Where did the time go?!?

Hi all, quick update here – we will be living in the Tiny Timber Frame within the month! If you find that hard to believe, join the club – we can’t quite comprehend how after a year plus of building this humble abode, we will actually be living it it in such a short time frame. In the last few weeks we have gotten approval on our electrical system, finished the floors,  fully reflectex-ed the house (our secondary level of insulation and moisture barrier), installed and pressure tested our plumbing, and finalized all plans on our cabinetry and built-ins. This weekend we bought the lumber for the kitchen lowers and stairs, and started milling out the lumber for those. We have completed dry-fit carcasses for the lower cabinets and stairs, and started the process of milling the tongue-and-groove lumber that will be the panels for all of those.

We have secured a place to move the house in Chimacum, WA (about 20 minutes from where we are living now). Friends of a friend have an RV hook-up (power and water) with access to a shower, laundry facilities, a garden, a place to put our chickens, and potentially even a workshop. We’re going to call that place home for the next 9-12 months while we finish off interior details and finalize & perfect our off grid systems so we can get set up in a more permanent living situation. Not to mention escaping some of the rules and regulations (and costs) that come with being fully grid-tied.

 

 

 

 

A Year in the Life

And what a year it has been! We purchased our trailer exactly one year ago today, and while we had no idea what we were in for, looking back upon the past 12 months we have learned an indescribable amount. We’ve learned how to timber frame, how to build windows, how to manage a job site, how to wire a house, how to plan for off grid systems, and most of all how to work together to accomplish all of these tasks.

 

Before we got started on electrical and insulation, we took a bit of time to clean up, because who doesn’t love a tidy job site? We’ve been checking on the windows regularly as they were installed just before several winter storms. They have been holding up great! And only one needed to be refit after swelling and rubbing on the casement.

After dozens of hours of research, we finally felt ready to start on electrical. There was a fair amount of prep work that needed to happen before we actually started running wires. Because we are going to be using canvas as our wall covering, we needed nailing/stapling space around the outlet and switches, so we cased each electrical box with wood. We gathered all of our supplies and came up with a wiring diagram to help us navigate along the way.

One thing that made the wiring a little more complicated is that we are wiring for both AC and DC. The AC is run to send power to all outlets and a few light fixtures. The DC powers additional lighting, the range hood fan, a water pump, and we even ran a line that can power a solar fridge in the future. The idea is that our house is going to be off grid some day, and it will be nice to be able to run the house in “low power mode” during those long dark days in the winter. We can shut off the inverter and its constant draw, but still have most of the electrical system up and running. The complication is that AC and DC wiring must not be run in parallel chases. They can cross perpendicularly, but never run side by side. This resulted in using a lot more wire than we initially estimated. We originally budgeted for around 250 feet of wiring, but ended up using over 500 feet. I could only imagine wiring a full sized house!

 

This whole process was brand new for both of us. I have played around a little bit with simple DC circuit wiring, but never anything this large or complex. It took a while to wrap my head around but I’m feeling pretty good about the process. Being that there is not really a set of electrical standards and practices for tiny houses, we didn’t strictly need to follow code, but we made every attempt to follow both NEC and AYBC standards. And just to be extra safe, we’re having it inspected by a licensed electrician before we energize the system.

 

When I got around to wiring the distribution panels, I had a lot on my mind. Two different systems with two different sets of standards, very similar in theory but not always translatable. For the AC system the black (hot) lead gets wired directly to the fuse while the white (bond) is wired to a neutral bus bar. For the DC system, the black or yellow (negative) is wired to the negative bus bar and the red (positive) is wired to the fuse. For some reason I was in auto pilot when I got to the DC panel and spent an hour feeding, splicing and crimping all the wires to the wrong locations! It took almost another hour to correct, but it should be good to go now!

 

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Now its time for planning and contemplation about the next several steps.

Gutters and Doors and Windows, oh my!

Between shorter (and greyer and rainier) days over the past few months, and trying to find a balance between working on the house and preserving what little sanity we have left, progress has been slower than ideal, but we’re closer and closer to a liveable house every day. There is a light at the end of the window project tunnel, and we’re rapidly approaching it! Since our last post, we have completed the 8 windows we started (with a couple left to hang, and some minor hardware installation to do), as well as completing and installing the 3 small shed doors and the back door! We also put up gutters to help keep rain from finding its way inside, and to prepare for future water catchment systems.

The house looks so much nicer the more plastic and plywood we get to take off!

 

We took a New Year’s Eve trip to Home Depot to buy gutters, and got them up that weekend!

 

Fitting windows was a long process, with lots of minute adjustments and plenty of measuring twice before cutting once.

 

Glazing the windows was a process in itself. Neither of us had ever done it before, and there is very little information on the internet about it (probably because most people buy their windows premade these days…). After a bunch of research Raphael purchased a quart of Sarco Type M Multiglaze online, but halfway through glazing the windows we realized a quart wasn’t enough so we had to stall the rest of the windows until the next quart got shipped. To glaze windows you have to roll this gooey sticky substance into a thin roll and set it in the rabbet all the way around the window, then gently smoosh the glass onto it to spread it out, and then place some glazing points around the edges to hold the glass in, then flip the window and trim the excess putty. After that you have to press a bigger roll of putty all around on top of the glass and then cut away all the extra to create a nice smooth surface. I was pretty good at all the smooshing, but Raphael was definitely the expert in the smoothing, and while they look a little rustic (hey, we’re not professionals) I think they look pretty darn great!

 

Getting the windows painted and installed was the last step. When the paint was wet we were a little worried about the brightness of the yellow, but after the second coat had dried it was exactly what we wanted – a happy, sunshiney yellow. And the sun even came out for a bit for us to install them!

 

Oh, and we also bought a wood stove! Next we move on to insulation, wiring and plumbing…

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Isn’t it adorable?

 

Some photos of our progress

Its been a busy few months and some of our hard work is starting to take shape. The theme of late has been windows, windows and more windows. And I suppose a few doors too. While we aren’t quite ready to install, we are proud of the progress we’ve made so far, especially considering this is a brand new experience for us.

 

 

We made great progress with the siding, and except for a few details the house is pretty much wrapped up. Although it was a bit slower, we made the decision to stain and paint as we fit. Even the back of the siding was stained. I would highly recommend this method to anyone installing new siding. It provides complete coverage on your overlaps, so bare wood won’t be exposed when the wood shrinks, there is no need for masking or delicate brush work where two colors meet, and no need to fuss around on ladders or scaffolding. Once its up, its up and you can move on to the next project.

 

 

Although its been a little stressful, making windows has also been a lot of fun. Its one of the projects I was most excited about and I’ve already learned tons. This is one area where I can apply my training in traditional joinery, to make something strong, long lasting, and functional, and yet still inexpensive and simple enough to build with a small set of hand tools. Sure there have been many hours invested. Currently over 65 hours in the window sashes alone. But a lot of that has been time spent researching and learning so we make the right decisions at every turn.

 

 

At this point, we’ve got 8 of our 9 windows fully built, some of them are fit to their casements and hinges hung. Amy has been sourcing used glass from some folks near by, and cutting each piece to fit. Next we will be priming our sashes, glazing in the glass, painting the sashes, and then installation is right around the corner!!

Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Right?

We have been busy as beavers over the past couple of months and have made some amazing progress, despite taking another week long trip back to the east coast for a wedding.

All 9 windows are framed out (that was a long and sometimes challenging process we’d be happy to share with you if you’re interested!) and painted, as well as both of the doors, and we’ve also gotten several rows of siding up all around the house. We haven’t been without frustrations – bent nails, banged fingers, boards trimmed just a little too short, chickens jumping up on freshly painted boards – but what house build goes perfectly? We’re still having lots of fun and despite what feels like slow work we’re making good progress and should be able to make our goal of getting the outside finished by the end of September, because at this point all that means is 1 more coat of paint on the loft Windows and finishing siding which goes pretty quick with 2 people working on it!

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Our OSHA inspectors (Squirrely-Toes, Arry, B, Cleo & Jane) taking care of anything resembling a bug problem under the trailer. Who needs chemicals when you’ve got these girls?!

 

Decisions, Decisions…

It’s been a while since our last post (whoops!) but we’ve been busy busy busy since then!

Raphael spent a lot of time and energy researching and designing our windows and doors, and we figured out a design that was functional (hold the window in and keep the weather out) and simple enough for us to build ourselves. So off we went to Carl’s Lumber to buy lots of hemlock for all the casements, jambs and stops and oak for the sills. Once we had all the wood we cut it all down to rough sizes and were fortunate enough to be granted permission to use the School of Woodworking’s shop to further mill everything down. We have a simple table saw, and Raphael recently purchased a band saw and a small planer (!!) but we don’t have a jointer, or nearly as nice machinery or shop space as they do, so we were really lucky to be able to use it. Now everything is just waiting to be fit and cut to final dimensions and installed!

We also made a trip down to Bremerton, WA (about an hour south of us) to pick up all of our cedar bevel siding and trim. We found a company down there (Cedar Products, Co.) and cedar is all they do, and they’re far more affordable than anywhere up here, and it was well worth the trip.

The next tricky part was choosing colors (not my forte, I want them all!). We narrowed it down to a grey stain for the siding (aiming for the look of aged cedar), green trim and yellow window sashes. The first green we picked out and painted some sample pieces was a winner – “Fiddlehead Green”! The first yellow we got was too pale, but our second one, despite the terrible name “Yellow Highlighter”was just right. The siding was our biggest trouble – there are solid stains, semi-solid and semi-transparent, and it turns out the samples at the paint store that are supposedly true to form, are not. Once we figured out that they’re a full level off (the sample for the semi-solid looks like the actual semi-transparent, and neither of us were ready for a black house), we found our semi-transparent “Amherst Grey”.

Now that most of the planning phase is done it’s on to move on to installation. We’ve installed and painted everything but the doors on the back shed, as well as fascia at the roof line. We cut and fit corner trim and painted that, but it’s not installed just yet. We’ve been battling opposite work schedules and working too much (which leads to exhaustion) so our progress hasn’t been speedy, but we’re chugging along, slow and steady and it’s the tortoise who wins in the long run.

Back to Work

After taking the past two weeks off, we are back at home and getting into the swing of things. In the hustle of packing and getting everything ready before our trip, we didn’t get a change to post any photos, but here is what the house looks like now.

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We were able to meet our deadline and got the house all wrapped in tar paper before we left, and lucky we did. Its been raining here quite a bit.

 

The whole time we were back east, I was looking for inspiration from the built and natural environment. Although my first thought was to examine buildings, I found a lot more to motivate me.

New England is not the east coast I am familiar with. I am realizing that my image of the east is obscured by my experiences of dense sprawling suburbs, and the overwhelming hustle and bustle of even denser cities. This was really my first experience of the glorious and rugged untamed forests of Vermont and New York. And I have to say, I was captivated.

 

We were also able to find inspiration in the skilled craftsmanship of barn and boat builders alike. The boat pictured is an Adirondack guide boat, built in the year 1900 by H. Dwight Grant. These boats are able to carry up to 1000 pounds of gear, and are light enough to be picked up and carried over land.

Dwight Grant was a guide, a woodsman, a caretaker, a politician, a civil war veteran, and in the winter he built boats in his back yard shop in Utica, NY. He averaged about 14 boats a year, with the help of a few trusted carpenters.

 

Now that we are back, we are going to be working and building in all of our free time. Currently on the agenda, designing our doors and windows.

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If I Had a Hammer…

…I’d hammer in the mornin’, I’d hammer in the evenin’, all over this land… I think Peter, Paul and Mary were building a house when they wrote this, because I feel like I’ve been hammering out everything. On another trip to the hardware store I outfitted myself with a hammer named Fat Max, and a nail pouch tool belt, and boy am I glad I did!

Fat Max and I have been doing a lot of hammering lately. Over the past week we have been putting our 1×6 sheathing on the house, and it’s hard work! I have become about 500 times better at hammering over the 3.5 walls we have done already (Raphael was already practically an expert, but I’m sure he’s improved upon his skills as well), and I think my right arm is now exponentially stronger than the left. We have both definitely become more efficient with each board – cutting angles and fitting and sizing out boards to get the least amount of waste – and while we still find ourselves in a pickle every once and a while, we’ve been moving along nicely.

We’ve figured out patterns making it so we don’t have to break out the tape measure as much when we’re 10+ feet in the air on a rickety ladder, we’ve gotten speedy at switching the angles of the saw to cut in different directions that we need, and we’ve gotten real smooth at sliding a board in, clamping it and nailing it on the house.

Our house is looking more and more like a house every day! We’ve had a few random people stop by to look at it, and our new neighbors are really excited about it too. Being inside with walls on makes it so much easier to imagine what living in it will be like, and fortunately it doesn’t seem like it’ll be too small or cramped or uncomfortable. It’s hard to believe that just 6 weeks ago it was a trailer and a pile of lumber, and I’m really looking forward to even more amazing transformations to come!

Of course there have been some bent nails, split boards and plenty of mis-measurements, but we’ve managed just fine, and all in all we should be able to have the house wrapped in weather proof paper by the end of Friday. (We’re going to Victoria, BC for the weekend then coming back for about 24 hours before we leave on a 2 week vacation to the North East, so there won’t be many posts for a little while.)

 

Job Site Woes

I have never built anything as large as a house (even a tiny house) and I am learning that as the project gets bigger, so do the complications. Earlier this year we built a chicken coop, and it’s a d@mn nice chicken coop, but it’s still a chicken coop. We used a skill saw and drills for 90% of any work involving power tools, and since then we’ve acquired a table saw. So naive me thought that we’d have no problem finishing up the exterior stuff with just those saws. However, I quickly learned that not only did we not have all of tools we’d need, but there’s a lot more to setting up a build site than just the tools.

On Wednesday Raphael built us some great stairs to lead up to the front door, and later on the 1×6 doug fir sheathing was delivered so we started making preparations for that. Now that we have stairs outside, we’re realizing that we need a better way to get up into the loft. Right now we’re using a stool and hoisting ourselves up there, and while it’s a low loft, after doing that 27 times in an hour, the loft seems very tall. We’ve also encountered a couple glitches with our roofing – it’s all done except about 2 feet of ridge cap that must have gotten lost in translation and didn’t get ordered, and our storage shed will have to go without a drip edge because the piece we have isn’t long enough. I think I’ve made more trips to hardware stores in the last week than I had in the past year because we never have everything we need, and we could always use more than that – it’s a never ending process.)

Raphael picked us up an awesome miter saw that was amazing for chopping up some 4x4s that needed to be installed before sheathing, as well as cutting everything for framing out the storage shed on the back of the house. We eventually moved our saw station inside the house (after many sessions of leveling it, it’s nice and flat and stable, and much better than the tailgate of Raphael’s pickup). We got all the final framing pieces put in, and then we started to put the sheathing on the house and ran into our first real problem. Our brand new miter saw that cuts through a 4×4 in one go can’t cut a 45 degree angle in a 1×6. To say  there are a lot of 45 degree angles on 1×6’s that need to be cut for our house would be an understatement. We figured out how to get a nice clean line using 2 cuts, but it was incredibly time consuming, and meant feeding 20′ boards in and out of the house and flipping them over, with the cut going 3/4 of the way through.

We got about 4 boards done this way (as well as the storage roof that didn’t require angled cuts) before the end of the day Thursday, which was also when our guardian angel showed up. Our friend, Rio, was checking out the house and noticed our problem with the saw and sheathing and offered us his sliding miter saw that he’s not using – this means that we’ll be able to make a single cut and there’ll be no board gymnastics necessary (and saves us about $500 not having to buy another new saw)! Our next improvement is going to have to be getting our cutting station out of the house (especially now that there are going to be solid walls), and onto some sort of table set up outside. Now we just have to get this Pacific Northwest rain to go away so we can spend all day tomorrow getting more work done!

*It’s a lot harder to take photos when there are only 2 of us and we’re both working… we’ll try to get better and take more pictures to share with all of you!*

Sitting Down and Kicking off the Tires

With the roof metal delivered last Thursday afternoon and Friday being the last day of the timber framing class at The Port Townsend School of Woodworking, it was a bit of a mad dash to get everything squared away for travel.

Although we didn’t quite finish some final details on the roof, we set down our tools to prepare the houses for their transit.

 

A huge thanks goes out to Josh Bell, who we wrangled into moving the tiny timber frame to its new home. Josh showed his skills and experience as he effortlessly manuvered the seemingly behemoth structure to its very specifically chosen and orientated landing ground.

All said and done the move took less than an hour, not including the time it took to do some temporary leveling and wrap the whole house up in a tarp to keep it dry for the weekend.

Sunday was spent getting the tires off and settling the house on a slightly longer term foundation. We are trying to avoid the hassle of pouring a permanent foundation, but still take the load off the tires and increase stability while we finishing building. After some research and strategizing, we ended up building some wooden footings that we placed on 4 separate 4 inch think pavers.

Although it was very nerve racking, we managed to lift each side high enough to pull the tires off, then it was simply a matter of adding more cribbing until the structure was level. Since Sunday, we have definitely noticed the ground settling under the pavers and so we plan on adding two more support points and better leveling the existing pads.

Moving into this week, one of our biggest priorities is getting all of the framing finished up so we can start sheathing. We had a little extra length on our skids and trailer that we decided to turn into a sort of utility shed. It will house a propane tank, tankless hot water heater, and there are some future plans for a charge controller and battery bank. We have also come up with some floor plan revisions adding a back door, and therefore a header, that will lead to an adjacent shower and composting toilet (more to come on this).

Between all that and finishing up some metal roofing details, we have been keeping busy. A part of it has been developing a workflow for our new job site. Locating all the right tools, setting up cutting stations, and learning when we should just break for lunch. Its all part of the adventure.