Kava Hut ... Philly-Style

The design - which we playfully called the 'Kava Hut' - was inspired by a book about life in the South Pacific, and had to accommodate an existing masonry wall, as shown in the sketch. I reviewed the structural details with an engineer (danielsengineers.com) before beginning construction.

I needed to learn some special joinery and lashing techniques to build the railing, and found that the special bamboo saw that I acquired (from japanwoodworker.com) was instrumental in cutting the poles cleanly without damage to the cut edge. To make the job easier, I built a flat table with a frame set to the exact size of the railing.

Lashings of chocolate-colored natural hemp cordage hold the rail pieces together.

I traced the ends of the top and bottom rails onto mahogany verticals and cut out the shape to allow the rails to slip into the verticals. Then I screwed the verticals into the posts. The railings were finished with three coats of Sikkens Cetol marine varnish.

We used IpeClip hidden fasteners (deckwise.com) to attach the ipe decking to the framing, so we had to use a biscuit cutter to cut the needed grooves. We protected the decking until all construction was completed with ¼” plywood, and finished the ipe with natural creamed beeswax (briwaxmidwest.com).

The original plan was to use metal roofing, but we learned that the panels could not be made to conform to the arch. Instead, a local shop (futurelineautotops.com) fabricated the roof using Stamoid vinyl-coated polyester fabric, which is often used for auto and marine upholstery.

The kava hut's fabric roof is translucent, so it's shaded but not dark inside.

We created a gentle slope to the soil and a swale to carry away any ground water or rain away from the deck frame. Then we covered the soil with heavy landscaping cloth and some stone.

We tried to repurpose as many materials as possible, both for character and sustainability. Luckily we had a good source from a stockpile of a former custom builder, where we found 8”x8”x17’ cedar posts and 4”x7”x17’ beams

We located the joists just above the soil level, and let the band joist into the repurposed 8”x8” cedar posts (we held the band joist off the masonry wall with pressure treated spacers).

The arches were fabricated by a local millwork shop (taguelumber.com) from western red cedar.

When we installed the beams, we connected one of them to the top of the masonry wall with stainless steel all-thread that was epoxied through the slate capstones and into the concrete-filled top course of block. We fastened the beam on the opposite side to the posts using stainless steel all-thread and barrel nuts placed into the posts and concealed with dowels.

The arches are fastened to the beams with heavy-duty angle brackets.

I joined the rafters to the arches by first cutting an access hole through the top, and then running a self-tapping screw through the lower section and into the arches. I placed 1½” cedar stops on either side of the rafters to help hold them in place.

All the structural-grade bamboo poles we used on the project were grown in South America and acquired from Guadua Bamboo (koolbambbo.com), a Florida firm. They shipped the bamboo to us by truck.

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