It was around six or so years ago that we began in ernest. We had had the property for about 30 years but it wasn’t until then that we set about building the real house (we had been in the boatshed for a bit, tho, preparing it and the landing deck in front).
Somehow we managed to pick a spot for the house without much fuss. Not much thinking, either……to be honest.
There are a lot of factors to be considered when siting a building and we knew none of them at the time. Sal likes sunshine and so we propped the idea up on that: get up high and orient south.
I like propping things on solid bedrock so we chose a huge slab ‘o rock on which to bed. To be fair, I am also keen on a great view and so that meant choosing a spot somewhere on the west side of the little finger of land that juts out from the main body of our property. After that, it was all luck.
Well, it turned out to be lucky but there were times when we weren’t so sure.
The incline on the rock averages about 30 degrees. That turned out to be a relentless challenge to construction. Even though we had to load stuff up the hill the hard way (carrying it like a mule – you have to start to build stairs and funiculars from the top), that wasn’t the first point of realization. The first indication that we were literally over our head was in locating the precise locations for the footings that would hold the posts that would keep the house off the ground in a square, level and secure fashion.
How do you find such spots when the property slopes in all directions?
I hired a local guy. A touted expert. He came out and, first thing, asked to borrow my long tape. Bad sign. Then he went about the property and waved his arms about and said, “About here, will do. Here’s a good spot…………and, oh, I am sure this one will do……..close enough, anyway.”
I decided to get a team of real experts in to re-do it.
I delegated the chore to Sal and Emily (our daughter). “Sorry, gals. Gotta be done. And I got tons to carry up the hill still. You two – here, take this calculator, this string and the long tape measure – figure out where the posts go. Em, use that geometry you just learned at school. Sal, check her math and hold the string tight. It’s just triangles. Three dimensional triangles. You can do it. Now don’t screw up or the house will fall over. See ya later!”
You might think me mad (they did) but, honestly, Em has a calculator for a brain and Sal is a stickler for getting things right. Even tho they had no clue where to begin (I took them to the beginning point – they worked off that), they did good.
“Sweetie! We’re done. I am not 100% sure that we are right, tho. We have never done this kind of thing before. But Em is pretty sure. Might be off an eighth of an inch or so but no more than that. Z’at good enough?”
“How many points did you mark?”
“Like you said, twelve.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been thinkin………..I don’t know what I am doing either. The plans call for 12 posts on which the house is to be situated. That is why I asked for 12. But, you know, we are going to have a deck all around and I have plenty of logs…..and, well, you seem to have the hang of it…………………so please lay out six more spots for posts in front say, eight feet out and square to the house. That’ll hold up the front deck. Same idea on the two sides. Leave the rear. And then double up on the support spots. I think I’ll just add more posts. Say thirty or so. Why not?”
“Unh, OK. I guess. Hey……..is this how things are built? I mean, like, just a-wingin’ it, kinda? Zis how other people build cabins?”
“Yep. Jus’ like this. Zactly.”
“OK. Jus’ checkin’.”
For the record: the house was dead square and dead level. When we put the roof on we had the last piece out by only half an inch. Seems the last piece of roofing is the best indicator of square and level and we had somehow managed both.
And it all started with the real experts – Sal and Em.