Burning down the house

No, not really.

One early decision we made was not to use the typical shingled cedar siding that most tiny houses employ. ¬†Instead I wanted the siding to be smooth by using shiplapped or tongue and groove siding. ¬†We also decided to get¬†reclaimed wood for our siding, which is a very hip thing to do but darn if it doesn’t look fantastic. ¬†We were unable to find affordable ((It turns out, reclaimed wood is relatively¬†expensive.)) reclaimed boards that could be used for exterior siding without treatment, so we decided to save some money and spend the time to treat them.

Our reclaimed wood dealer, J from Jarmak Corporation, suggested we try a Japanese method of treatment called shou-sugi-ban.  This involves briefly torching the wood, giving it a slightly charred surface.  This technique has also been used by tiny house builders:

In our case we are also applying a special exterior-grade oil on the wood to further protect it from the elements and insects.¬† Although it’s expensive, our speciality hardware store said it’s the right stuff for the job.

After a little practice the treatment process was fairly straightforward.¬† First, friend of the house David put his knowledge of flame management to work and did the actual singeing, achieving a very lovely even finish. ¬†The boards, being reclaimed, responded very individually to the flame. ¬†Some singed easily, others really didn’t want to blacken. ¬†Although you can’t see the flame, the heat coming out of the torch was intense. ¬†Occasionally the dry grass would catch fire and we’d stamp it out. ¬†We also had a fire extinguisher nearby in case it got out of hand.

David singes the boards

Next, I took a stiff steel brush to the boards and removed the loose soot.  You can see this more easily in the youtube video above.

I’m in the back working on recently-singed boards

Lastly, Char applied the oil to the boards.

Char applies the oil

The final result is some very nice blackened boards, and a man absolutely covered in soot.


Roof finished

As of last week, the roof is done ((Not quite, there are a couple small pieces of roofing metal I still need to add to the stern end. But these are so minor, and something I only recently decided I wanted to add that I don’t really count it.))! Cutting, lifting, and drilling all of that metal has been the hardest part of the building process so far. The small margin for error was really stressful — you can’t change the position of a screw once you’ve put a hole in an expensive piece of metal. Only time will tell whether I did a good job or not, but I’ve already gotten a number of compliments from the neighbors about how it looks so that makes me happy.

2015-07-22 18.00.47
Installing metal around the skylight was very hard.

The finished roof
The finished roof

One mistake I made was during installation of the metal around the skylight. I didn’t measure precisely enough, so although the metal below the skylight lined up correctly, the metal over it did not. Because of that, the ribs of the metal didn’t line up and I had to cut one of the pieces. This left a gap where water could get in below the metal, so I had to use caulking, butyl tape, and an extra piece of metal to try to mitigate the problem. Fingers crossed.

Update: OK now the roof is really, really done :-).

This roof is so metal

Summer has been a busy time with work, BBQs, etc., but this weekend (and the weekend of June 20th and 21st) we made time to work on the metal part of the roof.¬† We went with a classic red.¬† (Officially, “Patriot Red”.)¬† June 20th and 21st, we did the hip roof at the front of the house, yesterday we did the entire port side, and today we did most of the starboard side, save the part around the skylight.¬† Work on the port side actually started a couple weeks ago, but Owen didn’t get very far working by himself.¬† Between holding the metal down tight and working the screw driver, it’s really necessary to have two people on the job.

The most difficult part about installing the roof is the lack of margin for error. Once the screws have been installed, it’s not possible to remove them and try again. The first hole will still be there and happily leak water into the space below. So once a piece is down, it’s down.

Another tricky part about installing a standing seam roof is that each metal panel overlaps with the previous panel, so that any error in alignment is propagated down the entire roof. This can cause, say, the roof to overhang much more at one end than the other.

Owen says: I used online tutorials by Roofing Intelligence to fill in the details of how to install my roof. Luckily the metal they use in the videos is exactly what I ordered, so it was easy to apply the lessons to our own roof.

Ultimately the roof has some flaws and looks amateurish, but I believe that it will function correctly: no leaks! We have removed the tarp, and it is supposed to rain this week, so we’ll find out for sure soon enough.

2015-06-20 10.46.59
Cutting the metal with metal shears. The electric ones (the blue device in the photo) work well for some tasks but not others.
2015-06-20 14.34.41
Each section of metal for the oddly-shaped hip roof had to be cut on the ground before walking it up to roof-level, and then making sure it fit exactly before being drilled down.

2015-07-11 13.04.06

2015-07-11 14.41.00
The tiny house at the end of the build day, July 11th.

Windows installed

This weekend, blessed with perfect weather, we invited our crew of handy friends over and installed the final four windows in the Tiny House. Two of the windows were not very different from other windows already installed in the tiny house, but the skylight and the bay window were special challenges.

The double-hung window near Char was the easiest of the bunch and made for a good warm-up.

The skylight was a challenge because of its placement on the roof. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but the installation method was different than all the other windows, and the waterproofing steps are much more detailed (and critical). The final flashing of the skylight can’t be done until we’re installing the roof, but most of the work is complete.

Andy and Owen carefully level the skylight

The bay window was a challenge because it takes two people to lift just to move it at all, and a third person is needed to keep it in place when hanging it. While it is on the “first floor”, it is high enough up that a ladder and our moveable staircase were needed. Since it is so large, and the entire window can swing open, it’s much more subject to flexing. Right now the righthand pane doesn’t quite close correctly, and it may be necessary to rehang the hinges if it continues to be a problem.


Measure twice…

Special thanks to our friends Andy, Nicolle, David, and Jess. We could not have accomplished installing four windows (three of them high up, one of them super-heavy) in one day without their lifting, caulking, drilling, flange-placing, Tyvek-taping, underlayment cutting and installing.

Making Progress on the Roof

I am tired of the tarp. It’s been up for over half a year and it’s full of holes. So, we are prioritizing roof work — it must come above all else (get it?). Roofs are the first line of defense from the rain and snow.¬† So, the “order of operations” for installing all the roof parts must be followed, or else the finished roof may leak.¬† For our roof, the order is:

  1. Eave drip edges
  2. Underlayment ((A waterproof, heatproof, self-adhesive rubber layer that says in big letters that it contains cancer-causing agents.  This is what really keeps the house dry))
  3. Rake drip edges
  4. Roofing panels
  5. Hip ridge covering
  6. Roof ridge covering

With each of these steps, we have to do the installation low-to-high, and back-to-front. So the very first things to install are at the back of the house close to the edge, and the last things to install are at the front of the house toward the ridge. At every step of the way, a raindrop should fall gently from one surface higher up to a lower surface below. At no time should a drop of rain encounter a seam where it could puddle and leak.

The underlayment is designed to be walked upon
The underlayment is designed to be walked upon

Because a roof is a dangerous thing to walk on, I built my own temporary scaffolding to make it easier to work up high. I borrowed the design from a clip of This Old House on youtube:

I bought so much extra wood last year, mine was entirely constructed from leftover pieces!

The scaffolding
The scaffolding
Measuring a detail
Measuring a detail
Underlayment installed
Underlayment installed

We hope to have all the underlayment installed over memorial day weekend, then we can start working on rake edges and the roofing panels.

Shopping, roof details, and weekly project meetings

This weekend we made a lot of progress. We went shopping for reclaimed wood to use for the exterior siding. We checked out a local specialty lumber yard, but we got the impression they were used to customers looking for wood for interior use, and we’re not sure we want to spend the money on wood that isn’t suitable for the great outdoors. We’re going to try another yard on the 26th before we come to that final conclusion.

We also went shopping for a stove. ¬†We’re looking at the Hampton H15 stove¬†which optionally comes with a kit to enable it to use propane instead of natural gas. ¬†The challenge with the stove is, how do we (legally) fit the stovepipe to vent outside? ¬†We could either have it go straight up, or out the side of the house. ¬†The disadvantage to having it go straight up is that we’d have to cut a hole in the roof. ¬†The guy at Black Magic Chimney¬†said he was not even clear on the best way to do that on a metal roof. ¬†If the pipe vented out the side instead, the house would be wider than the 8’6″ highway legal limit. ¬†But such a vent might qualify as an appurtenance, which is an object that might not count toward the overall width, and therefore we wouldn’t be in violation. Owen is researching the topic.

Owen coerces a rake board into place so it lines up with the fascia board it’s supposed to attach to.

The great thing about wood is that it’s flexible! What looked like a 1/2″ measuring error was completely eliminated by careful application of force.

The red metal drip edge of the roof has been applied.
Owen and Char hold one of their weekly meetings about progress made on the Tiny House.

Mistakes Were Made

This is what can happen when you (I) misread architectural plans. Here is the finished framing for the loft skylight, after I fixed my problem:

Finished skylight framing
Finished skylight framing

Can you figure out what went wrong?

Here are the plans. Which dimension is 21″, the green, or the red? ((Apologies to colorblind folks — green runs horizontally and red runs vertically)) ((Apologies to folks who can’t tell horizontal from vertical and are colorblind — you’re SOL))


Green, you say? That’s what I thought until I went to buy the skylight, and they didn’t sell one that would open along the red dimension. Confused, I looked at the plans and took the full rafter length, 68.125″, and subtracted the length of the cripple studs (17.75″ and 17.75″) as well as the width of 2 double studs, 6 inches:

68.125 – 17.75 – 17.75 – 6 = 26.625,

And that’s suspiciously close to 26.875, which what I had thought was the red dimension.

What happened? The plans are a top-down view of the roof, so the horizontal dimension of the plans is a projection of the 45 degree pitched roof. This projection compresses the true length of all lines in the green direction, so the green dimension of the window is longer than it looks.

If I’d left the framing as it was, the skylight would have been oriented incorrectly and probably would have leaked. So I spent a good long while staring at the framing and figuring out how to reframe the opening for the correct orientation.

The plans aren’t technically wrong, but the author could have rotated the text for the skylight dimensions to make it clear. Ultimately no harm was done and I fixed the problem before I’d cut a bad hole in my roof.

Mapping it out

Masking tape and a ruler are our tools for sketching out how the interior of the tiny house will be laid out.¬† This is important for figuring out practical things like: how deep can the counters be?¬† Can we have a door that swings open in a certain direction and does not hit things?¬† Can we avoid putting in a bathroom door that would be hinged on the left and make it impossible to get into the bathroom?¬† We are also thinking about intangibles like how the space will feel, and what the “living room” part of it will actually be used for.¬† Right now we are thinking tray tables will be essential.¬† They are so versatile and easy to fold away when not being used.¬† As long as we remember to leave about a half foot of space somewhere to stash them!¬† (Little things like this will add up.)


The areas are detailed with solid and dotted lines.
The areas are detailed with solid and dotted lines.
Owen points to where cabinets above the level of the kitchen counter could be.  But do we need them?  It may make the kitchen feel too cramped, so we are leaning towards a row of hooks for pots and pans instead.
Owen points to where cabinets above the level of the kitchen counter could be. But do we need them? It may make the kitchen feel too cramped, so we are leaning towards a row of hooks for pots and pans instead.

Busy weekend

We made major progress on the tiny house this weekend thanks to our many handy friends (and the almost perfect cooperation of the weather). ¬†We hung the first window. ¬†Special thanks to James Fraumeni, who brought exactly the knowledge and experience we needed for hanging windows and the spirit of sharing his time and energy to show us how it’s done. ¬†We were able to prep most of the other windows (holes cut, house wrap taped back). ¬†We finally sheathed the hip roof, the hardest part of the roof to measure, and because it was the final part, the hardest part to drill into place. ¬†Our friends drilled down the entire roof sheathing, which required hundreds of screws to be drilled into place, some in tricky-to-reach places. ¬†The tarp came off and went back on again.

2015-04-18 15.56.30 2015-04-18 16.25.49 2015-04-18 16.16.48
2015-04-18 16.15.17 2015-04-18 13.14.55 2015-04-18 14.07.51
2015-04-18 13.55.35 2015-04-18 14.01.38 2015-04-19 13.37.30
2015-04-19 14.37.28 2015-04-19 14.07.53 2015-04-19 15.33.08
2015-04-19 15.49.12 2015-04-19 16.27.23 2015-04-18 12.46.42

Work resumes!

With the snow melted and the thermometer finally above freezing, Char and I have resumed working on the Tiny House.  The first order of business was to start clearing away scrap wood left over from last year, and generally clean up the work site.  Char graciously did most of this work, carrying ruined scraps from the heap in the back yard around to the Junkster we bought.

A mostly-full Junkster bag
A mostly-full Junkster bag

The junkster isn’t especially cost-effective. 3300 pounds may sound like a lot, but at ~160$ including pickup, it’s a pricy way to get rid of waste. Next time we will probably get a regular dumpster instead. Dumpsters charge by the pound instead of a flat fee, and they hold a lot more stuff.

After we got things moved out of the way, I got to work on framing the loft window and cutting the last funny-shaped pieces of sheathing. It was good to pick up the tools again and find that I hadn’t forgotten how to use them.

The loft window is framed and ready for sheathing.
The loft window is framed and ready for sheathing.
Various triangles and trapazoids
Various triangles and trapazoids

The last pieces of sheathing are for the hip roof. The whole hip roof is a little warped and uneven due to my inexperience with double-angled cuts, so there will be some annoying gaps when we go to attach the sheathing. I’m hoping we can just fill in the gaps with some shims to get everything to connect.