momentous news with you: My tiny cabin has passed the occupancy inspection and I moved in about a week ago. This was truly one of the biggest events of my life. After three years of preparation and challenging work, my little project became a home. 

Here is the view out of my front windows this morning. You can see my approximately 200 seedlings getting started, as well as my off-grid flour mill, which I am using to grind some spelt kernels to bake bread.

In my last progress post at the beginning of January, I gave a list of what was still remaining to be done. I will repeat that list now and offer a brief comment on how it went or how I did it.

-Finish small amount of attic insulation

I did this myself. It was mainly the attic ceiling. This got pretty awkward as the attic went to zero on the north side. I had to get the measurement, crawl back to cut the piece and then crawl back to put it in there. I wore a ventilation mask. It really helped!

-Finish vapour barrier (one main wall and ceiling, some smaller pieces)

I finished most of this myself. I had my local handyman come to help me do the ceiling in the great room. At its highest point, this ceiling is 13 feet. It required huge sheets of plastic and the use of the two level scaffold on wheels.

The attic was a more difficult job than I expected. It goes to zero at one end and the ceiling vapour barrier needed to connect to the wall vapour barrier in the utility room below and be sealed. Good thing I'm not claustrophobic!

-Pass insulation inspection

I passed with flying colours and even got a compliment from the inspector on the quality of the work. Hurray!

-Insulate weight bearing wall, block for cupboards, drywall it and hang cupboards 

Technically speaking, interior walls don't NEED the insulation, but it does help with sound proofing. So, I opted to put some in. Luckily, I had some extra. Blocking for the cupboards: I felt this was very important, even though it was time consuming. Everywhere a mounting screw for the cupboards was going to go, I added a 2 by 4 framing member to screw into. This provided solid support these heavy cupboards needed. I did this all myself.

-Installation of permanent front door and sliding glass door

I did the preparation for this job, which only took an hour or so. I hired a local contractor to do the heavy lifting, so to speak.

-Adapt current floor cupboards from Habitat Restore for my floor design

This definitely took some organizing and fiddling. The set of cupboards were from another kitchen. I needed to fit them to my layout and use them as efficiently as possible. It helped that I cleaned them right away and measured them and wrote those dimensions on the back. As I put the "puzzle" together, it saved a lot of time having those measurements handy so I could test my design.

-Drywall back wall of great room to allow installation of propane stove and range hood by HVAC

I hired a local handyman to help me with this. He had a lot of drywall experience. I learned from watching how he arranged and measured and cut the sheets.

-Sand back wall and prime and paint back wall before HVAC arrives

I did all this myself. I enjoyed the painting!

-Tile bathroom (I hired an expert to do this)

This contractor was locally renowned. I was lucky he was willing to take my little job! He installed a full KERDI membrane under the tiling and his attention to detail was outstanding!

-Installation of well pump and water system inside

I assisted in this installation. It was pretty nerve-wracking to pull up my hand pump and hand it to the side while we put in the electric well pump.

-Installation of all surface mounted copper plumbing for kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and bathroom tub, install toilet

I am not a good enough plumber to do this myself. In the end, the astronomical cost of copper led to my only having a copper/brass industrial style faucet in the kitchen. I absolutely love it!

-Plumber and HVAC sign off on township documents

 I got this done. I had to make an argument that my HVAC sign off form could cover the work he did on my propane appliances as well. Everything takes time.

-Pass water test

I filled the sample bottle and submitted it to the Health Unit myself. It passed. I think I'm due to do another one this fall.

-Pass occupancy inspection

I just checked my records, and  the Occupancy Checklist provided by the township had 11 required items on it. The inspector asked for some beyond that. Many of these are forms that need to be signed off by the contractor. This was quite an involved process and took a lot of time to complete.

 Yes, I have been busy since January! When I look at this list, I guess I realize now why I am a bit tired. For today's post, I will just share photos of a few features of the house that reflect my goal to live lightly on our beautiful planet. These features are all recycled/upcycled items that show how nicely things can be done without buying new. 

Countertop and Sinks from the roadside, saved from the dump!

One day, as we were framing the house, my neighbour stopped by with his truck. He said, "I have something for you." We walked out to his truck, where he has a long countertop and sinks, including kitchen faucet on the back. "This was by the side of the road with a "FREE" sign on it. Thought you might use it. You'd better keep it dry." I was so excited! it looked great and I was hopeful I could use it. As the new house didn't even have a roof at that point, I had nowhere to put it. I set it on a pallet and bought a new tarp to cover it as best I could. It was a happy day it was moved into the new house. Incredibly, when aligned with the back corner of the kitchen, the sinks were in the EXACT place they needed to be in to connect with my existing drain. What are the chances??? 

I removed the old faucet myself to make way for this one-of-kind solid brass design that reflects the industrial/agiricultural theme of my decor. I think my plumber did an excellent job capturing that aesthetic with something that is also funky and fun! With a bit of polish, the sinks came up looking brand new. Yes, the countertop has a crack in it, and doesn't sit exactly flush with the back wall. However, I think it looks great and I am so pleased to have saved this from the dump to make happy use of it for many years to come.

Cupboards from Habitat for Humanity

How wonderful that I was able to find these countertops at our local Habitat for Humanity. I like the fact that I am saving items from landfill and also helping an organization that supports people in need of affordable housing. There were many many cupboards in this full set from a kitchen. As I didn't know what would be needed I took all of them. Here is a photo of some of them in my little trailer. It took two trailer loads and THREE car loads to get them all to the new house! Whew! I love that they are solid oak. The team at Habitat for Humanity was extra helpful taking them apart for me to allow for loading and helped me get them in place.

Here is how these were installed in the kitchen. As the layout had to be dramatically changed, one solution I found was to prime and paint the "raw" sides of the cupboards that were exposed. I used drywall mud to fill in any screw holes and then matched them to the wall. You can see two of these sides that were previously rough chip board on the left hand side of this photo (top and bottom cupboards). I think this solution worked quite well! Eventually, I plan to do the same with the kick plate on the bottom of the cupboards: it will be sanded and primed and painted to match the walls so it will just blend in.

Thrift Shop Decor Everywhere!

Another way to live lightly on the planet (and the pocketbook) is to shop in thrift shops. In this photo, virtually everything you see is from a local thrift shop: funky curtains made of a fabric store sample, kitchsy cows, large black water bath canner, countless old-style canning jars, kettle, rolling pin, candle holder and silver candle snuff. The few things that weren't from a thrift shop are gifts: image of Mulan from China, alabaster candle holder from Egypt, new tea towels from my mother, beautiful handmade vase from a friend.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to my little eco-cabin. My home is built on the principle of living with less and thriving; I call this concept "HappyLess." I look forward to sharing more about this once I take a rest and settle in to my new home. Thank you for reading. Hope to see you soon back on my blog!