6: Setting the foundation beams!

Today, Joe Bill, Eric, Greg and I, with a little help from Big Nate and his friends, cut huge locust beams, notched them, and set them over the foundation posts!

Sitting on the beam, left-to-right: Joe Bill, Eric, Greg (with Sophus Bocephus on his lap), and me.

Cutting notches. I didn't have the awesome 100yo slick yet. From now on we'll do it right.

Greg is very strong -- after lifting a 12' locust beam by himself, he then bench pressed it, juggled all three, and ate the power tools. I should have provided more food...

Trouble (just for the record, the sawzaw has no battery and the chainsaw is *not* running. This is a supervised and staged picture, but let your imagination run wild)

Rose and Sylvia supervise while Joe Bill trots down the trail...


  1. Great site: not only the blog, but for the cabin as well. I've decided to build a log cabin here in the piedmont about an hour or so east of Asheville, N.C. Just starting -- I've felled some trees and bucked and drawknifed about 40 logs so far (which may be sufficient for the walls), half Virginia pine and half poplar. Half the Logs are 20 feet long and half 16 feet. Base logs are about 15 inches diameter at the butt end.
    Sorry about this meandering, but I do have a question, and it's about the foundation. I looked everywhere around the property and could find only small (and therefore unusable) black locust trees. And I think even if I had good posts, the terrain wouldn't allow for them. The cabin site is sloped -- maybe as much as 3 feet for the cabin width. So what is my alternative? I've seen some reconstructed cabin foundations (have you been to Hart's Square hereabouts?) that are mainly mortarted flat stone on concrete footings. I don't think posts (or sonotubes and such) will work, what with the slope and very clay-ey soil.
    Again, thanks for a very interesting site. If and when I do make some progress (and if you're at all interested), I'll send some pix. (This is a solo project, by the way.
    Fernand Chandonnet (chandonnetvale@wildblue.net)

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  3. Hi,
    Thanks for the comment and for the encouragement. As you now know, it's a lot of work, so it's nice to know it appeals.

    Before the drying-in party, I actually had a builder friend check my foundations. Because my cabin is small, I can always jack it up onto wide-based piers if necessary. I'd worry more about the clay than the slope. Concrete piers reinforced by steel can handle some height, but they'd need to sit on a wider base, below the frost line, and I'd put down permeable geo-tec cloth, a deep layer of number 57 self-compacted stone (all the same size with no fines, then a deep steel reinforced concrete footer, with vertical steel entering the pier). Of course, I'm no engineer and recommend you consult a geotech engineer and maybe a structural one too, if you don't have this knowledge. The scale of your cabin will make it *much* heavier than mine.

    Or, you could build a solid foundation wall -- a similar strategy would be to dig a four-foot wide trench, put in the cloth and at least a foot of rock, build forms and a steel-reinforced footer, and then have a block mason build a block foundation for you with vertical rebar, and a crawlspace doorway. You would still need piers in the middle, though. And I'd still consult a professional.

    I'd love to see pictures! If you don't mind, I might include them in a blog post. If you'd prefer to be private, I won't, or I could no include any identifying info.

    Good luck,

  4. Follow-up thoughts -- as a do-it-myself person, I'd be tempted to avoid all of the labor and consulting fees and activity. But the heavy structure on compressible clay is troublesome. Can you rent a small backhoe and excavate it so that there's no need for a tall side? Then, you could fill a trench with rebar and ready-mix concrete and stack flat rock all the way around for a pretty solid result.


About Me

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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.