The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Friday, January 28, 2011


019Anne and I spent some time in the house this morning before I milked the cows. She wanted to see what I got done yesterday. Her appreciation of my work is a wonderful thing. She loves the house and is excited about the progress. The children are also excited, and we’re all looking forward to living in it.

Today’s task was stair-building. I started by laying out the steps on a 14 foot 2x12. The main tool for laying out stairs is a framing square. I put one leg on the edge of the 2x12 at 7.25” and the other leg at 11” and then drew lines along the edge of the square. I repeated this eleven times. Then, it was time to cut out the triangles, creating a stringer for the stairway. I cut with my circular saw up to the point the two lines met and finished the cuts with a hand saw. I used the first stringer to mark the second one and then cut it out the same way.

I attached the top of the stringers to the landing at the top and to the floor at the bottom end. The stairs are to be 36 inches wide from the post at the bottom to the wall that will be on the other side of them. However, there will be a wall below the stairs on the living room side, and this wall is at the midpoint of the post. 005So, the stairs are actually 41.5 inches wide up to the landing. The 5.5 inches extra on the living room side isn’t really usable except for being a place to put a railing, but it leaves a full 36 inches of usable stair width.

By lunch time, I had the stringers up and secured and put on the risers. Because the rise of the stairs is 7.25 inches, a standard 2x8 was a perfect width for the risers (a 2x8 is 1.5” x 7.25”).

After lunch I worked for a couple of more hours and was able to cut and install the treads. I used 2x12s. I did have to rip about 1/4 of an inch off of each of them so that they would be the right width. 008One of the treads had to be notched to fit around the post at the bottom of the stairs. I cut the lines with my circular saw, finishing them with a hand saw.

I went ahead and installed seven 2x4s under the edge of the living room side of the stairs to frame the wall that is to be there. These help to support the 016stairs just as the wall on the other side between the stairs and the bathroom will do.

With the walls I framed yesterday and the stairs today, it’s easier to visualize some of the spaces in the house. One of these is the closet in the master bedroom. 022It will be quite nice, nicer than we previously imagined. The photo on the right looks into the closet area. There will be a hanging rod on the right side and a shorter one straight back beneath the stairs.

It’s nice to be able to get back to work on the house and see it coming together as it is.


kentuckyagrarianwannabe said...

looking good, are you heating the area while your working or toughing it out? Kentucky has been unusally cold and snowy this year but spring will soon be here. Keep up the good work and God Bless.


dp said...

No heat, Tim. It's not been too cold to work in the house the last few days. There have been several this winter which would have been a might bit too cold, but I found other things to do on those days!