Well time flies….Wendy and I are now coming into our second year of living full time at the camp. We turned our cottage into a place where we could live year round regardless of the cold winter or hot summers and everything in between. And I have to tell ya, living at the cottage is everything you think it might be and more.
Started As A Camp
You have to remember, we started with a “camp” or perhaps a “cottage” at best. Yes it had running hot and cold water, full bathroom etc but it was for all intents and purposes still a seasonal home. We got our water from a water pump and hose to the lake, we heated with firewood in a wood stove. There were no extras. There was also no basement so that made it a bit of a chore keeping the water pipes from freezing given that they were under there.
So we had to do some stuff. As lucrative as blogging may appear, it actually is a rough way to earn a living. It is a tough way to earn enough for a coffee let alone major renovations or a new house.
With a limited budget we set out to bring the place up to being able to keep us warm, dry and with hot and cold running water all year round, plus with the other modern amenities such as television and internet. Remember as nice as a cottage is in the heart of summer, it takes on a whole different atmosphere during an overnight snowstorm.
First thing on the agenda was a new septic system. Our existing system was still working but nearing the end of it’s time. I figured it would never stand the added strain of year round use by two or more persons, including showers and now, a clothes washing machine as well.
So we contacted the local septic system authorities and a local contractor and got a new system installed, new septic tank and a new septic field etc. An expensive venture, especially close to a lake, but one that will pay back in a big way should we ever decide to sell.
Next on the to do list was how to get water. The lake is OK, but it freezes in winter and the quality of the water is changeable, and a bit sandy anyway. So we discussed it and decided a drilled well was the way to go. A dug well was not necessarily less expensive and had more chance of being contaminated or going dry.
So we had a local well drilling company come in and 135 feet down we hit a good supply of potable water that so far has tested good with no issues. That meant a trench had to be dug from the well head to the cottage and a water line and inline heater installed to bring the water into the cottage.
It also involved a new Vertical Pressure Well Tank in the cottage, some electrical wiring and a new Submersible Deep Well Pump installed in the well. Had the water tested and so far no issues. Drinkable water and lots of it.
Electrical Upgrade and Heat Pump
With the septic installed and the well drilled the next thing on the agenda was heat and upgraded electrical panel. We found a good electrical contractor who came in and upgraded to a 200 amp electric service, installed electric baseboard heat in all the rooms and wired for a heat pump.
That done we purchased a mini-split heat pump which provides heat in the winter and lovely air conditioning in summer. Between that and the wood stove, so far we have not had to use any of our electric baseboard heat. The heat pump works well for us. This is a small building with a fairly open concept.
Difficult to say if it is cheaper to operate than anything else as we have no other winters to compare with it. However, it did seem economical last year and I even got lazy later in the winter and burned much less firewood than I could have, but the heat pump was keeping us warm.
Prior to our move here the water pipes were essentially open to the elements, running underneath the cottage from one end (the kitchen) to the back (the bathroom). Naturally as soon as the temperatures dropped below freezing the water in the pipes would freeze and sometimes split. So without a foundation having water pipes underneath was not an option.
A buddy of mine gave me a hand and together we removed all the waterpipe that was outside and switched it over to PEX which we ran inside the cottage. No we did not tear out any walls. Instead we ran it along the bottom of an outside walls, behind kitchen cupboards etc. For the most part, although not hidden, the pipes are out of the way behind furniture, beds etc.
By running them inside where we have heat, we removed any chance of them freezing.
Along the way we also made some much needed upgrades to our bathroom, including new walls, new toilet, new tub/shower surround, new vanity and bathroom basin, and a new exterior window.
In addition to the above systems we upgraded or moved or replaced, we also installed three new energy efficient windows and a new steel exterior door and steel storm door for our kitchen door. The new windows and doors reduce a lot of cold drafts. Here is one of the openings for a new window ready to be installed.
Our cottage is built on cement posts. So it is open beneath the building, about 2 or 3 feet of space beneath that is basically open to the wind and cold.
It should be insulated, however, in the meantime using mobile home technology I “skirted” the perimeter of the building with plywood and put heavy plastic on the ground beneath the cottage as a moisture barrier. The plywood skirting has vents on all sides for air circulation.
And finally, for looks instead of anything else, I glued fist sized stones to the plywood and then grouted them with cement to make it look like a stone foundation. In my opinion it looks quite authentic. Here is a picture of the one end.
There ya go, a brief (or not so brief) synopsis of what we did to upgrade the cottage to be able to live here year round. It worked for us, no complaints.
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