Homestead, Here We Come!

After years of planning and many trials and delays, we finally made the move in January 2018 from the crowded suburbs of Tampa, Florida to a peaceful corner of Tennessee’s rural Cumberland Plateau. I set out driving our moving truck while my wife, Cheri, and her kids followed in her car. Seven hundred miles later, we finally arrived at at the cabin we’d be renting for a few months while we worked on our cabin. It was quite a journey, but it had only just begun.

So Many Details

Anyone who has ever moved knows there are endless details requiring attention. We got busy dealing with the usual issues of unpacking, setting up computers, registering our vehicles, and adjusting to a new routine in an unfamiliar living space.

Turns out we arrived in the middle of one of the coldest winters Tennessee had seen in a long while, too. After living in Florida for so long, that was quite a shock to the system! And it was a completely new experience for my Florida-born step-kids. It was fun being with them as they experienced snow for the first time, though.

We didn’t have much time for building snowmen, however. We could only stay in the rental house until the end of April, so had to have our cabin move-in ready by then.

But it hadn’t even been delivered to our property yet!

The Cabin Arrives

It was the end of January before we finally received word that our building was ready for delivery.

We had hoped to have a couple dump truck loads of gravel delivered to make the driveway more solid for the delivery. Unfortunately, thought, the dump truck broke down, so they were unable to deliver the gravel before our cabin arrived. We had had so much rain – typical for winter in our area of Tennessee – and we could only hope the ground would dry up enough to get our building set up without any issues.

Fortunately we lucked out with a bright, sunny, dry day for the delivery. The delivery team – a friendly father and son duo – from CLM Enterprises was professional and efficient. They had our building set and leveled in no time.

Suddenly we were the proud and excited owners of a 12-foot by 40-foot double-lofted building with a 4-foot front porch just waiting to be transformed into our little home.

Now the real work on our homestead could begin!

Converting Our Shed to House

The Floor Plan

Once the building arrived, Cheri and I took the time to decide how the interior floor plan would work for us.  We started by measuring out a bedroom at the back of the building so that it would fit our minimal furniture. We also determined where the electrical outlets needed to go. We decided on a receptacle on each side of the bed for lamps, phone charging, etc. I also wanted to place an outlet under the window that would handle a window air conditioner in the summer and an extra heater in the winter.

Next to the bedroom would be the bathroom. It took us awhile to determine the best layout for this space. We wanted to keep the plumbing as simple as possible but still have a comfortable little room. Along with the shower, toilet, and vanity, we also wanted to fit the water heater in one corner. This, again, was for ease of plumbing but also because we figured we’d be happier with this clunky necessity out of sight from the main living space of the cabin.

The only other layout requirement was for the kitchen sink to end up on the same wall as the bathroom to, again, keep the plumbing installation as simple as possible. Cheri wanted the sink below the large window along that wall, so placement of the sink was pre-determined. Eventually we would fit the rest of the kitchen essentials around the sink.

The Framing

After buying the needed lumber, the framing began.  With only three walls to frame, this was a quick and simple process.

The Plumbing

The main water line from the water meter at the road to the cabin is about 100 feet of 3/4 inch PEX.  I covered the installation of this line in my post Installing Utilities On Our Homestead. When I dug in the freeze-proof yard hydrant, I also added a brass T and extended the PEX another 10 feet to give me enough line to get water to our cabin. From this, I ran a supply line to the back of the cabin and installed a ball valve for quick shut-off.

Eventually this line will be insulated and wrapped with heat tape to ensure we’ll have running water throughout the winter months.

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PEX is so easy to work with that it didn’t take long at all to get the water line into the house. Because our plumbing would run only along the wall of the cabin closest to the septic system outside, it was a minimal in-house run. With a few line splits for the bathroom fixtures and the kitchen sink, we’d be set. In the picture below, you can see the blue “cold water” PEX tubing waiting to be hooked up.

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Here you can see the start of the bathroom layout and plumbing configuration with the white 3/4 inch PEX line that brings the water in from outside supported by holes drilled through the studs.

In the lower right corner, you can see where I’ve installed two 3/4″ x 1/2″ Shark Bite Tees, one of which will run cold water to the bathroom sink while the other serves as a supply line to the toilet. This simple step saves us about 50 feet of tubing for other uses. 

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PEX Manifolds

In the photo to the left you can see two one-inch copper PEX manifolds, sometimes also referred to as headers. 

The 3/4 inch water service line ends at the lower manifold with the blue PEX tubing (cold water). The two long blue tubes will supply cold water to the shower and kitchen sink. The remaining two valves are capped for future use.

The flexible silver tubing in the foreground is the supply line that will run cold water into hot water heater.

The upper manifold holds the red PEX lines for hot water. These lines will draw from the water heater to provide hot water to the shower and the bathroom and kitchen sinks.

The advantage of this set-up is that the manifold is equipped with a shut-off valves for every single water line. In the event of a leak or to change out fixtures, we will be able to shut off just the affected line without turning off water to the entire cabin.

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Drain Line

One of the more involved plumbing projects was installing a 3-inch PVC drain line from the cabin to to our 1000-gallon Lowboy septic system. In order to get the proper slope for drainage, I had to remove part of the sub-flooring inside the bathroom to install the fittings and line them up with the inlet at the tank. 

Raising the cabin  and piping from underneath would have been another option, but that would have made the slope for the drain line too high and left us with exposed pipe above ground.

Instead I opted to dig a trench beneath the cabin that will both hide the pipe and create better drainage into the tank. Once I get the proper fitting, I’ll glue it and attach it to the tank. When finished, almost all of the drain line will be covered and out of sight.

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Making Progress

Within the first three weeks since our building was delivered, we have been able to get the interior framed and the PEX plumbing installed. I hope to have the plumbing finished in another week so we can get our water heater installed.

Although I didn’t go into detail about it in this post, I’ve also managed to get some electrical work done. The interior wiring for the light fixtures and outlets has been run and all the receptacles have been installed. Once we finish the plumbing, we’ll get busy on the wiring.

We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re off to a good start!