Hi friends! Our site is undergoing some changes and updates! We’re re-populating our lost photos, but in a slightly different way – each project has it’s own page under the “The Build” section, and the blog posts have a few photos in them as well. We thought this might be a better way to accurately portray the entirety of each project, and make it easier for you all to see what we did, rather than spread out between blog posts. Please bear with us as we make this happen, and stay tuned for a new post about what we’ve been up to since moving in!
(We’re having some difficulties with photos, but here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to over the last month! We’ll get photos up as soon as we can.)
Well, it’s been an insanely busy month, but WE DID IT!!! We moved the Tiny Timber frame from it’s home of the past year, to it’s home for the next year or so, and are living in it now! But I’m getting ahead of myself… we did a lot more to get to that point! Since the last post we have spent countless hours in the shop working on cabinets and stairs and countertops, and even more hours in the house installing those, framing out closets and bench seating, applying wall covering and more.
First: cabinetry and stairs… we bought a lot of poplar, and in the last post we had dry fit all of the frames. After that we had to mill out all of the paneling for the sides/walls and the shelving. For the panels we then painted (using Old Fashioned Milk Paint in Soldier Blue), then sanded it to add a bit of a worn in look, and finished with Skidmore’s Beeswax Finish. Then we glued up the frames with the painted panels in them (that was quite a process!) and finally painted all of the visible posts of the frame (why waste time, energy and paint on something that will never be seen?), and finished the entire thing with more Skidmore’s. Imagine that! A finish that is not terrible for you or the environment! Then came the fun part – installation! Everything fit in perfectly and required very minimal adjustments (a couple shims to account for slightly uneven floors and we were good to go). After screwing everything to the walls we tested the stairs and even without treads they were way better than the kitchen stool we had been using to get into the loft! The final step was sizing and finishing the shelving and floors so that things could actually be put in the cabinets.
While all of this was going on Raphael was also working on the countertop and stair treads. We have some live-edge alder pieces for stairs that are this close to being ready to replace the temporary plywood treads! The counter is Maple, and was glued together, flattened (by hand!), sink hole cut and finished just in time to move the house. The finish needed to off-gas for a week before being installed, so that got put in yesterday, and we now have a counter, sink and running water!
For the closets and bench seating we did some pretty simple framing – just 2x4s cut down and screws. In order to mount the stairs we had to put one wall on my closet, but all the others are open for now (there were more important things to get done before the move). We bought some Montana beetle kill Blue Pine from a local guy for our closets and to also have as the woodstove surround. It ties in beautifully with the rest of the house and the blues in the cabinetry complements the pine better than we ever could have expected! We have some temporary plywood for seating, countertops and stairs, which is the only plywood in the whole house, and neither of us can wait for it to be gone!
The walls got done in bits and pieces, but had to be finished before we installed all of the built-ins, for obvious reasons. We decided to do canvas walls, and bought a roll of artists canvas that was primed on one side. We put that side in, because we didnt’ love the stark white, but the priming added some structure to the fabric which is why we decided to use it. We got a few pointers on stretching canvas from someone who had done it for paintings before, and using that and a lot of awkward stretching and reaching we got all the walls covered in nice, tight canvas. We called it close and were left with only tiny scraps at the end, but are pretty happy with the results! We’ll spray it with some tent waterproofing spray for some protection, and if we ever decide that it’s too dirty, it’ll be really easy to paint.
A couple days before the big move we decided to energize the electrical system. What we thought would be a quick procedure ended up taking several hours when we found continuity where it shouldn’t be during some final tests. It was narrowed down to a run that had only 1 outlet on it – the one for the fridge. We debated opening up the walls, or drilling a hole through the floor to run a new chase under the house, but neither of those sounded like good options, for many reasons. Finally, after some more testing and “this doesn’t make sense” we figured out that the 2-screw connectors that were bringing the wire into the breaker box had compressed them too much and caused a short, and after a quick patch and the addition of a junction box (and no tearing open walls or new holes in the floor) all tests were normal! We plugged in the system and turned on the back porch light (the only fixture we have right now) and tested all the outlets with 100% success and a big sigh of relief.
Now for the fun (and stressful) part – moving the house. We were fortunate enough to have the same person who moved the frame a year ago move the house again, and he brought his 6 month old puppy along (who I got to watch while the Raphael helped Josh maneuver out of the yard). There was some fancy footwork (wheel work?) required, but after getting it out of the yard, it was a smooth trip about 25 minutes out of town to its new home. There was more tricky maneuvering on that end (dirt road hills and low branches and wires), but it worked out great! The final (and arguably worst) step was then to jack up and level the house – meaning crawling around in dirt and gravel maneuvering heavy cement pavers into place and being sure they’re dead level before stacking pilons high enough to hold the weight off of the trailer’s suspension.
On top of all that we had to move all of our possessions from the house we had been renting for a year and a half to our storage unit (which is ironically bigger than the house) and the house. But we did it. We are alive and well, and although we are both sore, tired and have some bumps and bruises, there were no major injuries, and no catastrophies. It feels a little surreal to be living in the tiny timber frame after being a construction zone for a year, but as we find homes for everything and get more settled in we love it more and more.
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.
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…
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!
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.
…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.)
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!*
Our house is looking more and more like a house every day! Last week both houses got all 4 walls standing and joined together, as well as the framing and flooring the lofts (aka “permanent scaffolding”, “storage shelves” or “drop ceilings”)!! That’s a great enough feat on it’s own, but Friday was spent on roof framing, and everything for our house is well on it’s way to becoming a roof, and the other house isn’t far behind.
It’s hard to believe that 3 short weeks ago we had a trailer and a pile of wood, and now we have what is very obviously the start to a house. There’s only 1 week left in the course, and on the agenda for that week is roofs! Our house is going to have a fairly standard roof for 10’8″ of it, but for the 8′ over our “storage area” we will have more of a dormer style with shallower pitch (allowing for more head room while we’re sitting on the mattress that will be “stored” up there).
We deliberated for a long time about loft height. For me it’s less of a concern, if it’s more than 5’6″ high I can stand under it and I’m a happy camper, but Raphael throws a wrench into it with his 6’3″ height. Our dilemma was this – if he can stand under the loft, we have about 3.5 feet of height at the absolute maximum up top. When you add in 10+ inches of a mattress that means you couldn’t even sit up in bed if you were smack dab in the middle, let alone if you’re off to one side or another.
During one of our sessions of hemming and hawing in our dining room our roommate walked in and suggested a split height loft – kinda like the lofted bunk beds with desks underneath that some dorm rooms have. He mentioned it in passing, but over the next couple of weeks we started to consider it more and more. Our plan for under the loft is a seating area anyway (living room/dining room type thing, with built in bench seating in a U shape), so do we really need to be able to stand up fully? Raphael brought up sitting in a booth at a restaurant – you sit down and one end and scootch your way in to the middle… so theoretically as long as the ceiling isn’t right on top of your head when you’re sitting down, you don’t necessarily have to stand under it. Plus, less ceiling height down below means more up top!
We went back and forth for a while until the deadline of the class needing to know where we were putting it came up. We decided to put the top of the floor of the loft 6′ above the main floor. That means with 1.5″ of flooring and then 3.5″ rafters, the bottom of the rafters is just barely over 5’6″, and in between them is about 5’10”. I can stand barefoot under the rafters no problem, but Raphael needs to lose 6″ of his height when he’s under there, and we’re really hoping that this was the right choice! We haven’t found many, if any, examples of this being done in other tiny houses, so we’re crossing our fingers that it’s just because no one else has thought of it yet, and not because there’s some glaring reason not to do it that we just haven’t found yet.
It’s pretty amazing what sharpened pieces of metal can do to wood! The past few days in the shop have been spent making more mortises and tenons than you can imagine in the 4x4s for all 8 walls. I was very impressed when I walked in the workshop on Thursday to see things taking shape – corners were clamped together and getting their final fittings and sizings, and after having the labeling system explained to me (there are numbers, roman numerals, letters, triangles and initials, all of which correspond to a very specific location in each house), I could easily picture all of these simple pieces of wood forming our future home.
For the sake of productivity and keeping the students sane, the tenons (after being drawn out with a pencil and square) were all cut on a band saw, and the final cuts were made with hand saws and chisels. The mortises were measured and marked, then bored out on the drill press and squared up with a corner chisel.
Once everything was cut to satisfaction, they fit things together, and looked for any imperfections and figured out how to solve any potential problems, and then set the finished pieces aside for future assembly.
Each student seems to have fallen nicely into their roles among one another. During the first few days no one really knew where to go next, and was much more tentative to step up to a job, but now when I walk in everyone is working on something different. It’s fascinating to see so many individual people all learning the same thing in various ways – ultimately achieving the same end through different means.