A long overdue update

sink

My current 300 sq ft apartment: bathroom on left, kitchen on right (it used to be a closet). It’s been a good training ground for living tiny!

I thought this would be an endless two months between building stints, but somehow it’s flown by. As I ready myself for the next trip north for another month of building, here is a quick recap of what I’ve been up to:

Design research

It never really ends. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out whether to vent my roof or not. Turns out this is a pretty complicated part of building science and difficult to figure out how to apply it to tiny houses. That led to researching the chemicals used in various types of insulation, how to keep moisture from condensing on the inside of the roof sheathing, and how to make sure there is sufficient air circulation in the tiny house. Long story short, I set up a consultation with Derin Williams of Shelter Wise, who is both an energy efficiency expert and a tiny house builder, and I think I now have a solution that balances my concerns about flame retardants while keeping the dew point at bay. Look for more on this in a future post.

[On a related note, I realized that I was going to all this effort to reduce flame retardants in my loft ceiling while my bed is soaked in the stuff. California requires the highest levels of (largely unnecessary) flame retardants on beds and furniture in the country, though thankfully the laws are starting to change. I have one of those crazy Sleep Number beds that uses heavy duty air mattresses topped by a pillow top so it seems like a real bed. It’s the most comfortable thing I’ve slept on and I was loathe to give it up. I ended up getting rid of the offending pillow top, outer case, and outer foam, and bought a natural latex foam topper to put on the remaining air mattresses. It wasn’t cheap but much less expensive than buying a new organic bed. Maybe overkill, but part of my tiny house journey is to eliminate at least some of the toxic chemicals in my home, plus it’s new configuration will work better in my tiny house loft.]

I also started looking into the ins and outs of setting up a solar system. Lots more research to do here. I’ve been putting if off since it seems so far down the road, but realized there are some things I should be thinking through now as I work on the outer shell (like where to put the connectors, what type, etc.)

Practicalities

There have been a number of other items requiring research, too. Given my heights fear, I’ve been looking into getting scaffolding and have found a couple low- or no-cost options through friends and family. Also looking into ordering a custom door to fit my non-standard rough opening.

I’m about to bite the bullet and buy the Mini Franklin Gas Stove from Woodstock Soapstone Stoves (to see one in action, check out Aldo’s great reflection on his first year living in the Gold Thread Tiny House. I’m very fond of both his house and his stove, and based my floor plan on his design.)

After freezing through two winters in my current apartment, I needed an electric heater. I wanted to get one I could also use in the tiny house as a backup heat source if needed. I went back and forth between the Envi and the NewAir space heaters, both of which are low wattage (400-450 w). While I’ve heard great things about the Envi, I decided to go with the NewAir since it can be moved around and can heat up a space more quickly. So far it has worked well, though it hasn’t been super cold in California yet.

Also on the practical side, I took several bags and boxes of stuff to Goodwill in the ongoing purging process. This is getting easier now that my house is taking shape and I can more easily picture what will make the cut and where it will go. It really is amazing how good it feels afterward!

Where to put the kitchen sink?

One very awesome thing I did recently was go to a vintage trailer rally. What a trip! There were a couple hundred trailers restored every imaginable way by some very enthusiastic owners.

trailer rally

Trailer flair!

The rally led me on a roundabout rethink of where I wanted my kitchen and bathroom. I began to wonder if I should restore a trailer to house them, which could be parked just off my deck, a few steps from my door (those of you paying attention might recall that this was one of my very early design ideas – it’s a little cyclical this design process!). This sent me back into design mode and learning about trailer restoration. Went back and forth on whether to restore an old trailer or build one from scratch.

This concept would solve a lot of concerns regarding moisture, air quality, etc., but of course introduces a whole new set of costs and considerations, not to mention it would take up more land, which could reduce my future parking options. On the flip side, it freed up space in my tiny house to make art, which is something I want to do a lot more of in the future, and it would also be something I could just hitch to the car and take off camping.  Lots of agonizing ensued.

At the same time, I’ve been on this 30 day healthy eating challenge (no dairy, sugar, grains, alcohol or caffeine!) This is in keeping with my future tiny house goals of eating mostly local whole foods and I figured why wait? Giving up caffeine was the hardest part, but it’s been fascinating to see the changes in how I feel. Somehow this focus on cooking and food prep made me want to have my kitchen back in the tiny house. An increased sense of homeyness, I guess.

So that’s where I am at the moment, but in a few days I will exchange the cooking apron for my tool apron and climb back on the roof!

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PS – I live in an old neighborhood of Berkeley, which doesn’t have a lot of turnover in home sales. I recently learned that a very small two-bedroom cottage just sold for almost $2M – crazy, but that’s the Bay Area for you and explains why so many are either fleeing to cheaper locales or turning to alternatives like tiny houses!

Categories: uncategorized | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “A long overdue update

  1. I’m rooting for you!

  2. leepera

    Kate, I too had a fear of heights (still do, but it’s diminished after a year of working on my roof!) Anyways, I had some pump jacks that work as scaffolding and they were amazing! I’d let you borrow them if you lived here on the East Coast, but shipping would probably be just as expensive as finding some there. You can see photos of them in action on the blog: http://boneyardstudios.com/houses/pera-house-lee/#jp-carousel-1845 and then with the platform up high http://boneyardstudios.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/img_0792.jpg

  3. Good to know about those – thanks, Lee. I ended up getting some scaffolding at half off the rental price from a friend of a friend and that has been working out well. Been scampering up and down with little fear since they block the view of the drop off edge, which is what causes me to freeze up. Totally worth the cost for me! (but since I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep them for as long as I need them, may look into the pump jacks down the road)

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