Rain screen, Siding, and Catching Up.

P1010634Long time no post! Sorry about that. We’ve been out of town for a couple of months (to put it lightly), but we’ll be back to working on the house shortly! (And hopefully providing more updates regularly.. assuming we’re not completely exhausted like we were last time around.) So here are some updates on what we accomplished before we left.

We (almost) got the house completely in the dry! We managed to get the majority of the roof, rain-screen, and siding installed.

Let’s start with the rain screen.

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Completed rain screen on one side of the house.

Rain screens are used to keep your siding elevated above your tar paper and create a drainage plane/ventilation for standing water – which could otherwise create rot. This centuries old method of construction has been used on Norwegian stave churches and Japanese buildings which are still standing today.

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The rain screen extends all the way to the under edge of the roof.

Creating a rain screen is quite simple – it basically involves installing ribs of plywood on top of the existing tar-paper surface. First we had to determine where the studs were inside the house so that we made sure we were nailing the rain screen into a solid beam. This took a lot of working with measurements inside the house and using them to determine where those same points were outside. Then we drew lines with chalk to determine where to adhere the plywood.

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Using the finish nailer. So much easier!
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I had so much time left over after nailing that I even had time to pose for a cheesy picture.

Once we completed that step, we used the tablesaw to cut long 3″ strips of plywood. From there we used a 2.5″ finish nailer to attach the plywood to the outside of the tar paper. I first started this process by attempting to use the dinky palm nailer. It immediately cracked the first piece of plywood. I tried again, this time more slowly and carefully. Same result. I even tried hammer and nail. Nope. The nails were too thick and the nailer was too strong. The finish nailer, while not petite in the slightest, is the smoothest tool I’ve used yet. And fast. (And luckily has two safety’s.) It can only fire when both the tip AND the trigger are compressed. So this made the process go much quicker!

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Notice we left room at the base of the wall so we could later add trim.

After attaching all the strips of plywood to the studs, I then cut long strips of tar paper (about 8″ in width) and attached the pieces around the plywood (so it essentially makes a ‘ridge’ in the wall) with capped roofing nails. I tried to cover the tops of the plywood so that the water couldn’t get through there either. Even if it did, we left the bottom open so it could drain out and receive air circulation.

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We later tucked the tar paper in behind the trim board.

If you would like to learn how to make your own rain screen, this PDF is an invaluable resource we found incredibly helpful during our process.  

Meanwhile, Drew added the bottom trim, but with a twist. He and his dad drilled holes through the wood and attached a screen over the holes to keep out debris and bugs. (A big thank you to the secret donor who donated the two screen doors he’d previously walked through and broken.) This made it so any water that got under the siding could drain out through the bottom.

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The base board with holes drilled all the way through for drainage.
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The window screen is wrapped around the board and then stapled.

Drew also worked on adding in the inputs for our water and electrical systems. He framed out a small utilities panel using cedar 2×4’s so they would match our window framing and cut out a pair of holes for the water and electrical inputs. Amazingly, they’re designed to be adaptable with nothing more than a garden hose and a standard 120 volt extension cord. That way we can have water and power just about anywhere we park.

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Drilling holes for the inputs.
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Inputs installed.

Now the majority of our walls were ready for siding! We still need to build a bike holder against the end wall over the hitch and figure out a front porch, so we haven’t put siding on those sections yet. We’ll hopefully be getting to that soon.

Next was prepping the siding for installation. We bought ~650 linear ft of cedar lap siding. As was mentioned in a previous post, we coated our cedar boards with 100% linseed oil. Pure linseed oil provides a protective coating that preserves the wood naturally and protects it from water damage, mold, insects, and UV damage. It also helps the wood retain its color. Unfinished cedar (over time) turns grey, because the outer cells of the wood dry up, turn grey, and flake off. So we needed to stain all 650 ft. of the boards on one side only. On the other we used a milk paint primer, the reason being if rain accumulated behind the siding, it would have less of a chance to soak into the wood.

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Adding a layer of milk paint to one side of the boards.
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After the milk paint dried, we stained the other sides of the boards with linseed oil.

This turned into a long process of paint, move, dry, wait, move, paint, move, dry, move, move-again-because-we-need-the-room, move-again-because-it’s-supposed-to-rain, fine-it-can-go-there-but-not-really-because-we’re-out-of-room–sigh-okay-fine-it’s-there-now.

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Finding a storage spot for these boards was difficult. A few of the boards wouldn’t even fit inside our house. Needless to say our house smelled like milk for a while.
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We set up sawhorses outside to dry the cedar boards.
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The finished boards stored away in the house.

Luckily a lot of people helped us with the painting process. Sam even helped install a lot of the siding! Thanks Sam, Kas, Z, and Diane. You all made the process a lot smoother!

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Mixing milk paint, which initially comes in powder form.

So while I was working with the boards, Drew was back on the roof trying to finagle the last few tricky bits – one being the ridge cap.

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The house with a lot of the siding already in place. Drew’s working on installing the ridge cap.

This part wasn’t easy. There are numerous steps that must be done and pieces to be attached before adhering the ridge cap to the roofing. First, the eave flashing had to be installed, and then we had to slip on pieces of metal called transition flashing, and after that we had to install the small rails of metal that the triangular ridge cap would slide onto. It was a lot of checking the sizing, then mark it, pull it back off, cut it, check it again, find that you forgot something, take it back inside, etc.

And with that, we had most of the outside of our house done. We had to leave town, so we bought a second expensive gray tarp, covered the whole house with it (I hope I never have to do that again-it’s the worst), and were on our way.

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I’ll be glad when we’re past the tarp stage – our roof has sharp edges, which unfortunately leads to tearing…

And now we’re (almost) back and ready to get working. We’re ready to stop worrying about rain and finish our house! We’re both so excited to live in it. While we’ve been away I went to a workshop on how to build your own rain barrel. When the instructor mentioned using a jigsaw I got really excited. Jigsaw! Rivets! Plywood! It felt like I’d been away from building for so long that it was an ancient language slowly coming back to me. Oddly I’ve missed it. As insane as it was, I’ve missed it. Or maybe I’m just romanticizing it and have forgotten how hard and sleep-depriving an adventure it was.

But hey, at least it was an adventure.

Oh, and should I mention that our tiny house is currently parked in a flood plain next to a river where it’s been threatening to pour 10+ inches of rain (and they’ve released extra water from the reservoir, making the river even higher), and we’re hundreds of miles away where we can’t really do anything about it? Eight years ago the entire area was about six feet under water due to a flood.

Yeah. An adventure all right.

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Good Ol’ Fashioned Barn Raising

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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.

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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!!!

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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.
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Taking the right wall off the trailer and putting it on the ground.
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Lifting the left wall into place. Drew and I stood in the window openings for leverage.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Subfloor: Days Two and Three – Zip Boards and Flashing

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After successfully framing the subfloor of our house, we now needed to attach the zip boards and flashing to the wooden frame. Because of the way we planned to attach the subfloor to the trailer, we had to build our subfloor upside down. At first this made no sense to me, but Drew explained that because we needed to bolt the subfloor to the bottom of the trailer, there was no way to lay down the aluminum flashing onto the trailer, then attach flashing to the zips, then all that to the framing and keep it all square. Remember, we have to bolt the entire framing to the trailer in 40 spots with 1/4″x 4″ lag screws. So it turned out that the easier (yet heavier) alternative was to build the whole thing upside down, flip it, then put back on right-side-up and continue from there.

Sounds easy, right?

No, no it doesn’t at all.

So we first started working on the zips boards early Tuesday morning. Zip boards are basically plywood sheets coated on one side with a waterproof coating. We decided to use this on the bottom of our house, and to also include a level of aluminum flashing for extra protection. Water is a big concern in tiny houses, especially since the bottom is not on the ground. And if you’re driving in the rain with your house, you’ll certainly want extra protection. Plus, bugs and other critters might like to find their way in and make their own tiny homes within the insulation.

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Cutting the zip boards took a lot of fine tuning to make them have a snug fit.

So first went the zip boards. We cut one to the right size, marked where the nails would go, and then nailed every 3 inches around the edges of the board. Then we nailed every 8 or so inches across the beams. Even though we were using the palm nailer, which albeit is faster than a hammer and nails, nailing the boards still took a while. So Drew and I decided that I would nail the boards while he worked on cutting them. I was glad that we were able to divvy up the tasks like this; it made the day go by faster and the project much more efficient. In the picture to the left, Drew is using a jig-saw, which is easy to use and lightweight, but leaves a more jagged cut because the blade is very thick, and because the cut is directed by your hand, which doesn’t have the best sense of straight lines. It was however convenient.

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Our brilliant tarp contraption.

One thing to note is that there was no shade on our job site, and we were facing 84-degree days in direct sun. While we had a tent, it didn’t cover the entire site, so we decided to get creative. We took the tarp we use to cover the trailer and covered our workspace by attaching it to the fence and draping it over our tent. Kind of cool, huh? And it worked! It only fell once. I consider that a win.

Attaching the zip boards took a lot longer than we thought. It was late afternoon by the time we finished that part. Luckily, our friend Evan came by and was able to help us with taping our zip panels (they make a special zip board tape to cover the seams) and then with the flashing (which they also make a handy-dandy tape for). We managed to get the whole thing taped (but not nailed), right before dark. Then we called it a day.

Day Three:

The following morning, Drew finished nailing and taping all the seams (and nails) of the aluminum flashing. All was secure. Now for the hard part – flipping the entire thing over. Not only that, but we couldn’t just put it back onto the trailer – we first needed to drill holes into the steel trailer so we could screw about 40 bolts into the framing to secure it to the trailer (which we didn’t think of doing earlier). So the plan was to take the built subfloor off the trailer, turn it over, and place it on the ground. Then we planned to drill the holes and put the whole structure back onto the trailer. Once we finished that, we could continue with securing the subfloor and stuffing it with insulation.

Since we needed to lift an entire wooden frame covered in plywood and flashing, we needed reinforcements. We considered enlisting the patrons of a nearby gym, but thought they were closed, so we instead enlisted Drew’s family. We ended up with five people. Thus the maneuvering adventure began!

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Right near the ends of the wheel-wells are where the 4-ish nails are holding the three subfloor structures together. If those bend, the whole structure could come apart.

We threw around several ideas how to do this. One thing we were especially concerned about was racking or twisting – remember the three sections we had built in the framing? They were all attached to the middle section by about eight nails (we later added a few screws to help secure it). We were afraid that if we lifted one side the whole thing would tilt and twist and fall apart.  With that in mind, we decided to try to lift and place the entire structure onto sawhorses, so that the next day when we needed to lift it again, we wouldn’t need to lift all the way from the ground. In theory this worked great, but when it came time for us to lift the heavier back end part off the ground, we couldn’t do it with just five people. Remember, we needed to flip it over as well as move it. So we ended up laying the whole thing on the ground right next to the trailer. Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of this event, since we needed all hands on deck. But it was quite the sight, believe me.

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Lit by a floodlight, Drew drilled holes into the trailer well into the night.

After Drew’s family left, Drew, Evan and I decided to continue working as best we could before dark so that the next morning we could enlist Drew’s dad and his associate Mike to help us lift the whole structure back onto the trailer. Evan and I installed cripple studs on the back part of the trailer so we’d have boards to attach the flooring plywood to the next day. Drew went ahead and drill holes all throughout the trailer. We went past dark, and ended up working til about 10pm. But we finished it!

Now for a 13-hour day starting at 8am the following morning…

Subfloor: Day One – Framing

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So lately we’ve been working on the subfloor.

Actually, we spent about three 12hr days working on the subfloor this week.

But we got it done! But not without help, of course. We had our friend Evan help us out. Lucky we did! We had to build the subfloor upside down and then flip it. It took 5 people each time, though we probably should have had more. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me me start from the beginning.

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On Monday, Drew and I began working on the framing. We had fun (half sarcasm) interpreting the plans and trying to figure out what to do. We found a few measurements that were wrong in the plans! We cross referenced our field measurements with other (correct) pages in our plans to find out where they went wrong, and carried on. Not only this, but we had to account for the fact that our trailer  was a different size than the one in the plans. Out trailer was about 3″ shorter and 2″ wider than called for in our plans, so we made those adjustments to our plans as well. Looking back, I’m still glad we got the trailer we did, but I think it would have been a lot easier to get both the trailer and the plans from the same manufacturer.

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Using the palm nailer on the subfloor frame. It takes a few seconds longer than a regular nailer, but is well worth the time for us when considering safety.

We also got to more thoroughly experiment with our palm nailer. It works pretty well. We’re sure one of the big-gun nailers would be faster (probably way faster), but we both feel a lot safer using this one. I don’t have to worry as much about where I point it, for one. Plus, we were working for 12 hours at a time (which probably isn’t smart in the first place, but once it’s hard to stop once we get going). Because of that, toward the end of the day we would start getting a bit careless. I can’t count how many times I’ve hit my fingers, one time being when I ran into a hammer (no, I didn’t hit myself with the hammer, I was using the nailer and pulled my hand back and hit the hammer sitting on the trailer…. I would.) So do as I say and not as I do – take breaks often and be extra careful.

We decided to break the subfloor into three separate parts – one being the front of the trailer near the hitch, the middle section around the wheel-wells, and then the end section. We started with the end. Drew and I got into a building rhythm where I’d be cutting with the chop saw while he measured, nailed, and placed boards where they needed to go. This system worked pretty well, and we were able to get all three sections done in around five or six hours.

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Using the chop saw for framing. We calculated all our measurements beforehand so I could cut while Drew worked on putting it together.
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We tried to make the cuts as precise as possible, by drawing our measurement markings on the wood and noting which side of the board we were keeping.
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The back section completed.
It fits!
It fits!

But of course, things couldn’t go that smoothly forever. We came across a problem with the middle section, again because our trailer was different from the one in the plans. The middle section, which was thankfully lighter than our other ones, was too wide to fit between the wheel-wells. What made matters worse was that there was a storm rolling in!

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It’s a blurry picture, but it gives you an idea of what we were up against.
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Attempting to sand the side of the middle section so it would fit in between the wheel-wells.

So since we had access to Drew’s dad’s woodworking tools (and Drew thankfully has experience using them), he pulled out the sander and tried to make it fit that way. No such luck. After realizing we weren’t getting anywhere fast, we ended up having to pry off that long board at the end and cutting off the ends of the three trusses, then reattaching them. Meanwhile, thunder rumbled ominously in the distance and the radio eeked out a severe thunderstorm warning. Ah, but we’re so close! We can’t just stop now! So we hurriedly carried our middle section back out and tried to squeeze it in. No dice. So we brought it back in yet again, shaved off more than we thought we needed, reattached again, and viola! It fit! And just in time too, as it started drizzling. So we covered the trailer with a tarp and got out of there. Success!

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The finished subfloor framing.

Now onto day two: attaching the zip boards and flashing to the subfloor frame.

Shopping Spree! and The Search For Safe Tools

Do you want to build a tiny house? Can you lift 30lbs over your head? Are you capable of deciphering the names and knowing the use of obscure construction materials? Have you reckon’d a thousand 2×4’s much? Have you reckon’d a lumberyard much? (Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?) Stop this day an night with me and you shall possess the origin of all tiny houses: do your research!Our supplies thus far

If you’ll excuse me riffing off of Whitman, let me make that final point clear by saying that shopping for your building materials is probably the best way to test your knowledge of tiny house construction before you’ve even picked up a hammer.

The reason I bring this up is because Sierra and I just went shopping for our materials! (Woo-hoo!) Well, more like 75% of our materials. And even then, it’s just for framing the house. We’ve not even thought about the interior, or plumbing, or electrical yet. Our goal is to get the house “in the dry” (construction-speak for “able to withstand rain and wind without leaking”). That way, we can slow down, change gears, and focus on making the space habitable.

We still need to purchase plywood sheathing, tar-paper for the roof and as a house-wrap, some aluminum flashing for the undercarriage, and our HDU-4 and HDU-5 heavy duty hurricane tie downs. Interestingly, no one in town seemed to have the HDU-4 or HDU-5 tie downs. My guess is this: because we live in the mountains where there is often very little threat of high winds, tornadoes, or hurricanes, no one stocks the tie downs because there are likely few, if any codes, regulating their usage in our area. That or the builders use something else I’ve never heard of before. Either way, we will need to buy them off of the internet because no one knew what I was talking about when I asked for them.

Shopping for materials was probably the most work Sierra and I have done for the house yet (most physical work, at least. The remainder of our time so far has been spent researching how different products are used in a tiny house, where they go, what they’re used for, if we need an oven, our favorite type of siding etc.). We decided to buy most of our materials from the two big box stores in our area simply because they carried the most of what we needed at one stop. After that, we planned to buy the remainder of our materials from lumberyards or specialty manufacturers as needed. For instance, none of the local chains we looked at carried a 4-inch steel flange that we would need as a cantilever support for our subfloor, so we plan to support the local economy and check out the steel fabricators near my dad’s shop for any cast-off’s that may do the trick.

We arrived at the store pretty early riding in my dad’s huge yellow box van and carrying a grocery list of everything we knew we needed to pick up. We started in the hardware section comparing the prices of nails and screws, then moved over a few aisles to find all-thread-rods, log screws, lag screws, nuts, washers, and self-drilling screws. Finally we went to the lumber and plywood section to pick out some Zip-boards and zip-tape for our undercarriage, tie downs and hurricane clips for our roof, and then we set ourselves to the longest task of hand-selecting every 2×4, log, beam, and stick that we were going to put into our house. This final part took the longest as we had to select well over 100 pieces of lumber from the stacks and determine if there were any obvious or potential defects in each piece: this was going to be our house after all: might as well make every bit that goes into it is what you want (or, at least what you can control).

After we had loaded up 3 carts full of goods, we pulled our caravan of merchandise to the nearest register to check out. Then, with the help of an employee we loaded up everything into my dad’s van, and then drove to the next store where we did the whole thing over again. This is because we couldn’t buy everything we wanted from just one store, and in fact, we still needed quite a bit after just the first stop.

We stacked this one pretty high because the space was so tight. We even had to move a couch out of the way to get here!
We stacked this one pretty high because the space was so tight. We even had to move a couch out of the way to get here!

It was a pretty long day of hauling, stacking, moving, deliberating, deciding we have no idea what that product is and waiting to do more research on it, driving, and then unloading. It can really work up a sweat! That being said, I am really proud of ourselves for pulling the whole thing off. That, and I feel like we got some really awesome materials out of it! Our cedar loft beams smell amazing, I love how straight most of our studs are, and I’m anxious to try out our new little toy: a Ridgid Palm Nailer.

What is a palm nailer you ask? It’s our response to our fear of 15lb. pneumatic air guns that can fire a 3 ½ inch nail at over 200 feet per second at whatever you happen to be aiming at, whether it is a 2×4, a tire, a foot, your eye. To be fair, you have press down on the safety tip, but I’ve read reviews of some faulty guns where the owner saw no fault with the product as they pulled it out of the box and the very first time they hooked the tool up to the compressor it suddenly fired a nail clear across the room where it plunged into the drywall. Ouch!

Suffice it to say, we were kinda freaked out by the whole idea of using an actual gun to build our house (the zombie apocalypse is a different question).

That orange thing in Drew's hand is our newest tool.
That orange thing in Drew’s hand is our newest tool.

Besides, buying a framing nailer from a trusted name brand is super expensive for our one-time purposes. So, after doing some research and finding out about palm nailers, a class of tools I had never heard of before, Sierra and I decided to play it safe and buy a palm nailer that could drive nails with significantly less effort than swinging a hammer and with less danger than firing a nail gun.

How does it work? Wonderfully! At 100psi, the nailer drives a nail accurately into a double stud in a little less than 2 seconds. It’s kind of like a hand-held pneumatic hammer. You pick out one nail at a time and stick it into the magnetic head. Then you press the nail tip onto a surface, and a little hammer in the head starts pounding the nail into the material. What makes it safer than a framing nailer is that it can’t fire a nail across the room, and the palm nailer stops hammering as soon as you stop pushing down on it.

Some of the nails bent at a lower pressure. But at a higher pressure, they go in like butter.
Some of the nails bent at a lower pressure. But at a higher pressure, they go in like butter.

 

As you can see in our pictures, some of the nails we tried driving at a lower pressure bent, or didn’t go in straight, but at a higher pressure, the nails went in straighter, smoother, and faster. For a comparison, it took us about 30 seconds and about 15 swings to drive a 3.25in nail into the stud using a hammer, and it took about 2 seconds to accomplish the same task using the palm nailer. We don’t expect this to completely replace a framing nailer, or for that matter, a hammer in some situations, and we know it won’t be quite as fast, but being new at construction we thought this might be a safe alternative that will still save us time and effort, and it may even be a first in tiny house building: an entire house built by a palm nailer! Who knows? We might just decide that we were completely mistaken and turn around and buy a framing nailer, but in the mean time, I’m excited for the challenge.

All of our lumber is now stacked up in my dad’s shop, and next we have plans beginning next week to purchase our plywood sheathing, our HDU-4 and HDU-5 hurricane tie downs, a piece of angled steel, and some other odds and ends so we can (hopefully) begin building by the middle of next week! Excitement!