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.
We all know by now how much I love working with shakes… This wall was no exception (though not nearly as complicated as the front wall!) The biggest challenge with this one was making sure we had enough shakes left to finish the project. We had pre-cut some shakes that randomly disappeared in the shop the couple days we weren’t there, which left us scouring our remainders to see if we had enough. Luckily we were able to stain some more and had enough to finish the back wall. This is the result!
We luckily didn’t need to use a ladder (we weren’t sure how we’d lean it on the house over the bike box and without hitting the shakes). I was able to reach the majority of it, and for the last row closest to the roof Drew (who is much taller than me) could reach up and get it. It’s convenient having a tall guy around.
We also put siding up leading up to where the shakes begin, just like we had done for the other walls and the bike box. Nothing we weren’t used to. However, like the shakes, we were afraid we’d run out. And, we did! We were one piece short. Not too bad, considering it was all guesswork in determining how much we’d need at the beginning.
The wooden trim around the window was installed the same way we installed it for the front half circle window. What was nice about this wall was that it was a lot of repeat work from the other walls, so we didn’t face many new obstacles (which certainly makes for a nice change of pace…)
Next we’ll be installing the front door. We may not have any tarps on the house, but we still have a large plastic sheet covering the front entryway to keep out rainwater. (That is until we finish the door.) We’re almost completely plastic-sheet-free!
At long last the shakes on three walls are finally finished! I can’t say I’m sad to be done with that part of the house. Those things are not the most enjoyable thing to install. Yes, they are thin cedar boards, which means they’re flexible and easy to cut with a razor, but at the same time those same qualities lead to them breaking, cracking, and being an all-around nuisance.
Our last post on the subject was when I was working with mainly nice, big, square pieces. It was a good place to start, and relatively easy to measure. But once I started on the cheek walls (the vertical walls between the dormers and the gable roofs), things got especially tricky. For one, the two roofs are different pitches – our dormers are 12 degrees and the gables 42. So I had to take that into account when creating the pieces. Next of course, I’m leaning on the roof, so maneuvering around the ladder made it challenging to reach everything, especially since one side of our house is parked so close to the fence that it’s nearly impossible to stick a ladder in there. But, at least with the cheek walls everything was cut on straight lines. Yes, an occasional shake cracked and yes, an occasional curse word was uttered, but it wasn’t too bad. I think they turned out pretty well.
But the biggest, most challenging surface yet was the dreaded half circle window on the front of the house. Here are some of the challenges:
First, the thing is a half circle, which means lots of angle-calculating and geometry. Geometry wasn’t my best subject in school (although my teacher Ms. White was a godsend and really helped me through that class), and I’ve apparently forgotten most, if not all, of my geometry skills (sorry Ms. White…). Drew and I had recently worked on the trim for the half circle window
and were clever enough to come up with a template that I could use for the shakes. So simple, right? That would make everything so much easier. Yeah. Right. What I originally thought I would do would be to lay out the template on the work table, insert shakes underneath the edges all the way around draw a line and cut them with either the jigsaw or band-saw, and then install them on the roof. That way they’d all fit against each other (since they matched with the template) and it would simplify everything.
So of course it didn’t work out that way. What I didn’t account for was the angle of the roof – because the half circle window is so large, part of the trim on two sides butts up against the roof and creates an infinitely small gap (that lessens in size as it goes) leading up and around the trim that I have to fill with some sort of shake. (Also, note that the smaller the shake, the more likely it is going to break when being screwed in.) Also, the trim wasn’t the exact same shape as the trim template, and the eave trim (which came down more than 4 inches) made it really hard to access the tight areas underneath it. Using a drill bit extender helped, but it was still difficult to access. So the method I had come up with would have worked in theory, but it didn’t quite fully make it to fruition.
So, as many of these things do, it turned into a guess-and-check situation (or, as one of my other math teachers would have said, a ‘plug-and-chug’). I would create a shake using the template as best I could, go out on to the ladder, check it, see it was off, go back inside and cut it, go back on the ladder and check it, see it was off, go back inside and trim it again, etc. etc. For such a small section it took a long day to complete. Also, something else I didn’t think would be a factor but did was how difficult it would be to make sure all the shakes were oriented 90 degrees so that they were flush when installed. For example, when placing a shake under the template I needed to use the square (a triangular device that helps carpenters makes 90 degree angles) to make sure it was positioned straight up and down.
But hey, now it is done, and the shakes are complete. (I’ve probably made it sound a lot worse than it was.) We’re getting pretty close completing the entire exterior of the house! It will be nice working on the inside, although I bet progress will slow down a ton since we face a rather large learning curve with the plumbing and electrical. (Hopefully not as much geometry.) Onward!
Recently we began working on the cedar shakes that line the dormer walls and the eaves of the front and back walls. After the shakes were stained and ready to install, we began the slow and meticulous process of choosing the perfect shakes, cutting them down to size, and installing them. Luckily cedar is an easier wood to carve, so we were able to use a utility knife for the majority of our cuts. The helped make the process a bit easier.
Like the siding, we started at the base of the section and worked our way up so that the boards overlapped correctly to keep rainwater out. We pulled the tarp off the dormers while we were working, and many people stopped by to comment on our house – I guess because they’re now able to see more of it. The range of comments we’ve gotten about the house has been really interesting. Some people stop by knowing exactly what our odd-looking structure is and ask us how long it is (18ft) and other specific questions about the structure, compliment the lifestyle decision, etc. Others stare on in disbelief and ask “what the heck is that?” To which we give an elevator speech about this strange concept. “Yes, we do plan to live in it. Yes, it is small. Yes, we can’t wait! And yes, we probably are crazy (hopefully in a good way).” We even have some regulars who come by and check in on our progress. “Oh! I see you’ve added trim to the front wall!” “Yeah, it wasn’t easy! Maneuvering the ladder around the tung of the trailer was tricky…”
Anyway, soon we will be working on the cheek walls, which will consist of angled shakes. We’ll be cutting the bottom layer of boards on an angle (conveniently the same angle as the gable roof) and work out way up. We still have odds and ends of trim we need to install before we can finish this up, but we’re working on it. Since it’s winter, progress has been slower due to the cold (at least it’s not rain!). We still need to build the bike box and finish up the siding and trim on the exterior. We’re doing as much as we can now before it gets extremely cold. Once it gets really cold we’ll go ahead and begin working on the interior of the house with a space heater. I hope we can finish the exterior before then.
It’s weird to think we’ll be starting on plumbing and electrical once the exterior is finished. We haven’t even thought about how all that will work yet. We have a lot of research to do. We’re thinking of installing the plumbing and electrical ourselves and then having professionals look it over and inspect it carefully. Is that crazy? We don’t have the funds to hire someone to install it. I guess we’re keeping our options open at the moment.
Well, we’re officially back to working on the house after quite a hiatus. After being away for a few months we now see the whole thing with new eyes. We’ve conveniently forgotten how difficult and tiring the whole process has been and are simply amazed at what we were able to accomplish before we left. “We’ve built most of a house, Drew! An actual house!” Every nail was hammered in and every heavy wall lifted and secured into place (with some help, of course). It’s amazing.
So after we stared at our house a bit, we started planning out what we need to start on. It’s December now, and luckily it’s been a relatively warm and dry one so far – so best to take advantage of it while we can and finish the exterior. We long for the day we’ll never have to deal with the torn up tarps ever again. They’ve been nothing but trouble.
We first mapped out how the front of the house is going to look. This has been tricky because we’d like to create a covered porch, but our dimensions are a bit narrow due to how large our half circle window is. Plus, we’ll need to maneuver it around the fascia board. We’re still in the process of figuring this one out; if you have any ideas, please let us know. On the front, we’re also adding a fold-down porch. Sam is kindly building a custom front door for us and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all goes together.
On the back side of the house we are building a bicycle box to, you guessed it, hold our bicycles. This was another challenge because it will need to fit under our kitchen window and only extend out on the tongue of the trailer to the edge of the pull-away cable attachment. Since our bikes are around the same height, the roof pitch of our bike box could end up being very shallow, which means water could pool on top. The way we’re getting around this is by Drew removing his front tire (since he has the taller bike) whenever he puts his bike away. We’ve tested this and it’s a pretty fast process, so we think we’ve solved this issue for now.
So after figuring all that out, it was time to work on the siding. With Sam’s help, Drew and I installed about half the siding on the large left wall. We stopped part way up so that we’d have the space needed to install our bathroom fan.
Now you need to understand that we bought the fan back in August and have only just now opened the box. While everything looked to be in good shape, what we didn’t expect was how big the fan itself was. It’s about a square foot, which for a tiny house wall is huge! We figure we’ll disguise it somehow later on once we have the interior walls finished. The fan vent that extends outside, however, isn’t the prettiest thing either. It’s basically a white plastic cover with a lid that opens. We didn’t really like the way it looked so we got creative.
Hence, the quote from a friend of ours that is the title of this post. I now introduce to you our wonderful birdhouse, the prettiest darn fancy fart fan cover you ever did see:
Drew designed and built the whole thing. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s not just a pretty cover, though. First off, it has no bottom, so real birds hopefully won’t find a way to live in it. Also, this allows the fan’s air to escape the house easily. In addition, the ‘door’ of the birdhouse allows airflow, as do the vents Drew created in the top of the house. He made it wide enough so the cover opens easily. Magnifique!
Next we worked on the cedar shakes that go on the walls around the dormers. In a similar painting process to the siding, we painted one side with milk paint and stained the other side with linseed oil. This process took a couple of days, but once finished I could begin adhering the shakes to the walls. We allowed an overlap of about half an inch over the cedar board below. This was so the rain screen had a top cap that allows for the airflow to have a continuous vent.
Some of the boards involved very intricate cuts around the window framing. Cedar is a very flexible wood, which can be both good and bad. It’s good because it allows us to cut it with a razor if needed, but bad in that it tends to break when working with a thin piece. I had to redo a piece three times because both the jigsaw and razor kept breaking the thin pieces I was working on. Overall I think it’s a nice material to work with. I’m enjoying it.
So now the overall goal is to get the exterior of the house done before the cold weather really sets in. So far the weather has uncharacteristically cooperated and we have been able to work outside easily. Drew’s been putting some last finishing touches on the roof, and once the front and back walls are a little farther along we may actually be done with the tarps once and for all. Fingers crossed!