This addition may not seem like much to others but it is a big deal to us. The minimalist simplicity of our loft has always been a favorite moment of mine. A thin line of structure that separates two uses above and below.
Most visitors that step into the 180 square foot living portion of our tiny house say it feels more spacious than they would expect. While the exact reason for this may be lost on them, I would argue much of it is attributed to the design decision to minimize any obstruction between the living space and the loft. In turn the occupant can experience the entire reaches of the space including the full height, which peaks in the loft. In addition to that, our loft windows and indirect light bar make sure the highest reaches of the ceiling plane are illuminated, adding to the spacious experience.
When people ask us what we would change there is always a long bout of silence as we scramble to think of something to say. We truly feel that this space serves our needs so perfectly that we don’t want it to change. But when Aubrin was born we knew we had to address the loft edge and immediately began brainstorming potential solutions that would provide the necessary safety while hindering our initial design intentions as little as possible.
The challenges of this small project were not simple. First and foremost it needed to prevent Aubrin from falling but following that main goal was a slew of secondary requirements including:
1. A simple aesthetic and material pallet that matches the house.
2. Allow airflow/ventilation into and out of the loft.
3. Allow view, light and communication into and out of the loft.
It may have taken a few months but we finally settled on the solution of installing a tight netting that provides floor to ceiling protection at the loft edge. Once that decision was made and we were confident that a taught net would satisfy our needs, there was plenty of questions about its installation that had to be addressed and detailed including:
1. How do we fasten it to the adjacent surfaces in a unified manner so it doesn’t pull away from individual anchor points?
2. How can we minimize the quantity of holes into our floor, ceiling and walls?
4. Does the houses structure (studs, rafters, loft beams) line up in a unified way for anchoring of the fasteners?
5. How do we get the net tight at the end of installation?
6. How do we secure the side of the net on the stair side where there is not a wall?
7. How do we protect the opening at the top of the stair?
8. How will our cat get into and out of the loft when the fold up door is up?
To fulfill those goals the installation required three different and unique detail solutions for the different sides of the net, once again complexifing a seemingly simple project thanks to an obsessive interest in uncovering and implementing the cleanest and most functional answer to each small design inquiry. If you have followed the rest of our DIY TINY HOUSE BUILD then you probably know that we have scrutinized every stage of our build to this level of detail from FRAMING with the help of a computer, to implementing a calculated screw hole grid for our WALNUT ENTRY ALCOVE to our two month STORAGE STAIR project that we recently released FREE PLANS for. This way of work undoubtedly slows our progress but has allowed us to create the best home we are capable of for ourselves and we hoped this netting addition would also be something we were proud off.
The projects materials consisted of tan 2″ cell knot-less netting from Scott at treehousesupplies.com, 1/4″ solid steel round bar, 3/8″ Eye hooks, 1 1/2″ angle iron, some miscellaneous birch plywood pieces we had laying around and some nuts and bolts.
We first installed the 3/8″ i-hooks in the ceiling at intervals equal to the net cell spacing. We decided that an eye hook every 5th cell was the best option to both minimize holes in the ceiling while ensuring a conservative safety factor for the solid rod span distance and strength of the eye hooks.
Next we slid the 1/4″ rod through the successive i-hooks while simultaneously weaving it through the netting. This installation method means that the netting is fully supported along its length which creates a stronger and more appealing look than if it was supported at just the i-hook points (it would pull/bow down away in between anchor points).
At this point with the over sized net dangling from the ceiling we could get a better gauge of where to cut the final length before continuing the same process as the ceiling on the adjacent wall plane.
Now with two edges of the netting supported and anchored in place it was time to tackle the two hardest tasks; getting the net tight and supporting it on the open stair side. To do this we devised a detail in which the net is pinched between wood and angle iron after which the angle iron assembly is screwed down into the loft edge, creating tension as it is fixed into its final location. (Sketched below)
It was also important to have a rigid support on the open edge of the net for two reasons:
1. It needed act as the inevitable daily grab handle for those going into and out of the loft. 2. We are installing a door at the top of the stairs to enclose the remaining opening and the vertical net support at that location needed to prevent the net from stretching and being pulled away from the door, creating an opening large enough for Aubrin to wiggle through.
It was in this final side that we used some left over plywood scraps to create a floor to ceiling two-piece post. In one side, we cut a groove shallower than the thickness of the net to accept the netting into the post to make it look like it disappears into the wood. The net was then stretched over to the post and around the four through-bolts, after which the second half of the post was slide over the bolts and the nuts were wrenched tight. This created a sort of sandwhich post that pinched the netting along its entire length, creating a uniform tension along the net.
After the net was done we installed a simple bottom hinged tilt-up ‘door’ at the top of the stairs and made sure to cut a void just large enough for our cat to enter and exit freely. The best part about the door is its ability to disappear and lay flat on the floor when not in use to maintain the open sight lines into the loft that help make the space feel unified and spacious.
Feel free to pass this idea along to anyone looking for a functional loft edge barrier in their small space our tiny house. We also share the entire design and construction process of our tiny house in THIS E-BOOK for those looking to learn more about our project and building their own tiny house on wheels!