Archive for the Ryan’s Tiny House Category

Framing My Tiny House

Framing My Tiny House

Framing your tiny house is a really exciting time in your building process. When you tip that wall up for the first time the change is dramatic, the next wall goes up, then the rest and before you know it your home has a form. It’s an inspiring time in building your home, so here are some of the details on how to frame a tiny house.

how to frame a tiny house on wheels

Framing your tiny house is an important step because it’s the bones of your home on wheels. Don’t rush through this and make sure your walls are all straight, square and plumb before starting. Before you even start building you first wall, make sure your base is level, taking your time to level the trailer will go a long way to making sure your walls will be straight.

Marking Your Top Plate & Bottom Plate:

In this video, I get into how to lay out all my studs on the top and bottom plate. It’s important to do this planning to make sure your walls are straight and well laid out.

Building Your Tiny House Wall:

Once we’ve cut our studs to the right length and measured out all locations on your top and bottom plates, it’s time to start actually framing up the wall. We use ring shank nails and some screws to make this happen, check out this video for the details on how to build a wall for a tiny house:

Raising Your Tiny House Walls:

When you frame your tiny house, I find it best to lay the wall down on the trailer and use the flat bed of the floor to keep everything straight while you frame. From there you’ll need to raise the walls up onto the edge of the trailer and then lift it up and drop it on top of your anchor bolts. I had help from my father and brother to lift the walls into their place, with three people it was easy and went up fast!

Tiny House wall framed on trailer

how to frame a tiny house on a trailer

Lifting a framed wall on my tiny house

 

Framing Over Your Fender

The fender of your trailer is a tricky spot because it’s a large span and can be a major area where water and bugs can get in. Below you can see how I did it on my tiny house. If I were to do it all over again, I’d make that board spanning over the wheel well a header. Framing it with two 2×4’s with a 1/2 inch piece of plywood sandwiched between them. You want to leave an air gap so that water can get out if it does work its way in.

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Roof Framing For A Tiny House:

Framing the roof of my tiny house was the hardest part of the whole build in my mind. Being up high plus compound angles make it complicated. There is a fair bit of math involved and even pros have to take a second to think about it when you get to framing any complex dormers or bump-outs. The big trick here is taking your time and build a template for your roof rafters.

Cutting your rafters requires you to make “birds mouths” which are notches that will rest on top of the wall’s top plate. This is a complicated cut because you need to get the angles, position, and size of the cut perfect. Use a speed square (which you should own at least one!) to make these cuts.

birds mouth for froming a roof on a tiny house

Advanced Framing For Tiny Houses:

This is a technique that uses materials more efficiently and reduces weight, while still providing reasonable structure. Instead of your normal 16 inches on center, you’ll frame your walls 24 inches on center.

advanced vs traditional framing

Advanced Framing Vs Traditional Framing:

ADVANCED FRAMING

  • Studs are placed 24” on center
  • 2×6 studs used
  • Header hangers
  • Headers are insulated
  • Single stud for rough opening
  • No cripple studs for windows
  • Corners have just two studs
  • Single top plate

TRADITIONAL FRAMING

  • Studs are placed 16” on center
  • 2×4 studs used
  • Create headers with two boards
  • Headers um-insulated
  • Double up at windows
  • Cripple board under the window
  • Corners have four studs
  • Double top plate

Framing Your Loft In A Tiny House

When it comes to the loft you want to make sure it’s sturdy, getting your loft framing is critical for a few reasons. First, you want to make sure it can support you, a mattress and anything else that might be kept in the loft area of your tiny house. The loft rafters also act like collar ties in some ways, preventing the roof from pushing out and collapsing in on itself.

The below video is about framing the roof, but you can see how I did my loft framing with 4×4 fir beams.

Tiny House Sub Floor Framing

The subfloor is the base of your framing, which will eventually sit right underneath your actual finished floors, but until you trim out your house it will be kept a raw floor. You want to frame your floor like you would a wall, doing 16 inches on center, but instead of sheathing, you want to use tongue and groove subfloor decking. Make sure that you glue and screw your subfloor decking to each stud to prevent squeaks later on.

 

A detailed guide on how to build your own tiny house using any set of plans or your own design. Learn what tools you’ll need, make the right choice with critical decisions, and understand key building techniques.

 


Wall Framing For A Tiny House FAQ

 

Can I frame my tiny house with aluminum framing?

Absolutely! Steel or aluminum framing are all viable options if you’ve done the engineering right. Metal framing is very strong but can flex and twist a bit more than wood would, especially if done incorrectly. Your go-to source for this type of framing is a company called Volstruckt, which does on-demand steel frames for tiny houses.

What about 2×2 wall framing for a tiny house?

For interior, non-load bearing walls you can absolutely go with 2×2 walls if you’re not running any electrical through it. It may get caught by an inspector for a code violation, so check your local building codes. Outside of interior and non-load bearing, you need to use at least 2×4 studs for your walls.

How Thick are tiny house walls?

Tiny House walls are about 4.75 inches thick. This includes your interior cladding (1/4″ thick), your wall framing filled with insulation (3.5″ thick), your sheathing (1/2″ thick), and your outer siding (typically 1/2″ +/- depending on your siding).

How Much Does Framing A Tiny House Cost?

A typical tiny house that’s 8 feet wide by 20 feet long will cost $300-$800 to frame. That is for only studs and fasteners. Sheathing will add around $800-$1,000 to that. Windows can run anywhere from $60 each to several hundred. Doors typically go from $300-$2,000.

What about house wrap?

My best advice is to look around your city and see what other builders are doing when it comes to house wraps and vapor barriers. These things are very climate specific, so tap into that local knowledge. I’m a huge fan of skipping the house wrap and using zip panels by Huber instead: they’re cheaper, more durable and don’t blow off in the wind.

My walls aren’t straight or square, how do I fix it?

First know that there is no wall that is 100% square, straight and plumb. We want to get as close as possible. First, make sure your trailer is actually level, just because it was a few days ago, doesn’t mean it still is. From there get a 6-foot level and look at your corners and how the stand. Then take a large carpenters square or laser level and check how square the wall are to themselves. Finally, fix them with ratchet straps, figure out which way you need to pull and use the straps to pull the wall into square.

 

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How to have guests in a tiny house

I remember the first time I told my mother about wanting to build a tiny house. After some back and forth about it all, she asked “Where am I going to stay when I visit you!?”

It was a good question and many people have the same question when it comes to living in a small space.  The simplest answer is they don’t stay, you can offer to get them a hotel room and then meet to spend time together.  But some of us want to have folks over.

So here is my guide to how to have guests in a tiny house (or small space):

First thing is I have opted for a cot, which I have measured and at a length of 75 inches, fits perfectly between the end of my counter and the sofa.  I don’t set this up until it’s time for bed because in a tiny house it takes up a lot of room.

You need to consider how you and them are going to get in and out of bed.  For those with a loft, you need to make sure you have room for the ladder and space to climb up and down.  In my tiny house this fit just barley.  Tight tolerances here people!

From there I use a comforter and pillow to dress it up.  I folded it in half so that they could open it like a book and climb in.  If you’ve never slept in a cot, you need some insulation below you because the cool air below will leave you feeling very cold.  A pillow tops the whole thing off.

Next thing you need to deal with is toilet orientation.  People don’t know how to use a composting toilet so you need to give some guidance ahead of time.  Basically you do your thing in the bucket and then cover with wood chips, just enough so you can’t see anything left behind.  For men and women, if you can pee outside (see nearby tree lol) of the toilet that’s the best.  Mixing liquids and solids isn’t the best, but a little won’t hurt.

I have opted for tissues over standard TP because it can sit on the ground anywhere without need of a hanger and I found this perfect box to hold it.  Just make sure you close it up tight after you’re done, we don’t want soggy TP!

I found this Kingston’s Charcoal bin that works really well for wood chips, or whatever we are using at the time.  Other popular options are coconut coir, peat moss, saw dust etc.

Make sure people know where to find a head lamp so they can find the toilet or tree at night and I have hand sanitizer on hand when you are all done.

Meals are often done by going out for dinner or lunch, but if the weather is really nice, we could have a picnic or sit at the picnic table or fire pit.

Showers are fairly standard, but you might find some interesting soap options in the shower because I use all grey water safe products.

There isn’t a sink in the bathroom so you use the sink in the kitchen. There is also a mirror there for your use.

 

That’s about it!  The rest is pretty standard, but I know many people wondered how that all works in a small space.

Your Turn!

  • How are you going to accommodate guests?

Three Years In My Tiny House!

I can’t believe that it has been three whole years since I first moved into my tiny house full time!  Life has flown by and so much has changed.  Let’s start with where I was three years ago and where I am now…

Where I Was

About four years ago I was still working full time at a job I didn’t love.  I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay.  Knowing that I was about to make the move into my tiny house, I took a chance, I left that job and went on to do my own thing, making the leap to self employment.

first dinner in my tiny house

It was kinda scary, but I had a lot of things to get done so I just buried myself into the work to the point that I didn’t have time to worry about it.  I moved out of my apartment and into my tiny house and my new life began.  It was odd in a way, I remember sitting in my chair and feeling very much at home.

One thing that I learned is that it is better to have your house 100% finished before you move in, I had several things I needed to get done and honestly it was years before I finished it all.

 

Where I Am Now

Today I’m still working on my own, having built two companies and sold one of them very recently.  During my tiny house journey I’ve landed two book deals, writing the number one selling tiny house book to date!

I’ve traveled to many countries: Croatia, Hungry, Bosnia, Belgium, France, and a few others.  I also have been able to take some extended trips here in the US: Pacific North West for 2 weeks, New England for 2 weeks, twice went to Portland for 6 weeks, St. Louis, New York, Grand Canyon and spent several weeks at the beach.

I’ve also had a chance to spend more time with my family and friends.  It’s been really nice to take time when friends or family have the odd day off.  My sister is a teacher, so its great to spend time when she has random vacation days.  I can take extra time to go see my brother or go spend time with my parents on a random Friday.

friends and free time

The funny thing about working on your own and living the tiny life is you have a lot of free time, but most people have normal schedules and spend a lot of time at their job.  The irony of it all is I end up keeping a semi normal social schedule because that’s when everyone else is free to hang out.

Some other ways that my life has improved is that I get to have a solid night’s sleep almost every day, between 8 and 9 hours.  Despite not having to be anywhere at any time, I still set my alarm to wake up at 9:30 am, I get up, shower, shave, get dressed and make breakfast.

There is something very important about that ritual, it helps me not laze around the house.  I will go somewhere to work: one of my favorite coffee shops, a coworking space, or other place to get my work done.  I do my work until I am done for the day; sometimes its a full day’s work, sometimes it’s 45 minutes of work.  After that I try to get out and do something.  Often I go for a walk, get groceries for that night’s dinner, or work on a fun project or hobby.

Lessons Learn

I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I like and what I need.  Below is a random stream of consciousness of things learned over my three years.

If it’s something you are going to use daily, don’t skimp, splurge.  Great examples are my sink, my stove, my pans, my couch, and my mattress.  For example, when I choose my stove, I was shocked to find the one I liked was close to $500 for a two burner, but now I’m so thankful that I spent that money.  My sink was $250 plus $200 for the faucet, they are super well built and work perfectly in the space.

Don’t park your tiny house near trees, I’ve had many trees almost hit my tiny house, if I could do it all over again I’d clear the trees before my house was brought in so if any fell, they couldn’t reach my house.

Spend the money on a cement pad to set the house up on.  Make it 2 feet bigger than you need it in both directions. Make sure it’s perfectly level and getting your house on blocks will be much easier and much safer.

When you’re leveling your house, spend the money to buy treated 2×12 boards, cut them into 12″ x 12″ squares, have at least 30 on hand to level your house.  Again, much safer.

tiny house solar panelsOn your solar panel system, figure out what you think you need and then oversize the system by at least 30%.  Make sure your system can scale several times its current size.  Also make sure you can put in a propane/natural gas generator that has auto start and an inverter that supports it.

Always keep 1 year’s worth of propane on hand.  Have both 20lb tanks and a dozen 1 lb tanks.

Have a back up for everything: a shower, cook top, generator, batter powered lantern and head lamps, Mr. Buddy Heater and a battery powered fan.  I talk about off grid living misconceptions here.

Make plans in your house to have a serious pantry.  I thought I had enough space, but I really didn’t until I added something in my bathroom.  I’d suggest a space that’s at least 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep and 6 feet tall for all your food items, toiletries, and other household stuff.

Having your toilet outside is great, there is rarely a time I’ve wished it was inside.  The lug-able loo toilet seat is great and for $12, well worth the money.

When it comes to flooring, hire someone that does it professionally.  It’s back breaking work and they will do a much better job, much quicker and it’s money worth spending.

Tile totally works in a tiny house, I love my bathroom floor.

Standing seam metal roofs are amazing.  They look great, they are bomb proof and I wouldn’t do it any other way.  This is another place to hire someone.

 

That’s all I have for now!

Your Turn!

  • What life changes do you want to make when you go tiny?

 

My New On Demand Hot Water Heater

So last week I talked about how I was ditching the RV-500 from Precision Temp and moving to a whole new system.  Today I thought I’d share a bit about what I decided to go with instead.

After looking around I had narrowed my options to a propane outdoor on demand hot water heater.  This did a few things for me:

  • It allowed me to regain my under skin storage space
  • Choosing an outdoor version keeps venting very simple, indoor versions require bulky venting
  • I almost tripled my BTU’s from 55k to 150k that meant I could have hot showers on very cold days

There were two major downsides to this option however.  The first was that I was going to have to redo most of my plumbing and gas lines, that meant that it would most likely require a plumber (I don’t like messing with gas lines), which is expensive.  Having to hire a plumber isn’t too bad, but the next downside was the real kicker.  Because the unit was going to be outdoors, if it drops below 32 degrees, most units have a heater.  Heaters are great, because they keep it from freezing, but it’s not great for off grid solar setups.

Winter is a challenging time for solar because the sun is a lower angle, plus its often overcast on many days.  Heating also takes up around 20% more power than cooling, so there are times I need to break out the generator.

What sealed the deal for me was when I talked with one plumber that Rinnai (a tankless manufacturer) had a power failure dump valve kit they could add on.  Basically what this is two solenoid valves that would close the feed line and open a drain valve to drain the water out of the unit.

This meant that if I knew it was going to freeze that night, I could flip a switch to drain the whole unit after I finished cooking for the evening.  If for some reason I forgot or was away, if the power went out, it would automatically drain since the heater couldn’t keep it warm enough.

In total, the unit, the solen0id kit, installation, other parts, and removal of the old water heater came to $2900, which is a lot of money, but after I saw how much work they put into it and how complex the additional solenoid kit install was, I think it was money well spent.  I believe it also meets requirements for a 30% federal tax credit, which is $860 off what I will owe to the IRS.

Initial Impressions:

The unit I got was the Rinnai V53e, which is their value line.  It’s frankly more than I need in terms of capacity, but it’s the smallest in the line.  So far I’m very happy with the unit.  I’ve been using it for 3 weeks now and the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I can take very hot showers, even when it’s very cold out.  Just today it was in the high 20’s and the water was hot enough I had to turn it down a fair bit.  With the RV-500, at temperatures like today, I’d be taking a cold shower even when it was working full steam.

The unit’s pump and vent make more noise that I expected, but it’s not too loud.  In a normal sized house I doubt you’d hear it.  For me it’s mounted on the other side of the wall from my shower so you hear it’s thrumming.

The biggest win is that I get my under sink storage back and the dump valve kit is amazing.  If I’m worried about the heater unit wearing down my batteries.  I just flip a switch and the water is instantly dumped on the ground, problem solved.

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you plan to heat water in your tiny house?