Cutting Weight

Things I had to cut after my weigh in; 3/4" maple floors throughout, welded steel furniture, batteries (for now), custom sink and cement counter-tops, and much more. Good thing I redesign this thing in my head everyday anyway, thinking light I was ready to move on to running all of my utility lines and building all of my furniture. The built in furniture is kind of why I started this whole thing in the first place! So that was a much welcomed change of pace. First on the docket was my bathroom ceiling, I had a topless bathroom for a while and that needed to change. I used some cherry to frame a raised ceiling and then enclosed the interior with plexiglass. This gave me tons of natural light, an added small shelf around the bathroom and, a great look from the outside. I also trimmed my windows with some very cool custom glued wood. The wood is black on the outside, natural on the next layer in and the inside is a red wood in the opposite grain direction. Ripping this into thin strips was just right for my simple interior aesthetic. 

I used some of the extra 1/2" plywood from my walls to build a flexible headboard for my bed. I stained it with a gunstock stain that I am really falling in love with, but I plan to appolster it with some padding later. I also added the surfaces to my attic, oops I think I skipped the attic in my last post. I decided to add an attic over my bed to lower the ceiling height for a bit more comfort as well as add some much needed out of sight storage space. I stained the attic beams and used some blue paint for the attic ceiling. I have always been a sucker for a blue ceiling, so I was very happy to incorporate it in the part of my ceiling I would look at in bed, at the same time being careful to keep the rest of the space light and spacious with the bright white ceiling. 

I was finally able to dig in to my pile of live edge pine that will be used as much of the shelving in the house, the first project I used it for was my clothing shelves above the head of my bed, I call it a closet but I guess that's not exactly true.

I spent a week or so learning to be a plumber in order to run my water and propane lines throughout the house. Although very time consuming they both went in without a hitch. Water I completed without any leaks but I decided to call a professional to connect my the propane. I built the manifold, entry into the house and ran the lines to all of the appliances and just had the plumber do all the connections so I could sleep at night without thinking I smelled propane leaking from some unknown fitting. I won't bore you with any pictures of those things instead I will show you the creation of my countertop. Whith the weight factor my ideas of a custom concrete sink and counter where put on the back burner and instead I used a few slabs of pine to create one 7' + counter and peninsula. 

I also built my ski rack with two square aluminium tubes and a few chunks of beautiful leopardwood. The rear tube has holes in it to run wires through for LED lights that I will purchase soon. 

I also completed the 'Briggs Bed' and I am very happy with the results. It turned out to be so light that I don't need any pistons to lift it up. I just need to add a grab handle and a safety latch to keep it in the up position when I sleep. 

It may look finished but there is still lots to be done before I take off for the west coast. Working hard to get there before the snow flies. 


Maiden Voyage

It appears as though I will never be finished caulking, the exterior of the house is 99% finished yet every few days I notice a patch or crack that could use a bit more caulk. I take brakes from the interior work to meticulously study the exterior trim to find more and more places to add some. After completing the shell I was able to move on to the interior. The first step has to complete the ceiling which I decided to use rigid foam insulation with paint to create a highly insulated and light ceiling. I try and keep as much weight in the house low and in the center to allow for the best possible towing. I wanted a smooth surface without any thermal breaks in the ceiling so I decided to glue each panel up because they are super light the glue would hold it just fine. Getting all of the glue to stick was going to be the tricky part so I came up with a big gluing rig I would use to attach each piece individually. I also painted the door orange as a reward for finishing my ceiling.

Once ceiling was in I filled every screw hole and crack between interior sheathing with wood filler or spackle depending on the size. Each of those holes was then sanded down and would completely disappear with a coat of paint. With some newspaper covering the windows the interior was ready to be primed, fireproofed, and painted. I applied two coats of primer, along with the arduous task of sanding between coats. Once I was happy with the texture of the walls, mostly lack of any wood grain, I applied two coats of a fire retardant primer to get my walls up to a class A fire rating. During this process I struggled once again with choosing a paint color, and decided to copy the interior color of a house I know well. During the times the paint was drying I made a set of live edge shelves to get used to the live edge pine I would be using for a lot of shelving on the interior.

I found a truck scale that a friend was able to let me use, so I took the completed painted shell on it's first journey on the road since the trailer had been worked on. It towed very well but came in a bit heavier than I had hoped at 7,220 lbs. Extremely light for a 24' tiny house compared to others but 500 lbs or so less would give me the freedom to add some heavier things inside. Looks like my interior is going on a diet.


Now that the shell was completed it was time to get a roof on and waterproof the house as soon as possible. It survived a week or so with a large tarp on top at night, and I was lucky enough to have only a light sprinkle.

With only one 4 X 10 sheet of TPO coated sheet metal I was very careful to plan every cut and break of the sheet. I was able to use the entire width and only have one extra piece to use for test heat welding the TPO onto it. I picked up the edging from the sheet metal shop and slapped them up on the entire perimeter of the house. Using a specialized heat gun I rented to secure small strips of TPO around the corners. Next up the TPO membrane was glued to the roof sheathing and the perimiter heat welded onto the previously installed metal edging. I also had some custom gutters made to fit within the width restrictions of 8'6" wide, and used a small U channel as a downspout. One of my favorite subtle additions so far is the roof ledge. I knew that I wanted to use the roof as a patio/hangout area and noticed it was a bit too steep to site super comfortably and set a things down. I saw a scrap of cedar siding and had the idea to make a triangle down the center of the roof to create a flat spot to sit and set things down. I cut the end in a swallow tail shape and used wood filler to flatten the surface out before it reached the metal edging, and allowed the membrane to lie flat. Another use of the ledge was to cover up the seams caused by the small ply strip down the center caused by using 2 4'X8' sheets on the roof that was ~8'4" wide

After the roof and edging I attached the black fascia boards to the top perimeter of the roof and caulked the seams to ensure proper water sealing and drainage. Then I was ready for a a project I had been waiting for for a few months now. Windows! I began to cut out the windows on one side at a time, carefully leveling each side to ensure the windows were properly aligned. Much to my surprise the windows only took 15 minutes a piece to install. With a bit more time for waterproofing the exteriors and spraying some great stuff around the interior gaps. I already like the windows but I LOVED them once they were in the house. 

At this point I was close to waterproof, with one project in the way. Usually trim is not a huge deal on houses, but as you may have learned by now I just had to be a little different on this one by making custom trim. First to follow the theme of the fascia I gave the house a belt and black corner trim. At the 4' seam I ripped the corners off of 1"X4"s to make a black exterior chair rail of sorts. For the corners I ripped corners off of a 1"X2" and 1"X3" and attached them to make them even on each side of the corner.  after the black belt and corners were on I ripped the edges of of 1'X3's to make trapezoid shaped vertical trim to attach every 4' all the way around the house. These were to cover the upper vertical seams and continue below for continuity. I also started to cut 1"X3"s for the window trim, leaving the edges on these trim pieces square to accentuate the black windows. This process was painstakingly slow because I hand sanded each trim piece and applied a primer and two coats of paint to each before attaching them to the house. 

Another favorite part of the house so far is what I call trim trickery. On vertical trim pieces that went by windows I took the edges off up until the window trim should start and at the same time as stopping the chamfered edge I changed the paint color to give the illusion of the vertical trim and window trim being separate. This allowed the windows on the high side of the house to stand out and really POP. On the low side I painted the vertical trim black in order to add some interest to the 'utility' side of the house, as well as give the two sides subtly different looks. The next step was to caulk the WHOLE house, every edge of every trim piece, around the entire house had to be waterproofed. I took breaks from this monotonous task to insulate the ceiling with R-19 kraft faced fiberglass insulation that I will cover later with rigid foam  insulation. I also did the final sheathing on the upper interior walls and ends of the house, finishing off the 'shell' and letting me move on to the interior.

Racing the rain

Since the last post I have insulated the walls and added sheathing to the bottom exterior of the house. I also finalized my utilities by purchased an air exchanger, instant hot water heater, and heater as well as finalizing the design for the utility closet. It's going to have a neat little trick that I will explain later. I took a bit of  a break on the build and traveled to Bali and then a week later to Charlseton, SC.

The time has come for the big move. There will be longer moves in the future but this is the first and most crucial. It is time to head outside. Topless. After a brief travel hiatus it's back to work on the house and the next step is a roof. Mother nature blessed us with a week of dry weather to allow the house to get moved out of the barn, the upper wall sections added and roof to be attached. To prepare I pre-built the walls to be lifted onto the existing structure and bolted in place, pre-cut rafters, and primed the exterior sheathing that it had already. The trailer towed out of the barn surprisingly well, it's nimble and light and the Yukon handled it without breaking a sweat. The following week was a whirlwind of rough construction. It went outside on a Wednesday and we had dry weather predicted until the following Tuesday. With the help of my Dad, buddy Adam, and Mom, we were able to get the upper walls attached, rafters on, roof sheathing, and upper exterior sheathing attached before the tiny sprinkle of rain came on Tuesday. 

At this point I was able to take a short breath, but I was not ease with it out in the elements. I needed to finish the waterproofing of the exterior walls and get a roof on it ASAP. After the sheathing went up I primed the rest of the walls, painting over my windows for the time being made it easier to paint quickly and make the walls waterproof. The windows will be cut out soon when i'm ready to put them in, the focus this week was strictly waterproofing. Another major house decision jumped up on me after priming the walls. Color! I knew I wanted a grey walls and black trim to accompany the black windows that I have but what grey. Not a big deal until you realize how many shades of grey are possible. I had been pondering a few color samples on my dresser for a while so I grabbed my favorites and bought the paint. A bit intimidating but one of the easiest decisions to change down the road. I decide on a flat grey that I hoped would emulate soft touch plastic (one of my favorite texture/color combos), some black for the trim, and a burnt orange for the front door, which I can use inside the house for some color as well. 

I was very happy with how the grey turned out, using a thicker nap roller on the last coat gave it a nice soft texture while also hiding 90 or so percent of the wood grain. I like the idea of the interior and exterior wall coverings being a mystery. I decided on a grey TPO membrane roof with custom bent TPO coated sheet metal for the edges. The edging should be ready after Memorial day weekend and the roof membrane will go on shortly after. 

Inside out

As you may have read in earlier posts, I have one major constraint mandating the steps of my build, the barn door. The barn door is a few feet lower than the final height of my house causing me to get creative with the building process, this has led me to build my house 'inside out' adding more wall height and a roof in the spring. I now have lower walls framed with interior sheathing and I have moved into the house to work on things there. Backwards from the traditional model of; framing, exterior walls, insulating and then moving inside. 

Once the exterior walls were framed I insulated and finished the two wheel boxes taking extra care to make them airtight. Sacrificing a small amount of interior space to ensure the wheel arches are well insulated should save on my heating bill down the road. I built the interior walls for my bathroom but set them aside to install after the interior sheathing went in.

I shopped around town for the best A/C plywood to use as my interior walls and ended up buying 17 sheets from Northern Building Supply, who also helped me with my windows. Trimmed them them all to 7' 3" and we started gluing and screwing, a reoccuring theme with the build.

Having the interior sheathing up was a great feeling, it finally feels like a house, a fairly spacious one too! I moved on to the only other walls in the house, the bathroom. I finished the bench area, 2X3 framing and sheathing and it was ready for a shower pan and waterproofing. Using some foam insulation, a router and wire brushes, I created a sloped shower pan that I would fiberglass over after waterproofing. I decided on Redgard, a paint on rubber waterproofing for under tile. It is a strange gloopy consistency, I applied excessive coats around the entire bathroom in case of any movement during travel. The stud spaces were left open to squeeze every last cubic inch out of the small wet bath and allow for some shelves and things later. After waterproofing, I fiber-glassed the shower pan with lots of layers of fiberglass and epoxy, building up extra in the corners to make a a smooth transition for the water into the drain. 

I also set up the framing for the elevated floor in the bedroom/office, and designed a sloped headboard to add later. Got a bit distracted with the purchase of a welder and I am working on a practice welding project at the moment.  

Going vertical

Once the windows and doors had been selected and put into place on the model the walls where finalized. It was then time for the wall plans to be made and framing to start. I have painstakingly made very nice illustrator files of each wall plan in order to document the process and be able to create a book of the plans used.

First was the back right wall, the only one with no windows, a good warm up before I began on the other more complicated walls. I then built the two back side walls to finish off the bedroom area before moving to the front half of the trailer. The house has 7 windows and 2 doors so it shouldn't feel boxy or enclosed on the inside. Actually 9 windows, I almost forgot about the two larger picture windows to be added on once I move out of the barn. The front three walls went up nice and quick and before we knew it, the thing looked like a house. After a few trips back and forth to the fastener store I managed to purchase the right screws to attach the sole plate of each wall to the trailer and some large bolts to attach each wall segment to it's neighbor.

I take pride in knowing that minute details like the inside of my headers are beautiful and the framing of the walls has no excessive wood. I used advanced framing placing studs on 24" centers instead of the traditional 16". This will allow me to place roof joists directly on top of studs and also provide more room for insulation in the walls while shaving a bit of weight. Next up is to frame the bathroom and add interior sheathing. 

Measure twice cut once

I'm sure many of you have heard of the carpenter's phrase: "measure twice, cut once."  Well, that is exactly what I have been doing all month. Actually, more along the lines of measuring 12 times, changing my entire model a handful of times, switching window brands, locations, and sizes daily…you get the idea. I have changed my mind a lot. Changes come after discovering new design elements to consider, trimming away excess, redesigning interior areas, and changing windows sizes, etc. Each minor change causes a cascade of variations as well as design inconveniences throughout the rest of the house, so you could say I have been finding a perfect balance. A fine line between structural integrity, maximized interior space, and most importantly, function. 

With the interior generally sorted out I was able to determine window placement and sizes. Orientation and size have been the hardest decisions to make and what I have changed my mind about the most. I have now settled on Pacific Design windows and chosen all of the corresponding sizes and styles. This has allowed me to finish my structural  plans and solidify the framing of the house.

A 'Briggs Bed'  ©

A 'Briggs Bed' ©

I have also figured out a simple way to hide away my bed using piano hinges, adhering to the lightweight, simple mentality of the rest of the house. This area will function as my bedroom, closet, and office in the rear of the trailer. Recently I also bumped out the upper frame in the front of the trailer (below) to create an area to fold a front porch into. It will also provide two pillars to act as hinges for the side walls of the semi-enclosed porch. The extension will provide 8 square feet extra of loft space, which makes a huge difference in such a small space. The front porch, shown below in a rough model, will function in a few ways. First, it will cover the tongue of the trailer when parked, making it look more like a home; second, the walls will fold in to make the trailer a bit more aerodynamic during travel; third, it will create a nice covered entry and bike storage area. Next up is framing the walls!


Once the trailer was finished it was time to add Grey water plumbing, insulation, and then a floor. Adding the floor would render the interior of the trailer frame inaccessible for the rest of its life so everything had to be perfect. First I had to rewire the brakes and trailer lights, having to route them through the new sheet metal and remember how the wires had all been connected before. After drilling new holes for the brake and marker lights I completed the puzzle of wires, wrapped them up nicely and securely attached them to the frame. Wherever the wires went through metal, I used grommets for protection and silicone to hold them in place. I cut some yogurt containers for around the taillights to provide a cavity for later access from the outside, I would spray foam around the containers in order to hold them in place and seal them form the outside. I also sprayed foam at each of the exterior grommets to seal them in and stop any insulation from escaping.  

Next was the grey water plumbing, I needed a sink and shower drain to exit the bottom of the trailer which I placed near the front left wheel. The sink drain was run straight down through the floor elbowed 90 degrees and ran through a hole cut in the frame. It runs all the way across the trailer to meet the shower drain which goes straight down and through another hole this time cut in the sheet metal bottom. The PVC pipe drains were cleaned and glued together with stubs for the two inputs as well as a threaded cap for the exterior drain hose to attach. 

After a ridiculously expensive quote for spray foam insulation, the much cheaper and environmentally friendly method of cellulose insulation was decided. We began to mock up the floor and quickly realized that 4X8 tongue and groove sheets are not actually a complete 4 feet wide making my simple 24' trailer a bit trickier than expected. A bit of math and puzzle solving later we came up with a plan and re-mocked up the floor and promptly broke a few of the screws we planned to use. The next day after tracking down some specialty screws we began to add the cellulose, apply construction adhesive, and screw down the boards. We finished the entire floor in two days and did a nice celebration dance on the new floor promptly afterwards.

Now it's back to the computer to finalize the floor plans before the walls go up. 

Trailer Prep

Next began the long and arduous process of turning a 30 some year old RV frame into the foundation of my new home. The trailer actually has a pretty cool history; Once an RV then demolished by an 80 year old man in Roseburg, OR in hopes of constructing a tiny house for his wife. After removing the RV completely from the trailer frame, said old man decided it was too much work to build the house and sold the frame. Next up was Jay, who I acquired the trailer from in Eugene, he originally purchased the trailer to retrieve a giant sewing table and to do so he added some angle iron supports and an exterior rail in addition to decking. 

I bought the trailer from Jay and he let me leave it at his house for as long as I needed too, even allowing me to come by and work on it. We ended up having some great chat's, he was very supportive of the build.

Enough backstory, first thing to do back in TC was remove the waterlogged decking to get to work on the frame underneath. 

A few handfuls of bolts later the decking came right off, and I was off to buy an angle grinder to remove all of the rust. Spent the next few days clambering on top, rolling underneath, and hunched over the frame blasting off the major rust areas of each section. After major rust removal the trailer was off to Ace Welding to receive more angle iron supports for the floor and sheet metal to enclose the bottom. 

Primer and paint were next, I found a pricey but very nice paint made for the underside of vehicles. It cured with the moisture in the air into a nice rubbery protective finish which I used on all of the old metal and previously painted areas. I used PPG metal primer and exterior paint on the new bare steel. Once all of the cracks where sealed with caulk and the trailer lights and brakes were rewired the next step was to replace the old suspension with something I could have a bit more faith in.

After a bit of trouble piecing together the new suspension I finally had all of the parts. I used a bit of extra paint on the wheels to match the trailer and new suspension. then put it all back together. In the meantime my Mom had put all new maple floors in her house and I has able to get a whole yukon full of extras that might just cover my whole floor.