Adversity brings determination and resilience

Two days ago, the weather was still a bit miserable so we spent some time inside the shell of the Tiny house discussing various options and the layout.  Our smaller loft has not been installed yet (we will probably do that after the insulation goes in) therefore we imagined its placement and where the  stairs would need to be to get up to the roof window and deck.  Suddenly, it dawned on me; there was really no way to actually walk up to the roof top window.  One would have to crawl across the loft then stand up to exit. What had I done?  I couldn’t believe I had messed this up.  Arrrrgghhh (okay, I said a few worse things….)

Julia, always so calm and collected, simply replied, “Not a problem. Let’s use it as an opportunity.  Perhaps we could mount a collapsible ladder and now enter from the main floor.  That might even be better.”

It was the end of the day so we went back in and researched various ideas for ladders using lofts and attics as keywords.  We did not find the perfect solution.  The next day we continued our other work as we had to get the roof all sealed and wrapped up. Rain was in the forecast; coming in a couple of days.   That night I went back into the office, still so agitated and upset at myself for messing up the design.  I turned on the computer and reviewed the design file to see where I went wrong.  On the design plan, the location of the rooftop window was a lot further forward than where it was on the house.  Had I missed something in my review of the Volstrukt final designs?  I opened their final drawings and they were accurate as well.  Eureka!!!  I figured it out.

“Julia,” I called. “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

The good news was that I had figured out a solution to our rooftop window problem.  The bad news was that in our excitement to get all assembled, we had placed one of the roof panels upside down and it went unnoticed.   This meant we had to remove the roof sheathing, undo countless screws holding the roof panel, loosen the wall sheathing at the top, and unscrew four hurricane straps that held this section together.  We then flipped the roof panel and put it all back together again.

Today was an early rise and shine.  I ran off to Home Depot and Wegman’s, which both opened at 6:00AM.  When I returned home, Julia was already on the roof.  We had a great day.  Once we put the roof in its proper place, everything just worked out better.  We were now back on track.  In the process, we discovered some new ideas for storage in the roof.  Perfect!

Don’t ever let obstacles get in your way or get you down.  Think of ways to use the situation to your advantage.  When it seems you are behind the eight ball, just dig in a little deeper, try a little harder, and you are sure to get back on track.  There are no challenges, only opportunities.

House of Steel

After making the foundation (trailer) choice, the next big decision is how we are going to frame and insulate it.  There are a number of options to consider.   Structural strength, weight, insulation value, and ease of building to name a few.

When you consider that this house on wheels is going down the road at 60-70 mph (100+ km/h) on a regular basis, you start to realize it needs to be built for hurricane conditions.

tiny-house-frame-tiny-houseWe started down the traditional route of stick building using traditional 2×4 dimensional lumber.  This is by far the most common approach.  If we needed help to build, most any local framer would be experienced in wood.  It is also the least expensive choice.   However, it is heavy.   And it will take us some time to build, even if it is just a small tiny house.  It will also take considerable care to ensure that the structural integrity is intact, especially given the fact that it will be exposed to hurricane winds. Also, let’s not forget the rooftop deck, you may remember from our design, which will need to withstand hundreds of pounds/kilos.

Second, we really liked the idea of using SIP (Structurally Insulated Panels).   These are pre-built panels using plywood (or most often OSB), sandwiched around a foam core J-Deck_Inc.SIPmade of expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS) or rigid polyurethane foam density insulation.  The manufacturer constructs the entire home and then disassembles it and ships it for an easy build on site.   The main advantages, from our perspective, were very high insulation values (as high as r-27 in a 4″ wall), strong structural integrity, and the ease at which we could build the frame of the house.   This solution was slightly lighter than the pure stick-build but the most expensive option.  Another challenge with this option is the extra work needed to route electrical wires and plumbing as the walls are solid foam.  There are workarounds, but in the end we decided against it.

So then we have the steel framing approach.   You see steel framing in commercial ACT_THEME_HUBSPOT_SITE_HOME_PAGE_GRAPHICS_1applications all the time, but not so often in residential.  It is definitely more expensive than the stick build route and finding local experienced help is not going to be as easy.  However, we found these challenges were definitely overcome by its benefits.  The number one reason we choose this path was due to weight and structural integrity.  By our estimates, we can save close to 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg) versus the stick build.  This includes using the lightweight and insulating foam sheeting on the outside. A significant factor to making this home as lightweight as possible. It is also stronger than any of the other options, easy to assemble as it also comes in prebuilt sections, and completely impervious to moisture, bugs, etc.  We were sold!

So there you have it.  House of steel.  Can’t wait for it to arrive so we can make it a reality.

First look at the actual design

Last week we passed the gate of no return, we ordered the trailer.  True to our earlier post we went with a gooseneck trailer, 26ft (7.92m) base with an 8ft (2.4m) gooseneck platform.  We ended up going with Tiny Home Builders as we found their trailers had a very strong design and they were able to accommodate our special customizing features.  The sketchup file of it should arrive in the next few days and the trailer itself is about 6 weeks out.

Talking about sketchup, this is some great software.   When we started to come up with the idea for the Tiny house, we drew on plain paper using a ruler.  We used a cm to represent a foot as that would be smaller on paper than an inch and our ruler had it marked.  We still had to tape two regular sheets together to make it fit.  As you can imagine, that got old really fast, but was good for some initial pie in the sky ideas.  Drawing in 2 dimensions seemed natural, so we searched for some free software we could use (yes, even I admitted I could not do this in PowerPoint, which is my goto for everything).  While drawing on the computer in 2-D made measurements and scale a lot easier, it became increasingly difficult to figure out the interior and how all the pieces fit together. If they even fit at all.  Enter Sketchup.  Very capable, priced right (free), not too difficult, and lot of fun (okay, at least addicting).  But most of all, the resulting output is impressive and we can import drawings of actual appliances and designs to see how they will fit.

OutsideSideViewSo here it is.  The initial look of our design.  A contemporary, clean look that incorporates our many requirements. Siding is cedar (the reddish parts) and the rest is trimmed in cedar with metal panels. When we arrive at our destination, we will unhook the truck from the house and attach cedar panel skirts underneath the gooseneck creating a tiny garage for our bikes and additional equipment. In this first view, you can see the two decks, including the rooftop.  We placed solar panels on the top as well as a rooftop access window that opens up fully for easy access.  The main deck is 15’x8′ (4.6m by 2.4m) and is stored in two sections under the trailer during travel.

KitchenHere is a view of the kitchen from the outside.

BirdsEyeThis top view will give you a glance of the inside.  The master bedroom is over on the right, just a few steps up a stairway.  We have plenty of closet space and drawers.  The reading loft also has a few more steps on it that leads to the rooftop deck.  Kitchen is in the center of the home with a full size panel ready refrigerator/freezer, top of the line stove, convection oven, hood, and wood burning stove/oven combination.  Adjacent to the stove is a panel ready dishwasher, farmer’s sink, and wine rack.  At the other end is a sleeping loft and underneath that is a full size bathroom and laundry area.

LoftViewThis shows the view from the sleeping loft across the kitchen to the living/office/dining/sleeping room.  Yes this space will have multiple uses with transformational furniture, hidden features in the wall, etc.

What do you think?  Love to hear your thoughts and ideas.