Gerald Wiens is logging countless hours building a cabin in western Chase County.
As someone who specializes in home remodeling and repair work, Wiens has built a number of homes and is no stranger to construction. He’s already built five log homes—this is his sixth—including his own home in Marion.
To work on the cabin, Wiens has enlisted the help of his grandson, Jack Schneider, plus classmates Zachary Stuchlik and Corbin Wheeler. All three are seniors at Marion.
“We put this off until the summer because I knew I was going to have a couple guys to help me here,” Wiens said. “None of them are that experienced, so they’re kind of learning as we go.”
A Marion native, Wiens is building his cabin about three or four miles across the Marion County line into Chase County near Middle Creek. Wife Jan’s grandfather purchased 170 acres there in the 1950s.
The land was handed down first to Jan’s mother, then to Jan and her sister in the early 1990s.
“(Jan’s) sister has never been here,” Wiens said. “Had no interest in the property. She wanted to sell it a long, long time ago, and my wife just has a connection with the Flint Hills and didn’t want to it turn loose.”
Eventually, Wiens said, it was necessary to sell a portion of the property—132 acres of mostly farm ground across the creek. They kept 40 acres, about 20 of which are still being farmed.
Wiens is building his cabin near where an abandoned house once stood. Although the house has since burned, the original storm shelter remains, which Wiens said he plans to keep.
Building the cabin
Before work could begin, Wiens first cleared trees from the site and removed the foundation of the old house.
He laid the cabin’s foundation last spring.
Wiens paid for electricity to be run to the lot and drilled a well. He still needs to run water to the cabin and put in a septic tank and a propane tank, he said.
The cabin itself is 24 feet by 32 feet, with a main level and a loft. The main level will feature a fireplace made with stone from a building Wiens tore down on the property, as well as a dining area, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and utility room. Stairs will lead to an open loft. Wiens said the cabin will accommodate up to six people.
The cabin is made of eastern white pine, which Wiens bought from a log home company in eastern Tennessee. The Appalachian-style logs feature dovetail joints at the corners. Wiens purchased the logs with pre-cut corners but said he and his crew cut all the lengths.
The cabin walls will be nine courses high, just over 8 feet tall. Every 3 feet, 15-inch screws secure one layer to the next, he said.
The loft will feature a short knee wall about 3 or 4 feet high.
Wiens said he will use the stick-framing method to create a cathedral ceiling topped with a metal roof. From floor to ceiling peak will be 17 or 18 feet.
A 6-foot-wide porch will wrap around the entire structure, he said.
“It’s a project,” Wiens said. “It’s not a huge house, but it’s a pretty big project.”
Over a three-week span, Wiens, Schneider, Stuchlik and Wheeler have put in the flooring system and built the log walls.
Wiens’ biggest priority at the moment, he said, is getting the roof on to keep rain off the subfloor.
“Hopefully in two or three weeks, we’ll have the roof up and have it dried in,” Wiens said. “The doors and windows may not be in, but at least if it rains, the water’s going to run off and not go down onto (the subfloor).”
Wiens said the cabin may not be completed until next summer.
“At some point, we’ll slow down on this and I’ll need to go back and catch up on some other jobs I’ve fallen behind on,” he said. “The pay’s not very good out here because I’m working for myself.”
When he’s not working on his cabin, Wiens keeps busy doing home remodeling and repair work. He said it’s been at least five years since he built a new house.
“I’m just getting to that age where I’m not that interested in building,” he said. “I keep plenty busy just doing remodeling and repair work, and repairs for people.”
Wiens said he has enjoyed working on the cabin in a quiet location. He has watched as the younger guys learn the skills of the trade.
“None of them have really built a house before, let alone a log cabin,” Wiens said. “They’re taking a little bit of pride in it, which is good for them.”
Wiens said his purpose in building the cabin is twofold. Not only will it be a place of retreat for him and his family, he also hopes to rent it out to make up some of the income lost in the sale of the farm ground.
“I have a lot of people I know in Great Plains Nature Photographers, Kansas Ornithological Society, Nature Conservancy (and) the Audubon Society,” he said. “Those are all people that would enjoy coming out here. Hopefully, we’ll rent it out and generate a little bit of the income we lost from the crops.”