Monday, September 10, 2018

Refurbished Factory Elevator Doors

Back in July of 2016, I was walking through one of my favorite now-not-in-GR reclaimed materials store, Odom Reuse, when I stumbled upon a BEAUTIFUL set of what I assumed were barn doors. After talking to staff, I learned they were from an elevator in a 100-year-old factory.

The most astounding part? The doors, with a track and rollers, were priced at just $300. I had to have them. We'd been looking for something to separate our master bedroom from our office.

What you don't see in this picture is the other side, which was layer upon layer of paint. I didn't want paint, I wanted wood, like this side. So I had to figure out the best way to strip it all down.

I started with paint stripper.

This method turned out to be a total bust. No matter what technique I tried was an absolute struggle. Leaving it on for too long caused the door to just like eat the stripper, but not putting it on long enough caused it to not penetrate enough. I was fed up. I then turned to trying to sand it all off.

This was also dumb. It took too long to get through the layers, and I was burning through sanding discs every five minutes. FINALLY, after posting about these difficulties, my friend Cari Cucksey suggested using a Wagner heat gun. Being that she's the queen of refinishing, I trusted she knew what she was doing, so I headed to the hardware store, expecting to pay $50-60 at least for this heat gun. I was surprised to find out it was only like $20! To top it all off, it was the PERFECT solution for this. I bought a real paint scraper along with the gun, and in what seemed like no time, I had one door stripped.

I then went two passes with coarse and fine sandpaper and finally the door was ready to be sealed.

I opted not to stain, since I knew adding just straight poly would darken the wood quite a bit. I bought a gallon of satin poly and a bunch of foam brushes and went to work.

You'll notice that I didn't go so crazy as to get every last spec of paint out of the door, as I thought they would look really cool with a little bit of paint in the knots and old nail holes, giving the door a bit of depth and character.


As for the non-painted side of the doors, I decided not to sand them at all, since I didn't want to lose the stenciled "KEEP GATE CLOSED", so I cleaned it up as best I could and then started spreading the poly on. It was a dirty, splintery job, but it worked well and I'm glad I did it.

I then worked on the second door, and they were ready for hanging. Time to prep the tracking.

The track and rollers I got from Odom, but the handles were from our new (to us) front door - the handles that came with it were non-operational (and brass), so we had to replace them. But they were so cool, I held onto them, and lucky I did, cause they were perfect for this job.

After painting them all black, I hung the rail in our bedroom. This was a fight I didn't take photos of, but long story short, the hangers did not work for our application, so I ended up buying new rollers from the hardware store, cutting bolts down to fit, and eventually getting to a point  where the thing would slide along without issue.

You see above that the bracket was scraping the wall - I added some spacers on the railing hanger bolts so that it would come away from the wall a bit to not scrape.

You'll also notice that the doors hover above the ground and don't quite fit the doorway. I knew that going in, and wasn't sure what my plan was going to be. I ended up buying some more old reclaimed wood from Odom and cutting it to create side and bottom wings, along with a center piece to cover the gap that happened where the doors meet.

Again, the prep of those boards was a little annoying, but this time just one layer of paint came off easily with sanding.

And again, not going crazy with the sanding allowed me to get some cool paint and damage grain look in there.

I attached the sides using the Kreg jig (pocket holes & screws, and then the bottom and middle piece with interior wood screws. I was worried it would look slapped together and the wood wouldn't match, but the bottom and center spine match perfectly, and the wings are a little different color, but it's hardly noticeable.

We knew we were going to eventually paint this room white, so I painted before I mounted the hardware so it was easier when that time came, so please excuse the unfinished look of the wall above the doors.

Now it's much easier to cool or heat our room, since we can close it off and not have to cover the entire office and closet.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bear Teeth Cabin, Vol. 3 - How to Build a Kids Cabin

The idea for the roof of this cabin is to have a single slant roof using clear corrugated plastic sheeting to let as much natural light in as possible. We built it out of 2x4's with the cross bars at 16" on center. In Michigan, we'll be dealing with a lot of snow, so potentially a lot of weight, although the pitch of this roof and the smooth surface should allow for most of it to just slide right down.

The kids helped us haul some lumber up to create a strong back end of the cabin for the frame to sit on - we added a 2x4 and a 2x6 to both add support and tie the sides together a little better than just the screws in the sides.

My father-in-law and I started by building a basic frame - 4 sides and a center brace, with triangle bracing in the corners - so that it was light enough to lift up onto the roof. We then brought up all the other center braces and added them at 16" on center.

We also allowed for a bit of an overhang on the backside, and a 3' overhang on the frontside, to act as a roof over the lookout.

It was a little terrifying, considering the ground is not at all level, so I had to prop up one side of the ladder as I worked, and my father-in-law was perched on the other wall. It was a cool view from up top though!

While we were doing all this, Ollie was busy making a fire pit, so later that afternoon, we lit a fire to test it out and burn some dead limbs that were littering the site.

The next day, to keep the production rolling, we built the loft. I had some leftover 2x6 and some plywood from another project, so I built a box and secured it to the three walls. For a railing, I had some 3x3's that were strapped to the Trex decking Becky's parents got that I used for posts, and oak spindles and pine railing leftover from our stair project.

We were also wondering how in the world we were going to seal the walls up. With the decking, not every board is exactly straight, so we ended up with some pretty significant gaps in the siding. after going through all sorts of ideas (including just stapling a ton of screen to the inside wall) I decided to use Great Stuff to see if that would do the trick. AND BOY DID IT. It worked so perfectly I was just amazed. Easy to use and expanded to fill every crack possible. Now, it did take 6 cans and I'm still not done, but it's a great solution, and it doesn't look half bad. Especially now after about a month, when the foam is starting to yellow a little bit.

I do plan on cutting off the excess so that it's flush with the siding instead of bubbled out like it is.

Now for the roof!

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do clear poly roof panels, and Becky's parents had already committed to purchasing them - that was to be their contribution, other than all the labor that her dad has put into this thing. So on a rainy September morning, we went and got (4) 2' x 12' roof panels (strapping them to Becky's dad's boat to get them home), fasteners (screws with washers and a built-in caulk washer for sealing the hole) and closure strips (fit in the grooves, especially at the front and back to seal it from the outside and went to work.

Because they're pretty flimsy, we thought we'd want to overlap them more than just the average 2" to account for the potential weight from snow and ice, so we went with 4 panels instead of just 3.

We first put the closure strip on the back end of the cabin and fed the first sheet up onto the roof. We left a 2" overhang on the side to account for the siding we'd add to that upper section later. We caulked the strip to add a little better seal, and then screwed it down at the back and worked our way forward. We had 5 total strips, so we didn't screw the panel down at every joist, which I think would be overkill anyway.

It was a bit of a balancing act in some locations, trying to reach the screws and not fall off the cabin. Luckily Paul has a much bigger wingspan than I and was able to get the harder to reach locations.

We wanted the roof to extend to the edge of the lookout porch that we'd have up top, which meant it would be over 12', so I now have to build a standard roof piece to go on that last bit on the frame. Luckily I have some leftover shingles from our roof job that I can use, so once again I won't be spending much on getting that done.

Next up, adding siding, doors and windows to the loft section!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Bear Teeth Cabin, Vol. 2 - How to Build a Kids Cabin

By the end of Vol. 1, we had three walls up, and were trying to find the perfect door for the cabin. Of course this is where I immediately start scouring Craigslist for some old door we can rehab. I knew I needed it to be just 24" wide since the whole structure is only 6' wide, and I had to get the front window in along with some spacing between the door and window. I think on my very first search I found the perfect door - just over 6' tall and 24" wide. After picking it up, we went about framing out the front of the cabin.

With the loft planned on the inside, and the lookout over the porch, we needed to make the front 12' tall. Luckily most of the 2x4's I got from Repocast were 16' long, so we didn't even need to build it in sections.

With this added, it was really starting to feel like a real cabin. It was time to add the deck siding - I was very excited for this part, since it didn't require a lot of thinking, just cutting all the boards to the same length and slapping them up. We started with the sides since we knew those would be the longest, and with no additional cuts, the easiest.

I worked on the front siding next, while my father-in-law worked to carve out the spaces for the hinges. The door didn't come with good hinges, but luckily I don't throw much away and had plenty of hinges to choose from in the workshop.

Cutting around the window and door framing was easy using a jigsaw. I just made the measurements, drilled a hole at the corner of the cutouts and sawed the pieces out. 

I was going to try to use a cool piece of driftwood we found in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but the knob that came with the door ended up being much easier and sturdy. The best part about the door is that unlike our elevator doors (which I just realized we never did a post on - STAY TUNED FOR THAT), I didn't have to do anything to prep or rehab it. The outside is already a great rich wood that has been sealed, and the interior could be painted, but for now it works just fine.

At this point, I was ready to start putting on the siding on the back of the cabin. But I took a second and thought - it looks SO cool looking out the back of this cabin, with the hill going up, and all the underbrush and trees, it would be a real shame to close this all in. But I had no idea how I would accomplish finding windows so specific to fit in these sections. I took measurements, put them in the notes in my phone and started scouring the internet. There were some promising CL posts where someone had a ton of old windows, but I knew the amount I'd need would end up getting expensive, so I just held onto the notion and held off.

Just a week after we put the door on, I went to my uncle's new house to help him clean up - it's an old farmhouse with a barn/shed and a whole lot of overgrown brush and scrap things everywhere. While I was cutting back some ground brush, I looked against the side of the barn, and there were 20+ windows, most 27" square - he said he didn't want them and that I could definitely take them home if I could use them. I quickly checked my phone. The dimensions to the outside of the studs was 24", but I knew my measurements were not exact, and I wasn't accounting for the outside wall stud, which could potentially give me another 3.5" of clearance. I took a chance and brought 6 of the square ones and a couple of the smaller ones back. AND he had some random round treated posts laying around that I knew would be great for the porch supports, and he let me take those too.

Fast forward to that evening, we bring a window up to the cabin to dry fit - it fits PERFECTLY. Like it was meant to be. It was wild. On one side, I didn't have to modify the windows at all - I just screwed them in, adding caulk to the stud face and between the windows. On the other side, I did have to trim about 1/4" off one side to get it to fit. I had my wish without spending a dime and hardly having to do anything to get them to fit - it was a miracle.

When I posted this to my personal Facebook, a friend of mine WISELY pointed out that these are old enough to not be tempered glass, so if a kid put a foot through one, it could cause some serious injury. I decided to pick up some chicken wire and staple it to the inside. Chicken wire has some give if you have too large a span, so I added some studding between the windows so that I could secure the wire enough where pushing on it, you couldn't touch the glass. The studding also gave a cleaner appearance to the windows, almost making it look like one big piece of glass. In the openings above and below the center window, I added screen, and intend on using the two smaller windows in those spaces as windows that can be opened for ventilation.

You may notice that the board on the left, second from the bottom, is a little larger than the one on the right, but that's what happens when you're just using whatever you have lying around. Also, there will be bunks on the left, so you won't even notice it once everything is in place.

In Vol. 3, we'll deal with building the roof frame, sealing the cabin and building a loft! Till next time!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Bear Teeth Cabin, Vol. 1 - How to Build a Kids Cabin

Ever since we bought the house, I wanted to make a path through our woods in the back, so that we could walk through the beautiful red pines we have back there. But unlike most pine forests, we have a ton of underbrush and new growth that prevents us from just walking through.

So this spring, before the underbrush started, I took a walk marking trees to determine the path, and started pulling saplings and brush to create a solid path. It was great, and reignited an idea we had when the kids were first born - build a treehouse. The unfortunate thing is that red pines are not the sturdiest, and once they die, they disintegrate so quickly. So the treehouse dream turned to a cabin dream.

It started with dozens of sketches and a plot at the top of the hill.

I wanted to make it as cheaply as possible, using as much reclaimed materials as I could. I knew the frame had to be built with pressure treated wood and thought that putting the whole thing on blocks would be the quickest and cheapest way to build. I bought 6 cinder blocks and some 12' 2x6 treated boards and built a 6'x12' frame.

Regular exterior decks require a little gap between the boards for drainage, but since the floor would be inside-outside (3' for the porch, 9' for the inside of the cabin), I didn't want to put that gap in and allow plants & bugs to come up through the floor. Plus Ollie really wanted to make sure there was a lookout tower above the porch, so I knew there would be a floor above the porch, reducing the need for drainage. As a last precaution, I made sure to level the ground side-side, but angle the frame length-wise down a bit with the idea of water draining down toward the hill.

I was going to use some old live edge pieces I'd bought from Repocast for the flooring, but while this was happening, Becky's parents were replacing their deck with Trex, so they offered us their old deck boards to use as we wished. It was the perfect solution for decking and siding. I went and helped pull boards, then we strapped them to the roof and brought them home. Because their back deck is so shaded, we set about to power wash all the paint, dirt and moss off of the 50+ boards.

As a hoarder, I of course had a ton of 2x4's reclaimed from some house and sold at a Repocast auction, so I pulled those out of the shed, cut them up and started framing the walls with them. My father-in-law was a huge help in this regard. The intention was to build the bottom section 6' high and then build a 4' loft with a slant roof. Forgetting all of that, I built the bottom section 8', pushing the total height to 12'. WHOOPS.

For fasteners, I'm using exterior deck screws instead of nails. It's a bit more expensive, but easier to use with an impact driver instead of a hammer, since I don't own a pneumatic framing nailer. Once we got a side up, we used some scrap pieces of decking to create temporary bracing to hold it until we could tie in the back wall.

In keeping with the reclaimed idea, I also had two brand new crank-style windows that Becky's parents found on the side of the road that we'd been holding on to that were perfect for this project, so we planned them to be at the front and back of the cabin.

At this point, I wanted to wait to do the front wall until we bought a door so I would know the height/width to frame it in. Keep going with Vol. 2!

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