We’re back in (the) business (of planning)!

wall plans

Summer is here. We stopped building when the weather got bad and school got busy in March and April, but summer is finally here.

Back on the bandwagon, and smarter, now. We decided to halt all construction work until we finish sketching the plans of all four walls + roof. None of the half-building half-planning stop-and-start business as when we were building the subfloor. Once the planning is done, it will be a priority to raise all four walls and put a roof over it as quickly as we can to get everything waterproofed (and housewrapped). In the meantime, we plan, gather salvaged materials, and learn!

Below, free wood. One of my professors tore down the interior cladding of her garage and gave us a ring. (Thanks, Ann, for letting us haul away your massive pile of nice, straight wood!) We’re thinking flooring.salvaged


Thoughts + Inspirations + SketchUp + (Plan As You Go vs. Plan Everything Before Going)

Long thought-post ahead:

This past week has been research-heavy as we worked on developing the plans of the tiny house. Unlike a lot of other tiny house projects I encountered through my research, our pre-construction “gestation” period was rather brief (ie, 1-2 months of big talk and airy excitement), soon after which we found a trailer on Craigslist, bought it, and started laying down the subfloor. That was the easy part.

The follies/impatience of youth.

Now that the flooring is almost done, we are onto our walls.

Ha. Walls. Ha. Ha.

Before we could think of walls, we needed to think windows. Which means we needed to think floorplan (ie where each room would be), which means we needed to think fits and sizes of things like the toilet or the shower, which means we needed to learn toilet/composting options and plumbing/electrical options, wall height (to account for the 2nd storey sleeping loft), which then led us to think roof

All this to say: Our construction is largely on halt now, a preemie baby convalescing in its incubator, while we research, research, research to finalize all the plans.

We need our plans in hand!

Anyone with plumbing, electrical knowledge, please chime in?

Not to mention, I had to learn SketchUp to construct 3D models of the house, and that thing (like most design software) is a black hole. I’m obsessed with every little detail, and this whole process is fueling my nascent OCD tendencies (to good ends, I would hope).

Tip: SketchUp is a free software offered by Google. The learning curve is not steep at all (took me one full night of patiently sitting through YouTube videos). If you can build a house via internet research, you can learn SketchUp. The results have been incredibly useful in helping us visualize the finished house. I think this is important not just in terms of aesthetics–it really has to do with pragmatic considerations too. Modeling the house has led us to visualize and alter a lot of our initial plans to maximize space, structural integrity, and so on. We are onto Draft #4 of our floor layout, and every version only gets better (-suited to our needs). 

All you need is time.

All anyone needs is time.




We did, however, over the past weekend, drive two hours down to Phoenix to scour Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and Craigslist and bought around 8 windows and 1 door.

Total cost? Less than $200.

Some are even brand new.






Some tiny houses that have influenced my design, or are just plain cool:

1. This Kiwi couple’s storage-closet-as-stairs

More: http://tinyhousetalk.com/another-couple-living-diy-tiny-house-meet-shaye-tom/

2. This single-slope roof

More: http://minimotives.com/pro-photos/

3. This crazy planetarium-style loft

More: http://aluminumtinyhouse.wordpress.com/

4. This foldable deck system

More: http://tinyhousetalk.com/tall-tiny-house-design/



Berk Built A Hoop Greenhouse

…aka the poor person’s greenhouse, while I tinkered away taking photos for “documentation.”

Three 10′ long PVC pipes
Six 3′ x 3/8″ metal rebar
One 10′ x 25′ 6 mil plastic sheet


1. Hammer rebar into earth (about 1 1/2′ deep). Berk spaced them 6′ apart lengthwise and 4 1/2′ apart widthwise.
2. Connect the PVC pipes to make half hoops.
3. Drape plastic over the PVC structure. Shovel dirt onto plastic to hold in place.



Transplanting some peas that we started in the house. The weather is still quite windy and chilly, even with the beating sun, but when we crawled under the greenhouse and it was hot and humid in there:





Trellises for the crawlers to crawl on:

planting peas



Flooring – Half-finished

(Grateful for: Spring Break & extra time to go camping, do research, relax)

Oh, wow. We are still doing the flooring. Yes. Been a couple of weeks since the last update, but here we are, half-done with the flooring.

The thing is, building a house is not just a matter of building a house. Research is a time-sucker, and we went into this project knowing that we did not do as much pre-construction research as we could (should?) have, so we are quite literally learning as we go. Some days, it’s hours of sitting at the computer scouring youtube and other people’s tiny houses.

After discovering that we wouldn’t be able to afford wool insulation, whose shipping cost alone would make up 1/3 of the total cost (more than $1k), we went with denim insulation. We paid around $600 for what we hope will cover the whole house, including floor and ceiling. The insulation is made of 90% post-consumer cotton (jeans) and comes in precut batts. I’m pretty happy with how they handle (can be hand-packed and hand-torn fairly easily). We lose some R-value compared to if we chose foam or fiberglass, but we get to keep ourselves warm with something that isn’t petroleum-based, and that’s pretty cool.


Storing insulation in the attic:



The batts fluff up to about 3 – 3 1/2 inches thick (they were advertised to fit cavities 3.75′-wide):










Finishing the floor with T&G plywood:




Some earlier photos of sealing gaps with spray foam:








Hopefully more updates soon! I have a bunch of photos that I’m too tired to post now.


Finishing up the subfloor frame

(Grateful for: Taking it slow this weekend)

We’re picking up from our last update, where we finished framing and joisting the subfloor:


Since we extended our subfloor frame on each side of the trailer by approx. 10 inches, to add extra floor space to our tiny house, our frame is hanging off the sides and we are now staring at the gaps and racking our brains on how to cover and weatherproof the gaps, as pictured:


We decided to go with plywood. We used 3/4-inch OSB. It soon proved to be an arduous and tedious job to cut the plywood to size and fit it around the gaps. It didn’t help that when we were welding the rails off the trailer, we neglected to ask our welder to remove all the metal hardware from the sides of the trailer, which means we had to do a lot of extra cuts to accommodate those weird metal leftovers that extended here and there on the sides of the trailer.

Tip? If your trailer has rails that need to be welded off, and you are planning to extend your floor past the trailer bed, make sure you remove all the extra metal components from the sides of your trailer. It’s a pain in the poophole to cut your plywood around the weird metal leftovers.


We used a skill saw to cut the plywood and a sawzall to make the smaller cuts to fit around the metal hardware. We fixed the plywood in place with 1.5-inch galvanized nails.

Gaps are covered:


If you look at the picture below, you’ll see that the metal leftover bit forms a big hole. Holes are not good:


Got the job done with all fingers intact:


Right side of the trailer done. Moving on to the left:


We ended up using Spray Foam to seal up all the gaps and fill out the big holes left by the metal leftovers. We plan to then wrap the bottom with housewrap to fully waterproof it. I’m not convinced this is the best option…some of the holes are more than 1-inch wide and the spray foam label says it seals “up to one-inch gaps,” but I haven’t got a better idea than this. Thoughts?

The spray foam drying into a bulbous alien-poop looking thing:


Berk was the one who finished the bulk of the work in this post, aka cutting and installing all the plywood around the trailer. I was struggling to feel involved with the project, and after repeatedly hammering my own fingers and having things break on me and being plain unable to focus, I took a self-appointed break from working the trailer this weekend. Berk, on the other hand, suffered from a massive swollen right hand (from an unknown sting or splinter) over the weekend, which he probably got during his geology field trip on Friday, where he had to hike and whack through wildlands.

I think it’s important to be cognizant of setbacks (whether mental or physical ones).

We were a little bummed that this weekend’s work went slower, and was a little more painful to get through (compared to the weekend before, where we worked full days with exquisite morales). We got short with each other. I took long naps and stayed in bed to read and refused to touch the hammer. But I was grateful that we ended up knowing how to cut our losses, and not try to squeeze ourselves dry: If we couldn’t focus on building, we would spend time talking and checking in with each other. We got each other psyched up about the tiny house again. The reality is that we study full-time and work during the week, and often have to push ourselves to get all our schoolwork done by Friday, so that we can have the full weekend to build. My schedule of teaching every day at 8am makes me pretty nutty by late afternoon, when I am faced with mountains of schoolwork, and Berk’s job has him working until midnight for part of the week. Long story short: Breaks are OK. Getting behind schedule is OK. Sanity and self-preservation is bigger than the tiny house.

In other news, I also realized that while wool insulation is everything we can ever ask for in an insulation (sustainable, renewable, natural, non-toxic, non-ozone-depleting, non-lungs-damaging, mold-free, water resistant), we probably can’t afford it. The revelation sucks, because wool’s plus points are important to us. The next contenders are denim and cellulose. Denim insulation uses post-consumer denim/cotton products aka old jeans, and cellulose insulation essentially uses old newspapers. Both are recycled/post-consumer products, but unlike wool, they still go through a production process, which means chemicals.

I’m trying to get myself excited for old jeans, but looks like it’s bummer central this weekend.