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Of Modified A-frames and Avatars

March 5, 2010

Well … let’s see; what to choose, what to choose.  I think I will blog about the gambrel roofed A-frame or the modified A-frame cabin

Four years ago I was surfing the inter-web for A-frame houses ( It must of been another mid February).  The subject had a retro appeal for me – I remember they were a hot new design when I was a kid in the late sixties and anyone with a hammer, saw and a couple missing fingers where building them.  They were simple to build and triangles are a much stronger geometric shape than squares and rectangles and A-frames kind of look cool in a mod. rustic way.  I eventually came across this design from the Mother Earth website .

Jack Wade design himself a “gambrel roofed” A-frame.  Adding the gambrel roof modification opened up the interior with more space and it had a very interesting shape to it. In the article Jack explained that his was a design that you “prefabricate” the trusses in your home shop in the city ( town village, hamlet or outpost) – drive them out to your country lot and then you and a couple buds could slap most of it up in a weekend ( make sure you bring a couple cases of brew or the buds don’t show – trust me on this).   Well, I was sold. I bought the plans – I don’t remember the price but it wasn’t expensive and the plans were amazingly detailed ( not blueprints but what do you want for under $50 bucks).   I studied the plans for weeks and then put then on the shelf for a couple years.  A year and a half ago I read an article at a” Tiny House” blog site which featured a small A-frame home of the more traditional design, which made me think -” the modified A-frame with a gambrel roof would work much better in a smaller design if you wish to maximize space”. I wrote a small post on this idea but no one seemed to know what the heck a grambrel roofed A-frame was -” either its an A-frame or a house with a gambrel roof”. I quickly found a site that would let me create an avatar and I chose the image of the aqua -blue A-frame at the top of this post. It was a very tiny image but you could make it out if you knew what you were looking for.  I spent the next month beavering on different, small modified A-frame cabins and made posts with the same A-frame avatar which was fine with me. Months later – when I would make posts to others sites – say I was critiquing a Scottish Ale made with gooseberries – that goofy A-frame avatar would be posted with what I had written.  For those who know me the next development will come as no surprise – I forgot where I had created the avatar – I just excepted this odd avatar image as my online identity.  So  a year and a half later when I would be cutting up some over aged, angry fan boy who was mercilessly berating   kids who where posting their positive opinions on Stargate Universe as I am apt to do,  my tiny A-frame avatar would be there.  The aging angry fan boy was already…well, angry – my post would make him angrier and the avatar would make him confused which certainly  makes for good entertainment.   Anyway I found the place where I had made the avatar this week and I changed it to the Double Nickels album cover – it sort of looks like the back of my head

So here is some of my designs. I wanted to have window dormers on each side that angle out and away from the slope of the A-frame walls. I seen this design at drive-in movie theaters and it made sense to me in that there would be less chance of the windows leaking and it visually created more space. Counter tops and desk areas will be made to fit between the truss members, to make optimal use of these window spaces ( I modified the truss member design – a stronger laminated design so the members could be placed at 4′ spacings instead of the original 2′ spacings – making the space between the members more useable). There are insulated window shutters over these windows that can be  shut in winter to save on heating  or you shut one side or the other, depending on which side the sun is on – or they can be completely locked up if  the cabin was going to be left vacated for awhile.  The front deck folds up over the main entry and can be locked and I have corrugated fiberglass panel overhangs in the front as well to have  the deck area sheltered from the rain and the house protected from the high summer sun from heating the cabin up.

Recently I have been thinking of reworking this design with a 20′ x 20′ floor plan – I will also finish up the interior so do stay tune.

So what did we learn here – well I learnt to remember the addresses of the places where I create things like avatars – it’s hard enough for a dyslexic to write and post  coherent thoughts on the last episode of “LOST” after you finished a bottle of Inniskillin  Pinot Noir , the last thing you need is an avatar that will confuse matters further.



13 Comments leave one →
  1. Randy permalink
    March 15, 2010 9:29 pm

    think about using one long upright with 2 (one each side)supporting uprights for double joist
    (1 on 4ft center will never meet any code) then install 2nd floor deck (2×6 T&G)
    then one upright on each side again to hold up 2 rafters with collar ty between them!
    2×6 for uprightd and 2×10 for joists should meet IBC!!!
    I’ve got the priginal plans around here spmewhere!

    Good Luck

  2. Randy permalink
    March 15, 2010 9:43 pm

    BTW; check out 1stday Cottage to get a better understanding what I’m talking about! I had 1st-day do me a custom design that my family has enjoyed for the last 8 years now!
    I also have 30 years in as a union carpenter so have a good understanding how things “SHOULD” be done

    Take Care

  3. March 15, 2010 10:54 pm

    Thank you for this Randy

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in the A-frame design – not getting a lot of hit in comparison to the tiny travel trailers ( my blog was translated into Russian lately how odd is that) but I didn’t start this blog to be popular – I want some honest feedback on my ideas.
    I’ve never built a house – I’ve done dry walling – I’ve built and wired a steel framed shop/warehouse – I’ve built many sets for small films, theater and television commercials and I now build steel grain bins and structures and I farm ( I’m sure everyone who’s read my blog would of guess the farmer bit).
    I usually get my “wacky” ideas at work and I draw them up at night. My biggest interest is in D.I.Y. homes and my ideas in this field are the most “sketchy” when it comes to code.
    Your comments are exactly what I am looking for here and again I thank you for it.
    I hope to get back at the A-frame designs soon – they are strong , cost efficient and pretty to look ( at least I think so) – but I want to mull the ideas over first – so I can draw something that could be built to code and with help from builders like you, I think it will be a good design. I also want to say that I am not looking for a “payout” here, for now I am just happy working on my wacky sketch-up designs.
    Bye for now.

  4. March 16, 2010 3:30 pm

    Stumbled across this in my rambling research on sustainable housing. I am absolutely in love with your one level gambrel A-frame. Ridiculously. It’s a great solution to a structural problem, but moreover I adore the retro zeitgeist it maintains. I would certainly love to see your interpretation of the interior, but I can imagine my own with what you’ve given. Wonderful.

    So, perhaps not as popular as your transportable teardrop, but fully appreciated by (at least) one reader.


  5. March 16, 2010 4:28 pm

    Thank you for this Jenny

    It sounds like you research sustainable housing in much the same way I do – hey this article on tiny houses has a picture of a super cool, retro, geodesic dome with a living roof – I’m going to spend the next two months researching it ( well….. I don’t think that I’m going to spend the next two months researching it but that’s what happens). I am so glad that the A-frame is getting good, critical comments from people like you and Randy – it’s the reason I started this blog – I have little bits of knowledge on a broad range of topics and I would like to sort through my ideas and try to attach ” values” to them. A-frames have always be that intriguing iconic image for me – brings back memories of my family trip in a Large teardrop trailer to Montreal and Expo 67 ( yes that does date me a bit). A-frames doted the lush green, hilly landscape on that trip and will always remind me of living “with” a wilderness setting and not in opposition to it.
    This blog is new – I wasn’t expecting so many viewers here , so soon. I was hoping to work out and develop different writing styles. In ” Of A-Frames and Avatars” I didn’t want to approach the topic as a straight up – “this is what I did and here are the facts” type of thing – I was hoping to write a somewhat honest account of certain thought processes behind the developing this design. I look back at it now and I find it funny that my little A-frame avatar sort-of bugged me but not enough to do anything about it for a year and a half – it quickly became “other peoples problems”. Maybe some were put off by this – but this post is slowly growing a “viewer ship” – I will certainly be mulling this idea over in the next few months and when I finally sit down to draw it I hope to make it a “nearly” finished thing and I will most definitely be documenting this. I am a big fan of Wassily Kandinsky – to many his paintings are a tangled mess of lines, shapes and colours – to me I can see the emotion, the power, the relenting – the drama in the lines and colours and shapes – I can understand how people can become emotionally invested in something like an image of a small A-frame cabin and I try my best to be true to it .
    Bye for now.

  6. Tony permalink
    May 7, 2010 11:48 pm

    I thought that maybe you’d be interested in my Modified A-Frame experience. My wife and I live in the Portland OR area in a modified A-frame which was a kit home built about 1976. The kit came from Canada and was sold locally by Parr Lumber. The kit was called a Serendipity and it came in several different configurations. All the way from a simple one level small cabin to large two story homes with one section running long ways and another section perpendicular. The green A-frame that you show looks very much like a Serendipity. I have found several of these kits homes in the Portland area.

    Our home is one of the large ones with the two intersecting sections. Its approximately 20oo sq feet. The siding is 1 1/2 rough hewn hemlock and the outside roofing is cedar shingles.

    All of these homes are 30-40 years old and most need re-modeled. I would like to interest a local architect in remodeling our home and applying his expertise to others with the same type of home.

    One of the problems of an A-frame home is the lack of vertical wall space. Closet space is compromised and of course hanging pictures is difficult. Windows are also difficult to place and install. We enjoy our home but would like to make some modifications to make it a bit more livable.

    I hope that anyone with experience with Modified A-frames joins this conversation.

  7. April 8, 2011 8:08 am

    I’ve always wondered where the design for the a-frame gambrel home I’ve lived in these past nine years came from… how exciting to see this post! Mine is three stories, but there’s no question that it’s from Jack Wade’s original design featured in Mother Earth News. The date sure is right, given the house was built in the late eighties.

    Having been a resident for a while, I can report that there are pros AND cons regarding this design. Slanted walls get old to deal with after the novelty wears off, but the open concept is something we still love. The abundance of windows and sunlight is both a blessing and a curse, depending on where the sun happens to be in the sky. And closet space has been lacking, but we’ve found ways around that issue.

    A photo of the house is here:

    Thanks for this post – really, really enjoyed it!

    • September 25, 2011 7:53 pm

      Love your the 3 story Gambrel A frame house. I was thinking of doing something similar with two 20 foot containers for the first floor.

  8. January 3, 2012 4:52 am

    Just to let you know that is now back online with plenty of updated content. Hoping to blog about this page in the near future.

  9. MikeS. permalink
    February 22, 2015 9:54 pm

    Love this post, love the designs and love me some Minutemen. I was humming Corona the whole time I read! Any chance you still have Jack Wades plans? I’ve been hunting high and low trying to find them. Hope all is well~

    • February 23, 2015 8:40 am

      Thanks Mike
      I haven’t worked on this blog in years – I was hoping to start more conversations with my 3D models – I got a lot of people using my ideas which is good but I was hoping that people would share the process with me. If I Google terms like tiny A-frame homes it will pull up a lot of images of my 3D models – and I see people using terms like “Saw-Tooth Salt-box” and that great.
      The cool new thing is Grain Bin Homes and I’ve been making many models of these homes – I’ve worked constructing bins and driers for years.
      Cool that you know the Minutemen – my favourite band – they where the very spirit of DIY.

  10. Elizabeth permalink
    March 31, 2015 12:06 pm

    I lived in a modified A frame for five years and loved it! I’d be there still if not for the lot it was on. Here is a photo of mine I would build another one today if I could only find similar plans!!

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