Up until last weekend when I took a trip up to Oregon, there wasn’t much to report on my design process (hence the digression into the swamp). Since a number of you have asked what’s happening, here’s where I am at the moment:
Designing & research
I’ve been pretty hunkered down trying to develop my final plans. I’ve downloaded free or inexpensive plans to use as reference, bought books on framing and building principles, and have been reading up on various strapping methods, insulation types, venting requirements, green construction materials, whether or not to apply advanced framing practices, and countless other minutiae, some important and some less so.
Every tiny step forward involves boatloads of research, falling down cyber rabbit holes, re-thinking things I thought I’d decided on, and many other progress inhibitors. On the up side, I’m learning lots and while I could be doing the designing in SketchUp, I totally love going old school with graph paper, mechanical pencils and my triangular engineering ruler. They seem in keeping with the whole simplicity of a tiny house…plus they just feel good.
Since I knew I was going to meet with Dee (PAD – Portland Alternative Dwellings) last weekend, I was hoping to have a first draft of the final designs for us to go over (it feels like I’m in architecture grad school on top of working – my social life has pretty much gone on hold for the moment!). However, there were some critical issues that I needed to figure out before I could go further, specifically around the floor framing with the wider trailer, window placement, shower size and loft design.
Dee provided awesome feedback and advice so I am now back at it. I need to have the plans done by mid-May at the latest to order materials to start building in June. I’m still working on my specific dates but I plan on taking four weeks off to get as far as I can, hopefully have the exterior pretty much completed. I will then go up for shorter stints as I can get away from work until this puppy (kitten?) is done.
Once the designs are done, I will start getting down to brass tacks – pulling my materials list together and pricing things out. While I was in Oregon, I checked out where to source materials.
In my parents’ small town where I’ll be building, there is a locally-owned medium sized lumber store and a huge brand new ACE hardware store, plus a wonderful small millworks that mills lumber just a couple blocks from my build site. The people at the millworks were great to talk to and I can also order my windows and roofing through them. If needed, there’s a Home Depot the next town over or I can always go into Portland.
The other great place I visited was Sustain Eco-Interiors + Design, which exists to “provide the Columbia Gorge Community of homeowners, businesses, architects, designers, builders, and interested residents & students a local resource to learn about, see, touch, explore, and design with sustainable products for beautiful healthy spaces.” Sustain offers various eco-friendly salvaged wood, marmoleum, kirei board, cork and bamboo products. I need to follow up with them on pricing, but I loved what they offered and it was a lovely kinesthetic experience wandering around their showroom:
Also made a stop at IKEA to look at sink and rack options, and my mom bought a SUNNAN solar-powered LED table light to test out for possible tiny house use. No need to plug it in, it has its own mini solar panel and costs $20. Here’s a review from Inhabitat.
[That reminds me, for those of you using LED lights manufactured a couple years ago, be aware there has been a recall notice on certain models by Definity, EcoSmart (Home Depot), Sylvania, and Westinghouse due to the production of fire or smoke. More info here.]
Last weekend I also had my first hands-on building experience which was completely unexpected and super cool. I got to help do the “pre-build” of the tiny house being used as part of PAD’s construction workshop that happened this weekend. This involved framing up one of the walls and constructing the floor on the trailer. Many thanks to Dee, Derin Williams (Shelter Wise, LLC), and Lina Menard (This is the Little Life) for showing me the ropes on using a chop saw and tricks for framing. Great company and a wealth of information between all of them. It was really good to get a sense of what to expect when I start my build (note to self: get thee to the gym to work more on your delts and glutes!). I’m looking into ways to get some more construction experience before I tackle my house.
Another fortuitous discovery was meeting Steffen, the 6’7″ Dane who lives next to my parents. Turns out he’s a builder and is very excited about my tiny house project. It will be great having him as another resource when I bump into the inevitable thorny construction problems.
And on an unrelated note, last weekend I also started to build a ramp for my parent’s dog, Lucy, to get in their car, but unfortunately had to leave for the airport before it was finished.
So that’s what’s going on. I’m really loving the design process but am chomping at the bit to get building, and looking forward to spending a month in Oregon!