Trailer Delay- June 2

We arrived in Colorado on Sunday, June 2nd with the expectation of beginning construction on Monday or Tuesday. Sean and Jenna's Dad, Reed, headed down to Colorado Springs bright and early Monday morning to pick up the trailer and SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels to be used for the walls and roof). Our first unexpected delay couldn't have possibly occurred more quickly.

After a morning of frustration and failed communication with Tumbleweed (the tiny-house company who we ordered the trailer from) the guys arrived in Colorado Springs (a solid 3 hour drive away) to discover that the trailer--which was supposed to be delivered by June 1st-- had not arrived yet. Upon further investigation, we learned that there had been a delay with the manufacturer and our order was nowhere near ready. A few panicked phone calls later, we were looking at receiving the trailer hopefully by June 14th--a significant, but unavoidable delay.

Although we find ourselves feeling a bit helpless as we wait for our trailer and watch the time slip by, we're focusing our energy on gathering other things: windows, wiring, interior paneling, and all the other necessities. While we can't start construction without the trailer, we can make sure that we have everything we need to get started right away once it comes. Just crossing our fingers that this turns out to be our only such major delay...

Materials and Preparations- June 3-9

For the past week--while hanging out waiting for our "foundation" to be ready--we've been doing a slew of other things in preparation for the build.

On Tuesday the whole crew drove to Denver to load up Reed's utility trailer with the first half of our walls. We decided a while back, based on some of our research, that we wanted to use Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for the walls of our house. For anyone not familiar with this relatively new method of building, I would describe a SIP as being like a giant wall sandwich--there's a piece of particle board, then several inches of foam insulation, then another piece of particle board. They usualaly come in 4'x8' sections and you can have the doors and window openings pre-cut or you can order whole panels and cut the openings yourself. We went for the latter as it was cheaper and also allowed us the flexibility to make adjustments as we go.

Using SIPs instead of traditional stick-framing with insulation also allows us to have thinner, yet more stable walls, which allows us to maximize interior space (every inch is valuable when you're talking about living in 175 sq. ft.) as well as increase the "road-durability" of our house. As an added bonus, SIP walls go up more easily, and often more quickly than traditional walls (which will be great news for us whenever the trailer arrives).
Guiding the fork-lift
All together now...
Strapping everything down
Getting the low down on the special foam cutting tool
Unloading back at the house

Once the SIPs were loaded and headed to the house with Reed and Jake, the rest of us shopped around for some re-salvaged/overstock materials at a building surplus store in Denver  (Extras We found a great little 24" door for the bathroom and picked out some beautiful engineered wood flooring from the huge variety that the had. We made one final stop at Home Depot to get a few things we weren't able to find at Extras (floor insulation, interior wall paneling, remaining windows) before calling it a day.

Later in the week we talked a local electrician about helping us to wire the house (we're just not feeling gung-ho enough to tackle that part ourselves in the short time we have) and set up our solar panels and battery bank. We'll be meeting with him to discuss more details once we have the trailer. The rest of our time has been spent planning, organizing, and tweaking the design so that when we are finally able to start, things will *hopefully* run smoothly.

SIP Assembly- June 10-13

Since the SIPs arrived (and while we've been waiting on our trailer) we've been doing as much as we can to get the panels ready. After some thorough lessons from Reed on how to use a miter saw, we spent a couple of afternoons cutting 2x4 pieces of wood to the sizes we needed. 
Making the cut

Once we had the wood cut--which is used to fasten the panels to one another, and to the trailer--we were able to begin glueing and nailing some of the 2x4s into each SIP. This was a slow and careful process, as once you attach the a piece of wood using construction adhesive, it's nearly impossible to remove it without damaging the panel. No room for error as we have exactly zero extra panels. 
Applying SIP adhesive 

Using a nail gun to secure the 2x4

Trailer Delivery- June 14

Earlier in the week, we received a call informing us both that our trailer was finally ready, and also--unfortunately-- that there had been another small issue with the manufacturer. Although we had ordered a trailer with no space reserved for a porch (as we designed our porch to be built onto the side of the house later) our trailer was accidentally made with a porch. Fixing this will involve some welding and a little creativity, but ultimately, the trailer we received should work for our design. Lucky for us, their mistake also meant being offered a significant discount on the price, which helped to compensate us for the wait time and inconvenience of the welding. Another lucky break: we have a friend who can weld and who's willing to help us make the necessary adjustments. With the trailer finally in hand, we should be able to start putting the walls up in the next few days!

Registration and Insurance- June 17

Since tiny-houses are still relatively new, no one's really sure what to make of them in terms of classification, registration, and insurance. First thing Monday morning we called the DMV to figure out our options. They informed us that as long as it's registered, and you stay within the legal height and width limitations (13'6''x8'6''x24'), they don't care what you put on your trailer. Seeing the grand opportunity, we drove the trailer straight to the DMV and registered it before even beginning to build the house. This way, our house is just considered a "load" and no one even has to see it.

Another big hurdle facing all tiny-housers is insurance. After a few unsuccessful conversations with insurance agents, we finally found a company that was willing to insure our unusual house. We spent about half an hour on the phone with an agent at Progressive explaining to them about our unique "camper." We compared it to the Tumbleweed houses and explained that we'd bought our trailer through them. The agent was (surprisingly) able to find Tumbleweed listed in the camper brands and that was that! We were able to insure the house itself as well as the belongings in it (both for while it's on the road and while it's parked) for a mere $509/year. And the best part is that Progressive doesn't require any sort of inspection, so that's one less thing to worry about while we build.

The combination of working these things out was a huge relief for us because we've been stressing a bit about whether our house would be considered an RV or a camper or what and how to get insurance. Turns out it was all a lot easier than we anticipated, leaving us worry-free to focus on building.

Insulation and Sub-Floor- June 18, 19, 20

We spent the better part of this week working on turning the trailer frame into a suitable foundation for our house. We began by sealing all of the seams in the trailer to prevent moisture from getting in and growing mold. 

After that, we cut 1 1/2'' foam to fit into each channel in the trailer. This will sit underneath the sub-floor and insulate the house from below.

All of the foam in place with as few gaps as possible, it was time to attach the sub-floor. We began by drilling and bolting 2x4s onto the front and back of the trailer. We then cut 4'x8' pieces of OSB to fit around the wheel wells. 

Using self-tapping screws, we did our best to attach the OSB to the trailer itself by drilling through the wood and into the metal. We ran into some troubles here (see note below) and will return to this step later, once we find some better screws.

With the OSB firmly in place, we created our sill plate by attaching more 2x4s to the edges of the sub-floor. These will act as the base for our SIP walls, which will essentially straddle the sill plate and get secured with a nail gun and adhesive. 

Trailer Headaches- June 15, 16, 18, 19, 20...

As seems to be the rule in the world of tiny-house building, things haven't been moving as fast this week as we'd hoped they would. The number one reason for our continued delays has been (I'm sad to say) the "specialty" trailer that we ordered from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Although they designed these trailers to be "perfect for tiny-houses", we've discovered throughout the course of the week that they have some serious flaws. In our opinion, some significant improvements need to be made to their design before we would feel confident recommending it. For anyone contemplating this big purchase, here's a list of the issues we've experienced (you can decide yourself whether it's worth it):

  • 2 Week Delay on Delivery
  • Wrong Trailer Made--Although Tumbleweed called multiple times to verify that we wanted a trailer with no porch (most of their houses are designed to have porches, but we designed ours without one) they STILL delivered a trailer that was made with a porch. This mistake meant that we had to spend extra time and money covering the porch area with flashing and sealing it against moisture from underneath.
  • Trailer Not Level-- Nuff said.
  • Obvious Damage-- Our trailer arrived with several dinner plate size dents in it. They were extremely noticeable, and unexplainable considering the trailer was delivered via semi rather tan being towed on it's own. Aside from being a large, visible flaw, the dents meant that our floor insulation didn't lay flush in the channel- a minor thing, yet a disappointing one to discover about a brand new trailer.
  • Trailer Width-- We were told at a Tumbleweed building workshop we attended that the trailer would be 8' wide. It's actually less than 7'... a HUGE difference when you're talking about living in such a small space. Not to mention our design required the full 8' width and we therefore had to spend more time and money having brakets welded onto the trailer in order to make it wide enough for our house. (We also can't comprehend why Tumbleweed wouldn't design their trailers to take advantage of the full 8'6" maximum allowable road width for any vehicle without a special permit. 8' seems a reasonable width when you figure in siding and roof overhang on top of that, but 7'?! What were they thinking?!)
  • Too Hard of Metal-- While installing the sub-floor we discovered that some (not all, but some) of the I-beams on the trailer are made with a type of steel so hard that it's nearly impossible to screw into. The Tumbleweed instructions told us to use self-tapping screws to secure the OSB subfloor to the trailer. These screws work perfectly and easily on the outer rim of the trailer, however when we've tried to screw into the cross-beams, drill bits break, screws strip, and we've found ourselves spending many frustrating hours trying to find a solution. We've been to three different hardware stores, tried countless types of screws, and still have had almost no success. The only conclusion anyone of us can come to is that the I-beams must be made of a different type of steel than the rest of the trailer (WTF?). How we'll resolve this is yet to be known...

Raising the Walls- June 22, 23

As much prep-work as the SIPS involved, having them definitely paid off this weekend. In a matter of just a day and a half--and with the help of a couple of friends--we raised all but two of the wall panels, which we've left off for plumbing and electrical access. 

Raising and bracing the first panel
Reinforcing the corner with SIP screws
The trickiest part of getting the walls up was cutting the panels to fit around the wheel wells. After using a beam saw to make the cuts, we had to carve out the extra foam before testing to make sure they fit properly and then, finally, gluing and attaching them.
Using a special tool to melt away the foam

With the wheels-wells behind us, the rest of the panels went up pretty easily on Day 2. We spent the early afternoon fitting some scrap pieces around the area where the door will be, and then took the rest of the day off (what a treat!).  

Plumbing and Electric- June 24, 25

With most of the walls up, we were able to begin roughing in the plumbing and electric. When we began planning this project--and took a long hard look at how (not) long we had to complete our build-- we carefully considered whether or not to hire these things out. As we came to terms with reality, we were forced to admit that we knew nothing about either subject and, sadly, didn't have the time (this summer, anyways) to learn enough about them to tackle the power or water on our own. We humbly decided to solicit the help of some local specialists. 

Electrican, Cliff, and plumber, Rusty, have both been wonderfully helpful and accommodating while working on our unusual house. Neither had any previous experience with tiny-houses--or with SIPs for that matter--but both were enthusiastic about the project and happy to take on a new challenge. 

Cliff--who happens to live just down the street--has been stoping by almost daily to see how things are progressing and make sure everything is on track to run our electric through the panels. Once the walls were up, we spent some time drilling and cutting out the holes for our outlets and switches, and then Cliff spent an hour or so helping us to run the initial wires through the walls.

While we were working on framing the bathroom wall and the lofts, Rusty spent the better part of eight hours under the trailer running flexible water lines and drainage pipe from front to back. With only some minor trouble drilling through the trailer, he was able to run all the lines we needed for our shower and two sinks, which will all drain via gravity into the same gray water tank and later be recycled into the garden.

Interior Wall and Loft Framing- June 25, 26, 27

While Rusty was working on plumbing, we decided to go ahead and frame in the storage loft, which in addition to being one less thing on our "to do list," will also be a nice, sturdy place for us to stand when we raise the roof panels.

We also framed in the bathroom wall so that Rusty could go ahead and rough in the shower valve...

With the plumbing and electric ready to go, we were able to put up our last wall panel and frame in the sleeping loft. It's pretty stuffy at the moment with only the door cut out and a huge tarp covering the roof (and blocking off any chance of a breeze), but we're thrilled that the interior is finally starting to resemble that of a house and can hardly wait to see how the place transforms in the next few weeks!

Roof- June 28-July 9

Despite our best efforts to keep things moving at a steady pace, we spent the better part of the past two weeks working to get the roof on our house. We ran into some challenges with our SIPs during this phase and discovered that although they go up quickly once ready, each roof panel takes close to half a day to prepare. 
Friend, Brad, helping to get the first few roof panels up
The roof angle means that not only do the sill plates (which the panels sit on) need to be cut at an angle (we'll just say this in incredibly difficult to do without a working table saw), but also the panels themselves are cut at the same angle (which required purchasing a circular saw that can cut at at least 50 degrees). After being cut, each panel needed to have the foam melted out of it (not a pleasant job) and then 2x4s angle cut, drilled for electrical runs, and imbedded in it's sides.
Guarding against the foam-fumes
Our roof panels also needed to be supported from underneath, which required the construction of a custom roof-beam. We designed our house with dormers to allow maximum headroom in the sleeping loft and therefore it contains two different roof pitches--the regular at 40 degrees and the dormers at 15 degrees. Creating a sufficient roof beam was a long and involved process, but after several days we ended up with something we feel confident can support our house. 

Although we still don't regret our choice to use them because our house is as strong as a rock and incredibly well insulated, we all agree that we wouldn't want to build with SIPs again. Though they appear simpler on the surface, their use greatly complicates the building process, and requires an unusual amount of forethought and planning. We also, of course, made a lot of mistakes this being our first time working with them, and willingly admit that a project with such a tight deadline probably wasn't the best time to try a build method we were all unfamiliar with. 

Another major issue we ran into with the roof was uncooperative weather. Each day as we worked our hardest to get the roof panels cut and ready, the sky darkened and the wind gusted. Though afternoon rains are common in the Rockies this time of year, the showers have been consistently starting early and continuing sporadically throughout the day. Each time the rain threatened, we had to tarp the entire house and cover the panels to keep them dry. Needless to say, this put a damper on the whole process, and caused a great deal of frustration over more lost time. And when the panels were finally ready, the rain continued to be a hinderance by preventing us from putting them up.

With all of our struggles though, we did finally manage to get the roof up...

Once the roof panels were on, we continued struggling against the weather to get the Ice and Water Shield on so we could finally ditch the tarp...

Windows- July 9, 10

As hard as it was to get the roof on, that's how easy it was to get the windows in. In a matter of a day+a few hours we had all of our windows cut, Ice and Water Shield-ed and installed. Finally, some speedy progress!

Staining- July 11

As we slaved away on the roof, our wonderfully helpful Moms--Marilyn and Anne--worked on sanding and staining our siding and interior T+G. The siding we're using is leftover from another project Jenna's parents did a while back and has been sitting in their yard for the past 8 years or so. It therefore required a fair amount of cleaning off and some serious revival tactics to whip it into shape.

For our interior paneling we chose beetle-kill pine (a.k.a. "blue stain pine"). Jenna's home state of Colorado has been experiencing a pine beetle epidemic throughout the past decade and has lost a stunning number of trees to the invasive pests. When the beetles take over an area, they bore into healthy trees to lay their larva, leaving behind a poison which stifles and usually kills the trees. In part due to their numbers, and because their removal reduces fire danger, the beetle-kill trees make for a highly available lumber source. Not only is this unique wood an environmentally responsible choice (as using it harms no living trees), the beetle poison also stains the wood a beautiful blue-ish grey color. 

Electric and Tyvek- July 12

Once the windows were cut, we wrapped the entire house in Tyvek to protect it from moisture. This went smoothly and quickly, despite the cumbersome size of the roll it came on. 

Sean also spent the morning working with our electrician on wiring. Although it took some time to get things sorted out and the holes drilled, they eventually got all the wires into the right places.

Ceiling- July 14

We've been jokingly referring to this day as "Surprise Ceiling Day" because we had absolutely no intention of working on anything to do with the ceiling when the day began. We planned on putting in the loft floors, installing hurricane brackets, and about 5 other things, but figured the ceiling paneling would come later. As we got going, one thing led to another, and we discovered that it was more practical to put the ceiling panels in first. So we cut a few pieces to the right lengths, and started nailing them up. Before we knew it, we'd finished a whole section!
So we just kept on going... and by the end of the afternoon, we'd finished the WHOLE thing. Needless to say we would highly recommend tongue and groove paneling as it's not only beautiful, but also quick and easy to install. 

Wall Paneling- July 15

With the ceiling finished, the next obvious step was to begin putting up the wall paneling. This was admittedly a bit trickier than the T+G, but still went relatively smoothly. We chose to use V-groove bead board to cover our walls because it's thinner and lighter than drywall and much easier to work with. It's installation, however, does involve a lot of measuring, cutting, and fitting, which turns out to be quite time consuming. By the end of the day, we'd managed to put up a little less than half of our wall paneling. 

After picking up a few more sheets of bead board at Home Depot, we finished the rest of our wall paneling a few days later.

Loft Floors- July 17

With our paneling in, we removed our temporary loft floors and put in the T+G. This went about as quickly as the ceiling, and made a huge difference in the look and feel of the house

Reed taking a quick break, and testing out the new storage loft

Enjoying our roomy "master loft"

Interior Trim- July 18

We decided to use some of our leftover blue pine T+G to trim the windows which meant ripping it lengthwise and then sanding and staining the unfinished edges. Fortunately, we have some incredibly friendly and generous neighbors who invited us to use their table saw, so we made a few trips to their place while Sean was busy tweaking the bead board cuts and getting them to fit. Once we had the trim cut and prepped, we used a trim nailer to secure it around the windows.

Painting- July 19, 20

Although our bead board was white when we got it--and we intended to keep it white--it definitely needed a coat of paint after all the scratching and scuffing it endured during installation. You wouldn't believe how many shades of white paint are available! We did our best to match the primer coat that was already on it, and then we set to work. Painting the already white bead board white was a pretty tedious and seemingly futile process, but in the end, it looked much better for it. 

Floor Prep- July 21

While we worked on the walls and window trim, our continuously helpful moms prepared our flooring. They spent hours in the garage carefully sanding each piece and then applying several coats of polyurethane. We are SO VERY appreciative of all the time they've been giving us and readily recognize how ridiculously much longer this build would be taking without their help. When they finished, our floor was ready to be installed and looked awesome!

Exterior Trim and Cabinet Assembly- July 22

Keeping in step with our goal to reduce waste and reuse scrap, we decided to rip all of our exterior trim out of extra siding material. We picked through our pile to find pieces that weren't as nice, or didn't quite match the others, and then spent a couple more hours working with the neighbors' table saw to cut the widths we needed. 

After a quick run to the only local paint shop, we had our color picked out and the trim ready to go up!

Meanwhile, Anne took on the difficult task of assembling our IKEA kitchen cabinets. Though we were able to customize our cabinets and get exactly what we needed for our tiny-kitchen, they came with the obligatory picture-only directions typical of IKEA products. Anne spent many patient hours deciphering the diagrams and getting the cabinets ready for installation. 

Siding and Cabinet Installation- July 23

With the exterior trim on, we were ready to start putting up siding. We began by cutting the pieces to fit around the wheel wells--which was pretty tricky-- but with the hardest part behind us, we were able to cruise on the rest. Before long, we had most of a side done.

When the weather moved in, so did we, spending the later part of the afternoon installing the cabinets. We had to cut for an outlet and for the plumbing (and interpret more IKEA directions) but all in all, they went in pretty easily. 

Electric and Shower- July 24

We started off the morning with our electrician, Cliff, coming back to put in our outlets, switches, and light fixtures. 

Rusty also stopped by to help us install the shower pan, and then we spent a couple hours cutting and fitting the paneling for the shower walls. 

Electric, Siding- July 25

While Cliff worked on getting our electrical panel installed, we continued putting siding up. We felt it was important for the house to have it's own electrical panel so that if we accidentally tried to use more power than we were receiving, we would trip our own breaker instead of whoever's we were plugged into.

Window Box- July 26

Once the electrical panel was installed, we wanted a way to protect it from the elements, and also to prevent it from being too much of an eyesore. What we came up with was a phoney "bay window" of sorts, framed with 2x4s and finished with a pair of shutters we salvaged from a neighbor's re-model. We jokingly call it our "utility room", but it serves the purpose of hiding both our water heater and electrical box from view, while also adding a little more dimension to the otherwise very flat front of our house.

Heater- July 27

Next up was to install our mini-propane heater. We chose this model both because of it's efficiency and because of it's size, but it didn't hurt that it was adorable too! It's installation required drilling a hole for the vent through to the outside, mounting it firmly to the wall, and then attaching a vent cap. 

Counter, Sink and Stove- July 28

Before the plumbing could be completed, we had to finish installing our kitchen appliances. We marked and cut holes the correct sizes for the sink and stove and then fit them into the counter top, which we had picked up at a building surplus store in Denver. 

Shower Walls-July 29

We also had to finish out the shower before Rusty came back. Because of the custom design of our bathroom, and the window in the shower, a pre-poured shower wouldn't work. The shower walls we used were basically just large sheets of textured plastic that we had to cut to fit the same way we did the bead board. We found the plastic sheets much more difficult to work with, however, as they chipped easily and cutting them with the circular saw produced a lot of very sharp debris. We took extra care to cover up any exposed skin and to protect our eyes during this grueling process. Once they were cut correctly, we attached them to the walls with adhesive just like the bead board.

Flooring- July 30, 31

Before we began laying our flooring, we had to cover the sub floor with tar paper. We weren't exactly sure what the purpose of this was, as it seemed too porous to act as a moisture barrier, but everything we read indicated that we needed to use something in between the subfloor and the flooring. We overlapped the wide strips of paper and then secured them with a staple gun.

We started laying the flooring lengthways from the bathroom to the kitchen and worked our way towards the door. Many people advise using floating floors in tiny houses; however, the discounted flooring that we found and liked wasn't designed to be floating. We decided to nail the first few pieces to the subfloor to hold them in place, and then made the rest of our floor "floating" so that it would allow for expansion and would be more fluid for travel than if each piece were nailed down. To do this, we applied wood glue to the grooves of each piece before we inserted the tongue of the next, thereby securing them to one another without attaching them to the subfloor. We also placed shims (little tapered pieces of wood) along the edges to create a bit of space all the way around that would allow the flooring to expand a bit in Portland's moister climate.

French Doors- August 1

With the flooring in, and no more long pieces to maneuver through the doorway, it was time to put the french doors on. This was a pretty challenging process. The doors needed to be cut in order to fit in the opening and then had to be adjusted to hang, open, close, and lock correctly. They also had to be drilled for the proper hardware that would allow them to lock. 

Plumbing Finished- August 2

With the floor ready, Rusty came back to finish up the plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom and install the gas lines and hot water heater. We really can't thank him and Cliff enough for their hard work and flexibility throughout our unconventional build!

Testing the water- it works!

Bathroom Door- August 3

We choose to mount our bathroom door on a sliding track on the outside of the wall so that it wouldn't require the use of floor space to open it. It was more or less the same idea as a pocket door only on the outside of the wall (because the plumbing and electrical were run on the inside). There are many fancy tracks available that are specifically designed for this type of sliding door, but we decided to use a far more affordable--and still perfectly functional--closet door track.

Siding Finished- August 4

Ladder and Pipe Wrap- August 5

We had intended to use a sliding library-style ladder to access the lofts, but upon seeing the price tags on them, decided we could get the same function out of something much simpler. We built our ladder--which is fully movable to provide access to both lofts--out of leftover 2x4s. It has angled rungs and can be stored out of the way vertically, yet pulled out and tilted for an easy, comfortable climb. There may not be a fancy track, wheels, or sliding hardware, but we did put these nifty rubber feet on the bottom to keep it from slipping ;)

With so much piping exposed underneath the trailer, we felt we should protect it somehow from any rocks that might hit it as we were driving. We found some foam tubing at Home Depot and wrapped it around the flexible water lines and the PVC drain pipe, which would not only protect them from stray rocks but would also act as insulation during the winter.

Shelving- August 6, 7

Needless to say, storage is extremely important when you're living in such a small space. We used leftover pieces of T+G to make open shelves for the bathroom, kitchen, and living room. By doing this, we were able to cut the pieces to exactly the lengths we wanted and maximize our use of the space without buying any more cabinets. We ripped the tongues off the fronts of the pieces, sanded them smooth, and then stained both the tops and the bottoms. We picked up some generic "L" brackets from the hardware store to hold them up, and boom--shelves!

Sean also spent a fair amount of time creating a built-in shelf in the bathroom wall. We'd seen built-ins being used in many tiny-houses and the concept made a lot of sense to us. Having used SIPs for our walls complicated things, however, and we were nervous about weakening the structural soundness of our house by cutting into the walls more than necessary. We decided to put a built-in shelf in the only interior wall that we could, while leaving the rest of our walls in tact.

Kitchen Island- August 8

Another main design feature of our kitchen is a rolling cart island that can be moved around the house as necessary. This was another thing that we custom-designed to fit our exact needs. The cart itself belonged to Jenna's parents who used and loved it for many years, but it had most recently been sitting half-forgotten storing gardening supplies outside. They happily gave it to us. It has shelves inside for storage, a cutting board that slides out for extra chopping space, and a knife rack on one side. We sanded and re-finished the wood and added a folding leaf that, when raised, serves as a table where the two of us can eat comfortably. We finished off our new island by adding a towel rack and a scrap piece of marble that was leftover from another project and that fit perfectly. 

Final Touches and Preparation- August 9

With our departure date fast approaching, we scrambled to put all of the final touches on the house and get everything ready for the trip. We attached the shutters to the bay window "utility room" and sealed the exposed areas underneath to protect from water. 

We also cleaned and cut our roofing pieces so they would be ready to throw up when we arrived in Portland. We decided early on to leave the roof off for the drive as it would add a lot of extra weight and make the house even more top-heavy than it already was. We also planned to tile the bathroom floor on arrival as that would add a lot of weight as well. 

The metal roofing we used was tricky to cut, but turned out to be pretty easy to work with overall. This was another material that was graciously given to us by a friend who had a lot of it laying around and not being used-- Thanks, Andy!

In the News

A few days before we were scheduled to leave, we received a call. A reporter at the local paper had heard about our tiny-house and wanted to write an article about it. Being interviewed was a new experience for all of us, and we had a great time sharing about the house and about our decision to live smaller. You can find the article HERE.

Shrink Wrapping- August 10

This was a precaution that multiple people had advised us to take, but which turned out to be utterly useless in the end. The idea was that it would add an extra layer of protection against wind and rain while we traveled, and prevent some of the wear and tear that would naturally occur as we drove the 1,300 miles to Portland. The reality was that it took us almost an entire day to wrap the house, and it shredded almost instantly when we hit the highway. Guess some things just look better on paper. Oh well, now we know...

En Route- August 11-14

We pulled out of the driveway running one day behind schedule, but with plenty of time to get to Portland before our deadline. Not long into the drive, we ran into some trouble with our vehicle and that set us back another day or so. Once we got the truck running properly, the rest of the drive went about as smooth as we could have hoped, although it was still one of the craziest things any of us had ever done. Driving your house (that you've just spent an entire summer and all your savings building) down the highway at 50mph is, in a word, terrifying, but in the end we made it with both the house, and our nerves (mostly), in tact...

The Final Crunch- August 15, 16, 17, 18

You'd think that having made it to our destination the pressure would be off to get the house done quickly, but both of us starting work the following week meant we had just a few short days to wrap things up and get the house ready for full time residency. 

Priority number one was to get our stairs built so that we could get in and out of the house easily. We had also prepped these before we left, so they were pretty easy to put together. The only major drawback now was that we now had a limited number tools at our disposal as most of the ones we'd been using were back in Colorado.

With the roofing already cut, it was pretty easy to put it on now that we weren't worried about the weight. Meanwhile, we got our water lines hooked up while our landlords scrambled to install an exterior electrical outlet for us to plug into. 

We laid the tile in the bathroom and put the final coat of sealer on the hardwood floor, bought and began installing gutters, retrieved our stuff from storage, and put the shelves up in the closet. 

Once the grout was dry, we were able to install the composting toilet. After some deciphering of the Swedish directions (which were hazy, at best), we drilled the holes for the vent and the "liquids" drain line, attached the pipes, flipped the fan switch to "on" and were all set to go (pun intended). 

We also created a temporary grey water tank out of a rubbermaid so that we could begin using water while we worked on a more permanent system. 

All Moved In!- August 18

Although we've still got a rather long "to-do" list (and likely will for a while), the house is up and running and we're starting to feel settled. Of course, there are kinks to work out and projects to finish, but on the whole, we're extremely comfortable here, and are thrilled to finally be living in our new home!


  1. SO COOL! Thanks for the thorough coverage.. this will undoubtedly help many friends who are wanting to transform their lives and begin tiny livin' too! You guys are really doing it!

  2. Amazing how quickly this all comes together! Great work you two!

  3. LOVE it. Can't wait to see it finished.

  4. This is amazing Jenna! Congratulations, I cant wait to see it finished!

  5. So proud of you both,Padre

  6. Very proud of you. Loved seeing it this weekend. You two are amazing!

  7. Thanks for taking us on this wonderful journey. I loved seeing the final result with everything in it's place -- including the guitar. I'm certain many happy years of togetherness are ahead of you two and your tiny little house. Kathy, Rich and Peter

  8. Hello both, wonderful home you have and it all came together really nicely from start to finish (or so it seems :P). I have a question about your double glass door. I have been considering a similar door over my wheel well in addition to the "front door" at the end of the trailer. Was your door a standard size? Somehow I've done the math a few times with standard sizes and have always come to the conclusion that I would have to custom make/order a door that fits b/t the wheel well and the top of the wall (below the eave). Could you tell me a little about that? If it's else where on your site I'll find it eventually.


  9. Best one I've seen yet. Love the design.. Bumped up master loft, bath&laundry, sliding doors, island/table. Absolutely feb. Heartfelt congratulations ona job very well done. It even looks like you might have some room to hang folding chairs for cisitors on the wall ;)

  10. Nice work....lots of thought and love put into this...what would you change now if you could? I ask this because there "is always something" that one forgets in such new projects....this is my destiny for 2014-5.

    Life is too expensive....NOT to live like this...and it's just smart. It's the new "SEXY" to live like this.

    Do you two have building plans for this..

    Frank in upstate NY

  11. Gorgeous! Simply gorgeous! Well done!

  12. This is the most thorough, entertaining and informative treatment I have seen of the mobile tiny house building process. It would make a great coffee-table and/or e-pub with so many photographs.

    Thanks for taking the time to record the work.

  13. Thanks so much for this, and for the info about the flaws with the Tumblewwed trailer!!

  14. Congratulations on your new tiny home. This was a great chronicle of the project and very helpful.

  15. thank you for sharing * and congratulations with your new beautiful home! i hope to start my house very soon... maybe the first tinyhouse in norway?! :)

  16. I love how Settlers of Catan is featured prominently in one of the photographs :) Finding room for my game collection/game table would be a problem for me going tiny!

  17. Thank you so much for this great blog, and all the detail. My family and I are planning to use SIP panels for our tiny house, and reading your journey allowed us to understand the Pro's & Con's. Great job with this beautiful tiny house!!

  18. Thanks so much for this step-by-step build description. My husband and I are currently building our own tiny SIP house, and this has been super helpful. We're about to start placing the roof panels- wish us luck!

  19. Excellent, detailed blog! I really like your layout with the kitchen at one end and the bathroom at the other... well done. What do you think of the step over threshold on your french doors? Also, it would be great if you posted a floor plan with dimensions. I'd like to see the layout of your bathroom... looks like you put a washer/dryer in there. And do you have space for hanging clothes?

  20. What a fabulous home you've built for yourselves!!! I really appreciate that you took the time to thoroughly document the build -- that's a huge help for people like me who are intimidated by the thought of tackling such a big (tiny) project.