tiny house building class

Tiny House Design-Build Presentation Day 2016

Tiny House Design-Build Presentation Day 2016

Today we celebrated the hard work, incredible creativity, and mad building skills of our students as we wrapped up Tiny House Design-Build. As I've noted previously in Less is More Wrap Up and Tiny House Design-Build Wrap Up, Presentation Day feels like Xmas morning to me! Watching the activity of the design studio the night before Presentation Day is a bit like hanging out in Santa's workshop on Xmas Eve. It leaves one with a night of excitedly disrupted sleep, curiosity brewing about what will be revealed the following day. 

Day 2: Undercarriage, A Tiny Field Trip, Wall Framing

We started out Day 2 of Yestermorrow’s Tiny House Design-Build in the Hanger by painting the trailer and gluing and screwing the pressure treated plywood undercarriage to the floor boxes. The house is large enough that the floor joist system was constructed in 3 parts that will be connected together. (See more photos in the Day 2 Slideshow.)

Then we headed out on a field trip to see Chris’ little house, which is one of Dave Sellers’ sculptural creations on Prickly Mountain. I’d been to Chris’ home before, but I enjoyed seeing how my perspective of the space has shifted now that I live in a tiny house myself. The studio and perched sleeping loft are still as charming as they ever were, but I have a greater appreciation than ever before for the challenges of sealing and weatherizing a curved skylight.

After lunch we headed back to the Hanger to tackle a variety of projects, including:

  • drilling holes through the trailer to enable us to attach the floor system,
  • wrapping the pressure treated joists with a membrane to prevent a galvanic reaction with the trailer, and
  • cutting studs, plates, and headers for our wall framing

Framing always includes some head scratching, but fortunately Patti and Lizabeth have spent a great deal of time with the plans now and have determined (most of) the necessary modifications. It was, as it always is, a thrill to see the first walls framed up. And, of course, it’s a treat to see students gaining confidence so quickly as they become more familiar with impact drivers, drills, and saws. We got the two short walls framed up just as the afternoon drew to a close.

I learned a couple new framing tricks today, including kerf cutting the bottom edge of the bottom plate where the door will be so that the subfloor isn’t damaged by a sawzall when the time comes to remove that section. I also shared Dee William’s trick of building a Board Tweeker out of 2x4s to coax twisted boards into place. Thanks, Dee! Here are some of the lessons our students learned today, encapsulated in exactly 5 words, courtesy of a round of Gimme 5:

  • Plates go top and bottom
  • Sharp drill bits are nice
  • Propane gas can heat efficiently
  • Rusty trailers look better painted
  • Bookcases can also be ladders
  • Eccentric houses are structurally problematic
  • Kerf cut the door opening
  • All houses need constant maintenance

After dinner Paul presented climate and site considerations for situating a tiny house. Then I addressed the invisible structures in my presentation on code and regulations. It’s important to consider both the physical context and the invisible conditions – social, political, financial, and legal – when siting any house. But because little houses (particularly those on trailers) are alegal in many places, we want to make sure that tiny house enthusiasts consider everything from fire safety to moisture management and from space efficient storage tricks to zoning code when designing a little home. It’s certainly a lot to contemplate all at once, but the design process is iterative and context-specific – even if a little house is ready for adventure on the open road.

Back Home at Yestermorrow

Tiny House Design Build 2013 begins at Yestermorrow amidst the glory of fall in Vermont. It's so good to be back home at Yestermorrow. Check out my Yestermorrow Fall Foliage Slideshow for more photos.

I arrived at Yestermorrow late last night so I would have some time to settle in before I begin teaching the two-week Tiny House Design-Build course this evening. Arriving by taxi in the middle of the night was exactly how I first arrived here for the very first time three and a half years ago to begin my Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. Luckily, I found a classmate in the taxi line at the airport, so Sam and I caught a ride here together. When we arrived on Yestermorrow's rural campus in the middle of the night with no sense of where we were - or where we should be - we took ourselves on a self-guided tour in the dark, eventually our finding beds to crash in. We awoke to a quiet Sunday, getting our bearings before launching into the three-week core class Ecological Design in the Built Environment.

So it was deja vu last night as I bid the cab driver farewell and found my way to Elizabeth Turnbull's tiny house. Yet this time I accomplished it without any trouble and instead navigated by memory and a great sense of homecoming. (Though I will say the incredible stars were quite a distraction!) Elizabeth's story was one of my original inspirations for enrolling in courses at Yestermorrow. She had been taking a course at Yestermorrow when she found out she'd gotten into Yale's forestry school, so she decided to build herself a tiny house to serve as her home base while she was in graduate school. She and I had the chance to talk on the phone as I made plans to do the same thing myself. Elizabeth lived in her little house for 3 years and has now brought it back to Yestermorrow so it can serve as a cabin for visiting students and faculty.

I settled in right away and got a great night's sleep. This morning I understood in an instant, before I even crawled out of the loft bed, what the all the fuss is about. Autumn in the Northeast is truly spectacular! Photos don't begin to do justice to the complexity and texture of the fall foliage.

It's been a gorgeous day, perfect for reacquainting myself with the Yestermorrow campus, meeting new interns, and getting paperwork squared away. I was here in June for the Tiny House Fair, so there weren't any big surprises during my walk this afternoon, but it's a quiet Sunday so I've had a chance to really soak it in. What is it about loving a place so dearly and sincerely that gives us that sense of home? I feel like Yestermorrow makes me a better person and I can only hope that I can give back to it with my earnest devotion to creating better homes and communities.

As I walked around, snapping photos of all the structures, and admiring them against the backdrop of fall foliage, I couldn't help but think about what a long three and a half years it's been! I've completed my certificate at Yestermorrow as well as my Masters of Urban and Regional Planning. I was scheming a tiny house back then and drafted up some ideas in the Less is More class (which I'll be teaching at Yestermorrow next spring). Now I've lived in several tiny houses and I'm involved with four tiny house start-ups.

Teaching the Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow is a dream come true! I'm honored to be teaching with talented and experienced designers and builders: Paul HankePatti Garbeck, and Lizabeth Moniz. As I scan at the roster for the Tiny House Design-Build class and look over the Program Worksheets our students submitted once again, I am eager to meet everyone and learn more about their tiny house dreams.  It's bound to be a fascinating two weeks! Follow along!