Let’s raise the roof, people!

2 Jul

Getting a functional roof over tiny house was one of the steps I was quite nervous about with tiny house. The plans were for an a-frame roof, but I wasn’t going to follow those. When I was making a decision as to whether or not I wanted to build a tiny house, Myron and I stayed in one overnight in Olympia to try it out and see what we thought. One of the very few things that bothered me was the shape of the roof. It looked nice, but I move around so much in my sleep that I kept hitting myself on the sides and it became pretty annoying. A gambrel roof, or barn-shaped roof, seemed much more space efficient. Even though they are more complicated to construct, I think the extra sleeping and storage room will be well worth the effort.

A friend helped Myron and I redesign the rafters and then I got to work! Nervousness aside, I was also very excited about the prospect of getting a roof over our heads…and to hopefully soon get rid of the plastic coverings that require constant fussing. In these pictures you can get a good idea of what it looked like at that point. It looked warm, pretty and glowy, but you can see how bunchy and awkward everything was.

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Most of the trouble came with the windstorms that would tear the plastic top off periodically. It was ready to be done stressing out about the wind patterns at tiny house and get my roof on!

Here is the first rafter piece that I cut!

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Wahoo! And very soon after, I had a whole rafter’s wood all ready for assembly!

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After the rafter-cutting fiesta, I spent some time making angle supports from plywood sheathing to attach to the connection points and keep the rafters from shifting.

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Myron and I timed it so that he would be in town to give me a hand with attaching the rafters to the top plate. Definitely a two-person job!

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Then came a slew of brackets EVERYWHERE I COULD FIT THEM. Because of the limited space and weird angles, this part was a little time consuming- but what a fabulously strong roof!

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Next came the sheathing. I am not thrilled about sheathing, but I surprised myself with how much I was capable of doing on my own. I actually didn’t think i’d be able to pull it off by myself, but I went and tried anyway. Using my legs as braces and my body weight pulling back, I was able to hold the plywoods in place while I hammered them into place. They were heavy. It took just about all the strength I had, but I was able to pull off about all but 2 pieces! I had a superhero woman moment! I felt like this kid looks like she feels. It was a moment of glory.

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This plywood also brought some amusement to me as I was busy wrestling with the sheathing. It looks like it’s covered in a million little owls! Now I know that somewhere above my head are a bunch of these little guys all sandwiched somewhere between my shakes and my interior walls. Oh, the joy of knowing little secrets about your little house!

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Top plate and lofts

20 May

The top plate of any structure is made from a long piece of 2×4 wood that spans the widths and lengths of the walls. It sits on top of the wall framing and helps to add rigidity and evenness. Though my walls at this point were nailed and screwed together with super long 5-inch screws, the top plate bridging the connection points between the walls made things feel just that much more secure. Since the rafters of my roof would also sit on the top plate, it was of the utmost importance to get the walls up to an even height throughout the whole thing. No lumpy roofs for me, please! The top plate didn’t really look like much when it was done, but it was a time-consuming part of the process for me. One reason for this was the crazy uneven lumpiness of my walls. Somehow, some walls ended up higher and others lower. I’m not really sure how it happened in the first place, but I used strips of plywood to remedy the problem. The good news is that there was a bout of cold weather when I was working on all this, so I got to stay inside and warmer-ish and still get things done. I was very surprised how greenhousey it felt inside, and I was grateful because it was in the teens and twenties and I think my fingers would not have lasted long outside. I had the top covered in a large translucent poly sheet that let in enough light to warm the air. That combined with my body heat after a day’s work added up to a difference of about ten or fifteen degrees, enough to melt the frost on the inside of tiny house’s plastic roof and drip all over my head.

One thing that was exciting about my top plate area was that I got to make a giant sandwich. I got to climb around on the framing as I nailed the strips down. It was pretty fun!

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To give you an idea of what my sandwich looks like, here’s a picture of the layers that I drew to help me make sense of what I was doing. IMG_5750

It’s alot of layers, right? Did you notice the t&g? Installing it was one of the most fun parts of the build so far! I chose knotty cedar tongue and groove boards (t&g) for my lofts. The majority of the t&g-ing was done in the sleeping loft above the porch area. That loft is big! I also put another little loft on the other end (above my reading nook) for storage. It does seem a little strange to put in a loft before a roof is even on, but this way it adds even more to rigidity and sits very securely where I want it. I did anticipate some leaks since the roof was yet to be built, so that was my most decisive factor in choosing cedar for the lofts. Cedar is anti fungal, so it is often used for outdoor projects. It is also known for being a strong wood when compared to its weight. Less weight on the trailer, yay 🙂 It also smells SO GOOD! Cedar is so amazing that one Egyptian embalming process involved injecting cedar oil into body cavities to aid in preservation. Who would’ve thought!

I think i’ve found my favorite wood.

Putting in the lofts was a very satisfying endeavor. It was less heavy lifting and more delicate work than i’d gotten used to, which was very welcome (as much as I do like having big tiny house-building muscles, haha). It was also a break from building hogging up all my brain power. Installation was meditative and repetitive and my mind was allowed to wander a bit. Ahhhhhhh

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Myron was there on one of is visits to help me get started!

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The lofts were the first parts of the tiny house build that would be visible in the end product. It was such a refreshing change from building the purely functional parts. Look how exquisite!

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I just love love love how beautifully this turned out. Do you see the square opening in the loft? That’s where the stairs up to the loft will be. They will be steep stairs, but they will be stairs, and there will be storage under them. With these lofts in, I am starting to think about the interior space, since I now actually have a feel for what the space will be like in the end. As I do the rest of the roof and exterior, I am busy envisioning all the exciting things that will be inside! How exciting!!

Until next time!

 

Tyvek and furring strips

1 May

On the days right after the walls were raised, I went along tiny house’s corners and fastened them with lots of ring shank nails and wrapped the extra lengths of metal structural strapping around the corners. After nailing those down, I took some long 5″ screws and fastened the corners together. The shorter nails I had used before were already long enough to go through both sides, but the screws just added a little more assurance that things would stay together. I did some extra 2×2 framing around the wheel wells to give the high part of the well framing a place to rest on and push against. IMG_5889 Here’s what the area around the wheel well ended up looking like. Unfortunately, this was when water was sneaking in over the wheel well when it rained, but I added a few layers of silicone beads to block it.

Then it was time to wrap the whole thing in Tyvek!

The Tyvek wrapping took a good few days. It was tricky to do the the whole thing with one person, but thanks to my climbing skills, I was able to get up the walls and reach over the top edge to secure the upper portions. It turned out crinkly, but very functional! After sealing the edges and holes in the material with Tyvek tape, I began attaching some furring strips vertically to the outside. The furring strips were the beginnings of my rain screen wall. A rain screen wall is an air space between the wall framing and the exterior siding. It ensures that the plywood sheathing and framing can breathe and moisture can escape instead of sitting on the framing and damaging the wood. Tyvek plays a very interesting  role in this because it allows moisture to pass through one way but not the opposite. In other words, it can allow moisture to leave the building through the Tyvek, but not come in through the Tyvek. It’s like magic!

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My siding will rest on top of the furring strips. I couldn’t put all of my rain screen wall in right away because I need to put the windows in first. The windows have a nail fin around their edges that need to go under the furring strips, so those parts will have to wait.

The next step after Tyvek allowed me to hang out inside of tiny house for a couple of weeks. Next post will be about how I did my top plate and lofts!

Au revoir tiny house friends!

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Special strengtheners for a tiny house

18 Apr

There are so many things about tiny house that have had to be special since it will be on the road. Extra studs on the wall framing, structural strapping, stronger tempered windows, hold downs and a parallam wall. And when in doubt, add extra brackets. Tiny house is going to be so over-engineered and i’m okay with that. Better safe than falling apart on the highway, right?

The 3/4″ all threaded rods welded onto the trailer frame are one of the key connection points between tiny house and the trailer. There are 8 of them. Two in back on either side, two in front, and two on each side of the wheel well framing. They go up through the base plate of the wall framing and poke up next to studs. I used HDU4 and HDU5 hold downs to attach these rods securely to the framing of tiny house. Here is what they look like (before securing): IMG_5770

They can be a struggle to attach by hand with wrenches. I tried a few times and was able to get a couple of the fasteners into the stud from the hold down, but it was very labor intensive, time consuming and completely killed my hand and arm muscles. To those of you about to do the same task, I would definitely get a ratchet. I was almost laughing when I used one for the first time on this job and felt how much easier it was. I felt so silly that I hadn’t used one from the start, but now I know. Ratchets all the way.

Another unique thing I want to mention is the parallam wall which will be the front of my kitchen. That wall is a heavy load-bearing wall so the top, bottom and one of the sides is framed with a parallam instead of a 2×4. Parallams are kind of like wood. It’s like super wood. They are made of pieces of wood glued together really well. They are thick, dense, heavy and really really strong. Here is a picture of me with a parallam for my kitchen wall: Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 2.23.13 PM

For extra strength we added an all threaded rod under the kitchen window that spanned horizontally across the wall. Myron helped me with framing this wall on one of his visits. I was thankful for this help since I could scarcely lift one side of a parallam off the ground on my own. The larger parallams after all needed to be lifted, cut, rotated, drilled and attached. The drilling of the hole for the threaded rod to go through was also tricky so we were able to do that part together too.

Here is a picture of me on top of the parallam wall.

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This little house will never fly apart!

Tiny house progress trackers

8 Apr

Throughout all of the build, I’ve had some watchers to help keep track of my progress on tiny house.

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These are some of the pigs that like to sleep behind tiny house in the planter box holding hops. That spot seems like one of the only dry, allowable places to be when it decides to rain (they get in trouble when they hang out on the porch). You can always tell when the pigs are there because they snore like people. On a couple of days it’s been the soundtrack to my entire day. They also like to take tarps off of things. I’ve come to my site on several occasions to find my woodpile, which I left covered and bungeed down the day before, exposed to the elements. I’m not sure if they’re bored or just like the crinkly sound of my tarp, but they’re smart and determined enough to spend some time removing it. Who knows? Maybe they knew I was coming and decided to help me prepare for wood cutting that day.

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Chickens also like the hop planter boxes. I found this surprise in there yesterday, I felt like I was in an easter egg hunt!

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This is my friend Titan. He’s a goat. His family likes to call him a doat because he thinks he’s a dog. He got over an illness earlier this year. Titan had tetanus and almost didn’t make it. He spent a long time in the farmhouse on the kitchen floor. When he got better, the herd rejected him so he became a pet. He’s a funny, affectionate little guy. He surveys progress by circling tiny house and watching me from whichever angle has the most delicious grasses.

My most vigilant watchers are the goat herd. When one of the goats decides to stare at me, they usually all decide to follow suit. Sometimes for hours. They crack me up so much. I can only imagine what they must be thinking. They’ve got loads of personality and like to pay attention to what’s going on around them.

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Wall-raising!

21 Mar

When you all hear the words wall-raising, maybe you think of something like this:

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 An old school barn raising involved lots of community members and physical work by the people that would own or live in the structures. It’s funny to think about how for most of human history, people did build their own homes. Most people now are so surprised when I tell them that i’m building my own house. But really, it wasn’t until so very recently that this was anything unusual at all. I like this idea. I like the idea of knowing the innards of the thing you live in, and loving your space all the more because you built it, slowly, nail by nail. I think that once tiny house it built I will love it so much more than if I just hired someone to build it for me. I am so so excited what tiny house turns out to be!

I had looked forward to my wall raising day for months. I was so ready and excited for tiny house to start looking more house-like! It can be pretty discouraging working for months on something and feeling like your work makes so little difference, but the day when the walls goes up can feel proud, nerve-wracking, exciting and dramatic all at once. Will everything be square enough? Will the walls even fit together? These are the questions that swarmed my head on the days leading up to the wall-raising. There were some snags, which I expected, but everything ended up fine. There was quite a bit of hacking apart to do around the wheel wells, but after some very rough sawing, things fell into place. One of the things i’ve learned on this build is to be more accepting of the unexpected. Things rarely have gone as planned, especially in the beginning when I was learning how to use basic tools. It’s my first time doing this, and no matter how well I think i’ve thought through everything, there is usually something else that has slipped my mind.

I was so thankful to have a number of family members and friends who came up to help on tiny house’s special day. It was exciting to have everyone there so I could share tiny house with them. My mom took so many photos documenting the whole thing, so here they are to share with you all!

Our first order of business was to undo my wall sandwich on the trailer bed. We lifted each wall off the trailer- sometimes a six-person job- and then laid them on the ground.

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Then it was time to put the walls upright!

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All the walls are up!

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It was a rainy day. We needed to get a covering on tiny house quickly so that things could start drying out.

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The covering had to be propped up in the middle so that the rain could run off. It was high up! My brother lifted me so that I could reach it.

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Taaaa daaaa! A beautiful covering! (And also me trying to mop up some of the mud and puddles of water)

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Cleaning up for the day- Myron passes me extension cord through window. Yes! I have upright window spaces now!

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Aaaaand within a day, the subfloor was already visibly drier!

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Rain… and spiders!

20 Mar

The one thing that has continued to plague me about tiny house has been the rain. A good rain shelter, a rain shelter that covers everything and that is financially doable has been a never-ending learning challenge at the tiny house build site. Myron and I tried several approaches until settling on one that sort of worked. Our first attempt was to fill some large buckets with quick-setting concrete and stick some poles in the middle of the mixture. We had one to hold up each corner and then threw a tarp over the whole thing. It didn’t work. The weight of the huge tarp pulled everything inwards into a collapsed mess. I brought in two more buckets. It still wasn’t strong enough.

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What it looked like before I set the last 2×2 in concrete

Then I tried bracing it across with small wooden beams that were light enough for me to lift up and would prevent the tarp from pulling the buckets inward. It was a messy, flimsy thing. Myron visited a few weeks later and helped me make a proper structure. We took down all of the old structure except for the vertical poles. It was painful to see it come down after all the time I’d spent putting it together. Myron had a good idea of using PVC piping to construct something that would snap together, would be less flimsy and not that much heavier. The combination of this new structure and a thinner plastic covering instead of a heavy tarp proved to be a good solution. Unfortunately the pieces did pop apart sometimes, but usually I could fix them by using a hammer as an extension of my arm. With the fall and winter weather weather hitting hard, the weather had also gotten windier and I was concerned about tarp leaks and blow aways. It was a constant worry.

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Here’s the pretty functional rain structure that I framed all my walls under. Yay! It did its job although it did require some extra prep time to set up and put away every day. The vertical pvc pipe is attached to the corner of the plastic and helped me raise the heavy covering every day. I let it rest on the all threaded rod welded to the trailer.

And with all the moisture and little hiding areas came more spiders. Whenever I’m working on tiny house, it seems like very small spiders are constantly falling on me. They like to hang out on my plastic covering and when I lift it up, they come down on tiny threads to investigate what all the ruckus is about. They also loooooove my woodpile. Thankfully it’s the large venomous ones which are on the pile and the smaller ones which are on the covering above my head- not vice versa. Thank goodness. 

Here’s a hobo spider with two missing legs that I found under my woodpile tarp. Even though i’m not a huge spider fan, I felt bad for this wounded little guy trying to hide from the elements.

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I also caught a large black widow loving my woodpile.Image

 

These guys are the reason why I always inspect each part of wood very carefully before I lift out my lumber. Otherwise the spiders that are there freak out and start darting around really fast. It’s scary to them and it’s startling to me. Also, I always wear gloves when I go to the woodpile, just in case. I don’t know how much good it would do if one of these two bit me, but it at least makes me feel safer. 

Kirsten’s Favorite Tools

13 Mar

I’ve been so lucky with this project to have several helpful people who let me borrow their awesome saws and other tools. Myron’s dad used to do lots of building and add-ons to their home, so he had alot of what we needed to get started with tiny house. Thanks to him we have several large hammers, a nice extension cord, a router, power drill, and all types of drill bits and little things. He also let us borrow a table saw.

A saw enthusiast friend of mine has also lent me a miter saw and a circular saw, which I use constantly. I cut all my wall framing with the miter saw, and I was so excited to try it out with some fancy angle cuts for the rafters! The circular saw has been an indispensable tool when it comes to cutting plywood. It makes cutting straight lines in gigantic plywood pieces much more doable. And I like anything that can help me with my plywood craziness.

One of my very favorite tools on this build has been my palm nailer. I’ve been using ring shanked nails in my framing and sheathing, and this tool has saved my hands. It does a similar the same thing as a nail gun, makes nail-driving faster and easier on your hands than hammering everything by hand. It does jolt a little bit because it is puffing the nails into the wood with several taps. If I had been using normal nails, maybe I wouldn’t have needed it, but ring shanked nails can wear you down really fast. The difference with ring shank nails that they have little rings, or circles around the nail all along its length. This means it takes more force and more time to drive them. The good news about ring shank though is that the nails can survive a whole bunch of movement and vibration without popping out of the pieces they are supposed to hold together. We got ours in boxes from Amazon. Because tiny house will be going down the road, normal nails could potentially shift or loosen during road travel. Screws are also too brittle for this job as they may snap if bent just the wrong way. Ring shanked nails don’t wiggle out and are excellent for a structure that will be moving.

Part of the reason I got a palm nailer and a compressor was because financially it made the most sense. Nail guns for nails as long as I’m using are ridiculously expensive. Also, you can use normal nails in a palm nailer- not the ones made for nail guns, that are glued together in rows- which broadens options when searching for nails to use. Palm nailers also seem safer than nail guns since they use several puffs of air to push the nail into the wood, rather than shooting the nail in with one huge burst of force. And because of the way you hold a palm nailer and compress to make it run, chances of mishaps just seem lower. When I talked to the guys at Home Depot about palm nailers for framing small walls, they didn’t seem like fans of the idea, but I love it! I have had some issues with jamming when I’m using nails with smaller heads, but after you work with it for a bit, you start to learn what to avoid to keep that from happening. It’s definitely worth any issues that it’s caused. Here is a picture of my lovely palm nailer:

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One of the most fun things ive gotten to play with on this project is snapping chalk! It’s a container with a reel of string in it. On the end of the string is a little metal hook that clings to plywood and other things you want to mark. You pour in a little colored chalk and shake it around then pull the string out. The string is covered in color! You can hook the end to the end of the string to wherever you want your line to end, hold the string on the end of where you want your straight line, pull it up and let it go. Snap! Red line! Straight line! Super fun! Snapping chalk is the best and you should play with it sometime. 

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Snapping chalk is so helpful in cutting plywood because is helps keep you on track. If you have a line throughout the piece you want to cut, you know if you deviate from it for any reason. Also, plywood cutting can be such a drag and having something fun and colorful thrown in there can certainly brighten up any plywood-ey day.

That’s it for today, tiny house readers! In the meantime, check out this awesome sunset at my worksite on the farm!

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Wall Framing!

23 Feb

Wall framing is exciting! I have been surprised by how fast traditional wall framing is.

The first order of business before tackling the walls was to cut all my wood for the walls and setting the pieces out in organized piles. Then, the actual connecting of the pieces took me just a few days!

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Yay! Lumber delivery!

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My fancy labeled wood pile! I took no chances of having my cut pieces confused!

Within one and a half days of starting my framing, my first long wall was already built! The second only took a day (Myron was there to help with that wall for a day so it went extra fast!).

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If you are working from plans, be sure to double check that the trailer wheel wells are the proper size to fit the framing around them, even if the plans and the trailer come from the same people. I realized this too late in my build. My wheel well was a good 1.5 inches taller than the one assumed in the plans so it took a whole sad day just to tear out that one tiny area and rebuild it. It was a day of lots and lots of elbow grease. This is the unhappy evidence of the struggle.

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Framing can move around a bunch until it has sheets of plywood on it to add rigidity. How much it can bend and twist can be alarming if it’s your first time building. You begin to question whether you’ve attached things properly because everything looks and feels so flimsy. Because my walls are so tiny, I decided to put the plywood sheathing on as it was laying down on the trailer and raise the walls and plywood sheathing as one piece. Plywood is heavy and obnoxious and it’s a pain to deal with. At 32 square feet a piece and what feels half my weight, it has a tendency to bully me around and scratch me up quite a bit. It is my least favorite part about building, but it is at least more manageable to attach while the walls are horizontal than once the walls are already vertical. In order to get the plywood on and have everything fit together, I had to square the walls first. That’s a fancy way to say I had to make sure the corners are 90 degree angles. Get a buddy for this part if someone is around! Otherwise it can be frustrating and a bunch of running back and forth.

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After squaring, I nailed down the CS14 strapping down the center of the walls for extra strength. It helped hold together some pieces down the center of my walls that I wanted to keep from shifting. The vertical beams down my walls made creating a continuous horizontal beam down the center impossible, but this strapping brought back some of that strength in that direction. IMG_5700

On my first wall I got really excited about bringing in a window I’d been planning to use and test fitting it in the opening. It was perfect! Seeing the window openings, especially once they are sheathed, is super cool because it’s when the heap of wood starts to actually look like a wall. It’s also fun to imagine that you’ll be looking out of that window once tiny house is finished.

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The sheathing comes last, and also takes the longest of wall-building steps. The finicky plywood has to be cut to have proper overhang on top, bottom and sides. Wheel wells take a little extra care and jig saw-ing to cut out.

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After a little measuring and snapping chalk to guide where the nails will go, the plywood is ready to glue down with liquid nails and nail to the framing. If you have another person, getting a hand with lifting the plywood onto the right gluey spot keeps things much tidier and easier.

I was a little short on covered space during this part of the build, so I decided to build a wall sandwich on top of the trailer bed. After I would frame and sheathe each wall, I would build the next wall on top of the previous one, using the sheathed wall as a giant table. It works really well! I would definitely suggest it to those of you who face the same rainy complications.

I’m very behind on these blog posts but i’m hoping to start posting more often from now on. I have some really fun pictures from the wall raising to share with you next time. I hope you’ll check back and see them!

Subfloor time!

17 Nov

In most houses builds, plywood cutting is kept mostly to a minimum, as they usually sheathe walls in full sheets, with maybe just a little cutting off on the ends. This project, on the other hand, has been a plywood-cutting fiesta. When I did the subfloor, the wheel wells had to be cut out just so, and both the long and short ends of the plywood were usually were shaved down so that they would fall on the supporting cross members of the trailer bed and not go too much over the edges of the trailer. Cutting plywood for the subfloor and for the walls is probably the thing that’s taken me the very longest on the build so far. There was also some careful measuring to do so that the all threaded rods could come through small, circular holes in the subfloor.

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After all the plywood was taken care of, I got to glue some foam sill seal along the metal cross members of the trailer. Since the cross members reach through the subfloor and support the plywood layer, there is no space to put insulation on top of them. The sill seal is meant to help block out that transfer of cold to the inside.

THEN came my favorite part of tiny house so far. Insulation. Wool insulation! The only soft, fluffy part of the build so far! It came in large boxes and when we pulled it out, it expanded. We fluffed it up and stuffed it where it needed to go. The whole thing was pretty multicolored. I think it was a mix of unprocessed wool and colorful scraps from sweater manufacture.

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It is awesome and sheepy and very fun to work with. Wool insulation is a little more expensive than foam insulation but it’s not ridiculously so. At first I thought the idea of wool insulation was a little hippy dippy for me, but when I learned about how much sense it made, I was all over it. Wool won’t offgas anything weird into the air inside tiny house, it’s biodegradable and also a byproduct of the cloth industry. One thing I really liked about it was that, compared to lots of other sustainable insulations, it actually expands over time, instead of settling, ensuring a properly insulated tiny house. You also can’t burn it and it’s vermin proof. It’s flexible for any movement down the road. It doesn’t get damaged by moisture and it distributes moisture well. Wool is great!

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After stuffing the wool in the subfloor, we put in a 6 mil poly moisture barrier between the wool and plywood, sealed with silicone on the edges. The final step was connecting the plywood to the metal frame and cedar siding. Drilling through the metal frame once again proved tricky, but it is possible.

Subfloor. Check!