Tiny House on BIG Tour

tiny house on BIG Tour Each year Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability hosts the Build it Green Tour, which has been nicknamed the BIG Tour. This year Cully Grove is going to be featured and since the tiny house is here, too, Eli has offered to include it as part of the tour. I’ll be able to show off all my hard work and talk tiny houses with everyone who stops by.

The tiny house has come a long way since I showed the house off at during my Yestermorrow practicum presentation a month ago. I’ll be wrapping up my work on the tiny house in the next week, so showing it at the BIG tour will be my capstone for my summer’s work.

The house isn’t quite done yet. In the next couple days the exterior will be painted and the interior will be clear coated. The kitchen cabinet has been ordered and will be installed soon. Eli is going to have a metalworker named Richard whom he’s worked with before make decorations to cover up the metal hanging brackets that support the loft joists. Eli’s also going to have Rocky tile the countertop. The sink will need to be installed, too. And of course, the finish plumbing and electrical work still needs to be done. But we’re getting to the point that there’s not much more I can do.

I certainly still have plenty to learn, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Over the course of the summer I learned some tangible hard skills: siding, air sealing, creating an electrical layout, running wire, insulating, paneling, trim work, roofing, shingling. I also learned soft skills related to working solo and planning ahead. I feel really lucky to have had my Summer Dream Job. I found that I love woodworking and especially finish work like window trim. The moment I figured out how to rabbet out a piece of trim on my own was a highlight of the summer. I’m grateful to Orange Splot, LLC for a full year of internship and apprenticeship and I’m glad I get to share the tiny house with others on Saturday, September 21.

Please come check it out if you’re able!

Jill of All Trades

let there be (sky)light! We (almost!) finished the tiny house's exterior last week. Eli has found a professional painter with all the equipment to paint the tiny house in just a day. So on Monday I caulked big gaps and primed the battens and trim to prep for the painter. Simon - who is quite an artist in addition to being a great site supervisor - is letting some thoughts percolate for the time being about the design details for the upper portion of the gable ends. Of course, we still need to install the metal roofing, too, but I won't be able to do that by myself. Manda and Simon have been super busy over at the Cully Grove site since the framing has begun over there now. In the meantime, I shifted my attention to the interior of the tiny house and solo projects.

I started out the week by clearing out all the building supplies we'd been storing in the tiny house and cleaning it up. After sweeping and vacuuming, I caulked the floorplates to the floor, studs, and sheathing. I also installed the door knob so that we can close up the house at night. Then I got going again on the rough electrical. Eli did a walk-through over the weekend and had a few modifications and additions for electrical switch and outlet boxes so I set those in place Monday. The electrical additions required a few more holes to be drilled through the studs so I've become pretty handy with the right angle drill. (Manda informs me that it's actually a "hole hog," but I like the idea of Going Whole Hog on the Tiny House!)

wiring fun

With the thumbs up from Eli I was able to pull the wire Tuesday. (I realized there was a good reason Eli suggested making my runs as straight as possible - it's much easier to actually pull the wire that way!) We're using a 12 gauge wire with 4 circuits. There's a dedicated circuit for the 10 gallon tank water heater and second for the range. A third circuit controls the bedroom and bathroom lights, outlet, and exhaust fan. The fourth circuit is for switches and outlets throughout the rest of the house. I've labeled the wires to make it easier for the electrician to connect everything once we've finished out the walls.

Running wire was a good logic puzzle and by the time I had to leave for my Real Estate Construction class on Tuesday, I had a long list of questions which Simon helped me answer on Wednesday. I enjoyed my crash course in electrical. Turns out I enjoy pulling wire and double checking that my switches and lights are all wired properly. Of course, now that I've got the hang of it, I'm finished with rough electrical, but I'm eager to give it a go again soon!

sleeping loft before the skylight

Eli also asked us to install the skylight over the sleeping loft so we can start on the roofing. I marked our rough opening, but I was nervous about using the sawzall, especially in such a confined space and at an awkward angle. The sawzall and the table saw are the two power tools I'm still not quite comfortable with because I hear horror stories of professionals doing serious damage with them. Certain power tools demand respect and I intend to be respectful! So I decided to wait for some coaching.

Fortunately, Manda had some down time at the Cully Grove site yesterday afternoon so she taught me how to use the sawzall safely. Simon helped us set the skylight in place and fix it to the roof sheathing. It's amazing how much the skylight opens up the sleeping loft. Once again, I'm convinced that skylights are the trick to creating a feeling of spaciousness. It's my new favorite feature of the tiny house!

little shared car, big load

Today I did a supply run to pick up 14-3 wire for our 3-way switch, nail plates to protect our wire from puncture wounds when we install the interior finish, and the insulation for our ceiling and walls. Paragon Pacific has a crazy-wonderful selection of insulation, including this 3 inch rigid foam we'll use for our ceiling. I loved loading up the Getaround car with a heap of insulation. It reminded me of the IKEA commercials. Tee, hee!

I've realized this week that one of the strange things about building a tiny house is that I don't have a chance to perfect any of the building techniques. Just as I get the gist of hanging siding, running wire, or cutting rough openings with a sawzall we've finished up that step and moved on to the next one. I imagine by the end of the summer I'll be a true Jill of all trades. Fortunately, I anticipate there will be plenty of chances to apply what I'm learning to other tiny houses! I learned a lot this week and next week it's on to a whole new skill set...

Day 4: Tiny House Plumbing & Wiring Begins

Today we did a walk around of the tiny house first thing so Jane could decide where she wanted all of her outlets and switches. One of the builders focused on the electrical and plumbing most of the day while the rest of us finished sheathing the house.

We continued with our method of measuring the area to cover, cutting the piece, holding it up to make sure it fit properly, then adding a bead of construction adhesive to each stud and header, and stapling the OSB to the studs. We have become pretty handy with Liquid Nails construction adhesive, a circular saw, and a staple gun. The trick of nailing a pieces of 2x4 to the top plate so that we can butt the sheet of OSB up to it is a great one!

Because the house is 8'6" wide and 20' long we aren't able to use full sheets of dimensional OSB so we have used full sheets as often as possible and placed our filler pieces strategically. The stud layouts I'd sketched out a couple weeks ago were useless since the layout of the house has been tweeked a bit. We also didn't have the trailer yet so we couldn't get precise measurements from it until just before we started building. We certainly added some weight by using extra studs, but hopefully the enhanced sheer strength will be worth it. As we covered it in sheathing the house started getting darker but we cut open the windows again with a sawzall.

The trickiest pieces we worked on were around the wheel wells. Since we are building out to the full width of the trailer we're bringing the wheel wells into the house. We needed to make sure we had a good connection between the walls and the trailer and we wanted to minimize the number of exterior wall surfaces. We all puzzled over it for a while and finally came up with a solution that involved capping the ends of our double joists with plywood, then placing a 2x4 at the bottom of the gap and gluing it into place with massive amounts of construction adhesive. We'll be sure to tape it well, too, with our handy aluminum tape. Then we had the fun task of bringing the OSB to the fenders. We ended up scribing the cuts from the inside with a long pencil and then cutting them out with a jigsaw. This allowed us to get a pretty close connection which we can seal up with spray foam and caulk.

We seem to have hit a snafu with our insulation that we'll be working on later this week. Tomorrow a roofing framer is going to come out to get started on the roof which we're all looking forward to since the house will really take shape then. It's been gorgeous the past four days but we got sprinkled on this evening so we wrapped things up early. Roofing in the rain is neither fun or safe so we're hoping for some good weather the next couple of days! Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Weather Report: Rain on the Skylight

Recently a couple people have asked for updates about how the tiny house and I have fared through the Portland winter. "Winter?" I think. "What winter?" Ice Crystals by Moonlight

There have been cold days. There was, for instance, the day that sleet froze on my skylight, making beautiful crystalline patterns when the full moon shone through it.

I used the oil radiator heater in addition to the wall-mounted heater several times a week during December and January. Twice when I was using the oil radiator heater I tripped the circuit breaker because I made the mistake of also using my electric water kettle which is electricity intensive. The irony is that both times I turned on the oil heater because I had company coming and wanted to make the place nice and toasty for them even though I would have been fine just wearing my down vest and slippers if it had just been me at home. It was when I decided to make my company a cup of tea that I lost all power which meant all heat and light. In trying to make everything warm, bright, and cozy I made the tiny house dark and cold. I couldn't find the circuit breaker in the big house, so I boiled water on the propane stove, bundled my company up in blankets, and lit some candles. I have that little propane boat heater, too, but without the electric fan it's pretty useless. I turned it on for the psychological warmth even though it didn't do much good. Fortunately, one of my visitors is a fellow tiny house dweller and the other is a nomad and minimalist so they were both good sports about candlelit conversation. The first time I maxed out my electrical capacity I hadn't realized how I'd done it, but the second time I figured out where the circuit breaker is located and I learned to make a choice between heating the space and heating water in a hurry. I started boiling water on the stove more often. It was an easy adjustment.

Propane Boat Heater

Throughout February I've been back to using the Envi wall-mounted space heater as my sole heat source and I've been very pleased with it. It's silent, has a sleek, slim design, and has kept my house at a pleasant temperature. I do keep it on 24/7 because I find that if I turn it off the house cools down enough that it takes a while to get all the surfaces warmed up again. But here it is February and there are times that it's been so warm I've been able to turn it down a notch. In the next two months I'll be weaning myself off of it.

Winters here are so mild compared to what I'm used to that it's amusing to me that winter is already on its way out. I was delighted to discover a front yard in my neighborhood completely covered in crocuses while I was biking home from visiting another tiny house dweller this afternoon. I always think of my friend Claudia when I see the first crocuses of the year. When we were in college she helped call my attention to crocuses, teaching me that they are a harbinger of springtime to come. Next: daffodils. Then: tulips. Stay tuned. The world is about to become a lot more colorful!

Crocuses: Harbinger of Spring

Claudia's attention to natural cycles and her giddy appreciation for little joys are two of my very favorite things about her. This winter I have found myself thinking of Claudia frequently, imagining how much she would like being in a house so small that the rest of the world surrounds her. We have had several storms that have lashed winds against the tiny house, sending driving rain through the screens and onto the window panes. When the bluster really picks up momentum the house rocks, ever so slightly, and I imagine myself on a sailboat.

It's fun to watch the way that the sunlight moves around the house throughout the day, first peeping in through the eastern windows, then the southern, casting rainbows across the sleeping loft from the prism that hangs in the window there. The evening sun spills in through my western window, above my desk. The days that I focus on my internship instead of classes I luxuriate in an afternoon nap in the sleeping loft and then enjoy the sunshine's company as I type up reading notes or a blog post.

On clear nights I love falling asleep to the stars shimmering through the skylight in my little wooden ceiling. Mornings that I wake up to the drum of rain on the skylight I grin and hit the snooze button, knowing that I'm off the hook for riding my bike to campus. I have twenty more minutes before I need to get up, make my tea, and catch my bus.

Tiny Home Improvement

Classes started on Monday so I've been busy the past few days, but today I didn't have classes so my host and her friend helped me with a couple of little house projects.

First, I understand that they don't sell 12 gauge green extension cords because they don't want you to run over them with the lawn mower, but I think they should make them anyhow and figure some of us do know what we're doing. My host ended up coming up with a great solution when she picked up a bright yellow extension cord and a can of green spray paint. We think it will blend in with the grass really nicely!
Another project was adding flat rungs to the ladder Brittany had built. She did a great job creating a safe ladder: the angle is nice and it hooks over a little lip at the bottom edge of the loft so that it won't slip out from under you. But it had round rungs which are a little uncomfortable for my feet and impossible for my cat Raffi to use. He's pretty savvy with ladders, but the round rungs were unmanageable, so I decided to add flat rungs to make it more workable for both of us. The result is a Raffi-approved ladder that will allow both of us to climb up to the sleeping loft safely and easily.

A friend also helped me set up a greywater system for the tiny house. We got some corrugated pipe with holes and some without at our local hardware store. Then we ran the non-perforated pipe from the drainage pipe underneath the house across the path and connected it up with the perforated pipe which we placed in a ditch where my host has been planning to plant bushes. I'll have to be really careful about not letting anything down the drain, but this system should work well because every time I run water from my kitchen sink it will water the plants!
Now that I have some place for water to go I have hooked up a garden hose so I'll have running water! I may replace it with a drinking quality hose soon, but this will do for now. Even on backpacking trips I've had pretty good access to water so I don't think I've ever appreciated running water as much as I have today!
I really enjoyed using candles the past few days so I have to remind myself I can still have an evening by candlelight whenever I want. It is awfully nice to have electricity! Now I can charge my laptop and cell phone, use the task lighting, and microwave leftovers.
I bought water and electric meters, too, so that I can see how much energy and water I'm using. I've always been pretty stingy with my water and electricity use (former housemates will vouch for that!), but I think living in the tiny house will give me an even better understanding of my resource consumption. They haven't arrived in the mail yet, but I'm eager to try them out.

You Know Those Boxes in the Garage?

The ones you never unpacked from the last move?

I don't have any of those! Hooray!
Today I unpacked my belongings into the tiny house and all my thoughtful consideration as I downsized seems to have paid off. The goal is to have a place for everything so I can put everything in its place. I'm pretty close to meeting that goal. With a few more tweaks I think I'll have it.
My cordless drill and driver set was put to use for a couple of "remodeling" projects. Some of the spaces that worked well for Brittany weren't as ideal for me. I am more a drawer person than a shelf person so I changed the height of a couple of shelves in the kitchen to create space for drawers and baskets I could use for kitchen gadgets and food. I also changed the bookshelf heights to better accommodate my small book collection and I raised the height of the window seat so I could slide my laundry baskets under there since I plan to store my scarves, mittens, hats, etc. in them this winter. I moved a couple of hooks, too, and I'm realizing hooks are awfully useful for taking advantage of vertical surfaces in a small space.
Then it was just a matter of unpacking everything into the spaces. There are a few things that seem luxurious and unnecessary (do I really need a hand mixer? probably not, but if it makes me happy, it's worth having!) Everything fits and there's room for more but I'm going to make a concerted effort to not accumulate any more stuff!
I don't have electricity or water set up to the house yet, so tonight I'll be using candles and probably turning it early because I'm exhausted. It seems like it shouldn't have taken all day to get settled, but moving always takes longer than expected, even in a tiny house!