Building has started!

What a month! Since the end of ’21 we were preparing the actual building. Our initial plan to have a local builder complete the walls/roof construction fell apart due to availability and also because it’s a relatively small build (30m2) which makes it expensive to mobilise a build team.

So we decided on a DIY approach: Nina’s step-uncle Mika (who also helped us out with the demolition in June ’21), Nina, myself and Jean-Philippe, a local builder. And of course under the experienced supervision of Heikki, our rakennus-mestari.

But before we got around to the actual building, we need to clear the work-site. This past winter showed near-record snowfall in the greater Kittilä region, up to 1,5 meter! Our neighbours send us a few pictures and this showed our driveway, or even better, the complete snow-mageddon on our driveway. So we called in the snow-shovel which it turns out, needed almost 2 days to clear the driveway. It was so much it needed to be shoveled out, bucket per bucket.

After a 3-day trip across Europe (Brussels-Travemunde-Helsinki-Kallo) (Thank you @finnlines suomi) Mika and I arrived early Easter-morning in Kallo, around 3 AM. We quickly lit a fire, tended to the dogs, unloaded some essentials from the car and went to bed in the old log-cabin.

Early morning we started snow-shoveling. The whole plot and foundations were covered with more then a meter of snow, and due to intermittent rain and thawing in winter, that snow was interlaced with icy layers. And those proved to be a bit challenging. To avoid damage to the foundations and cables, we decided to clear 1-2 meter around the foundations before recalling the cavallerie (i.e. tractor with snowplow).

Last year I bought a small electric snow plow on an auction for 50,- EUR, which worked fine for the first couple of hours. It managed to throw the snow easily 6-7 meters away. But the icy layering and sheer amount of snow just were too much… So we called around and this is were Lapland shines: Lila and her husband Vesa loaned us their snowblower, a big gas-powered monster and literally within 3 hours the first area was snow free. Monday afternoon the tractor shoved the whole plot free.

Tuesday was the big day! Luckily the truck driver called with Mika and we avoided a 40 km address mixup! Just after noon the first load arrived and the packages were dropped all over the plot. In the end it took 3 delivery runs to get everything in place. We opened each package and identified the contents.

Next morning we started early and by midday the first layer of logs was in place and fixed down. It’s very important to have this right because any errors will be impossible to correct later and basically the whole structure will be off-angle.

Each log has at least one intersection with another log, and each has to be prepared with a humidity barrier tape and insulation wool strips, and an additional wool square to make sure the fit is tight.

With the longest logs being more than 9 meters long we kind of hit a snag at 1,5 meter height. They were just too heavy (>350kg) and not always located close to the wall where they were supposed to go. Via Heikki we got help: a reindeer herder with a truck/crane combo, Jouku Jolla. And he certainly kept us busy. With Nina full-time on tape/wool-applying duty, us 3 on the scaffolds laying logs down, stapling insulation and pegging, we had a hard time following him. But on the other hand we made huge progress and by the end of day 4 the walls were up. The crane guy left us just after lifting the 10 rafters for the roof already to the top.

In between, before and after all the construction work, we managed to spend some time with family and friends. The first two weeks Nina’s mom and aunt joined us, to help us out with babysitting Aamu, catering and moral support. And Aamu celebrated her second birthday! We had a fun afternoon and invited friends over for coffee, voileippakakua (traditional finnish savory sandwichcake) and mokkapalat. And just a few days after it was Vappu. On the eve of May 1st, it’s a combined celebration of the end of winter(ski season), carnival and spring. A parade through the town of Levi, followed by an international get-together with makara, sima, salads, munkki and beer, completed with the undeniably best coffee in Lapland and far beyond, by The Campfire Barista ! We joined up with friends of Mika who live in Hetta, and had a wonderful diner at Hullu Poro. Throughout this whole day Aamu went on like a champ! She was exhausted!

The next day my parents arrived for a week of babysitting, catering and moral support. And my father was itching to help out with the construction.

The next days were spent on building the base roof structure and on the first day that was announced without rain/snow and not windy, we started with the upper roof layers. Layers of felt paper, plastic, separated by air allow the roof to breath/condens and move. Actually the whole house is prepared to move. Wood shrinkage varies between 1 and 5 %, so the house will lower by itself between 4,5 and 25 cm (by own weight and snow) and the roof will shift accordingly. Therefor the roof is only fixed at the high end, and all other links are made to move. Tension on the wall corners is equalised by long rods and bolts, which need tightening every year. Thus all windows and doors have a 5% flexible joint to absorb the shrinking.

Throughout the whole time we were there the weather went in all possible directions: “Jäidenlähtökevät” or “Ice run spring” is known for irregular weather. The temperatures were up and down, and sun was out. But we had snow flurries, a -10 degree night or two, then a full day +13 and higher, some rain, windy, or calm and grey weather. The huge amount of snow and ice that covered everything when we arrived, was literally melting before our eyes. The first 2 weeks we could still walk on the lake and in the swamp, both frozen solid, but soon the top ice turned to slush and water. Our resident swan-couple had already found an open waterhole.

Once the walls were built, Nina was done with log-preparation, but the next important task was already there: painting the outside walls with a first layer of mould-protection. Without this, the wood would get infested with mould within a few weeks in the humid Lappish climate. Together with my mother the house was painted entirely in 2-3 days.

Back to building. Before we could install the final top layer of the roof, we needed to finish the roof-corners first. and this proved to be pretty complicated. A combination of planks, slats and small supports end up being very nice-looking rakes but it took a pretty long time. So when the first roof plate went up we were ready to finish the roof… But alas, the weather gods decided otherwise; the wind picked up, and rain was announced. Manoeuvring with 6 meter long thin metal sheets, on a slippery roof was impossible. So another day of smaller work (the windows needed to be cut in the walls).

Then it went fast. We got to an early start the next day, and worked until late at night, also thanks to the sun being up until 11PM! And we finished the main roof! And boy, just in time! The next day it poured down like crazy. The whole roof came in one delivery, the 6X1M roof cover with profile, coated, the side, top and bottom finishing, screws. Turned out we needed some help, and Ruukki was of great help. All the info is online!

Despite the rain Mika and I decided to get to the work-site and see how we could progress on the dog kennel. When I left in September ’21 the base frame was done, and about 1/3 of the floorplanks were in place. Now it needed a bit more work… but we managed to finish the floor and mount the fence-panels! And the dogs love it!

We made a timelapse of the actual build. And there was a live stream from our security camera. Enjoy a short video recapping 4 weeks!

As our build-holiday-camp was nearing it’s end, a few more smaller but also important works had to be completed:

  • kitchen roof. You’d expect a small 2 x 1 meter roof to be quickly done… we spent 2 days on it… complicated angles and joining
  • rodent and bird proofing the roof-joists. At several locations the rockwool needs to be protected against animals
  • windows and doors. Lacking time ourselves, they needed to be brought inside for storage until our trusty local contractor Juha could install them
  • temporary covering door and window holes

So the last days were spent cleaning up, packing, sorting through materials and tools. A quick trip to Kolari to change 2 trailer tires,, bringing back the scaffolding to Ramirent in Äkäslompolo, a few trips to the dumpsters to get rid of our trash, grocery shopping for the return trip. On our last night we were invited by Kari and Mirva for food, drinks and sauna of course! The relaxing heat from the steam, a cool beer in our hand, cooldown banter outside on the patio… the perfect way to wind down!

Sunday morning was spent cleaning our rented mökki, packing and walking the dogs. Marianne brought Harmaja, a rescue husky that was joining us south, all the way to the Netherlands. We did an introductory walk and the dogs got along very well.

Some last packing, the last look around and the traditional last picture over the lake, and we were off.

The drive back south went by so quickly. We switched drivers for 3 hours so by 10AM we arrived in Helsinki. I dropped of Mika, a quick hello to Jenni who lives next door, then a quick pass by Linda&Jens’ new place, and then on to a small national park, Sipoonkorpi. Close by the harbour, this is the best way to give the dogs some exercise and we can stretch our legs after the long drive. Due to the late check-in we had plenty of time and managed a 10k hike.

Vuosaari check-in went very fast. Due to the delay they fast-sped loading and we left the dock around 9PM. Dogs were installed on the outer deck, and were fed, walked. The midnight check just showed some weary heads, a quick walk and drink and back down for the night.

The next day was spent at sea as usual, every 4 hours the dogs came out of the trailer for about an hour, and it was just gorgeous. After every walk the spent every second sunbathing.

We arrived with only 1 hour delay in Travemunde, and after a quick customs/police check the night drive started. Eager to get home, I drove all night with only 1 stop for the dogs, and by 7AM I met up with Harmaja’s new owner. After a quick walk around, the last 100 km took us 1,5 hour, and so, just before 8AM I arrived home.

At the time of writing/publishing we’ve already planned our next trip, since we need to get a lot things still done before winter! See you next time!

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