Insulating My Vardo Roof

Fast Flashing Ceiling Friday I picked up Eave Caps for My Vardo Roof and Saturday we worked on Plan F. Yesterday we worked on Plan F: Take 2. And today we (finally!) insulated my roof box!

In the morning Matthew helped me air seal the ceiling. This involved running Fast Flash from the R-Guard system by Prosoco over all of the seams where we’d nailed the ceiling bead board. (You can read about my bead board ceiling in Ceiling Up My Vardo.) Matthew also helped me find the weak points in the ceiling panels by standing inside the house and looking for the spots where the ceiling was translucent. I was on the roof so I tested to see if I had the right spot by covering up the area with my hand. If I blocked the light I knew I’d found my target. (Though I had to remember to not block the area with my shadow since it was so sunny!) I covered these areas with Fast Flash, too. Once the roof was no longer see-through we were ready for the insulation.

covering the weak spots with Fast Flash for good air sealing

This afternoon Tony and Grae helped me install the insulation in my vardo roofbox. We cut 4’ x 8’ sheets of 1” expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam board to fit between the 2x6 at the eves and the outriggers surrounding the skylight box. We decided to leave the spots on either end of the skylight box at the front and back of the house till last because it’s such a nice place to sit and store tools without them slipping off the roof!

Once we’d dry-fitted the foam we removed it and spray foamed the edges. Then slipped the sheets of insulation into place. Once the first piece was in place we put in another 1” sheet of EPS on top of it. Fortunately, these sheets didn’t need to be cut, just tacked down onto the nailers and spray foamed at the edges. As we installed the insulation we discovered we’d installed the skylight box slightly askew, so we cut a couple long strips to fill in the gap. We’ll need to do the same for the sheathing.

My walls have 3 ½ of EPS insulation in the SIPS and my floors have 5 ½” of XPS (extruded polystyrene) insulation because I hate having cold feet. Ideally I would have had at least as much insulation in my roof as in my walls. So I ordered the Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof to be 3 ½” tall – 3” for foam and ½” for the sheathing. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the losses created by the angles. So once we got the second piece of 1” foam into the roof we realized we wouldn’t be able to get more than 2” of foam inside the eve caps with the sheathing in there, too. (The fellow at Vinje’s mentioned when I picked up the Eave Caps for My Vardo Roof that he’d read my blog and he wasn’t sure I’d be able to get 3” of insulation in there. Glad he thought of it, but I wish I’d talked it through with him sooner!)

I am bummed that my roof isn’t better insulated, but as my fellow tiny house builders/energy auditors remind me, my decision to put skylights right in the top of my house pretty much negates the insulation I put in the roof. So I don’t have the best insulation to prevent conductive heat transfer. I’m going to count on that air sealing to help with convective heat transfer. My New Custom Skylight (which will replace the one I broke on my day of Hail and High Water) will help with radiant heat transfer.

all tarpped up (again!) and ready for this week's rain

I was hoping to get the sheathing up today, too, but the breeze tends to pick up in the evenings on our site and it seemed precarious for Grae and I to be lugging sheets of plywood up ladders, only to have the caught by the wind. Besides, I, for one, was getting pretty tired by this point. It was hot today! But it's expected to rain over the next couple days, so we decided to tarp the house up (again! But hopefully for the last time!)

As evening approached I took a break to get milkshakes for me and my build buddy Laura and then helped her with her siding a little bit before calling it a day. You can read more about Laura’s siding on and A Little Bit of Everything else on her blog.


Tiny House Insulation, Roofing, & Interior Walls

Tiny House Exterior The tiny house I'm building with Orange Splot, LLC has come along nicely in the past two weeks. Last week (between moving into My Summer Garden Cottage and getting the Tiny House On the Road and back to Olympia) I insulated the ceiling and walls. Manda and I also installed the metal roofing and flashed the gables and the skylight.

sealing gaps at the top of insulation and below the ridge vent with spray foam

I was a little nervous about getting up on the roof at first since I had a pretty epic fall off a ladder when I was 16 (and I have the scars to prove it). But I'm more afraid of falling than I am of heights. Once I was up there I was able to just enjoy the project and the view of the neighborhood. It was also awesome to hear Eli's three-year-old daughter squeal: "Look! Two women on the roof!" I love that this little girl is growing up with role models of women building houses. A few days ago when the office manager Chris pointed to the tiny house and asked Ozora whose house it was, she replied "Lina's House." Aww, shucks! I wish!

working with gravity: we taped seams then spray foamed the gaps


As for the insulation, I know many tiny housers are committed to using natural insulation like sheep's wool or denim batts. I appreciate that because the natural materials are renewable, less toxic, and support green industry. But in this case we're going for high R-value in the ceiling with 3 inches of rigid foam. We're using R-19 fiberglass in the walls because it's quick and inexpensive. The ceiling bays had few complications (just a carbon monoxide/smoke detector and an overhead light to work around) so the rigid insulation was pretty easy to install once I got myself a 3 inch blade. Manda also showed me how to work with gravity instead of against it when using expanding spray foam. We taped the seams where the rigid foam ran along the rafters and then sprayed the foam from above once we cut open the ridge vent. (This was a drastic improvement over my attempt to spray foam from below at the end of the previous day!) Even installing the prickly fiberglass insulation in the walls was pretty painless since I prepped ahead and was totally prepared. I had long sleeves, gloves, safety glasses, and a great face mask. I still plan to use fiberglass insulation as infrequently as possible, but at least I know for next time that a good mask makes all the difference.

Interior Paneling

This week on Monday I worked through a punch list of little tasks such as insulating the outlet boxes and tidying up our exterior materials. First thing Wednesday morning the plumbers roughed in for the shower and kitchen sink, so once they finished I was able to insulate the kitchen and bathroom. Yesterday I began on the interior finish which is a 5/8" tongue and groove paneling. It's thicker and heavier than I've seen in other tiny houses, but it's really beautiful wood. I think it will be gorgeous once we clear coat it.

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 2: Tiny House Wall Framing

Today we got started around 9:00 on a beautiful sunny morning. First off, half of us launched into measuring and cutting studs for the first wall. The rest of us added 3 1/2 inches of 23" wide fiberglass insulation to the floor boxes (the joists are 24" on center). Fortunately it was faced and there were only 10 bays to fill, so it went quickly and painlessly.

While Jane picked up a few more supplies at the hardware store, we added a layer of reflective bubble wrap to the floor. The reflective material was an idea borrowed from some friends. When they were building their house they discovered that the local pet store was throwing away reflective bubble wrap envelopes that were used to transport tropical fish, so these friends started collecting it. They used it in their solarium, but had lots left over so Jane bought some from them. The reflective material works by reflecting heat back into the house when the shiny side is towards the interior of the house. It requires an air gap between the bubble wrap and the interior wall or floor in order to work properly, so we stapled it about an inch below the top of the joists. By the time we were finished we felt like we'd created a solar people cooker. The bright sun reflecting off the surface was making us shed all the extra layers we were wearing when we arrived at the job site!

As her friends continued with the wall framing, Jane and I ran around town in her trusty truck, on the hunt for a narrow door and a shower pan (turns out the shower surround we found by the side of the road that we thought would be perfect wouldn't do). We managed to find a 34" x 34" shower pan at a local plumbing supply store and got a deal on it because of a minor blemish that we never would have noticed if they guy hadn't pointed it out.

Finding a narrow door with either full or half lites that we could cut down to 78" didn't prove as easy. We had known there was a pretty good chance that we wouldn't end up using the sliding glass door Jane had envisioned. But we were thwarted when our back up plan to use a 24" door fell apart, too. As the stud layout came together we discovered that a 78" door was the tallest we could accommodate. The 24" door is metal and can't be cut down to 78." So we visited the ReBuilding Center, Habitat Restore, Builder's City, and Home Depot and had to return to the site without a door. The new doors we looked at today were wider and taller than we wanted, most of them weren't pre-hung, and they were all pretty expensive considering that any of them would need some modification. We decided to plan for a 28" door since that's the size Jane wants. We'll keep investigating our options and perhaps the right door will come our way.

We returned to find that we were nearly ready for a wall raising. I put metal flashing onto the trailer frame on the outside of the internal floor box and covered it with a membrane material that's usually used to prevent wicking from concrete into framing. In our case we're hoping it will protect the wood framing from the metal framing. We settled the walls into place on the exterior edges and bolted them down through HTT tension ties. As we all worked on nailing the tension ties to the studs it started sounding a whole lot like a construction site!

At the end of the day half the team worked on securing the top plate to the long walls and tying the three walls together. Meanwhile the rest of us cut cripples for above and below the long window for the window seat. I discovered that there's a big difference between working with dry wood and working with wet wood. The wood we had salvaged has been drying for years so it's super hard. My poor little Makita impact driver that has served me well for home improvement projects a a chicken coop build wasn't up to the task. Fortunately, tomorrow we'll be able to borrow a nail gun and that should help speed up the rest of the framing.

We're eager to get the fourth wall up tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get some sheathing on as well. The weather has been splendid but we know we're unlikely to be so lucky for long.