Late summer – now: updates and reflections

Hi folks, this will probably be my last post on this blog site – using wordpress has been increasingly frustrating and I haven’t been able to upload more than a few photos this time around, so if you want to see more photos, look on facebook or email me. I will let you know if I create a new blog.

It’s been over two years since I started building my little home and I find myself talking less and less about it. When the subject arises, I tend to first criticize the tiny house movement. Why? Because the more I learn about minimalism, tiny houses, and the simplicity or environmentally friendly lifestyle movement, the more I realize just how diverse these movements are: not very.

Minimalism and tiny houses have become trendy, and arguably, a form of appropriation. When did it become cool to live with just 100 possessions or in the tiniest house possible? Why aren’t slums or tiny apartments or homeless people romanticized the same way tiny houses or living-with-less are? When did simple lifestyle become something that could be bought and sold?

Yes, I love that this new trend is lowering people’s carbon footprints, especially folks who might not otherwise be eager to change their ways, but trends can change. I’m also beginning to believe that individualism is a big contributor to our consumptive lifestyles and that breaching the fear of each other and making efforts to share and build community could do more for the environment (and each other for that matter) than continuing to live independently but just smaller.

This all being said, I still believe in the tiny house movement (the more humble, value-influenced, and need-based version) and hope regulators will begin to recognize small-scale houses as appropriate and legal dwellings. I still feel compelled to complete my own tiny home (duh) for many of the same reasons I started with and more. I am incredibly grateful for the skills I’ve gained through this process as well as the confidence I’ve built and the connections I’ve made and look forward to continuing to challenge myself to grow in these areas.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I’d hoped in the last months, but I am very pleased with the progress I have made.

After I got my siding from Erich, my dad and I made the corner trims and, with quite a lot of frustration and wrangling, successfully screwed warped corner trims onto likely un-square corners. Some of my windows were missing trim, so I made some – with technical suggestions from Sam: I learned some new vocabulary including “kerf” which is a general term for a cut into wood. In this case the kerf, a long incision running along the bottom of the trim – is intended to keep water from getting to the side of the house.

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I got a lot of help from my Aunt Sarah and my mom to fill screw holes then sand and paint all the trim. With multiple coats, dry time, and some uneasy heights, this took a few days to finish.

Many of the suggestions I received from Sam could fall under his own category of “suspenders and a belt” – essentially, back-up protection. In regards to my siding, he suggested that I prime the backs of the boards, caulk the top edges where they meet the roof trim, and use a product called Cedar Breather to create air space behind the siding. This way, if water did get behind the siding, it would a) run down the protected backs, and/ or b) have ample air circulation to dry out.

Late in the summer, I did a work trade with Alice and Dunan – who were on a field-study semester from Hampshire farming Wally and Juanita Nelson’s Bean Patch. I went up there and helped lay down cardboard on the footpaths between the veggie rows one day and a couple weeks later, they came to Ashfield with their friend Johnny to help me with my siding. Alice, Johnny, and my mom prepped and primed the backs of the siding while my dad and Dunan worked on putting up the Cedar Breather and I screwed in the siding. It was my biggest work party yet and I soon learned – after primer was applied to the wrong side of some siding – that I need to just supervise and give instructions on what I want done and how I want things to look. Whoops! Constantly learning.

Since then – at the end of the summer and during my October break, I attached some siding on three sides and have selected and numbered all the rest of the siding that needs to go up. My mom generously primed all of the backs when I went back to Hampshire after my October break – primer wouldn’t dry well in the cold – and my dad re-stacked the remaining siding so it will be safe over the winter. Now I’m home for winter break until late January, so I’m hoping to make some more progress. However, cutting the siding to fit perfectly against trim and around windows has proven very tricky and a slow moving process. More to come sometime, eventually! 🙂 Love and good wishes to all for the New Year!

Home Again Home Again

Hello lovely people!

I’m back from the Pacific Northwest! I’ve been home for a couple months with little time to make progress on my small future home, but am snailing along all the same despite back-to-back visiting with friends and family. Building isn’t as urgent this summer as it was last summer, so I’m able to go at my own pace with the ultimate goal of finishing it in time to move in by the time I graduate. Plans for the next few years have changed as I’ll be transferring to Hampshire College this fall so I’ll be in the area and able to come home now and then and build when I can.

Over winter break, I sanded down my front door and was able to finish refinishing it when I got home for the summer:

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I also successfully and securely installed the final window. Our dear friend Michael was visiting from India and I was very pleased to have his help figuring out how to make this final tricky window fit in its rough opening. It felt really good to be recovering and developing my problem-solving building skills.

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And then I got my siding! People had been asking me what I would side my house with and I continued to answer with “whatever I can find.” I knew I wanted something reclaimed and ideally I wanted weathered barn boards for board and batten siding. Weathered boards in good condition are often hard to come by and expensive when in good condition, but I got in touch with Erich from Deconstruction Works and got a great deal on some weathered hemlock siding from a house up in Dummerston, VT. My dad and I drove up to check it out and loaded up Erich’s truck and trailer. I was also able to learn about the history of the building and met Rick, the man who built it in the 1970s with the help of his friends and family. He showed me photo albums of the construction process and send me some via email later on (three of these are pictured immediately below).

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1978 New siding on, before battens:
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1982 building reached height of construction- beautiful, though incomplete 🙁 :
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Present day, in process of deconstruction:
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Loading up the truck:
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I agreed to take much more than I needed (about enough for another two tiny houses) because Erich needed somewhere to store it. I’ll be selling what I don’t use, so let me know if you want some weathered hemlock!
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I feel honored to be able to carry the history of the siding as I repurpose it for my own home. This interaction rekindled my urge to use reclaimed materials – not just for the low-impact, but also for the connections I make through it and for my house to have stories behind it and community behind the stories. When completed, my home will have been created by many more than just me. I am so grateful for the contributions I have gotten so far, be it financial support, words of advice, links to resources waiting to be reclaimed, connecting me with other people, donating your time, skills, and interest to help me build, and providing me with the materials themselves. This will be my home, but I invite you all to come visit and share the space with me, just as we’ve shared the building process thus far.

I hope to complete the siding by the end of the summer and begin some interior work. Thank you again for your support! And note the new follow button on my blog; you can now get a notification when I publish a new post.

P.S. Sarah Hastings (who proposed the bylaw for tiny houses in Hadley) visited for dinner! Fun to reconnect with her and ponder some about the future of tiny houses and alternative living movements. I’m really bummed that her bylaw was rejected by Hadley and look forward to the Northeast warming up to possibilities of alternative dwellings. Greenfield has begun a small house discussion on their own (though clearly inspired by Sarah) and I hope Hadley will eventually come around.

And that’s a wrap!

Hi everyone! I’m writing from Olympia, Washington where I’ve started school at The Evergreen State College! I worked so much on the tiny house over the last two months of being home that I had absolutely no time to post anything (except for some pictures on facebook). And of course, now that I’m at college, I still don’t have very much time.

It’s been hard transitioning from building and working being my main focus in life back to academics. I’m enjoying studying river ecology mixed with visual arts, but I totally miss making progress on my house. I’m homesick. My wonderful parents have been tying up the stray ends for winter – painting the trim, taking the tires off, etc, doing what I wasn’t able to do before I left. I literally worked until the last minute sitting on top of my house, securing the roof.

Since I last posted in July, I installed all the insulation and outer sheathing, wrapped the house in Typar housewrap, installed all but one of the windows, cut and installed the trim (covering the ends of the rafters), and also cut and installed the metal roofing material. After the work my parents put into it to tie up the loose ends, it is all ready for the winter weather!

I got a lot of amazing help with insulating. There were many VERY hot days and working with the insulation was pretty frustrating. Julian came and helped me line up and cut a lot of the exterior plywood and it was very helpful to have it ready when it came time to put it up, rather than having to cut it again. Helen and Alynna came for a day which was a lot of fun and we made great progress. There was one day that I was rushing to finish insulating the last side of the house before it rained, but I didn’t quite make it and it POURED heavily on me, my house, and the insulation. I panicked, but the sun came out again later in the day and dried everything out. I used 6″ long Timberlock screws about every foot to secure the outer plywood and insulation to the framing. It was frustrating sometimes when the screw would miss the stud and go straight through my wall, but the holes they left shouldn’t be too hard to cover up.

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After I’d insulated the first wall, I put the front door and two windows in almost immediately. Lliam helped a bunch. So exciting! My house finally looked like a house! Soon after, I spent a few nights in it which was also very exciting. It felt pretty surreal being in a space that I’d brought into reality – from very sketchy and rough drawings to a sturdy dwelling.

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I was very nervous for installing the windows because I really had no idea how. But with some help from my Uncle Danny and advice from other family and friends (Uncle Charlie again!), they went in pretty easily and brought me more confidence. Yay!

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Also, my solar panels came and I tested them! (They work).

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As it got to be the end of the summer, I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to even get the trim, roofing, and siding on. There were so many things I wanted to do and people I wanted to see before I left and I didn’t want to sacrifice that time for maybe finishing what I’d planned to. I went to Cummington Supply and asked Gus what the bare minimum was for getting my house ready for winter. For a while, it sounded like a tarp would be fine, but other experts were skeptical and encouraged me to at least try to get the roofing material up. So I made it happen! I bought some purple and orangey metal roofing from Mike Skalski for a great deal. I made sure I had everything I needed from Cummington Supply, then set to work on cutting the lumber for my trim. It was a bit tricky, but actually went faster than I thought it would. And it was fun! I enjoyed it a lot because it was such great, quick visual progress. In the meantime, Mom began sealing the seams on the bottom of the trailer with caulk, and Kai came to help paint.

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When it was time, I bundled up to protect my skin and eyes from flying metal and my ears from the screeching. It was scary cutting the roofing at first but was actually very cool with sparks flying everywhere and even just knowing that I was able to slice through it. After all the warnings I’d gotten from Sam, Gus, and Mike about being careful and cutting it right, I was afraid it would be really difficult cutting through it and I would get a lot of resistance. But it turns out it was pretty easy and they were mostly warning me about protecting my skin and hearing!

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Putting up the roofing and screwing it in was a breeze and also fun because of the visual progress and increasing relief that my house was going to be weatherproof for the winter. I spent a lot of time up on the roof and very quickly learned that sitting directly on a 90 degree angle is NOT comfortable. So I made a special throne for myself to sit on which worked very well and was very cushy.

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When it got to be getting time to leave to go to Boston to fly out the next morning, I was struggling finishing up putting on the ridge cap for the upper roof. Since I was rushing, neither my dad or I had thought about it carefully enough so we made a few mistakes and had to go get a new ridge cap. I still didn’t install it in quite the right way, so my dad was able to clear it all up after I was gone. I so wish I could have been there for the last steps but I know I’ll have plenty to do next summer when I’m home.

Thank you all for your support! <3

Raisin’ the Roof

Here it is, another month gone by. And boy have I made progress!

Right now I am looking for roofing and siding materials, flooring, and plumbing and electrical materials. Please let me know if you have any or can point me in the right direction!

After the first couple of heavy rains that soaked my house inside and out, my parents and I gathered up the plastic reclaimed from the winter barn extension to make a skirt around the bottom and cover the window openings. This worked out quite well. Glad we had the plastic sheeting!

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I finished the roof a little over three weeks after I pulled my house out of the barn. The mini extension walls were fairly quick and easy – I felt a lot more confident building them than I had with the first main walls. I was able to build them in two afternoons mainly on my own. Fun!

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Putting them up was a bit tricky because it was up high, but having the loft and bathroom wall there to stand on was really convenient. Built in scaffolding! The frustrating part was having to shave the walls down to the right length, making them fit perfectly instead of being 1/8″ to 1/2″ too long. It was hard to just build them right to start with because the rafters they were fitting up next to were a bit warped. Also it was hot, so lifting the walls up and down was a bit tiring. In the end, we made it work, just like we always do.

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CJ was here for a couple days and helped out with insulating and putting the plywood sheathing onto the roof. It was messy and there was a lot of trial and error. Having the roof insulated and sheathed felt really good, though! Even if we were trying to beat the rain and just tacked the plywood down until I could finish fastening it later.

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Then it was time to frame the lower pitched roof! We started with the triangle walls where the pitch-change happened. It was not a right triangle and I had to summon some more geometry skills. I was very happy to be done framing those suckers… there was a lot of adjusting and awkward angle hammering involved. When we’d finished framing those, the rest of the rafters were ready to be screwed in. It went fairly quickly and soon we were able to start putting ceiling material up. Holding and hammering plywood to rafters at that angle was extremely tiring and frustrating, especially in the corners. We made a mess of the paint job, so it’s good I was already planning on touching it up later.

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The end wall went up in an afternoon and I was able to do it mostly on my own. After it went up, we finished the last little bit of ceiling. Unfortunately though, we’d done something funky with the frame of the skylight. We adjusted the pair of rafters connected to it to be the right distance away from the previous rafter pair. Because we built the rough opening square, shifting the tops of the rafter pairs brought it out of square. We didn’t realize this until we had such trouble putting the rest of the ceiling on. I got frustrated and grumpy about it, but the next day we figured out a fairly quick way to fix it that didn’t involve undoing the last few days of work! With a little bit of sawing and shifting, the opening was brought back to square and all was okay. I don’t have any pictures of that mistake stage, though, because I was too bummed out when we discovered it.

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My dad helped me put up the 1/4″ on the end wall and nail it on. Then I routed it out.

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Then it was time to slip the insulation in, spray foam to seal it, and sheath it!

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Cruising right along, the skylight went up! My very first window, screwed in and secure. After installing it, I put Grace ice and shield sticky tar roof underlay stuff on the roof around the skylight. I was able to put it on in the evening, which ended up being perfect. It was tricky enough managing the sticky underlayment without it having been melting in the sun in the middle of the day (and therefore even stickier). Now it’s weatherproof enough until the actual roofing material goes up!

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Finally, I pulled the tarp off the roof for good, finished securing the plywood sheathing on with nails (working on my ambidexterity when convenient), and then put the rest of the Grace ice and shield and some tar paper. I was wearing my climbing harness hooked on to a rope for hammering all over the roof so I wouldn’t get badly hurt if I fell. I also stood on a couple of temporary 2x4s nailed onto the roof. It was NOT comfortable sitting on the peak of either roof (but especially the 12/12 pitch) and I was very happy to come down when I’d finished with the tar paper over the peak. When the tarp came off, I realized I hadn’t seen the whole thing yet with all roofs built and all. Very exciting!

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I enjoyed my first lunch in my home, and Jasper appreciated the 2×4 ramp leaned (accidentally) against the sill of the door.

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More soon!!

Big Barn Gives Birth to Tiny House

I had been nervous about making my rafters since I took the homebuilding course at the Heartwood school. The day that we were learning all the methods to lay out and cut the rafters, I was really sick with a fever and the notes I took are totally useless. Fortunately, I was able to push past my fears and figure out how to do it on my own with the help of the internet and everything I already knew about geometry. I chose a 12/12 pitch for my roof for a couple of reasons. (The pitch of a roof is usually described by how many vertical inches there are per 12 horizontal inches, or rise/run. 12/12 means there are 12 vertical inches for every 12 horizontal inches.) First, I chose a 12/12 pitch because I was afraid of doing anything else and a 45 degree angle is the easiest, most convenient one. It is also aesthetically pleasing and I have an octagonal window that would fit perfectly with that pitch. Anyway, once I figured out to make them, it ended up being fairly easy after the initial frustration of finding a consistent, reliable way to lay it all out and cut it accurately.

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Once I’d gotten the first couple cut, my dad and I set them up roughly above where my loft is so I could see how it would feel to move around under there. Would I have enough head room? I knew that I would be able to stand all the way up in the loft directly under the peak of the roof – I designed it to be that way – but once I was up there, I realized I would have to be ducking a lot everywhere else, even to get in and out of a chair or couch.

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So, I decided to change the pitch of my roof, just at the loft side of my house. I decided on a 4/12 pitch and proceeded to struggle with how the heck I was supposed to make it. The math got a little more tricky and tested/ refreshed my geometry skills. Eventually I figured it out, and how to use a rafting square correctly. This lower pitch (and higher walls on that end of the house) will still let me have a skylight over my loft and the window that Colin gave me on that end of the house.

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Soon it was time to put the rafters into pairs and attach them with gussets to keep them from separating. I used 1/2″ plywood triangles on each side of the rafter pairs to make sure they were really secure. I found a great technique online for securing the rafters to each other. I made a template just like the one I saw online and it worked great.

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I’ve had pretty great luck in the last couple of weeks with finding appliances and such for my house. My friend Daphne gave me a call to tell me about a great three burner cook stove in Montague for cheap. I went and picked it up – practically brand-new. The guy was selling it because he got it for his camper and then a tree fell on the camper so he didn’t need the stove anymore.

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Then I was on the street over from mine looking at a tag sale and found a very cool mini fridge for $15!

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And most recently, I found a Plexiglas bubble skylight in South Hadly for pretty cheap and though I never go to South Hadly, I had already planned a trip 10 minutes from there to meet Sarah Hastings who built a tiny house at Mount Holyoke! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures while I was visiting her, but it was very cool to be in her tiny house and hear her story.

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Then, this past Wednesday, I made a spontaneous decision to pull my tiny house out of the barn. Somehow I figured I could get the roof completed in three days before it started raining. That didn’t happen, but it was still exciting! I called all the people I knew in Ashfield who might have a truck with a hitch on it and asked if they’d be willing to help. I mostly got message machines because most people were at work, but pretty soon I got a call back from Denis our car mechanic who lives just a street over from me. He said he could be over right after his lunch break in about an hour, so my parents and I quickly got to work putting the wheels on the trailer, lowering it down, and disassembling the extension to the barn. What tiring work! There was a lot to get done, but Denis showed up just in time to help us finish clearing the way and pulled the house out and into place in less than an hour. It was so exciting to see it in full light! And as I was thinking about it before it happened, it feels kinda like the barn gave birth to the tiny house (a little prematurely, it was only in there for 8 months and didn’t quite have a roof yet, but a baby house all the same 🙂 ).

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In anticipation of the rain, I worked pretty much straight through until early early Monday morning when the rain came. On Thursday morning, I met with Katie again and caught up about her tiny house plans and things we’d learned since we’d last got together. She told me about a couple who is converting their campground in Springfield, Vermont into a Tiny House community/ campground!!! I am so thrilled about this. She said they’re hoping to open next summer. After breakfast she came back with me to see my progress and helped me paint a bunch of plywood which was soo helpful. My mom has also been very very helpful in painting stuff – mostly plywood, but also the bottoms of my floorboards.

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After Katie left, I worked with dad to prepare the first part of the roof. We attached some ceiling plywood to three rafter pairs and just as we were about to put it on, Annalise showed up and helped us hoist it onto the top plate. This was yet another lifting thing that we probably should have had more people for (so thank goodness Annalise showed up when she did) but managed with just the three of us.

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On Friday we began building the end wall. I was a little lazy about rough opening for the octagon because I didn’t want to put a lot of time into it. Because I didn’t do the math, it looked sloppy and not like a true octagon, and since I wanted it to look nice from the inside of the house, I decided to do the work over again (there’s a lot of that) and use math (algebra and geometry) to make it an actual octagon. I wish that I’d done projects like this in high school and elementary school because it would have helped me remember the math so much better than lessons I learned in school did. In beginning this project, even basic geometry and algebra skills felt rusty and distant. Because I’m a visual learner, building is helping me retain the seemingly abstract and intangible information better than I was able to in high school. It was very hot out on Friday and got to be very frustrating trying to get the wall put together. When I finally attached it all, I realized I’d made a mistake and the wall stuck out 1/4″ proud of the rafter pair.

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Jasper “helped” some too. He briefly surveyed the whole house.

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I was grumpy when I put the tarp over it preparing for the thunderstorm that night and it ended up blowing off and raining in the house. Fortunately, it was hot again on Saturday and it all dried up. On Saturday I was able to attach the end wall and another rafter pair, though the end wall, again, was very frustrating to work with. It didn’t fit right and I kept having to saw things off at weird angles. I did get to use a saws-all tool for the first time and coincidentally, when I went to work a couple hours later, someone came into the hardware store and held up a saws-all blade. I was proud of myself to be able to identify it, but I didn’t know where we had them. On Saturday night, Annalise made my dad and I a wonderful dinner which was particularly great because I’ve been plowing ahead so much on this project that I have barely stopped to eat anything.

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Sunday (yesterday) was the. longest. day. I jumped out of bed at 6:30 or 7 to get a head start on building. I actually haven’t been able to sleep because my brain can’t stop thinking and planning and brainstorming about how to get the roof up and what the next steps are before it rains. And then my dad reminded me that I shouldn’t start hammering nails until at least 8:30 because, well, its 8:00 on a Sunday morning. I now finally understand why construction starts so early – it’s light out and not hot yet, even if it’s an incredibly annoying sound to wake up to. I’m sorry, Ashfield! Pretty much I made a LOT of progress. I put up the rest of the 12/12 rafter pairs and the ceiling to go under them.

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I covered the end wall with plywood.

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I insulated the first 4 feet of my roof, filled the gaps with spray foam insulation, and then cut and attached 1/2″ plywood for the roof sheathing. All that from 8am to 10:30pm when it was cloudy and dark, I had to use a big lamp clamped on the roof to see what I was doing and try not to inhale the swarming insects and I hammered the roof together way up high.

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It wasn’t as scary as it would’ve been in daylight, I think, because it was so dark and I had no sense of how high up I was. It started raining just as we finished getting the second piece of plywood up. Then, my parents and I spent a stressful, hungry, exhausted hour trying to get the tarp over the building before it rained too hard. We succeeded and ate dinner together at 11:45pm, physically and mentally exhausted.

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And this morning when I woke up, my dad told me that he got up at 4am to check how the tarp was holding up and reported to me (now at 7:30) that it had rained through the windows. I went out and there were two sagging pools of water above the loft and bathroom. I couldn’t help but laugh because that’s exactly where I want my water storage and rain catchment system to be. Too soon for that though… When I went up to scoop the water out, I couldn’t resist taking the unfortunate opportunity to float a rubber ducky on my roof pond/ pool. I’m really hoping that all the water that got in won’t soak down through my floor into my insulation. I’ll have to finish my roof really soon and cover my windows in plastic too.

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The house really did come out a bit prematurely, but I’m also very pleased with what has been accomplished. It’s feeling more and more real by the day!

Shaping my space

Well, it’s been another month again. Maybe I’ll just post once a month, but hopefully I’ll get my act together to do a couple of shorter posts more frequently instead.

I still am looking for 1/2″ CDX plywood! And other things I can’t think of right now. Maybe nice wooden counter top?

Getting the walls up was exciting and it continues to look more and more like a house! Once they were all in place, it was time to secure them. I used ring shanked nails on the bottom plate. The trailer plans and DVD I got from Tumbleweed recommended that I use Simpson Strong Ties to act as an enormous nut to go over the threaded rods and screw into a nearby 2×4 stud. I guess I didn’t look at the plans carefully enough, because the Tumbleweed folks installed the ties as they were framing so that they’d be in the right place when they put the walls up. Also, whether I looked at the plans closely enough or not, the trailer I bought has two of the threaded rods in a really inconvenient place where there is no way a Simpson Strong Tie could fit over it. The threaded rod itself barely fit!

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After some discussion, my dad and I decided that using the hefty ties ($20 a piece by the way) was overkill. Instead, I am using one nut for each bolt, a locking washer, two regular washers – one bigger than the other, and thread-lock which is sticky stuff that is put on the threads of the nut/ bolt so that when it dries, nothing will jiggle apart. I am aware that the nut in the picture below should be all the way down by the washers. I haven’t actually applied the thread-lock yet or finished this step.

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Aside from being way more affordable than the Simpson Strong Ties, Gus from Cummington Supply and some other knowledgeable builders seemed confident in my new plan. I guess a lot of building codes are requiring a bunch of Simpson stuff to keep houses hurricane and tornado safe. I figure that if a tornado come along, I should be more worried about the whole thing getting lifted off the ground than my house coming apart from the trailer.

Just to make absolutely sure that my walls weren’t going anywhere, I installed metal strapping in big Xs over all four walls for sheer strength.

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When it was time to build the inside wall, I decided to construct it out of some 2x2s and 2x4s. I figured I should build the inner wall on the inside of the house so I didn’t have to try to fit it in from the door (which would not have been possible) or lift it allll the way up to get in from the open top. As it turns out, the random length of the loft (6’7″) was also the exact width of the inside of my house, so I was just barely able to build the wall on the inside floor. An inch longer and it wouldn’t have fit!

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Anyway, we framed it up and put plywood on one side using finish screws, then set it up and attached it to the end wall and floor before installing plywood on the other side. I had to pause for a few days in-between so I could buy more 1/4″ plywood and paint some of it. Annalise who is now home for the summer (!) helped a lot with painting and getting the plywood up.

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Soon after the wall was up, I installed the lower extension of the long-walls that went over the wheel well. It’s important that I have these walls supported because they will be load-bearing walls (roof, snow, etc) and were otherwise only half-supported by the wheel-well. I ripped some 2x4s to be the right thickness and made some cripples to go under the studs and soon I had a mini wall! It was very satisfying because it was something I could do fairly quickly and also didn’t need extra hands for.

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Soon it was time to frame the first loft! The wonderful Colin Garland of Raven Adventures who I have talked about in previous posts was able to get me another window that is beautiful but may not fit and bunch more 2x4s and 2x6s for lofts and rafters! I am continuously grateful for all he’s done to help me.

Another trip to Cummington Supply got me four 2×4 joist hangers for my first loft. I had a lot of fun working on this part again, because it was smaller scale and went fairly quickly. One frustrating part was figuring out how to cut out the place to put the end of the loft double header. I must have used 5 different tools to finally get it cut/ chipped out. And it’s so satisfying when everything fits so nicely and I have visible progress! It’s getting easier and easier to visualize the space.

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We attached a 2×4 to the inside wall with finish nails and they were SO hard to work with. I learned that it’s important to be patient but also that patience doesn’t always help…

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Soon I’ll be installing the floorboards on the first loft so I’ll have somewhere sturdy to stand while working on the rafters and roof. In preparation, I started scraping the dirt off the reclaimed floorboards I got from Erich in Brattleboro. It’s slow-going but I think I’ll be even more pleased to have them installed after all the prep work. I will prime and paint the bottom of each of them too because that’s what I’ll see from underneath the loft where my bed will be.

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It’s a House!!! Almost…

Get ready everyone because this month has been SO exciting!!!

I guess I’ll start with the things I’m still looking for because I totally forgot about that in the last post or two. Here’s what I wrote in a previous post:

I really really want this cook stove/ oven/ range called the origo 6000, but it’s super expensive so I’m hoping to find one that is used but in good condition. It’s usually used in boats and runs on alcohol so no fossil fuels!! And it’s small. So if you come across one while you’re surfing craigslist or something… please let me know!!!

Two windows! 32″ wide x 48″ tall, give or take about 1/2″. Double hung, in good condition, with screens preferably, open easily, double pane.

So a lot of what happened this month was a LOT of sheathing. As soon as it started being over 40 degrees, I whipped out the wood glue and got to work! My good friend CJ came for a couple of days and helped a lot. I had a bit of trouble with the router bit falling apart but we seem to have fixed that problem. I think that the plywood window cut out was falling down on the bit when I finished cutting, therefore pulling apart and damaging the bit. The first window that happened on we were kinda confused and had to set the router aside and use the circular saw and then a hand saw. Here are some pictures of us sheathing and routing out the windows and the walls:

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Before we put the plywood on, we had to make sure the walls were nice and square. That means measuring the diagonals to see if they’re the same, and if they’re not, hitting one end of the top of the wall to fix it. Some walls were harder than others and Dad ended up getting a slightly heaftier tool to do the job:

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Miette came and helped for a bit too!

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While CJ was here, Mom and I did our annual polar bear swim! Sometimes we are able to go in as early as early March, but this was mid-April! It was a really warm day and felt even warmer when we jumped out of the icy water.

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When we’d finished sheathing the long walls, dad stood the wall up while I traced around the wheel well. Then we laid it back down and I cut it out with a jigsaw.

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Dad and I tried to put up the first long wall and then realized that there were boards sticking out from the upstairs of the barn trapped under some old theater stuff. So we had to prop up the heavy wall while we moved the boards out. I suppose we could have just put the wall down again, but that might have actually been more work.

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And then! My friend Mollie came over and helped us put up the two long walls! Mom helped too and we really wouldn’t have able to do it without four people. It was challenging fitting the two halves of the first long wall together, but it was realllly hard to fit the second long wall together properly. The place where they had to fit together could have been better planned out, I think. They just had to go over under and around each other all at the same time. We did a lot of levering and hammering to make it work. It probably also would have been safer and easier with more people… but we were too excited to go find anyone else. And, obviously, we managed just fine!

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Mom decided to take a selfie:

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The next morning before I had to go to work, Dad and I put up the first short wall which took a lot longer than I’d anticipated, but ended up fitting pretty nicely. Unfortunately, when we tried to get the last wall up (the other short one), we realized there was BARELY enough room at that end of the trailer and it was definitely not a piece of cake getting it up to where it needed to be. Again, we probably should’ve waited for Mom to get home so we had three people, but like I said… too excited :).

Before the first short wall went up, we insulated the corner posts:

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So eventually we made it work and look! I have four walls up on the trailer and it finally looks like a house! I do realize I have a long way to go before it’s fully functional, but this feels like a big step. And I’m getting so much more done now that it’s warmish out that I have high hopes of a speedy spring/ summer build.

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Lastly, I took a week off in mid-April and went to visit the west coast. I mainly went to visit Evergreen State College in Washington because it was my other choice of school besides Hampshire. But because I planned to be there for a week, I got to visit an old friend of my mom’s, Liz and her family, as well as a longer visit with one of my dad’s long time friends, Sarah, and her partner Bill. It was lovely to get to know some of my parent’s friends and be able to call them my own friends by the end of the visit. I had an incredible time and am very happy to say that I will now be going to Evergreen in the Fall! It still feels scary going so far from home, but I want to overcome that fear and spend some more time on the west coast. Here are a few pictures from my visits:

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I saw a tiny house boat there too!!

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I’d never seen banana slugs before. Blehh.

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Waiting for Warmer Weather

It has been quite a month! Unfortunately I didn’t build as much as I would have liked too – a lot of things got in my way. Now that I’ve finished framing my walls, I need to put the 1/4″ plywood on. First I had to decide whether I was going to paint the plywood first or go plow ahead and paint later. I decided on painting them, but it was so cold that we had to bring a heater out to the barn to move some warm air around so the paint would dry instead of freeze over night.

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Mom bought me my own paint mask 🙂

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Once the plywood was painted, I was all set and ready to get crackin’ on getting my walls up. I ran over to the hardware store and picked up some wood glue, cut the plywood to the appropriate height, laid it all out, put the glue in the caulk gun and… nothing came out. I was confused for a good second until I checked the instructions on the glue. In all my excitement, I didn’t realize that it had to be at least 40 degrees out to use wood glue – and it wasn’t 40 degrees. And I couldn’t cheat, like we did with the paint.

The temperature has been hovering at or below 40 degrees since then usually meaning it’s just BARELY too cold to glue, because even if it’s 40 outside, the barn tends to run a few degrees lower. We did, however, get one or two days that were warm enough. My friend Annalise came over and she and my dad helped me lay the glue down and nail it all together. We were able to get half of one of the walls sheathed.

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One Saturday I went to an energy fair at Greenfield Community College, organized by Greening Greenfield. I was a presenter and spent the night before making a display board out of some painted plywood scraps, some facts I’d typed up and printed, a bunch of pictures, and recycled college mail for boarders. It was cool to be there and talk to people who were already enthusiastic about tiny houses or who hadn’t heard of them before.

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Photo taken by Andy Grant at the Sustainability Expo.

In mid March, I got all four of my wisdom teeth pulled which also put a pause on my project. It was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done. It felt super weird getting needles poked in my mouth to numb me up and even weirder not being able to feel anything. I was especially nervous because I had to be awake for the whole thing. Then they discovered that my teeth are unusually HUGE for a 19 year old girl and it took them twice as long to take them out as it normally does. It was scary at first but it took so long that I calmed down and got all bored and slightly annoyed with all that poking, prodding, and drilling, and tired of looking at the map on the ceiling of animals around the world. I realized I still had the after-care instructions sheet of paper in my lap and I decided to challenge myself and make a paper crane. It took up a good chunk of time and concentration and helped me get through the rest of the surgery. It felt like a big accomplishment finally getting out of there (after they’d already started closing up..) but I looked like a chipmunk and was still numb. Long story short, I didn’t look like myself again for two weeks until the swelling went down, had to eat mushy foods for a while, survived the pain on just ibuprofen, and am finally kinda sorta normal again. This really has been quite a crazy year with Lyme Disease, being sick almost all the time, and then this.

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My friend Lilly came to visit for a few days which was lovely and she helped build a little bit – mostly with adding the second top plates and squaring up the second half of the long wall so we could proceed to sheathing it.

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Last week I met with Spartan from Spartan Solar and discussed heating and cooling systems, specifically for hot water. It was great to get a lot of new information but also a bit overwhelming realizing how much I still have to research and how expensive off-grid options are going to be. I’m thinking about building in a way that I can leave room for more advanced systems later but in the meantime live with the real simple options like cold water for the summer and taking showers somewhere else.

Most recently, I had breakfast with Katie at Elmers a couple days ago and then came back to my house to do a few tiny house things. She helped me cut some plywood. I also was able to use a new bit that I got for my router – a flush trim bit. I used it to cut out the rough opening for the window in the 1/2 wall that I sheathed. It was very satisfying! It has a little roll-y thing at the end so that the blade can follow the edge of the 2x4s without cutting them but cuts the plywood to be the flush with the frame. Anyway that was fun and it was great to see Katie and talk more tiny house stuff.

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Four walls make a house

Hello lovely fans!

Before I say anything, I’m gonna try to make a practice of listing important things I’m still looking for – as many as I can think of at the moment. So here goes:

I really really want this cook stove/ oven/ range called the origo 6000, but it’s super expensive so I’m hoping to find one that is used but in good condition. It’s usually used in boats and runs on alcohol so no fossil fuels!! And it’s small.

Two windows! 32″ wide x 48″ tall, give or take about 1/2″. Double hung, in good condition, with screens preferably, open easily, double pane.

I might also need some more 2x4s for the lofts but I’ll keep you up to date on that because I’m not so sure at the moment.

That’s all I’m looking for right now… but I’ll add more if I think of it.

I have made a huge amount of progress over the last couple of weeks. Sam Kelly came for lunch one day and I was able to ask him all the questions that I needed to. It was both extremely helpful to have his advice and also fun to learn more about building. Afterwards, I felt confident and ready to keep building! I am so grateful to have these great talented friends who are supportive and eager to help me. I can’t do it with out you guys, thank you!!!

A little while ago, I also got an email from a young woman named Katie. She’d been talking to our mutual friend Lou, of Lou’s Upcycles, about wanting to build a tiny house for herself. Lou knew about my project and put us in touch! Turns out Katie lives in the hilltowns too, and we found a day to meet up for warm drinks at Elmer’s here in Ashfield. I showed her my plans and talked to her a bit about my project and what her hopes are for her own tiny house. Then I brought her back to my house where I showed her the walls I’d framed and the other materials I have – windows, wood stove, etc. It was a lot of fun to talk tiny houses with another enthusiast and local gal! I’m looking forward to keeping in touch, sharing ideas, and having her help building soon.

The middle of February has been break from school for most people. I’ve been in touch with Julian, a tenth-grader from Young Friends/ Quaker youth group for a while — he’s planning on building a tiny house in his back yard when his family moves out to this area. I’d talked to his mom a few times about getting him over here to help me build, and it finally happened! Julian and his friend Roy came this past Tuesday night through Thursday morning. It was a delight to have them here! It was wonderful talking with them about tiny houses, sharing what I know, giving advice, and hearing about their passions. They were great company and easy guests, helping out with meals and all.

On Wednesday, we built the third wall! I am so thrilled with the outcome, partly because the wall looks beautiful, and partly because I really enjoyed teaching Julian and Roy some building skills — how to measure and mark lumber, how to use the chop saw safely, how to hammer nails and line up the frame… and it was fun to see them working together as a team, learning all the way through. They were patient, careful and clearly passionate about learning how to build. I’m proud of them for their determination and enthusiasm, especially throughout some very very cold hours. Sharing my joy is just as much part of this project as anything else!

Here are some photos from Wednesday:

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There were a lot of nails we had to take out and redo for various reasons. Frustrating, but good to have the right tools! Here’s dad using the crow-bar:

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On Thursday morning, we set in on the fourth wall — cut everything, set it out, and then built the first half. Nina and Alan, Julian’s parents, arrived at noon to pick Julian and Roy up and saw the progress we made. Nina even helped pound a few nails!

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Today, Lliam and Kai came to help me and my dad finish up the last wall. It was unbelievably cold and we were all a bit grumpy until after lunch when we got some hot soup inside us. I was glad to have their help and am so happy (!!!) to be finished with the fourth wall! Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of us working, but I did take a later picture of the outcome:

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Next steps are getting the second top plates onto the walls, and painting then attaching the 1/4″ plywood and putting the walls up! I’m so psyched to have a house that looks like a little more like a house!

Wall number two

On January 19, Martin Luther King day, I had a small building party! I got in touch with Susan Durkee – my advisor from high school who recommended the Heartwood Building School to me and is a fellow tiny house enthusiast – and because Lliam also had school off, he came as well. I spent the two days before sketching up some framing plans for the other three walls so that I would have everything figured out by the time Susan and Lliam arrived.

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Though there were a couple of adjustments throughout the day, my sketches made it easy for Susan to make a list of lengths to cut while Lliam and I lay everything out. It was like creating and putting together a puzzle that I made up; I was thrilled when everything fit together.

We decided to tackle the most complicated wall. My parents came out to help as well and we all cruised along building the wall in two halves. For lunch we had a delicious pot of lentil soup that my mom made with locally made bread and cheese.

We were able to finish most of the wall by the time Susan and Lliam left. It ended up being a great day for building – warm compared to every other day I have worked out there. It was the first time I worked without my jacket this winter! It was a lot for one day and I stopped hammering nails when Lliam and Susan took off. Here are some pictures:

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And I actually haven’t made much more progress since then. I went back to my plans and realized I should figure out the design for the frame of the roof before I go much farther. I also need to paint the 1/4″ plywood white before I put it on the walls to make them square — I want the inside of my house to be white with the exposed framing left as-is and it’ll be much easier to do that if I don’t have to paint the walls around the framing after it’s already up. Unfortunately that means waiting longer until the walls are up and taking a little bit of another detour. It’s also been so cold that there hasn’t really been anywhere I can paint. Sometimes I worry that I’m missing pieces because I’m designing this whole thing. It all takes patience and confidence. Soon I’ll run some of my plans by one of my expert builders who have offered their advice.

In the meantime, I have taken a break to finish applying to college and for scholarships. Though I still have quite a few more scholarships to go, I am officially done with college applications! There have been many stay-at-home snow days at this point that have given me a chance to relax and get work done.

In other news, my friend Annalise sent me a link to a blog she thought I’d appreciate: trashisfortossers.com. It’s a blog written by a girl who decided to go zero-waste and has been writing about her experience and giving tips for a few years.

Anyway, I have decided to make my own toothpaste and hair care products and generally work towards producing less waste. I made some toothpaste just with baking soda, salt, hazelnut extract, and water. I didn’t have peppermint extract and didn’t put enough hazelnut extract in so it didn’t taste too great. Hopefully my next batch will be better. I also started using baking soda and water for shampoo and vinegar for conditioner. My hair is feeling a lot healthier too. Once I’m living on my own, and am buying my own food, I’ll work more on buying food that doesn’t come in plastic bags and other things that don’t create as much.

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Okay, that’s all for now!