This winter, we’re much warmer in the tiny house compared to last year thanks to our work filling in the air gaps and adding more insulation. We’re still heating with the electric box heater because the walls aren’t up enough to install the wood stove, and anyway the chimney parts we need were on backorder for the last few months. We’ve finally ordered our parts and we’re now waiting for them to arrive. These things are all fine, except for one thing: we have a condensation problem. Our roof drips. We have a lot of moisture in our tiny house because of all the cooking we do and the fact that we reduced most of the air gaps in the house. And, you know,…
Like a flower turning its face to the sun, I have been seeking beauty for the past six months or so. I want it. I might even say I need it, I need to have pretty things in my life. Kind of a new sensation for me since I tend to go for utilitarian style more than anything else. I don’t do decorative.
Why the shift Christine? (This said in singsong. It’s me talking to myself via the baby. I do that a lot these days.) I have no doubts — it’s because of Addie. This humble, delicious work of mothering Addie has made me feel more myself, more like I was before the migraines began close to a dozen years ago. Whole, you could say. The love that I had for my little family of Seth and Lily was complete and perfect, and then it blew out beyond what I thought possible. Like Dorothy stepping from her graytone home out into Technicolor. Except that we get to live in Oz forever.
Then there’s also living so much on the farms this season. I’m outside every day, puttering in the dirt with a baby or two, talking to farmers, watching things grow. It’s a quieter form of love, this love of earth, but strong.
These two factors together are a dream, or more like they fill me with dreams. They make me think there is no limit to possibility, like maybe I can astral project to a stage of perfectly tuned Steinway pianos, set before a field of flowers growing through the auditorium floor, the air awash with hummingbirds dipping and swooping and trilling their funny little songs. My fingers will fly over the keys and I’ll sing along the way I used to do when I was practicing for some high school concert — singing and playing for the pleasure of it.
In spite of, or maybe because of this daydream, I’ve sometimes felt a flash of annoyance when I’m rushing through chores and push aside a few scraps of PVC pipe or a measuring tape. A small voice in the back of my mind whispers that it’s hard to find pretty when living in a construction zone.
But is it?
Warm wood. Bright windows. Open shelving showing textures and projects and some of my favorite things. All I had to do was pause in my mad rush and look around. There is beauty in this everyday life of ours, even with the construction zone. My walls are partially open and showing our insulation, and there are forever clouds of dog hair and wool insulation sheddings on the floor. But in the right light, I can see past that. And between you and me, these windows almost always let in the right light.
Wishing you a few moments of pause and reflection this beautiful spring morning!
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…
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.
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.
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?
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…
Ta da! Presenting the Earth Morning tiny house design. If you’ve spent any time looking at tiny houses on wheels, you know they are all fairly similar in design because of the size constraints of the trailer. Our tiny house has the same size constraints, but we’ve spent some time personalizing the inside. As you can see, we’re inspired by the Tumbleweed lofted bed design, with distinctions: Our bathroom will be located across the tongue end of the trailer; we’ll have a large kitchen with counters spanning two sides of the house; and we’ll have a stairway instead of a ladder so Lily can access the sleeping loft. Our vital stats: Exterior footprint: 8’x24’, not including trailer tongue Interior dimensions: 7’4”x23’ Loft height: 3’11”…
Seth and I sent in a deposit for our trailer just after receiving the go from Grace Church, thereby guaranteeing that we will have a trailer by late June. We waited until we had a build site locked down before ordering because we wanted to be sure we bad a place to put it. No sense in getting a trailer and then watching it rust and taking up our neighbors’ parking spaces, you know? A lot of tiny home builders salvage a trailer from an existing RV and beef it up to account for the added weight of a wood framed house. Seth and I decided not to go this route, despite our green thumbs, for a couple of reasons: For starters, salvaging a…
If you’ve ever been to a large city’s suburbs, you know the houses are packed together like sardines. Many houses don’t even have yards. And while a tiny house is teeny compared to a regular house, one thing that you need when you’re building is space. You need space to put the trailer, and then you need space around the trailer so you can lay out your walls and cut lumber and store tools. And one thing that Boston does not have is space. Seth and I are Boston-area transplants. We’re not used to having neighbors in every direction, peeking down into our business. So when we were figuring out the logistics of building, we knew we didn’t want to try to build in…
We are the only people I know who have a picture of a toilet on their wall. Then again, we are the only people I know who are building a tiny house — which means we should probably go out and meet more people. But that toilet represents an important victory. As we’re coming to learn, building this tiny house is a series of decisions upon decisions. Sure, you have to pick out the floor color and the stove and the refrigerator. You also have to pick out how the refrigerator runs: propane or electricity? If you want electricity, do you go with AC or DC? Or both? How are you going to supply electricity, with a solar array or an RV hookup? Or…
Some of the kind folks in Somerville put together a tiny house festival for the Boston area: The BIG Tiny, organized by Miranda’s Hearth. And thank goodness. As excited as we are to live in a tiny house, we’d never actually stood inside of one. I mean, if you’re going to live in a 160 square foot dwelling with your partner-in-crime, you’d better figure out if the proximity makes you want to pie each other in the face, you know? We went later in the day. I was dizzy on my feet thanks to the migraine meds I’d taken earlier, but Seth looked at home among the beards and flannel shirts of Somerville. We stood in line for an hour before we stepped into…