Mountain Front A-Frame Renovation, Choteau, MT


Version 2


Our friend, Keegan, transformed her 1960’s seasonal cabin into a year-round mountain home this year. For a small building, it offered large challenges: mice were the only users of the cabin in recent years; the walls and roof were uninsulated; plumbing, wiring, windows, doors, siding, roofing and flooring all needed to be replaced. It all happened.

Keegan deserves credit for doing much of the work herself and most of the content in these photos is her handiwork. Our tasks were to provide some windows and build an insulated roof system.


Click on any of these for a close-up:


Work underway:



Before work:


Tile and Metal Shower

Carol’s custom walk-in shower/toilet room in progress:

Porcelain tile travels across the floor and vertically up one wall. Corrugated metal panels wrap the other three walls and sloped ceiling. Metal trim, grab bars and towel hooks are featured. The exhaust fan in the upper corner is almost completely noiseless.


Bathroom Design Tip: Choose Your Faucet First, Then Choose Your Sink

We learned this practical design tip from our plumber last week as our current bathroom project got underway: choose your faucet, then choose your sink.

Our plumbing contractor, Steve Howard, says this is because it is easier to find sinks to fit your style of faucet than the other way around.

There is so much work in designing a successful bathroom. Steve’s tip saved us time and possibly headache in the sink department. Try it on your next project.





Dave’s Exposed Fir Framing

Exposed framing can be a pleasure to live with. Not only is the wood’s color and texture beautiful, but there is something about seeing the structural parts of a house – the individual pieces working together to keep the weather off one’s head. Comfort, maybe, in the apparent strength of one’s shelter. Maybe it’s the depth in open framing and the shadows it creates. You decide. Here are a few photos of Dave’s fir sub-roof and knee braces:




Below there is a small piece of wood mortised under the beam to the left. It is also mortised into the post on the right and acts as a spline, or separate tenon:


Dave’s mudroom addition under the roof. The pet door is dedicated to Remy, yellow lab and top bird dog.




Douglas Fir Porch Header, Posts and Rafters

Back to our current project this week: Dave’s exterior renovation. Dave wanted a large covered porch open to his back yard and liked the idea of leaving the framing members exposed. So we used rough Douglas Fir for its ┬ástructural strength and aesthetic beauty when oiled.

The American Wood Council tables are an excellent resource to determine the sizing of fir beams, rafters and joists. The AMC calculator factored our spans, dead load (e.g., how much the roof weighs after it’s built), regional snow load figure and species (fir) and told us to use a 6×10 beam and 2×8 rafters.

Lee sets up a catch block before we lift up our 6×10 beam.


Tenons cut into the post tops resist outward force from the roof:


A modest overhang protects the beam ends:


Lee installs rafter blocking while Corlene applies linseed oil to the entire framework:


Next we’ll show you what it looks like with knee braces and 1×10 decking.