I sort of officially started the tiny house building last Saturday, March 14th, when I bought my first load of lumber and supplies at the Lowe’s in Monroe. There are already a lot of things I’d do differently given more time and money, and one of them is where I buy supplies. I’d like to use better quality and better sourced wood. I’ve been thinking a lot, “I’ll do (a, b, and c) on the next house.” That’s interesting. For now, I feel a little bit like I’m on a runaway horse and I’m just trying to hang on. I spent 2 hours in Lowe’s wandering around trying to find various (apparently) obscure kinds of glue to affix the sill gasket to the trailer without melting the foam. No one at Lowe’s really knew what I should use, but fortunately I ended up with a sweet and very handsome man who was so, so excited about my project. A dear friend from Alaska happened to be in town and staying the night at the build site with me, so he helped me load and unload the lumber and then we had a nice dinner and watched TV until bedtime.
In the morning all hell broke loose on a personal level involving decades old family trauma which I will not make you all suffer through the recounting but sidetracked any tiny house work for the rest of the weekend and sent me on an emotional tailspin for days. Hurrah! Upside is that stuff got talked out with various people that needed talking out. I suppose I am grateful for it but I still maintain that it was terrible timing on the part of the Universe. I have a house to build!
This last Saturday building started in earnest. In the morning I put on my Carhartt overalls and a baseball cap and spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the saw popped up from it’s storage position, feeling like a complete idiot the whole time, like someone totally unprepared and unskilled to build a mailbox, much less a house, no matter how tiny. I figured out the saw on my own and did a little dance, flipping it off and yelling “F YOOUUUU” at it in glee. At that moment I was so full of pride and self-confidence that any witnesses might have thought the house itself was actually completed.
But then I realized I still didn’t know how to turn it on.
Anyway, things went along in that vein for awhile. I got the wood measured for the floor joists using my handy dandy carpenter’s pencil and speed square. I’d just started cutting the wood with the above pictured ridiculous and amazing fancy chop saw that a fisherman buddy graciously let me borrow when my build help for the weekend showed up in his red Camaro… Cap’n Fingers. Fingers has a boat in Bristol Bay where I work in the summer and he hired me for my first actual fishing job this fall. I haven’t gotten around to writing the story of my fishing adventure with him but when I will I’ll link it. He’s the best. Here he is:
Fingers and I work well together and we got a lot done. Not as much as I’d have liked, but I read somewhere that a tiny house always takes twice as long as you think it will take, and that is thus far proving true. We got the joists cut for 2 ‘boxes’ to drop into the recessed belly of the trailer… each box having 6 joists running parallel to the trailer, perpendicular to the crossmembers, at 16″ on center. Except I suck at measuring or cutting or nailing or something, because they were not at 16″ oc in the end, but close enough I guess.
We added blocking across the middle to add stability, and Fingers used the skillsaw to shave about 1/4″ off the bottom of the short outside edge of each box. The lip of the trailer on each end is just slightly higher than the crossmembers, so without notching out the ends the joists sit 1/4″ above the crossmembers.
Jake and Kiva of Tiny Nest cover this on one of their floor videos, and kudos to them because I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this issue otherwise. Fingers managed to get his sweatshirt all tangled up in the saw, which scared the bejeezus out of me but he was unphased.
Our motto for the weekend was, “Two idiots are better than one.”
We had to take the end of the back box off and cut the joists down a bit to make the boxes fit, because again, apparently I suck at measuring. Once they fit, we took them out and applied glue and sill gasket to the sides of the trailer. I also picked this up from Jake and Kiva. It’s supposed to help keep moisture from forming between the metal of the trailer and the floor joists. I think a lot of people use treated lumber to deal with this problem, but I didn’t want to because a. it’s more expensive b. I don’t like using chemicals any more than necessary and c. I was planning to use aluminum flashing on the underside of the joists and aluminum reacts badly to the chemicals in the treated lumber. So sill gasket it was.
No one at Lowe’s knew what kind of glue I should use, so I wrote to Jake and Kiva on Youtube and they pointed me in the right direction. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for Jake and Kiva?
While the sill gasket was drying, Fingers and I got to work affixing the aluminum flashing to the bottom of the joists. I didn’t take any pictures of this as we were engrossed in the work. I had 2 rolls of 20″ x 25′ aluminum flashing. We got into a routine of rolling out the flashing across the bottom of the joists, marking the end with a Sharpie, and cutting it off with tin snips. Then we applied glue on the edges of the joists and nailed down the first sheet. We used this glue:
I learned that you should keep caulk/glue tubes in a warm place before working with them. The glue was cold and thick and really hard to squeeze out. We overlapped each sheet of flashing by about 4 inches. I laid a wavy line of glue along the edge of each piece of flashing and the edges of the joists before laying the next sheet of aluminum down. Then we snapped a chalk line so we knew where the joist was underneath (using the nails on the side as a guide) and nailed down the sheet. We only nailed along three sides as we went, and that way only one line of nails was used where the sheets overlapped. It took 5 rows of flashing to cover each box and I was left with just a short piece at the end. So apparently I can measure, sometimes.
The last step was to tape each seam with waterproof repair tape, this stuff:
It’s 6″ wide and so I cut it in half and used about 3″ on each seam. I wanted to tape over the outside edges of the flashing as well but apparently you need to prep raw wood with something before it will stick, so I skipped it, since I hadn’t bought any of the whatever you’re supposed to use. Primer, or something. We then flipped the back box over and into the trailer belly, nervous that it would catch on the sill gasket since (remember I can’t measure) it was a tight fit. It did push a small section of the sill gasket down, but most of it stayed up, so hurrah. Then we taped the inside seams of the flashing as well. The second box didn’t go in as smoothly. I never checked if the boxes were square (Me: Fingers how do we check if the boxes are square? Fingers: if they go in the trailer, they’re square) and apparently this one wasn’t, because the front right corner would not go into the trailer, no matter how much we shifted, maneuvered, kicked, pulled, yanked, and tried to sledgehammer it into place.
But look, shiny floorboxes! I work the dinner shift all week, so Fingers and I are meeting back in Monroe on Thursday to get the box trimmed down (again) and then the rest of the floor can be constructed.
I am bruised and battered and bloody from the weekend. The corners of the trailer are very sharp and I walked too close at one point and it sliced my leg open, through my Carhartts, without tearing the Carhartts at all. Worth the money, those overalls. And lucky I got that tetanus shot. The carpenter gods have taken their payment in blood.