How do you say "I love you" to an animal that doesn't speak English? Well, P-nut would tell you that you give him carrots. Jake and Miles would say you rub them, play Sock with them, and feed them smelly stuff. The cats - they'd want you to sit still and be warm. But sometimes you just want to spoil your special friends. So...
I began the "dog house project" in August 2003 and had it done by the end of the month. All told it was about 4 days of work and 6 trips to Lowe's.
The foundation is made of pressure-treated 4x6'es lag-screwed together with 2x4 cross-members. I cut notches at the end to allow moisture to escape and to allow 2x4s to be slid underneath in hopes that it might be possible to use the front-end loader bucket to slide it onto a hay cart if we ever need to move it. To make sure everything would last a good long time I painted 2 coats of creosote on the foundation to keep it sealed.
Here the framing and uprights are together. There are stiffeners inserted in the studs kind of at random. The jacks for the front door and windows are partially completed but it's still rough.
Building the trusses was easy. I thought that part would be hard. Basically, you figure out the amount of overhang you want on the eaves, then the angle of the roof, and the length of the ridge-board and compute everything very carefully. Or you build a truss and see how it looks - ask your wife - then iterate. I got it right the first time then duplicated them and everything was great. The trusses have notches cut to support them where they rest on the top boards and I centered them over studs. If this was a real house it would not be to code because the trusses are too far apart. There are these little metal brackets that cost $.75 that can attach a truss to a rafter. Or you can spend all day nailing them and trying to get them straight. Your call. In this picture you can also see the jacks and framing for the front windows and door. Someone pointed out that "dogs like dark lairs; windows are not a good idea." I was crushed because I wanted to make cute little windows with curtains for them. So instead when I sheathed the interior I didn't cut the holes for the windows on the inside but cut them on the outside. Then I painted the inside black. So it looks like there are windows - which makes me happy - but it's still a dank little cave inside - which makes Miles and Jake happy.
This is the framing at the door. you can see the sheathing is on, now. The exterior is composite barn sheathing that has been primed with epoxy paint. The interior is tile-board set into a routed edge on 1" plywood that is screwed into the foundation. The structure at this point was incredibly rigid. Here you can see the way the windows were done: the back of the tileboard is painted black and not cut, but the sheathing is cut to give the appearance of a real window. The door is large enough that a human can comfortably crawl in. You can't see the roof from here but the roof is done with a double roof system that leaves the eaves open to a ridge vent. This is because the dogs are furry and can adjust better to cold than heat. So the roof is actually an active cooling system to transport the sun's heat from the roof away from the dogs. They have fur coats (and got them the ethical way so all you anti-fur activists better leave them alone).
Here you can see the sheathing attached and the roof with the vented ridge. The vent is actually a corner piece from an aluminum siding kit - a nice square-edged black piece with angled perforations that are perfect for keeping air out. The inner roof runs from the rafter just under the eaves to the center of the ceiling, so the upper roof competely floats on its own. To the right of the building you'll see some square grey things. Those are marble tiles. When we bought the farmhouse I found about 12 square feet of marble composite tiles in the basement, stacked in the corner. Just the perfect thing for a dog house! After all, we can clean it with a garden hose if they drag something really disgusting in there. Also, the cool stone might make the lair more comfortable in the summer. In the winter I will put a piece of carpet down and throw it away in the spring.
Yes, I added a front porch. I thought "what would be finer than to have a place to lurk where the rain wouldn't hit your ears?" - adding the front porch and its roof was a day-long affair but it really makes the "chateau de dogue" look special. The porch posts are turned railing segments from a human-sized porch railing. [Update, May 2005: the porch posts are gone. Apparently they were fun to chew on and have since been eaten. Pressure-treated wood should not be used on components that your dogs are likely to eat!] The porch is made of 2x4s in a rectangle with a supporting 2x4 down the center, so it cradles marble tiles that I cut with a tile saw to comprise the floor. The roofing is asphalt shingle over tar felt paper, nailed down and caulked, and I dressed the edges up with soffit-like overhangs that encourage the water to run down at an angle instead of dripping onto the porch roof. I'm happy to say that they worked perfectly. The overhang on the eaves seems about right and the eaves make a daylight-shaded lair for the dogs to hang out under during the day. We put a 20x20 foot metal pen around the house so they have a protected area to hang out in. I painted the exterior with 2 coats of red oil barn paint and did all the trim with 4 coats of killz. Then it rained for a week. This picture shows Miles exiting his new chateau de dogue the day that they took over ownership of the place.
This is the chateau de dogue after a rainy week of occupation by its redneck residents. They got mud on stuff, chewed the porch posts, and generally broke the place in properly. We got a truckload of red hardwood mulch (matches the walls!) and covered the grass in the pen so now it's not sea of mud anymore.
By the time all was said and done it was no longer "the dog house" it was the "chateau de dogue" and the resulting structure weighs about 900-lbs and is the size of your average college dorm room.