The Rush Is On.

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Did you see that just fly by!? That was the 2 month mark until our deadline. That deadline happens to be when we need to be completely vacated from our apartment, and if SHED isn’t ready, homeless… But for a couple of kids that drove across the country nearly three years ago without a place to live and a couple hundred barrowed dollars in their pockets, this predicament isn’t as daunting as it sounds

These circumstances have however forced, eh hem, encouraged us to spend more time at SHED yet it feels as though our progress is moving slower.  This is probably a result of the types of tasks we are working on that do not provide as much visible progress as the earlier stages.  I can’t help  but make a comparison to molasses as our movement and fluidity begin to slow as the temperature drops. The difference between last years mild winter of 45 degree temps seems like a world apart from this early winter freeze of 15-25 degree temps already, and while much of our work is being done inside the tiny house, all of the cutting and material processing is happening outside.

Our day to day process has become a comical routine of huddling around a tiny electric space heater inside our thoroughly chilled tiny house and making up excuses why we are not ready to start any tasks that require going outside the tiny house, which warms to a comfortable temperature after about an hour. Two of the warmer tasks recently completed was the installation of the bathroom vanity, sink and mirror which are accented with a few pieces of left over walnut from our entry alcove as well as painting and then installing hardware on the pocket door that leads into the bathroom.

For the first time since the beginning of the project we have completely ignored documentation over the last few weeks as the pressure to get things done increases so the following portion just contains a few random photos snapped with our i-phones at the end of each days work.

We have also embarked on an [un?]healthy binge of 1990’s pop music thanks to unlimited cellphone data and enough of a signal to stream Pandora. I could probably do most of this post through 90’s song lyrics but I will spare you the nostalgic distraction and get into the details of what we have been working on which has been simultaneous progress on two major tasks, neither of which are completed yet:

Electric:

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Our panel will be located in the “gear room.” This out of sight location means that we don’t have to give up any of our living space to a sort of utility closet but it also means that all of our circuits need to emanate from one end of our house and stretch as far as the opposite side of our house. Now this is a rather small house, and what should be absolutely no problem becomes a challenge when nothing in your build is “normal.” For instance, our wall construction uses 2×3 studs and we do not want to drill any holes through them to run electrical. We “solved this” by running two circuits from one end to the other end through the roof rafters and concealed in the ceiling. These will take care of some LED lighting and couple outlets and the refrigerator. We then ran two more circuits along the same long side of the house but along the bottom of the wall, (to be) buried in a variety of built-in objects including our couch, wheel well surround and kitchen island. These two circuits take care of mostly outlets around the couch/tv area and the island area and a couple LED lights. Additional circuits are used for the bathroom which power two can lights, a shower fan, the mirror light and the composting toilet continuous vent fan. These are easily wired along the backside of the bathroom wall, concealed in the gear room. Complicating matters more so are the multiple AC-DC transformers that are required for our variety of our LED lights including the 120 LED per meter tape lighting we are using in a few instances to provide indirect lighting in our home. My worry of voltage drop in long runs of DC wire led to the decision to locate the transformers much closer to the light fixture before stepping down the power for our 12 volt LED lights. These transformers will be tucked away in the back wall of one of our small cabinets. The LED lighting system we are using is from ARMACOST and includes a secondary remotely controlled (radio frequency) switch/dimmer. What this means is we can have a switch/dimmer near the actual lights being controlled while having a secondary control point, in this case next to the front door where we will locate the 4, low profile, surface mount and wireless dimmer switches for the loft light, main kitchen light, main room cable light system and exterior light. Not having to run wires to those switches on the other side of the house is a huge bonus, not to mention the box and wires would have had to be exposed because the framing next to the door doesn’t leave a wall cavity big enough to bury anything in it.

Paneling:

THIS has been our million dollar debate since committing to a tiny house and with it half done, We still don’t know exactly what we plan on doing. The decision of what interior finish to use in a tiny house is a frequent topic of debate. At the beginning, a majority of THOW (Tiny House On Wheels) used tongue & groove pine planes or something similar. It works well and is still chosen frequently to this day, but those preferring a different interior aesthetic have begun exploring new options, usually in an attempt to replicate the clean, seamless appearance of “normal” house interiors, ie drywall. Why not use drywall you ask? To date, the fear of cracking seams and added weight have been enough to scare off most from attempting to use it. There has been more than a few people that have started using drywall in THOW’s and appear to have had success with avoiding cracked seams, even after transporting. In fact, I have never actually heard of a single firsthand account of cracking drywall seams yet. There is a chance that this may be because those with positive experiences are just more vocal than those with negative experiences but I am convinced that it is a viable option, IF you can afford the extra weight.

Now, if you have been following our build, you know that we can NOT afford the extra weight, and have taken extensive measures to save weight in major areas of design and construction, from deliberately not building to full volume to experimenting with a wall assembly that uses significantly less lumber. A sheet of ¼” plywood weighs in around 22lbs and a sheet of ¼ drywall is around 33lbs. At the required 26 sheets needed to panel our interior, that comes in at 260 lbs more, and in reality if we were to use drywall I would opt for 3/8” thick sheets to reduce the chance of cracking the brittle drywall during accidental impacts. That increase in thickness leads to and even larger increase in weight.

As I stood at the lumberyard in front of two stacks of planer material I had two options for interior paneling, 5 millimeter thick floor underlayment (similar to Iron Ply) and the ¼” AC sanded plywood. One was $12.00 a sheet and the other $30.00 and here we are reminded yet again why Tiny Houses can range in price so dramatically. Both were viable options and have been used plenty times over in Tiny houses. As I struggled to make a decision, a few things stood out to me that ultimately led to me choosing the ¼” plywood. The differences in thickness between the two materials was really, really small. In fact they were both labeled at this particular lumberyard as ¼” thick material but the reality is that the ¼” plywood was a little more than a millimeter thicker and the difference was perceptible when handling the material. The combination of thickness and quality of ply left the ¼” plywood feeling stronger, and appearing less wavy.  A spongy feel and wavy appearance has always been a fear of ours when trying to decide on interior paneling so this tangible difference was of importance. Secondly, I noticed that the facing ply of the floor underlayment was about 1/6th the thickness of the face ply on the alternative. This seemed like an important difference because the thicker the ply the less chance of chipping and pealing during handling, cutting and installing. The less chipping the less work patching and filling and the cleaner the appearance of the wall. So with that, I went home with 26 sheets of ¼” AC plywood.

Installing it has been a delicate process of protecting the edges and trying to keep the cuts as clean as possible, sometimes by scouring the cut line with a razorblade first to prevent splintering and other times cutting the material with its finish face down because the circular saw cuts upward and prevents splintering. We then place glue on all of the studs and blocking that the sheet will make contact with and use brad nails every 6” to fix it to the wall. After installation the plywood will be painted. You can also see the location of our mini-split air handling unit over the bathroom door in the progress photos below.

Oh yea, and our adorable little 20″ wide propane stove arrived!

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