Summer cottage


Summer holidays came and went by and here we are still breathing and only with minor scars and bruces.  This year my wife and I did not spend an ordinary holiday time with sunbathing and such…

The theme for this summer was “BUILD A COTTAGE IF YOU CAN”.

How did we came to this? A good question deserving an answer,  decent answer that is. Here we go…

73930 is my familys id-number as a caravanning community in Finland and we have been spending our summers roaming around in a caravan as a family, at least until this summer. Unfortunately we cannot quite call our youngsters kids anymore. My firstborn is studying in Technical university of Tampere and even the younger one is having his matriculation exams this school year and he bought a car of his own this summer. This distiction is relevant because caravanning is quite clearly a family hobby and at this point my wife and I are required some courage to acknowledge the fact that our kids have grown out of this hobby.

With heavy heart we put our beloved Hobby caravan for sale and it found its new family from Lempäälä just before midsummer festivities. The immediate effect was, since we have been using our caravan as a extra space around the Hattula cottage for us, we found ourselves roofed with sky during the midsummer. Not quite, but almost.


As a bold move we walked into Bauhaus and we bought a do-it-yourself cottage package from Finnish Luoman Puutuote inc. The product is a “Lillevilla Precut 184”. The purchase process as itself might be worth a blogging of its own, but I’m skipping these  events to the moment when a lorry with little over one ton of boards and planks arrived at Rannikontie 376. That dated June 18, Saturday.


In my family there has been a general split of tasks and chores in this kind of things. Riitta is responsible of building stuff and my role is to provide muscle for the project. My greatest achievement in building might be getting the top of my thumb sawn off in a circular saw. That decreased my level of interest in building things.

As a preliminary chore I cleared the place for the cottage by cutting down (chainsaw) some trees on the spot and some of those threathening to fall over our cottage-to-be later. That allowed us to fit some baseplanks on the spot.


On top of tha packet purchased, we needes some foundation for our cottage. For that purpose I bought a Citroen-full of LECA –bricks and ordered a neighbour nearby (Jussi) a load of gravel suitalbe of cottage foundation.


First actual work period was during the midsummer festivities. My back was practically saved by the fact that we managed to get both of our sons to join us to celebrate midsummer and so some shovel work.

It has been a long while since I’ve done any serious gravel shoveling for the last time and it felt like ton of bricks for a while. At some point my “muscular memory” kicked in and my long hours at Kalevankangas cemetary and shoveling techniques learned those days started to pay off. We leveled the building site and the boys put the plinth-planks together.

We were promised a “lätkä” (a mechanical ground stomper) but apparently midsummer ambiance lured our “lätkä”-hauler to go stray. That was a piece of equipment we never saw on the site. Instead we had to stomp the ground ourselves by taking “millions of minuscular steps” on it to firm the ground. That stomping parade of four people must have been a hilarious sight for passers by.

As as sidetrack, we used some of that gravel to finish up another “dormant” project of ours. For midsummer festivities we, of course, needed a proper place to do our barbecue and leveling the ground under the wooden blocks didn’t hurt my shoulders any extra.


During the midsummer we actually were able to set those LECA-bricks into horizontal level and the plinth-frame on top of it without tilt. As a finishing touch, Riitta put together the first wall-frame (front) to see how it should be done in earnest.


At this point the site needed to be “bagged” for the possibility of rain. Back home for taking some rest.


At this point in calendar the pace of building was stepped up. We managed to get the boys along with us to do some nailing and hammering. My job was to red-paint the wall planks and the rest of the team put wall-frames together.

Red-painting station consisted of two garden chairs on a lawn, a couple of two-by-fours and a bunch of old newspapers to protect from spills. It was not particularly pretty sight, but quite efficient one though. One load was about dozen planks to be painted. After getting to the last of the load painted, the drying station was ready to get moved into “Ready”-pile making space for the load just finished.


Also the frame handling team did a solid days work and all the wall-frames were ready to be placed on top of the plinth and get covered with tarpaulin.


Next weekend and next sprint with project. No youth-power available this time, but never the less, progress was eminent. Rest of the wall-planks got their coat of red-paint and Riitta hammered those processed planks into wall elements. All but one wall got ready before the sound of thunder announced a forthcoming foul weather. That announcement was  a hoax this time, because that weather front passed our site without a drop, but who could have told that in advance.


Next weekend saw the fourth wall element getting ready and also the under-the-roof triangles got a coat of red-paint.

Timppa had visited this site with a building pro who stated his suspicions on our groundwork. That statement needed some processing and we reduced all the structural spans into half by adding another load of LECA-bricks to carry the mass. That brought the maximum span into less than 50 cm, which we concidered to be a safe measure. Rather safe than sorry.


Monday June 7 was the first real holiday and I invited granma and granpa to bring some consultancy on the spot. Just to help in erecting the walls.

First wall was a piece of cake.


With the second we had to admire Riittas meticulous mesuring techniques as the other wall element made a perfect corner with the first one without any forcing.


Third one required a bit more concideration, because that wall with window turned out to be a bit crooked. Well, with heavy hand and forceful bending the corner was secured with solid screws and bolts.


As an insulation I acquired some Finnfoam-boards from Hämeenlinna hardware store and those fitted like a glov between the two-by-fours of the plinth.


To nail down the floor-boards was a job for Riitta and Sakari. Balancing on a two-by-four every floor-board found its place and got hammered fast one after another. Very soon the balancing was out and rest of the work could be done from the floor already in place.


The fourth floor as we anticipated turned out to be the tricky one. That Riittas brilliant measuring and check on a check finally paid off. You see, all the pieces fitted into each other and they formed a well laid walls of our cottage.


As the tune for the last summer was, prepare for rain. This four walled beauty had to get bagged just in case.


Unfortunately our tarpaulin package was not able to resist a particularly heavy rain and the “Lady in the Sky” spilled her load to the floor. Luckily Riitta noticed this to happen and some counter measures were applied immediately. She managed to get rid of the most of the water quite instantaneously, but this mishap made us speed up the schedule a bit and tackle the top in few days earlier than planned.

We lifted the wall-triangles on top of corresponding walls and we supported those with a couple of auxiliary wooden sticks. After completing that we were able to slide main roof beams to their slots on those triangles.


After a while even the top beam found its place and to celebrate that I popped open a bottle of Sovjetskoje Igristoje sparkling wine. I bought that bottle earlier this summer in Estonia. Even our neighbour, Väyrynen, joined our celebration and perhaps carried by the spirit of that occasion, donated a can of elg-meat to us.


I also acquired a brand new tarpaulin to accompany the old one and … what? The cottage had actually a “indoors” which was properly covered.


Item next. The window and door frames were to be put together and white-painting of decorative planks for roof. Riitta did the mold-preventing coating of windows and doors and their openings. Riitta flew solo here.

Monday, July 18:th was the traditional roofing frenzy. This event got so popular that it drew an exceptionally large audience. From our standard fan-club Tuula, Pirjo and granny respected the occasion with their presence. Sysmä branch appeared also with Inka, Unto and Merja as torch bearers.


My own bodily structure does not fit into roofing business that well. So, I had more than enough time to white-paint the door and window frames in between handing over planks to the roofing team.


After well slept night, it was time to do some not-so-glamorous tasks. Cutting roofing felt into standard stripes required some keen measuring. While figuring out those roll lengths it became obvious that “Luoman” –ingredients tally had lost its count here. There were simply not enough that felt.


We fastened decorative planks to the long eaves and placed one stripe of the roofing felt to both of them. Just to make sure that this brist of felt got confirmed.


Windows got their base paint (white).


Next day Riitta nailed the felts to the roof even it left a gap of foot or so on both eaves. It would have required at least one stripe more of that felt.


We fitted one window to its wall mount and to our greatest pleasure we noted it did fit quite perfectly.


The good vibes of that success made us cut the workday in half and take everybody with to Iittala glass-village to dine in a restaurant and pay a visit to a chocolate outlet of a goodie factory.

To form the top-layer of our roof we bought some preformed plates and special top-bits. All that we bought from Bauhaus.


Day was sunny and warm which softened those roofing plates enough for them to lay nicely on their place on the roof. With whole family helping, that task was completed in no time.


Lauri and I, we mounted the door and the rest of the windows on their openings. As a concrete result of this days labor, we were finally rid of using tarpaulins to secure dry space and we were able to put everything behind a lock and key. That helped a lot our dry storage needs.


Next weekend we mounted the decorative planks around the windows and doors and I got electricity in. As a brave individuals, Riitta and I, we spent the first night in our brand new cottage. Mr. Murpy noticed our arrogance and the night in question was the coldest in the whole summer and the quicksilver dropped well below ten degrees centigrade. Somehow the morning coffee tasted specially warm and nice after a night like that.


Little by little this cottage emerged into its final attire. We do have to remember that even Tuula took part in white-painting these decorative planks.


To celebrate our caravanning hobby that lasted over a decade we nailed our Hobbys caravanning-id to the wall. At least we can concider this cottage as a successor of that caravan even it does not move around like its forebears in the wild.


At this point there were no excuse but tackle the interia. The process started with purchasing floor laminates from Rauta-Otra, some bed materials from Ikea and more Finnfoam plates from Kodin Terra to act as wall insulation.

In that spending spree we also acquired an air-compressor and nail-gun as a Riittas birthday present her mother kindly enough paid for. We thought that it would get handy both here and next year as we are bound to renovate our sauna facilities back at home.

Inner wall materials and some stuff for the beds in the cottage were purchased from Hämeenlinna Stark and our boat trailer turned out to be quite handy vehicle for such a long items.

With hints from my father we used circular saw to cut foam-plates into suitable sizes to fit into the spaces in the wall. Even we had to take the safety guide off from the saw for that operations duration, we managed without any accidents.


Chopping  boards with circular saw and shooting them to the wall with nail-gun was so increadibly fast operation that windowless backwall was finished in no time at all…


… and the front in that same sprint. Only bypasses of the window-openings and such caused some problem solving. Eg. the board coming directly on top of the window opening were compelled to get carved into so thin supports that we secured it from breaking by nailing the very next whole board to it for transport.


Next weekends theme was the building of the beds. A bed in two storeys and two on each level was designed like this. The base of the structure is a sturdy beam that is pinned between the main roof support and plinth two-by-four. The fronts of the layers were embedded into that beam and screwed into the vertical supports of the wall from the ends.


Around this structure we puzzeled out of foam fragments a layer of foam to seal the wall in isolation and after that … shoot in the boards.


At this point the top-triangles were left without isolation and panels. The cuts and incisions to the boards required a lots of thinking to come by, but as always…. the feasible solution emerged in its own due time.


Last winter at Pirkkala Community College I took a course in metal works and during that I created a address sign for Rannikontie roads lotnumber. I took that sign and hanged it to a tree with invisible fishing lines so that is seems to hang in a thin air. By placing a small candle between seven and six it creates the most astonishing sight for nightly passersby.


First weekend in September. Riitta tackled with foam-puzzles on wall-triangles and cut those weirdly shaped boards for it. She needed my help only in the installation part but as a whole it was her solo. It got finished according to plan.


Outside there were some ground shaping work or more commonly known as shovel duties. That part fell into my account more or less totally. To fortify the foundation I wheelbarrowed a madrass of gravel to enlarge the plane the cottage sits on. I distributed a couple of platic bags of old newspapers to the place the terrace is going to be built. On top of those… a stiff measure of gravel and this is how it looks out.


Next weekend was a turn for Riittas solo. She lacquered the inhouse walls and honed the red-paint stains out of the beams and bars and of course lacquered those too.

Week 37 we started early, Friday. Riitta finished the second coat of lacque inside the house. The week had been very rainy and as such also Pirjo had had plenty of time assisting in lacquering during the week.

I planed some old two-by-fours into material out of which the doorstep of our cottage got built. I also started the finishing touches of the ground shaping already on Friday.

On Saturday we drilled two large holes into the wall-triangles to put an air-valves in place. No use making a cottage as a closed bottle, there must be a controllable ventilation in place.


We prepared the lower beds to the “working order” and adjusted the upper beds into temporary storage space.


Other than that Riitta did the flooring and I spent a day with a shovel.


I bought a refrigirator from a net auction and we carried that in and also the TV-set from our caravan got installed to see if it still works. We spent our night in the new beds.


This is what we came up with, eventually. Cottage is almost finished. What is still missing? Inside: electric connector box has to get bolted to the wall and all the corner covers. TV is intended to get mounted on a wall rack and on top of the refrigerator we’re planning a tabletop with small cupboard on the other end and place for eg. laptop usage by the window.

A local “Aunt Council” took a stand on the outlooks of the cottage and insisted a trellis to be erected on the left side of the terrace and the right side requires a two potted plants. As our own initiative we’re planning to build a wooden box in front of the cottage. Box high enough to sit on and roomy enough to take our garden chairs in. Those are originally acquired for caravanning and thus foldable.


Aki Pitkäjärvi


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