Monday, April 10, 2017

Miscellaneous Vulnerable Ramblings

Builder Bashing

As I watched the most recent “my tiny house builder screwed me over” video on youtube I couldn’t help but feel thankful; thankful that I have the health, and resources, and support from my friends and loved ones, to build my own. I have a unique sense of accountability this way.  If something does not get done, or is done wrong, or is late; I have nobody to blame but myself.  My timeline is self inflicted and my material choices are my own. Yes, there is stress from this kind of build, but not having to collaborate (or doing so, on a pretty limited basis) results in “the buck stops here” level of responsibility.  Ironically, that is a calming mantra in my world. I have been on my own for so long that depending on someone else at this point in my life feels very uncomfortable, very insecure.

Mourning the Loss of 9 Square Feet

And speaking of collaboration, as we considered the fender replacement options, Mark expressed very strong feelings about using a particular type.  So I spent $100 on the fenders and then $200 to have them welded on. It wasn’t until AFTER this was done that I discovered that we had lost 6” of width off of the house. On a tiny house that is only 18 feet long,  that 9 square feet is a BIG deal!  Mark and I exchanged some heated words and he wasn’t happy that I was “blaming” him.  I wasn’t really.  I was frustrated, sure.  I hadn’t asked enough questions about the fenders to understand the implication of using them. But after a few hours of pouting and mourning and identifying the “sacrifices” my design would have to absorb, I moved on. Yes. I could have torn them off.  But, in the end, the advantages of a better roof overhang outweighed the lack of wiggle room at the end of the bed and the slightly smaller bathroom.

Like Family

Three years ago I attended my first tiny house networking event. Almost two years ago, I completed my first build. And today, I am feeling so thankful that the tiny house community has embraced me as one of them. However, I feel odd even typing this. Like I have no right to assume they feel the same.  I feel like I deserve it, for sure, and have worked hard to contribute to the movement in a positive way. But it still feels odd when I get invited to speak, or write. It’s like someone is talking to me and I am looking over my shoulder to see who else they might be complimenting. Because I am estranged from my family, a firm sense of who I am and who my “people” are has eluded me most of my life. I would love to believe that I have found “home” but my insecurities still bite at the heels of my self confidence. So, until the feeling of peace and security is second-nature, I’ll settle for feeling thankful and motivated by a strong sense of needing to earn my way into the cool kids club.

Pacing Myself

When people hear that I work a desk job 40 hours a week, AND am building a tiny house, AND I’m the Hostess for Tiny House Podcast, AND I write for Tiny House Magazine, AND I drive almost 200 miles to my build site each weekend they always ask “Do you sleep!?” The short answer is “yes” because I LOVE TO SLEEP!  My problem, however, isn’t my lack of sleep but my lack of balance in life right now.  It is an intentional choice, but one that leaves me bone tired from the go-go-go pace I have going right now.  This weekend, after attending 3 straight days of tiny house events, I drove once again to my boyfriend’s house. (aka the build site)  Of course I had a list of stuff I wanted to get done but his TO DO list was much different than mine. He had also worked a full week and his weekend consisted of spending one day doing what he loved (watching boat racing) and one day getting caught up on chores. So, in a nutshell, my build day turned into his chore day but I am totally fine with that. The strength of our relationship is that I speed him up when he’s feeling unmotivated, and he slows me down when I need it.  I got some “tool staging” done and picked up the cabinet for the tiny house bedroom, but other than that it was a totally slack day.  And one that I desperately needed but would have never scheduled for myself.  I also found an affordable tea cart on craigslist for my living room. And that reminds me, I need to text them and go get that today….

Onward and Upward!!!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Want to Save THOUSANDS of $$$ On Your Tiny House Build?

It drives me absolutely NUTS when I read social media posts written by people whining about how tiny houses are sooooo expensive. And, inevitably, the resulting conversation includes harsh comments about tiny house builder’s greed and waste and how fancy tiny houses are “not the point”.

And, while I will fully admit to having a bit of an elitist attitude towards what people refer to as “tiny houses” (a blog post for another day) and will admit that I have seen a $100,000 tiny house that was only 24 feet long and said to myself “What’s the point?”; I will also admit that hearing people complain about how much the movement's popularity (demand) has increased prices sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It's basic math. It's not as if the movers and shakers in the tiny house world are making money hand over fist. On the contrary; for the most part, they're struggling to keep up.

Building a tiny house is a LOT of work!

So, why all the drama?

I think it's because people don't know what it takes to build a tiny house and/or understand the dynamics at play.  

After receiving a message from someone this morning wherein she asked me if I could build My Tiny Perch for cheaper, I have decided to write this article so I can respond to every future question about this subject with the thoughtfulness that it really requires; rather than the brief offhanded responses I often have time for.

Regardless of the size, or how fancy a house is, there are FIVE things that every tiny house (or any house project, for that matter) has in common. They all need space, tools, materials, labor, and supplies. When I was recently in Georgia I gave a speech about this subject but with a slightly different twist.  The gist, however, is that when you embark on a tiny house build you can pick ONLY two of the following; FAST, CHEAP, OR GOOD. 

Bottom Line:
For each attribute of a tiny house build you have the opportunity to save, or spend, money or time; depending on your motivations and goals.

On my first build, My Empty Nest, I spent just shy of $35,000. However, most of the materials came from sponsors in the form of materials. When, for instance, Rheem sponsored me by providing an on demand hot water heater worth $1,200, then $1,200 was applied to the budget.  Just because I didn’t pay cash for it does not mean the value of the product should be left out of the budget, right?

For My Tiny Perch, however, even though I am collecting sponsors again, the materials are more in line with my more moderate budget of only $20,000. For my Empty Nest, I received almost $2,000 worth of recycled, designer, glass tile from Ann Sacks for my last build.  This time, however, I am using no tile at all.  Is that $2,000 saved or $2,000 avoided?  Is there a difference?

So how do you save money on a tiny house and not sacrifice quality?

I have posted a few ideas lately about utilizing a used trailer, windows, and how to save money on labor by using T1-11 as sheathingand siding.  And I am pretty proud of my cost savings efforts.  But people don't necessarily want to read a dozen blog posts to understand this complex issue.

So, here you go.  

Here in a succinct graphic I designed to help get to the crux of the issue:

As you review this graphic, I hope you will notice the pattern;  Fast = Expensive. And so, since time and money create a trade off, so do the decisions.  And, to clarify, the approach I took with My Tiny Perch is highlighted.

Worth Repeating
For each attribute of a tiny house build you have the opportunity to save, or spend, money or time; depending on your motivations and goals.

Just because you want to save money by building it “yourself” does not mean you cannot hire a pro to do the tough stuff.

Just because you don’t have access to all of the tools you will need to build your tiny house, does not mean you need to spend a small fortune buying new ones.

Maybe, consider saving some money on the build space, and splurging on the labor.

Maybe collect materials for a time, then kick start your build schedule by buying some new materials to complete the next phase of your project.

Tiny House builds are as unique as they are complex.  They are as cheap or as expensive as you want them to be.  They are as palatial or as cozy as you design them to be.

It’s all up to you, and nobody else.

And that’s the best part.

Monday, March 27, 2017

How to Save Weight in Your Tiny House Build By Combining Sheathing and Siding

For ease of construction, and where possible, walls are built flat.
Wall #1 was built ON the trailer, sheathed, and raised intact.

As you saw in Framing Part Two, the rest of the walls are raised once framed,
and THEN wrapped.

Mathematically, it's not easy to keep track of the framing calculations needed 
for building from the outside in, 
(as he did with Wall #1)
and building from inside out, 
(as he did with Wall # 2 through Wall #4)

And then just when he was just getting started on sheathing Wall #2, Mark made a mistake.

That mistake meant we had to scrap one entire sheet of siding / sheathing.

So I went and bought another sheet and painted it.

And, I figured that as long as I was painting, I'd get started on painting the fascia.

A front view with already-painted siding that doubles as structural sheathing.

The Rear View.

The Back Wall View - Almost Done!

Here you can see (and this will haunt me forever) that the replacement sheet 
was not from the same mill as the other sheets.   

I'm trying to get over it....

Front and Main Wall View - With Fascia!

(and I decided to add a 3rd coat of yellow to the entire house as well)

Tarped and waiting for a dry day to add the ice and rain shield / roofing underlayment.

After that, interior framing and roofing,
(Roofing will require another dry day which are in very short supply this season)
and trim, and door installation, and electrical, and wiring.......

Thanks again, Mr. Plywood, for your ongoing support of My Tiny Perch!
We LOVE working with such great materials and people!

Framing - Part Two

Wall #1, lookin' good!

It took only one day to get the other 3 walls framed.

And the next day, wall #4 went up and we started on the roof joists.

I love this pic.  
It's so illustrative of the complexities of the framing process.

And, THANK YOU AGAIN! Mr. Plywood, 
for the framing and siding materials we used to creative this lovely "sculpture".

Then, we wrap!

Looking out of the only rear window.

I drilled and screened 56 vent holes that day.
It was sooooo much work!

Thank you, Insulation Solutions, for our house wrap.
It was super easy to install because the rolls were only 36" wide.

Next, the windows were wrapped with flashing tape.
I love that stuff, it's so effective and so easy to use!!

And then we ran out of the black flashing tape.
But then we discovered an equally good but way cheaper flashing tape, 
and used it for the rest of the windows.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Advocacy In Action In April at The Tiny House NC Street Festival

Maybe this makes me sound “old” but here goes…..

There is simply no social media platform that can replace the relationships that are formed by making time for face-to-face contact. Advocacy, in its finest moment, is best expressed in a manner which is both personal and passionate. And in the tiny house movement, you will find nowhere better to make personal and sociological changes, than at a tiny house event.

In a few weeks, I will be headed East across this vast country of ours; to participate in the Tiny House NC Street Festival in Pink Hill North Carolina. And while I have attended more than a few events of its kind, I am particularly excited about this one; Andrew Odom’s brain-child-come-to-life.

Why am I excited about THIS event?

It won’t be held in a far-off field outside of town.

Picture this: A small town FILLED to the brim with tiny houses! Yes, the NC Street Festival will actually be held IN THE STREET!  The vibe that will be created by showing America what “Tiny House America” can actually look like, will be pretty cool. Realizing Andrew’s vision was, however, certainly no small feat; and I for one cannot fathom how many meetings and emails it took to even get the permission to take over this town for an entire weekend.  But the results will, no doubt, be quite impactful. Instead of showing tiny houses, standing alone, connected only by a power cord, the newspaper and local news channels will show a town…a REAL TOWN…with tiny houses incorporated into the landscape.

Pink Hill, NC; Small Town America

Consider what Advocacy in Action can do.

The coffee shop, the restaurant, the grocery store, and likely even the hardware store and pharmacy will be brimming with fun people who think that THIS is how our rural towns should look and feel.  The influx of leaders, and speakers, and builders, and vendors, and sponsors, and journalists, and enthusiasts will leave a lasting impression on all who attend.

Experience is the Best Teacher

After having attended and participated in several tiny house events himself, Andrew’s vision includes many attributes of a well organized community gathering. In addition to the tiny houses themselves and all of the great builders who will be on hand to answer questions, and all of the expert level speakers; (even Dee Williams will be there!) this event has all the little details already ironed out including a traffic management and parking plan, a large selection of product vendors to chat with, several food vendor options, adequate signage, waste recycling, volunteer perks, and a main stage that is centrally located.

Author of "The Big Tiny" - Dee Williams

And That’s Where You’ll Find ME!

“Honored” does not begin to describe how I feel about having been invited to be the Emcee for this event.  While I will fully admit that it will be a busy weekend and a lot of hard work, I am looking forward to adding my personal spin to his vision. Andrew and I have worked the stage together, more than once, and I appreciate his organized yet go-with-the-flow attitude about what can sometimes be, pure chaos.  You won’t find me ONLY on the stage, however.  You’ll also find me roaming the tiny streets, helping where I can, making sure everyone is having fun and knows where to go. I may not be Southern but, rest assured, I can be as hospitable as any Southerner ever was!

If you have not made your plans to attend yet, you should.

If you have not requested time off from work, do it today. 
The event is being held April 21 - 23rd in Pink Hill, North Carolina.

If you have not bought your tickets yet, what’s stopping you!?

And when you get there, don’t forget to find me and say “Hello!”. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Framing Pics - Part One

Hauling 20 foot long jacking studs with a short truck requires a bit of ingenuity.

Once the floor is sheathed, the first wall is framed outside / in, and flat.

To save weight, here is an illustration of the header design we used.

Here we're using hangars instead of cripple studs, also to reduce weight.

An overview of the headers in the first wall.
(Front to Back View)

Wrapped, sills are flashed, and windows installed.
(Back to Front View) 

Next the sheathing / siding is added and it's time to.......

...jack it up!

And up.
(I hate this part, it's so scary to watch; and dangerous to do unless you're a pro like Mark is.)

Wall #1 is DONE!

Break out the Build Day Six Champagne!!

Trailer and Sub-floor Pics

Once upon a time there was a $600 trailer that wanted to grow up to be a tiny house.....

After a long journey from OR to WA, loaded with building materials, 
it was unloaded and ready for demo.

It took us a day to strip the floor and fenders; 680 lbs worth.

After we were done, we were left with a bare frame.
(the wood is there to protect our thighs as we walk past the very sharp ribs on the trailer)

Then we bought some fenders and paid $200 to a guy we found on craigslist, to weld them on. 
He did a GREAT job and added some threaded rod to the front as well.
Then we removed some of the surface rust with a wire brush and re-painted the bare / chipped spots.

Our next challenge was to figure out how to attach the sub-floor to the trailer.
It involved drilling holes and installing over 80, 3/8x4-1/2 long, carriage bolts;
 at every spot where the frame meets the trailer.

Partially Framed.

An areal view of our build site.

The sub-floor frame is complete!

We decided to use 4 inches (over $200) of foam core insulation in the floor 
because it is water and mold resistant.
We did not add an underlayment material (steel or screen or plastic) because we felt it was unneeded.
To start, Mark installed stops using 1x2's he cut from scrap wood.

Once the stops were in, it was pretty easy to cut the insulation to size with a table saw 
(but VERY MESSY) and push it into the open cavities.

Ta Dah!
All Done!