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Small Cabin Forum / Cabin Construction / 16x24 Cabin Plus Building Code Hell
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# Posted: 4 Jun 2019 21:05

Hi All,

New to the forum. I've been lurking for a few years here learning alot and now I'm ready to start my 16x24 cabin build. But first a little frustrated rant and in need of some direction. I had purchased two sets of plans to study because the township here in Northern PA requires following IRC building codes in order to get an occupancy permit on build completion. They require 2 sets of plans. Also learned that IRC codes are from Britain? Huh? Thought we broke free from britain rule and law in 1776? Happy Fourth, (coming up) BTW.

So after a visit to the township today with my Easy Cabin Design Plans (16x24) in hand and excitement, I learned that my goal of building an offgrid cabin, with a loft and a woodstove with propane heat as backup and to live happily ever after was a pipe dream. The plans were not good enough, not enough detail.

They said I need to have a backup heating source to both wood and propane (reason: In case I forget to put wood in the stove at 2 AM) WTH? lol, That I'd need an electric heat source as backup to propane and wood, R23 insulation with 2x6 walls a staircase, no ladder if loft is for sleeping or living, on and on and on it went (WTH? this is just a glorified shed not a manson) Is'nt propane a backup to wood? and visa-versa? They mentioned HVAC heating/ducts? I laughed and said again, its a 16x24 building with a loft and vaulted open living, the only walls will be a bathroom, won't all that stick out like a sore thumb next to rustic rough sewn beams.

The plans are for a pier foundation which will consist of 12 piers which I modified to eliminate the 6x6 post all together. So sonotube concrete direct with 2 beams across piers on each side, and and one center beam down the middle on the 24' span. I asked if I could move the outer piers and beams inwards for a 20" hangover cantalever design on the 16' length, getting rid of the center beam and digging 8 holes rather then 12, and was told not if you have a loft, the bearing walls need to sit on top of piers as well as any loft support posts. So If I have a loft, a foundation pier needs to be directly below the bearing post that carries the weight of the loft. Would really like to only dig 8 holes for the two 24 foot long beams (4 per beam).

I purchased the plans from Easy Cabin Design (16x24), which bosted their plans are to code? And that you can go to your township and score a building permit with ease with these plans. On the plans the rim joists are nailed to the sides of the 6x6 posts, with the joist spanning over the center beam and flush mounted to rim joist with hangers. Nailed to the side a no go must notch 6x6 post.

Now I am faced with drawing up my own plans, after being handed copier copies of half the 4 inch thick IRC 2015 code book, have to dig 12 piers with a center beam to have a loft. For now I am just going to go with get the building permit for the shell then tackle the rest of the demands as we move forward. I'd like the loft to be half the width of the 24' span of the cabin (12 feet). which the center beam piers would not line up to a bearing loft post centered on the loft length. Has anyone else been faced with these same IRC scenarios? What did you wind up doing to overcome it, and what are some suggestions to make this simple non complex desgin of a building easier for the rocket scientist code people to love and understand? Just want to keep it simple, stupid.

Thanks for reading,
Offgridtech in PA

# Posted: 5 Jun 2019 00:23 - Edited by: ICC

When you are in a code enforced area ya' gotta follow the book. Some places are lax on enforcement. 49 of the 50 states use the IRC, Wisconsin has their own, very similar to the IRC. I've heard the IRC called a lot of things, but I've never heard anyone call it British. The IRC is published by the International Code Council and is 100% American grown, headquartered in DC. The word "international" is sort of used like "world" is used to name baseballs World Series. There are some other countries, mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America that use the IRC. But Canada and EU have developed their own standards.

If you are building in PA you should research whether or not you can build under the Recreational Cabin Exemption. That allows shortcutting the IRC requirements but does come with a list of restrictions to use. They also do not allow conversion from something built under the exemption to being fully approved. It's all recorded in the county courthouse and can affect resale values. You must follow all other laws such as septic and local zoning. But it can simplify the cabin construction as long as you can live within the rules.

# Posted: 5 Jun 2019 07:25

The first question you need to ask the building department is do they need a stamped plan buy a engineer. I asked this before i even bought my property. If they do theres not much point in you drawing your own plans.

A floor/roof sitting on a post should ALWAYS be knotched to accempt the beam/joist. Wood sitting on wood is always better than wood hanging off hardware. You should also use threaded rod/carriage bolts to hold that post on the beam/rim joist.

When you make your beams glue and screw 1/2in plywood in between the boards, then use threaded rod/carrage bolts to hold it all together.

The last place you want to skimp is the foundation. Dig the extra holes. You also need to find out from the building dept on what the snow/wind load is so tou can properly size the wood for each component. If you need a stamped plan the engineer will do this.

Do not just get a permit for a "shed". They most likely have different codes so your shed may never be allowed to be more than a shed, this wasting time/money.

Dont get discouraged! It will all come together but i if you are only doing this on weekends i would not expect to get a shell of a building up before the snow flies.

Have you contacted the people who you got the plans from? I would be looking for a full refund or else publishing there plans for free.

# Posted: 5 Jun 2019 10:18 - Edited by: mojo

I'm currently building a 16x30. Code enforcement is pretty lax in my town....After speaking with the town building dept., I filed my permit as an "outbuilding" and sent in a basic cut sheet of my kit. The building department acknowledged that probably half the town is seasonal (or full time) "camps", and they told me "we think people should be able to do what they want with their own land". Great!

Only question they had was the foundation...and the code enforcement guy actually directed me towards a monolithic slab to avoid the issues you're having with your ended up being about the same cost, and likely a way better base for longevity.

Filing as a residential building just creates major headaches and higher cost (which you are obviously having) that are way overkill if you're just looking to have a weekend getaway.

As was pointed out, there "could" be issues with ever converting it over to a residence or selling it as a residence though.

But I look at it this actual residence was built 50 years ago, it certainly doesn't meet current codes, the seller had no issues buying it, and I had no issues with a bank in purchasing it. Half the stuff I inherited from the previous owner was DIY, and virtually all the repairs and renovations I've done since have been DIY...with no permits or inspections.

I don't really see how my cabin will be any different. I'm pretty certain I'll never see the code enforcement officer again after I complete my "barn"....assuming he even comes out to inspect it.

# Posted: 11 Jun 2019 22:15

I am also looking at the 16x24 loft plans from easy cabin designs. Can you give some feedback on the plans, I have seen mixed reviews online. Any thought on what the shell of the cabin will cost? Im trying to get a ballpark figure on what it will cost to dry in this year, and finish the rest next year.

Appreciate any insight you can provide.



# Posted: 17 Jun 2019 20:40 - Edited by: offgridtech

Mike If you do not have to follow any kind of building codes the Easy Cabin Design Plans would work fine. There are some flaws in the pier foundation part of the plan that as a carpenter I would not do it that way due to structural integrity. All beams/rim joists should sit on top of post and not be bolted or nailed to the side which their plans show you to do. Weight follows gravity so all forces downward should be stacked to support the weight of the completed building,and loads. There are to many wrong plans, YT videos and blogs doing it all wrong. So ive wasted money on 2 sets of plans from different sources the township did not approve. Best bet is to download a code book and draw your own plans for such a simple buillding so that you can modify them if the town does not approve of something. This is only doable as long as you are allowed to use self-made plans and not from an certified engineer. Ask your town for guidence, they are there to help.

I figured the shell out to be around $5 to 6K, but I scrounge lumber here and there. Also depends on roofing materials / windows of choice etc...If you are building a rec cabin (no codes to follow, just smoke and C02 detectors required) The Easy Caben Design plans will work fine, aside from making some modes on the piers and subfloor as I mentioned earlier. Best of Luck...

PS - Also their plans use 2x8 subfloor and 2x6 trusses, depending on where you are, these sizes might not fly....

# Posted: 17 Jun 2019 23:27

Thanks for the advice. Your pier suggestion makes a lot of sense. A friend is trying to have me pour a slab vs the pier and beam. He must think I am rich or something lol. My cabin would be out in the middle of nowhere, no code or building permit needed.

Would you be able to share a page from the blue prints. I know its only $50 but would hate to buy it and them not be what i am expecting. I know they posted some pictures on their website, but still a little skeptical given they are so cheap compared to other websites.


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