Built circa 1940, the original structure was a hen house constructed of oak and locust, with a shed roof and lap siding. As it sat on a thick concrete slab, it was well suited for renovation–no need to fuss with the foundation. But the trick was raising the roof three feet to make it habitable (for people). I called out several contractors to give me estimates. Nobody wanted to do the work. One contractor insisted I had to tear the roof off in order to make the structure higher. But the tin roof and its oak beams were in excellent shape. Fortunately, Jose, the Mexican stone worker I’d been employing every summer was also a master carpenter. “Raising the roof?” he said. “No problem.”
Raising the roof of even a small building is a big task. After you cut all ties between the roof and the structure’s frame, you’ve got to position jacks under the roof beams, then ever-so-slowly, inch by inch, raise the roof. It’s tricky because you can split the beams or crack the roof if you don’t keep mostly level throughout the process. It took several days to get the roof up and secured in its new, heightened position. After Jose finished installing the siding, the building was mine to finish. The work took nearly a year because I couldn’t do it full time. Building a “tiny house” is as complicated as building a regular house: it includes a new electrical panel, plumbing, heating, insulation, etc.
I installed reclaimed antique yellow pine for the floor; salvaged cabinets for the kitchen, salvaged tin for the ceiling, leaving the beams exposed, a custom stainless steel counter for the kitchen, with an adjacent counter made of slate I found under one of the barns. I restored all of the original windows and put three custom (salvaged) windows in the rear. The cottage is water-tight, well insulated, and offers all the comforts of home, including a full bathroom, a queen-sized bed, a blue-tooth sound system, a smart TV, and dedicated Wi-fi.
If you’re a writer interested in renting the cottage, click here for info.: Hen House Cottage Writer’s Retreat