Exterior Trim

Trim on the Gothic Window

Trim Installed on the Gothic Window

Exterior Trim

This is a rather technical blog entry dedicated to the trim that goes on the exterior of the tiny house, around the windows and on the corners of the building. The plans specify using cedar or redwood for this trim which is important because both kinds of wood provide good exterior durability, resisting mold, insects and decay. It would not be a smart idea to use the same kind of Douglas Fir two by fours used for interior framing on the exterior of the house. Whether to use cedar or redwood is a personal preference. I made the choice to use western red cedar for all of my exterior wood, both my trim and my siding. I could have used redwood, but I liked the look of the cedar better.

You probably won’t find cedar or redwood two by fours at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and if you did, it might not be the best quality. I recommend going to your local lumberyard. I purchased all of my cedar from Pine Cone Lumber in Sunnyvale. The stuff is not cheap. The cedar two by fours cost about $1.70 per linear foot. That’s about $15.00 for an 8 foot two by four. However, like I said before, this wood provides excellent exterior durability. It also looks great once it is finished with a nice stain, something I will also talk about in this blog entry.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The top thing on my list today was to go to the hardware store to purchase the stain and fasteners I needed to install my cedar siding. I often find the hardware store a bit draining and today was no exception. I have gotten some mixed information about proper methods for staining the siding on my tiny house and it was hard for me to resolve all the advice I got and options I was given into something that I was comfortable actually doing. I’m still not sure exactly how I’m going to go about installing the siding and that bothers me because I really wanted to get started on that this weekend. I also had trouble finding all the hardware I needed. My trip to Home Depot was pretty disappointing. I couldn’t find enough of the 2 1/4 inch stainless steel screws or any of the 3 inch stainless steel screws that I needed. To make matters worse, the people I asked for help in the store gave me all kinds of incorrect information. One guy even tried to tell me I could use interior dry wall screws to attach my siding! When I got home, I spent some time online looking for screws. I found them at Amazon but was shocked to discover that I would have to wait two months to have it delivered! Trying to figure out how to put my house together and trying to find the hardware I need to do it is always exhausting.

Note: Sheila eventually found my screws – see my entry on September 21 below

As I mentioned above, I received some conflicting information on how to apply the stain to the siding. The people at Tumbleweed told me that you can install the siding and then paint the stain over only the front of the siding after installation. However, I visited three local hardware stores and all three said it was important to stain both the front and back sides of each piece of siding. Doing so protects the back of the siding from mildew and mold should any water ever get behind the siding. It will take some time to stain each piece of siding individually, but I think it will be a worthwhile investment. My cedar siding was not cheap and I think it’s worth doing whatever is necessary to protect and preserve it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This afternoon, I drove to a hardware store I had never been to (Bruce Bauer Lumber in Palo Alto) before to pick up some stain for my siding. When I got home, I spent another hour or so painting a few different pieces of wood with different stain samples I had gotten from the hardware store to see how it would turn out. In the end, I decided I was most happy with the Penofin Ultra Transparent Western Red Cedar. The Penofin is a high quality stain made from Brazilian rosewood oil. At $50 per gallon, it’s twice as expensive as the Behr premium stains sold at Home Depot. However, it gets good reviews and I think it will do a much better job of preserving and sealing my nice cedar siding.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today, Sheila finally found the 3 inch stainless steel screws that I need to attach my window trim at Screw Solutions. At $105.00 for 5 pounds, they weren’t cheap. However, they look like they’re very high quality. One thing they have I have never seen before is a knurl just above the threads. This knurl helps to bore a hole in the wood as the screw is being driven in which makes it substantially less likely for the screw to split the wood. Given how expensive cedar is and how much time and effort it will take to cut it into the right size for the trim, paying a little extra to make sure I don’t split the wood seems like a good investment.

Here’s what we ordered:

SSTH-09300-5 – 9 x 3-inch Trim head Silver Star Drive Stainless Steel Wood Screws / 465 ct 5lb Jar $104.48 X 1

Tuesday Morning, September 23, 2014

I had a rough day yesterday and a rough night last night as a result. I spent the day cutting up window trim for the tiny house, but it did not go entirely well. I ended up cutting 16 pieces of wood for the sides of the windows about one quarter of an inch too short. The mistake I made was to cut the pieces of wood exactly the height of the windows plus 1/8 inch. I thought this would leave me some margin extra in case I made a mistake, but 1/8 inch is not very much. What I forgot about was the fact that the bottom piece of trim, the peace that goes under the window sill, slopes down by 12° to provide a way for the water to run off. Over the course of this 12°, it wood slopes down 0.3 inches over the width of the 1.5 inch wide two by four that makes up the side trim. As a result, my side trim really needs to be about ¼ inch longer than it is.

I discovered my error at about 3:00 PM and I have been upset about it ever since. I have been trying to come up with some way to recover from my mistake without having to buy $90 worth of cedar lumber to cut all of those pieces over again. It’s all I thought about last evening and it’s all I thought about last night.

I’m actually surprised I did not make a more errors cutting up the window trim. The window trim is probably the most complicated thing I have done so far simply because it involves all kinds of angled cuts.

Because cutting the window trim is so complicated, I highly recommend cutting out a complete set of trim for a single window out of scraps of wood or inexpensive Douglas fir lumber, especially if you don’t have a lot of prior woodworking experience. This will help you understand how to make all of the cuts and will also ensure that you cut all the pieces to the right size so that they all come together nicely around the window. Don’t be like me and cut into your expensive cedar or redwood lumber before you’re sure you know what you’re doing.

Here’s the general process for creating the window trim:

The bottom piece of trim is created by ripping a two by four down the middle at a 12° angle. This is done on a table saw. It’s a little bit tricky to get this right and unless you have made angled cuts on a table saw before, I recommend practicing on a scrap of wood before cutting into one of your nice pieces of cedar or redwood. Once you rip the two by four, you will end up with a two identical pieces which can both be cut to length. I cut each piece of 8 inches longer than the width of the bottom of the window. This allows the piece to stick out about ½ inch past the edge of the 3 ½ inch wide side trim which gives the trim some character. If you are uncomfortable ripping an entire 8 foot two by four at one time, you can also cut the boards to length first and then rip them and half at the 12° angle. Just remember that each time you rip a board, you end up with two boards of identical length which works great if you have an even number of each kind of window.

Ripping at 12 Degrees

Ripping a Cedar 2×4 at 12 Degrees

2 for 1 Bottom Plates

2 for 1 Bottom Plates

The side pieces are also made out of two by fours. The top edge is cut at a 90° angle and the bottom edge is cut at a 12° angle so that it sits flush on top of the bottom piece of trim. After that, it is necessary shave away a slot on the back, inside edge of the trim so that the trim sits nicely on top of the window fin. This is a difficult cut to make. It is done on a table saw. Set the blade height to about 2 inches and set the guide to just under 1½ inches such that you shave just the width of the saw blade off the side of the wood. Turn the block of wood on its side and use a push stick to push it all the way through. It is not possible to do this without removing the blade guard, so be extremely careful. Make sure you cut off the correct part of the wood. Strip away the part that is on the underside, closest to the window.

Side Trim with Slot For Window Fin

Side Trim with Slot For Window Fin

The top piece of trim is the most complicated. It is also made from a two by four. Like the bottom, the top piece is cut 8 inches longer than the width of the window. When cutting to length, the cuts are made at a 90° angle. Like the side pieces, the top piece also needs a slot cut out to make room for the window fin. This slot is cut much like the slot for the side pieces. However, the slot starts and ends about 1 inch from the end of the board. That means that instead of pushing the piece of wood all away through the table saw, you need to stand it on its side and lower it onto the blade 1 inch from the end and then push it through until the blade gets within 1 inch of the other end. It’s a complicated and slightly dangerous cut. It is not for the faint of heart. When all of this is done, run the whole piece through the table saw again, cutting a 12° angle off the top side that such that the piece slopes down, again allowing water to run off.

Starting Slot Cut in Top Trim

Starting Slot Cut in Top Trim

Continuing Slot Cut in Top Trim

Continuing Slot Cut in Top Trim

Top Piece with Slot For Nail Fin

Top Piece with Slot For Nail Fin

Wednesday Morning, September 24, 2014

I had a better day yesterday. By the time I left for work in the morning, I had a pretty good idea how to fix the pieces of window trim that I had cut too short the day before. My final solution was to cut a notch in the top of the bottom piece of trim so that the bottom piece fits around the bottom of the window. Doing so lives up the bottom piece by about ¼ inch which is almost exactly the amount that I cut my side piece is too short.

When I got home from work, I tried out my new solution on a scrap piece of wood and it worked. My solution involved more than a little bit of work, but I think what I came up with looks even better than the original design.

Using a jig and a circular saw to cut the slot

Using a jig and a circular saw to cut the slot

Finishing the cut with a jig saw

Finishing the cut with a jig saw

Final piece

Completed Slot

Bottom Plate Installed

Bottom Plate Installed (12 deg cut goes against the wall)

This experience has been a good lesson for me that when you’re really upset about something, it’s generally good to put it down and come back to it. Often, with a little bit of time, the right answer will just present itself.

Wednesday Evening, September 24, 2014

I had a fairly productive and long day working on the tiny house yesterday. I finished cutting up almost all of the exterior window trim, including the trim for the Gothic window above the front door which was quite challenging. It was difficult to figure out all the angles and cut the pieces so they would all come together. However, I think I got it. I also went over to Home Depot at the end of the afternoon yesterday to check out the metal roofing material I had ordered online which arrived this week. I will blog about the roofing material more in a separate entry. There’s one piece of metal roofing that got torn in the middle. However, I have to cut one piece up for the porch roof, so I’m guessing I will be able to work around it. I also purchased some odds and ends like a sheet of plywood to make the porch roof and a small can of paint to paint the ridge cap the same color as the roofing panels (for some reason, the ridge cap was not available on the same color as the panels I ordered). Home Depot will deliver all of that stuff to my house tomorrow. When I got home from Home Depot, I considered working a little bit more on the trim boards but instead decided to go upstairs and work on my blog. I spent a little over an hour cobbling together various journal entries from the past week of installing windows, dropping them into a blog entry and adding photos. By the time I finally took a break to eat dinner, it was nearly 8:00 PM.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It’s raining this morning. It hasn’t rained here in California for months and months. The first thing I did when I got up this morning was to go outside into the tiny house to see how it was doing. I was delighted to discover that there was not a single leak or wet spot anywhere inside the house. I’m glad we took time to put the roofing paper on last weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2014

We had a productive day on the tiny house today. Andrew and Sabine both came over to help which was great. I haven’t had people come over to help me on the house for a full day in months. Extra hands make the work a much faster.

It’s amazing how much work is required simply to install window trim. It takes a lot of time to stain all the individual trim pieces. There are nine windows in the house and each window has four pieces of trim so that’s 36 different boards that needed to be sanded, stained, left to dry for 30 minutes and then wiped off. We didn’t even spend very much time standing. I was not particular about it. I was just trying to remove any obvious defects, scratches or stains. I’m so grateful to Sabine for doing most of that work. Sabine finished the staining at about 1:00 PM. After that, we took a break for lunch.

Sabine & Andrew Applying Stain

Sabine & Andrew Applying Stain

After lunch, we finally got to the fun part: installation. At first, it was a little bit tricky to figure out where to put the screws in each trim board so that we didn’t have to screw through the nailing fin on the windows, but still managed to screw into one of the 2 x 4 studs that framed the window. We made a few mistakes on the first window which we were able to correct by adding extra screws or removing and reinstalling the screws we had already put in at an angle. After that, we pretty much figured out the system and the rest of the windows went smoothly. All of us agreed that the trim looked really good when it was done. I like the stain color. I like the contrast between the stained wood and the red windows and I like the character of the trim, the way the top and bottom board stick out a little bit beyond the edges of the sideboards. I commented to Andrew that putting on the trim boards felt less like construction and more like artwork to me. It’s the first really beautiful thing I have created and put on the house and I am delighted with it. It was very satisfying to finally get to install it.

Trim Installation

Trim Installation

Side Window Trim Complete

Side Window Trim Complete

In the end, I figure the window trim boards alone probably required nearly 30 hours man hours of work to create and install. I think I must have spent 12-16 hours cutting out all of the trim boards (of course, some of that time was made of making complicated cuts in the bottom pieces of trim to account for the fact that my side pieces were originally cut too short). Over the last week and Andrew, Sabine and I probably spent another 18 man hours yesterday installing them. Looking at the trim now, I believe of it worth the effort. However, I still continue to be amazed by how much time it takes to build something so small.

Rear Window Trim Complete

Rear Window Trim Complete

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