Plumbing, Electrical, Paint – An Amalgam of Half-Completed Updates

So it’s been a while since we last posted… It’s mainly because we’ve been waiting to have something tangible to post about, like, you know, plumbing. In fact, we hope to have an entire post dedicated to the subject. But building the house hasn’t been a very linear endeavor lately. It turns out a lot of things co-depend on one another, which is one reason we had to finish the floor before we could install plumbing. Plus we haven’t actually been able to completely finish anything. So let me delve into the amalgam of our work over the past month.

PLUMBING/BARREL

For one, our beautiful bathtub barrel is not functioning properly.
Exibibit A:
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Yeah.. So even with the support cord (tension band) around the top of the barrel, the staves still warped unevenly so they were no longer water-tight. The wood is supposed to swell when filled with water. We filled the barrel multiple times and each time the water would stream out the sides. Over time it would hold more and more water, which was great! For a little while.. But then as it dried out it would start leaking again and would never fully fill to the top. We could hardly keep it full with a garden hose constantly filling it up (as you would imagine this incidentally makes an awful bathtub).
So we had to rethink things – which meant we were back to square one on choosing a bathtub. (Sorry Holly…)
I cannot recount the number of hours we’ve spent researching bathtubs. It really is ridiculous. First, we went through our options as to what kinds of tubs to consider. Acrylic and fiberglass are the most common options, but we’re trying to make them an absolute last resort because they typically off-gas all kinds of stuff soon after being installed. Porcelain is nice and clean, but really heavy, and typically way too big. Galvanized steel horse troughs were one of our first ideas, but after reading about zinc over-exposure, we didn’t like the idea of bathing in them. Cast iron is nice, but again, that’s a heavy bathtub.
 
 So we settled on stainless steel. We knew we wanted a tub – we’ll be doing laundry in it for one thing – and the space allows for a max of 32″x32″ tub. We were hoping for around 20″ in height.
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This is how much water was left after being filled to the top and leaking to its heart’s content.
So we searched.. and searched and searched and searched. We searched through tubs, sinks, utility sinks, and even got creative looking for mop sinks and stainless steel barrels. Anything we did find remotely in that size was around $3,000, which needless to say is way out of our budget.
I know you’re waiting for a “so we settled on this” statement, but alas, we are still searching! BUT we have made progress! We’ve contacted a local welder and are waiting for a quote back. If we can, we may just get a stainless steel box with a hole in it. No fancy curves, nothing, just health(ier) material with a drainage hole. At this point that would be a gift. We’re really tired of searching.
As for our other plumbing endeavors, I won’t go too into detail as to our material selection, but I will say that we’ve installed the majority of our plumbing! It’s been a lot of waiting to get things in the mail, finding a tub, etc. that’s been a challenge.
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The beginnings of our pex plumbing for the sink and shower.

ELECTRICAL

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We tried some button lights for the great room, but decided against them because they heated up rather quickly.
On the side we’ve ALSO been focusing on electric, since that’s next after plumbing. I found some really great articles on Houzz about lighting design. I’ve been spending hours reading through them, trying to get a crash course in lighting design. What’s weird is that while online you’ll occasionally find info on how to install tiny house electrical, you rarely see articles on what lights to install or what kind of layouts work best! I initially thought that was because tiny houses are so unique to their owners, but after reading so many great general lighting tips I thought it would be helpful for someone to apply it to tiny houses as well. It definitely would have made our search easier! Also, other tiny house bloggers don’t seem to post much on lighting decisions either. It’s weird that no one seems to talk about lighting, yet composting toilets are all the rage on blogs and forums.
I (again) hope to go more in depth on tiny house lighting and why/what we chose, but for now I will say we have two task lights in our kitchen (one over the sink and the other over the stove area), a set of three lights in the nook, 2 sconces in the bathroom, 2 sconces in the sleeping loft, a small one in the storage loft above our half circle window, and LED strips along the sides of our living room. We’ve also selected a 34″ fan for our ceiling. We’re going to need it to help cool off things. (Also, Drew has found some really cool DIY air conditioning ideas we hope to try in the future. Hopefully more on that in a (very) future post.) So after drawing up an electrical plan our next step is to hire an electrician. We decided not to do it ourselves, mainly for safety. But we do want to be there when s/he installs it so we see how it’s all put together.

PAINT

Next topic? Paint. Yes, because linseed oil is not the greatest, our siding was not doing so well due to weathering. So as much as we liked the natural look, we decided to paint it to  preserve the wood better. This decision sprouted a whole lot of research. We had to find safe paint (we settled on ECOS brand), BUT we also had to find a primer that would bind with an linseed oil finish, but allow for water based paint to sit on top (thank you orange store). The primer we chose still contained VOCs, but was better than some of the other brands we found. Also, ECOS paints are VOC-free, which is awesome.
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Our house with most of a coat of primer.
I must say that it almost took us as long to pick out the paint as it did to find a stainless steel tub. We photoshopped a picture of our house with different colors to see what worked best. Then we began the arduous task of painting. Between the shakes, eaves, and cheek walls alone there are hundreds of difficult nooks and crannies to access. Plus it’s the middle of summer, which is essentially monsoon season here (remember how difficult building the actual structure was last year? At least we have a watertight structure now!) so working around the storms has been challenging. I should also mention that both Drew and I have multiple part time jobs right now (Drew was up to 4 at one point), so finding time that we’re both free has been an acrobatic act on its own. So we hired a painter.
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Ta-da! We still have some work to do (especially in the front eaves).
Everything was going well with our painter (thanks Jerry!). That is until he discovered that we had a wasp problem.
Yes, wasps had moved into our eaves. And not just one nest, but spread out all around the house in different areas. So Jerry was able to paint the majority of the house, but the bees stopped him from getting the difficult areas.
So Drew and I became the wasp patrol. For our first few attempts we used a garden hose. We were able to get the nests down, woohoo! Then Jerry came to paint the next day and said that the wasps were still hanging out around where the nests used to be. Figures. So we went for a round two of water blasting. That worked a little bit. Jerry had to go work on another job, so Drew and I set to painting. Which was great until I got stung.
So now we were stuck with a painting job that had to work around both our schedules and the rain, and now the bees. And our painter had another job he had to work on that involved rented scaffolding. Great.
And that’s where we are now. They keep rebuilding. We know they’ll wind down toward the end of summer, but we’re not sure how long that will take. We’re hoping Jerry might be able to come back and help, but we’d need to get rid of the bees first. We really don’t want to use pesticides.
Also you know what’s weird? They don’t like the cedar wood siding, but they do like the little bit of roofing plywood that’s exposed under the eaves. That, and any nails that are sticking through – they build their nests suspended on those. Hey, whatever works, I guess.
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At this point no white paint had been added, and we were still working on green and blue.
So as you can see, everything is kind of half finished. But at least there is progress happening on all fronts, albeit slowly. I do hope we’ll be able to give more in-depth entries on these topics. If you have any questions (or ideas on where to find/make a stainless steel tub), feel free to leave us a comment below or write us on our contact us page. We’re happy to help.
Onward!
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2 thoughts on “Plumbing, Electrical, Paint – An Amalgam of Half-Completed Updates

  1. Eden August 24, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    Thank you for posting your journey for people like me who are doing the same thing alongside you! Just a thought, we decided to do a horse trough as well, and then stumbled onto the big black rubber ones on Craigslist nadvertantly.. which worked out great because I found out there was a lot of chemicals you’d need to treat the galvanized ones with in order to use them. Anyway I believe we have a 100 gallon horse trough which is much bigger than what youre probably looking for but it has a great shape for relaxing and soaking and we got it so that my hus and and I could bathe together. I think it ends up being 36 inches at its widest and 4 or 5 feet long. But it’s rubber and should work fine out kf the box.. they make a lot of different shapes and sizes of them, in fact our kitchen sink is a pig trough of the same material and we’ve been using it for half and year with no treatment whatsoever other than using silicone to seal where the drain goes. We were thinking of scrapping ours and getting a wine barrel because we realized realistically there’s really not a lot of scenarios where we are going to have access to 100 gallons of hot water in our skoolie.. lol. I’m a bath fanatic and didn’t really think it through until I built our cabinets around it.

    Are the normal sized wine barrels big enough for a small person to sit and soak in? If not could you recommend a size ? Is the problem you’re facing a common one and do you know what went wrong or what to look out for when we buy one? Do you think if the seller had used the tension cord before he cut it would have worked, or would having the seller show it holds water when whole have avoided getting a Crap one? Thanks and good luck!

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  2. overthehitch August 25, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    We’re really excited you have been enjoying our blog! We did look into horse troughs early on, but we were looking for something non-petrochemical so we eventually decided on metal or wood as a replacement. It sounds like you found a pretty awesome tub though!

    So here’s what we’ve learned about wine barrels: first of all, there are many (many) sizes to wine and whiskey barrels, some more common than others, but historically speaking wine barrel sizes were more or less standardized in Europe before winemaking was brought to America. For more info, this is a great wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrel . The standard size of barrel you will find in the states is a 59 gallon whiskey or wine barrel. A barrel of this size is so easy to come by that you could practically walk into any antique shop and find something inside made from an old wine barrel. A quick search on ebay turns up a fair number of results. The reason they’re so common is because most vineyards only use each barrel once, and then sell them to furniture makers and whisky distillers (who don’t care that the barrels are used) once they’re through.

    A 59 gallon barrel is 28 inches wide at its widest, and cut in half measure only about 14 inches tall. When we started our search, we felt that size was far too small for every day use, and certainly not large enough for soaking or bathing. However, if you were hard pressed for a solution you could do what we did and search for what is called a puncheon barrel. These rare barrels are nearly 42 inches wide at its widest and can easily fit two people inside. The difficulty is sourcing: we had a very hard time finding puncheons that did not cost an arm and a leg to be shipped from the EU or the US west coast. There are sizes larger than puncheons that you may be able to find (tuns and hogsheads come to mind) but these sizes are not really made with portability or resale in mind. In fact, most wine makers or distillers may just opt for stainless steel drums when faced with finding storage for that much liquid.

    All of that being said, I would not recommend an unfinished (or even a finished) wine barrel as a tub without using some kind of drain pan or overflow floor drain. The long and short of it is that wood shrinks. True, it expands with the addition of water or moisture, but as soon as that evaporates, it will shrink again. Like you saw on our post, too much shrinking and swelling eventually simply causes the wood to warp out of shape, and warpage equates to leakage. To put into perspective, wine barrels are commonly stored in in climate controlled rooms that control for temperature and humidity among other things. Even empty barrels get the same treatment during their downtime to prevent their humidity levels from deviating too much. The used barrels you find on the internet are largely sold for furniture makers in mind, and furniture grade wood needs to be very dry. Beyond that, barrels listed for resale typically also have splits or leaks. It is possible that a new wine barrel bought straight from the manufacturer and cut directly above a tension band would have a vastly prolonged shelf life compared to a used furniture grade one, but even allowing for the best barrel on the market, I would still expect it to develop leaks if kept in a home and used for showers and baths. If you plan on putting the barrel in an existing shower stall, you may not need to worry about it, but that would largely depend on the size of your shower stall and how dry your climate is. The only sure fire way to make sure a wooden barrel never leaks is to constantly keep the wood completely saturated and the barrel completely full of water to more closely replicate the storage conditions in wineries.

    Given that you also want to minimize the amount of standing water and humidity in your tiny home, your best bet may just be to coat the barrel in several (dozens, if not dozens of dozens!) of coats of some kind of heavy duty wood finish or waterproof finishing wax. However, our research has concluded that no wood finish is truly waterproof given that wood still swells and shrinks underneath no matter how many coats you applied. That being said, it may minimize the swelling, and it would also make potential leaks easier to fix with the application of some barrel sealing wax (typically just carnauba or parafin wax).

    I hope this helps!

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