tiny house wall framing

Day 4: Wall Framing, Drawing to Scale, A Chat with Dee

We started out Day 4 of Yestermorrow's Tiny House Design-Build down at the Hanger where we worked on framing up the long walls of the house and preparing the trailer for the floor box system. After lunch we went right back to it and we finished out the work day with the two long walls almost finished. (See more photos in the Day 4 Slideshow.)

After supper we had a Skype chat with Dee Williams. Everyone had a chance to introduce herself or himself and tell a little about her or his project. Then Dee shared her tiny house story and some lessons learned from living in a little house for the past nine years.

Afterwards students received their drafting kits and Paul gave a drafting lesson so they could put their new tools to good use. The rest of the evening was spent getting a sense of what fits and how it feels with the help of architectural scales and massing models. How fun to see these projects evolve!

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.

Naj Haus Wall Raising Work(shop) Party

This post is an excerpt from an epic post from Kate Goodnight's blog about the first two weeks of construction for Naj Haus. If you want to read the full post Blood, sweat, tears, blueberries, and the most awesome three walls ever, you can find it on Kate's informative and amusing blog. Thank you so much Kate for the opportunity to be part of your tiny house raising!

July 5: Hitting the nonexistent wall

So here I was, the day before the barn raising, and I had no walls to raise despite my best intentions. I can’t remember when I was last that tired. I started having visions of the six participants looking around the empty barn. “What?” I’d say, “can’t you see the walls? They’re right there. Look harder. They are very fine walls and we’re going to raise them up.” I still had some deluded idea of getting one or two walls built that day so went weaving down the highway back to Home Depot where I just stood staring at complicated hardware and the empty rack of sheathing before returning nearly empty-handed. I was so tired I thought I was going to throw up. Dee’s other work party had just wrapped up so we talked about how to adapt things. We (I) scaled way back on our (my) expectations and decided to focus on wall framing and if we were really lucky, get one or two walls raised. Finally letting go of what I had envisioned, I got in an hour nap before Dee and Lina Menard, the other PAD instructor, arrived, followed later by Keeva and Sam. We spent the evening marking out the stud positions on the subfloor and crashed early.

The big day finally had arrived. I had gotten some sleep so was feeling a bit better. Now I had to wrestle with my control issues. I have been all-consumed for the last many months with the design and planning of this tiny house and I was going to have to now let go. Here were six complete strangers with varying degrees of building experience about to start chopping away on my studs and hopefully framing up something resembling squared walls. As I greeted each one I was wondering how steady their hands were, how keen their eyes. Would I soon be hearing muffled cries of “whoops…oh well” and see the bubble in the level crammed up in one corner as it rested on my new Dr. Seuss walls?

But you know what? Each and every one there took immense care as they assembled the walls, treating them as if they were their own. The more seasoned builders helped out the less experienced ones and all were carefully overseen by Dee and Lina, both amazing instructors. Within the first hour, I had ceased to worry. In fact it was a relief to turn over the reins for a while and know that it was all being done up right.

And we had fun. We did the teacup stretch and ran crazily around the tiny house, then around the outside of the barn, snagging blueberries along the way. When we went to raise the long second wall, Sam G. put on the Ride of the Valkyries and the wall was lifted in place with great operatic flourish. To my utter astonishment, the rockstar team was able to get a third wall built. When it was raised in place, it initially looked like it wouldn’t fit under the top plate of the second wall. Sam G. climbed up on a ladder and gave it a couple good thumps with a hammer and it slid into place like an arm into its socket. What’s more it was perfectly square and plumb, which almost never happens. I was now feeling pretty sheepish about having doubted this wonderful crew. They are a bunch of beautiful, good-hearted human beings, setting off on their own tiny house journeys. Several talked about how empowered they now feel. I love that their energy is part of my house and hope that I can return the favor in some way.