The Simple Life

Roby and I have decided to live "lightly". Come along for the journey of the construction and trials and tribulations of living in the Tiny House.

This blog is posted with the most current adventure first. So, scroll to the bottom if you want to start from the beginning. s.

We welcome comments and any building tricks.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Leaky Pipes

The bathroom/shower has been the slowest and most frustrating room. Those of us on site do not have the experience in plumbing so we have been reliant on volunteers. Travis got all the plumbing completed for the shower and sink before he left in the beginning of February but did not test the lines. The room sat until Phil arrived late February. Unaware the line had not been tested, Phil installed the backerboard. He completed the project and we thought we were on the way to having a shower. He hooked up the hose to make sure the sink and shower worked. All was good until water started dripping from the solder joints in the shower line. This meant all the backerboard had to be removed and the piping replaced or repaired which would not have been a big deal except Phil was leaving the next day. We had no one scheduled to be here right away to fix it and Phil was not returning until the end of March.

One of Sarah's friends CJ was visiting from Montana and we put her to work. She had some experience with plumbing. She was not going to enjoy her visit. We wanted a shower! Roby pulled off all the backerboard and CJ got out the blow torch. She completed the re-soldering and we tested the lines. No leaks. Yea-we were so excited. Our enthusiasm did not last very long. Two days later after Roby had re-installed the backerboard we were going to panel the closet behind the shower. For some reason we decided to re-test the line just to make sure. As Roby went out to turn on the hose I kept my fingers crossed. My smile turned upside down as I witnessed major leaking in the pipes. Now it was not only coming from one solder joint but from three different spots. Our goal of having a shower vanished. All we could do is count down the days for Phil's arrival on March 30th.

Many Uses of a Solar Panel

When Sarah, Kieren, Roby and I initially sat down to design the Tiny House we had this vision to use an old solar panel for a desk. We had completed the flooring so it was time to get the shelving and desk installed. Unfortunately the panel we had available was too small to accommodate the space. We went scrounging around the site for an alternative material but we did not want to give up on our idea. The Real Goods Store was using a panel as a marketing sign and we asked them if we could trade panels. They would have nothing to do with it. Their panel was a perfect size and was a cool dark blue color. They were not going to part with it. The store manager said he had a panel at home and would bring it in for us. We were so excited. The next day he came to work with a solid wood core door that weighed about 100 pounds. He thought it would make a great desk. Disappointed it was not a solar panel we tried to make it work but it weighed too much for the tiny house. It is supposed to be a movable vehicle and we need to keep the tonnage down!!

We moved on to other tasks to try and get our mind off the desk. Chris installed some shelving in the kitchen made out of a used wooden sign and Roby and I started on the finished carpentry baseboard work on the great room floor. Our day was brightened when Don, a retired volunteer, told Roby and Chris he had a bunch of old panels at his house. Not wanting to miss out, they followed him to his house to see if any would fit the space. When they came back they each had a huge grin on their faces. Don had a panel the perfect size and the same cobalt blue as the store's.

Chris went to work immediately. We decided to build a frame for it to sit on but have a swinging hing. This would enable us to turn it across the room and use it more like a dining room table when we have a dinner party!

Feeling Like a House

March 18th

As each day passes the Tiny House is feeling more and more like a home. Prior to leaving for Cleveland to surprise my Dad for his 70th birthday, Roby and I worked endlessly on the wood flooring in the downstairs "great room" and kitchen. We initially were going to put it in horizontally but decided we would have less waste if we did it vertically. Offsetting the pieces prevented the seam from lining up and made for a cool pattern. Unfortunately the pieces were not quite long enough for this to continue in the kitchen but we made it look presentable. Again it took much longer than anticipated and after working for 6 hours we only had half the floor done. This sounds good but remember the space was only about 20 square feet. It is amazing when you are working in a small area how much more precise and more cuts need to be made to complete the project.

I left for Cleveland on Thursday so Roby had to complete the project by himself. He was left with the difficult part of trying to inlay the flooring under the kitchen cabinet and closet spacing. Another 6 hours were needed but he got it done before I came home. It looked beautiful. The first sign of a real home!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Construction Update

The interns have been on campus for two weeks. The past week was spent on orientation so we have not been working on the tiny house. Roby and I decided we needed to focus our attention on our home. Sunday we buckled down and completed the paneling in the kitchen and "great room". We needed to prep the counter area with some backerboard for the continuation of the tile backsplash before we could complete the redwood siding. I was so excited because I was able to find scrap pieces cut to the correct dimensions to fit the top level and did not have to rip saw any of them. I hate that scary table saw and will find any way not to have to use it!

Learning to Live

One would think it would be difficult to live in 96 sq feet and trust me we thought so also. In reality it has been easy. We have slept wonderfully in our "cocoon" and many mornings we don't want to get out of bed. When we do though all we have to do is roll out of bed grab our clothes, get dressed and head down the ladder. No movement is necessary. Amazing how much quicker you are able to get ready in the morning. Each room has multiple functions. Our great room acts as our office, family room and blow drying room. We were so excited when we found a beveled edged mirror in the scrap pile. We put it up in our window frame-instant bathroom. I can surf the internet and blow dry my hair all at the same time!!

Obviously due to the cramped quarters there is constant maneuvering around each other. When I am sitting at the table and Roby wants to head upstairs I do have to get up and push my chair aside. It keeps us on our toes!

We did realize today while finishing some of the paneling in the "hallway" we would not be able to fit through the opening facing forward because we were going to need to add trim to the threshold. This would add another inch thereby reducing our doorway to 16" wide and requiring us to walk like an egyptian to get to the kitchen. Always have to be flexible when living in a tiny house.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Being Flexible

Sarah was great and surprised us with a bottle of local wine to celebrate our first night in the tiny house. In style we climbed the ladder to the loft, put the heater on and cuddled under our goose down comforter. The great thing I found was everything was within arms reach from my side of the futon. Our first challenge was how do you change your clothes in a space big enough for a five year old? No chance in standing up in the loft area and our downstairs is still under construction. We compromised. We discovered if we let our legs dangle through the loft access hatch and slip our pants on up to our knees and then lay back on the bed (brings back memories of junior high trying to get on my Jordache jeans) we could finish putting them on. After two weeks of practice we have gotten so good that we can time it perfectly and both get dressed at the same time! Another one of our discoveries was how easy it was going to be to clean the loft. All we had to do was sweep everything through the hole - at least as long as the downstairs is a construction zone

Although we had moved in we could not let the construction momentum slow down. We still had plenty of work to do. Things were going to move a bit quicker now that our interns had arrived and a new volunteer Phil who has experience in kitchen and bathrooms. Amazing how much we accomplished in the first week of their arrival. Instead of Roby and I having to sand the redwood paneling then bring it into the house to measure it and then take it to the chop saw and cut it to proportion and then bring it back and nail it into the wall, we had helpers. Cuatro sanded, Chris cut and Roby and I nailed. With our new system we were able to complete the great room in two days. When it was just Roby and me having to do it all it took us two days to complete just one section. I felt like we were on Extreme Home Makeover. The boys on my crew however are much better looking.

Phil concentrated on the kitchen. The framing had been completed by Travis so he worked on getting the sink and cook top laid in to the plywood. Originally we were going to use a stainless steel sign from the Real Goods store for the counter top but it was about one foot short. Scrambling to find an alternative building material we started digging through the scrap pile in the bone yard and found some great tile. Thankfully we had enough pieces in the same color. All it took was a good washing and it was like new. Initially we were going to do it all in the white square tile, but with a little more scrounging I found a multi-colored tile and we decided to use it for a border to add some color. Then we got fancy and decided to put up a back splash with these 4x4 decorated tiles we found. The kitchen was going to be high-end!!

While Chris, Roby and I continued with the redwood siding, Cuatro started on the ceiling in the great room. He is 6'5" so no need for a ladder. He just took the boards and lifted them over his head and nailed them into the 2X4 framing. We had five people working in a space of 96 sq feet, two of who are over 6'3". With such a small area it made it easy to share the same nail gun. Luckily we did not trip over one another or mistakenly shoot someone with the nail gun. Roby and I were working on one side of the house while Chris put up the other side, both of us hoping when we reached the top rung above the door we would line up even. Those damn framers; we were off by a smidgen! No worries, our motto-we can cover it up with trim.

With all the walls completed, Roby and I started covering up our mistakes and trimmed the windows and baseboard area around the wheel hubs. During our day off Chris and Cuatro started on the window seat and closet. They were able to get it all framed in and sided with the same redwood planks. Thank God for the lumber yard donation. Over the weekend Roby and I worked on the final shelf for our upstairs closet and the panels for the kitchen. What a hassle it is to have to work around electrical outlets especially when the studs are not lined properly or the outlets are located on the wrong side of the wall preventing us from being able to connect the paneling. We rigged it up with some strategically placed wood scraps and gave the paneling a backboard. Let's hope they don't fall through the cracks.

After two weeks inventory of work completed:

Great Room paneled-check
Ceiling paneled-check
Windows trimmed-check
Kitchen counter tiled-check
Sink and Stove-check
Bedroom shelving-check

As the closet and shelving appeared we got a better idea of how small our house was really going to be. With the new walls we literally had an 18 inch wide "hallway" between the great room and the kitchen. With my "wide swimmer shoulders" I barely fit through the passageway. The maneuver has to be done delicately because the 10 foot ladder takes up the entire kitchen and you don't want to run into it. The ladder is a story within itself. In the first week of living in the tiny house we have had a few accidents. During one of my middle of the night bathroom runs, I tried to climb down the ladder in the dark so as not to disturb Roby but in doing so I was not able to keep my alignment on the ladder. This is very important because the ladder is tightly fit into the space. Due to my lack of positioning while reaching the last rung I caught my long underwear on the light switch casing and tore a huge hole in them. Roby's encounter came several nights later after a few glasses of wine when he miscounted the steps, missed the last rung and found himself in a unique yoga position. His left shoe was wedged in the third rung and his right leg was on the ground. He was basically suspended in laughter and mid-air. I think the thing is possessed!