We’re Insulated!

April 6, 2014 – The tiny house in insulated!  But only because we have good friends that will let us borrow their truck for a day and a half!  I reserved an insulation blower to be picked up Saturday morning and we left for my mom’s house Thursday evening because we were expecting a snowstorm on Friday.  We were originally planning on taking the truck to my mom’s to take her winter’s worth of garbage to the dump, but because of the impending snowstorm and our very bald tires we decided it would be safest to take the car.  However, on Friday it dawned on me that maybe the insulation blower would not fit into the back of our rather large Volvo wagon.  My mom called and confirmed that the insulation blower needs to be loaded into the back of a pickup truck with a forklift and it stays in the back of the truck during operation.

My mom called our friend Paul, who came over with his brother-in-law and a truck to move the tiny house previously, and asked if we could borrow his truck.  He said we could come get it in the morning as soon as he was done plowing.  Meanwhile, we realized we left a full box of insulation back at our apartment an hour and forty five minutes away.  My plan was to drive back to the apartment and get the insulation in the morning if it was no longer snowing.  We ended up getting about 15 inches of snow on Friday, but it was clear by morning so I ran back home for the insulation.  Pete was able to pick up Paul’s truck and go get the insulation blower.  He ended up getting back to the tiny house about 10 minutes before I did.

It took us a few mintues to figure out the blower; of course no one at the hardware store knew how to work it.  By 11:00 we were up and running and we finished up at 8pm. We have a few areas where we need to hand place the insulation and we need to go back through and make sure we have enough insulation behind and under all the junction boxes.  Originally we were going to hand place the insulation behind the tongue and groove like many other tiny house builders have done; however, my brother strongly encouraged us to put in a vapor barrier and so hand placing was not an option.

Now that we are pretty much fully insulated the next step is to put up the vapor barrier and prepare for tongue and groove.  Our lease on our apartment was initially up on April 19th, but because of the super long winter we’ve had we decided to extend our lease to the end of May.  The tiny house definitely won’t be done by then, but my goal is to have the tongue and groove completed by the time we’re living in the tiny house.  We’ll then have the rest of the summer to install kitchen cabinets, appliances, closet, and a ladder.

Due to work and family comitments, we’ll be tanking the next two weekends off and if it hadn’t been for Paul we would have had to wait three weeks before getting the insulation in.  Thanks Paul! It feels great to have accomplished such a big step!  🙂 By the way, we didn’t end up even needing that box of insulation that I drove home to pick up!

Categories: Insulation, Walls | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Making Progress

Since the last post, we’ve gotten the electrical to the point where we can start insulating. We also had ALK Contracting out to run our gas lines. They are a small local company that specializes in heating, cooling, and plumbing. And while Pete and I ran our internet and cable lines, we hired Aire Care out of Houghton to finish up the job for us. We didn’t have the necessary tools to put the ends on the wires and cables and really we just wanted to make sure we were doing it right. We worked with Roger, who stopped by on a Sunday on his way to camp and showed him what we were working on. He came back out a few days later and finished things up; super nice guy!

We’re installing an oven range vent hood to help with humidity while cooking.  We bought an under cabinet mounted hood that will vent straight out the back.  We located the area where we wanted to the hood to be installed and started making the opening.  We wanted the range hood to be up as high as possible and started hacking into our top plate before going outside to realize that the vent opening would interfere with our soffit.  We relocated the opening so it comes out just below the soffit.  We also had to cut into a stud, so we placed another stud next to it.

As for our gas lines, we had to run three separate lines because we would not have access to the lines in the wall.   When it comes time to install the appliances we’ll have a professional come out to finish the job.  At that time, the tiny house will be out at the property so we’ll have to find another company to finish it up.

And finally, last weekend we put up the netting that came with our wool insulation. We’re scheduled to rent a blower tomorrow morning to blow in the insulation. After that, we’ll be able to put up our vapor barrier and start putting up the tongue and groove cedar.


Categories: Electrical, Insulation, Kitchen, Propane Lines, Soffits | Tags: , , | 12 Comments

Lofts Complete & A Roof Started

October 8, 2012 – Pete’s parents, Sid and Nancy, and his brother Stefan came up for the weekend to help us with the tiny house.  While the weather was not always on our side, we were able to get the loft beams and flooring installed (mostly) and the roof beam in place with a few rafters holding it all together.  A big thank you to Pete’s family for helping us out!  We also have to give some long overdue credit to Pete’s co-worker Eric for many tools on loan.  We’ve been borrowing Eric’s table saw and jig saw continuously throughout the project and this past weekend we grabbed a few ladders, a belt sander, and a few other gadgets.  Thanks Eric for having such a well stocked workshop and the generosity to loan out your stuff!

Friday morning, Pete and his mom stayed home to make breakfast, while Sid and Stefan and I ran to ProBuild to pick up supplies.  We ordered 3/4 Doug fir tongue and groove flooring for the loft floor which was waiting to be picked up.  We also picked up some cedar decking for the porch floor as well as cedar 1 x 6’s for the fascia; a couple boxes of nails and screws as wells as Simpson straps and hurricane clips for the rafters.  A quick stop at Eric’s to pick up the above mentioned goodies and we were ready to get to work.

It was around noon before we ate breakfast and got to work and Nancy and I left the boys to take a run to Munising to meet with the door maker.  We’re having a company called The Modern Woodsmith out of Munising, Michigan custom make our door.  The door to the tiny house is only 1′ 10.5″ wide, which makes it difficult to find a ready-made door or to repurpose an existing door.  Also, from our understanding, doors are a bit tricky to make and way beyond our skill level.  I had spoken Jason and Tim on the phone a few times and went over the design Pete and I were thinking about, but we wanted to meet with them to make absolutely sure they were familiar with our project and what we had in mind.  Their showroom was amazing and made the task of picking the type of wood for the door very difficult.  Pete wanted curly maple, but when I saw all the choices I became uncertain.  Wood has a lot of variability and while one sample of curly maple or bird’s-eye maple can be spectacular, other pieces can be lacking.  I left with all the details in place except for the type of wood.  I took a bunch of pictures of doors they had on site so Pete and I could look over our choices; we wanted to be able to pick out the actual wood for our door.  (I stopped back in there today and was able to look at some of the wood they had in stock and decided on an African mahogany.  The door will be mostly glass with a 4.5″ – 5.5″ African mahogany frame.  I have no doubt it will be gorgeous).

Meanwhile, the guys were hard at work sanding the 4×4 loft beams and framing in the door wall.  By Friday evening all the loft beams were in place, the rim boards that join the side walls to the front and back wall were in place and we were ready to install the Doug fir loft flooring.  However, Saturday morning the weather was more than disagreeable.  The forecast was calling for 80% chance of precipitation with snow in some areas of the U.P.  While we did not get any snow in our area, we did have plenty of blowing rain, sleet, hail, and even some blue skies and sunshine throughout the day.

Nancy and I decided to sneak away for a couple of hours and visit the farmer’s market.  When we returned the Doug fir flooring was on its way to being installed under our two layers of 6 mil poly and a tarp.  We were trying to keep the layers of plastic and tarp elevated slightly with makeshift posts, but it was difficult working while trying to hold the temporary roof up.  We were also having some difficulty getting the finishing nailer to work consistently.  At some point that afternoon, we decided to call it a day and see what Sunday’s weather would bring.

On Sunday the weather was much more cooperative and we were able to take the plastic and tarp off the tiny house and really get to work.  Stefan had to be back downstate for work on Monday, but Sid decided to stay and help us for another day if we would meet Nancy halfway on Monday.  It looked as though we were going to be short on Doug fir flooring, so while the guys started figuring out rafters and bird mouth cuts, I ran to Lowe’s and Menard’s to see if I could get more flooring.  While I was unsuccessful on the flooring, I did pick up some  1″ cedar tongue and groove siding for the porch ceiling.  We put up the cedar for the porch ceiling and I quickly got to work fluffing up some wool insulation to fill in the space.  Pete was still working at installing the Doug fir flooring and Sid started cutting the rafters.  We used up all the Doug fir flooring (or so we thought) and installed the sole plate in order to put up the ridge beam and rafters.  By the end of Sunday, we had the ridge beam in place and nine rafters up.  It really is starting to look like a house.

We thought we were going to be able to put in a few more hours on Monday before driving Sid to meet Nancy; however, Pete got a call about a wildfire and needed to be ready to leave at 5am the next morning.  I got up and drove Sid to Newberry to meet Nancy and when I got home I promptly looked for more Doug fir flooring that I swear I saw leaning up in the garage.  As it turns out, we had the exact amount needed for both lofts and I didn’t need to order any extra.  It was a shame we didn’t realize this earlier, as we put up the sole plate and started putting in some rafters, thinking that we would just not nail in the sole plate at the sleeping loft end.  Now we’ll have to try to slide the last piece of Doug fir flooring under the sole plate; however, if this proves to be too difficult, we’ll just cut the 20′ board and install it in two pieces.  Either way, we’re making good progress.

Because so much was happening and quite a few people were working on different tasks I don’t have the usual amount of pictures detailing each step; however, in addition to the few pictures I did take, Nancy was kind enough to act as photographer for the weekend.  Thanks Nancy!

Categories: Door, Insulation, Loft Beams, Loft Flooring, Porch Ceiling, Porch Deck, Rafters, Roofing | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

We’re Floored!

June 24, 2012 – Our welding was completed last thursday and this weekend we were able to complete the floor.  As I stated in the last post, we had three options for dealing with our subfloor.  We chose option 3, cutting the subfloor so that the edges landed on one of our floor joists. Our first piece, which we only had to cut the tongue off, was pretty easy.  The other sheets, however, had to have the tongue and the groove cut off in addition to cutting it so it landed on a board (the tongue and groove while ideal, is not essential to the subfloor).  We used an aluminum guide that we borrowed from a co-worker (Thanks Brian!) in order to ensure that we were making straight cuts.  This almost worked!  A table saw would have been the ideal tool to use for this project. However, after a few goof-ups, the aluminum guide worked well and we were able to cut all the subfloor pieces and most of the cuts were straight.  We should have only needed 5 sheets of the subfloor; however, we cut our first one a couple of weeks ago when we discovered that not only our porch divider was in the wrong spot but that there may be a mistake in the plans (more on that later).  Anyway, we messed up the first one and had to buy an extra sheet.  Due to a few bad cuts, we thought we were going to need a 7th board; however, we were able to use some leftover cuts to fill in the remainder of the floor.

I was very disappointed last Thursday when I finally opened up one of our boxes of wool insulation.  I had previously been following several tiny house blogs that had all used the wool insulation from Oregon Shepherd and I was able to see the pictures of their insulation.  I had also thoroughly checked out the Oregon Shepherd website before ordering our insulation.  In all the pictures that I had seen, the wool was all natural colored wool.  However, when I had opened up one of our boxes, it contained dyed wool too, something I was not expecting (I admit I am a bit picky).  My disappointment came from the fact that it simply wasn’t the natural look I was wanting.  I had an image in my head regarding what the wool would look like and it was anything but that.  I was pleased to find that the second box we opened was all the natural color, but color or no color, we’re still excited to use wool for our insulation.

After getting all the subfloor sheets cut to size, we filled the cavities with the wool and glued and screwed the subfloor in place.  It was a late night for us, we didn’t finish up until 9:30 pm and still had to make the 1/2 hour drive home and get ready for work the next day.  This was a big milestone for us though.  We started framing in the floor a month and a half ago and it feels really good to complete this phase of the project.

Categories: Floor, Framing, Insulation | 4 Comments

Choosing and Ordering Insulation

May 23, 2012 – Our plans for the tiny house call for using polystyrene insulation; however, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is in California and we didn’t feel as though this type of insulation would do for a tiny house in the UP. In addition, we are hoping to use as many natural, non-toxic components as possible when building the tiny house.

We started looking into our options and also discovering the options that are not such a good choice for a tiny house. For example, due to the small size of the tiny houses, excess moisture will be a potential issue. Some insulation options, such as natural denim, are not resistant to moisture and would probably not be a good choice for a tiny house.

We had originally decided to go with spray polyurethane foam (SPF); however, after reading some potential negative issues we decided against that route. Most of the information on-line will tell you that SPF is soy-based and non-toxic. However, there is conflicting information out there regarding SPF and how safe it is.

To err on the side of caution, we’ve opted to go with natural wool insulation from Oregon Shepherd Through reading the blogs of other tiny house builders, we noted that a few of them also went with wool insulation. In fact, I called Oregon Shepherd to ask a few questions and place our order and was informed that due to the thorough question asking of Ella from the littleyellowdoor blog, Oregon Shepherd had decided to make a tiny house kit. The kit is based on the Fencl (the tiny house that we are building) and they’ve calculated the amount of material needed for the house. Thank you Ella and Oregon Shepherd for not making me re-invent the wheel!

George “Jordy” from Oregon Shepherd was able to answer all of my questions (including a follow-up call regarding dermestid beetles – a co-worker was concerned) and an order for wool has been placed! At first we were planning on only ordering enough for the floor, as it will be a little while before we’ll be insulating walls; however, to save on shipping costs, it made more sense to order it all at once. It should arrive in about a week! In addition to the wool insulation being a natural, sustainable product, I love to knit, and having wool in the walls is kind of cool! I hope to have my own small herd of sheep in the near future (along with alpacas, goats, and musk ox!) but until then I’ll at least know that it’s in my walls keeping me warm at night!

A few words on wool insulation from Oregon Shepherd:

Why Use Wool?

There are many natural insulation products available today, so why would you choose wool, or more specifically, Oregon Shepherd’s wool insulation products.

Since 8,000 BC, sheep have been able to adapt to even the harshest of environments; their wool protects them through hot, cold, damp and dry seasons. Because of their crimped nature, when wool fiber is packed together, it forms millions of tiny air pockets which trap air, and in turn serves to keep warmth in during winter and out in the summer.

The crimp in the wool fiber forces each strand to bump up against each other, as opposed to lining up side by side or laying down flat together. This keeps the tiny air pockets intact, acting as little insulators — the key to being able to keep you both warm and cool.

The unique advantage of wool as an insulator is the NATURE of the fiber.

  • It absorbs and desorbs moisture, it heats and cools as this process takes place. Wool therefore can absorb moisture in your house, preventing condensation.
  • It has plastic memory, not that there is any plastic in wool, but rather that technical description is used to explain the “crimp”; the ability to retain the shape it was in before it left the sheep.
  • The energy required to produce our insulation is less than 10% of that required to produce traditional insulation materials.
  • Wool can absorb and breakdown indoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.
  • Wool is a sustainable and renewable resource; every year our sheep grow a new crop.
  • Wool is completely recyclable; at the end of its life as insulation it can be remanufactured, reused, or biodegraded.
  • Wool is an excellent absorbtion medium of sound waves; its inherent qualities provide much more acoustic insulation than traditional insulation in similar applications.
  • While wool is generally fire resistant, our wool is treated with a 100% natural solution of organic materials that provide unequaled fire and vermin resistance. These materials are bonded chemically to the wool fiber, not merely “glued on” as in most other insulation products.
Categories: Insulation | 5 Comments

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