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Tiny House Building Update

It has been a while since I updated you all on the tiny house, I’ve been spending all my free time building and getting the tiny house ready for the Tiny House Conference coming up very soon.  Right now I’m spending my time insulating the house, squaring away some of the plumbing and wiring.

Wiring:

I had the tiny house roughed in  (running wires, installing boxes, grounding) for electrical a while ago, but since then I decided I wanted a few more wire.  The two biggest additions I made was I wired for some outdoor speakers I wanted to add to my house and then I ran Ethernet cables for internet.

When I added these it was tricky because adding these wires you want to try to avoid your electrical lines the best you can.  Ideally you won’t have your Ethernet cable within 18 inches of your power lines and if you do have to cross them, you do so at a right angle.  The reason why is that the electromagnetic fields of the wires are essential to how the ethernet cables work to transmit the data for your internet connection.

When it comes to achieving this spacing it is pretty tricky because in a tiny house the walls there isn’t that much space to achieve this.  The other consideration when running wires is that the longer you run, the more the signal degrades.  In this case even if though I had to run the wires in a bit of a round about way, it wasn’t too far.  For Ethernet cables at about 1000′ the signal degrades and for speaker wire under 50′ you can use 16 gauge wire, over 50′ 14 gauge is recommended.

Insulating:

Initially I was going to use foam board, but after using in the floors I found that I wasn’t able to pack in enough of the foam board as I thought.  The floor framing cavity was 3.5″ deep, but I was only able to fit about 3″ of foam with the brackets, air pockets etc.  So for the walls I decided to go with standard fiberglass batts that were kraft paper backed.  This allowed me to use the full space because it could compress where there was things in the way.  It also meant that I could very quickly insulate the walls when compared to the rigid board insulation.

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Now I know many people are going to ask, so I’ll explain why I choose Fiberglass and Foam over other options.  My first choice was to get spray foam insulation, which has the highest R value of the common insulation for houses.  So I called around for quotes and for some reason to get this done in my area is more expensive than in other cities.  The lowest quote I got for my tiny house was $3400!  So that was out.

Next I considered sheeps wool, but at the time they didn’t have it in batts (combined into a thick sheet that fits in the wall framing) at the time I started building my house.  At the time it was just loose fill and everyone I spoke to it was a pain to fill into the wall cavities.  Wool is also about R-5 less than foam.  So while fiberglass isn’t great, I felt for me it was the right choice in terms of price, R value, and easy of installation.  The wool insulation was going to cost me close to $700 while the fiberglass insulation cost me $300.

Installing The Shower Drain:

When it came to putting a hole in the floor of my tiny house, I was pretty nervous about it.  One thing that I knew going into the build from day one was that I might go to put the hole for the drain, only to find that a metal support for the trailer was in the way; Talk about a potential nightmare!

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Well low and behold, the drain did in fact need to go where a 5″ metal beam was under the trailer.   It took some work to figure how the drain location on the inside, translated to the bottom of the trailer because you can’t really measure from the same point when you’re under the trailer.  Once I measured it out my nightmare became real life as I stared at the beam that stood in the way of the drain.  So off the the hardware store I went with some photos on my phone in order to find a solution.

After 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle I discovered something called an “off set drain”  which is pictured above.  This basically gave me the few inches I needed to miss the beam entirely and solved my problem.  With that set I picked up a hole saw to cut the correct size hole and I could move forward again.

Here are some photos of the house right now:

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Tiny Tack House

Science Friday did an awesome video about Christopher and Malissa Tack and their tiny house.  What I really like about this video is that they show a lot of the details of the power, water, and greywater.  It was a great to see some of the house, how they live and some of the things not often covered elsewhere.

Malissa and Christopher are coming to the Tiny House Conference.  Christopher will be our photographer and Malissa will be presenting about organizing small spaces in a tiny house.  Check out the video and see how amazing their tiny home is.  Meet them and many others at the Tiny House Conference; more info here

Photos courtesy of Christopher Tack tackphoto.com

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Tiny House Wood Panel Walls

I am beginning to move into the inside of my tiny house, to insulate and to put up the pine paneling.  A little bit ago I put up some of the pine paneling on the interior wall for what will become the back of the closet.  I had wanted to get back to the tiny house to keep putting up the walls, but some work pulled me away and then it rained, a lot.

The result was the wood paneling swelled up as it absorbed the moisture in the air.  Before anyone ask, yes I did have the wood sitting out in the space to normalize, but with so much rain and the house not being climate controlled yet, the moisture did its damage.  This also happened before I could seal the panels, so that didn’t help either.

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You can see the wood had swelled so much that it tore itself free from the nails and bowed out majorly.

I guess the value of my mistake is to prevent this from happening to others.  I just did a little wall when this happened.  Imagine if this were to happen when someone just finished the entire inside!  So how do I plan to prevent this from happening again?

  1. I’m going to make a concerted effort once I start to not stop until I’m mostly done with the main wall panelings.
  2. I’m going to choose a week where the weather should have a pretty even moisture level in the air
  3. As soon as I get the wall paneling up, I’m going to start sealing it right away.  I’ll be trying Tung Oil
  4. I built a insulated temporary door which has weather stripping on it

The temporary door I built is pretty overbuilt honestly, but I figured if I was going to have a temporary door, I might as well do it right and honestly it only took me an hour.  Now if I was building a tiny house inside or if the weather where I lived was even keeled, then this wouldn’t be an issue.  In the past week here in Charlotte it has been dry-ish and 73 degrees and then three days later we had snow where it was 20 degrees.  Its a nightmare for this type of stuff.

For the door I made a frame that fit inside my door frame and then attached a cheap piece of OSB board.  The 2×4’s were $2.30 each (3) the OSB was $7 (1)  Insulation was about $7 worth from a larger pack I’ll be using for the walls.   So $20.90 for the door total.

Now many of you might be asking why I don’t just put on my regular door right now.  The reason for this temporary door is that I decided to put the floor in near the very end of the build so I don’t scratch it.  Since I decided that, I’m still feeling out what the actual final height of floor will be, I don’t know exactly know how low the door must hang.  The door is made, but I want to put the floor in, add the threshold, then adjust the door height and hang it.

Here is the temporary door I made:

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photo 2In the above photo you’ll notice that the OSB actually extends beyond the frame, this was intentional.  I push this into the door frame and the extra OSB gives me a lip and something to mount the weather stripping to.

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On the bottom of the temporary door I had the OSB go flush so that when I move it around the brunt of the force is on the 2×4’s and not on the OSB.  This is  because OSB is pretty fragile and it can break down.

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Have A Tiny House Question?

Have a tiny house question that you’ve been dying to get answered?

I have setup a new page that lets you do just that, ask your questions!

You’ll need a microphone on your computer, because we are taking the audio of our readers asking their questions and then answering them in a videos to come!  It works almost like leaving me a voice-mail, but its through the computer.

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You can check it out and ask your questions here: http://thetinylife.com/ask-the-tiny-life

 

 

Tiny Houses In Cities

One questions that comes up a fair bit about tiny houses is what about tiny houses in cities?  Its a good question because currently over half of the world’s population lives in a city and we only expect that number to grow.  For the most part, tiny houses have existed in smaller towns, on the edge of a city or in rural locations.  But the truth is there are a lot of city dwellers that want to live tiny.

My go to response to the question about tiny houses in citiesimgpreview-2 is that we can still have tiny houses in the city, but most likely what we will do is take the design principals of tiny houses and then apply the to the design of apartments.  Essentially taking tiny houses and stacking them.  It is important to make sure that we don’t loose sight of our focus on design, make sure there is a strong connection with the outside, and to develop green spaces and public places for us to enjoy.

I think the biggest challenge of adapting tiny houses to a city is ensuring there is enough  natural light.  And I don’t mean window that only opens to a light shaft in the center of a building, at worst it would open to a open space within a building that is build around a large courtyard.  Having visited NYC several times, I couldn’t imagine living in a place where your only window was a mere few feet from a solid brick wall.  Honestly, I feel like humans should live like that; I feel like there should be at least one large window that allows your sight to extend a few thousand feet.

lifeedited-apartmentWhile I do technically live in a city – Charlotte, NC – its a very different kind of city.  You can easily pickup an acre lot here, go 20 minutes outside the city and you can get 10 acre lots.  There is a lot of woods still here and nature isn’t too far.  For me personally I just need to see lots of greens and browns, to have that connection with nature.  Something just clicks with me when I’m outside in the woods.

I say all this to point out that however we meet the needs of urban density and however we implement tiny houses in a city, we need to make sure there is  good connection with green spaces.  It is very important in tiny living because you really do need to extend your living space to the outdoor world, which means we need quality places to go to.

What got me thinking about all of this is an interesting project out of the school of Savannah College of Art and Design.  They posed an interesting question: as we transition to more public transportation, walkable cities and biking, what do we do with the vestiges of parking decks?scadpad-rendering

There response was to create modular units that could create housing out of parking decks.  At first it seems odd, but I realized the potential and some of the drawings are pretty neat!

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