We’re Getting a Metal Building



John wants to put up a metal building.  Yeah, I know, not very pretty.  That’s exactly what I was thinking.

metal building 3

Kind of plain, kind of boring.

Metal building 1

I think the term I used when I was trying to talk him out of it was ugly.

Yeah, yeah, it has some advantages.  We have three boats.  And we have a tractor.  And a four-wheeler. And a Gator.  (future blog post on the Gator.)  And where do these things sit?  The tractor and other vehicles are now in the garage, BUT, when we start bringing down our bins in anticipation of our move to the Crab Shack, the bins will need to go in the garage, and the vehicles will be out on the lawn.  Along with the three boats on trailers.  That’s a LOT of STUFF!  It’ll be a mess.

So yeah, I get it now.  All these things can go in the metal building (also called steel buildings) and be nice and neat, out of the way.  And if you want to know the truth, the building will be on our property, but outside our main gates, over by the wind turbine. (Also future blog post on the wind turbine.)  So we’ll really only see it when we’re driving in or out on the shared road.  That’s not too bad.  And here are what some of the nicer metal buildings look like:

metal building 2

metal building 4


I can hardly believe this one even IS a metal building!  Ours will look like the previous one, only with one big door in the front and one on each of the sides.  But it will be green and white, and the green will run along the bottom like this one has the red.  Also we’ll have two cupolas on the top and quite a few windows with shutters.  So hopefully it won’t look too commercial.

While doing some research on them, I found out there are some benefits to them; they are very durable, being both heat and cold resistant,  they are very cost-effective compared to a conventional building and there are virtually no labor costs, since it is pre-fabricated and just assembled on site.  Also, there is no waste, it is 100% recyclable.  They are also insect resistant, although I wish there was a product in general to keep insects from flying inside open doors!  But that’s another story.  And maybe the biggest benefit, you can design a metal building to fit your needs exactly.  If you need an extra large door to accommodate your boat, or a complex interior to fit farm machinery,  you can choose from a wide variety of options.  Here’s an odd one:

metal building 5

Almost everybody down on the Eastern Shore seems to have a metal building.  When you have a lot of land, you need a lot of “stuff.”  Lawn equipment, boats, trailers, horses, there are tons of reasons to have a metal building.  And I guess we’re going to have one too.

The Crab Shack


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A kind reader asked me to show you around the inside of the “Crab Shack.”  You’ve seen the outside, and I’ve mentioned that we actually were going to build a different building, one we called the “Boat House,” modeled after the lighthouses on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  But, after all the soil testing and the modifications and the collapse of the economy, we scaled it down.  John found plans online, Katrina cottage plans, and much to our builder’s delight, we still decided to build something.  We love our little “Crab Shack,” and yet, if we had it to do over again, there would be a change or two we would make.  We don’t have room for a table and chairs, so we would probably push the front of the building out maybe four more feet, giving us room for not only the table, but a dishwasher.  It would also make the “living” room a bit bigger, and with the amount of company we sometimes have, that would be a good thing.  But for the two of us, it’s wonderful.  Have a look:

This is what you see when you walk in the front door

This is what you see when you walk in the front door


When Thom, our builder, first painted the place, he called us and said we should come down and take a look at it.  He thought the color might be too dark.  So we took a trip down, looked at each other and said, “It’s perfect!”

As you first walk in, the kitchen is to your right.

As you first walk in, the kitchen is to your right.

While we were looking at tiles for the backsplash (and bathroom and fireplace) John saw these heron tiles for behind the stove and just fell in love with them.  We (as you will see) love using herons in our decorating, so these were perfect!  We had to “fit” a refrigerator into the space, we only had so much room, and we were lucky to find something that fit exactly right.  I have learned, however, that I don’t really like the freezer on the bottom!  I know it’s very popular now, and many people really like it, but I find that things get buried down at the bottom, and with “Reynauds” in my hands, rummaging around in the freezer is not my favorite thing to do.  You understand, right?  I’m going to stick with the side by side for the main house.

The "living" room is to your left when you come in the front door.

The “living” room is to your left when you come in the front door.


We had this couch, chair and coffee table from our place in Pennsylvania, but we think it goes pretty well here.  We had Thom make the TV stand to fit right in between the windows and we bought the leather chair and ottoman because it was a smaller profile and fit in that space so well.

When we first started building, we decided John would do most of the “decorating” of the Crab Shack, and I would do the house.  We both wound up making the decisions, but the Crab Shack does have more of a “fishing” cabin feel because of his choices.  It’s cute though, it fits the area.  The chair on this side is from my mother in law’s apartment, we also think it fits in well.


Looking back at front door

Looking back at front door

The stairs at the far end of the living room lead up to the loft.  Originally we thought John would use the loft as an office, plus it would also be a bedroom for guests.  We found out, however, that the reception for his phone (and therefore his internet connection through his phone) was not the best up there, and he moved his office to the room above the garage.  So now, it’s a guest room.

Heading up the stairs to the loft is the fishing wall of fame.

Heading up the stairs to the loft is the fishing wall of fame.


The loft area

The loft area


From up in the loft

From up in the loft


Looking down into living room.

Looking down into living room.



See our fun fan?  We first saw it at the Blue Point Restaurant at the Hyatt Resort in Cambridge, MD.  (If you’re ever around there, give it a try, the food is great!) It reminded us of boat propellers!  So we tracked it down, went to Dan’s Fan City in Laurel, MD and we think it fits in perfectly!

Okay, moving on, as you walk down the hallway, the first room after the kitchen on the right hand side is the bathroom.  When we first saw the room before it was actually built, when it was just studs, I couldn’t picture how everything would fit it!  I thought we’d be squished in the shower so that your arms would be touching all the walls!  But, small as it is, it’s got plenty of room!

Here's what the kitchen and bathroom looked like

Here’s what the kitchen and bathroom looked like

Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 500


Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 503


After the bathroom, again on the right hand side, is the mudroom/laundry room.  Thom did advise us to add to the original plans in the back part of the house, so we expanded it about 4 feet.  It gave us a bigger mudroom, and also a bigger bedroom.

Looking from the door in the hallway out to the back

Looking from the door in the hallway out to the back


This angle is from the back door to the door in the hallway

This angle is from the back door to the door in the hallway

And then, if you’re back in the hallway, the room on the left hand side is our bedroom.  We’re so glad Thom advised us to make it bigger.  We love waking up and being able to look out at the water. We pinch ourselves and can’t believe we were lucky enough to find and buy this property.

Looking in from the door in the hall

Looking in from the door in the hall


We recently purchased the artwork that is over the bed.  Again, herons.

We recently purchased the artwork that is over the bed. Again, herons.


Here's a closer look at the artwork.  Looks like it was just made for us!

Here’s a closer look at the artwork. Looks like it was just made for us!

Heron lamps too!

Heron lamps too!


Looking back to the hallway

Looking back to the hallway


Back deck and patio area.

Back deck and patio area.

Thank you for joining our tour of the inside of the Crab Shack.  It was the first time we built anything, and we never realized how many decisions and choices we’d have to make.  It gave us a good preview of what we’ll be doing when we start building the house next year.  I’ve read if a couple can survive building a house together, they can survive anything.  We say, bring it on!


Crab Shack and garage from the water.

Crab Shack and garage from the water.

Enjoy the sunset!

Little Choptank Nov 13, 14 2010 067

Building Advice and Tips



After John read my blog on Monday, he thought it would be useful to have some specifics about the garage and Crab Shack, and about building in general.  So I’d like to share some of our experiences with the hope that they’ll help you make more informed decisions.  We were total novices.  We’ve remodeled.  We’ve put on additions.  But we had never taken on a job of this magnitude.  So in other words, we knew nothing.  And we made mistakes.  Maybe this will help you avoid them.

Before we even began doing anything, as mentioned in a previous post, we had to take down two buildings.  We found out, through a contractor, that our local Fire Department would consider burning them down, and use the experience as a learning session for new recruits. We gave these wonderful people a donation, and it was a win-win experience. I’m not sure if they do this in other areas, but if this is at all a possibility for you, it’s truly a great way to go.

Little Choptank Dec.07 004

We began to “design our retirement” with the stand-alone garage.  I like to say we started the building process backwards, doing the “out” buildings first, and leaving the house (which we won’t start probably for another year) till last.  But we had our reasons.  (We needed a place to put the “stuff” from a PA vacation home that we sold, and we knew we wanted this garage for the tractor, and the other vehicles right away.)  For this building John found plans online that he liked, and we had them tweaked a bit by a draftsperson.  (Also known as a Residential Designer.)  After we decided that Thom Huntington (of Huntington Construction) would be our builder, he drew up a contract (Time & Materials) and he built it.  It was a very smooth operation and there were no surprises and no cost over-runs.  As for the structure of the building, we went with 2×6 lumber for strength, regular roll insulation, a large propane heater, an on-demand hot water heater (more on this another time) and because we are building on the water, we needed to raise the garage up, which meant building up the soil all around the building to allow for a gradual incline – expensive, but a necessity for a place where hurricanes and flooding storms are likely.

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The second, and more “exciting” building was (going to be) the Boathouse. (Blog post here.)  This was where we made many of our mistakes.  We had a dream, a vague vision, and needed to have someone draw up this vision for us.  Of course, we again used Michael, the Residential Designer we used on the garage.  Now, because of our inexperience, the costs of these plans (in total) were sky high.  We kept changing things, and having the plans re-drawn.  Many, many times.  (At great expense.)  Then, in one instance, Michael was doing “due diligence” making sure the ground would support our Boat House, and had our soil tested.  I can now tell you what our soil looks like for 16 feet below sea level. It’s interesting, but we weren’t expecting that charge.  And, as already mentioned, this all happened during the collapse of the economy.  So, $20,000 later, rather than scrap all of our plans, we scrapped the building, and bought plans online from Lowe’s at a cost of $500!  (The Crab Shack.)  I’ll speak more about house plans another time, but here’s another tip:  if you can find plans you like online or in a book, use them.  Believe me, you will be saving yourself a ton of money.  Even if you just use them as a starting point.  Or cut out parts from different plans. You’ll thank me later.



For the structure of the Crab Shack, we again used 2×6’s, but went with the spray insulation.  And I can definitively say this type of insulation is excellent. The building cools down instantly when we need the air conditioning, and heats up and stays warm in the winter when we need the heat.  For both buildings we decided on the strongest metal roof available, which has many, many benefits.  It’s great against the elements, being rated to withstand over 200 mph winds; it saves in home heating and cooling energy costs;  there are energy tax credit incentives available; it’s good for the environment , (considered a “green” solution) and comes with either a 30 or 50 year warranty – depending on the roof you buy.  All this, and of course it has that “coastal” look.   In the “con” list, the only thing I could say is that it costs more initially to put in than a traditional asphalt roof.  But it pays for itself in other ways.  I was worried that it would be noisy, especially during a rain storm, but I can tell you honestly, it’s absolutely not.

We also built it up high, knowing the area could possibly flood if there was a bad storm, (like Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy) and built it with flow through vents in the foundation that allows the water to literally flow through and prevent any structural damage. (You can see them in the photo.)

We used vinyl siding on the Crab Shack, for one reason, to keep the costs down, but next time – for the house – we’ll go with Fiber Cement.  It will be stronger and better looking.  We’ve had a few pieces of the siding come down in both storms, and although not a huge deal, we had to have someone repair it.  We went with Anderson windows that are strong enough to withstand hurricanes and have shutters inside just in case anything should come flying through.  On the house, however, we’ll look into getting something installed on the outside of the windows also, either workable shutters, or hurricane screens.  The decks are made of composite material; we want our semi and real retirement to be as low maintenance as possible.

I hope some of these ideas will help you, and if you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear them!


Little Choptank 2013 May 20-22 115wtmk


The Story of the Boathouse


Garage, check.  Dock, check.  Boat, check.   Now, finally, we decided to build a building where we could actually stay, and sleep and make a meal.  (And use the bathroom –  just saying.)   Just like our first boat ride, we were excited to think we could actually wake up in the morning and be on our own property. Not in a hotel.  With the noise.   Still, we weren’t ready for the MAIN house.  So what do we come up with?  A “boat” house.   No, not a REAL boathouse.

Little Choptank August 10-12 2008 078wtmk

Little Choptank August 10-12 2008 080wtmk

That’s a real boathouse.

We just decided to call it that because we wanted to.  We would store our boats under it, so it made some kind of sense to us.  And we just liked saying it was a boathouse.   It actually was going to resemble a lighthouse if you want to be technical.  (And I know you do.) The kind of lighthouse we’ve seen around the Chesapeake area.  Like this…..

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Here’s what our plans looked like…….


Up in the northeast, we have the tall kind of lighthouses, here’s one of our favorites from Montauk, Long Island…..

Montauk May 20, 09 Anniversary trip 028wtmk

So, anyway, there we were, all happy, planning to build a boathouse.  We hired a draftsman to draw it up, we got the permits, we tested the soil, and we had Thom our builder give us a quote.  And then….. the economy collapsed.  And that, combined with a quote that would have built the actual house, convinced us to give up that dream and move on to another…..  the Crab Shack!  Yep, we’ll build a little Crab Shack that would eventually be a guest house after the main house is built (which we won’t even start for a year or two).  Brilliant!  So, John found plans online, they were from the “Katrina” collection of small homes, designed for the people of New Orleans, and that’s what we decided to build.  After months and months of redoing the plans, adding this, taking away that, having all sorts of tests to make sure the ground could support the house, we changed everything!  Thom was still happy to have the work, and we were happy to begin!

And then it snowed.

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But Thom and his men persevered…..

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And we were on our way!