I spent this past weekend down in Chico hanging out with my friends Keith and Stephanie (and their 3 cats), and designing my new hut. On my way down, I spent a few hours at Lowe’s (which had the best prices and selection in the area) gathering item numbers and prices on building materials I might use, then started a spreadsheet to keep a tally on how much of everything I’d need, and how much it’d cost. While designing the hut, I tried various permutations on building materials, and hut sizes, to try to minimize cost while maximizing HAI (Hut Awesomeness Index).
The hardest part was deciding on the dimensions, partially because it’s difficult to imagine how a certain amount of space would feel like. The best I could do was to picture myself in my current 6’x8′ hut, and try to imagine what it would look like if that wall were pushed back 4 feet, and that other wall was set back 2 feet, and the ceiling was 8ft high, or maybe 7ft high, with 2×4 trusses instead of 2×6, and if the window was there, there and there, with a ladder to the loft here, or maybe there… Yeah, it’s impossible. Our perception of space is affected by so many factors, including lighting, head room, colors, and little details like how many 2x4s are jutting out, that, at least with my lack of experience, it’s very difficult to try and anticipate the feel of the space.
At the end, I settled on a an 8ft by 12ft hut, with a 4ft by 8ft porch out front. There will be an 8ft by 8ft loft, set 8ft off the floor. I considered lowering the loft to reduce the overall dimensions (for lower cost and wind profile), but having extra headroom will make the place feel more spacious. The loft has “walls” about 16 inches high, and the apex of the 45-degree-pitch roof will be a little under 4ft above that, which means I should almost be able to stand up in the loft if I’m in the middle (one of the benefits of being relatively short, at 5’7″). The loft will have 1’x4′ sliding windows on 3 sides, for light and ventilation. For the lower level, I wanted to try using 4x4s spaced roughly 4ft apart, instead of the more typical 2×4 construction, since the studs would be exposed inside and having fewer bigger columns would look less cluttered than having 2x4s spaced 2ft apart. In general, I used lumber sparingly, hoping that my intuition would be right, though I’ll improvise as I go and add reinforcements where I feel would be needed.
Once my preliminary design was done, my spreadsheet said I’d need $1212 worth of supplies to start building. That didn’t include a few “optional” materials like a couple of windows I wanted (but didn’t need), or roofing panels (which they didn’t have in stock), and some small things like nails and brackets (which I could also get at the local hardware store). I printed out the final list, and headed to Lowe’s.
Fortunately, the sales manager was at the counter, instead of his minions. I asked him about discounts, and he told me that I could get a 10% discount if I got a Lowe’s credit card, or 20% if I was a business. I thought about it, and decided that I could call myself an independent contractor, and apply for the business account. Though, as I was filling out the application form, the manager offered to give me 20% off even if my application wasn’t accepted. Score! But, wait! That means I can reverse all those cost-cutting trade-offs I’d made! I can get more stuff! I hurriedly scratched out the app (I didn’t actually want the credit, if I was going to get the discount anyway), then started revising my order. I’d get treated lumber for the “foundation”. Hey, I’d get one of those windows on clearance for $90, which would now be $72. Actually, make that two windows. Oh, and let’s throw in more lumber. And a few 5lb boxes of nails. It turned into a veritable shopping frenzy. I was practically frothing at the mouth, as I rattled off item numbers. At the end, including tax and delivery (which alone was $139), the order came out to around $1350. Not bad.
I should get the delivery on Wednesday, though that’s no simple matter either. Since I don’t have a street address, they only put in my nearest town, and the driver will have to call me for precise directions to the dirt road (hopefully the driver will have a GPS, and I can give him the coords). The delivery truck almost certainly won’t be able to come up the last stretch of the dirt road to my camp, so I’ll probably get the driver to dump everything a few hundred yards away, and we’ll haul it the rest of the way by hand (or perhaps on the roof of my car).
Getting the materials ordered (and getting a nice discount), and knowing that they can deliver to my property has taken a load off my shoulders though. As long as the delivery goes smoothly, I can spend most of this week finalizing the design, working out the details, and relaxing for a bit before my friends show up on Friday. And then the real fun will begin. I’m excited.