As the title indicates, my wife and I are outlining our family’s move to the American Redoubt. At this point, we have the exterior of the home finished– the basement, the log walls, the gables and the roof, and also the porch. Now, it’s time for some of the added necessities to make it liveable.
(Four days were required for putting in the septic tank. This included the time to dig and also grade after it was completed.)
YouTube For All Construction Phases of This Project
Many videos on YouTube will explain how to do things and also how not to do things within just about any subject matter. I used YouTube for all of the construction phases of this project. Since I have zero prior experience in construction, I was able to complete the entire project myself, with the exception of running gas lines and the work to power trawl the basement floor.
Rented Bobcat, Permits, Inspection
I rented a Bobcat mini-backhoe for the day. It had a plow attached to the front and a long digging arm with bucket on the rear.
Check with your state/county laws for the proper filing of permits. I needed inspection on a number of things, and this septic tank was one of them.
Leach Field Trenches
Once you have been signed off on your design, proper paper worked filed, and a stamp of approval given, the leach field trenches were first to dig. The number of square feet you have for your building structure as well as the number of bedrooms determines the length of the leach field. The plastic chambers come in five-foot lengths by three-feet wide, so you want to plan accordingly. For instance, it is feasible for your leach field runs to be four-feet wide and have an extra three-feet at the back ends where they terminate.
You will need to validate with the code book in order to place the leach field runs spaced exactly a certain number of feet apart, length, junction boxes, and PVC pipe runs. All of this will be calculated from the perk test of your soil you submitted with your permit paperwork.
Do Your Own Perk Test
As a helpful note, you can do your own perk test, as we did. It is as simple as drilling three holes into the ground at three different depths, then saturating them with water, and tabulating the times it took for the water to entirely absorb.
Crane Hoisted Tank in the Hole
Once your leach field runs are dug, the septic tank hole dug according to code (leaving the top of the tank exactly two feet from the graded surface), and your trenches dug for the PVC connection from the building structure to the tank and from the tank to the junction box eventually leading to the leach field runs, you need to make way for the crane truck.
The tank was cement cast to the proper number of gallons, also a calculation based on the number of bedrooms and square footage of the building, and driven to the properly on a large flatbed truck. The rearward crane built into the truck hoisted the tank in the hole. Once twisted to the proper angle to align with the home and leach field junction box, sand was pushed under corners to have an exact level.
Pitch Needed to be Exact
Now comes the difficult part, since the pitch of the terminating PVC from the home going into the waste chamber of the septic tank needed to be exact; the styrofoam circular disk was cut out from the IFC blocks. Then drilling through eight inches of solid concrete was in order.
The four-inch diameter sewer PVC pipe was pushed through the hole to ensure proper clearance. It was rubber cemented to a sleeve hooked to the input PVC pipe to enter the tank. I stuck it into the hole of the tank but didn’t glue it until I had a confirmation of the proper reading of the pitch downward into the tank. Then it was secured. It didn’t matter how much was extending into the build, as you would simply cut that to proper length for inside during the plumbing build out.
Lay Out the PVC Piping, Then Glue
Next was is to lay out all the PVC piping from the terminating portion of the septic tank, to the junction box, to the leach fields with proper elbows and sleeves all cut to length. Give it a trial run with connecting everything without glue. Then, prime it and rubber cement it all into place. The last of the PVC is to place two six-inch PVC pipes to be placed in the top of the septic tank with plastic caps. These would protrude until ground level and are portals if the tank needed pumped.
Start the Leach Field Run
The finishing touch is to place the first leach field chamber (five-foot in length and three-foot wide) into the first position to start the leach field run. You must knockout the four-inch diameter hole either at the top or the bottom of the first end cap to securely insert the four-inch PVC pipe extending from the junction box.
Next, is to interlock all the chambers from the first one all the way to the last and snapping them into place. Then do this for all the lines in your leach field. Lastly, the end cap is needed at the end of each run without punching any holes through it.
Inspected Prior to Backfilling
Note that you must have it inspected, prior to backfilling. Backfilling is your last step.
(Setting up our propane tank required four days. This included time to dig and grade after it was completed.) The same
Same Bobcat Used For Digging Hole Larger Than the Tank
Bobcat rental was used to dig the hole for the underground septic tank. It doesn’t matter whether you use the underground or aboveground tank configuration. However, an underground configuration adds the element of discreteness, which is much wiser in a grid down approach to society. As with any hole you dig, you should have the right dimensions to give the proper clearances. The company gave them to me and with strict requirements for a hole to be dug larger than the tank for the men to work around it once it’s set into place and leveled.
Summon the Vendor with a Crane Hoisting the Tank Into the Hole
Once the clearance is dug around the tank and the two-foot deep trench from the tank to the log home, summon the vendor. Again, a large flatbed truck will enter the property with a crane hoisting the tank into the hole. Two four-by-fours will be placed into the hole to properly level and angle the tank. Next, two anodes will be affixed to the tank. This will help against corrosion of the tank. NOTE: The anodes hooked to the tank will reduce corrosion on a grand scale and increase the life of the tank underground significantly. I recommend them.
Test the Gas Lines
Once the anodes are hooked up correctly and the tank leveled having the spigot pointed towards the trench, the top of the tank gauges were hooked up. The gas lines are now running from the tank to the gauge on the outside of the log home. Now there are two gauges– one at the spigot on the tank, and the other at the home connection point. Now to test the lines, pressure was added to the tank and both gauges read correct pressure.
Fill Propane Tank 80%
Next, the second truck that followed the first truck onto the property filled the propane tank with 80% of the tanks volume. It’s less than 100% to allow for expansion and contraction. All of this is done prior to completing the job.
Lock, Secure, and Safe
The serviceman placed a lock on the underground tank, and I signed the paper work to be invoiced, and off they went. The next day I was able to backfill in over the tank and the line in the trench. You want to be sure that no boulders or large rocks get tossed into the tank hole or line trench. It needs to be secure and safe.
(Three weeks were required to complete the interior walls.) Framing interior walls was a treat, as the elements of the weather were off the radar now by being inside.
Since it’s a log home, 2x6s where used (a normal residential house uses 2x4s), which gave it extra wall strength, especially for load bearing purposes. The certified plans held the keys to placement of interior walls. However, this is your project now. I have changed some of the interior wall layouts but only if they weren’t load bearing. That’s extremely important to not affect the loadbearing capability of the structure.
Tongue and Groove Pinewood Wall Panels
After the electrical and plumbing were installed, which included gas lines (see below plumbing/electrical sections), the interior walls were nailed into place. They were 1×8 tongue and groove pinewood wall panels that were erected parallel to the floor. Since I used double D logs, meaning the curvature was on the outside and the inside of each log, a contour tool was used to cut the exact contour for the wooden paneling around the curvature of the interior logs. This was a large effort as both sides of the framing walls needed contouring from floor to ceiling in all rooms. Cuts around electrical boxes and vents were precise with a table band saw I purchased for this project thread. It is good to collect tools and keep them well maintained as they can be utilized in a grid-down approach to society as well.
Once the walls were covered, there was a thin layer of pine trim placed around the entire boarders of the interior walls. This meant crown molding was placed at the top, with molding around the floors and corners.
Felt Like Home At This Point
It really felt like a home at this point. I did leave floors undone in the great room, because due to inclement weather I used this area for the cuts, staining, and woodworking as needed until this work was accomplished.
(The kitchen required four days to finish, including design.) Sitting down with a cabinetmaker for some length of time, we all derived the cabinetry, patterns, wood type, sizes, and granite counter tops.
Fun Project For Married Couple Who are Each Other’s Best Friend
Gentlemen, this is where your wife comes into the design, as the kitchen is her baby. Of course, my wife has been instrumental in all of the large and small decisions relating to structural changes, colors, patterns, wood, stain, and adjustments/tweaking as needed. It is a fun project for a married couple whom are each other’s best friend.
The designer came over to the log home and made measurements after the desired type of cabinets, wood, stain, and features were selected. After the cabinets were installed, the floor in the kitchen and great room was completed. Now all the floors and walls were done and we had a kitchen to boot.
NOTE: It is best that the kitchen cabinets be secured into the subfloor, not secured onto freshly grouted tile flooring. Tile around the secured cabinets.
(The electrical work required two weeks.) There must be some serendipity in every project. Though I’m a CPA by trade boasting a master’s degree in accounting, I do possess a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. This is a fortuitous occurrence and really means that I can wire to electrical code, complete with all the loads calculated, wire gauges selected, and sizing of the panel box for all electrical circuits needed for the entire home, and spares for future expansion when needed.
Procurement of Electrical Supplies
Remember that there were no plans from the architect for wiring the log home. So, once the household electrical grid was planned on scratch paper, tweaked, and re-tweaked, the procurement of electrical supplies was next. The tools you already have in your arsenal up to now would be sufficient, except for a nice pair of wire strippers. You can use a razor blade (electrician’s knife), but strippers are all the better. I used Home Depot/Lowe’s for many of the electrical supplies on this project through price comparing.
As an OPSEC note, I didn’t bother with their obligatory completing of contractor paperwork/profile. There wasn’t that much of a discount on items. I also did not complete any paperwork for a credit card offer. Why would anyone be forthcoming doling out their real home address, real name, social security number, and date of birth, with so many facial recognition cameras tracking your every purchase. No one needs to know who we are and why we’re there. It must be a government “thing” to track so many people. Because I paid cash for everything and when the cashers/managers witness $1,000-$4,000 in cash being handed to them in one fell-swoop, they turn heads and immediately run over handing us an application for credit (to garner who we are).
I also made sure that I purchased the correct amount of items, through proper planning as they do require a government issued ID to return anything back to the store, including one bolt for $0.25. Go figure?
For the electrical layout, I used six 20-amp main circuits in the panel box for the bedrooms, great room, kitchen, bathroom, and multimedia room. Remember that we had already planned for an entire movie theater, library, billiards room, and workout room in the log home.
After the wire was run from the panel box through the floor joists, and up through the interior walls (without the finished wood paneling affixed), electrical plastic boxes were nailed in their proper positions for the wall sockets, light switches, and any other auxiliary outlets for the electric grid. I didn’t nail the standard electrical boxes for the lights or fans when they overhang from an interior beam. This would be done through wire molding, which is a neat product for electricians to secure wire inside of a steel casing and run to the electrical fixture. Wire molding comes in all colors including our beam stain color. But you can paint the steel outer casing if needed.
Running Wires Through Holes in Framed Walls
I spent the better part of a week just running wires through the freshly drilled holes in the framed walls. Then, I ran the circuit lines from the panel box in the crawl space all the way to the room assigned. (I used junction boxes where it was applicable, for ease.) The gauge wiring I used was 12-gauge for 20-amp circuits. However, if you have 15-amp breakers then you would use thinner 14-gauge wiring and handles less load on the line. In the aftermath, there were smaller gauge wiring needed (thicker wiring) for the air-conditioned, steam shower, and electric jet pump for the water cistern. You electricians understand that, “We do it without shorts!”
Plugs and Switches
Once the wiring was completed in all their runs, according to sizing and code, the plugs and switches were wired. This is where your wire strippers come in handy.
Remember that Black means live/hot wire, and White means neutral (bringing current back to the panel box). The bare wire, without any insulation, is the grounding wire and is used in appliances to also bring power back to the box in the case of a short. It protects you from a short circuit, so be sure you have them hooked into the panel box accordingly.
All in all, there were two-way switches, and also the three- and four-way switches, which held an extra hot/live wire the color of RED. Consult your electrician, if you don’t know how to wire these correctly. They’re easy, once you understand the switch and loads on the wires.
Upon completion of the specialty circuits, I installed the grounding rods outside the log home according to code. Since this is an off-grid structure, there was no feedback to the electrical company, much like on a regular home hookup. You must have proper grounding installed on your property to complete that feedback loop. In this case, I used two eight-foot copper rods and a number six-gauge wire to connect them both in series to the panel box. Eventually the solar panel/battery bank connection will be brought into the home through the main feed to the panel box. But for now, since that is a later step, just implement the grounding wire and neutral feedback loop to the panel box.
The only outstanding item now is the wire molding and connections to the lights/fans high in the cathedral ceilings. Also, the solar panels would need to be connected as needed. (See future section below.)
Tomorrow, I will wrap up this article series by telling you a little bit about the plumbing, the tile floor, and where we are in finishing our home.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part five of a six part entry for Round 77 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 77 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.