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.



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?




Air sealing the house

Posted on April 18, 2016

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When it comes down to it, we’ve probably spent the most tiny house research time on building envelope systems.  The building envelope is what protects the inhabitants of the house from wind and weather, and it’s made up of siding, air barrier, sheathing, and insulation.  And if you ever talk to any architect about this, they’ll tell you that building envelope science is a murky world of half-truths and maybes.  Folks, this ain’t easy.

Using information from articles like the ones here, here, here, here, and here, we determined that we want a vapor-permeable air barrier to wrap around our house.  This will keep drafts and water out, but will allow water vapor to diffuse in and out of the house.  We decided against a vapor barrier on the inside of our walls thanks in part to the sheep’s wool insulation we plan to use.  We came up with these decisions because we’re concerned about water condensation and mold buildup in our tiny house, which are issues for tiny houses in general, but also for Christine in particular.  We’re happy to talk about this in more depth!  But frankly, building envelope science doesn’t interest most people, so if you want to know more please ask in the comments.

We decided to use the product Henry Blueskin VP100, which is a residential grade vapor-permeable air barrier that is locally available.  It’s self-adhesive, like a giant sheet of sticker, and it seals itself at the seams.

For our first step, we routed out each window opening, and then spent the better portion of two weekends sticking the Blueskin to the outside wall sheathing.

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The difference it made to the inside of the house was noticeable immediately. Stepping into the house at mid-morning this past weekend, we realized the house felt stuffy.  And this with a gaping hole where the door goes!  No more airflow through the cracks between our sheathing.  I’d call that a success.

One area of the house where we paid particular attention was at the wheel wells.  We left a 1/4″ to 1/2″ gap between the plywood and wheel wells of our house.  This is so water can’t condense on the metal wheel wells and then be absorbed into the plywood, making for a weak point in the walls where mold can occur.  However, we also wanted to make sure water couldn’t migrate into the house through this gap and soak our insulation.

This is another problem particular to tiny houses.  Tumbleweed doesn’t address this with their trailers (although they might in their house plans, I’ve never checked), but there is a trailer company that has an optional welded flange all around their wheel well.  You’re supposed to build your walls so that the plywood sits just on the outside of the flange, which prevents water from creeping in to your house. It’s a pretty cool solution, but it’s one that we didn’t have, and I’d still be concerned about water condensation where the metal touches the plywood.

We opted to use EPDM rubber roofing flashing tape at our wheel wells.  It feels like a long rubber sticker, and we stuck it to the wheel well and then up onto the walls.  Our housewrap came down over the EPDM.  We’re not sure how it will hold up long term, but it seemed like a good option, and it provides a thermal break between the metal wheel well and the wood walls.  We’ll see how it goes.

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You can see that it pulled away a little bit from the corners after a week or so on the trailer, so we did have to cut and patch it once already.  But overall, we’re pleased with how it came out.  We’ve got high hopes!

Next up is roofing, and after that will be windows, the door, and siding. And then we can start work on the inside.  Is that supposed to be the easy part?

All links in this post are non-affiliate.


Putting a halt on progress

Posted on March 9, 2016

Since the local newspaper published an article about our tiny house last month, we’ve had a lot of traffic headed our way.  Mostly, this has been great! We love chatting about the tiny house with new people and having people recognize Seth in random places.  But the added attention did come with a snag.  The local building department investigated our house and issued us a stop work order in the week after the article, which meant we couldn’t do any work.  Unfortunately, this happened during one of the warmest Februarys I can remember, putting a halt on all things tiny.

The building department gave us the stop work order because, like in most municipalities, the tiny house falls into a gray area in zoning by-laws.  We don’t need a permit to build in our location since we won’t be living there once the house is complete, and this is something we knew since last year when we had talked with the building department before beginning construction.  However the building department still wanted to make sure we’re not infringing on anything zoning wise.

Fortunately there was a simple solution for us.  Once we got the trailer registered and put on the plates, we were out of the building department’s jurisdiction and able to move forward with our work, provided we relocate at the end of our build.   At that time we’ll join the throngs of other tiny-housers trying to find ways to live legally in our chosen towns and cities.  It’s not as easy as parking in someone’s driveway or paying rent for a backyard.  In many towns, there are zoning by-laws preventing houses of a certain size (typically smaller than 1000 sq. ft.), or preventing more than one house on a plot of land.  If we are classified as a custom RV, that won’t necessarily help us either as most towns have a limit of a 30-day stay on someone’s private property.

These by-laws are generally in place to prevent the “lowering of value” of neighborhoods.  The idea is that no one wants a typical fiberglass RV living on their street permanently, and a small house can skew average square footage values of houses in the neighborhood (which is why you don’t see McMansions being built in neighborhoods full of 1950s ranches and cape cods).  Then, too, the minimum square footage of homes means a larger fee for the local building department when it comes time to file for permits.  After all, building departments charge by the square foot for building permits.  These regulations can make for a bureaucracy that is resistant to change.

Some municipalities are taking steps to welcome tiny houses.  Spur, TX, became the first city in the United States to openly welcome tiny houses, and other cities are looking at labeling tiny houses as “accessory dwelling units,” similar to in-law apartments.  And as for us?  I’m not sure what the future holds.  When the time comes, we’ll ask our network for help, trusting that the universe will provide.  And maybe make sure that our location stays out of newspaper articles.


Roof! And a newspaper feature

Posted on February 9, 2016


Welcome, readers of the MetroWest Daily News! We’re delighted you’ve stopped by to check out our little project. Please read on for one of our progress updates.  If you’re not from the MetroWest Daily News, click here to read the article and watch the video featuring our tiny house!

Thanks to Seth’s hard work over the last week or so, the roof deck of the tiny house is in place just in time for this week’s rotten weather. We’re still keeping the tarp over the everything to protect the plywood from moisture as much as possible, but we’re in decent shape for snow.  Unfortunately, we managed to not take any pictures of the house with the entire roof on, so you’ll have to believe us when we say it looks pretty darn good.


Seth did most of the roof sheathing by himself. Somehow he was able to lift sheets of 3/4″ plywood up a ladder (75 lbs. a sheet!), hold them in place, and nail them down without another person’s help. In related news, Seth is Superman.  Christine, on the other hand, helped out with the dormer roof and considered the day a success after standing on the loft without panicking at the height.  Go team.

We’ve been spending these last few snowy days by working on the reclaimed windows: scraping up the old paint and making note of which windows need new hardware.  When the weather swings back to above-freezing temps, we’ll begin installing the metal roofing, then the house wrap, and then the windows.  We are also getting our shipment of cedar clapboard siding in the next week or two, which will need to be stained to maintain its coloring and to protect it from warping and splitting.  Plenty to do during these snowy days!


The aftermath

Posted on January 18, 2016


Lily had surgery one week ago to remove three tumors, and she came home groggy and looking like Frankenstein’s monster.  Poor kiddo.  The doctor said she did well.  The x-rays revealed no metastasis of the cancer to her lungs.  And in true Lily style, she bewitched everyone at the vet’s office to fall in love.  Or maybe the doctors say that about every dog.  Either way, we certainly think she’s the most lovable dog on the planet.

Then came the waiting game.  The doctor said to keep her coned for the next 12-14 days, and he would call with the biopsy results in 3-10 days.  Give her antibiotics and pain meds, keep her from scratching or licking, and for goodness sake keep that cone on!


We finally got the biopsy results today.  Lily’s belly tumors are just fat, and her face tumor is probably stage 1 cancer.  Apparently if your dog has cancer, you’re looking for definitely stage 1 cancer to avoid chemo and radiation. Even with the biopsy and histopathology, Lily’s results are not crystal clear.  The doctor, however, thinks that she’s going to be fine.  The doctor took a large swath of skin and flesh from around the tumor, as evidenced by the enormous line of stitches, so there’s a high likelihood that he got the whole thing.

If we want, we can go to a cancer specialist who will probably recommend chemo to be on the safe side.  Or we can wait and watch to see if the tumor comes back in the same approximate location.

We’re not sure next yet of what’s next for Lily.  But what I do know is that she is awfully tired of the cone.  She wears the inner tube during the day, and a cloth cone with boning in it at night.  If we take the tube off her for a break and she scratches her face, the tube goes right back on, much to her chagrin!  I wish we could tell her it’s not forever, but you know dogs: in one ear and out the other.




Unexpected from Lily

Posted on January 2, 2016

In one of life’s twists, we found out this week that Lily needs surgery to remove a cancerous lump from her face.  We’d noticed it growing over her eyebrow this summer and lamented that our little 6-year-old puppy was old enough to grow fatty lumps.  All dogs get fatty lumps, don’t they? And she’d already grown one on her chest that the vet said was probably nothing.

Then we noticed another lump growing in her teats, and we figured it was time to bring her in.  She was due for a checkup anyway.  But when the vet looked at samples of all three lumps under the microscope, she said that the one on her face was mast cell cancer.  She also said that mast cell cancer has a tendency to spread to the lungs in dogs, so we should get her in for surgery as soon as possible.

Lily goes in a week from Monday to remove the cancer, which they’ll take down to the bone, and the other two lumps to play it safe.  She’ll need x-rays of her chest to determine if the cancer has spread, and they’ll send away samples of all the lumps to get more information.  All in all, this will cost a little more than $2000, which is about one-tenth of the tiny house budget.  Oh you money dog.

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There was never a question over whether or not we’d get the surgery.  Lily is a part of our family, and a big part of our farm life.  She’s the reason why I began thinking about a farm in the first place, when I was at my sickest with migraines and sick building syndrome, and it was all I could do to walk a mile with her across the fields of Wagon Hill park.  I felt my best outside.  She did too.  And five years later, she became Seth’s farm buddy, trotting by his side in the fields, guarding against voles and bunnies, greeting guests as they drove in.

So here we are, facing surgery in the season of rest. We’ll figure out the money part, just like we’re figuring out the tiny house part and the farming part.  In the meantime we’ll love up Lily like there’s no tomorrow.  Like always, in fact.  But if you could throw a little love our way, we’d like that too.  Keep your fingers crossed that the surgery goes well, that the x-rays show a set of healthy lungs, and that the histopathologies come back with good news.  Thanks, friends.

The return of the light

Posted on December 22, 2015

Happy winter solstice! I can think of no better way to celebrate the light’s return than at a farm.  We spent our solstice morning helping out with a  friend’s grain threshing day.  This 5-acre farm grew rice, wheat, and dried beans this season, and hosted a party for those of us who wanted to try our hands at hulling, grinding, and processing the grains to make them ready for human consumption. There were old exercise bikes mounted to older milling implements, an 1851 wheat chaff separator, a fire barrel, and some tinkering and ingenuity as we kept breaking down and starting up again.

We drove to the tiny house after lunch to close it up for this week’s rain. Just before the light left for the day, we burnt some herbs and our intentions for the year 2016, and then rounded out the evening at home in our pjs eating an all local dinner.

Sometimes, friends, we just get it right.  And we’re wishing you a good winter season full of things you get right too.  Happy solstice.



Boxing it in

Posted on December 7, 2015

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December is being kind to us, starting with a couple weeks of mild weather and letting us find our feet with the plywood sheathing for the tiny house.  Find our feet because Seth’s winter schedule is different from his summer schedule, so we don’t have a build day together that often.  Once every two weeks or so?  Three?  I couldn’t say.

When we are together (and migraine-free), we hang plywood.  It took two sheets for us to get a good process down with just two of us, but now we’re a little more than halfway done with the wall sheathing thanks to some time and generosity from friends.

I spent the afternoon yesterday making a template for the plywood to go over the wheel wells, and then cutting the plywood and hanging it.  And let me tell you something: plywood is heavy!  A day later and I’m still tired.  But the house looks nice, don’t you think? We are inching ever closer to getting things boxed in so we can put the roof rafters on.

We chose to sheathe the walls of the house first so that the plywood will sit up fully under the roof rafters.  The alternative was putting up the roof rafters first and then trying to fit the plywood underneath where the rafters hit the walls.  Both methods are valid but from what I understand, the way we’re doing it is easier.  Then again, I feel a little like Anne of Green Gables when she says, “Have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me? I never make the same mistake twice.”

And then Marilla says, “I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”

Time will tell if we’re making a mistake.  But the good news is that once we know about it, we won’t make it twice.

Shilling hat

Posted on November 22, 2015

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Shilling is a hat that knits up in worsted weight yarn.  It is available for both flat knitters and knitters in the round, and while a beginner could knit it, advanced knitters won’t find it boring with its cables and pattern changes. The hat is knit on US size 4 and 6 (UK size 3.5 and 4) needles, and is sized for babies through adults.

I knit this hat for Seth, who picked the beautiful heathery rust color from the Cascade 220 Heathers line.  However once it was done, I decided I didn’t want to part with it!  So this hat stays with me and is  a staple of my winter wardrobe.


Click here to download the pattern PDFClick here for the Ravelry details.