We finished our shabin interior in the simplest possible way: open to the studs walls and plywood floors.
This blog post is part of a series of posts on our self-built shabin. You can find all of the posts here.
We decided on the simplest possible finishing for our shabin interior. We wanted the space to feel as open and light as possible in an 8-foot by 12-foot space. As well, we needed to maximize our wall space for practical storage and use.
Both the loft floor and the main floor of the shabin were clad in 3/4-inch tongue and groove sheathing plywood. We chose plywood because it was strong and affordable.
Laying flooring over top of the plywood would have added a bit of insulation and poshness, but it was not something that we considered. Plywood floors suited us just fine:
- The floor was always going to be dirty. The kids often ran around barefoot, and even when we were wearing shoes we didn’t always take them off when going into the shabin.
- Most of our time was spent outside of the shabin.
- We had lots of finishing to do in the shabin, so a plywood floor that could get a bit scratched up was perfect.
Finishing the floor
Since the main floor of the shabin was the base for the rest of the construction, it was in pretty rough shape by the time we got around to finishing it.
Here’s how we finished our plywood floors:
- Sanded and filled the holes: We were building during the pandemic construction boom and finding good one-side plywood was difficult. The construction-grade tongue and groove plywood we ended up using instead required a bit of work to finish. We started by filling any holes, then sanding everything to a relatively smooth finish.
- Cleaned the floor: The plywood floor was also extremely dirty and dusty. We swept it several times. Then carefully went through and washed the floor with soap and water. Washing didn’t get rid of all the stains and scuff marks, it was the best way to make sure we cleaned off all of the sawdust.
- Varnishing: Probably the best way to hide the scuff marks would have been to stain the floor. However, we really didn’t mind the look of the aged plywood. We also planned on building two daybeds for seating and storage. So, in the end, there wouldn’t be much floor to see. We sealed it with five coats of water-based Verathane. Sanding once before the last coat was applied. The result was a really durable and smooth finish.
My grandparents and great-aunts owned a series of cottages on a lake near the Vermont border. To me, those three cottages defined what a cottage should be. The plank siding was hammered to the studs and open to the interior of the cottages.
I was talked out of my vision of open siding by the practicalities of a wet, west-coast winter. Our shabin needed to be wrapped in tar paper to keep everything nice and dry.
However, I wanted to keep open the open studs for several reasons:
- Insulating and cladding the walls would significantly reduce the size of our space.
- Open studs would give us places to store small things, a deck of cards, a pack of matches and a candle, a favorite book.
- Open stud walls remind me of the cottages of my childhood. Rustic and simple.
Finishing the walls
Because we were building two daybeds into the back half of the shabin, we decided to put up sheathing to the height of the bridging on the walls. This would give us somewhere comfortable to lean against when sitting on the daybeds.
In hindsight, we probably should have insulated behind the sheathing, but we didn’t have any insulation on our remote property and we wanted to get the sheathing up before the end of our building season.
Here’s how we finished our interior:
- Beadboard plywood: The first thing we did was place beadboard sheathing along the bottom half of the walls that were going to be the sitting area. We used a 1/4-inch thick, plywood beadboard and ran the beads vertically. The corners and lap joints of the plywood were caulked for a seamless finish.
- Removed all nails: We’re hardly perfect, so a few nails hit the studs on an angle when we were hammering on the siding. We borrowed an angle grinder and cut off all the exposed nail tips.
- Sanding: Sanding isn’t a favorite activity… and rough 2 by 4s are anything but smooth. So we limited our sanding to any really jagged spots that might catch someone or cause a splinter.
- Painting: The whole shabin interior was painted in a bright white. Though it’s easily dirtied, white really brightened up the tiny space increasing the amount of light reflected from the windows. We like Benjamin Moore paint because it offers good coverage.
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