Interior Wall Boards – Part II, Installation


You know those dreams you have where you’re slogging through some sort of hypothetical mud and can’t seem to get anywhere? That’s how the past few months have gone for us.

This is mainly due to both of us working all the time, and that makes it so that our schedules rarely line up to where we can both work on the house. This has been especially difficult since we’ve been working on installing the walls, which really is a two person job. We’re lucky if we can get in one day a week where we can actually make some progress.

Anyway, I hope that helps explain why our blog posts have been so rare the past few months. We know we’re getting closer to the finish line, but man has it been slow. Especially compared to the first few months we worked on the house when we were able to get the structural walls up in about a month. Let it be known to all people who wish to build a tiny house, your finish work will take a long time and will require a lot of patience! Just keep at it!

So as we mentioned in our previous post, we finally finished creating all the boards for the interior walls. Next came installing them. This went rather smoothly – the main challenge was working around outlets, light-switches, and windows.. especially when we had to deal with all three on one board. Three cheers for jigsaws!

In the loft on the right side.

We started with the right long wall that extends into the kitchen. We started at the floor (keeping it in the gap we had left for such occasion when we installed and stained our floors). we worked our way up until the lofts and roof began. Drew had the fun job of installing smaller pieces between each of the rafters. We think it turned out well.

A crappy picture lighting-wise, but at least you can see the board layout. It looks a lot better in person.
We painted the heads of our screws to match the wood. Now our panels are removable in case we ever need to get behind them to fix something. Also, this window edge will be refined and covered with trim.


Behind each board we would install our wool insulation (remember this?) We had to retrieve our random bags and boxes of wool from all over the shop, hidden away after the subfloor disaster. Installing the wool went well – as long as we avoided the nails sticking through the plywood. Ouch.

So much wool. Wool everywhere.

Predictably, we then worked on the left long wall. We stopped where the bathroom starts, because we needed to use a special waterproofing system for the walls there. From there we were free to work on the nook area and the back wall. We managed to get this far over the course of a few weeks.

Yet another crappy picture, but this shows you the left wall up to where the bathroom and closet start.
The wheel well will be covered with a piece of our wall plywood and framed with trim.

Next, it was time for playing with ladders! Our favorite. We began installing our gable roof ceiling panels, which was tricky for many reasons. For one, we have all our finished boards in a giant stack in the center of the house. It is a tiny house after all, meaning there’s not much space to maneuver around a giant stack of wood. So aside from needing to move ladders around the pile, we needed to have a box of wool high enough that we could reach it to install while standing on the ladder, and we had the awkward angle of the roof to contend with. We’re essentially installing the panels upside down. Somehow we managed to do one whole side of the roof. At the top near the ridge beam we had to be clever about installing the wool. We only had a small space in which to get it in there, so it did rain wool in our house as we tried to fit it in the small crack. Overall it turned out well.

Working our way up the ceiling.
Working up over the storage loft.

We only did one half of the ceiling because we’re waiting for our new woodstove! We need to know where the exhaust pipe will exit through the ceiling before we can work on the other side of the roof. In other news, we ordered our cute little woodstove! More on that in another post.


Onward to the dormer walls. Again, working around the windows was tricky, but thankfully we actually had something to sit on while working. The half circle window in the dormers actually went more smoothly than we thought it would. We cut a piece to fit the length, cut the outlet holes, and then traced the outline of the window on the back and cut it with a jigsaw. Voila.



The cheek walls (the triangular walls created between the dormer and gable roofs) were a little more tricky too, but we employed the same technique we used with the half circle dormer window and traced each board to fit. All these rough edges will be covered with trim, which helps.


We also finished the dormer ceiling! We may not have dealt with ladders, but we still had fight gravity.

We had to install wedges in order to create the curve in the ceiling to go over the ridge beam.
Our finished dormer ceiling! (Sans trim.)

So that’s as far as we are now! Making progress, slowly but surely. And now winter’s here. At least our house will be insulated for it. Onward!

The Infinite Complexities of Shake Geometry


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.

Right side and cheek wall
Left cheek wall

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.

My initial plan for how I was going to complete the shakes

Yeah. Right.

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.

The area I needed to access… (imagine there’s 4″ wooden trim surrounding the half circle window as well.)

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!

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.

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.

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.

Using the finish nailer. So much easier!
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!

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.

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.

The base board with holes drilled all the way through for drainage.
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.

Drilling holes for the inputs.
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.

Adding a layer of milk paint to one side of the boards.
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.

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.
We set up sawhorses outside to dry the cedar boards.
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!

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.

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.

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.

Installing Metal Roofing (Or: How to Avoid Buying Fancy Tools You’ll Only Use Once)

Got the harness, got the the tools - all ready to rock.
Got the harness, got the the tools – all ready to rock.
One thing they don’t tell you about building a tiny house is how strange it is to be about 13’5″ feet in the air on a 42-degree-pitch roof, trying to get a roof into place – all the while trying to balance yourself as you work underneath your own two feet.
Roof sheathing (the plywood on the studs), was difficult enough using ladders. But installing tar paper? And then roofing?Better brush up on your pre-school gymnastics lessons.

We unfortunately did not get too many pictures of the process, mainly because Drew and I were both so busy trying to figure who had which hammer and how best to not get tangled up in our roof harness rope. We had a pretty good system going. We bought a roof anchor that many roofers use to attach themselves to a roof for safety in case of a fall. Then we used some harness gear and set it up so we could get around the roof. The harness attachment was mainly a last resort precaution – if we fell, we’d swing instead of landing on the ground 13’5″ feet below. So the majority of the maneuvering was all balance, gymnastics, and focus.

Yeah, lots of focus.

I’m getting better with heights. After working on the roof for a few weeks, I’m not as freaked out by it. The dormer roof is only 12 degrees, so that one is easier to move around on. It’s very close to sitting on a flat surface. We can exit our skylight opening and reach most of the dormers from there. Since we decided we didn’t want a skylight in our main room under the gables (mainly due to cost), we had to figure out how to work on the gables. If you ever wanted to know, it’s like riding a very big, very pointy, horse.

So my task was laying tar paper on the roof. The way tar papering the roof works is that you start with the bottom layer horizontally along the bottom edge of the roof and layer your way up, with an overlap of about six inches. You do this so any water that hits the tar paper will flow down and off the roof instead of under the next layer of tar paper.
So Drew, up on a ladder, installed the first layer, and then we attached a 2×6 ledge as a foothold on the end of the roof. Basically a trick we found that roofers use is screwing a 2×4 into the roof to use as a ledge to stand on while working. At first I was skeptical – how much could 1.5 inches really do to prevent my fall – but it proved to be very useful in the end. We worked on both sides, nailing it in with the same roofing cap nails we used earlier for the tar paper on the sides of the house. Once we got to the ridge beam, things got a little tricky. Tar paper tears very easily, even the 30lb stuff we were using, so the less contact I had with it, the better. We basically draped one long piece over the top, nailed the edges, and we were done. We repeated the process with the dormer walls without much trouble.

Next was the metal roofing. We ordered from a local company that pre-cut the roofing into the sizes we needed. That helped a lot. This time, Drew was on the roof.

We probably need to work on the whole focus thing..
Before we could get to installing the metal roofing, we had some other work to do. First, we needed to create fascia board that would attach to the ends of our rafters along the sides of the house. Then we installed the drip edge along the sides of the fascia, so that rain would have a place to drip off of our house. We later plan on installing gutters too, so they would be collecting the water from this drip edge as well. For the fascia, we bought long pieces of cedar and coated them with 100% linseed oil. Pure linseed oil provides a protective coating that preserves the wood 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.
The fascia board (after we’d installed the metal roofing in this picture). This is along the edge of the gables. A great room window sits below it.

Then we needed to install the drip edge, which sounds easier than it was. There are a couple of layers to it. First, we had to install a metal cleat that the drip edge can slide onto. Then came the drip edge. It was time-consuming and showed little payoff initially, but it helped us get to the next fun part.

The bottom level of metal is the cleat. Next is the drip edge, which clips into the cleat on the bottom and screwed into the roof on the top. Overlaying that is the roof panel. In this picture, the end of the roof panel has already been bent over the drip edge.

After that, it was time to work with the metal.  We would take each long piece, cut 1″ notches into the corners, and remove those pieces so the metal could later be bent and crimped. We’re supposed to use a fancy metal bending tool, because this part wraps over the drip edge, but we didn’t want to spend the money on a tool we’d use so briefly. So Drew came up with the great idea to take two 2x4s and a couple clamps and make a makeshift bending machine.

First we cut 1″ notches from the two edges of the metal, so that the flap could bend over and around the drip edge.
Then we placed a spare 2×4 under the edge along the line we’d just cut.
Next, we put another 2×4 on top to make a sandwich.
Then, instead of using fancy metal-bending tools, Drew came up with the idea of putting clamps on the boards and bending the edge down.
The finished product – his method worked perfectly!

After this, we installed the pieces so that the screw holes were toward the outer edge of the roof. After screwing it in, we’d snap the metal into place and then screw in the next one.

We started at the cheek walls that separate the dormers from the gables. The first board we installed with gasket screws (pictured). Then we put pancake screws in the holes and then took the next piece of roofing and snapped it over the ridge to make it seamless.
Here is a picture of the pancake screws before we put the next sheet of roofing over it. (Note, this is on the opposite side of the roof from the last picture).

A note on types of roofing: We decided to use standing-seam metal roofing instead of Maxrib for multiple reasons. For one, standing seam has a longer warranty and is expected to last 40+ years. With Maxrib, the screw holes are exposed, making it so water has a better chance of entering into the holes and damaging the roof. Interestingly, we read that manufacturers often won’t even stand by Maxrib products because the exposed fasteners present a constant liability for water to enter your home. Another great feature of standing seam is its hidden fastener system. If installed correctly, there should be no fastener left exposed to the elements. Therefore it represents a far less likely entryway for water.

The process will get a little more tricky around the cheek walls because there are a few specialized pieces of flashing that we will need to install to make the roof-wall transition safe and leak-free. We’ll keep you posted.