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A little more on siding prep

Posted on February 17, 2017

In going over the photos for the trim post, I realized that we never mentioned the black strips that we put over the Blueskin under the siding.  This is a product called Cedarvent. It’s basically strips of plastic that are corrugated like cardboard. We’re using it here kind of like a rain screen: the siding repels most of the water from the house, but in case any rain gets behind the siding we want it to be able to drain away.  This is where Cedarvent comes in. It makes the siding sit away from the Blueskin by about 3/16″ and allows the water to roll down without soaking into the back of the cedar.

We’re not pushing the product or anything.  We purchased it outright and we’re not getting anything from the company for saying that we’re using it.  We just think it’s important for people to realize what goes into a wall assembly to make house walls weathertight.  This will help the lifespan of the cedar and the Blueskin both.  With a bit of an air gap behind the siding, the cedar will dry out more quickly after rainstorms.  It won’t be sitting wet on the Blueskin, which could rot if it stays wet for too long over a period of years.  If the Blueskin rots, water soaks into the plywood walls and forms mold.  And we want our house to last a long time.

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Products like this always make me think of how best to make our house eco-friendly.  We basically bought bits of plastic, which are not biodegradable, not recycled, and probably are manufactured in a way that’s not great for the environment.  They redeem themselves by contributing to the length of time our house will last.  So we sort of have to weigh our options here.  I don’t know though, what do you think?

 

 

At long last love has arrived

Posted on February 14, 2017

We had a baby at the end of December.  And she is the best.

Hot damn I love this kid.  It’s Valentine’s Day, so let me express my love.  It’s been almost two months and we are ridiculously happy with our little pumpkinseed.  Life is very different in its surface details.  We spend most of our time caring for a tiny human instead of building a tiny house.  A good day is one in which I get the dishes done and a load of laundry.  Our budget for sundries has gone up as we purchase disposable diapers (until we get a sink in, I keep telling myself) and one-handed snacks.

Still, Seth and I are both us, but more so.  I like to think we’re distilling ourselves down to the best parts, giving up bad habits in hopes that we don’t pass them along, while also focusing our limited free time on only the activities most important to us, because there’s just no head space anymore for binge-watching Bones and reading 14 blogs a day.  That distillation might be wishful thinking though.  Or maybe it’s the sleep deprivation talking.

At any rate, today is a day dedicated to expressing love.  I love my daughter.  I also love you, reader, even if I don’t know you.  Our new political administration is trying to place the blame for our problems on immigrants, and Nasty Women and disabled folks and those of us with little money too.  Such divisive tactics coming from the top!  We don’t believe in them for a second.  We all deserve food, shelter, healthcare, and happiness.  I’m not saying that because I’m a bleeding heart pinko commie hippie environmentalist (although that’s mostly true), I’m saying it because if I think of you as family, how can I wish anything bad for you?

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

J.K. Rowling write a book series where love conquered all.  Numerous heroes of our time have practiced it: Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Princess Leia. Well maybe not that last one.  But I’d like to practice love too.  Joining the #LoveArmy, reading The Dandelion Insurrection.  Loving my tiny human with every fiber of my being.  And loving you too.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Trimming the outside

Posted on January 31, 2017

One of the things that Seth has been saying all along is that trim makes the style of the house.  He’s said it about both the inside and the outside.  It’s a good thing he’s been so adamant because when it comes to details like that, I don’t really have an opinion.  Isn’t that terrible?  For me, aesthetics generally take a backseat to price, so I expected to wing it when it came time to do the trim.  Seth, though, has had an idea in mind of building a house inspired by the Craftsman era of design: 1920s bungalows full of simple lines, natural light, and beautiful wood.  We looked at pictures online for months.  Truly one of the nicest rabbit holes we’ve followed in this project, and I’m glad we went in this direction.

After much research and deliberation (as per usual — boy, we’re true to form here!), we designed the window and house trim.  Most Craftsman bungalows have painted siding with natural wood trim, but we flipped that on its end because we like our natural-looking cedar siding so much.  Seth came up with a pleasing angle for the pieces of trim directly over the windows, and we went to town cutting and painting, including cutting the sill piece at an angle to allow water to run off the top.

We picked 5/4″ x 4″ trim for the rails and sills, 5/4″ x 6″ trim for the top pieces, and 5/4″ x 6″ trim for the corners.  We wanted solid wood trim but it wasn’t available in our price range and thickness, so we ended up using a brand of finger-jointed pine called Centurion, which comes factory primed.  From what we hear, factory priming is important to the lifespan of the trim.  We painted ours on three sides with Behr Premium Plus Ultra exterior satin enamel paint, and left the primed-only side facing the house.  We probably should have painted the unexposed side as well, but we were pressed for time — can’t put up siding without trim in place, after all.

2016-10-30-13-51-56The final step in all of the trim work was to add a piece of aluminum drip edge to the top edge of the top piece, forming another barrier against water intrusion behind the windows and protecting the wood from water exposure over time.  You can see it in our photos, a thin white piece of metal that hangs just slightly down.  We attached it to the trim and Blueskin with silicone, taped off the top, and installed the siding directly over it.  It gives a nice detail to the windows in my humble opinion.  Am I biased?  Does my baby poop through a dozen diapers a day?  Yes.  Yes she does.

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Cedar siding and Vermont Natural Coatings

Posted on January 14, 2017

Way way back, almost a year ago now, we purchased cedar clapboards for the tiny house.  Sheesh, was it really that long ago?  Yes, Instagram tells me it was last February.  We got the clapboards delivered with the intention of staining them over the course of the winter so that we could install them in the spring and summer.

Time ran away from us, and it was a while before we got the siding up and running. As per usual, the research phase made up the bulk of the delay.  We wanted to find an eco-friendly coating for the siding, one that would bring out the beauty of the wood, protect it from the elements, and be ok for the environment and for people with chemical sensitivities, especially as we were planning to paint the siding in an enclosed space over the winter.

We came across the PolyWhey Exterior Penetrating Wood Stain by Vermont Natural Coatings in our internet trawling, and picked up a small can of the Caspian Clear to test it out.  It went on beautifully.  It was everything we wanted… almost.  Apparently, clear coating on cedar means your cedar will still turn silvery gray over time, and after much discussion we decided we wanted to put off the weathering of our cedar as much as possible.

We spoke with the folks at Vermont Natural Coatings.  Ok, scratch that: we bombarded them with questions. And their answer was to choose a coating with pigmentation, which would impede the sun’s UV rays thereby reducing the silvering of cedar as it ages.  Of their coatings, we picked the Lakeside Cedar color in an attempt to make our Eastern White siding look like Western Red.  Same wood family, natural look — we hoped.  To sweeten the deal, Vermont Natural Coatings gave us a discount on their pricing in exchange for a blog post about our experience, which was a huge help for our budget.  Eco-friendly coatings are not cheap, and we were glad to have made such good friends!

Ok, so you want the truth?

I hate to say it, but our first attempt at painting on the red cedar coloring kind of made our eyes water.  The Lakeside Cedar color is quite orange, and was made more so by the fluorescent lighting of our workshop, and also by the rough cut of our siding, which soaks up more product than a smooth cut.  (On a side note, you want the rough cut side of your siding to face outwards for that very reason: more product soaked into the wood means less chance of water and UV damage to your wood.  Sometimes we are smart!)

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After more deliberation, and with our budget in mind, and once again speaking with the friendly team at Vermont Natural Coatings, we decided not to switch to a different product altogether but to mix the Lakeside Cedar color with the Caspian Clear color to thin it out and make it more palatable to our apparently fine-tuned aesthetics meter.  Vermont Natural Coatings said that mixing the colors was fine in any ratio so we experimented a bit and decided that a 50/50 mixture looked good and would still provide some UV protection.

My part in this saga ended here, but Seth created two spray racks to make the coatings go quicker, and then he sprayed all of the siding over the course of a week with a handy dandy spray-gun.  He used the 50/50 mixture on the rough cut side of the clapboards, and then did the straight Lakeside Cedar on the smooth side, which is the side against the house.  Always spray both sides of your clapboards, folks!  Remember, only you can prevent water damage.

I’m done channeling Yogi the Bear now

The coatings went on well.  Seth says he was pleased by the process and the amount of coverage he got with the cans of PolyWhey.  The gun didn’t clog, the spray racks worked like a charm.  The coloring looks quite natural, if I do say so myself.  And to top it off, we’ve had numerous friends ask us why we didn’t use a coating for our clapboards, and then we laughed with glee when we told them we had.

I must say, the clapboards have been one of the joys of our tiny house.  The wood itself is beautiful, local, and was cut to our specifications by a small company in Maine with excellent customer service, short lead time, and good pricing.  The coatings were easy to apply and they look great.  And clapboards go on relatively quickly and make a big impact.  Our house went from blue box to tiny house in the course of a week.  We still have some siding to put up around the diamond windows and the porch light, but I think it’s safe to say our cedar siding is substantially complete.  And that’s a very good thing.

 

 

 

Cosmo Brown Hat

Posted on November 25, 2016

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This slightly slouchy hat features a wave and banjo cable pattern reminiscent of American vaudeville theater in the early 1900s. Or as I like to think of it, Cosmo Brown’s beginnings from the movie Singin’ in the Rain. With big yarn, some cables to keep it  interesting, and old-fashioned seed stitch, this hat knits up quickly and is perfect for bus, train, or TV knitting to keep your hands busy.

This hat is knit in the round and comes in one size. Final hat dimensions are 20” around and 7.5” long after blocking. Gauge  is 4 stitches to the inch.

I knit this hat for myself, and I love the way it fits on my head.  Knit at such a large gauge, it is just big enough to wear for short jaunts without crushing my curls.  I’m toying with the idea of blocking it around a plate to make it a true beret, and that will give my hair plenty of room.

You can download the pattern PDF here.  Ravelry details are here.  Just in time for last minute Solstice or Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gifts.  I hope you enjoy it!

Metal roofing for the tiny house, via Craigslist

Posted on August 21, 2016

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Last fall just after the house walls went up, I was trolling Craigslist for materials when a kind soul posted dark brown corrugated metal roofing for sale, never used.  It came in 17′ long panels.  We jumped on it and U-hauled seven panels away from his house along with a couple of donated 2×4’s for traveling, kindly given by the gentleman in question whose entire roof had to be replaced unexpectedly instead of covered.  Hence selling the panels.

Metal roofing is popular for tiny houses because it’s durable, affordable, lighter than asphalt, and relatively easy to install.  It goes well with the “cabin on wheels” look that characterize a lot of tiny houses.  Standing seam is ideal as the fasteners are not exposed to the elements and will last longer, but corrugated is good too.  Supposedly the fasteners start to go around 10 years.  We’ll see.

Metal roofing was Seth’s first choice but not mine. Originally, I wanted shingles, but sometimes you can’t pass up the Craigslist gods when they offer you a good deal.  Or as my Memere used to say, “You can’t go wrong!”  And of course I love it now.

Buying new metal roofing a lot different from buying used metal roofing via Craigslist.  For starters, you get all of the accessories with it when you purchase yours from a store.  We had to source our trim pieces, ridge cap, foam closures, and adhesives separately.  If you’re buying new-ish metal panels for your roof through Craigslist, you should know that there is a good chance yours are made by Union Corrugating, like ours are. We discovered this by accident, but it’s no trick — count the corrugations per panel and see if you can find a match to some of the popular brands available through big box stores.

Union Corrugating sells their panels to DIY-ers through Lowe’s, and we were able to confirm this by matching the color of the panels to the colors of the roofing supplies in the store.  Then all we had to do was purchase trim, touch-up paint, the ridge cap, etc.  If your panels are not easily identifiable like ours, apparently there are such things as universal ridge caps and trim.  They may not provide an exact color match, but I’ve seen people who enjoy the two-toned roof, and I’ve seen people who paint their roof so that everything matches.  If you’re building a tiny house, you’re no stranger to improvisation at this point. Right?

The corrugated roofing process is fairly easy to describe, although less easy to execute (unless you have scaffolding.  Invest in scaffolding).  There are many, many tutorials about how to install metal roofing so I won’t add one here.  I’ll just jot down a few notes about what we did.

  • We used Grace HT Ice and Water Shield as our underlayment.  HT means high temperature.  I think it was a good investment.  Synthetic roofing underlayment lasts a lot longer in UV rays than does 15 or 30 lb. felt, and it won’t glue itself to the back of the roofing panels.
  • We cut our panels with an angle grinder, de-burred them, and then touched up the ends with paint so that hopefully they won’t rust.
  • Butyl tape is weird.  It’s like if Play-Dough and Silly Putty got together and had a baby.  Special order this because most stores don’t carry it.
  • We followed along with Tiny Home Builder’s method of transitioning the ridge cap from the gable to the dormer.  We purchased the videos, but you can sort of see the way to do it in this blog post by Choo Choo Tiny House.

 

What to do when your walls are out of plumb

Posted on August 16, 2016

So this thing happened this one time where we moved the tiny house and two of our beautiful walls went from plumb to out of plumb.  One shifted by an inch over nine feet, the other by a half inch over the same. To the practiced eye, the house looked bow-legged.

I consulted with one of my friends and coworkers, a resident building expert with more than 60 years in the business.  “Oh no big deal,” he said, “Just drill a hole in the two walls, use a come-along and ratchet it in, put up your collar ties, and release the come-along.  Make sure you tighten them a bit more than they need because they’ll snap back when you let’em go.  The collar ties’ll keep’em in place from here on out.”

Ha ha, I said.

I shouldn’t have doubted.

Seth proceeded with what sounded like a half-cocked plan that actually worked.  He did just as my friend suggested.  He bought a heavy duty come-along, used it to ratchet in the walls, put up the collar ties, let the come-along go, and each wall came in by a half inch.  One wall is now plumb.  One is out by a half inch over 9 feet.  And as my googling suggests, that’s ok. I can’t believe it worked without dropping the house on Seth’s head.  I’m glad I wasn’t there.

As for Seth?

Never again, he mutters, never again.

 

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Inwards and Outwards

Posted on August 7, 2016

There has been a division in our life lately.  A natural division for us, I think.  It started in March when we learned that we are expecting our first baby this December, and culminated at the end of last month when some very kind folks moved our tiny house to their property so we can finish building. The division is this: Seth is focusing on the outward, aka the house, the house, the house.  It’s a big task!  Especially if we’re going to finish it in time for this baby we’re brewing.  And I’m focusing on the inwards, which (thankfully) means resting, researching house details, and daydreaming over things to sew.

It’s one of the more ancient divisions: woman inside, man out.  It feels very Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Seth comes home and tells me what work he did that day.  We pore over the research I’ve come up with and we make decisions for future building purchases and methods.  Of course, our days involve power tools, iPhone photos, and Google, and Laura’s involved hand sewing and barn-raising with the neighbors.  So not exactly the same, I guess.

Since our last blog post, we’ve finished wrapping the house with air barrier.  We’ve installed the roof panels.   We used threaded rods to attach the house to the trailer in place of hurricane ties.We sat at the experts’ table at a tiny house festival.  We moved the house from and cleaned up our old build site.  We’re about halfway through prepping all 10 of our windows, and Seth is out there today, putting up the final pieces of roof trim.  This week marks the first of our windows going in.  Not bad for one day a week.  Until now.

We’re building this tiny house and we have a ways to go.  And quite frankly, we need help.  I can’t help on the weekends anymore, so Seth has taken to working on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays during the day in addition to Sundays.  Are you free?  Can you come by and help?  Your tasks will be holding things level and plumb, fetching equipment for someone up a ladder, or if you’re comfortable using power tools, installing things alongside Seth.  We work best with one or two helpers at a time, since each task is fairly small and doesn’t require a crew.  If so, shoot us an email via the Get Involved page of our website, and thank you in advance!

On the home front, we’ve had two ultrasounds and learned the sex of our baby.  We received our first baby gift and purchased our first baby purchase (cloth diapers.  Don’t crush our optimism). We’ve fallen into the cycle of summer farm abundance.  We’ve been exhausted and frustrated and hopeful and exhilarated.  Same as everyone, right?

 

 

 

Attaching the house to the trailer

Posted on June 25, 2016

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There have been times we thought we’d never move into the tiny house.  A lot of times.  I think Tara and Tyler write about it well in their post, Despair, which I read last year when they posted it but didn’t fully understand.  It’s hard to understand what it is about building a house that makes you want to give up completely.  I can now say it’s because so many little things constantly wear away at you and you feel like you’re never making progress.  You just want to be in the house.  You want to feel like it’s looking like a home, when it really looks like a pile of bones and the weather is conspiring against you along with your suppliers and your bank account your stupid jerk brain that can’t compute basic geometry all of a sudden.  And meanwhile, twice a week everyone asks, “How’s the house coming along?”

We were just at the part where we were going to make progress: put in windows, start siding.  Sounds great, soon to look great! When we learned that we had to move the tiny house a few months sooner than planned.  And it felt like back to square one.  In order to make the house safe to move, we had to firmly attach it to the trailer.

This is not a problem that all tiny-housers have.  For example, Tumbleweed welds threaded rods onto their trailers, and as you build the walls you drill holes in the bottom plates and slide the rods through those.  Tighten down with nuts and done.  Other tiny house builders use strong ties like these, which connect to studs and use anchor bolts through the trailer. We had neither option, and so we went with threaded rods drilled through the trailer, up through the bottom plate, and then reaching all the way up to the top plate as well.  We went with this approach because we needed to attach the walls to the pieces of metal channel that run perpendicular to the trailer’s length.  The bottom plates have nothing to sit on otherwise.  Might as well be secure, you know?

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It was a process to figure out.  We had to figure out how many attachments we needed, where they would sit that wouldn’t interfere with windows and yet still give us a rod every 6′ (as per building code), special order the rods, cut them to length, drill through the bottom plate, drill through the trailer, drill through the top plate, thread the rod through all the holes, and tighten down the bolts at both ends. Meanwhile, our suppliers conspired against us by providing the wrong size rods for two locations, along with our bank account which cringed at having to run to the hardware store four times for the correct tools to account for the change in sizes in our long lead time rods, and our stupid jerk brains that suddenly couldn’t do basic geometry.  Yes we did cut that rod too long, and that other one too short.  Building a tiny house is hard!  Who knew, eh?

Eventually the rods were in.  We tightened them down.  We felt secure.  We moved the house.  And one of the walls shifted anyway.  If there was ever a time I felt like giving up on the tiny house, threaded rods would be it.

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Tiny house windows

Posted on May 1, 2016

There are 9 windows in our tiny house, and only 2 of them are the same size.  I think I said this sentence a dozen times over the 2 month stretch it took to get window quotes.  It’s an important sentence.  It tells window salespeople that my house is not a normal house. It also reminds me that we are not climbing Mt. Everest.

Windows are kind of a big deal in terms of energy efficiency for the home.  Windows are a weak point in walls.  They have almost no insulation value, and so if you have a lot of windows in your house, chances are good that you’ll have cold spots in your house.  You can more or less mitigate this by purchasing double-paned windows (at least), and buying a good brand that won’t shrink or crack or leak.  Now, I may be spoiled by working in a construction job, but I wanted good windows, and to me that meant Marvin brand.  By reputation, they are among the best off-the-shelf window brands.  They are also ungodly expensive for two tiny housers building on a budget.

No matter, we told ourselves, we’ll get sponsors!  We guessed windows would cost a company maybe $3000 on the high end and that they would jump at the chance to throw some windows our way.  Guess again! We received quotes ranging from $6000 to $14,000 for our 9 windows.  At those prices, I can see why none of the window companies wanted to give us anything for our house, despite our house being only 9 windows large.  A few folks offered generous discounts when I told them they were out of our price range, which is a good strategy if you were planning to spend the money anyway, but we weren’t.  We couldn’t make them fit our budget.  On to plan B then.

Plan B is always Craigslist

Ah, Craigslist: the friend of the budget conscious, eco-friendly builder.  Also friend of poor college students.  But I digress.

Using the materials search function on Craigslist, we found windows upon windows.  Old windows, new windows, vinyl windows, double-paned, triple-paned, mullioned, triangle-shaped, fixed, double hung, single hung, aluminum clad, fiberglass.  If you can imagine it as a window, we found it on Craigslist.

Thankfully, we found windows at a time when our framing was still somewhat flexible.  Because that’s the risk you take with Craigslist, of course. What you find on Craigslist isn’t perfect.  And most Craigslist treasures need a bit of spit and elbow grease before they can work.  Ours were no different.

We got Craigslist windows from 2 different sources in our approximate sizes for most of our locations. Along the way, our 9 windows turned into 10.  Our triple mullioned window became separate asymmetrical windows overlooking our living room (one of my favorite features), and we had to resize our stove-side kitchen window rough opening. Not too bad, all things considered.  But we couldn’t find loft windows anywhere.  Time for plan C, I guess?

What exactly is Plan C?

Construction friends came to our rescue once again.  One of my coworkers suggested contacting an area window distributor to see if they had back stock they’d be willing to sell.  And so on a wintry day, Seth traveled to JB Sash in Massachusetts to poke through their piles of windows for something suitable.  He came away with 4 windows for the loft, slightly smaller than our rough openings which meant a bit of re-framing, but very cheap.  And wouldn’t you know it: most of our windows turned out to be Marvin brand.  This makes for a very happy Christine.

Above all, the tab

In total, we spent $1200 for 10 windows.  Not bad, I’d say.  Not exactly free, but well worth the effort it takes to procure good windows.