Teaching Project:

Davis Inlet, Labrador

North Coast of Labrador

Davis Inlet skyline


Sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee, this teaching project spanned 4 years. Davis Inlet was an Innu community of roughly 600 people located 2 hours by plane north of Happy Valley - Goose Bay. The Mushua Innu were nomadic until 1967 - year round housing consisted of a tent. Although the Inuit communities of Hopedale to the south and Nain to the north are both treeless, Davis Inlet sat on a well-tree island a short distance off a forested mainland.


Residents of Davis Inlet were expert woodworkers, able to bend willow into a unique snowshoe shape that would confound the most experienced furniture CMHC foundation wallsmaker in southern Canada. The Innu also fashioned small boats using the root and stump portion of local coniferous trees to form the side and bottom of the craft - no bending or joinery required! Rough spruce joists were shipped into the community for use in building sleds that carried enormous loads over ice, snow and rocks behind a snowmobile. 'Komatiks' were assembled with nylon monofilament fishing line (very similar to the 'string' used in weed trimmers) that held 1" boards to form a flat surface over a pair of 2x8's that were held at an angle - the bottoms were flared outward. Hard plastic runners were attached to the bottom of the 2x8's and a steel tow bar (sometimes with a spring to absorb shocks, often not) completed the work sled used for hunting, trips into the Barrens, hauling firewood, fetching groceries, and moving people. Our task of helping the residents to learn house construction was greatly simplified by their intimate knowledge of working with wood, their optimistic way of working, and the self-sufficient attitude that comes from making and fixing everything you need to survive in a harsh climate.


CMHC offered a program on the Labrador coast that was designed to increase the homeowner's involvement in their own housing and to decrease the astounding cost of providing homes built by contractors from Goose Bay or Newfoundland. CMHC would send in a full set of materials for a 24' x 36' single storey home, and the homeowner was responsible for providing labour to build the home. Advanced Design/Build provided supervision for the homeowners so that they knew how to build the home, and also provided mechanical services - wiring, plumbing, and the CMHC houseinstallation of a forced-air oil-burning furnace. A material package, including delivery by Marine Atlantic (CN's marine division operating freighter ships in Newfoundland) amounted to about $75,000. Including the cost of supervision and mechanical services, inspections, and so-on, the total cost for a 870 square foot 3 bedroom home was under $100,000. The same home built by outside contractors would have cost the community at least double that amount, and would not have offered any involvement or educational benefit to the local men and women who were perfectly capable of building for themselves.


In addition to 6 homes built under CMHC's Demonstration Program, we were also allowed to try a scribed-fit log building. Given the size and taper of the local logs, it was possible to build walls 16' in length. For log construction, the critical factor is not the overall diameter of the logs available, but rather how quickly they taper down in diameter. This determines how long a wall can be. Logs were harvested in a nearby bay using a small portable winch, then pulled by boat to the community. Two local men attended a log construction course in Nova Scotia and then returned to work on the log building in Davis Inlet. The resulting logging3 bedroom log home was greatly appreciated by the owner, who worked alongside the newly trained log fitters. Although log walls cannot attain the same insulation value as thick frame walls, the logs absorb heat and then radiate that heat back into the room when the heat source subsides. As wood stoves were the most common heating method, and fuel wood was easily obtained from a large forest fire area near the village, the log building method fit well with the way most residents lived. The log home tended to stay warm overnight until the fire was restarted the following day. Also, log homes are difficult to set on fire, which is an added benefit in a community with no firefighting equipment.log home

log notching












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