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Thread: How to get started?

  1. #1
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    Default How to get started?

    I'm planning on buying an unimproved lot on the road system in the central Su valley area... most likely location contenders are: west of Willow (Long Lake, Crystal Lake, etc.); Caswell Lakes area; or somewhere in between. Eventual goal is to build a small cabin for weekend getaways and "staging" for atv/snowmachine excursions. Short term goal is to clear enough out to use it as a campsite (travel trailer) for those same weekends and excursions for the first year or two. Although I have several friends in the area, and have loaned myself out as "manual labor" a few times on their lots digging outhouses or limbing felled trees, I really have zero "building stuff" skills myself - although I have no problems getting dirty and usually learn quickly.

    My first thought is simply: how the heck do I get started? I envision (probably incorrectly) pulling up to the lot, getting out of my pickup, firing up the chain saw and "clearing" a path into the property, stacking my new firewood as I go. Driving over those stumps doesn't sound pleasant, so I suppose I'll fly my helicopter in and lift them out (Ha! sarcasm, btw - I have no idea how to remove a stump without some sort of dozer or something). Obviously, I want to leave as many trees up as possible for the seclusion, land value, erosion, wind break, etc... and obviously, I'll need to plan/plot where I want the eventual building site to be. But, once I have sketched that up... what do I do?

    Am I fooling myself by thinking that my wife and I can manhandle this on our own, with the occasional volunteer labor that some of those friends owe me? Do we need "heavy equipment"? I know we can rent from several places, but I've never used anything. Can we learn how to use it? If so, how? Trial and error? Training programs? Apprentice myself to the Operators Union?

    I've been scouring these and other forums, websites, etc., trying to get a feel for getting started. I think right now I'm in information overload, and not absorbing what I need. Is there a "building a cabin for dummies" book, or a class at UAA, or something? Or am I just better off hiring someone to punch in a driveway and lay down the gravel? (I assume I need gravel - seems everyone else has it)

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. #2
    Member fshgde's Avatar
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    The best way to start is develop a plot plan and a budget this can be done by getting estimates from contractors for projects. then you may decide to do part of the work like cutting trees or making a shorter driveway. Then start your building projects small a outhouse then a shed you always need a shed or two . before you know it you will be buyng framing nailers and chop saws good luck.

  3. #3

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    There is a saying out on the river. If you want a friend then buy a boat and if you want to see who your friends are build a cabin. Your first project is to get the property and then make a plan from there as different properties require different work to make them usable.Yes you and your wife can build a cabin as many couples have done it.Now some good advice about having other people donate labor.Have a plan and have all of your material on hand as time goes along the help will get thinner and thinner. So when you have help use it as every body only has so much spare time. Good Luck

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    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    And no beer until the work is done.
    When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.
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    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Music Man View Post
    And no beer until the work is done.
    +1 what he said..!

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    Member cdubbin's Avatar
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    Step 1....... site plan (ideally you would visit the lot during each season to "get to know each other", but breakup is probably most important)

    Step 2....... access (could be a paved parking lot, could be a foot trail, depends on your vision)

    Step 3....... power (genset, grid power, or just a cordless tool kit you charge on your truck battery)

    Step 4....... storage (40' conex is ideal, but at least something secure you can throw tools and materials in, get out of the rain, etc.)

    Step 5......building (go nuts! )
    "– Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    Member JR2's Avatar
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    I will just cover the driveway.. you could of course do it yourself with lots and lots of effort, but from my perspective its one of the things I would get done. While I enjoy running a bobcat and messing around it takes me about twice as long as it should and since you will not own the equipmeint you will be renting. I would dig down past the soil, lay down some fabric and pile gravel or fill on top of it. You can use ugly fill and top it with a few inches of good gravel to save $$. My property in Homer has a 300 ft driveway with about 2 ft of sand-rocks-gravel with a few inches of actual crushed gravel on top to look good.
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    Thanks for the replies! As I said, I know a lot of the "what"s, just not much of the "how"s. :^) Does anyone have comments or recommendations on the smaller "heavy equipment" rentals - specifically on learning how to use it?
    Do we need "heavy equipment"? I know we can rent from several places, but I've never used anything. Can we learn how to use it? If so, how? Trial and error? Training programs? Apprentice myself to the Operators Union?
    Or is it more cost effective to just hire someone to punch in a driveway? I'm not in any hurry for the full lot development - if we buy a lot this summer, our short term goal is to just use it as a "personal campground" for a year or two while we slowly clear out trees and brush whenever we decide to take a break from fishing or playing on the quads. But... even "personal campground" still means a driveway of some sorts to get in with our small travel trailer.

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    I think that depends mainly on what you really like to do. If you want a place to use as a base for other activities and those other activities are far more enjoyable to you than building a place, then you should hire out. If on the other hand, you are like those of us inflicted with the disease that perpetually urges you to build things, then you should do it yourself. If you’re not sure, take a crack at doing it yourself and if you find you’d rather be combat fishing (or whatever) with the rest of ‘em, then hire someone to finish. Just be aware that the third route will cost the most in the end. However, you can chalk it up to “education.”

    As far as the heavy equipment question, I’d give it a shot as long as you aren’t dealing with steep slopes or some other hazard that a novice shouldn’t be messing with. Playing around with heavy equipment is fun and I’d rather do it myself even if it does take me 3 times longer than someone who knows what they are doing. Figuring how they operate is not that hard. Not tearing something up by accident it the hard part. So, have the rental place drop it off, park your car well out of the way, keep kids and dogs off the job site and have at it.

  10. #10

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    We have property on the west side of Willow. Sit and discuss with the better half what you want to do from this place and how often you intend to use it. You mentioned ATV/Snowmobile access, so knowing where the trail system is will be important, although most of that side of the road is close to the trail system. If your budget allows, have someone punch the driveway and a pad in. NRick is right, running big toys is one of the benefits of building a camp/cabin site, but, if you are like me, time is valuable. A pro could get your drive in and a pad cleared in a weekend. Then you haul gravel in and have him level it out. From that point the sky is the limit. You can bring a camper in and spend as much time as you want there, planning and plotting......
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    Theres a guy in Caswell, Clark is his name... Lives in the the back side of Caswell lakes (you WANT to know your neighbors out in Caswell) He Does a lot of dirt work all over the mid Matsu valley. Great guy and reasonably priced.

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    Member Gerberman's Avatar
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    When you are clearing the driveway and pad, push he trees over then cut the stumps off and burn them. That gets rid of the stump removal problem. I would put in electricity if it is available, as soon as possible, then the well needs to be dug, I had professionals do these things, I did not even have to be there. I had surveyed the property, flagged it to show what I wanted, I had walked it with the person that was going to clear the area. I had him leave the flags, so I knew it was done as I had asked. A quick shed, pump house is easy to build. you will be draining the system for the winter, so no heat is needed in the shed. It is real nice to have electricity and water. The well shed can be right where you plan to build, so later you will have the pressure tank inside the house, or back porch. All the wood was stacked in a nice pile. All I had to do was cut it and restack it.

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    Thanks again for the replies. So, just ballpark: what would it cost me to hire someone to punch in a 200ft driveway and pad, to include the excavating and the gravel laydown?

    And if I just want to get my hands dirty and spend my weekends playing Bob the Builder, doesn't the equipment rental place want some kind of "operators license" to prove that I'm not going to destroy their equipment? (or they don't care because I'll have to buy them a new one if I do, which is better for them anyway) :^)

  14. #14
    Member dkwarthog's Avatar
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    J, I had a local guy/buddy that lives up Hatchers Pass rd put mine in for me using the method I mentioned in the PM. I cut all the stumps flush and laid out the typar, he brought in the gravel, spread it, and compacted it with his small dozer. We mined all the gravel right next to the driveway and all total I believe it cost me around 1500-2000 for about 200' of driveway.

    No license required that I am aware of, but Ive only rented backhoes and small dozers in the past. If you got money, they will deliver. Then again, if you break something, I imagine there is some small type in the contract you sign that holds you responsible for doing "dumb things"...

    Alot of guys on this thread have great suggestions for how to build a driveway, ie, grubbing out all the stumps, removing the topsoil, etc...but how you build the driveway or building pad depends totally on the type of soil you have, the frost depth, what you plan to load the soil with, and how much green paper your wallet holds..

    Best of luck...

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    Member JR2's Avatar
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    My 250 ft road and 50x50 pad in Homer cost me $13K but you have to take into consideration that the closest gravel is in Anchor Point some 25 miles one way.. and its not cheap to buy it. Well over 2/3's of that cost was trucking and gravel.

    Every time I have rented a bobcat they did not ask any questions whatsoever. The only time they did was when I asked if I could just drive it home (like .25 miles from the rental place) and the answer was..... if you do it after we close we don't care. I will say the last time I rented a bobcat I got a flat tire about 10 minutes after unloading it. I called the place and they said it was full when it left, its your problem and we expect it to be fixed when we pick it up.
    2007 Kingfisher 2825 - Stor Fisk

    Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top. -- Hunter S. Thompson

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    Member alaska4ever's Avatar
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    I know where there is a place you just may be interested in. Send me a way to contact you.
    JOHN

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    Member Redlander's Avatar
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    If you are not a heavy equipment operator, I'd hire the intitial work done. Also, look to see if you can find some geogrid material such as, http://www.tensarcorp.com/Applications/unpaved-roads#. I have put this stuff down in standing water, back dumped gravel on it and had dump trucks running on it by the end of the day, and log trucks months and years later.

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