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high desert. small house.

Days 112-114: Prepping for Panels

Before leaving work, Brian compiled a list of all the side/support projects, including –

  1. Move the rabbit fence and reinforce the barbaric fence
  2. Finish screwing the east furring strips (they were attached but had a few screws we skipped when we were trying to maximize time with our helper)
  3. Fix the uneven furring strip on the high part of the west wall
  4. Remove the temporary sistering on the top furring strip and add screws
  5. Install drip cap over door
  6. Patch insulation (we found a few rips high up while working Monday night)
  7. Tape seams between insulation sheets
  8. Seal unseated error screw on the northside roof that the crew left
  9. Vacuum up all the metal dust we created from the furring strip installation
  10. Add the second furring strip under the cross beams on the west side

We completed the fence (#1) and the drip cap (#5).  We also took some pictures of the new fence.


This is the view from the driveway entrance.  The green fence is not really sturdy but it does well as a visual barrier.  The addition of the rabbit wire on the left (with barbed wire draped on the end)  will hopefully prevent further visitors.  It doesn’t show up well in this picture but the space between the two fences has a collection of odds and ends that are difficult to move and/or unfriendly to touch.


View of fence and new fence from the house.  That big wooden thing is a railroad tie we found on the property.


View of fence from the hill.  The street on the other side of the fence is actually a PRIVATE driveway.  So the trespassers come down the street, onto our neighbor’s driveway (which is plastered with Keep Out, Private, etc signs) and then up our hill.

I spent some time organizing receipts on Monday. It's handy to have them divided by store so we can find what we need for returns. Geeze, I hadn't realized how many times we had been to the hardware stores.

I spent some time organizing receipts on Monday. It’s handy to have them divided by store so we can find what we need for returns. Geeze, I hadn’t realized how many times we had been to the hardware stores.

Burrrrr….what a chilly night.  Before getting to the paneling, we tackled a few more items on our list.  We finished the missing screws (#2), fixed the uneven furring strip (#3), removed the sistering (#4), patched the insulation (#6) and taped the two seams on the top piece of insulation (#7).  Only items pending are #8 – #10.

It was around 7:10 when we finished with the seam taping.  It took a long time, much longer than expected.  By that time, the temperature had plummeted to about 40 degrees and my hands were freezing.  Pulling the backs of the tape took forever, extending the time it took to get a piece of tape up.

The final thing we did before leaving was examine the connection points for a 4×4 panel and the two furring strips.  The top part of the house has the most angle.  When we centered the panel on the strips, we found that the distance is slightly too great and we’ll have to leave a gap at the center ridge.  We also found that the panel hit the top furring strip at too sharp an angle and won’t create a strong connection without backing.  We’ll need to add something to remove the gap.

Brian finishing the seam taping. Note the abundance of tape-back strips on the platform. That was a lot of work for cold fingers.

Brian finishing the seam taping. Note the abundance of tape-back strips on the platform. That was a lot of work for cold fingers.

I think the weather lady is a celebrity in Silver City.  Her spot airs on the radio, on four different stations, multiple times throughout the hour.  The four stations are owned by the same company and use the same lady.  Anyway….the lady and her forecast of doom were lighting up the radio all day Wednesday and Thursday.

Brian hit up the hardware store midday to brainstorm how to attach the panels at the center furring strip.  We were thinking about getting 2x4s and cutting a V-groove out – thus creating a place for angled attachment on each side.  His foray to the store was fruitful – apparently, there are wooden strips call chamfer strips that create the exact angle we need.  No need to cut 2x4s.

By the time I wrapped up shack stuff and got to the house, it was already 43 degrees.  Tooooo cold.  To make things worse, we forgot to take the dog dinner out of the freezer to thaw.  Sorry dogs; it looks like you’re going to be gnawing on meat popsicles in the cold for awhile.

We made some progress before we called it a night.  Brian devised a system for holding up panels without having a human helper.  By driving in two screws slightly below the spot where the bottom of the panel will go, he was able to rest the panel on the screws and then secure it in place.

He attached 3 panels (see featured image above) and then discovered that they bow out/down at different angles, creating unwanted gaps between the boards’ edges.  We decided that we’ll need to put in vertical 2×4’s between the furring strips so that we have a hard connection point at the edges of the panels.  This will make the walls much sturdier and provide solid attachment points for whatever.


Screw holding panel up so he could attach it.


This is the top furring strip with a triangular chamfer strip attached on one side – the chamfer strip allows us to solidly connect the panel to the furring strip.


Here is an attached panel.  The planned vertical 2×4’s will reduce the insulation’s billowing on the upper arched areas..

For a full summary of our experience with Arched Cabins, please read Arched Cabin Summary.


  1. This is great, congrats on all of your hard work! We are planning on doing something similar in about a year, but are a bit overwhelmed by the prospect. Do you have any books or resources you would suggest that you found particularly useful? Are you planning on using contractors for electrical and plumbing, and if so, have you gotten quotes yet? If you’re doing it yourself, do you know how doing work yourself on electrical and plumbing work in terms of being “to code” and getting safety approved and whatnot in case you decide to sell at some point?

    Thanks and good luck with everything!

    • Hi Jim,
      Thanks! We ran through a lot of house design iterations & floorplans using the free program ‘Sketchup’. For 2d schematics once we were underway we’ve used Adobe Illustrator.
      Two confidence inspiring books that I’d recommend are “Precision Framing” (Guertin/Arnold) and “Wiring A House” (Cauldwell). The former might seem overwhelming until you’re cutting wood but the latter is an easy and colorful read. 475 Building Supply has some good learning resources, especially if you’re going for super energy efficiency. We’ll probably be doing all the electrical and plumbing except we had a septic system installer run water/sewer lines from the street to the building pad.

      In New Mexico you have to have to study the NEC 2014 code (available online as a pdf), pass a test and have your electrical drawings reviewed by an electrical inspector. For plumbing and mechanical you just have to have your drawings reviewed for compliance. In NM, these are requirements that go along with a building permit.

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