The first step in restoring an old log cabin is to remove everything that you don’t want.
I know that sounds far too simple. But the truth is that most people are baffled as to just where to begin on a project like this. It all just seems so overwhelming. I’ve seen men just stand there with their mouths hanging open.
Actually, there is another step that one needs to take first.. before the work begins… and that is a story to be shared…
You see, it was requested of me to not get a permit for this cabin. We were after all “just fixing it up”. We weren’t adding any square footage. There was no plumbing, no wiring, no septic work. “Just a tune up”. There was a concern expressed about drawing attention to the cabin, no one wanted to make vandals or thieves aware of this little cabin.
The cabin was located three miles from anything a sane person would consider a road.
The access “road” to this cabin was extremely narrow, with sheer cliff drop-offs at the edge, and riddled with pot holes that would swallow the average car. (I once stopped on the way to work to pick up a section of the leaf spring from my pickup truck that fell off.)
I had one young man quit because of that road. He was riding down the mountain as a passenger in a very small car with another member of the crew who was… “very large”. The road was covered with snow and they slid within an inch of going over the edge. He told me that he had a vision of dieing that day with Charlie laying on top of him inside of a cheap Ford Fiesta… “I’ll never fully recover from that image” he said.
Anyway, somehow the County Building Inspector found out about the cabin being restored and came looking for it. He parked uphill from the cabin, about a quarter of a mile. You see, the last leg of the road was downhill and I guess he was concerned that he might not be able to get back out.
And so he walked down to the cabin where my crew was working.
But, as he was walking it became apparent that he had failed to engage the parking brake on his new county truck… which came down the hill after him until it found a tree capable of stopping it.
I wasn’t on site. Thank goodness.
My crew was most helpful and managed to winch the inspectors truck back up on the road and luckily it was not so damaged that he couldn’t make it back to his office. He left message with my crew that I was to come see him at my “earliest possible convenience”.
I still remember that day, arriving in the county parking lot, walking past a truck which had it’s front in caved in, wondering if my career was over, or if I would be removed from the project, or if I was going to be hit with all kinds of fines, or lectured to by an angry soul, or perhaps be held financially responsible for the damage to his truck.
After sitting in the waiting area for a few minutes as other members of the staff would point at me and whisper things I was invited back to “the office”. I swear I felt like I was going back to the Principal’s Office. I hoped there wasn’t a paddle hanging on the wall.
I could tell the inspector, who sat quietly on the other side of the desk, was enjoying this moment as I tried to explain and apologize.
But the man surprised me.
Unlike most government officials that I have encountered over the years he had a kind spirit. He was a retired builder himself and he really appreciated my work. He also admired my men who helped him out that day. And, he was truly grateful that an old cabin in the county was being saved and not destroyed.
He handed me a form to fill out for a renovation permit and said the fee would be forty five dollars. Whew.
In the years after, that man I became friends. I always made sure and got a permit, and he was always so complimentary of my work. I was greatly saddened the day that he retired.
It doesn’t take that much more effort, nor that much more material, to frame up a home with timbers rather than by using laminated lumber from Home Depot, but the difference in appearance and durability is amazing.