On Saturday, November 28, 2015 at about 2:00 pm, a funny thing happened. I finished my tiny house!!! Here are my journal entries from my final week of work on the house, which was mostly spent installing what I think is a pretty nice looking porch on the front of my tiny house. Like most of the work I have done on my tiny house, the week had it’s ups and downs, but the ups were pretty amazing and finally finishing the house made all the effort I have put into it so far more than worth while.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
I had kind of a tough day yesterday and I’m expecting another tough one today. I tried to work on the tiny house yesterday, but wasn’t very successful. In the end, I felt like I was not only not making any progress on the tiny house, but also ignoring my parents in law, Levi and Vera, who have made a long journey from Iowa to be with us for a few days. I just couldn’t seem to both work on the house and pay attention to my guests at the same time and trying to do both resulted in me being unable to do either, leaving me feeling bad on multiple levels most of the day.
Levi was totally willing to help me on the tiny house yesterday. The problem was that I couldn’t really come up with anything to do. In the morning, Levi & Vera helped my by adding a coat of polyurethane to the loft of the ladder, but that only took an hour or so and after that that, the next thing to do was to work on the porch which I really couldn’t do with the trailer in its current location (the roof of my tiny house porch would have hit the roof of my not so tiny house garage). I also couldn’t quite remember how the porch even went together so what I really needed to do was spend some time looking at my plans and drawings trying to remember how everything was supposed to work. I just needed some time to myself and I had trouble asking for it. Even when I did finally tell Levi that he could go inside and relax, I still felt bad about it. I felt like I was ignoring him. So it didn’t matter whether people were outside with me trying to help or leaving me by myself, I felt uncomfortable and frustrated.
I really don’t solve problems well when other people are watching me.
The good thing about today is that I was able to get the trailer moved a foot and a half forward yesterday which means that we can actually work on the porch today. Yesterday morning, Sheila encouraged me to email our neighbor, Charlie, to see if he was available to help move the trailer. Turns out that he was. He came over at 5:00 PM last night to help. Before he arrived, I put the wheels back on the trailer which I got done, but was a little trickier than I remembered or expected. It was a little bit more difficult with Sheila and Levi watching me work. However, we got it all done and I got the trailer moved, the wheels back off and everything leveled on the jackstands again by about 6:00 PM last night. After that, we all had leftovers for dinner and watch TV before going to sleep.
The bad thing about today is that I really don’t know what I’m doing with the porch. Sheila and Levi want to help again today and I think it’s going to be really hard for me to keep them busy. I think they’re going to be a lot of times today when I need to stop and solve problems while everybody is watching me and that is going to really stress me out. When Sheila first asked me last night if I needed a crew to help me today, I immediately said no which I think shocked and disappointed her a little bit. I felt bad about that, but yesterday was so difficult I just thought it would be better if I worked on my own today. However, after thinking about it a little while, I thought maybe it would be nice to have other people not only help me hold things in position but also maybe even help me solve problems. I don’t know if that’s possible, but it would be great if it was. I would love to not have to be the only person solving problems on the tiny house. So, I’m going to try to let other people help today. I don’t know how it’s going to work out, but I’m hoping it works out all right.
Sunday, November 22, 2015, 8:28 AM at home in Santa Clara
Well, I’m happy to report that instead of being uncomfortable working with everyone on the tiny house yesterday, I actually had a spectacularly good day – maybe one of my best tiny house work days ever. Levi, Vera and Sheila all helped me yesterday and having their help ended up being completely wonderful. Levi helped me more than anyone else and he was just the perfect assistant. Several times during the day, he helped me figure out better ways to do things. He also patiently stood by my side while I was trying to figure things out and he provided that extra set of hands that was so necessary for what we were doing yesterday. We didn’t run into any major problems during the day and by the end of the day, we had accomplished something that I completely changed the character of the house.
I’m not quite sure why everything went so well yesterday. Maybe it was all of the advanced planning I had done. Maybe it was the fact that I had some really great helpers. However, I think there might have been something else that was even more important than all of that. Partway through the day, Vera mentioned that she had been praying for us to have a good day working on the tiny house and as soon as she said that, I knew that was the key. I rarely have tiny house work days that go as well or that I enjoy as much as yesterday. Once Vera said that she had been praying for us, I realized that the only logical reason why we were having such a good day was because God had been there with us.
Yesterday, Levi, Vera, Sheila and God all helped me to finally assemble all the pieces to the front porch roof, posts and railings that I had carefully created and stained nearly one year ago. It took a lot of thinking and precise cutting to create those pieces last year and even more thinking to remember how they all went together on Friday. However, I finally reaped the reward for all of that hard work yesterday. Everything came together so well. Almost all of my pieces fit together just perfectly. They were already cut to the sizes we needed and already stained and ready to go. Pretty much all we had to do is figure out the best way to attach them altogether.
I have to say that attaching finished pieces of wood together is about my favorite thing to do on the tiny house. I think it takes about nine times as much time to get ready to screw something together that it actually does to screw it together, but when I am actually attaching things together, I feel great. That’s pretty much how I felt all day yesterday. I spent the whole day attaching carefully created pieces of wood together and with each piece, my front porch started to look better and better.
In the morning, since I still had a little bit of prep work to do to get ready for installing porch railings and roof, I set Vera and Levi to work on adding the last coat of polyurethane to the loft and the loft ladder. That took them a little bit less than an hour and after that, we were finally ready to go.
We started by laying out all of the porch posts on the garage floor in the order they were going to be connected in. Then, we attached them altogether at the top with a 2 x 2 I had created just for that purpose. Next, we attached the square bases to the bottom of the posts. We did this by propping up the bottom of the post to just the right height so that when we held the bases against the bottom, they would be exactly centered. After pre-drilling, we attached everything together with two screws in each post. We did have one mishap when one of our porch post bases split in half despite having already been pre-drilled. However, it only took me another 20 minutes or so to cut, sand and stain another base which we then attached. After that, we attached the 2 x 4 cross members for the front railing between the posts. We held everything at the right spacing by temporarily attaching a long 2 x 4 to the bottom of each porch post. Then, we cut little spacer blocks to make sure that the railings got held at exactly the right distance from the 2 x 4 while we toe screwed them to the post. That method seemed to work really well.
After we had the railing cross members in place, it was time to attach the whole thing to the porch. The way we did this was to remove the outermost slat from the porch and then attach it to the bottom of the porch posts while all the porch posts were still laying down in the garage. We attached the slat with two predrilled deck screws on the bottom of each post. Once we did that, the whole contraption was very solid which meant we could finally lift it up and carry it over to the front porch, placing it down in exactly the spot where the porch slat had been removed. After that, it was just a matter of screwing the porch slat back down to the porch and voilà, the four porch posts were now installed.
Next, I set about attaching the horizontal two by fours that connected the porch posts to the front of the house while Levi trimmed the vertical porch railing pieces a tiny bit to exactly match the final railing height. Once I had the horizontal parts of the railing installed on either side of the porch, we were able to start what was probably the most fun job of the day: attaching the vertical railing pieces. All four of us got involved in that. We created little blocks that were exactly right for the spacing between each railing post and marked them to indicate exactly where the screws should go. Then, one person held the railing piece and one person held the blocks while a third person (usually me, but sometimes Sheila) attached everything with two 2″ stainless steel screws at the top and one screw at the bottom. It was so much fun to do this. We got into this great system where we were able to install everything really easily. It was fun to see how quickly the railing took form.
When we finished all of that, we still had about an hour left before we needed to quit for the day, so I charged up the compressor and we spent the next 40 minutes installing the pine tongue and groove pieces I had cut out for the ceiling of the porch. This also went really quickly mostly because I already had all the pieces cut to perfect size. Just like the loft, it was basically just a matter of lining up each piece, tapping into place with a hammer and adding a couple of nails to hold it down.
We finally quit at about 4:00 PM so Sheila could take her parents to 5:00 PM mass. For a little while, we had thought we might keep working into the evening and have Sheila bring her parents to mass this morning. However, at 3:45 PM, I ran into a small problem that I didn’t really know how to solve regarding how the porch roof was going to interfere with the gable fascia. After thinking about it for about 10 minutes, I decided this was the kind of problem I needed to think about overnight, so I told Sheila she should probably go ahead and take her parents to church. I wasn’t going to go with everyone to mass, but then at the last minute I change my mind. It occurred to me that if I spent some time with God instead of continuing to just work on my house, I might receive some inspiration on how to solve my problem. Sure enough I was right. About halfway through the mass, I got a sudden inspiration I knew exactly what to do about the porch roof.
The porch roof has been scaring me for a while because it involves two different pitches which will involve some complicated cutting of plywood and roofing material. However, after mass last night, I think I was finally able to see in my mind exactly how it would all come together. I might still run into problems, but at least at this point, I’m pretty sure it can be done. Actually, I always knew it could be done but now I’m pretty sure that I can do it.
I think my absolute favorite part of the day yesterday was when we all drove back into the driveway after mass to see the front porch installed on the front of the house. Sheila probably said it best when she mentioned that the tiny house looked cute before, but now looks absolutely adorable. I think I have to agree with her. I’m not sure that Tumbleweed generates the best plans in the world, but they sure do have great tiny house designs. I really, really love the way the Elm design looks. I knew it was cute when I first saw it on the Internet nearly 3 years ago and now that I have actually created one myself, I think it looks better than I ever imagined it would.
Monday, November 23, 2015, 6:10 AM at home in Santa Clara
I slept pretty badly last night. I’m worried about the porch roof on my tiny house. I was stressed out about it when I went to bed last night and I tossed and turned all night worrying about it.
This morning, I’m tired, depressed, stressed, afraid, frustrated and angry. I just can’t seem to figure out how to build the porch roof. I keep thinking about it and it always seems like there are just too many problems to solve. It’s a hip roof and it just has too many different angles. I keep trying to picture it in my head, but I can’t quite seem to do it. I spent three hours last night trying to figure it out. I made a little bit of progress, but there are still quite a few things I don’t know how to do. I’m sure God will send me the answers when I really need them. I just wish I could have those answers now.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015, 5:35 AM at home in Santa Clara
I had a pretty good day yesterday, much better than I expected. We actually made really good progress on the roof for the tiny house porch. For some reason, like Saturday, I was really afraid to have people watching me while I’m trying to figure everything out yesterday. However, also like Saturday, it ended up being really helpful to have Levi there. It was great to have him hold things when I needed and it was also great to get his ideas when I was having trouble with something. I have to admit that having him here made both Saturday and yesterday go much better than it would have gone if I had tried to work on my own.
Yesterday, we cut and installed all the rafters for the porch roof, we cut all the plywood and we cut most of the metal roofing material. I spent most of the morning creating the rafters while Sheila and Levi spend their time cutting up the metal roofing material. It was really great to have Sheila helping with the metal roofing. That’s not a fun job and I’m glad I didn’t have to do it.
I came up with the dimensions for the rafters on Sunday night and pretty much finished the design while I was creating them yesterday. Since the slope of the porch roof is so shallow, each of the rafters required a very long diagonal cut on a 2 x 4. I also manufactured a little foot for the base of the rafter. In the end, I decided to just create two horizontal rafters, two vertical rafters and two diagonal rafters. When I placed the sheets of plywood on top of the rafters after I installed them, they seemed to provide more than enough support.
After lunch yesterday, we took a break and went over to visit Gregory and Leelee at their tiny house build site. They were in the middle of installing metal siding on the side of their tiny house. It was wonderful to see them and to see what kind of progress they have been making. Their house is starting to look really amazing. Gregory keeps complaining that everything is taking longer than he expected, but I keep telling him that’s just the way this tiny house thing works and that if he got it done too fast, he would just make me feel bad that it took me so long to get my own tiny house done.
In addition to seeing their build, I also picked up a leftover roll of roofing waterproofing material from Gregory that I plan to put over the entire front porch roof. I was really hoping to get that waterproofing material placed over the roof by the end of the day yesterday, but I just couldn’t get it done. I ran into a small problem at the end of the day trying to figure out how to flash the corners of the roof as well as a small notch I had cut in my porch soffit in the morning to accommodate an overlap between the porch roof and the gable fascia. The notch seemed like a really good idea when I made it, but when I did so, I really didn’t think about how it was going to create an easy path for water to get into the roof of the porch. I’m still not sure exactly how I will handle that but I think I have at least another day to think about it since it’s supposed to rain today which will probably prevent me from working on the roof. At the end of the day yesterday, we just covered the entire porch roof with Tyvek which should protect it from the rain today.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015, 7:25 AM at home in Santa Clara
I had a pretty good day working on the tiny house yesterday. It was slow, but productive. It rained for several hours yesterday which kept me from working outside on the porch roof so I spent most of my day cutting and folding metal pieces that I hope to use as hip caps and flashing when install the rest of the roof.
When I first got started in the morning, I got really frustrated because I just couldn’t quite figure out how the hip caps and all the flashing we’re going to come together in a way that would keep water out of the porch roof. However, after about an hour struggling with it, I had a good enough idea of how it would come together that I could start cutting and bending metal and once I started doing that, I the rest of the design seemed to materialize in my mind. By the end of the day, I had pretty much everything I needed cut and folded.
I’m getting pretty good at cutting and folding metal roofing. Most of the cuts and folds I had to make yesterday were parallel to the ridges on the metal roofing which always makes things easier. The cuts I made by scoring the line I wanted to cut several times with a sharp razor blade, clamping a piece of wood across the line I wanted to cut and folding the metal back and forth until it snapped. The folding I did by simply clamping another piece of wood on top of the line I wanted to fold on and manually folding it with my hands. I found the trick to that is to make several passes, working my way all the way down the fold line, slowly bending the metal only a few of millimeters each time. The less I tried to bend the metal at one time, the cleaner the bend seemed to come out.
I also tackled a few other small projects yesterday. One thing I did was to paint the gas line coming out of the house. This was made out of black steel pipe and I didn’t realize that it needed to be painted when I installed it. Because I hadn’t painted it, it had started to get a little bit rusty, so I first had to get all the rust off with a metal brush. After I finished that, I created a tiny little door inside my propane stove cabinet so that I can get to the gas shut off valve without having to take the top of kitchen counter off. I think my tiny door turned out really well and like the rest of my tiny house, it seems to have a high cuteness factor.
Today, I really hope to finish the roof. Have several things I need to do. First, I want to take all of the plywood back off the roof so I can add some flashing which I hope will waterproof the overlap between the roofing and the gable fascia. Luckily, I screwed all the plywood and rafters together, so hopefully it won’t take too long to take them all apart again (have I mentioned how much I love screws?). After that, I will put all the plywood back on and cover it entirely with the waterproof membrane I got from Gregory. Next, I will start adding the metal roofing and with a little help from God, maybe that will all finally come together.
Thursday, November 26, 2015, 7:20 AM at home in Santa Clara (Thanksgiving)
I had a pretty good day while working on the tiny house yesterday. I’m still not quite done with the porch roof, but I’m certainly getting closer. Yesterday, I installed some metal flashing underneath the gable window, the plywood on the roof, the drip edge along all three sides of the roof and finally a sheet of waterproof fabric over the entire roof.
Before I did any of that, I removed the soffit boards from the two short sides of the roof and cut the slot for the gable fascia a little bit wider. I did that so that I would be able to slide a piece of flashing into the slot to make it waterproof and ensure that no water could run down into the slot and then into the interior cavity under the roof.
Of all the things I did yesterday, the most difficult was installing the metal flashing underneath the gable window. In order to install it properly, I needed to slip one edge of it up underneath both the existing siding and the lower trim board on the gable window. This pretty much meant unscrewing the siding and removing the lower window trim board. The trim board was the hardest removed because it had two screws holding it in place vertically through the bottom of the board and there wasn’t a lot of room for me to get my impact driver underneath the windowsill to remove those screws. To do it, I had to remove all the plywood on the roof that I had installed on Saturday and even some of the rafters. However, I was eventually able to get the window trim board out, pry the siding out a few millimeters, slide the flashing up underneath and reinstall the bottom piece of window trim.
Once I had that done, I could finally put the plywood back on the roof for the last time and nail it down. I think I had to take the plywood on and off the roof at least four times before finally making it permanent. Luckily, the first three times I attached it, I only attached it with a few screws to hold it in place which made it easy to take off again. I really do love screws. Every time I put something together with the nail, I’m always sorry about it because somehow, it always seems to need to be taken apart again and doing that when things are nailed together is always a real chore.
With the plywood installed, I was able to install the drip edge around the outside. Before I could do that, I had to come up with a fold for each end of the drip edge that would allow the corners to come together nicely. I’m pretty happy with what I came up with there. With the flashing properly cut and folded, I used a few roofing nails to hold the drip edge in place.
The last step yesterday was to install a sheet of waterproof fabric over the entire roof. This waterproofing material was something that my friend, Gregory, found to make the very low pitched shed roof on his tiny house waterproof. I thought this waterproofing material would be perfect for my porch as well, especially given that my porch roof only has a pitch of only 7 1/2°. Luckily, Gregory had a leftover partial roll that I could use. Even better, my porch roof ended up being exactly the width of the role of this fabric which meant that I only needed one sheet to go across the entire thing. Sheila and I carefully cut out the piece and folded it so that it first attached to the Tyvek on the side of the gable and then ran down the roof until it overlapped the drip edge on all three sides.
I was a little afraid of how we were going to position the waterproof fabric without it getting stuck to the roof where we didn’t wanted to be. However, we got lucky with the temperature yesterday. It was so cold that the material really wasn’t very sticky. That meant we could pull the backing off the entire thing and slide it exactly where we wanted it to be before sticking it down. It was so easy to move around that I was actually a little bit worried about how we were actually going to get it to stick once we got in place. However, we were able to solve that problem with a hairdryer and a roller (the same roller I purchased to install the FRP in my shower). I ran the roller over the entire roof and then any spots that didn’t seem to be sticking well, Sheila heated up with a hair dryer and then I rolled it again. That seemed to work extremely well. By the time we were done with that, there was no way the material was coming off again.
So now, my porch roof is entirely watertight. The last step in the process will be to install the metal roofing. Luckily, I already have all of the roofing pieces cut. It’s just a matter of hauling them up there and screwing them down. At least I hope it’s that easy. My goal is to finish all of that on Friday. After that, the only thing left will be to decorate the interior, something I will probably do after a nice long break from tiny house work.
Saturday, November 28, 2015, 8:10 AM at home in Santa Clara
I did not have a terribly fun day working on the tiny house yesterday. Yesterday, Sheila and I installed most of the metal roofing on the porch roof and it seemed like we had to fight to get every single piece up there. Also, despite working the entire day, we still didn’t finish the roof installation. We still have two more pieces to install today along with a couple of triangular pieces of siding that need to be installed on the gable above the roof.
Putting the roof on the house started with installing three different sections of roof, one for each hip slope. I think what was so difficult was getting things to fit together just right. We were trying to get exactly 1 inch of overhang on the roof all the way around the perimeter and that was a bit difficult. We found that some of the pieces were not cut exactly square so they needed a little bit of trimming. The side pieces also needed to be notched to go around the gable fascia and the corner trim on the house. We also needed to drill holes and lay down inside closures and butyl tape in exactly the right spot and somehow hold all of that together while we flipped the roof panels upside down and slid them around on top of the roof. Usually, this was followed by cursing and swearing as we realized it still didn’t fit right and had to pull it all back down to make more cuts before trying all over again. Eventually, we got all the pieces to come together. It just took more trial, error and frustration than I was expecting.
Installing the main panels was followed by two pieces of flashing and two hip caps that I had custom bent last Tuesday when it was raining. Of course, all of these pieces also needed to be trimmed before they could fit. The two pieces of side flashing that connected the gable wall to the roof needed to be cut at an angle to match the slope of the roof. That wasn’t too bad. What was worse was trying to cut the hip cap. Before we installed it, we kept trying to come up with some kind of interesting fold that we could put at the end that would cover the pointy edges of the main roofing panels where they came together in the corner. Sheila I must have spent about two hours trying all kinds of different things on scrap metal before I finally gave up. It was while I was working on something else after that that Sheila finally figured it out. She ended up discovering that if we cut a small section of hip cap and screwed it down tightly to the corner of the roof before installing the rest of the hip cap over the top, it covered the corner pretty well and made it look fairly nice.
Once we figured out how to do the corner, we installed the corner piece Sheila had designed and the hip cap on one side of the roof. I really wanted to finish the other side as well. However, by the time we finished the one hip cap, it was 5:30 PM, really dark out and I was pretty fried so we decided to call it quits for the night. I’m hoping that now that we know how to do it, installing the other hip cap in the daylight won’t be too bad.
Sunday, November 29, 2015, 8:50 AM at home in Santa Clara
I finished my tiny house! Well, ok – it’s not totally finished. I still need to add batteries and a compartment to store the batteries and the propane tank in. I also need to straighten the jack at the front of the trailer where it got bent when the house was stolen. However, the inside and the outside tiny house are technically done.
Yesterday, I finished putting the last hip cap on the porch roof by about noon. After that, I had to install the two final pieces of siding on the gable: the triangular pieces just above the porch roof.
After I finished the porch roof, I added another coat of stain to all of the porch wood. Then, I spent a little bit of time finally screwing down the back splashes on the kitchen counter and attaching the baseboards in the great room. And after that, I couldn’t think of anything else to do so I started cleaning the garage. By 7:00 PM, I had the entire garage sorted, cleaned and vacuumed. The garage is not empty to the point where we can put both cars back into it again yet. However, that is just a matter of taking all the boxes of remaining building materials that I assembled yesterday and putting them inside the tiny house before we move it over to the RV lot this week.
It’s kind of surreal that my tiny house is finally done. After two years and nearly 2000 hours of time, I’m finally done! How weird is that? It seems a little anticlimactic doesn’t it? I feel like I should have something more significant to say here, but I really don’t. But that’s ok, I think. This blog entry is kind of like the tiny house process: you work and work and work for months and months and then suddenly one day, you are just finished.