Text Box: 4th Quarter, 2011 - Time to start building a place to call home!

One of my early purchases for the airport was a 14x40’ Morton building that I bought on Craigslist.  Not long after I purchased the property I had been browsing through the Farm & Garden section, just looking for things that might be useful.  I saw this used Morton building that had previously been a construction office.  I figured that it would make a decent little office for my company when the time came, so I rushed out and purchased it.  When it was delivered, we placed it in a relatively out-of-the-way place that would also be easily accessible for an office.

When I bought it, it was reasonably outfitted with a bathroom, a small closet and three decent-sized offices - just right for my technical support and operations staff.  We went on about our chore of cleaning up the airport and didn’t even walk into it very often.

Later on that first summer, I got the idea that it would make a much better “weekend getaway” place than the travel trailer.  With a little bit of work, we could make it into a little bungalow that could easily be converted back into an office.  I took an afternoon and started gutting the little building.  I tore out the bathroom and started pulling the walls apart so I could completely reconfigure the layout.  However, more pressing chores presented themselves, so we just closed the door and left the building sitting there to be finished another day.

There it would sit for more than a year and a half.  Absolutely nothing was done to it.  In fact, I didn’t even open the door to look inside for quite a while during one period - certainly longer than six or seven months.  At 14x40 ft. in size, it was just a little too small for a little bungalow, in my opinion.  Earlier this year, we toyed with the idea of tearing out the front wall and enlarging it.  Finally, after the last fly-in of the year, I decided that it was time to get this major project started.

Unfortunately, I was VERY busy with my business during this time.  I wanted to be involved in the project but, if I wanted to get the place finished, I was going to have to contract it out.  I got Walt L. and my other friend, Jeff, to do the actual work for this project.

The first part of the project would be to get the existing Morton building stabilized on the exceedingly unstable ground.  Although Walt and I had taken some time, earlier in the year, to level the building, it became a wasted effort after the first heavy rain.  The ground was simply not stable enough.  The ground would compact differently under each pad and the building shifted so much that the front door was almost impossible to open.  A very different approach was necessary.

They started off by hooking up the auger and drilling some deep grade beams in front of and behind the building.  Using his survey equipment, Walt shot the grade beams level and got everything ready for cement.  The next day, we got a cement truck out and poured some deep pads that should stay stable no matter how much the ground shifts.  The beams were dug deep through the soft ground and into the more stable clay subsurface.

After the cement beams had dried, we bought some 18” I-beams and inserted them under the existing structure.  The I-beams now provide support for the “old portion” of the soon-to-be house and the grade beams provide stability.  There should be no more movement, no matter how much rain falls.


After the existing building had been stabilized, Walt and Jeff went to work on the new construction.  New pads had been poured not only for the new addition, but also for a front deck.  They started off by building the floor addition to the front of the existing structure.  Although it didn’t take long to build the new section floor, the unpredictable weather of late November became a problem and work was halted for a few days to wait for things to dry out a bit.


The next problem to solve would be to provide support for the “old” structure once the front wall was taken out.  Walt designed and built an ingenious support structure that would support the weight of the roof quite well.  I was able to take a couple of hours off that day, so I showed up to help and we quickly built and raised the walls for the new section.


After framing in the walls, my two contractors made quick work of setting up the new roof frame.  That, also, went quickly.  We poured concrete on November 23rd.  By November 30th, the addition had been completely framed - and that was with quite a few pauses to wait out the weather.


On December 1st, Walt went out and nailed up the rest of the roof structure.  After that, they finished tearing down the remaining parts of the old structure’s front wall.  Now, we had a new building with larger open spaces.  The new cottage should be 1040 sq. ft. with the new construction add-on section.


A few days later, Walt went out and installed the new windows that we’d purchased and re-installed some of the old windows in their new places.  After the windows were installed, he wrapped the new structure in construction plastic to protect the inside.


The next day, the guys went out and started nailing up the new siding.  The place was beginning to shape up.  It’s looking better each day!


After Christmas, we went back to work.  As I get a better picture of dimensions of the cottage (I’m very visual), I realize that it could be a very comfortable place for two people.  I had Walt move the wall of the utility room in 3 feet so that the kitchen area doesn’t stick out so far into the common room.  While I worked on my business, Walt and Jeff made quick work of the front deck with only a couple days delay because of the Texas winter weather.


I started my post-Christmas shopping and started to buy some incidentals that were on my list.  First, I purchased a 9000 watt generator with remote start.  If the power goes out for any length of time, I want to be able to stay at the cottage and not have to get a hotel room in town.  This generator should be more than sufficient to power most of the critical circuits in the place.  When we run the electrical wiring, we’ll separate the circuit runs to distribute the loads as evenly as possible.


I also ordered a generator transfer switch that will allow me to safely switch the critical circuits from the power lines onto my emergency power.  Along with that, I’ve ordered an alarm system (motion and window sensors) and a comprehensive 16 channel camera monitoring system.  The camera DVR has a 1 Terabyte drive that will record over 160 hours of video.  The whole system can be viewed remotely over the internet.  If the alarm system trips, it will call and/or text up to six people.  If I am away and the alarm sounds, I can dial in remotely and view the whole property.  The whole system will be plugged into UPS batteries, so they will work for a long time even if power is cut.  Even internet and phone access can operate independent of external needs.  I have an AT&T mifi device that will take over for emergency internet service.  The phone line is digital VOIP and is also independent of any telco.  While I may not be able to stop anyone from breaking it, they will certainly be recorded.  The whole security system is housed in a steel security box that will be next-to-impossible to access without the key.  Anyone damaging airplanes or property will find their photo and incriminating video quickly in the hands of law enforcement.


After coming back with the generator, we went back to work.  Walt and I started placing the outlet boxes everywhere I wanted an outlet.  I wanted to get started pulling the wire, so we made a quick drive into Greenville to the Lowes to pick up some additional wire.  While I was there, I found the bathroom cabinets that I wanted and purchased those.  They should be delivered in a couple of weeks.  The place is shaping up!


That pretty much wrapped up 2011.  We’ve had some great fly-ins and made a lot of progress - in spite of the horrible summer heat.  The next year will be a pivotal one.  I hope to have the cottage finished and build a permanent road into the property.  We will still be our usual hospitable selves and hope to meet a lot of new and old friends.  See ya in 2012!!