It is definitely spring, and spring is a time for wood. Firewood. Lumber.
It is what the pre-summer season is made for. It is too late for decent snowmachining, though there are a few spots passable if one goes very early in the morning. The fishing is better than fair, but after a winter of fishing through the ice, most of us are looking for open water — and it’s too early for that.
It is either clean the garage or do anything else.
The late winter firewood season has about passed. I like to get a good start on next year’s firewood pile while I can still barely get the snowmobile in the woods. The late snow holds a trail well and there are spots with good wood that you can’t reach with the truck.
There is too much slush on Paxson Lake, and the snow in the woods is getting iffy. The snow-free woodcutting areas are OK. The ground is frozen, thus lessening the odds of getting stuck.
Cutting wood is a blast when compared to clearing the winter junk from the garage. However, after reorganizing the garage (on a strong suggestion from my spouse), I realized I was going to need another building for all of this stuff.
What? Build something with the price of lumber the way it is now?!?
Yes, you can. It takes innovation.
I priced treated 4x4s in Delta Junction. I needed five eight-footers; $160. Three-quarter inch CDX plywood, $106 a sheet. Hmm. This was going to be a really small building unless I got the brain working.
My solution: Logs. Six-inch rough-cut logs are $3.20 per lineal foot in Fairbanks. With logs you doesn’t need insulation, Tyvek or interior sheathing. You can see the savings right away.
Sand the inside of the log wall after it’s up. Use a medium grit disc sander with a light touch and the inside wall is pretty.
Your wiring can either be run in a channel cut into the log while you are assembling, or you can run surface wiring in conduit.
The flooring took a little more thought before I thought of pallets. Pallets are free, or close to free. I opted to use rough-cut 4x6s on 42-inch centers (pallets are 42x48 inches). I found used 3/4-inch plywood squares at several places for $7 each. They are four feet square and are used on top of pallets in the container business. That’s $14 for a sheet of plywood.
Sure, it takes a bit more cutting, but with the pallets underneath, it is structurally more sound than a traditional floor.
Insulation for the floor: Traditional insulation is fiberglass or blue-board, but the problem with both of these is water. A shed or a garage will inevitably have a water spill. Fiberglass loses most of its insulating value when it is wet. Blue-board, while much better, will still become compromised when subjected to constant water. Vapor seal helps a lot, but is never leak-free. And both of these insulation types are expensive.
The answer is sphagnum moss. I ran 16 inches of moss in my garage floor. When my bench-high thermometer reads 35, the water on the garage floor does not freeze. Moss insulates wet as well as it does dry.
It took me a day and a half to pull the moss for a 36x24-foot floor. It will take you three eight-hour days working for $30 an hour to pay for the almost 900 square feet of insulation you would need. My shed got moss insulation.
There are not many corners you can cut on the roof. I did find some used tin (wrong color, but it can easily be painted) for 50 cents a square foot. That’s about a third of the cost of metal roofing at the lumber yard. I built my own trusses from 2x6s and more of that scrap plywood. I was able to find rough cut two-bys at a local mill for 75 cents a lineal foot.
The shed turned out a little fancier than intended so I splurged on that relatively new vinyl flooring.
A couple of used thermopane windows and a good exterior door from Craigslist that only needed sanding and paint completed my project. The total cost for a 16x24-foot building you could live in was just over $6,000. Not too bad.
I could have cut the building cost in half by cutting my own logs, but I didn’t have time. I need the time to build a boat so I can take advantage of that soon-to-be open water.
John Schandelemier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.