Installing Window Trim

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There came a day where there was absolutely nothing we could think of to do on the house. No, not because we were finished (we wish), but because everything was waiting on something else to be done before we could continue. For example, we couldn’t finish paneling the ceiling because we were waiting on our wood-stove to arrive so we would know where the chimney goes. We also couldn’t do any more on the bathroom because we needed to order stainless steel sheet metal.

 

So, we decided to get a head start on trim.

 

Why not, right?

 

We decided on 2 3/4″ wide by 3/4″ thick boards for our windows. Remember, we’re making this all by hand, so we have no idea what industry standards are for these things. After some research, we found we were, luckily, in the ballpark. We decided on using poplar wood for a few reasons. For one, poplar is a lighter, inexpensive wood that is easier to work with compared to other hardwoods. We definitely appreciate that. And next, my favorite reason, is that we got to salvage some poplar wood that means something to me.

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I (Sierra) was one of those kids who was outside all the time, playing tag, building forts, having water wars (my house was known for awesome squirt gun water fights) and having other random outdoor adventures. Back then, there was an empty, overgrown plot of land in my neighborhood that my friends and I liked to explore. In the center of it was a giant poplar tree (you see where this is going). It was simply gorgeous. You’d walk by the lot and your eye would immediately be drawn to it. A lot of wildlife lived there too, and apparently once when I was out of town it was struck by lightning (shook the ground, the neighbors said). Anyway, when I became an adult (though I’m still trying to figure out what that means), a builder bought the lot and cut down the tree. He decided to mill the wood himself and use it for the interior trim of his own new house. And let me tell you it is beautiful! Anyway, I told him about my tiny house project and he kindly offered to give us some of his leftover wood from that tree. So for me, having it in the house is kind of like having part of my childhood home with me wherever I go.

 

Cue “D’awww…” in the audience.

 

Okay, the hokey moment is over. Back to the originally scheduled programming.

 

So we milled the wood down and created the trim boards. Next we wanted to sand them and then apply a color. A few years ago we visited a tiny house where the builder gave us the idea to apply paint and then wipe it off in order to still show the grain pattern and natural beauty of the wood. This is an old wood finishing technique called “pickling”. The term comes from a 16th century technique of whitewashing woods with caustic lime and other such corrosive materials so as to make wood resistant to insects. The process left behind a light, brushed on look that made the wood seem both aged and somewhat ethereal. That look really is making a comeback today, but we didn’t need to use harsh chemicals to achieve a similar look. The process today simply involves brushing on a coat of paint, and then wiping it off before it dries. You can also lightly  sand the paint off for the same effect.  So we decided to give it a shot with our green trim paint!

 

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And here is the result! We like it. It will match the green accents we plan to have throughout the house. We’re waiting to add trim in the bathroom and kitchen because we’ll need to work around the counter, back-splash, and bathroom sink, but so far so good! It’s coming together!

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Interior Wall Boards – Part II, Installation

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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!

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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.

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A crappy picture lighting-wise, but at least you can see the board layout. It looks a lot better in person.
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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.

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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.

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Yet another crappy picture, but this shows you the left wall up to where the bathroom and closet start.
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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.

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Working our way up the ceiling.
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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.

 

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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.

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

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We had to install wedges in order to create the curve in the ceiling to go over the ridge beam.
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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!

Our Cute Little Front Door

I must proclaim that we have the cutest, most adoorable door in all the land. Just look at it!

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Drew’s dad Sam kindly put the door together for us. He used birch for the sides and pine for the paneling.

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Here the unfinished door is being held by clamps as the wood glue and silicone dry.

Drew and I ordered paint from ECOS because it was a non toxic exterior-grade paint. Unlike many other name brand paints, it lacks many of the heavy duty curing agents that make cause headaches, allergies, nausea, fatigue, and that infamous “wet paint” chemical smell. Ugh. We chose a barn-red color because we thought it’d go with the natural look of the cedar and would match our house well. We still may end up painting the exterior of our house because linseed oil isn’t a long-lasting solution, but if we do paint we’ll probably stick to a color close to what it is already – which goes well with the barn red.

After we painted one coat on the door we let it dry overnight. It was then time to work on installation! Drew worked with Sam on this. First, they measured the rough opening of the door, and installed a 1/2″ jamb around the top and sides. From there, they squared it up using shims to make the opening a consistent width all the way up and down. Inside, they mortised the door hinges into the door. Mortising is a technique used in door-making where the places where the hinges sit are actually cut into the door and door frame so they are flush. This part is super important to get right – everything needs to be square or the hinges will not work as smoothly. From there, they took the door outside and shimmed it up to just slightly above the height of the threshold and screwed the hinges in just to mark where they would sit. From that point on, it was a slow process of sanding and planing the door to just about 1/8th of an inch smaller than the door jamb on all sides. Once that was done and the door swung completely closed without any force, they took the door off the jamb and gave it a second coat of paint.

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Doesn’t it look amazing? They did a great job.

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Even though the door looks wonderful, we unfortunately have some issues with our beautifully small door.

For one, the window is slightly too large… Don’t worry, it fits just fine, but it makes installing a door knob and lock a bit more complicated. Here’s the deal: our window is so tall and wide that it actually makes the first available place to install a handle and lock very low. Lower than a standard door, for sure. Not only that, but we have a very limited amount of vertical space to install our hardware. We calculated that there is about 4 or 5 inches of vertical space to place both a deadbolt and a door handle. That is simply too little space for two large pieces of hardware that need big holes. We decided to keep a standard locking handle, but to look for something non standard for the deadbolt.

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The final placement of the door handle and lock

We discovered that over in jolly old England they make a kind of lock called a night latch, which is a kind of deadbolt lock that automatically locks behind you and can be opened with a key from the outside. The great part about these locks is that they are standardized which means they have many of the modern security functions of an American deadbolt like being bump, jimmy, and kick resistant. However, the best part is that they only require a 1″ hole, and the bulk of the hardware mounts on the interior surface of the door! This means it will take up less space than a standard deadbolt, and be just as safe.

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We put a wooden shim in the top of the door to keep it from opening in the wind. It’s working so far.

Next we installed the door handle and lock, which took a while to arrive by mail. In the meantime, we had to use a plastic sheet to keep water from getting inside. (Ever tried to keep a door without a handle or anything to grab onto from opening in the wind? How do you keep it from opening on its own? It’s a weird problem.)

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Our protective plastic monstrosity. This surprisingly-durable plastic sheet has been with us through thick and thin since the beginning.

Because of the predicament mentioned earlier we ended up installing our deadbolt at the top of the door and the door handle in the middle. It’s still shorter than the average door handle.

Next, we needed to install weather stripping. This was a challenge. We’re trying to build this house as green as possible by sourcing as many plastic free, green materials that we can find, but as you can guess this is not easy. The majority of weather stripping we’ve found is either vinyl or PVC, both of which can leach toxic chemicals. Plus, the majority of them had Prop 65 warnings, which we also wanted to avoid. After hours of searching we finally came across rubber ones from Home Depot without a Prop 65 warning. Installing them was easy, as they just fit into the grooves (also called “kerfs”) on our doorstop. We needed to adjust our doorstop a few times for a secure fit, but in the end we had a tight weather seal all the way around the door.

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Things will slow down from here as we begin on the plumbing and electrical. We have a large learning curve ahead of us, especially when searching for green plumbing materials…

The Infinite Complexities of Shake Geometry

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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.

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Right side and cheek wall
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

The Highly Technical Half-Circle Trim Installation

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Alright, to get you ready for this one lets start with a joke:
Q: What kind of tree do math teachers climb?

A: A geometry

Corny, but hey – without geometry, life is pointless.

So Drew and I recently added trim around the half circle window on the front of the house. It draws the eye and is a bit of a showpiece for our house, so we wanted to make sure it looks especially good. Seeing as how we weren’t sure how to go about turning rectangular pieces of wood into a smooth radius, this proved to be a challenge.

The entire process took a couple days. We had kept our cardboard template from when we had routed the hole for the window, so we decided to use that when calculating the trim. We’d bought large pieces of 2×8 cedar and planned to lay them under the template, draw the trim, and then cut and install it. But this posed a couple problems. For one, we had to fit our trim smack dab in the middle of the triangular roof and the circular window, which only provided a clearance of a few inches from either edge. About half way up both sides of the window is where the half circle window comes the closest to the roof. The roof has a 42 degree pitch, so it becomes its most narrow in those sections. To make the shakes easier to install, we wanted to butt the trim right up against the roof in those sections. The problem was the window wasn’t quite in the center of the wall – the maximum clearance on the left side was 4 3/8″ from the roof, and 4 9/16″ on the right. So whatever trim we installed would need to be wider on one side than the other. Not only that, but the narrowest points on either side were not symmetrical! (I don’t remember the exact measurements, but it was roughly 18.5″ on one and 19″ on the other) so this made our original plan difficult.

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Our original cardboard templates – the larger one is the half circle window that goes over the front porch. The smaller one is the dormer window on the end wall.

Then we came up with another idea: we decided to tape a string to the bottom center of the half circle template and lay the whole thing on another large sheet of cardboard. We outlined the existing half circle on the new cardboard, and then pulled the string taught out past the edge of our template and drew marks of a consistent width on the new cardboard. We were essentially creating a shadow, or an up-scaled model of our original template that would be the exact size and shape of our window.

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Here we are trying the string idea. The front piece of cardboard is our template. We used the square (the metal ‘L’ shaped thing) to measure an accurate distance. We’d then mark the cardboard all the way around until we had a half circle trim template.

This allowed us to make a geometrically accurate model of our old template on a larger scale, and it also allowed us to make small width discrepancies where needed to make the trim narrow or thicken as we saw fit. At the end, we had an inverted “U” shape that we cut out of the cardboard. This was to be the exact size and shape of the trim we needed to cut.

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Here is the half circle window template with the finished trim template above it.
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We completed the same process for the dormer window.
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On the half-circle template we placed marks where the trim would be hitting the roof. (This is the left long side of the trim.) We also measured where the center of the trim would be and matched it up to the center of the window template (not pictured).

Next, we marked the center point of our new template and placed a cedar board underneath. We centered it and copied the shape of our trim onto the board. We now had our first piece. We drew its placement on the template also (where it began and ended) so we knew how to place the next piece.

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The board we used underneath the trim template was actually a bit thicker than this one, but this gives you an idea of the process. We placed the  trim template on the board, marked around it, cut it with a band saw, and then continued on and made the next piece.

Drew then went ahead and cut it out with the band saw as I figured out the next piece. We did this for all the pieces until we had five trim pieces.

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Sorry it’s not the best picture quality-wise, but it gives you an idea of how the trim looked around the original half circle template. (You can see the green tape where we had attached a string to draw the trim template.) We later finished the trim by sanding and oiling it.
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We completed the same process for the dormer window. We left the side legs long until we were able to place it around the window on site and more precisely fit it with the window’s bottom trim.
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Same thing, just different angle. We’re waiting to install this piece until we being working on the back wall.

Next, we glued and screwed all the pieces together and let them dry. After that we tested it out. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this, but I’ll sum it up for you and say it didn’t fit quite yet, but it was a good way for us to see what we’d especially need to sand down. So we set to sanding both the interior and exterior of the trim. This process took a long time, but we finally had finessed it enough that it looked great and fit perfectly! So we took it down, oiled it, then installed it, and voila.

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Next I’ll be installing shakes around that window… Wish me luck.

 

Routing Holes and Tricky Windows

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The half circle window installed over our storage loft. I can’t wait to sit there and read.

In a recent post we talked about how to install standard rectangular windows – it helps that it’s mainly a bunch of straight lines you’re dealing with. In our tiny house, we have two windows that are a little more complicated. At each end of the house, we have windows that are curved at the top. The one in the dormers is even square on the bottom and sides, and then curves on the top, adding two extra faces to deal with. So, in the words of a friend of mine, ‘what do?’ How do we recreate the hole we need to route?

Cardboard.

When in doubt while building a tiny house, the answer is either ‘use a hammer and make it fit,’ or ‘cardboard.’

Just kidding. Though cardboard is generally very handy to have around. (The hammer thing is still half true.)

Now unfortunately I do not have many pictures of this process, so I’ll describe it in vivid detail and leave it up to your wildly creative imagination. Basically it’s this: Get a large piece of cardboard, lay your window down on it, and draw a line around the window jamb. Then trace another very slightly larger line around the edge of that one to give yourself the R.O. (The R.O. is the rough opening of the window.) This gives you room to insert the window so it’s not a super-tight fit when installing, and also allows for some wiggle room when your house expands/contracts due to everyday wall fluctuations. This way the pressure won’t crack your window. But you don’t want it too loose either (otherwise the window might fall out..) So a good R.O. to go by is about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.

So after you’ve drawn these lines, use a razor, scissors, or some other sharp device and cut on your line. Voila, you have a stencil for your window!

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Our cardboard template held up to where the half circle window will soon be installed.

Next, take the stencil and hold it up to your wall that you’re planning on routing your window hole in. Take a level and make sure the base of your cardboard is level with the house. (Don’t want a crooked window – unless you’re the crooked man living in a crooked house with a crooked cat and crooked mouse – Mother Goose, anyone?) Once you’re sure it’s level, trace an outline around the cardboard on the wall, then cut it out with a jig saw or a skill saw (or both). And you’re done! A lot easier than trying to calculate angles and such.

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We drew a line around the cardboard template on the plywood so we knew where to cut our rough opening.
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The window is installed!

We repeated this process for the window in the dormers as well.

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Drew used a sawzall to cut out the dormer end window.

Here is the finished product!

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Does it not look like it has eyebrows? That’s all I see when I look at it.

PS. We had a visitor come by while we were installing windows. We think she approved of the view.

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Until next time!

How We Installed Windows in Our Tiny House

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Well, we’ve routed our holes for our windows, covered the whole house with tar paper, and installed roof sheathing. Now it’s time to get going on the windows!

After much research, this is how we did it:

First, we took a razor and made an inverted “I” shape in the tar paper. We did this from inside the house, and then bent those pieces inwards around the frame. (We basically made a peace sign without the bottom vertical line – maybe a pie of thirds?) We also cut two diagonal lines at the top corners of the window opening, so that the window’s nailing fin can fit underneath the paper. This prevents water from slipping behind the fin on its downward path.

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Next, we nailed in the tar paper with 4D nails (small nails we happened to have leftover from working on the rafters). We used 2-3 on each section, depending on how large the window was.P1010342Then, we made pan flashing out of window flashing tape and attached it along the bottom sill of the window. We made sure 1/3 to 1/2 of it was hanging out the window, and then used the razor to cut the corners so it would fold down onto the paper. The ends of each piece of tape extended 6 inches above the sill for added protection.P1010354

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For tape, we chose to use a butyl-based tape. We researched flashing and found that aluminum is easily corroded by the tannins found in cedar (what we’re using for our siding), and that PVC tape is toxic (because, well, PVC is usually full of all kinds of additives like lead and pthalates). So we chose a standard butyl-based tape, which uses a simple poly-propylene backer, so it’s not quite as toxic. But, as we found, it doesn’t stick very well to tar paper. Drew used a heat gun to better adhere it, which helped, but we’re still working out how to increase its adherence to the tar paper. It probably would have worked even better had we used plastic house wrap for our house, but cedar siding is notorious for tearing that to shreds. So, for now, we’re happy with the tar paper.

After this, we siliconed around the top and side edges of the window. We siliconed as close to the edge as possible, since we’re using windows with different size nailing fins. On the top edge, we siliconed underneath the flap we had cut earlier.P1010369

Next, it was time to insert the window! We made sure it was under the top flap and that the nailing fin rested on the silicone.

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Then, we inserted shims from the inside of the house to make the window angle outward slightly, so that rain won’t pool up on the edge or underneath the window frame. Shims are also used for making the windows level. (Note: before we began this process, we made sure our whole house was still level on the trailer, so that our window leveling would be accurate… There’s a lot to think about.)

For the shims, we used some cedar shims Drew’s dad offered us. If you want to make your own, Drew’s dad said you can cut pieces of wood at a very shallow angle (~4 degrees). We usually inserted only two shims per window.
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P1010379Once that was complete, it was time to nail in the window. We used 8D nails and nailed into all the nailing fin holes around the edge. We ran into problems where our metal house strapping is, because we couldn’t get the nails to go all the way through. In these places we ended up pre-drilling the holes before nailing.

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Then, it was time to tape the edges of the window. We taped the bottom first, going about six inches past the ends of the nailing fins, for extra coverage. Then we taped over the the vertical sides, covering the bottom tape (again, water always flows down). We cut a smaller piece of tape and used it to cover the top, and also attached a couple along the lines we had cut diagonally in the tar paper earlier.

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And here is the finished result:

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Leave questions and comments below!

Next, we will be installing our metal roofing. Wish us luck!