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Thread: cabin on the cheap for bunkhouse

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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    Default cabin on the cheap for bunkhouse

    With the addition of the love of my life and her boys, my family now has six kids under age 12 - five are boys. I don't have custody of my four all the time, but ideally i'd like to get to 50/50 and have them week on week off. To do that I need to be able have some reasonable living space for them.

    Right now in our two bedroom place my daughter takes the garage, youngest (still in a crib) racks with us, and the other four boys cram in the bedroom. One idea we've kicked around is to build a simple open floor plan cabin adjacent to the house - no plumbing, no rooms, just bunkhouse style with a toyo stove for heat. Maybe a loft but only if it wasn't a big cost add on. Thinking maybe 16'x16' would be large enough for the boys to all have bunks, dressers, and some play space. Everything else takes place in the main house (meals, restrooms, etc)

    couple questions-

    - fairbanks permafrost is the location....is a pier block foundation an impossibility? probably only need 10 years of life out of the thing and then would be looking to either relocate it to a remote site (recreational) or sell it and have it hauled off. But maybe it would become a guest room or office or who knows what. need easy and cheap diy....mountain of fill and concrete trucks are not really an option

    - not sure what the budget should be (and with six little ones that is the limiting factor - this has to be absolutely bare bones. likely not even finished this year - just built and livable) I'm playing with some rough sketches counting floor joists and studs etc but if anyone has an easy guess on lumber costs i'd love to hear it. at least 2x6 walls maybe more, want it to be as efficient to heat as reasonably possible.

    - gabled roof would be nice and facilitate a loft, but is a simple angled shed roof substantially cheaper? definitely don't want to be out paying for trusses to be built so whatever it is needs to be something I can stick build.

    - any other considerations that would let me save a ton of money?


    not sure what else we can do to house them all more comfortably, but this concept of 'boy island' is one of our preferred ideas...at least at the moment. we dont want to move (cant afford to anyway) and building onto the existing house is not a possibiity (budget or even feasible)

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    Member Bsj425's Avatar
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    Dont cheap out just to kick yourself later. In Fairbanks opt for having the whole thing spray foamed for insulation. You will pay more up front than regular insulation but you will save very very fast in the amount of heating oil saved. It is far superior to regular insulation and provides a vapor barrier all in one. Same goes with windows if you go cheap you are going to spend alot more in heating oil for the less efficiencys. Other than that the rest is preference as far as finishing goes. It really wouldnt add much more for a small loft. Again Gable roofs are cheaper yes but remember heat rises. You dont want it all hanging out up in the celing if so a celing fan on low should keep the warm air down low. For permafrost pier blocks are good if you get some with the adjustable brackets so if it does have leveling issues you can jack it up and adjust if necessary.

    Without having identified "what the budget should be" its kind of hard to give you any definitave answers. Also what kind of construction expirence do you have? I am assuming little based on the questions asked ( no offense) but remember your kiddos are going to be living in there. I would leave some stuff to the pro's or at least get some help for things like the roof and electrical if you have no expirence. The last thing you could ever want is something to happen to them because of your shoddy consrtuction. Again if you get a handle on your budget I can give you some extra pointers on best bang for the buck and places you can shave costs and places you definatly do not want to cut short

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    I have the same kind of problem this summer. My solution: a high class tent frame with bunks and stove. Heck, my family lived in one for several seasons, a month and a half at a time in the early days of our set-netting years. Amazingly, we did just fine until we could up-grade.
    Use a pyramid/pier foundation and a decent, stout floor upon which you construct 2x4 and plywood pony walls and gables. Eventually, or a little at a time, you could make it more substancial with full size walls and real roof, insulation, sheathing, etc. until it becomes a regular cabin. Or, just leave it a seasonal shelter.

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    Thats another soultion however since he mentioned this I assume there is probably a custody battle and courts genrally frown upon having young boys live in a tent in the middle of Alaska.

    With the addition of the love of my life and her boys, my family now has six kids under age 12 - five are boys. I don't have custody of my four all the time, but ideally i'd like to get to 50/50 and have them week on week off. To do that I need to be able have some reasonable living space for them.

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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    yeah we'll probably have some tent living this summer during....well during whatever it is we decide to do!

    There's simply too much winter for tents or anything temporary (yurt etc).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    Dont cheap out just to kick yourself later. In Fairbanks opt for having the whole thing spray foamed for insulation. You will pay more up front than regular insulation but you will save very very fast in the amount of heating oil saved. It is far superior to regular insulation and provides a vapor barrier all in one. Same goes with windows if you go cheap you are going to spend alot more in heating oil for the less efficiencys.
    - Sure always great to buy the best, spend the most - but reality is economics don't always allow that and you have to do what you can afford. appreciate the advice, but budgets aren't always just to be thrifty - sometimes they are necessity.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    Other than that the rest is preference as far as finishing goes.
    - finishing is not something I'm concerned with right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    Again Gable roofs are cheaper yes but remember heat rises. You dont want it all hanging out up in the celing if so a celing fan on low should keep the warm air down low.
    - a gable roof is cheaper? than what? yes heating the upstairs would be a concern if the loft was large.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    It really wouldnt add much more for a small loft.
    if it's standard 8' walls with a gabled roof (no truss but just stick built rafters) would you still need to add knee walls or something to get a little more headroom in the loft? -depending on roof pitch I guess?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    For permafrost pier blocks are good if you get some with the adjustable brackets so if it does have leveling issues you can jack it up and adjust if necessary.
    - The little 12" square pier blocks are kind of what I'm thinking of - what kind of spacing on a 16x16? 6' centers? just outer joists or a middle row too? any idea what kind of beams needed for the rim joists?


    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    Without having identified "what the budget should be" its kind of hard to give you any definitave answers.
    - I was just wondering if anyone had any idea what a ball park lumber cost for a framed/sheeted 16x16 cabin would be...60 or so studs, floor joists, rim joists, beams, rafters, lots of sheeting, (floor, walls, roof) - obviously electrical, insulatiion, roofing, etc. If anyone has built something similar maybe they have a rough idea what it cost them. not having plumbing, kitchen, etc can keep the cost down to bare bones, but it's still expensive. I'd be surprised if raw materials alone were under 6 or 7...which unfortunately may be too much this summer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bsj425 View Post
    Also what kind of construction expirence do you have? I am assuming little based on the questions asked ( no offense) but remember your kiddos are going to be living in there. I would leave some stuff to the pro's or at least get some help for things like the roof and electrical if you have no expirence. The last thing you could ever want is something to happen to them because of your shoddy consrtuction. Again if you get a handle on your budget I can give you some extra pointers on best bang for the buck and places you can shave costs and places you definatly do not want to cut short
    - what experience do I have? Plenty to knock together a small framed building. There's no rocket science in carpentry - may take me longer than a pro but that doesn't mean it's shoddy.

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    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    - I was just wondering if anyone had any idea what a ball park lumber cost for a framed/sheeted 16x16 cabin would be...60 or so studs, floor joists, rim joists, beams, rafters, lots of sheeting, (floor, walls, roof) - obviously electrical, insulatiion, roofing, etc. If anyone has built something similar maybe they have a rough idea what it cost them. not having plumbing, kitchen, etc can keep the cost down to bare bones, but it's still expensive. I'd be surprised if raw materials alone were under 6 or 7...which unfortunately may be too much this summer.


    Are you thinking 6 or 7 hundred? I'd say No way. 6-7 thousand it won't be that much. I just did a quick run down on 16x16 with a flat roof and just lumber to frame and plywood sheeting your looking at around $1,200.

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    My husband and I just built a small 10X12 cabin with full loft and we built it on pilings near lake Louise. All said and done it totaled about $2000-$2500. We had a 12/12 pitch to give the loft more head room. 10x12 is actually much bigger than it sounds. We used the pink insulation, blue board, and paneling for the walls. The roof is tin and used osb for the siding. You can go to the lumber dept at Home Depot, lowes, or SBS and sit down with them and tell them what you want and they will get you a price quote and options. Good luck!

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    My comments weren't to be rude or cause hard feelings I was just trying to answer your questions with keeping it liveable and not having a budget to work with. For lumber alone your looking at around 1,000-1,500 depending on materials like if you want t-11 for the siding instead of plywood and tounge and groove for the floor it's goin to be a bit more I'd say total with a few electrical outlets and basic shop style lightening and regular insulation you could do it for around 3k total.


    As far as the skids go for a 16 footer I personally would go with 4 so every 4 feet for 16x16 especially since you are building on permafrost it will spread the weight out much better . If it were more solid ground you could get away with 2 on the outside and 1 in the middle.

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    Also northland wood is going to be the cheapest by far for the lumber in fairbanks .

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    I built a 16'x16' with full loft in 2009....had to buy posts, ply, and insulation, that's about it...used salvaged windows, roofing, doors, woodstove, etc., my dad donated the chimney and all the wiring...still cost a couple grand.

    " Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    Start checking the craigslist free and materials sections people give away ALOT of left over building materials there always seems to be some free stuff on there you can re use that would save of of costs

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    How about an addition to the existing house. Basically three wall and a roof legered off the house.. Could save you some costs. Not saying a full blown addition but basically a lean to and the only chane to the main house would be a door..

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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    thanks bsj425- appreciate the advice! no offense taken

    addition to the house is too big cost wise - main house is on pilings and so would require some heavy engineering and wouldn't allow any skimping on materials either. just more costly than a simple bare bones cabin style outbuilding I'm afraid. (at least for that much square footage)

    I'm thinking 16x16 just based on some rough sketches (and good use of full sheets of plywood), seems like just enough space for beds, dressers, and some play space - although with a loft for some sleeping space it could be a little smaller but not by a lot. I am thinking of two sets of bunk beds along the back wall, plus another suspended upper bunk only along one side wall, 5 dressers (takes up a lot of wall space), toyo stove, a big couch or two smaller couches, and a table for homework and games (was actually thinking a ping pong table would be great! tons of space and a fun game for the kids to play).

    that's cheaper than I thought on the lumber - still a lot of money and not sure I can do it but it's probably the best option. guess I was figuring 6-7 more or less for all the materials - insulation (will have to compare cost/benefit of 2x6 walls with double 2x4 walls, heater and fuel tank, plus roofing materials, windows (may just frame them and add next year), considering no sheetrock just because it will probably crack badly so some alternate interior sheeting, not sure what flooring would be - not carpet!, electrical and lights would be simple and pretty cheap but need money for an electrician to make connections at panels....lots to consider.

    Is 2x6 rafters enough insulation for the roof (hot roof) or would I need to close in an attic and insulate that for a cold roof? 2x10 floor joists or would 16' need more? and is 2x10 allow for enough floor insulation? I'm sure I'll be using glass as it's cheapest, but I'd like to foam board the bottom of the floor joists at least - to prevent squirrel problems and add Rs...

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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    thanks power drifter - helps.

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    Maybe it's just me but I wouldn't sleep well with my young ones in another building.

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    I've thought that too - but with a connection to the main house is it any different then them in a bedroom down the hall? Can't hear anything is really the only real difference I've come up with.

    younger guys wouldn't go out till probably 5 years old or so... can always add a camera and sound for 'keeping tabs' on them too.

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    http://www.newsminer.com/features/ou...9bb30f31a.html

    an article on building on permafrost.

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    read that too!

    I do have a couple other options I'm considering...one is to build a three bunk bunk bed in the current boy bedroom. there isn't room for another set of bunk beds though so we're still looking at trundle beds or fold up beds or something for the other two boys. It's not great because once beds get set up or a younger boy goes to bed - the room is basically unusable.

    That also leaves no bedroom for my daughter. At 11 years old she needs and soon is going to really need her own space. bunking in the garage lacks privacy and it's just not homey. One thought for here is there is a small area with a vaulted ceiling. We considered framing off to give her a little nook up above with a hole in the wall for access via ladder. it's big enough to sleep in, read in, and maybe have a couple small shelves for clothes, but it's very small.

    Could do all of that for probably under 1000...

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    Quote Originally Posted by akjw7 View Post
    thanks bsj425- appreciate the advice! no offense taken

    addition to the house is too big cost wise - main house is on pilings and so would require some heavy engineering and wouldn't allow any skimping on materials either. just more costly than a simple bare bones cabin style outbuilding I'm afraid. (at least for that much square footage)

    I'm thinking 16x16 just based on some rough sketches (and good use of full sheets of plywood), seems like just enough space for beds, dressers, and some play space - although with a loft for some sleeping space it could be a little smaller but not by a lot. I am thinking of two sets of bunk beds along the back wall, plus another suspended upper bunk only along one side wall, 5 dressers (takes up a lot of wall space), toyo stove, a big couch or two smaller couches, and a table for homework and games (was actually thinking a ping pong table would be great! tons of space and a fun game for the kids to play).

    that's cheaper than I thought on the lumber - still a lot of money and not sure I can do it but it's probably the best option. guess I was figuring 6-7 more or less for all the materials - insulation (will have to compare cost/benefit of 2x6 walls with double 2x4 walls, heater and fuel tank, plus roofing materials, windows (may just frame them and add next year), considering no sheetrock just because it will probably crack badly so some alternate interior sheeting, not sure what flooring would be - not carpet!, electrical and lights would be simple and pretty cheap but need money for an electrician to make connections at panels....lots to consider.

    Is 2x6 rafters enough insulation for the roof (hot roof) or would I need to close in an attic and insulate that for a cold roof? 2x10 floor joists or would 16' need more? and is 2x10 allow for enough floor insulation? I'm sure I'll be using glass as it's cheapest, but I'd like to foam board the bottom of the floor joists at least - to prevent squirrel problems and add Rs...
    Not sure you understood what I was talking about ... Think a closed in deck.. I assure u I am aware of costs...it's my job..lol I am a general contractor..
    With an enclosed deck so to speak you don't have the foundation issues like you will incounter with a free standing building. One wall is already built, you can share heat, kids are in the same house... Ect.... But of course I can't see your house or existing foundation so I can only offer advice... All the best to you

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