Kayaking instructor and boatbuilder Brian Schulz built a beautiful little home in the woods for about $11,000. It took year-and-a-half to complete. The Japanese Forest House (Schulz is inspired by Japanese architecture) appeals to both a rustic western and traditional eastern design.
On his website, Shultz writes:
The structure is simple, stout, timber framing sitting on a 200-square-foot concrete pad. Frame wood was sawn from logs found floating in a flood, except the corner posts, which were blown-down trees hauled from the forest on a friend’s property. 2 × 4’s were scabbed into the frame to provide nailing surface over which we horizontally nailed roughsawn 1″ × 20″ (yes, you read that right) hemlock (also nailed to the frame). Over that we vertically nailed live-edge, board-on-board cedar siding.
The inside was stuffed with cotton insulation over which we stapled roughsawn spruce lath, over which we troweled sand/clay/straw plaster, over which we skimmed a commercial earth plaster, over which we painted with milk paint. The roof is 6-inch fir skipsheet nailed onto spruce 1 × 10’s. Split cedar shakes (and shakefelt) are stapled atop that.
Inside the roof is stuffed with R-30 cotton insulation and covered with a polyethylene vapor barrier, then covered with D-grade (mill rejects) tongue and groove fir. The upstairs flooring is an even worse grade of reject fir flooring. The downstairs floor is stained concrete.
The trim I milled from misc. scrapwood. The windows were 40 dollars (for all of them) from the local dump. I found the french doors on Craigslist (refinishing them was a pain!). The stove is a tiny Jotul cook stove that is perfect for the space. The counters are walnut slabs that we milled off a tree in Portland 8 years ago. The stair rail is simple alder poles cut from beside the house and fastened with lag bolts and deck screws. The staircase is from the forest on a friend’s property, it is held in place with BURLY steel knifeplates that I made. The treads are 2 × 10 fir from a log I found on the bay and milled. The little tables are simple rounds off a cedar stump with natural legs from a piece of Port Orford cedar I found on the beach. It took about two hours to make all three. The deer skull is from a deer I shot and ate last year.
Total, I think I put about 11k hard cash into the building, mostly for concrete, shakes, and insulation. It took about a year and a half to build in my spare time. Finally, yes, I did end up using a few simpson ties, specifically a handful of RT7’s to tie the rafters to the top plate beams, probably not necessary but hey, what’s your roof not blowing off in a hurricane worth? Idealism is good, but so is common sense, and I’ve never been a purist anyhow.
For more information, visit www.capefalconkayak.com/japanesehouse.html.