Quick Update: We Now Have a Tub… Again!

Just a quick update: You know all that trouble we had finding a bathtub? (And our lovely friend Holly’s adventure bringing the original?) Well we finally have a solution! We ordered a large stainless steel utility sink for around $200! The interior is 24×24 and the exterior extends to 30″, which makes it a perfect fit. We were a little worried that we weren’t going to be able to get it into the house – literally. But luckily our nook window was wide enough to fit it through.

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It’s kind of a crappy picture, but at least it gives you an idea of what it looks like.

Once we finish the walls we’ll start installing cabinetry and this lovely piece. We’re making progress, slowly but surely!

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

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

PLUMBING/BARREL

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

ELECTRICAL

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

PAINT

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

The Adventures of Finding a Wine Barrel Bathtub

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It’s wonderful having great friends, isn’t it? I have one friend in particular that I grew up with named Holly. (You may remember her from the subfloor disaster.) About seven years ago she moved away and now lives a state away from me. Luckily her family still lives in the area, so she’s able to come visit from time to time. Fate must have aligned for her to come back to town for a visit a couple weekends ago…

Let me back up a bit. As we have been doing for what feels like forever now, Drew and I have been researching plumbing. Part of that has been trying to determine what we want to use for a bathtub/shower stall. We’ve been looking into multiple options: ofuro tubs, which are wooden tubs (highly expensive), horse troughs (galvanized steel, which is coated in zinc and could be toxic to bathe in), and fiberglass, which could break on the road and isn’t a very green material. Another option we learned about were wine barrel bathtubs. The interior is food safe, plus we’d be reusing a material that would otherwise be discarded.

The great thing about wine barrels is that they don’t need any sealants, so you’re basically just bathing in wood. You may be asking yourself “but wouldn’t a wine barrel leak? It’s not a solid piece of wood!” This is a good question. We called a few wine barrel sellers and manufacturers with this question and their answers were basically the same: all new wine barrels will leak for a little while, but because they are made of wood which is always swelling and expanding, the unsealed wooden staves will swell and seal the gaps between boards when you fill them with liquid and keep them humid/wet. Thus the barrel becomes watertight. There are still a bunch of factors to consider, like how much tension the boards are under from the steel straps, and how much humidity the wood should be exposed to in ideal conditions. To better control these variables, we got creative. We bought some stainless steel cable to hold the staves together at the top of the barrel (where it was cut) to reapply some of the lost tension from the top half of the barrel. We are also looking into buying some kind of metal pan for the barrel to sit on top of so if it ever does leak, we can catch the water without much incident.

This all sounds great until you look at the size of the most common types of used wine barrels. They hold about 59 gallons, and are kinda small, about 22″ at the base and 27″ at the top. That doesn’t make for a very comfortable shower, and because we wanted to be able to use our barrel as a deep soaking tub, we searched around to see if we could find a larger one.

It turns out there are a bunch of different sizes of wine barrels. The kind we were looking for was a puncheon barrel, which is 34″ wide at the bulge. Our shower stall area is about 36″ wide max, so we thought that would fit nicely. So we set out to searching for a barrel.

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We decided to write a bunch of local wineries. And by bunch, I mean at least 20, and by local, I mean within a three hour drive of here. Although the wineries didn’t have anything themselves, they all were really supportive. Some wineries referred us to other wineries, while one referred us to a website that sells them online. Many wished us the best of luck and said they’d like to see the house if they’re ever in town. Pretty cool! Unfortunately it all led to dead ends… None of the wineries we asked had anything that big, and the ones we found through that website were very far from here and very expensive to ship (more than the cost of the barrel itself in some cases).

Meanwhile, I’d been emailing Holly back and forth figuring out our plans for when she was back in town. Since she has experience welding, we’d been asking her for advice on how to weld a deck together (more on that in some future post). As an afterthought, I also asked her if she had any ideas as to where to get a wine barrel. You never know, right?

She sent me a couple Craigslist ads from this area, but they weren’t the size we were looking for. I did one final Craigslist search and found a man who sells them that looked promising. I found his Facebook page and lo and behold, he had two available that were 34″ wide! Jackpot!

The problem was, he was about 7-8 hours away.

….

Conveniently on Holly’s way back to town.

……….

It’s a good thing we have a strong friendship.

The next several hours turned into Drew and I writing both Holly and the guy trying to figure out if if it was even feasible to buy the barrel from him and have Holly lug it down. Holly said it wouldn’t fit in her car, so we asked the guy if we could cut it in half. He said yes, but the price would be the same since he couldn’t use the other half of the barrel. Plus he’d charge us for cutting it. So Holly agreed to cut it in half and bring us both halves, assuming they’d fit. We promised her food, beer, and a parade.

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Holly decided to pick up the barrel a few days early. She later wrote me saying everything went well:

“I can’t see out my review mirror so it’ll be a fun trip home, but my car now smells like fresh cut oak and cognac and it is AMAZING.”

When telling me about her adventure she also mentioned this bit of news: “The next challenge was getting it into the car! Turns out the diameter of the TOP of the barrel was 34″. So, as barrels do, it actually ballooned out to 40″ around the middle where I was cutting it. But between the two of us we were able to successfully wrestle it in there.”

……

What?
The barrel is actually 40″ wide??

Oh crap.
We were planning for a 34″ barrel.
How the heck are we going to fit it in our house??

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Drew and I went to the tiny house and began to draw everything out to see if it would fit. As it is now it would be pushing into the kitchen a bit. After a while we came up with a solution: the edge of the barrel will fit under the kitchen counter, leaving us our counter space and not taking too much extra room from the kitchen. Also, in case you were wondering, we can in fact fit it through our front door if we roll it in on its side.

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With that figured out, we next needed to prepare for Holly’s arrival. The promised food and beer were easy. The parade was the fun part.

Since there were only two of us (Drew and I) to host an entire parade, we decided to make her a banner with streamers, attach it to thin wood boards, and run over her car with it when she arrived. I wish I had pictures of her face when she saw it. It was priceless. Unfortunately we were too busy cheering like idiots to have a camera out.

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So we rolled the half barrel out of her car and up the stairs into the shop. It wreaked of cognac, which was pretty entertaining. Right after we got the barrel inside I went out to the car for a minute, and when I came back the smell was overwhelming. I love our barrel already.

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So now it’s time to work on the barrel and figure out how to fit it into place. It will be a while before we get to this, because we still need to finish the floor and work on plumbing.

Thanks Holly!!