It’s been just over a month since I started sharing my journey with you all and WOW! So much has happened and you have shown me so much love! As the weather has become a little milder and given me opportunities to work on the cabin renovation more, I’ve neglected you a bit. Accept this post as a sincere apology. I have a handful of faithful followers at this point and, (if you’re not one, you can subscribe over here to the right and get my posts sent right to your inbox), I have an obligation to you and myself to keep y’all up to speed.
That being said, if you follow my social media pages, you know that I’ve posted TONS of pictures and several videos of our progress. Today, I thought I’d give everyone a chronological rundown of what we’ve accomplished over the past month and also put in perspective (for me) how far we’ve come.
This journey, though it is just beginning, has already transformed me in ways that I hadn’t dreamed of. There have been days that I was chomping at the bit to race down the hill to my cabin and get started and there have been others that have left me questioning my sanity.
I have had dreams about what this land, the cabin, and my life would look like once I was living in it, for several years. In 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would not let the cabin rot and the forest take over completely. I wanted to restore it to its’ former glory and allow the dream that my Papaw Ed once had take roots and grow. It just happened to take me 4 years to get right down to it.
I started, just a few short months ago, by taking my first step in the cabin door. I say step because, well, it was full of junk and the squirrels and raccoons had made it their home for many a year before I came along so the door only opened about a foot. Inside the cabin, old boxes were strewn everywhere, covered with all the insulation that had been in the ceiling. It looked like a pink and yellow fiberglass wasteland.
In the days that followed, I was able to open the door further, hauling load after load of junk out until I could finally open it completely and, eventually, see the floor. Somedays, I would just go down there and look around with wide eyes, ideas rolling around in my brain faster than I could remember them and not much clue on where to go next. I spent those evenings doing a lot of research on house construction, insulation, flooring, roofing, you name it.
I have seen several houses constructed in my life and heard the spoken technical construction jargon. I have even retained knowledge of terms such as sub-floor, r-value and code from my time around the home improvement and construction business. My Papaw along with his brothers, did construction for their company, Jackson Builders, here in my hometown of Morehead, KY. Later. Mom and I spent a lot of days on the jobsite of her house and I spent afternoons as a kid hanging out in the showroom of Perk’s, Inc., a home improvement store my Mom and Aunt Jeri were employed at.
They say if you hang around the barbershop long enough, you’re gonna get your haircut. I guess all those years watching and listening gave me the confidence to take on a project of my own, and it was definitely not one of those cute little weekend-warrior type projects. I was going for the gusto with this one. I laid out a list of what I knew, what I didn’t know, where I needed professional guidance and in what order it had to be done and I went to it.
In order to be able to run power tools and have heat, electric was a must, especially in the middle of winter. For those of you who don’t know, Kentucky Winter has two phases. There’s first winter which usually happens in late October and runs through mid December, then there’s second winter which starts in February and runs through mid-April. The two of these are usually separated by false Spring, characterized by warm fronts and interspersed with torrential downpours.
Now, the cabin already had a fuse box and two outlets had been run off the box, one outlet outside and one inside. In order to bring these outlets up to code and pass inspection, I had to install GFI outlets. GFI stands for ground fault interrupter and is required in areas where there may be moisture present to prevent electrical shock. These are the types of outlets you see around kitchen and bathroom counters as well as outside around porches. In addition to GFI outlets, I had to install a waterproof cover on the outside outlet.
The biggest hang up, as has been the case in most things I’ve tried to accomplish in the cabin, has been the misconception that everything can be found online. When I began researching, I assumed that if I asked the right questions I could find the right answers. NOPE. Sure, I’ve always said “there’s a video tutorial for nearly everything on YouTube”. While this is a fair assessment, this cabin renovation falls under the “special circumstances” category and I had some very specific questions that I just couldn’t get answered through basic how-to videos and articles.
Sometimes I ran into problems with terminology, other times it was lack of education and not having the right questions. That being said, I found a few knowledgeable people at local stores that were able to help me figure out what I was talking about and what I wanted to know. Referring to electric in particular, I had a helluva time trying to figure out what fuses to use and was given a crash course in basic electricity by a Lowe’s employee. He helped me immensely in purchasing everything I needed for service to be restored.
Once I passed inspection and electric was turned on, my Dad and I got to work on installing extra boxes and two lights throughout the cabin. I’ve bragged on my Dad quite a bit through this process and I’m gonna brag on him some more. The man has the patience of a martyr. I’m impatient and want things to flow smoothly and quickly.
Anyone who knows anything about the building/ finishing process knows that never ever goes as planned, no matter how prepared you are. You will forget basic items, wires will get cut too short, you’ll underestimate how much you need of your supplies. I’ve had to learn this lesson over and over.
There were countless times that I would get ahead of myself and Dad would calmly take over before I blew up with frustration. As we worked together, he would show me once how to install something and then I would have to show what I had learned. I came away from those 3 days of wiring knowing how to run a circuit and how to install an outlet, a light fixture and switch. Basic stuff but so beneficial in everyday life because who wants to call an electrician to replace an outlet or upgrade a light fixture? NOT THIS GIRL! I have a DIY soul and I love learning how to be independent.
Insulation was a bear to decide on for me. I’m not normally one to flip flop on a decision but it took a few weeks to take the plunge and go with fiberglass insulation. There are a few critical points I had to consider and the first was r-value. R-value is the rating given to an insulating material according to heat conductivity or resistance. The higher the r-value, the better it holds heat. According to building codes and suggested r-value for our area (R-19 – 21 for 2×4 walls and R-38 – 60 for the attic), I had to decide what material I was going to use.
There were 3 types of insulation available: rigid, blown in and fiberglass. Rigid foam is easy to handle and cut but not very eco-friendly and very pricey given the r-value I needed to attain. It’s great for small jobs, adding additional r-value in combination with other forms of insulation and even provides some vapor barrier. It just wasn’t in the budget, though, and considering my biggest expenses were in insulation and paneling, I needed to save every penny.
My next option was blown-in cellulose, a recycled material that is earth-friendly and goes wherever you point the hose. The problem with cellulose is that it requires renting a machine ($$) to blow it in and the space needs to be enclosed. Since I didn’t have paneling yet and my stud walls and attic were open, this just didn’t seem like a viable option.
I was left with using fiberglass insulation, the itchy, pink stuff that most people are familiar with. It comes in rolls or batts that can be cut to almost any size. Other than the itch associated with getting it on your exposed skin and having to wear protective wear on your skin, eyes, mouth and nose, it can be hung with nothing more than a staple gun. It was also cheaper and while it doesn’t help the Earth, it helped my wallet. Check out our video where I talk about underestimating how much I needed and other things that I’m good at:
I had initially begun hanging insulation before we ran the remaining electrical wiring just to make sure not a minute went to waste but my Dad had a few free days so I stopped a third of the way through and worked on electric. Gotta take free help when you can get it! Here’s a little video to explain:
As you can see from the video, this was really a one person job, as the space is small and workspace is even more limited. I splurged on a Werner scaffolding ladder for this job ($90 from my local pawn shop) and it more than paid for itself in the first few days. Take a look at this video to see how quick the work went once I got into a rhythm:
My biggest fail on this job was figuring out how to insulate the attic. I really wanted to insulate between the roof joists and leave the ceiling joists open for storage, however, after realizing that the insulation was 16” wide and the boxes were 24”, I opted for less work and went in between the ceiling joists putting up plastic to hold it in, as the craft paper used for stapling to joists was useless once it was cut. In hindsight, I wish I had gone with my gut and not my lack of energy. I lost usable storage space, said a lot of cuss words in the process of wrestling with that stupid plastic and probably ended up doing the same amount of work. You live and you learn!
This part of the reno has probably been the easiest as far as decisions, since money dictated what I chose, but the hardest in actual installation because well, it required math. Shew. As you can tell by my previous foray with insulation, math is not my strong suit and Dad, always trying to teach me a new skill, insisted that I do the measuring and many of the cuts on the paneling.
Now, I’ve cut boards and such for simple projects but I didn’t realize the amount of planning and measuring that would go into putting this stuff up on the walls. I cut many pieces wrong, didn’t make sure the wall was the same size at the top and bottom and even broke a very intricately cut piece while I was moving it. That one really stung because I had cut it to perfectly fit beside a window. 🙁
Once we painstakingly finished the walls, over the course of a couple days, we moved on to the ceiling. Because the sheets were 4×8 feet, we had to build something Dad called a “dead man” to help us hold the paneling over our heads while we screwed it in to the ceiling joists. Basically, a dead man serves as a lift, commonly used when hanging sheet rock. It’s just a “T” made of 2×4’s that is a couple inches shorter than the ceiling. This was so helpful because, even though Dad and I are both very strong, holding a flimsy, heavy sheet of paneling over your head, WITH your head and trying to shoot a screw through it with your hands is no easy feat! Every piece had to be cut down to hit a joist at the edge just like the walls. Measuring and working overhead was exhausting and I was wiped out after those two days!
FLOORING AND PAINT
I really shouldn’t even say this was work but it is a part of every house so I’m including it because it was the fun part, honestly, and kind of signaled that the hard stuff was over. I chose linoleum for the flooring and had two different pieces donated to me that I used to cover our subfloor. Both pieces were floating floor so they didn’t require adhesive. Basically, I rolled it out, cut off the excess and was done! I still have to place a metal threshold over the seam where the two different pieces meet but that will come later.
On to PAINT! This was my favorite part, possibly because I was able to use my favorite accent colors, salmon and sage, but also because it made everything look so clean, fresh and new. By the time I had made it this far, we had been working in a cabin full of brown: brown paneling, brown subfloor, brown studs. It was drab and blah. After the girls and I finished the first coat of white paint, the whole space had opened up and looked so big and bright! Paint took us around 3 days but it flew by because I was so happy with the promise of my expert taping patterns on our accent/ bedroom wall.
Another positive in the painting process was that I already had most of my equipment and some white paint when I began. My Mom gave me leftover paint from her house and I used some of her small rollers, brushes and trays along with mine. My only expenses were incurred from buying a pack of rollers and three discounted quarts of paint in different colors for accents. All totaled I only spent $25. Can’t beat that with a stick!
Isn’t it beautiful?! This is the first time I’ve been able to take creative liberties with paint and I think it’s a fitting representation of my personality and the atmosphere I want in my home. I am so proud and just absolutely elated with our progress to this point. I mean, I am really doing this y’all!
I’ve had a ton of help and generous donations from my parents and friends but I just can’t stop patting myself on the back. It has been an arduous journey and it is lonely at times. I have spent nights awake wondering if I’m dumping money into nothing. I have agonized over my budget. I have nursed sore muscles and I have taken long baths with tears of joy streaming down my face. And I have not given up. I have pushed through the questions and the indecision and I have made my dream a reality!
This is only the beginning, however. There is so much more to do. As the weather starts to warm more, there will be outside projects to do and along with the finishing touches on the cabin, we plan to revamp the chicken coop, build an outdoor pavilion and a small shed for storage before next winter.
I’ll continue to post updates on the cabin as we move along with the work and move in. As always, thank you for your continued interest and support! Is there anything I missed in this post that you’d like to know about? Do you have questions about any of the work we did? Comment down below and let me know. I’d love to answer your questions or hear your feedback!
Peace, Love and Cheesecake!