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Wilderness Homes
Chapter V - The Roof and the Floor


YOU should make a miter box now, so that the rafters may be all cut to a true and proper bevel for the ridge board.

Now build a staging down the center of the camp, high enough so that the rafters can be nailed easily. Then put the ridge board in place, after marking the positions for the rafters; this may be a board of the proper length of about seven-eighths or inch stuff, and slightly wider than the diameter of the beveled ends of the rafters.

The end logs may be continued to the peak, spiking them to the two rafters laid in place. With an ax, hew the ends of the logs down to the pitch.

Prepare the rafters with their bevel and put one temporarily in place while the place for the notch to fit over the top log is marked, leaving a proper length to project for the eaves. The rafter is then taken down to cut the notch, after which it is once more put in place, where, if it is found to fit properly, two spikes are driven through the rafter into the top log and the upper end is made fast with three tenpenny wire nails.

When the last rafter is put in place it is time to cut your doors and windows. Snap a chalkline and nail a piece of inch stuff to the logs as a guide to the saw. A piece of two-by-six is spiked in place perpendicularly against the ends of the logs, and about two spikes should be driven in each log. You are ready for the roof.

Begin at the bottom to board up the roof, forcing the boards as close together as possible by driving a heavy chisel or other implement into the rafter close to the board, and pulling on the handle until the joint is tight.

Nail each board well at every rafter. When you have laid the boards nearly as far up as you can conveniently reach, fit in a board which do not nail. After nailing one board above this in place, remove the loose one and put it aside where it can be readily found when again needed. A mark will make certain of getting the right one in the right place. This open space left will afford a convenient foothold while laying the next series of boards, which proceed with as before. When the last board at the peak is laid then the open spaces may be fitted, as you come down, with the boards put aside for the purpose.

There will be a small space left between the top log and the roof, which should be filled in with a round stick, fitted between the rafters and spiked in place and the roof board nailed down to this.

Your shingles will be what are known as extra 1. They are a medium grade of cedar shingle, and the best for your purpose. Shingles may also be had in spruce, fir, or pine. These are cheaper grades and useful mainly for sidewalls, etc. They warp badly, split easily with the weather, and rot quickly. They are unfitted for roofing. One thousand shingles, laid five inches to the weather, will cover one hundred and thirty square feet of surface.

The life of a shingle may be very greatly prolonged if it be soaked in one of the many preparations of creosote stain on the market before laying. This, besides, will give your roof the tone which you have decided upon.

Staining the shingles after they are in place involves considerable hard work, and while the color is achieved no particular benefit of longevity is imparted to the shingle.

The creosote mixture may be put in a bucket or other vessel and the shingles dipped for about half of their length and thrown in a loose pile to dry.

For the sake of greater warmth, the lessening of draughts and the discouragement of insects, building paper should be tacked on the roof before laying the shingles. Paper strips should always lap over about three inches.

Commence to lay these at the eaves, leaving about two or two and a half inches to project. At the sides of the roof the shingles should project about half an inch.

After the first course is down another course of shingles is to be laid directly on top of them, remembering to break the joints fairly so that no joint comes within an inch and a half or two inches of each other. Two shingle nails, driven six or seven inches from the lower edge of the shingle, will hold it firmly.

For the sake of facilitating the matter of laying shingles, nail two or three boards together that will be the length of your roof; these should be five inches wide. If you have been careful to get your first two courses of shingles on parallel with the eaves, this five-inch strip can now be put in place, its lower edge flush with the bottom of the shingles at the eaves. A few nails driven lightly through the five-inch strip at intervals will hold it in place. The next course of shingles may be quickly laid in place, breaking joints carefully as before. Now go back and nail them, then move the guide-board up for the next course, and so on to the top, sawing off the projecting ends of the shingles at the ridge. Leave a space of about eighteen inches unshingled around the chimney hole until the leading is completed.

Of course, it is a simple matter to snap a chalk line on the shingles as a guide in laying succeeding courses, should you not desire to make the guide-board, but if the roof is of any size I would not advise the chalk method.

To complete the roof, a saddle board on the ridge is necessary, and this may be made of boards nailed together like a trough, after getting the proper bevel; a far better method, and more thoroughly in keeping with your log cabin, however, is to hew out a log for the saddle board. Do not fasten this in place, however, until the leading around the chimney (spoken of in the chapter on fireplaces) has been put in place.

The building may now be calked with cotton waste, moss, or excelsior, their relative value being in the order given. Cotton waste, however, is by long odds the best, being cleaner, easier to use, and not given to swelling up and working out with the dampness and frost, as are the last two. A good calking tool may be made of any hard wood stick, shaping it somewhat like a cold chisel. It may be an inch or more in diameter, and the flat edge should be about two inches wide; with this and a mallet or hammer the waste may easily be driven firmly between the logs. With a crosscut saw trim off the projecting ends of the logs to about eight inches.

In the smaller camps it is sometimes desirable to have the rafters run the length of the cabin rather than from the eaves to the ridge. To accomplish this, the logs in the peak should be put in place, spiked, and cut to the pitch. Then the ridgepole is put in place and spiked, resting on the two opposite top logs. At intervals of about three feet down the pitch a notch is cut for the other rafters at the very end of the logs, making sure, as you lay them, that their outer edges are on a fair line with your pitch.

The roof boards in this instance are then cut to the proper length and laid across the rafters—of course, with the pitch of the roof.

While a single floor may answer the requirements, after a fashion, you should make your plans for a double floor, with at least one thickness of building paper in between; thus you are insured of warmth and dryness and freedom from mice and many strange and wandering insects. The second floor is not to be laid, however, until the masonry and other heavy work is completed; then lay your floor of "hard pine," and at once put whatever finish you may contemplate using on it.

Soft woods will not do at all for the floor. They soon show wear, and if any care has been taken to make them attractive, they will quickly part with their early promise, and no amount of work will make them right again.

Hard pine or North Carolina pine makes the best floor- for the purpose, with boards not over two and a half inches wide, hammered up close and blind-nailed. This may seem somewhat extravagant, but the economy will become quickly apparent.

The smaller camps are sometimes left unfloored, and while a camp built this way may be kept quite clean, there are many who object to bare ground. A good floor may be made of poles with the upper surface squared. This flooring is perfectly solid and good, but vermin of various sorts will soon find the cosy home provided beneath the floor, unless the cracks are kept well calked with moss, etc.

Do not permit yourself to be drawn into considering thatched roofs, etc., and bark roofs are generally a delusion and a snare. If shingles are not available, used tarred paper. This is by no means long-lived, but is tight while it lasts, is easily put on and equally easy to renew when the occasion requires. For many reasons a camp in the wilderness has a tendency to attract and hold the dampness. Therefore, avoid the causes as far as possible. A leaky roof is an abomination.

Birch bark, of course, makes the best roof of all the barks, but it has a tendency to warp and crack that requires you to be very careful in laying it. Of course, it must be peeled in the spring, and should be "shingled" on the roof carefully, else you will find that the winter snows and ice have made a sad job of your work. The little camp shown on page 114 was roofed with birch bark some seven years ago, but my memory of its warmth and dryness was sadly shattered when I revisited it last summer for the purpose of making the photographs.

Should your plans call for a "hip" roof, the construction is the same as that given for a straight roof, with this difference: the ridgeboard ends at the point of the new slant, and two rafters are run up from the corners of the building, meeting at the point in the roof. Then other rafters are fitted to these, ending at the eaves as before.

If you are wise you will purchase your windows with their finish, casings, etc., and thus have a tight and satisfactory job. They are easily set in place and the method of procedure will be at once apparent when you see them.

Steps to the porch may be constructed very simply. If you need three steps, determine the width of each tread, say ten inches. Cut two logs thirty inches long, about seven or eight inches in diameter, and face the top of the logs. Then cut two more logs the width of two steps combined, or twenty inches. After facing these, lay them on top of the first two logs, keeping the back ends of all the logs even. Now, two more logs of the width of one step, or ten inches, faced and laid as before, gives you a solid base on which to nail the treads.

Should your plans call for a sheet-iron pipe for a smokestack, care must be taken that the woodwork be kept well out of the way. Cut a circular hole in the roof at least six inches wider in diameter than the stovepipe. Have a large piece of galvanized tin with a tube three inches long set in it. This is to be fastened to the roof and then the shingles put down on it, keeping them well away from the smokestack. At the bottom the tin will lay on top of the shingle course, while the upper edge will be pushed under the shingles.

In the hunting lodges it may not be practicable to "carry in" such an arrangement. A substitute may be made from a section of stovepipe, opened at the seam . and flattened out. Mark with another section of pipe the size, and cut this out without attempting the turned-up part. When the sheet is fastened in place the pipe may be simply shoved through. This is not, of course, absolutely water-tight, but it will do.


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