Building a Tiny House :: Siding and Tiling

It really is astounding, even for a house as simple and tiny as ours, the complexity of details, materials, and timing of building a house. For instance, in order to insulate our house with dense-pack cellulose, we first need to wire for (solar) electricity, put up the exterior siding, and install the wood stove and chimney.  To install the wood stove, the stove pipe needs to be ordered, a platform constructed, then tiled, then trimmed, then grouted, and so on and so forth.

And so Brian plugs along daily: sourcing, ordering, and gathering materials, sketching plans for electrical wiring, consulting with online forums, videos, and friends.

Occasionally, my skills come into play – making decisions, selecting materials, brainstorming the layout of the house – and even more occasionally, I have the opportunity to actually help build. I have always wanted to plug into the interior work of the house.  Truth be told, I’m just not that into framing or siding or making complex measurements.  But I love creating beautiful spaces, have a good brain for details, and I’m neat and organized.  Tiling really appeals to each of these assets.

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Ta da!Tiling3

We found this gorgeous stone (possibly limestone) tile at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Columbia.  We were able to get two boxes for $10! In a day or two we’ll grout the tile, and then we can install our beloved wood stove.

And on the outside of the house…

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It’s so beautiful!  This is some of the reclaimed barn wood that Brian’s been collecting and purchasing over the past few months. Some of it was ready to cut to size, but other pieces were rotting on the ends and the good parts needed to be rescued from the center.  Two sides of the house are just about complete.

Our timeline is still very tight, but we’re moving along, making good progress each day.

Building a Tiny Home :: Little Details

Before we went on vacation at the end of August, Brian had installed the windows, doors, and tar-papered the exterior.  It was a great push, and we felt proud of the results.  Returning home, it took a week or two for us to really wrap our brains around the question, “what’s next?”  Brian began to tackle many little details that don’t really make the house look dramatically different, but that are necessary before we insulate or put up exterior siding.

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For instance, these little nailers took several days to cut to length and install.

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We realized that we really wanted a larger window on this south wall, not only to allow for natural lighting and solar warming, but also just to be able to see our beautiful land!  So Brian removed the small window that had been previously installed, and ordered this lovely window. So much better!

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One of the fun parts of building a home is dreaming about how you want it to look and feel. Particularly because this house will be so tiny (under 350 square feet), it’s important to use every inch of space efficiently, and a lot of the decisions about wall placement need to be made now, as we build.HouseDetails2

These two walls are the only interior walls, and they will delineate the mudroom entryway from the kitchen and dining nook.  The rest of the house will have an open floor plan in the shape of an “L”. In the back right of the photo, you can also see a square that was framed in to the mudroom wall.  This will be a door into a closet that fits under the bed loft. Man, is our house a mess!HouseDetails4

The kids have caught the building fever.  This morning Ella woke up and asked me to help her pick out clothes in which she could move easily, because she wanted to work on her building.  It makes me smile so much to see the kids imitating the work that we are doing, and to be so creative in how they execute their work/play.

One question that is asked of us more and more often is, “what will you guys do when it’s cold?”  It is a challenging question. We opted not to return to the same house-sitting situation that we had last October – May, mainly because we love being on our land. But the recent cold and rain has been sort of a wake up call.  We realized that, aside from the house, there is really no dry, warm place for the kids to hang out and play (or for me to do homeschooling), and that we need several weeks where we remove EVERYTHING from the house and blow in dense pack cellulose insulation and start on the interior walls.

We decided to house sit for a friend a few miles down the road for a few weeks in October. It is our hope that we can do most of the messiest work during that time period, and then set up a situation where we will be living in a construction zone. It’s not the most ideal, but it’s what we have to work with right now.  We will be caring for a very large, very old draft horse named Solomon, and Ella is so excited to help feed him and brush him.  I am excited to have a few luxuries, like electricity to set up my sewing machine, and a freezer to store ice cream!  It’s the little things, really!

Building a Tiny House: Framing, Windows and Doors!

A few weeks ago, Brian set an ambitious goal of framing and installing all of the doors and windows before we left for vacation (this Wednesday night). And, with the help of many hands, we are a few door hinges away from meeting this goal!  The house is really taking shape, and although it’s certainly not going to be a finished product when we move in this fall, we can now begin to imagine ourselves tucked in for the winter, all the while tackling interior finish work.

Before I share a few photos, I must say that none of this would have been possible without the help of my in-laws Ron and Ann.  While they visited us for three weeks, Ron and Ann tirelessly helped us work on the homestead, as they often do.  Ron hauled bucket after bucket of water from the pond so I could keep the garden alive, helped Brian install the sub-floor, insulation, and nailers, and grilled up some fierce salmon; while Ann washed dishes after each meal, hung all of our laundry, read book after book to Ella and Everett so Brian and I could work, and kept a constant supply of ice cream in her RV’s freezer.  Although this is “our house,” none of it would be possible without their help, and we’re so very appreciative.

I also have to correct a mistake on my part. For some reason, I’ve been telling you that our house is going to be 200 square feet, and that is just not correct!  It’s closer to 18 x 19 feet, so about 350 square feet.  Still tiny for four people!

All that said, here is an update on our building progress:

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We were very fortunate to have gotten this 3 inch rigid foam insulation for free, thanks to a new friend and fellow builder.  Brian and Ron installed the insulation and then a sub-floor of local cottonwood, which you can see below.

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Framing! It was so fun to stand in the house and imagine looking out our future windows.  This one looks north into the lovely forest behind our house.

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Our tar paper crew – Brian and his parents.

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Windows! We decided to hire our friend and neighbor Beth to help install the windows.  We purchased the two windows seen above at a Habitat ReStore, and the rest at Bayview Building Supply in Quincy, IL, which sells overstock and mis-ordered new windows at a discount price.

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All wrapped up! This sweet little house just needs its reclaimed barn wood siding and it will look so very cute.

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As I mentioned above, we are heading out of town this week, for a long-awaited vacation to the place where Brian and I met – Catalina Island (the island of romance!).  I have several blog posts lined up for you while I’m gone – a guest post from my friend Heather of The Homesteading Hippy, and one of my favorite crafty how-to posts from last summer.  I will still pop in from time to time on Facebook, so “like” the Homestead Honey page and follow our adventures!

Wishing you a wonderful week!Teri

Piles

Some days I look around the land, and realize that Brian and I are Pile Managers.  I never really thought much about it before we started creating a new homestead from scratch, but the work of building and creating begins with piles. Piles1

A pile of gravel leftover from the driveway we put in this winter.  A pile of wood chip/sawdust mulch that we’re spreading around the base of our fruit trees.  A pile of lumber from a century old barn and outbuildings that are being torn down, and whose wood will become the siding of our tiny home (and has already been integrated into the building of our chicken coop).

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A pile of black walnut wood, ready to bring to a local Amish mill.  The previous owner had taken down several enormous black walnut trees, leaving tops in the forest.  Borrowing our neighbor’s log arch, Brian dragged these sections of trunk up hill, loaded them up, and brought them to the mill, where they were milled into…

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A pile of beautiful, high quality lumber.

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Then there are the piles of materials for future projects, such as this pile of blue metal roofing for our someday composting toilet. Piles4

And of course, the many piles of organic material that went into the creation of my sheet mulched garden, such as this…

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and this…Piles5

…which now, amazingly, look like this:

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Indeed, we Pile Managers sure do create and move a whole bunch of piles!

This post was shared on the Homestead Bloggers Network, Mountain Woman Rendevous, and From the Farm Blog Hop.

Building a Tiny House

Today, I’m excited to give an update on our house-in-progress.  All along, we (meaning Brian, with occasional under-skilled help from me) have been steadily building, working on a sub-floor here, framing there, planning and purchasing as we go. In the back of our minds, a vague deadline looms, and motivates us to finish before cold weather arrives and makes camping with two small children unreasonable.

This house will be tiny – just under 200 square feet for 4 people. While I am definitely a fan of a small footprint, it will be interesting to see how we will all fit comfortably in such a small space.  But as we laid out deadlines and timelines for building, we were faced with a tough decision: Do we take longer (years?) to build the timber framed strawbale house that we ultimately want to live in, while paying rent to live somewhere for the winters, or do we build something small and quick – a guest cottage, really – and live in that for a few years while we slowly acquire the funds and materials to build the strawbale home?  We opted for the latter.

Way back in April, the house looked like this:Cabin7

A roof, some White Oak posts and beams, and floor joists.  The floor plan for the house is really quite simple – three-quarters of it will be our living space, and the other quarter will be an insulated mudroom (seen here on the front left)

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Brian used some Osage Orange, an exceptionally rot-resistant wood, to create foundational posts for the mudroom entry way.

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It’s a construction site!  It’s a playground! It’s a Dining Room!  It’s a Living Room!  

Seriously though, we are essentially living in our construction area, because it is one of the few shady spots on our land. We sited the house according to passive solar principles, and it is exciting to realize that even though the house is directly south-facing, it still remains cool and shaded in the summertime, thanks to the roof overhang.

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On the west side of the house, a little bit of trenching and earth-moving to create a flat “patio” and to drain water away from the foundation.  Brian collected some free “urbanite” from a local company, and used it to build up a sloped area between the house and the outdoor kitchen.

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One of our questions was how to protect the floor insulation from critters.  Living on the edge of the forest, we have already experienced mice, bats, wasps, and two kinds of birds nesting in our house.  Brian first laid down some Wonderboard before laying down rigid foam insulation.

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One of the challenges of building, in my mind, is balancing cost, environmental impact, and ease and speed of building.  We have made choices that were not our ideal choices in terms of material choice, for the sake of speed and efficiency.  For the floors, we opted to go with rigid foam insulation.  For the ceilings and walls, we’ll work with blown cellulose, which is considered a more “green” option.

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One of my special tasks:  screwing in the sub-floor!  I have gotten pretty good with the impact driver, but still manage to sink half of the screws too deeply.  Still, it’s nice to participate in the building of our home, in whatever way I can!

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I love this photo!  You can see how we’re truly living right in the midst of the construction, and how our children are intimately involved with every aspect of building our homestead.  It’s simultaneously exhausting, and completely inspiring.

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Party on the sub-floor!  Yesterday, we finished the sub-floor in the mudroom, with the kids helping.  Everett passed me screws, one at a time, and Ella handed Brian nails.  They truly want to be involved with every task, and when we can take the time to include them in a patient and meaningful way, we all win.

So there we are!  Kitchen and mudroom sub-floors are in, kitchen is framed, and the mudroom will be framed today.  We have a pile of doors and windows that Brian purchased at a building supplies clearinghouse.  There are gorgeous high quality windows that were mis-purchased or over-purchased, and thus are sold for a fraction of their original price.

Oh, I should also mention the wood that we’re using.  While we have purchased some plywood for the floors, all of the wood used for framing is local wood, mostly oak, with local cottonwood used for the mudroom sub-floor, that was milled locally by the Amish.  The exterior siding will be reclaimed lumber from a barn tear-down, a beautiful old homestead that has outbuildings that date back to the 1860’s.

As always, please do feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!
Teri

This post was shared with the Homestead Bloggers Network, Homestead Barn Hop, From the Farm Blog Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection, Homeacre Hop, and Natural Living Monday.

The Sexiest Chicken Coop Around

In between house building, blacksmith work, and all-around handyman activities, my husband Brian has been hard at work building our chickens a home. Back in Oregon, he envisioned a moveable chicken coop on wheels and created this:

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Nest boxes on both sides that were easy to access from the outside for egg collection, a large fold-down door at the rear for bedding changes, bike wheels for easy transport, and a front door that led into their run.  Functional, very practical, but not really sexy.

Building this new coop provided Brian with a chance to create what he always envisioned – a gypsy caravanesque structure that is as adorable as it is functional.ChickenCoop1

A trailer tongue sticks out from the base of the coop for easy transport.  Ella stands in front of the door to the nest boxes…

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…which folds down for easy access to eggs!

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The chickens enter and exit from this ramp, which folds up at night to keep predators out.  Feed is hung to minimize scratching and wasting. The hanger came from a barn tear-down, and while we do not know what it is, it’s mighty cool looking!ChickenCoop5

The front door opens wide to allow us entry for cleaning, repair, etc.  The first few nights, we noticed that all the chickens wanted to be on the upper roost, so Brian has since added a second high perch.

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Look how much they love their new home!

What I love about this coop is that it is really functional, super cute (with a blue roof that matches our house-in-the-making!), and was made almost entirely out of reclaimed barn wood.  The hardware and the roof were the only components that were purchased new.

Now we wait patiently for the not-soon-enough day when we’ll once again be collecting our own eggs, from this sexy little coop.

Setting Up: An Outdoor Kitchen

Week One of living on the land. It has been so wonderful.  Truly, just so lovely to fall asleep here each night, listening to the sounds of owls, crickets, frogs, and birds.  So nice to stay late after dinner without worrying about rushing back to town to get the kids fed and put to bed.  So easy to wake up in the morning and jump right into the tasks at hand.

The biggest task this week has been setting up our outdoor kitchen. Imagine trying to fit the contents of your home kitchen into an outdoor space, in a neat, organized, weather-proof, and critter-proof way. Imagine cooking all your meals almost entirely from scratch without hot running water, refrigeration, or the type of cook stove or oven you’re used to.  This is what some of our neighbors have been doing for years, and this is our new reality.

Brian and I love cooking.  We love spending time in the kitchen.  So creating an outdoor kitchen that is truly functional and also beautiful was a high priority.  And let me state from the start that I can claim absolutely no credit for the wonder you are about to see.  It is the result of the talent and hard work of my husband Brian, an artist, blacksmith and builder, who loves nothing more than to spend hours creating incredible structures from materials we have at hand.

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The Outdoor Kitchen is tucked just to the west of our blue roofed house, and nestled underneath an oak tree.

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The most amazing feature: running water!  We have four 50 gallon barrels set up to catch rain water from our roof.  Brian piped it under the house and up to this sink.  Instant cold water!  (We filter the drinking water through a Berkey filter.)

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Where we do our cooking!  To the left is your standard-issue Coleman white gas stove.  To the right is a StoveTec rocket stove.

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Cooking our breakfast in my monkey pajamas!  We usually fire up both stoves to cook a meal.  The rocket stove gets pretty sooty, so we have pots designated just for rocket stove use.  In the background, you can see that we’ve laid some planks down in the blue house for a covered dining area.

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This tent trailer is our temporary home – so cozy and wonderful.  But the most important part of this photo is to the right – our Sun Oven.  Sun Ovens are absolutely incredible. I have made stews, rice, quinoa, and heated hot water, just by taking advantage of the beautiful sunny days we’ve been having.  The only disadvantage: Sun Ovens really don’t work on a cloudy or rainy day like today.

Thanks for joining me on this tour of our new outdoor kitchen. If you have any questions, please ask away!
Teri

 

Shared with The Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Bloggers Network, and Homestead Barn Hop.

Sometimes…

…Things don’t work out exactly as you’ve planned.
Remember this cute perky tent?  The one we were just days away from calling home?

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With a little strong wind and heavy rain, the tent now looks like this:
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Yes, we are all safe.  No, we were not in the tent.  We had just climbed into our car to safely wait out the storm, and minutes later watched the tent crumble to the ground in a swirl of wind and rain.

Which means that our move to the land is postponed for a wee bit while we figure out the best solution.  Buy a new tent?  Quickly build a roofed tent platform?  Purchase an old RV or bus in which to sleep?

One thing is for sure about building a homestead.  It is anything but boring!

Have a wonderful weekend,
Teri

A Sneak Peek

Well, here we are, back from cake land, and once again firmly rooted in the reality of building a homestead.  Unfortunately, we have been rained out of our big moving day, which was supposed to be today. We will wait at the cozy town house until things dry up enough to move heavy furniture across wet ground.  While I’ve been sharing endless photos of cakes and decadent icing, we’ve actually been hard at work creating a rustic camping situation that will be comfortable enough to live with for three or four more months, or until we finish the house.

So here is a little sneak peek of our soon-to-be home!

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The garden is really coming along.  I still have peppers, basil, and some okra and onions to plant, but the main push to build a sheet mulch garden is over, and now I’m enjoying planting, sowing, and watering. OutdoorKitchen1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian has been shaping and building a beautiful outdoor kitchen, creating level spaces with urbanite and earth moving, and using some lovely black walnut wood that we had milled up in Oregon to create counters and cook tops.OutdoorKitchen2

 

This photo is a week or two old, and shelving and running water has since been added, but you can see the sink, counter space to the left, and the cookspace to the right.  The lower level will be the “pantry.”NewSofa

Moving slightly east to the living room!  That orange sofa was a total college move-out day score!  Free on the side of the road for the taking.  At first I gave Brian a “what are you, crazy?” sort of look, but I have to admit that it is comfortable and so useful for chilling out under the blue roof of the future house.

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The Sun Oven at work!  We will have a two burner Coleman white gas stove, a rocket stove, and this Sun Oven to cook with.  I hope for lots of sunny days, as the Sun Oven is SO cool.

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Tent, sweet Tent.  Our neighbors lent us this enormous tent in which to sleep and play.  The kids have loved spending time in there with their dolls and trucks; it’s relatively tick-free, cool, and spacious.

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And maybe the most important element of our camping situation: Water.  With this rain, we now have five 50 gallon barrels of water full to the tip top (and overflowing).  The barrels we purchased from Pepsi for $10 each.  They smell like Mountain Dew.  To filter, we will be using a Berkey Water Filter.

I look forward to sharing more in-depth information about each of these elements as we move to the land and get more intimate with these systems.  I know it will be a huge adjustment, but I’m really growing more and more excited to finally live on our land.

 

Preparing

Making the best of a very cold, rainy day last week, Brian traveled with truck and trailer across the state line to Illinois to a large building supply warehouse.  He went with lists, measurements, and a vision, and came back with ten windows and two doors for our small cottage.

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In the building process, as in all areas of life, nothing seems to go as expected.  In our case, the building we had originally planned to be a non-insulated “Summer Shanty,” is now shaping up to be an 18 x 20 foot insulated house. This decision was born of our desire to avoid moving out of a non-insulated structure next winter to find a warm place to live. As we fell more in love with the land, we realized we just did not want to have to leave! So all four of us will live VERY cozily in this tiny house for the next few years as we build our dream timber-framed strawbale home.

As a result of this change in direction, this summer we will be camping on our land.  Brian has been busy as ever creating systems that will facilitate our comfort as we live in a tent.  A water catchment system is in place, and three 50 gallon barrels await the next heavy rain.

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A tent platform is in progress…HomesteadLife3

…and our neighbors have generously loaned us their enormous nine person tent, which we will erect tomorrow.

And so we prepare for the not-so-faraway day that we will leave this cozy, well appointed home in the “city,” and move to our rustic tent in the country.  And while I’m so excited to finally live on our land, a part of me is slightly terrified, wondering how in the world I will live with no electricity, no washing machine, no running water, no refrigerator, no internet service, and only a sporadically working cell phone.  I guess this is what chasing our dreams will look like for a few months.

* This post was shared on The Backyard Farming Connection
and The Homestead Barn Hop.