Tiny House Trim & Siding

Lina & Lucky PennyOn Independence Day I celebrated the freedom The Lucky Penny will give me with Tiny House Window Installation. I even had my very own version of red, white, and blue in the form of My Arched Window. The rest of this weekend was dedicated to installing my exterior trim and siding. On Saturday my friends Karin, Mike, and Eleanor came to help out. The first step was to install the rain screen strips at the corners and under the windows, so Mike tackled that project. (I’ll write up a separate little side post about my Tiny House Rain Screen.)

Meanwhile, Karin spray-painted the Z-flashing to go over my bellyband and bottom band. Eleanor is an art teacher so she’s got a way with detailed work. She finished sealing up around My Arched Window and My Arched Door with AirDam from Prosoco’s R-Guard system. Then she helped me noodle through a solution to close up the gap above my wheel well. The gap would have been small enough to seal up with backer rod except that I added an extra plate under my bottom plates. So I had a 2" gap to fill instead of a 1/2" gap. "You know," I said. "What we need is something like a pool noodle..."

So that's precisely what we used. Eleanor cut the pool noodle to fit and we wedged it into the gap and sealed up the edges with AirDam from Prosoco. Then we flashed over it with Fast Flash. It's certainly not how I planned to close up that gap, but I think it will work! Thanks to Eleanor my house is officially dried-in!

Jack Trimming WindowOnce the rainscreen strips were in place under the window, we installed the first window sill. Then Mike and I cut the corner boards to length and installed them. When I was Sidestepping with Siding, I picked up some Deco Corners from Lakeside Lumber and they really are a nice touch! Once the corner boards were installed, we could cut the bottom band and the bellyband (which doubles as the skirt for the sill plates). The bottom band had to be cut at an angle to accommodate the fender and we determined that 30 degrees was just right. The bellyband runs the length of the house so we started out with a 10-foot-long piece on each side. We cut the end at 45 degrees so that the next piece can slip behind it and the two will look like one long piece with a little caulk and paint.

It was great to get the corner boards, sill plates, and bellyband installed all around the house and the bottom band installed on three sides. (We will have to leave the bottom band on the tongue side till later since I still have some figuring to do for My Front Porch. I'm doing a porch at the front of my house because I can't stand Shrinky Dink Porches and I don't want my Tiny House to Turn Its Back on the Street!) Mike, Eleanor, and I celebrated our Saturday accomplishments with dinner at Por Que No.

Julie Sorting SidingOn Sunday Julie and Jack took turns helping my build buddy Laura and me. I’ve finally caught up to Laura again now that we’re both working on siding, but I doubt that will last long! (Especially since I'm heading out of town for a couple weeks to teach the Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow!) We installed the window trim around My Kitchen Windows, picking 22.5 degrees for the angle. I thought 30 might be right because that was the angle of the bottom board for the fender, but it was too extreme. So 22.5 degrees it is!

We also installed the Z flashing over the bottom band. This process involved cutting the flashing to length with tin snips, putting a bead of Fast Flash behind it near the top, smoothing out the bead with a spatula, tacking it in place with tiny self-tapping screws, and then tooling the edge again to make a nice seam that will shed water. I’ve always liked playing with substances that are malleable: clay, plaster, frosting, play dough, marzipan, etc. (Perhaps it’s no wonder that when I took an aptitude test as a kid it recommended that I consider becoming a cake decorator!) Needless to say, I’m especially enjoying working with the Fast Flash and Air Dam!)

Siding to Go Around WheelwellsJulie and Jack also helped me get started with staining my cedar T & G siding. And that evening fellow tiny house builder Wade came by, full of fresh energy. He helped me install the first of the siding, working our way to the wheelwells. When we ran out of light we sat at the river to drink a beer and compare notes. How fun it is to talk to three other people currently building their own tiny houses! Living in Portland, OR - the epicenter of the tiny house universe - certainly has its perks!

On Monday morning I did a bit more supply sourcing and shopping (including cedar fancy-cut arrow shingles for my end walls from the helpful folks at Shur-Way Building Center). That afternoon Julie helped me paint and install Z-flashing for my bellyband and over my windows. Meanwhile, Laura hit a stopping point with her siding so she came on over to install a different version of my Rain Screen system around my door in preparation for the fancy-cut cedar shingles.

As evening wore on, Laura and Julie helped me stain the cedar shingles and I got the first shingles up. I’m delighted. My house is so darn cute I can hardly stand it!

Tiny House Build Week: Lessons Learned

The past couple of days pouring rain has forced me to shift to indoor activities (like taxes, scholarship essays, and catching up on emails that have piled up over the past two weeks). So I've had a chance to reflect on what I learned from our week-long tiny house build. I figure by sharing my lessons-learned I might spare someone else a bit of head scratching and perhaps enable other folks to avoid the mistakes we made. (For a full slideshow of construction details, click here.) HTT

First, building a small house that can withstand earthquake conditions requires some different considerations than traditional construction. We secured the frame to the trailer with HTT tension ties and 10 inch bolts and we'll be attaching the roof with hurricane clips, so the structure is solid. But it was tricky finding the balance between building sturdy and building light. The two aren't mutually exclusive, but to have both one must plan strategically. I certainly don't think we've maxed out the trailer's hauling capacity, but we ended up using more studs than we would have needed if we'd planned so that our sheet goods, studs, and rough openings all lined up better. I have a much better understanding of how sheer panels, tension ties, and framing work now and I'm sure I could develop a better plan now than I could have two weeks ago. I wish I'd spent a little time between the day we picked up the trailer and the day we started building to puzzle through some of the connections in advance.

fender gap

I've come to really appreciate the design-build process for its iterative aspects. One idea influences another, which affects another, which informs another. Over the past couple of months Jane and I had developed a general layout and we had salvaged quite a few materials, but we hadn't developed detailed plans. Every time I attempted more complicated drawings or Sketch Up models I was dissuaded either by questions I didn't know the answers to (like how we were going to attach the walls to the short ends of the trailer) or by reminders that whatever we thought the plan was, it would change once builder friends came on the scene. We deferred to their experience and the house emerged as the product of collective wisdom and effort. It's both similar to and different from what I imagined it would be. The layout has shifted a bit, the envelope systems have evolved, and the roofline gives the house a whole different character than I anticipated.

fender blocking

Despite a decade volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and two spring breaks of home restoration in New Orleans, I realized that I didn't know many of the details about how a house goes together. My only framing experience was building my chicken coop and solar trellis with my friends Jon and Phil, so my vocabulary expanded this week as I learned to name roof framing elements like outrigging, rakes, and gussets. I also became much more comfortable using a circular saw, jig saw, sawzall, and staple gun, though I'm still a little shy of the table saw. I learned that plywood is supposed to be oriented with the long dimension perpendicular rather than parallel to the joists and that OSB isn't necessarily a good substitute for plywood if there's rain in the forecast (if, for instance, you live in west of the Cascades!) Figuring out how to get the fenders into the wall system and close the space to the outside was a mental puzzle and I'm glad we came up with a good solution. I decided that for future tiny houses it would be great to have the fenders be structurally sound.

bubble wrap

I also learned the hard way that it's worth taking time to do additional research and planning if using an unfamiliar product. The bubble wrap we were so excited about for its reflective heating properties caused a moisture problem in our floors. When we pulled up part of the floor to start the plumbing we found that the fiberglass insulation was damp. It seems that since we sealed the bottom of the floor system with plastic then stapled the bubble wrap across the top of the joists we created a waterproof envelope. This would have been great if everything inside it was moisture free. The trouble was that the joists we were using were made from green (wet) wood so as the house sat in the sun for four days the wood released its moisture. Since there was no way for the moisture to escape it settled into the insulation where it could cause mold or rot. When we discovered the problem I contacted a company that sells the material to troubleshoot. I was informed that we shouldn't have closed up the floors till the joists had dried out. If we couldn't wait for the wood to dry, we should not have stapled the bubble wrap over the joists; the moisture could have escaped the system if we hadn't sealed it in completely. We had originally planned to run the bubble wrap inside the bays and to not lap it over the joists, but once we started stapling the bubble wrap we found it was easy to go over the joists. I didn't take the time to think through why that might be a bad idea. Now we'll have to pry up the floors we screwed and glued down so that we can remove the insulation and bubble wrap and then re-insulate. With this reminder of building science basics, I think we could use the bubble wrap effectively if we installed it properly, but I don't blame Jane a bit for deciding to take it out of the envelope completely. Removing it will impact the insulation systems for our walls and ceiling since we had planned to use it throughout the envelope. At least we were also reminded that the plywood ought to have run the opposite direction so we'll fix that while we're at it and feel very productive for addressing two concerns in one fail swoop!

A few final thoughts:

It would have been a good idea to have our supplies delivered a day early and to check the delivery for accuracy. There was something wrong with almost everything ordered. (Working with a smaller company likely would have helped!)

Double-checking that the windows all fit into their rough openings properly before putting up the sheathing would have been a good step. We skipped it and had to do a couple tweeks later.

Rainy Day

I'm thoroughly impressed with the ability of people who have been building longer than me to think through the multiple layers of a structure - planning ahead to the surfaces on either side and how they will all come together. I hope to continue honing my spatial comprehension the more I design and build.

It's great to be optimistic about the weather forecast and to be willing to work through some unpleasantries. But it's also important to establish a rainy day plan so that all your hard work isn't compromised by inclement weather.

You know you're ready for a break from building when you start cracking jokes about how you're ex-sided that the exterior siding is almost finished. Get it excited, ex-sided, exterior siding. Er. Um. Yes, I can see now that it wasn't very funny. See? Time for a break!

Building the shell of a tiny house on wheels was an awesome way to spend my spring break. There will still be lots of chances to contribute over the next few weeks, so if you'd like to help out, just let me know!

Day 6: Tiny House Windows

Today Noah (a friend from Whitman College) and Aaron (a friend from my grad program) came out to help with the build. Together we finished tar papering the house and then helped put in the windows. All the windows are now in their rightful places and they look great! We covered the edges of the window flanges with a waterproofing flashing so the exterior of the house is now ready for siding.

It's such a joy to have the windows in. This was a big step for me since windows add so much character to a building. Now it's starting to feel like a house instead of a construction project! I loved walking through the house this afternoon to get a feel for what it will be like to lounge on the window seat or to look out the kitchen window.

Meanwhile the roofing framer put up all the trusses and added supports for the roof's overhangs. I helped by cutting a few pieces for him and admired -  from a safe vantage point - his fearlessness about clambering around on the roof while using a circular saw to cut notches into the top of the roof rafters. The builders had to leave the site mid-afternoon for another appointment, so I helped tarp the house and we wrapped up early. A quiet evening at home and early to bed for me!

We've already cut the sheets of OSB for the roof sheathing so we're ready to put it up first thing in the morning. We're all eager to get the house dried in since the Portland spring promises plenty of rain.