Nov 052013

If you are moving to Alaska and building your own place, chances are you are going to be out in the bush.  This may not mean much to you now, but there is a lot of work that goes into building off the grid.  You can find land cheap (do not let anyone tell you that you can’t) and in fact so cheap that you may consider it in the near future.  The problem with the cheaper land in Alaska is that 9/10 its tens, if not hundreds of miles from any major road.  You can see how important building accessible roads on your land can be.  “Roads” in Alaska, for the most part would be considered trails/dirt roads down in the Lower 48.  The problem is the sheer size of the state.  Not only is Alaska ranked last (50th) in population density (it comes out to about 1.26 people per square mile which is 1/6th of next to least dense state) but half the population lives in one city (Anchorage, Alaska).  So what does this mean for the people who live in Alaska?  Well, basically it means that most people actually use planes and boats to get around.  There are 12 highways in Alaska which might sound like a lot but if you consider what they think a Highway is, Texas has over 654 thousand miles of highway (Alaska has 30,000 if total land roads and is nearly twice as large as Texas).  Alaska ranks 45th in total roads while also having the largest area out of any state in the United States.


Great movies to look at if you are interested in how the Alaska Highway was built (yes these are going to be similar to what you are going to want to build):




Problems you will run into if you don’t plan this out properly

  • Very Steep Grades (In Alaska, this will mean an inability to get up steeper inclines during the Winter.
  • Popped Tires from not moving all of the excess materials to the side
  • Slope support disappears by undercutting
  • Runoff gets concentrated and destroys the road all together
  • Water Quality gets degraded

Things that you want to take care of before you start construction

Before you start construction of your new there are a lot of items that you have to take a look at and make sure you have “dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.”  Firstly, probably the most important step of all is gathering as much information available about the land you are building on in advance.  Even if you are subcontracting out you need to do this for the contractor because they won’t normally just have that information.  Contour maps are probably going to be your greatest savior unless you are building on a plain and they are usually available at your local, county or state government offices.  You can also find them from the U.S. Geological Survey.  You will also need soil information which can be obtained from the United States Department of Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Once you have all of the information you need you need to map out the entire location.  You should have already put out markers to designate where your property starts and ends (marking your territory per say). 

Oct 292013

One of the most important steps to building a Log Cabin is clearing the land in order to build on it.  There are several tools that can be used in this process and we are going to go over each one in depth. We want you to be able to make the best possible decision for yourself:

  • Stump Cutter – Also known as a stump grinder, a stump cutter is designed to do exactly what its name says which is cut stumps.  If you are looking for stump cutters we have a few resources for you. First, here is a video we found that we feel contains the best information when looking for Stump Cutters/Stump Grinders:

  • Lopper – The word lopper may look foreign to you, but really they are just oversized pruning shears.  This guy is kind of crazy (end of the world type so maybe not) but he has a great demonstration as to what a lopper is, how to take care of it, and how its used.

  • Mattock/Pickaxe – If you have ever played MineCraft than you know what a pickaxe does. Same concept applies here. Take a look at this video if you have never used a pickaxe:

  • Heavy-Duty Rake – When you think heavy duty rake I am sure you are thinking something along the lines of a really thick rake…and your assumptions would do what they always do. These are huge machines that I would recommend renting at some point if you have a lot of semi-open land to clear. Here are a couple of videos that show them hard at work:

Nov 162012

Once you have bought your land, you are going to need to set up property boundaries and in some cases map out your property. You have to understand that outside of that boundary you have no say what happens. When you buy your land you will have a property deed. You will need this deed in order to figure out exactly where your boundaries are. This is honestly the first and most important step to the process as you should always have all of your paperwork in order.

What are Property Deeds?

The next step will be to gather as much information about your property as possible. There are a couple of places you can go to find the information you need. These places include City Hall and the County Courthouse. One of those places 9 times out of 10 will have the information you are looking for. Each City/County keeps records of every inch of the area it covers. You might also check the Tax Appraisal District Office. A lot of times they will actually have a database of information online.

Information that you are looking for:

  • Description of Your Property
  • Surveyor’s Notes
  • Road Descriptions

Determine Your Surveying Method

Metes and Bounds Method

Gathering All of Your Supplies

This is one of those obvious steps that need to be taken.  There really is not much to say about this step other than here are some things you might not think to grab that you will probably at some point need:

  • Property Deed
  • Public Records
  • GPS Unit
  • Compass
  • Plum Bob
  • Red Ribbon/Tape
  • Spikes/Nails (8 inches +)
  • Another Person

Search For Boundary Markers

Complete the Survey

Determine the Size of the Property

This can either be really easy or the exact opposite.  If you have a simple shaped property like a square or rectangle it will be a lot easier.  The more sides you have to a property, the more complicated the calculation is going to be. Here is a link to a TLC site that tells you how to determine the square footage of something:

Here are some more videos that could help you with your study of surveying. Remember that practice makes perfect and that goes for surveying too.

Jan 212012

So I would like to first state that I in no way consider myself an expert on building log cabins, homes, or anything for that matter. I am just a regular guy who is hoping to find a project worth taking on. I am very good at doing research which is why I have decided to start blogging about it. I figure if anything I may help someone out there who is thinking about doing something similar. Anyways, choosing the right kind of tree to is not as easy so I have created a guide for you which pretty much has everything you need. I have done a lot of the research for you only because I had to do it at one time for myself.

Evergreens are going to be the best wood (pines, cedars, spruces, and larches) when building a log cabin. There really is no “best” kind of wood for you to use as different woods are best for different situations. Most of the time its the most abundant wood available in your area. The most commonly used wood is the Eastern White Pine because of how much is available throughout the lower 48, it’s super easy to work with, and it looks good on a cabin. This is not as true for Alaska though. Other types of wood to consider (if available in your area):

  • Oak – Strong and heavy, has a very tight grain
  • Douglas Fir – Very strong and has a tendency to repel things such as fungal and mildew problems. Its great for structural beams/legs.
  • Sitka Spruce
  • White Spruce
  • Black Spruce

Once you have figured out what kind of wood you are going to use, you need to find trees that are about the same age, height, and thickness. I would worry most about the thickness because you can always cut the wood shorter and its not as easy to make them skinnier. You want them the same thickness because they are going to have to fit right on top of each other. You want to avoid trees with low laying limbs. The range of the size of logs that you want to be using is 8inches – 14 inches. You really do not want to go skinnier than 8 inches because not only will you have to be using twice as many logs to get the job done, you are also risking structural damage in the future buy using a small log. Once you have made your selection, you need to keep the logs about the same width as discussed previously. Allow at least 4 feet extra length so that the logs hang off the sides of the notches. You are going to want to shave the logs before using them because they will dry faster that way. What I will end up doing is probably cutting as many as possible at the very end of the summer and just leave them to dry out over winter. This way I am not as worried about the possibility of mold or mildew. Just make sure you have your wood secured pretty good.