Archive for July, 2013

Large small scale building projects

Posted in alaska, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by polarguide


Summer finally arrived after a winter cold May and Early June that transformed into the sunniest summer we have seen here in years.  I have moved over to my summer home in Gustavus Alaska, where I have begun construction on my cabin.  Its been a dream of mine for a long time to buy a piece of land and pay for all the building cost out of pocket and design and build my own modest home. After years of thinking about it, it seems a bit unbelievable that I am actually doing it.

The property I purchased is in a small village in South East Alaska called Gustavus. Nestled in the forest at the mouth of Glacier Bay National Park, Gustavus is not an island but it has no road access and is only reachable by boat or airplane. The population  hovers around three hundred people with an increase of one or two hundred more in the summer.

Building in this remote place is challenging but not without its rewards.  Having never built anything in my life the financial and geographical obstacles were intimidating, but once I saved enough money to buy some building material I just threw myself into the project and four weeks later I have made more progress than I thought would be possible. Along with the foundation of my cabin I have built confidence and no longer see the project as overwhelming.  I see the progress I’ve made and  can plan the next stage and even visualize  the completion of the project.

The first obstacle was money and the cost of buying building material.  All the building material in gustavus has to be brought in on a barge, so I have kept the size of the building small to reduce the overall amount of material needed.  Not only is there no road to the town of Gustavus but there is also no road that leads to my property.  This is the second obstacle,  all the material must be carried to the construction site through the forest, another reason the make the structure small.

So far, I have dug a foundation that I put on pier blocks.  Carrying concrete to the building site to pour a foundation was really not an option.  the floor of the building rests on 4″ / 6″ pressure treated lumber raised 12″ off the ground and knee braced with 4″/4″ pressure treated posts.  The deck will be completed with 2″/10″ joist and 3/4″ plywood. It looks like this:



I purchased the land 3 years ago with my friend Zach. Together we purchased a Yurt. we share the yurt as a communal living space while we each build our own cabins on opposite ends of the 3.25 acres of land.


gustavus-9We are completely off the grid.  No electricity, we catch rain water for drinking and we use a wood burning stove to heat the yurt.  Between building I am guiding 8 to 10 day kayak trips.  I leave tomorrow to start trip, it will be at least a week before I can carry back more lumber and start the next part of the project.  I hope to have the walls up and roof on by the end of August.