Good Ol’ Fashioned Barn Raising


Well, we did it. We got all the walls up.

But man, has it been a crazy few days.

Let me catch you up.

P1010035A few days ago, Drew and I had a 17 hour workday, trying to get all the walls sheathed so they would be ready to raise into place. We didn’t plan on having a 17 hour workday, but the weather cooperated for once and so we took advantage of it. Around 10pm, our friend Evan graciously joined us to work in the dark, until we all left exhausted around 2am.

P1010037Sheathing a wall can be a bit complicated. For us, it involved measuring the plywood we needed, cutting it down to size, then screwing it temporarily to the frame. Once we’d done this to all the boards, we’d unscrew one at a time, mark where the studs were (that in of itself was a task, especially when I was attempting it at midnight in the dark), put subfloor adhesive on the wood, put the board in place, then nail every 8 inches or so along the studs with our palm nailer. After this was completed all across the wall, Drew would use a router to cut out the window holes, to make the wall lighter when we decided to lift it into place.


So in the 17 hour workday we managed to get all the walls finished. Our end wall that goes near the hitch was still inside the shop, so Drew, Evan and I unwittingly tried to carry it down the stairs and onto the ground. We didn’t even make it to the stairs before Drew got really scratched up by the plywood. So we left that task for another day.

Then came the day to put up all the walls and make this thing actually look like a house.

We gathered our army, which consisted of a total of six lifters and one photographer (and later two others, but I’ll get to that escapade in a minute). I’ll take this moment to thank Diane, Z, J, Kas, and Evan for their amazing help that day. Whether it was lifting, bringing food, taking photos, etc., everything you did was all very much appreciated. You all are what made it happen, so thank you thank you thank you!!!

Removing the front wall.
So of course, like any great project, we started out by running into a huge problem. We had built all our walls on top of one another. We needed to start with the bottom wall (the “left” long one), so we decided to take the others off and lean them up against the side of the shop until needed. Simple, right? Except for that the walls all had a thin lip of plywood along the bottom that we were afraid would break if we rested the entire wall on that surface. (This plywood was needed to hang over the side to cover the trailer when lifted into place.) We ended up screwing ‘feet’ onto the large right wall (which we needed to flip over in order to get off the trailer) and putting it aside.
Taking the right wall off the trailer and putting it on the ground.
Lifting the left wall into place. Drew and I stood in the window openings for leverage.
I made sure the wall was level before Drew attached the braces that hold the wall in place.

Once the walls were off, we rose the left one into place. While we all held it, Drew screwed it in and created braces with 2x4s to keep it up. Now keep in mind, Kas the photographer was over under a canopy tent we had put up. Over it, I had draped a tarp (the same one that failed us with the subfloor) in order to make the underside cooler. It was a calm, clear day, so of course something had to go wrong. As we were standing there holding up the wall, out of nowhere we had this wild gust of wind (we all later called it a mini-tornado). Kas was sitting under the tent when the tarp suddenly flew at least 15 feet into the air. Everything happened in slow motion. Kas was looking around, completely unaware of the tarp flying up behind him, but definitely aware something was up. Suddenly, up the tent flew, knocking itself over as the tarp flew into the barbed wire fence, where it promptly stuck itself and refused to get off until we later confronted it with scissors.

Drew leapt off the trailer and ran over to the tent. “Help!” he yelled. I bolted off the trailer, and apparently everyone else did too, completely forgetting about holding up the wall. We caught the tent and pushed it back onto the ground (Kas was totally fine, apparently he figured he was safe where he was), and then realized we’d walked away from the trailer. Oh crap. But luckily the wall was already mostly bolted, so it was still standing! That could have been disastrous, in more ways than one.

Drew then quickly attempted to climb up the barbed-wire fence and free the tarp from its grasp, before it ripped any more. His hand caught on the top wires and tore his palm up. When he jumped down, his hand was bleeding pretty badly. We went inside and fixed it up. Luckily there was a med-kit on hand (no pun intended).

We decided then was a good time to take a food break and reassess our plan.


After a wonderful lunch (thanks Diane and Z!), we decided we wanted to put up the right wall, the one we had previously put on the ground next to the trailer. This turned into a complicated process. Not only did we have to dead-lift the entire thing straight off the ground, but we also had to turn it on its side and raise it 2-3ft to put onto the trailer, making sure the plywood lip was hanging off the side. We put down a couple cinder blocks in front of the trailer and tilted the wall onto them so that the lip was still hanging off the side, but then we couldn’t figure out how to lift the whole wall onto the trailer from there. For one, there was nothing to really hold onto to lift on the side with all the plywood siding. We had two people at the ends, one on the trailer, and two on the bottom. We tried to lift it, but the person on the trailer didn’t have any leverage, and we couldn’t really do it safely. We needed more people.

It was then our build site location came in really handy.

So: Where do you find incredibly fit people who enjoy lifting heavy objects and are willing to lend a hand?

At a gym, of course!

And we lucked out (again), for there was a local gym literally right down the road from us.

So Evan and I went on an adventure to ask for help, while the rest kept the wall vertical. “So um, we’re building a tiny house, and we need help lifting one of our walls onto the trailer…” Not the most common conversation starter, but it worked! Aaron, a very buff and kind man, and Alissa, an equally buff and kind woman, came to our rescue. With them, lifting the wall was very easy. We couldn’t have asked for better help. They said that if we ever needed more assistance, we know where to find them. How cool! We thanked them and they were on their way to lift more weights, probably something equally as heavy as our tiny house walls.


After the right wall was bolted in place, we repeated the process with the two end walls. The end wall that was in the shop took a lot of finessing to get out the door and down the stairs, but we managed it okay. After everything was bolted, I was able to take a step back and finally see the whole structure. And it hit me.

Interior view through the front door.

Woah, look. It’s a house.

It actually looks like a house.

All those annoyingly crooked nails that refused to go in, all those boards that put up a fight, all those long hours hammering late into the night where I can’t see a thing I’m doing, those late night races to the hardware store to pick up non-treated plywood because the guys at the lumber yard messed up our order, those sudden rainstorms that chase us inside drenched after panicking while trying to get the 5-7 tarps/plastic sheets onto the trailer, and bring in all the electronic tools inside before we electrocute ourselves — all those moments added up to this, this weird-looking mini house standing in front of me.  And yes, I know we’re not even close to done, but I’m amazed by how far we’ve come in a month. We’ve worked our butts off on this, had a zillion setbacks, and yet we’ve hit a major milestone. The walls are up. The walls are up.

Now onto the roof.


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