Framing a cottage (continued)

Day 8 (August 17): Get more wood

Took another trip to the farm to get more wood, this time beams for the roof structure and rafters. We also drove to Midway Lumber to get a load full of "planer outs". Planer outs were the lowest grade of lumber that they sold. They were lumber that was deemed to be defective on coming out of the planer. These boards all had one defect or another, usually cracks, fallen out knots, or slightly too thin on one edge. They were relatively cheap, and often quite good lumber if you worked around the defects. We'd usually sort the planer outs, some of the best ones would get used for furniture.

Day 9 (August 18): Roof structure

The roof structure for the cottages is post and beam construction, as opposed to troof trusses. The beams running lengthwise along the cottage take up the load, and the rafters are there to bridge between the supports.


Day 10 (August 19): Installing rafters

The rafters were mostly 10x8 cm (4x3.2") beams. The spacing was about 60 cm (two feet), but not any even number. The way we always came up with the spacing was to put one rafter on each end of the roof, then another rafter right above the walls, and then evenly divide the space between those rafters based on how many suitable rafters we had. This sort of even spacing is best done with a tape measure and a calculator. My dad always did his arithmetic by hand, so he'd always leave that sort of calculation to me.

After all the rafters were installed, my dad scaffolded the west side of the cottage to start work on the roof. Once that was done, I started nailing boards onto the rafters while my dad built a scaffold on the other side. He had to go into the bush and cut down some thin and narrow trees to use as extra poles for the scaffolding.


Day 11 (August 20): Roof sheathing

We used boards on the roof. Plywood or OSB would have cost more, and the boards are stronger, especially with the rafters relatively far apart.

We used some of the nice boards on the edges where you could see the underside of the boards on the roof overhang.

For the part closer to the middle, we'd use the ugly recycled floor and roof boards from an old cottage.

Marlene had to help with the roofing. Though often reluctant at having to help, she was very useful. My other sister had a summer job at the time, so she didn't have to help. That contributed to tensions among us siblings at the time.

My older brother Markus was off to university already. With the co-op program at the University of Waterloo, the summers were mostly spoken for as well, so he wasn't around to help.


My dad always preferred to use a bow saw to cut the boards to length. Personally, I preferred to use a skillsaw. Although for relatively narrow boards, it was hardly worth dealing with the extension cord and all, and I'd often use a Japanese pull saw, which cut with surprisingly little effort. We didn't any battery powered cordless tools.


Day 12 (August 22): Shingling

Drove into town and bought 38 bundles of shingles, roofing nails, and chimney flashing at Bruce Station Lumber. I was going to get more shingles, but the truck deck seemed to get awfully low as we piled them on. Afterwards, I calculated that we'd put well over a tonne's worth of shingles on that half-ton truck. That old blue Chevy was pretty tough.

We nailed the shingles straight to the boards, without any felt paper underneath. Marlene and I started on the west side, while my mom and dad started on the east side. Marlene and I were pretty good about keeping the rows of shingles all straight, so work progressed fairly smoothly.


My mom and dad somehow managed to be inconsistent in how they placed the shingles, so there were a couple of times when they had to run a chalk line across and set the shingles according to that to get the rows straight again. They also had to work around the chimney. So work progressed more slowly on their side. Marlene and I worked our way up to the ridge first. We got the rest of the day off.

more on shingling

The building inspector also showed up to issue the building permit for the cottage. They were pretty easy going about that sort of thing and didn't require you to submit a plan. They knew my dad built fairly well, so the permit was just a formality.


Day 13 (August 23): Cleaning up!

With the roof closed up, the pace slowed down a little bit. Marlene and I did a general cleanup around the site, picking up all the lumber cutoffs that were strewn everywhere by then. It was the first cleanup in over a week, so there was a lot to pick up.

My dad, in the meantime dug the foundation holes for the attached wood shed that would go on the south side of the cottage. I then helped with pouring the cement in the holes.

Day 14 (August 24): Adding the wood shed

Went into town to buy more shingles (I had previously gotten enough for the roof, but not the shed). My dad framed the shed, and then we put the rafters, sheathing and shingles on the same day.

Day 15 (August 25): More lumber

Dad went to Midway Lumber again to get more lumber. This would be some of the lumber for the outside walls. This was always work my dad did on his own, so I didn't have to help very much anymore.


This is the inside of the attic, after my dad closed in the gable walls.

You can see how we used the "ugly" boards for the roof sheathing near the ridge, which would never be seen from the outside.

The boards underside of the roof overhang received one coat of dark stain for a finish. This was usually my mom's job.


After the boards were installed, the window frames were installed. All the windows and window frames were made by my dad before construction of the cottage started. The photo at left is my dad putting together one of the window frames in his workshop, two weeks before we broke ground for the foundations. The panel in the right of the photo is one of the window shutters.

Over the course of the fall, we'd move back to the "farm", and my dad would work alone to install the windows and the wood siding. Then he'd start the paneling on the inside. My dad would construct the furniture and kitchen in his workshop over the course of the winter.

By the start of the next season in early June, the cottage was ready to be rented out to camp customers.

As it turned out, the way we did the foundations for that cottage were a poor choice for that spot. The clay would often become waterlogged in the fall, and frost heaving caused considerable shifting of the foundations.

By 2007, one side of the cottage was about 10 cm higher than the other. I spent a day with a jack and a level under the cottage and managed to get it mostly level again, but the foundations continue to shift. Digging the foundations deeper might have helped a little bit. Shaping them differently so that the frost could not lift the top part of the foundation would have helped. But with the relatively unstable soil in that location, I'm not sure if anything could be done to solve the problem permanently.

Back to Part 1 of this article

See also:
Touring cottage #2
at Amogla camp
Alain Vaillancourt's
remote rustic cottage

Amogla camp

More home improvement projects on my Woodworking website