Minor Issues

We have had some minor issues with our photo storage, and therefore all of our photos are gone from the website =[

We have backups but it might take us a little while to repopulate the site. But don’t worry we’ll post again soon and update our progress.

 

 

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!

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

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!!

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Almost time for the maiden voyage

As we headed into this week I found myself constantly impressed and amazed at our progress. As Steve has said, we have already leaned all of the joinery techniques while producing the wall systems. With the roof, it is and opportunity to refine and practice those skills.

With most of the roof system joinery finished up on Friday, we spent most of Monday morning finishing a few joints and glueing up the rafters.

With rain in the forecast Tuesday was all hands on deck as we hurried to install the 2×6 T&G for the roof. It was pretty amazing to see the first glimpses of our interior, as the ceiling was closed in.

Wednesday morning was spent closing up the last bit of roof, and adding some details. I really enjoyed the challenge of fitting the last pieces together as the ridge came together.

Given our mild climate, we are choosing to not insulate the roof. Of course with the added benefit of not covering up our very nice T&G car decking from the inside. In the process of deciding how to insulate the rest of the structure, we decided upon minimally insulating with a product called Infra Stop/Reflectix. It is basically a double think bubble wrap with aluminum foil on both sides. Installed with an air space, it provides a significant amount of interior energy reflection, as well as external deflection.

At some point during the course, the idea surfaced that we could use the same insulation above the car decking and below the metal roofing. It would possibly provide some insulation, and definitely help with noise dampening issues common with metal roofing. We decided to go for it, and unrolled some of the Infra Stop under our roofing felt, and we’ll see if it makes a difference.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, we tacked on a layer of roofing felt and covered up with walls with tarps to prepare for the impending showers.

Most of today was spent refining some last details, adding corner braces, installing gable fascia and waiting on our metal roof delivery.

 

It finally showed up by the very end of the day and we’re prepared to install it first thing in the morning.

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking will be holding a pot luck and open house starting at Noon tomorrow (5/20/16), in honor of the completion of the tiny house building course. Our journey with the school is coming to an end, but for us, it is just beginning. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by.

Fort Worden State Park Building 304 – hope to see you all there!

It starts to get vertical

Over the weekend we made some time to do a little bit of planning, specifically regarding how we will be heating the space. We are going to be installing with a small wood burning stove, and wanted to understand some specifics, especially how it relates to running the chimney through the roof.

We ended up learning a lot about this system of heating, but part of what amazes me is how little we knew a few days ago. In embarking upon this build, we knew that there was going to be a virtual S#%t load of projects we are going to need to tackle, and many of them learning as we go. But now that we are underway, we are developing a workflow, and each learning opportunity seems to make us more prepared for the next.

Wrapping up last week in class and moving into this one, things were starting to feel a little tense. We were a few days behind schedule, and still had all the wall layout and joinery to do for the window headers and sills, door headers and loft joists. Feeling the pressure, everyone put their heads down and went into production mode, and accomplished an incredible amount of work.

I was thinking today, that it would be interesting if we could track the amount of times each timber has be touched. First sorted and graded, then trimmed to length. Tenon cheeks cut, followed by shoulders. Mortises laid out, bored then chopped clean. Shoulders cleaned up and joints checked for fit. This kind of care is rarely given to the built world anymore.

Today was a complete whirlwind of activity, but shortly after lunch we started assembling the first walls. We learned a lot putting the first wall up, and it made the second go a lot smoother.

The loft joists are mortised in, which makes for a bit of a challenge as we had to lean one wall out to get the tenons to slide into place. But hey! Look at that! Its starting to look like a house.

Stepping into production

It’s been a while since the last post, and in that time we’ve been quite busy! We got the flooring delivered on Tuesday of last week, and Wednesday it got installed on the framing of both trailers.

We treated ours with a couple of coats of Daly’s Teak Oil and covered it to protect it from the elements while class moved back inside the shop to start working on the wall framing.

After spending the weekend at home making some improvements to our chicken coop, and chipping away at the workbench I’m building, it was time to jump back into production on the house. A week in and the shop is already feeling familiar; the workflow has developed a steady rhythm, everyone seems to be figuring out their roles, and no one is afraid to speak up and share with the group.

Most of the day Thursday and Friday was spent working on scarf joints for the top and bottom plates. A big part of that was developing a marking system so that when we are fitting joints, they end up back where they started.

Yesterday and today have been in mortise and tenon city. Each house starts with 40 mortises and 40 tenons for the wall system alone.

More will be added for the roof system, corner braces, headers, sills, and the loft floor joists, but we had plenty to keep us busy so far.

On top of all that, we have been doing some floor plan layout and design to determine window and door placement.

 

I find that questions keep coming up and some of them I know the answers to. Others I haven’t even thought about in the slightest. I guess its all part of the process

Back to school

Its only been about three weeks since the end of Foundations class. It was a perfect time for a spring break. We moved the chickens outside, spent some time in the garden, and went on some nice hikes and bike rides.

But today I packed up my toolbox and headed back to school. There is always something exciting about the first day. I know it will all become routine in no time at all, but now its so new and exciting. On top of that, this is an entirely new class for PTSW. With the Foundations class, you could tell they have been running the class twice a year for many years, but there is something special about being a part of a new chapter for the school.

We started out with introductions, but quickly moved into grading lumber and starting to make the first cuts for the floor system. All in all it was a great first day, and we made more progress than I thought we would. Tomorrow we’ll be getting the trailers all set up and hopefully start assembling the floor system.

We kept waiting for the other shoe to drop

We’ve been scouring the web for leads on a heavy duty equipment trailer since about the middle of December (2015). Let me tell you there are no lack of options, but just like making any well thought consumer decision, it can be challenging.

Starting in January, I had a string of correspondence with a guy I found on craigslist who builds custom trailers out of his backyard shop south of Portland. Understandably I had some hesitation about going this route, but it had its advantages too.

One of the challenges that we are facing is that we are going to be building on skids. The idea is that eventually we can pull the house off of the trailer and place it in its permanent home. To do that, we need the floor joists to clear the tires. Most dealer sold equipment trailers don’t accommodate that specific need. They are either too high, or there is not enough clearance from the decking to the top of the fender or wheel well.

 

So this morning at 7am we rented a U Haul truck and started the 4 and a half hour drive to Molalla, Oregon. Feeling like I needed to have my wits about me for the return trip, Amy made the drive down. And, to say we are inexperienced at driving with a trailer would be an understatement. I’ve driven a 200lb boat trailer a few times, but thats the extent of it.

On top of the idea that we are supporting a (somewhat) local small business, our entire experience with MS Metal Works went over without a hitch. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) And luckily there was in fact a hitch. Mike was finishing up wiring the trailer when we arrived, and entertained all of our questions while he deftly spliced wires and got us all squared away.

 

With only a few hiccups we arrived back in Port Townsend by about 8pm, and parked it out in front of the School of Woodworking. Drained but somewhat giddy, we’re going to bed knowing that this is really where it all starts.