Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Coop planning part 3, cost cutting

In day to day life it is somewhat difficult to think how soon the coop will need to be built and go into action, but there are reminders. Up where we live there is still plenty of snow actually on the ground, and seeing the dirt below it is unusual. When we come down to the valley though I am reminded that while winter isn't over for sure, spring is around the corner. Snow is gone less than 10 miles from our house, and soon it will be mud season.
Another reminder came, we got the prices for the chicks we are getting. It is great to be able to order as part of someone else's order who has experience with all of this, it also reduces our costs.

10 Welsummers - $34.30
3 Rhode Island Red - $6.93
3 Americaunas - $7.44
Shipping: $8.96

Total $57.63.

Not too shabby for getting chicks as far as I know. Especially since we are getting some unusual and thus more expensive breeds. If we'd just gone with Rhode Island Red, we'd be paying less. That said we are happy to be getting a variety.

So, given that we have a hard date they are arriving, know their cost, and are seeing signs of winter ending soon, work has been continuing on planning, though I still don't have all of the answers. If you recall from last post on this we came out to a total materials cost from Home Depot of $1,166.17 which is more than we'd really like to spend on the coop.

First things first
An easy way to cut substantial cost is to not build the storage shed attached the way it is, integrated with the structure of the main coop. If instead it is built on its own off to the side, and constructed out of pallets that will cut down on foundation costs, lumber costs, and taxes since an 8'x8' isn't taxable, a 12'x8' might be. I will have to do a design for the shed as it will be, but it's fairly easy just tacking pallets together, putting the whole thing on some cinder blocks to keep it off the ground. The nice thing about a shed is it doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to keep the supplies dry and away from critters.

Start from the ground up
One of the biggest single costs is a concrete slab coming in at 390.50 before tax when still factoring in the shed. While that is certainly the ideal, it is very expensive, time consuming, and would certainly include error as I've never done concrete work before. There are all of the videos on how to you could ever want online, but even with that I'm sure there'd be a mistake somewhere, and concrete isn't the most forgiving building material ever.

How do we reduce cost of the foundation?
* Just pour a foundation rather than a full pad, reducing our square footage fairly significantly. The advantage of this is it strong and very secure. The down side of this is we lose all of the benefits of the concrete slab without really dropping the cost all that much.

* Use stacked cinder blocks on packed earth and gravel. The advantage of this is that it is inexpensive, and not too difficult. Obviously it is less secure and more prone to needing serious maintenance over the years. It will also mean either having a dirt floor, or building a wooden floor to rest on the foundation, and coping with that or covering with linoleum.

* Forget a foundation, pack earth and build a floor out of treated wood. The advantage of this is that it is inexpensive and easy. The disadvantage is that wood in contact with the ground, even untreated wood eventually has problems with bugs, decomposition, etc.

I have decided on stacked cinder blocks, perhaps using surface bonding cement. I am up in the air between having a dirt floor, or building a floor. If I go with dirt it will cost nothing other than work. If I go with building a floor that costs a fair amount.

Treated 2x6 for the floor boards: $5.27 each total of $47.43
Plywood for the floor: $35.97 each for a total of $71.94
Linoleum floor which comes out to around $3 per square foot is around $192
That totals out to $311.34

Looks like I might as well do a slab if I go with the wooden floor. So for now, a dirt floor and hope to upgrade to a concrete slab in the future.

So if I can actually get those cinder blocks for free that cuts $390.50 off the price. If I have to buy cinder blocks, that costs $108.00 before tax if I do a good solid stacked foundation with  $14.26 for surface bonding cement. That still saves $268.24 which is significant.

Structural changes
The first thing that comes to mind is, am I over doing the structure by using 16" on center construction? The answer is, probably so.
Left is 16" on center. What that means is there is a stud every 16" measured from center of stud to center of stud. This is the standard for building good structures for human habitation. Now, this isn't a structure for human habitation, we aren't going to be hanging drywall, and people aren't going to be living in it. That said, it is strong, and it is the standard for a reason.

Right is 24" on center, as you can see it is a much more open structure. It isn't as strong, but again, this is for chickens. Our main concern with the structure is that it will stand up to winters, and heavy wind for a long time. If we shift to 24" on center we would also shift to 24" on center for the trusses which themselves take up a fair amount of wood. The question is whether it is a wise choice to do so or not.
The first thing that came up as a potential problem was the nesting box, we want to make sure that we have sufficient sized boxes for the larger hens we will have, thus wanting 16" nesting boxes. It would be a real pain in the ass to make 16" boxes in a 24" on center wall. The other thing that came to mind was that we do have heavy winds, lots of snow, and that we do want it strong enough to really discourage bears from trying to break in.

How much would we be saving by shifting to 24" on center?

2 trusses cutting out 3, 8 foot 2x4s at $2.92 each, and one 12 foot 2x4 at $4.95. That's a total savings per truss of $13.27 per truss, and 26.54 for trusses.

2 2x4s per wall for 2 walls coming to $5.84 per wall, for 3 walls totaling $17.52.

That's $44.06 in savings.

Cutting out the concrete pad saves money. Cutting out the shed saves a lot of money. Switching to 24" on center probably isn't worth the savings given the costs in longevity of life of the structure.

Without the shed costs are:

$105.12 for the walls and  $92.89 for the trusses assuming no extra is needed
Cost basically doesn't go down for this
12 15/32" 4x8 plywood $19.97 each $239.64
4 23/32" 4x8 treated plywood $35.97 each $143.88

Total without fasteners and roofing comes to $581.53

Why am I not including roofing? I'm not sure what to do with roofing since I'm in the air between asphalt shingles and metal roofing.

The other thing I'm not including is the shed which will be relatively inexpensive because most of the materials will be from pallets which are free other than the work to cram them one at a time into the back seat of the car and bring them home every day.

Looks fairly good
We can afford $600ish with taxes. Even better news for us, we already have the 8 foot 2x4s from having built the rabbit hutches, and have plenty left over. That's why I bought the whole bundle last year, buying in bulk helps.

Another thing we can do to cut costs is we can go to the Re-Store which is a Habitat for Humanity outlet store. They have plywood and all sorts of building materials for WAY less than you could find them elsewhere. I don't know how much less, but I'm hoping for a %25 - %30 cost reduction on plywood and roofing materials.

I will cover the shed in another post, but that is what it looks like we will be doing with the coop as soon as the ground thaws.

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