Breaking Ground

Friday, January 10, 2014, 8:50 PM at home in Santa Clara

We finally started building the tiny house today! It was a lot of work. I’m a little bit physically tired, but even more mentally tired. It takes me an incredible amount of thinking and planning to assemble even something simple like the frame of a floor on a trailer.

Here’s who helped today:

  • Dave (loaned me his truck last night)
  • Clyde  (Construction)
  • Leo (Construction)
  • Andrew  (Construction)
  • Sabine (Who was not feeling well but came over anyway for about an hour to watch and provide moral support)
  • Sheila (food)
Crew on Unloaded Trailer

Crew on Unloaded Trailer

Here’s what we accomplished today:

  • Moved the trailer from the RV parking lot to our driveway
  • Unloaded all the lumber and plywood off of the trailer into our garage
  • Set up my new dual bevel 12 inch compound miter saw (this turned out to be a huge help cutting up lumber)
  • Started cutting lumber and made a trip Home Depot
  • Lunch break (El Pollo Loco and brownies provided by Sheila)
  • Cut up and nailed together the rest of the 2 x 4 lumber required for the floor
  • Returned my friend Dave’s truck

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it was a big effort to build just the floor frame today. Even with four of us working together, we still didn’t finish until it was just getting dark at 5:30 PM. When we started this morning, we all thought we would probably not only build the frame, but install the flashing on the bottom, the insulation in the middle and the plywood on top as well. But of course, everything takes longer than you think it will. Frankly, I’m really happy with what we got done. It feels great to say that we have finally started building!

Building the Floor Frame

Building the Floor Frame

Problems we ran into today:

  • Discovering that our trailer was not exactly square. Luckily, we discovered this early and eventually convinced ourselves that we would be able to rack the floor frame to make it square even if the trailer underneath was not completely square (I sure hope we are right about that).
  • Starting to build the interior frame between the wheel wells and having a neighbor with some construction experience come over and strongly advise that we build with treated wood instead of untreated wood. The plans only called for treated wood around the perimeter of the frame, not in the interior. However, after we all thought about it, we decided using treated wood everywhere couldn’t hurt (we ended up being totally wrong about this – see Stick to the Plans! for more info). That resulted in me and Leo making a quick trip to Home Depot to exchange about 15 pieces of lumber while Clyde and Andrew kept working.
  • Discovering that the wheel wells were not the same length on each side (The front of the wheel wells were the same distance from the front of the trailer but the back of the left wheel well was 1 inch closer to the back of the trailer than the right wheel well). We really should have checked this in advance. Luckily, the offset only ended up affecting the one piece of wood behind the left wheel well (requiring it to be shorter, not longer) and we noticed it early enough that it did not impact anything else.

Today’s Epiphanies:

  • A compound miter saw is a great way to cut up wood. I had thought we would cut all of the two by fours one at a time with a circular saw, but that would have taken way too long. The miter saw produced very clean cuts exceptionally quickly. I was even able to stack as many as three two by fours together and cut them all in one swipe. One line, one cut, three identically sized pieces. Awesome!
  • If you need a bunch of pieces of wood to be the same length (which is frequently required when building floors and walls), make one template and cut all of the pieces of wood at the same time.  Then line them up and make sure they really are the same length.  I wish I had done this when I was building the floor.  Instead, we cut them all individually as we needed them and as a result ended up with pieces that were sometimes up to 1/4 inch longer than the others.  This resulted in the final floor being a little bit bowed out in the middle (see Insulating and Flashing the Floor for more Detail).
Finished Floor Frame

Finished Floor Frame

Next up:

Installing the insulation in the floor.

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