Monthly Archives: June 2015

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!