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

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.

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.