Building a tiny house poses the same logistical challenges as any other construction project, but we learned today that a major one is working in a 230 square foot house with three guys and a dog. The solution is careful footwork and clear communication. Footwork to save Scout's tail and communication to make sure that our tasks don't all converge on a particular corner. Something must be working properly, because we made some good progress again this week.
The first major step is drywall is up. Now the place really feels like a house. Without the exposed framing that you can see through, there's a clear separation of bathroom and bedroom from living space. Tobias hung all the drywall and Seth taped and mudded. Mike followed a few days later with excellent sanding skills and followed that up by priming and painting everything. The majority of the walls now have their first coat of paint.
As a note, we have opted to keep our water lines in the bathroom exposed and will be going with copper pipe. This is the first tiny house that we have done this with and is a bit of an experiment. Our main reasons for doing this are to ensure a near-zero percent chance of the pipes freezing, ease of installation and to play around with the aesthetics of it. We think it will look pretty cool.
All the interior window extensions and trim should be finished by the end of this week which will then allow us to put in the floor and start making and installing the built-in furniture. We are going with a hybrid look for the trim details, combining our reclaimed-rustic look with a more elegant moulding look that is replete with shadow lines and offsets. All of our window extensions in this house are fir, while the sills and trim are all maple.
Check back next week to see our new advertising campaign and hopefully a tiny video tour of our work-in-progress!
As you know by now, one of Nelson Tiny Houses' driving motivations is to use as much reclaimed and recycled material as possible. A particular manifestation of that is for Seth to go to our hardware and lumber store and pick up all the orphaned boxes of flooring that they have for a greatly reduced price. Most building projects can't make use of 30 square feet of a certain flooring, but tiny houses can. Our current project uses three or four different flooring materials on the inside walls of closets, the wall beneath the kitchen counter, and the floor and walls under the elevated floor of the bedroom. They're all pretty ugly laminate products that we wouldn't want as our actual floors (aesthetically, it wouldn't match the fine wood trim we will be using), but for the out-of-the-way places, these “reclaminate” (a word we just coined) flooring materials are perfect.
This past building-week showed some good progress. We buttoned up the outside with all windows and doors in and all siding and exterior trim up. We moved to the inside and finished the electrical. In total, there are 35 electrical elements in the tiny house – 35 outlets, switches, light fixtures, heater wires and fans for venting. We're curious how that compares per square foot to a big house.
We started closing up the ceiling with recycled T&G. We didn't have enough to do the entire ceiling with one style, so we grouped the kitchen and bedroom ceilings as one type of T&G and finished the ceiling over the bathroom loft with another type. Where the two meet, we will put a strip of wood. We still didn't have quite enough wood to finish the bigger part, so we will complete it with a two-foot strip of drywall that will reflect the clerestory window light really nicely down into the living area.
We also finished prepping the pocket door detailing. We call these the “antlers,” and they serve a double function. One, they stabilize the cantilevered live-edge shelf that is the top of the pocket door. Two, they are what we hope to make one of our signature details – a from-the-forest functional and decorative component of the house. We have a similar detail in our Acorn house, which you can see in the photo gallery. We had a piece of green maple that fit perfectly and Seth hung it over his wood stove to “kiln dry” it in time for installation.
Finally, Mike did a wonderful job prepping a beautiful French door set that we will put into our next house. He took them from a beat-down and weathered state to what you see below. Check these out!
Since the last post, we've made good progress on our exterior finishing – the siding and trim. We are now officially at lock-up, which is important for two reasons. One, the house now has all its windows and doors installed, and when you step inside it actually feels like you're in something rather than surrounded by something. No drafts, no snow blowing into the window holes. It's starting to feel like a house! Two, lockup is one of Nelson Tiny Houses' payment plan milestones. It will be nice to have money coming in and not just going out. It's all pretty basic economics, but running a small business requires hard work that goes beyond carpentry skills.
Inside the house, we started pulling wire for electrical. Here again, there is a noticeable transformation from shell to house. Our walls are now decorated with neat runs of wire that will act as the nervous system and carry energy from place to place. We're bordering on philosophy here, we know, but it's exciting to see how each step in the process of building brings us closer to what right now is just an idea. And once the house is finished and is bringing joy and shelter to its occupant(s), that will be because of all those accumulated steps. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole, as they say. This is the same for any house, but with a tiny house these musings are concentrated and boiled down, sweet and satisfying.
But, back to the the nuts and bolts of it. One thing we'd like to focus on in this post is details. In particular, we have a window on the side of the house that was very nicely trimmed, but every time we looked at it, something wasn't quite right. We mulled it over and decided it had to do with proportions. The header trim, which runs along the top of the window, was too big compared to the sill, which is on the bottom of the window. It gave the impression of top-heaviness. We pulled off the battens below the window and installed an apron, which is the piece below the sill. We trimmed the battens to their new length and put everything back together again. With the visual “weight” of the window more balanced, everything about the installation felt better.
In another case, plans for this house didn't include an entry overhang. We had figured that the roof overhang would be enough to shield the door from inclement weather. However, after working on the front trim, we realized that the bottom of the sliding door was getting wet from the sleety snow we've been having. So, before it was too late, we installed a 2X6 ledger board above the door and two vertical runners alongside to catch future knee braces. You can see them in the photo behind Seth's ladder. Later, once the house is on site, we can easily add a small shed roof to this ledger to shelter the front door.
These details will go far to improve the look and function of the house, and even though we had to go back and re-do a bit of work in the case of the window, the benefit of paying attention to detail greatly outweighs the cost of dismissing it.
In the next few weeks we will be giving a sneak preview of our spring advertising campaign that we will launch locally in Nelson. Be sure to check back to see that!
Thanks for taking the time to read this week's entry. Feel free to comment on anything we're doing; we look forward to hearing from you.
And we're back!
Nelson Tiny Houses took a few weeks off work for the holidays, and while we were gone, some additions were made. First, Seth's family grew by one; he and his partner are now proud parents of two future tiny house builders. And second, the Nelson Tiny Houses family also grew by one when our good friend Mike drove across the country from Thunder Bay to help us build. Mike just finished an internship on an organic farm in Ontario and is now walking a similar path by building tiny houses. Both farming and building are big parts of our society and the way they are done has a strong effect on who we are and how we live. We're happy to welcome Mike onto the crew and glad to see he embraces the small-scale approach. He also came with his dog, Scout, who we are trying to train as a tool-fetcher.
In our first week back, we spent a lot of time in the shop preparing old doors and windows and bringing them back to life. Reclaiming materials, although romantic in theory, is tough work in practice and requires commitment. We're sure you guys know all about it. It's worth it, however, and our final product will look better because of it.
We also started on our exterior finishing. We got a bunch of left over Hardie board siding from a construction site and will be able to use most of it on our project. We're applying it board-and-batten style, with a OSB trim product as the battens. We finished one wall, and think that the green, black and wood has a pleasing aesthetic indeed.
We'll post again soon with some more pictures. Thanks for checking in.