Off-Grid Home Build

It’s been a long while since I updated you on our build project and there is now much to tell.

Winter. Winter in Northern Canada. The last photo’s I uploaded were of the first snow in September and a bleak and miserable day it was too. The realisation that the snows were upon us and the building would slow to a crawl at best. But the spring is here now. The first geese have flown North over our land this evening, so for me this is the very first day of Spring and a beautiful day it was.

So, where are we now? The floor framing is complete and on the pilings. These massive 10" x 10" pieces were incredibly difficult to move around and put together. This is an understatement of course. There were profanities muttered and curses shouted. Bones bruised and blood drawn whilst wrestling these goliaths into the positions required. For some of it I had help from friends, for the remainder I wrestled alone and it was a trying time. The satisfaction came when they were in place, raised from the ground and the small 6"x6" Joists were placed between the 10"x10" Sill Plates as they are called to create the floor framing

Currently I am working on Bent 1. The first row of vertical posts, horizontal beams and diagonal bracing is almost finished and due to be raised in the coming week or so and I am particularly excited today. Not least because a different type of Scarf Joint I was working on caused me no end of trouble which today I overcame. To solve my problem I made a new piece to fit which didn’t work at all. I went back to the original, put some thought into it (and mechanical muscle) and now they fit like a charm.

A Scarf Joint is where you connect two pieces of wood together to make one longer piece. My understanding is this was developed in Britain (or at least the first evidence is from there) due to large pieces of timber no longer being available. The width of our home is 25′ and the longest timbers we could get were 24′ and some inches. A shame they could not be 1′ longer so I could just cut them down. Instead, I must cut off around 3′ and connect a small 4′ piece to the end to make it the right length. A diagonal brace sits under this joint connected to the vertical post which adds the strength making this cut reduces in the wood.

I had hoped to continue building throughout the winter using lamps and torchlight. However after a few weeks working in -30oC and below I called it quits. It took me longer to remove snow than I spent working on the wood and using lamps created shadows as I worked in pitch black which caused a few 90o angles not to be right-angles at all. After correcting these I gave in to the inevitable – wait until spring. Once there was light until 6pm at the least and I could profitably travel each evening after work and continue to build for more than 30mins a day.

The weather over the past couple of weeks has been unseasonably warm and I have made the most of it – the gods have certainly been in my favour. After digging out the wood buried under snow which took a few days of shovelling and chipping away the ice they were laid out to get the sun and any snow that has fallen since has melted fast and the wood dries quickly.

We live in an apartment in Peace River, a 25 minute drive from our land and this 50 minute round-trip each day is a waste of time from a building perspective so we will move out and live in our tipi come the end of April. We left for an expedition in 2012 on the 23rd of April. In 2015, we will be leaving at the same time to live on our land to make the most of every minute of light for building. By this time the first two Bents should be up supporting each other which means we can start the roof on this section and give us a place off the ground to stay. The savings in rent will also help our progress. A solar shower for the weekends and a gym membership for during the week will take care of our washing needs.

Now that the new building season is upon us, I shall update you more regularly with posts and updates. The next should be when I raise the first Bent.

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2 thoughts on “Off-Grid Home Build”

  1. Impressive, to say the least !!
    Through our Facebook connection (hopefully), I wish to stay up-to-date with your move-in and construction milestones !! Lovely meeting you both!!
    ~ Dominique & David.

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