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Making something out of nothing

DL couple used mostly repurposed materials to construct boathouse

By Vivian (Makela) Sazama


For Richard and Daneen Bellefeuille of Detroit Lakes, repurposing items for new uses has long been near to their heart. Years ago, Richard’s father built their family cabin out of all reclaimed lumber. That was an example that has stayed with Richard.


The couple put their interest in salvaging and repurposing to use after their children purchased a lot on Big Floyd Lake in 2020.


Richard and Daneen Bellefeuille of Detroit Lakes used salvaged wood and other materials to construct this boathouse building on their lake lot. Photo by Vivian Sazama

“I grew up between Little and Big Floyd Lakes and learned to waterski on Big Floyd,” said Richard. “Our son started looking for a place for him and our younger son to buy on Big Floyd. I happened to drive by a for sale sign that had fallen over in the snow and let him know about it. We closed in June, 2020.”


The family had their work cut out for them with the purchase. “We are only the second owners,” said Daneen. “We bought it from the estate of a lady on the west coast who had inherited it and had it for over 65 years but had never seen it. Over the years it had become a sort of dumping ground. We found all kinds of rubbish, old glass bottles, an old boat trailer from the 1950s and a lot of brush, old logs and poison weeds. We all got our share in getting poison ivy!”


“This area was plotted off in the 1940s,” said Richard. “Our lot is next to what became the Big Floyd Lake landing. Sometime over the years a load of sand was dumped by the lake in an attempt to form a beach, but nothing was done with it.”


After obtaining a permit, the Bellefeuilles hired a lake cattail harvester in 2021 to create a boat landing wide enough for a dock and a small boat as was allowed by the DNR. They placed riprap to prevent erosion and created a sandy beach that the family could enjoy.


After clearing the lot they began thinking of what they wanted to build on it. Richard had friends who had removed parts of a log building that had been on a resort on Lake Lida, south of Detroit Lakes. After some time the logs were set to be burned when another friend moved them to his Quonset instead. After sitting there for several years the logs were set to be burned again when Richard was asked if he wanted them. “I said OK reluctantly,” said Richard. “It took six loads to get them over to our place.”


The Bellefeuille Brothers helping Richard with installing the upper floor walls. Contributed photo

After purchasing the lake lot the couple decided to make use of the logs and found they had enough to build a log building to be used as a boathouse/storage. With the help of Richard’s brother, Bellefeuille Construction, a professional home builder, they procured a permit and began the process. “It’s been a family effort,” said Richard. After building the cement base for the floor and allowing it to cure, his brother re-cut and set the reclaimed logs. He helped frame the floor joists for the loft using timber from an old grain building from the Hitterdal area that Richard had salvaged. “The grain building had been moved to a nearby farm about 60 years ago. It was about 50 years old at the time so the building was well over 100 years old.


At that time the lumber was rough cut with true sizes (2x4’s instead of 1-1/2x3-½’s and 2x8’s instead of 1-1/2x7-½’s now). And you got the saw marks as a bonus!”


After Richard’s brother helped out for a time Richard was on his own. He built scaffolding and put a floor on the loft and from there he could work on the upper portion of the building. Rather than using full logs for the upper part, Richard opted for a stick frame.


“It’s more of a stable build,” he said. With the help of his two sons and a ramp that he made they were able to erect the upper walls. To retain the log look he had logs split in half and placed them over the half inch plywood. “I put plywood which has wainscoting on one side to provide more of a finished look on the inside,” he said.


The Bellefeuille Brothers helping Richard with installing the upper floor walls. Contributed photo

The cross gable roof has a 12/12 pitch and allows for more headroom in the loft, said Richard. “I put the rafters up with a box up at the peak and put the sheathing on the roof. By this time it was late fall during deer hunting and beginning to snow so I hired a roofer to do the shingling,” he said.


Richard made 48 inch wide double doors to enable a riding lawn mower to drive through, and used two old wooden doors from a Lutheran church basement in Fargo that he had salvaged, as interior doors for the same doorway creating a more airtight and more finished look. “I did order the upper windows new, but the lower windows are from my sister’s remodel of her home,” said Richard. The lakeside sports a sliding patio door, providing ample light and is one of the few things purchased new.


Inside, the loft railings were salvaged from an old redwood deck at an old friend’s lot on the north side of Big Floyd Lake. “It has to be from about the 1960s,” said Richard. “They don’t make railings from redwood anymore and so I just replaned and reused them.”


“The outside lamps were from our daughter’s wedding, some of the latches and door handles were left over in our garage from some project as was the copper flashing above the windows and doors,” said Daneen. “The tin mermaid above the door was something our younger son found at a garage sale and we decided it fit perfectly and the color even matched some of the paint on the logs!”


The paving stones that form the patio were from their back yard after redoing it and while the eagle weathervane perched atop the roof was ordered online, Richard made the cupola on which it sits. “He was really happy to put that on top of the finished roof!” said Daneen.


A 1962 boat life ring named S.S. Minnow. Could it be from the Gilligan’s Island set? Photo by Vivian Sazama

The boathouse is 16x12 foot, 1 ½ story. “It’s actually more of a 1-¼ story, and has 384 square feet of floor space,” said Richard. The building isn’t finished yet. “I plan to do the chinking between the logs this fall,” he said. “Later on we’ll take the paint off the logs and stain them.”


The couple have planted greenery native to Minnesota on their lot. Richard is especially happy about several tamarack trees he planted in a low area nearer to the road, which will turn golden in the fall. “I really like the tamarack trees near where we live,” he said.


Many neighbors to their lot have stopped in, having observed the building process. “We invite them in to see the inside,” said Daneen. “We’ve even gotten four offers for the place!” That’s something they wouldn’t even consider. The repurposed logs are set to last another 100 years.


One item mounted indoors is quite a conversation starter. “I found this S.S. Minnow boat life ring at the antique/thrift store by Four Corners east of Detroit Lakes,” said Richard. It has the date 1962 on it and we can’t help but wonder if it’s from the set of Gilligan’s Island.” Since it’s from the same time frame as the popular TV show, who knows? It certainly fits in with the theme of this unique building.

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