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Building workshop – framing the dormer windows

July 10, 2017
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Summer. Sun. Sisu.

Finnish Sisu* is what it seems to take to build the mansard-style roof with 6 dormer windows. After another weekend, I  only managed to complete on roof of a dormer window to make that side of the roof weather-proof. 5 dormer windows still to go. And I have attached only the minimum underlay. The tar shingles and all decorative plates and boards are still missing. Well, I did also some other stuff this weekend, not to mention that I completed the last bit of the roof that remained undone last weekend.

The dormer windows are very much constructed from scratch from long boards. On the photo below you can see the basic frame that is all cut to measure and screwed in place.

to be continued in two weeks…

*more about sisu

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Building workshop – Almost 1/4 Dry

July 2, 2017

Closing off the roof before the autumn is goal number 1 for this summer. And with the summer vacations approaching, I got started on nailing the roof boards in place.

I’m working myself from bottom to top and…

…from left to right.

Unfortunately, while the dormer windows are an essential part of the overall workshop design, the dormer windows make the roof building 6 times more complicated than compared to a straight roof. On a simple roof, nne can just pick boards of any length from the pile and nail them on top of the roof trusses. The ends of the roof boards that are too long one just cuts off with an hand-held circular saw once all boards are attached. Life is not that easy with something more complex like I designed:

For the dormer windows, one needs first to build a support structure which is attached to the roof trusses.

Once the support structure is ready one has to cut each roof board to roughly the correct size to fit it in between two dormer windows which makes the whole process much more cumbersome (=slow). It takes me roughly one day to complete one of the sections between the dormer windows.

The first protection against rain is in form of an roofing underlay, an engineered tar-paper, called Icopal Fel’x Plus which is designed for steep roofs. This one is fairly easy to attach because one side is always glued on the previous lane which one side is nailed to the roof boards in zip-zak style.

Roughly 1500 75 mm nails and 200 roofing nails later, I’m almost done, but I ran out of weekend to complete the first quarter (completion meaning to get the building protected from rain; it’s still missing the roof panels, tar-shingles, and all decorative lists…).

On a close look one can see that the roofing underlay is not all neatly flat the roof and is making some waves. I could swear that they were rather tight and flat on the roof boards when I attached them in the morning. Now things don’t look so nice anymore in the afternoon, but it doesn’t matter. Lots of stuff will still come on top of the underlay.

Building workshop – Diagonal alley

June 25, 2017
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With the roof trusses attached, it was time to strengthen the roof structure and extend it over the sides to protect the wall better from the rain.

In order to avoid a domino-effect for the roof trusses, one has to attach diagonal boards (25×95 mm strong) across the floor joist over the drive-through. That’s an easy job as long one has two people and a pneumatic nail-gun for framing purposes.

Diagonal boards are also attached to the ceiling joist of the last three roof trusses on both sides of the building to give the roof structure more stability. Nailing these boards on top of the ceiling joist is a rather hairy business because one cannot with reasonable effort build a decent scaffolding and working from a ladder is not exactly safe either. Hence, this was the first time my new safety harness came into play. Well, it wouldn’t leave me without bruises either if I fall but at least I won’t have a free fall of 5 meters. Luckily, the safety harness wasn’t tested…

With more stability in the roof structure, I started to build the eaves that extend the roof to the sides. Our eaves are hanging a meter over the wall and, according to Kontio, are attached with only two 160 mm long screws. That leaves me a bit wondering whether that’s enough to carry one meter of snow but I guess I will figure it out one winter… Or, maybe, I’ll attach another diagonal support for the beams that carry the eaves later in the project.

Now the roof has its final width: 14 meters. That means quite some few roof boards to attach…but that’s for another weekend.

Building workshop – Assembling Rooftrusses

June 18, 2017

The main challenge of this weekend was to lift the roof trusses on top of the logs and attach them. There are a total 16 roof trusses across the building that shape the roof.  Initially, only the lower part of the 16 roof trusses are assembled because diagonal support boards are attached before the little triangles can crown of the building.

This is how things looked like at the beginning of the weekend:

At a previous weekend, I did as much preparations as possible: I attached three quarters of the L-brackets already saving a lot of nailing on the actual assembly day and and also ensuring the roof trusses land in the right place.

Furthermore, I attached 2 beams on each side of the building that stop the roof trusses from tilting sideways as long they are only attached to the logs.

On the actual assembly day, the first thing we had to do is to move the roof trusses closer to the workshop building because the crane didn’t extend far enough. Fortunately, our local “multi-purpose guy” – that has done already all kinds of things with his tractor at Villa Linnea including spreading of soil and moving rocks – found an easy way to lift a whole bundle of roof trusses beside the building.

But then, just shortly after 9 o’clock, the first roof truss had lift-off and made its way to the far end of the building.

Only four hours later, the last roof truss was lifted onto the building, all L-brackets were attached, and the temporary boards connecting each roof truss horizontally were nailed in place.

And with that another major step forward was taken. The building is now almost twice as high, but plenty of work is still ahead…

Building workshop – The final row

June 11, 2017
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If the first rows of logs were easy as pie then the last ones had to be a b!tch. We assembled the last rows with a crew of 6 adults. And even that proved to be quite a challenge. Yes, we could have called in a mobile crane and lifted these 7,5  meter long logs 3 meters high into place at ease. But our log house building is a hobby and improvisation is an important part of having fun with the project. So, we lifted the final logs up first with the help of a step ladder and the large work platform on one side of the building and then repeating the same stunt on the other side after moving everything to the other end. The logs that bridge over the driveway are not one piece but they are 7,5 meters and 4,5 meters long to cover the 12 meters length of the workshop.


The two logs are connected with a metal plate and 10 nails. One keeps the shorter log slightly elevated on one side while connecting the two logs. When one lowers the log into place, the movement pulls the logs tighter together. The connection is ultimately hidden in the joint itself and one cannot see afterwards that there are actually two longs instead of one long one.

Once all logs are assembled in place, the work with wood stops for the time being and the builder needs to re-visit the metal working skills in order to cut the tightening rods to the right length. The tightening rods are another example for comparison Kontio and Mammuttikoti, two major log house manufacturers in Finland: The photo below shows one M12 and one M16 tightening rod. However, the M16 tightening rod does not belong to the 200 mm thick logs from Mammuttikoti. No, Mammuttikoti tries to optimise its profits by delivering M12 tightening rods even for a over 200 thick wall. Kontio then again delivered a M16 tightening rod for a 95 mm slim wall. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one can put significantly more force on the logs with a M16 rod and prevent them from twisting while they are drying naturally.

Another quality difference between Mammuttikoti and Kontio can be noticed from the readiness degree of the door support beams:

The door support beams that are to be attached to the logs must have a groove for each screw allowing for the logs to settle while the doorframe itself remains in the same place. Kontio does deliver these door support beams (and the window versions) with readily cut grooves and one only needs to screw them into place. Mammuttikoti did not provide the same service and one needs to cut these oneself either with a circular saw (which leads to potentially to slim grooves) or with a router (which takes a significant amount of time).

With all the logs assembled one can finally get a feeling for how high 3,30 metre actually are. The drive-through is more than high enough for the average car…

Building workshop – Towards row 16

June 4, 2017
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Building a log cabin beyond row 8 is more challenging because, unless you are the incredible Hulk, you need scaffolding to lift the logs on the next row and put them into the joint.

Because the average builder does have only one or two work platforms (one for up to 2 meters working height, the other up to 5 meters working height), a lot of platform moving is part of the assembly show. It would be nice to have a professional scaffolding all around the building, but a) that costs some real money and b) where is the fun of improvisation in this?

The space for doors is now also at full height at row 16. The last 5 cm of the space for the door needs to be cut out manually still from the log above the door. The log is pre-cut but the final cutting with an handsaw is rather tedious because of the strength of the Finnish timber from Lapland. I opted for using my Bosch saber saw instead but also that still requires some strength to cut through the 95 mm of log.

Between the door and the large window is a pillar. Because the log building needs to be able to set, but the windows and the pillar don’t shrink, the pillar is attached with the mechanism on the photo below. It’s the weirdest of all tightening rods in the building: instead of pulling the logs together, this mechanism is supposed to slide downwards at the same pace than the building settles. But who has the time to lower the nut at the same pace continuously? And how is that supposed to happen once the covering boards are around the windows? Well, we have the same construction in the guest cottage which is also from Kontio. I adjusted that screw twice during 5 years after I attached the covering boards. I guess it works after all.

Building workshop – Rows 3 to 8

May 29, 2017
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Going from row 1 to 3 is an easy to task when assembling a log building. Going to row 8 is already a bit more effort…

One still needs to attach the mineral wool as insulation material in the joints, just like for all (214) logs.

However, what you don’t need to do anymore is to attach the insulation between the logs. When we ordered our first Kontio log building we had to staple the insulation material along the logs ourselves. The building instruction still refer to this task. But it seems Kontio has automated that step in the manufacturing process and it is already done when the logs are shipped from the factory. What one has to do is to hammer down hundreds of pegs between the logs that keep them from twisting around. And there are lots of them. 6 pegs go into a single 6 meter long log. I think we will use over 500 of them.

The concrete mixer above is for checking whether the hole is deep enough for one peg to go all the way down. Since one is alternating between a pair of holes from one log to another, one looses easily track of where one has put a peg already and where not. This special tester has the additional benefit of not dropping accidentally into a hole. Another testing device we used also on that day made its way into one of the holes reserved for an electricity cables. And it will stay there for good I’m afraid.

In addition, a special feature of our particular log building we had to insert 1 meter long steel pipes into dedicated holes. The purpose of those long steel pipes is to stabilise the long sides because the logs itself are only 95 mm thick and need support.

These long steel pipes become necessary because Kontio suggested to put an intermediary row of short logs half way through the long wall.

However, we like the clean look of one long log. Maximising room utilisation is also difficult with a log poking into the room limiting one’s ability to put shelves or work tables on the long side without customising them. Hence, we asked Kontio to come up with an alternative solution which are those steel tubes.

With 8 rows done, the workshop building is taking shape already and one can start imaging slowly how it will look like finally.