More Heat and Less Mold

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Tiny House after a Washin’

April 16, 2017 (Easter)

Sheila and I had a pretty busy and productive weekend at the tiny house this weekend. In addition to lots of smaller projects, we also tackled two fairly large projects. The most important was trying to remove the mold from the side of the tiny house that has been growing on it all winter. The other was building a shelter for our firewood. Sheila tackled the house while I tackled the shelter and I think we both agree that I got the better end of the deal.

We were all packed up on Thursday night, so we were able to leave the house before 8:00 AM on Friday. On the way, we stopped at Safeway to buy a few groceries and also stopped at Home Depot to buy a cleaning product called Wet and Forget that was supposed to remove mold stains. Unfortunately, Home Depot did not have the Wet and Forget in stock, so we ended up driving all the way into downtown Boulder Creek where we were able to get some at Scarborough Lumber.

We finally got to the property around 10:30 AM and were faced with our now regular dilemma of how to get up the lane into our tiny house. It had rained the last two days and there was still water flowing down the lane, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I tried backing down the road and taking a run at the lane a couple of times with our little Prius, but couldn’t quite make it up the hill.

Eventually, our neighbor, Forest, came by in a four-wheel-drive pick up and offered to drive at least our heavy items up the lane to our tiny house. That sounded like a good idea, so we spent in the next few minutes picking out our heaviest items, like our new 50 pound generator, and putting them into the back of his pick up. After that, Forest tried several times to drive up the hill and didn’t get any further than we had in our little Prius. To me, it felt quite reminiscent of the day last year when Forest tried over and over again to tow the tiny house up the lane into our property. After the fourth try or so, it was clear the pick up truck wasn’t going to make it up the hill and it certainly wasn’t worth getting the dump truck out, so we let Forest go and decided to just carry everything in.


Sheila Carrying One of Many Loads

We definitely got a workout in. Over the course of at least five different trips, we eventually ported in our 50 pound generator, another 64 pounds of water, a large electric heater, a 35 pound tool bucket, food, overnight bags, a pump water sprayer and a one and a half ton carjack.

After that, we still had probably 50 pounds of lumber left in the car for building my outdoor wood shelter. I knew that alone was going to take several more trips, so I decided to try driving the car in one more time. I thought maybe with most of the weight out of the car, I could do it. As it turns out, I was right. I backed up a little bit further and hit the hill a little bit faster than I had before. The wheels slipped a few times and the bottom carriage of the car scraped a little bit as I crossed a gully in the center of our lane (making Sheila cringe in the process), but I did manage to build enough momentum to carry me, the car and the rest of our gear all the way to the tiny house. It was really nice to have the car by the tiny house for the weekend and even nicer when we were packing up to go home on Saturday. However, I don’t know how many more times I will be able to pull that stunt off. We definitely need to get that lane graded and graveled soon.

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Mud Spattered Car at the Tiny House

One of the first things I did once we got settled at the property was to try out my new toy, the Honda 2000i inverter generator we had purchased from Amazon earlier in the week. I followed the instructions, adding gas and oil and then pulling the ripcord a few times until it fired up. I then plugged it into the side of the tiny house, went inside and became immediately giddy when the lights turned on without the battery connected. I continue to be amazed at how my tiny house can turn even the simplest things, like turning on a light, into something delightful.

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New Honda Generator

After I confirmed that the generator was working, I decided to put it to the test. I carried our electrical heater inside the house, plugged it in and turned it on. I heard the volume of the generator increase as it worked a little harder, but it seemed to meet the demand of our 900 Watt heater with no problem. The best thing was that with all of the windows closed inside the tiny house, we could barely hear the generator at all. Even outside, the generator was pretty quiet. I could easily imagine letting that run for several hours without being bothered by the noise.

After that, Sheila and I got to work. Sheila started scrubbing the side of the house and I went up to work on the shed. We have been having trouble opening and closing the door on the shed for a while and I wanted to shave down the side of one of the doors. I have been thinking about how to do this for a while and eventually decided the easiest thing would be to just take a circular saw to the side of the door. I thought about trying to set up a guide to make a really straight cut, but eventually decided it was just a shed door and I could probably freehand it. As it turns out, I was able to cut a very thin and pretty straight strip off the side of the door without much difficulty. In fact, it would’ve been nearly perfect if I had not decided to try to make it just a little bit more perfect. That was when I went backwards with the saw by accident and it grabbed the door and put a nice gouge in the side of it. Luckily, even that was fixed with some wood putty that I made out of some sawdust and glue. By the time I painted over the side of the door, my mistake was nearly invisible. Best of all, the doors on my shed finally open and close perfectly.

When I came back down the hill, Sheila was busily scrubbing the side of the house and I was amazed at what was coming off the side of the house. She was using a long stiff brush to scrub the side of the house with a mixture of water and OxiClean. All of that was mixing together with the dirt, mold and stain on the side of the house to create a thick brown sludge. She eventually found that she had to clean the house in a pattern from top to bottom, slowly pushing the sludge from one piece of siding down to the next until it finally came oozing off the bottom of the house.

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Sheila Scrubbing the Sludge

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Sheila Pretending to be Happy About Scrubbing the Sludge

The net effect of all of this was a huge improvement and some of the before and after pictures I took were pretty amazing. The side of the house that gets the least amount of sun changed color the most dramatically. That side went from a color of almost completely black to a reddish brown hue that I can almost say resembles real wood again. It doesn’t look good. If you get up close to the siding, you can see that the wood is still has spotty stains from the mold, but it definitely looks better.

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Before and After Line

Even as I write this now, I find myself sighing and becoming a little bit more depressed. I just don’t know if we can fix the wood on the side of our house. Part of the problem might be that most of the stain may have been washed off the side of the house. If we add more stain, it might look better. However, if we do that, what will keep the mold from growing all over again? Now that we have the stain off the side of the house, I know we have to do something. I just don’t know what that something is yet.

The mold still upsets me so much that although I still feel bad for letting Sheila scrub at it alone, I don’t think I could have worked on removing it myself this past weekend without getting too depressed. Instead, I distracted myself and tried to make myself feel at least somewhat useful by working on my wood shelter, which ended up being a pretty big project. It only took me about 1 1/2 hours to cut all the wood at home, but it took me about four hours on Friday to nail and screw it all together and even more time on Saturday to paint it.

When I first started to nail it all together, I was doing it on top of an old wooden table we had out by our wood pile. About 10 minutes after I started hammering, I heard a buzzing around my head that sounded like some kind of bee. I am not afraid of or allergic to bees, so I tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away. It did not. Instead, it got closer to my head, circling around and around. It didn’t seem very aggressive, but it sure seemed persistent. Eventually, I put the hammer down to investigate and realized that there were now several bumblebees flying around me. I didn’t know we even had bumblebees at our property. They were kind of cute, but also a little bit too close and numerous for my taste. I stepped back to watch them for a while before I finally figured out that they were flying in and out of the old wood pile. I guess they had made a nest in there over the winter and my careless hammering on the table had been vibrating the ground and upsetting them. Appreciative that they had decided to simply buzz me instead of sting me to get my attention, I decided to return the favor and move my workshop up the hill closer to the tiny house. From there, I was able to continue working for the rest of the weekend unmolested.

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Pile of Lumber Stacked Next to As Yet Undiscovered Bumblebee Nest (in wood pile to the left)

By the time we finally quit working on Friday, I had a nice 2′ x 4′ shelter constructed. All that was left was to paint it and put shingles on top, which I planned to do on Saturday.

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Wood Shelter Nailed Together

Both of us were too tired to make a campfire on Friday night, so we just had dinner inside the tiny house. We brought along some leftover chili which we heated up on the stove. It was delicious.

We spent the rest of the evening inside the tiny house just relaxing, reading books and watching a little bit of television. We have a new TiVo unit at home now which allows us to easily copy shows to my iPad. That has turned out to be great for both traveling and tiny house entertainment.

Our Friday night in the tiny house was also improved by our new generator which I think may have finally solved our heat problem. On this particular weekend, the weather got into the low 60s during the day and we were able to raise the temperature in the house from 45° F to 58° F simply by leaving the windows open for the day. 58° F was probably warm enough for sleeping during the night, but I really wanted to try heating the tiny house with our new generator. I decided to give it one hour. I turned on the generator, plugged in the heater and watched the indoor thermometer. In one hour, I was able to raise the temperature 8° F to 66° F which, with sweatshirts on, was plenty warm. When we woke up on Saturday, the temperature inside the house had only fallen to 58° F even though the temperature outside was 38° F. Plus, the electric heat doesn’t create the moisture problem that our propane heater created when we tried that. There aren’t that many really cold nights that we spend at the tiny house and I think that even on the coldest nights, we could warm up the house to a decent temperature by only running the generator for 2-3 hours. Doing that would probably use about a half a gallon of gas and only cost a couple of dollars.

On Saturday, we lounged in bed for a little while before finally getting up and making blackberry banana pancakes for breakfast. I love making pancakes for breakfast in my tiny house. It’s one of my favorite things.

Fueled by our yummy pancakes, we got back to work. I spent the first hour or so of the day putting some more work into our shed. When I was walking around inside the shed on Friday, I had noticed some water stains on the floor near the edges of the building and finally figured out that these had resulted from us forgetting to caulk the lower edge of the exterior wall sheathing, where that sheathing met the subfloor frame. The constant winter rain this year had finally driven the water up underneath the edge of the walls and into the floor. I spent an hour or so washing the lower edge of the outside walls in preparation for applying some caulk to that edge which I did later in the afternoon after everything had dried.

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Water Stains in Shed

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Lower Edge Partially Washed in Preparation for Caulking

After that, I set to work painting my wood shelter which ended up being the biggest part of the whole project. It would have been easier if I had just painted the whole thing one color, but I decided to use up some beige, oil based exterior paint we had at home which ended up covering only the interior of the shelter. The rest of the shelter I painted the same color green as the trim on the shed. I bought a gallon of that green at Home Depot on the way up to the property on Friday, knowing that whatever we didn’t use up on the wood shelter we would be able to use next time we painted the shed. The nice thing about using two colors is that it made for a pretty final product. The difficult thing was that I had to be really careful at every boundary and corner not to get any of the green paint onto the beige parts I had already painted and every single slat had multiple boundaries and corners. By the time I finally finished at about 2:00 PM, I was pretty tired of painting.

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Shelter Painted

I finished painting at about the same time Sheila finished scrubbing mold off the side of the tiny house and after that, we actually got to do something together. We put the roof on to the shelter as a team. I nailed the shingles on at about the same pace that Sheila was able to measure the next piece and cut it to size. In about an hour, we had the whole thing done. After that, I made a nice level spot over near the old wood pile, and put down a few cement blocks. Then, Sheila and I carried the wood shelter over and set it in place. There was a big part of me that wanted to pull out my axe and cut up some firewood just to put it into the shelter, but it was getting late, so I decided to save that activity for a future trip.

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Shelter Painted with Roof


The rest of our day on Saturday was pretty much spent cleaning up, loading the car, and going through our regular checklist before closing up the house. Luckily, driving the car out of the property was much easier than driving it in had been. No Dukes of Hazzard stunts or dump trucks required.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the siding on the tiny house. However, I think I will start by doing some more research on the Internet, talking to more people and asking for help. I’m planning to write to the company that manufactures the Penofin stain that I put on the wood. I’m also planning to write to Tumbleweed, since they were the ones that recommended that stain. Tumbleweed sells most of their tiny houses with stained exterior cedar wood, so I can’t be the first person to ever have this problem and if I have, they should at least be able to tell me what they do differently than what I did.

I was still depressed about the tiny house even when I walked into church for Easter services this morning. However, as it usually does, the children’s story made me feel better. Pastor Dave’s puppet camel, Clarence, was talking about how play dough is such a great symbol of Easter. Dave was arguing with Clarence about this until Clarence pointed out that the point of Easter is that God is always able to create a new life and new things out of death and brokenness and that the same is true with play dough. You can make something wonderfully beautiful with play dough and somebody can sit on it and squash it. However, even if that happens, you can still pick it up and make something new out of it, perhaps something even more beautiful than what you created the first time. I created something beautiful with my tiny house and now it is not so beautiful. However, with God’s help, perhaps I can find a way to make it beautiful again. Also, the story reminded me that whatever the state of the exterior siding on my tiny house, I still have good reason to be thankful. It has been a tough winter in Boulder Creek with roads washing away and trees falling down left and right. My tiny house might have some mold on it, but unlike the play dough in Dave and Clarence’s story, my tiny house made it through one of the worst California winters in years without getting squashed and for that, I am truly grateful.

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Shelter in Place

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