Author Archives: Naj Haus (Kate)

Autumnal sheathing: slowing down, buttoning up, closing in

final roof sheathed front

It’s starting to look like a house!

I’ve now finished my third building stint. This was a particularly reflective trip. Last time it had been hot summer and now it was definitely fall, cold and crisp. As I drove up, leaving the unseasonably high Bay Area temps behind, it felt more than ever like I was going home.

It was also a time of solo building and quietude, which was nice given that I have now gone beyond my plans and am figuring things out as I go. This involves a lot of pondering, which would likely drive others crazy waiting for me to decide the next step. Building is a lot like playing 3D chess. You need to visualize how things will come together many steps down the line. It’s incredibly challenging.¬†I love that about it.

On top of this, I was contending with my heights phobia so I moved at the speed of a sloth while on the scaffolding and perched on the ledge mounted on the roof. As a result, I made very little obvious progress but I feel good about what did get done. There were a myriad of details that had to happen before I could sheathe the roof: blocking, hurricane ties and strapping, framing and sheathing the gable ends, laying in the outriggers and flying rafters, figuring out my house “ears”, caulking the blocking, and framing the skylights – and of course they all took longer than I expected. I also continued to do research; tried (and failed) to procure more green building materials; ordered my gas heater, stove top and ventilation fan; and dealt with returning a load of moldy sheathing. Oh, and celebrated Thanksgiving in the midst of all that with my dear family!

I want to send a big thank you out to my parents for making sure I stayed warm and for making me wonderful hot meals at the end of each day. Really appreciated. ūüôā

Here is the month in pictures:   Continue reading

Categories: construction | 6 Comments

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: Continue reading

Categories: uncategorized | 5 Comments

“Raise high the roofbeams, carpenters!”

looking up

Slow but sure progress…

I just completed my second stint of building my tiny house and it’s very exciting to see it start to take shape. (See the Blood, Sweat & Tears and Doing Justice to Complexity posts for how the first stint went).

As most of you know, I’m currently living in Berkeley but am building at my parents’ place in Oregon. This means I am building in concentrated chunks of time, with one to two months off in between. There are pros and cons to this approach. There’s a lot of pressure to get as much done as I can while I’m there, so it can be exhausting building day after day. Despite this, I hate to leave it for so long when I’m done. On the flip side, it forces me to take a break and gives me time to step back and rethink things, and to be better prepared for the next stint. I do wish I lived closer, though.

Here are the last few weeks in pictures:   Continue reading

Categories: construction | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Floor construction: what lurks beneath

finished floor 2

Naj Haus subfloor – doesn’t look like much…

Now that I’m about to leave to build my roof, maybe it’s time I caught up on how I constructed my floor! The three big take-away thoughts I had on the floor were:

  1. Floors look deceptively simple, but they encompass nearly every aspect of building the entire house.
  2. Because of #1, they are a good training ground for learning most of the skills you will need later on.
  3. Because of #2, the floor will probably take waaaaaay longer than you think.

But I should insert a caveat here Рmy floor was perhaps more complex than most due to a) the way I decided to integrate the house and the trailer, b) my choice of insulation, and c) my perhaps neurotic concerns about moisture and mold. The following walks through why I made the choices I did and then documents how I went about creating my floor.

(Note: this is all pretty technical and matter of fact; if you want to read about all my agonies and ecstasies during this time, see my Blood, Sweat and Tears… post!)

Continue reading

Categories: construction | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Designing a tiny house in SketchUp: tutorials & resources

Naj Haus

Naj Haus in SketchUp (since revised slightly, including adding a full-length covered porch on the front)

Now that I’ve survived the last few months of design crunch and the first building stint, I’m catching up on some technical posts. You may remember I was determined to design my house the old school way with graph paper, pencil and a triangular engineering ruler. Part of this was because I loved the tactile feeling of drawing and it seemed in keeping with the tiny house simplicity mindset, and part of it was that my earlier experience with SketchUp had been a little frustrating. I’m usually comfortable diving into a new software application and figuring it out as I go, but I quickly learned that SketchUp, while an amazing free 3D modeling tool, is not exactly intuitive. I was able to make some rudimentary conceptual designs but lines stuck together, moved in strange ways, and basically made me want to kick it.

Just as I was getting serious about my final designs, I stumbled across some online SketchUp tutorials and the lightbulb went on. Once you get a few key concepts, it starts to make a lot of sense. I invested a weekend learning it and then spent the next few weeks painstakingly building my virtual house stick by stick, pretty much like I would do during actual construction (it takes less time if you aren’t making a zillion design decisions and research tangents along the way).

So to share the SketchUp love, here are the tutorials and resources I found most helpful:

Continue reading

Categories: design | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Doing justice to complexity: a love affair with a tiny house

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ribcage

I Cannot Find My Tiny
for Dean Young

In the age of horses, everyone was
born with their own tiny pony to protect.
It was a large responsibility and they
felt themselves crumpling under the weight of it.
To keep their ponies safe, the people
carried them deep inside of their chest cavities.
They called them Tiny.
Everywhere, people ran wild across the prairies and
then they would remember their Tiny and crumple.
And then gallop once more and then again
they would crumple. The sound of the crumpling
was very pleasing, but the rest of it was not.
The landscape looked like a western,
all of the people either galloping free like the cowboys
or else crumpled in little mounds like dead Indians.
In their Tinies, they knew what was missing.
They were very insecure.
If I were there now, I’d say, “I feel funny.”
I’d say, “Please, let’s go for a trot.” I’d say,¬†
“Just let me into your ribcage.”
And you’d whinny at me.
That is, if I even knew where to find you.

~ Rebecca Bridge

I came across this poem a couple years ago, long before I had ever heard of tiny houses. I was looking for something meaningful in my life and was taken with it’s longing and evocativeness, it’s raw, tender passion.

During the twelve hour drive back to California, I had a lot of time to reflect back on my first month of construction. While tiny houses and simplicity are often uttered in the same breath, I learned there isn’t much that’s simple about the building of a tiny house.

complexity

hmmmm…¬†

Recalling the poem, I realized that building a house is a lot like growing a relationship…

Continue reading

Categories: construction, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , , , , | 21 Comments

Blood, sweat, tears, blueberries & the most awesome three walls ever…

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Naj Haus taking shape!

This is an epic post to try to catch up on what I’ve been doing the last couple weeks, since I have woefully neglected the blog. I have two more weeks of building before I return to California, at which point I will do some more technical posts on the floor and wall framing. This will hopefully tide you over until then.

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June 18-19: Limping to Hood River, Oregon

Here’s some advice: even if they say you’ll bounce back in a couple days, don’t have surgery three days before you leave to start building your tiny house. For the week following, I was feverish, in pain, and bleeding and, for a good two weeks, limp as an amoeba. I ended up delaying my departure by a day and even so, it took me seven hours to pack and load since I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavier than a milk jug. I would move two things and have to rest. Thankfully my friend Lisa stopped by and helped me with the heavier items. I made it as far as Weed, CA, staying awake all night in a creepy hotel room listening to the roar of the truck generators outside my window, hoping no one would break into my car since I didn’t even have the strength to bring my backpack in.

The next day was better. I realized that packing for four weeks, plus all my camping gear that lives in my car, I pretty much had everything I needed to live. I felt light and mobile; there wasn’t much more I would be adding to my tiny house. As if to underscore this, Dad sent me a photo a neighbor had taken of a tiny house that was passing through Hood River as it crisscrossed the country. I immediately recognized it as the Quest for Powder tiny house I had seen in a video Dee showed the first PAD workshop I attended last November. That seemed like a good sign.¬† Continue reading

Categories: construction, PAD | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Where am I?

sketchup

My view for the last days and days…

Good question. The last several weeks have been such a blur, I barely know myself anymore. I’ve been scrambling to get everything ready at work to be able to take 5 weeks off for my first build stint, and every moment not at work has been spent on wrapping up my designs, ordering windows, and all the myriad other things that need to get done.

Yesterday I had to have some last minute surgery so today I’m laid up and following the Yestermorrow Tiny House Fair via the Yestermorrow blog, and the¬†Smalltopia¬†and RowdyKittens Facebook pages – it’s kind of like the tiny house olympics! Can’t wait to see the videos of the presentations – what a great resource for everyone. Check out this awesome Mushroom Tiny House blog using mushrooms for insulation and structural stability!

Tomorrow I pack and Monday I drive 12 hours to Oregon to start prepping and building to be ready for the PAD work party on July 6th!¬†It’s all a little surreal.

framing books

And my view in the other direction – my entire living room is covered in building books. These are the ones I use the most: Go House Go, Building Construction Illustrated, and the Ultimate Guide to House Framing, plus the Tiny House Design & Construction Guide eBook. See the Resources page for links to all of these.

Current systems thinking

After I wrote my post on my decision to go without plumbing, I was asked what I’m doing for my other systems (here you go, Paula!). Don’t hold me to these since they may well change, but this is where I am at the moment:

In general, I’m trying to see how simple I can go without feeling deprived. It’s been a good exercise to look at how I live now and how much change I could be comfortable with. I also have tried to design my systems so that I can easily live both on and off the grid. It’s a little challenging having to plan for future parking situations when you have no idea where you will be! So, the more options and the more self-sufficiency, the better. Would love to hear what others are considering along these lines.

Electrical – I still have a lot to learn about setting up a solar system. Due to the expense, I may hold off on installing one until I know where I will end up and whether I will have access to grid power or not. In terms of wiring my house, fortunately if you use 10/2 gauge wire you can keep options open for either system. I’m planning on building a tool shed on the tongue to house the batteries and other electrical equipment. I’m not going to have high electrical demands so will just need to have enough juice to power a few lights and charge my laptop and cell phone, and perhaps a couple other things. I’m also curious to look into wind power to see if that is feasible where I might end up. Continue reading

Categories: design, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Come party with Naj Haus!

PAD work party

So what are you doing on July 6th? Come join us!

I’ve partnered with PAD Tiny Houses to host a work(shop) party at my build site. It will be a chance to learn hands-on construction skills from tiny house experts Dee Williams and Lina Menard. The focus will be on framing and sheathing the walls and learning how to cut rafters so they “fit like an Armani suit (sleek and sexy)”! The day before is a work party to learn how to construct a floor frame and attach it to a trailer, on none other than Dee’s new vardo that she will take on her book tour next year! You can register for one or both events.

Check out PAD’s latest blog post “Tiny House Work Parties: Barn Raisings for the Tiny House Community“. It includes this video from the Casa Pequena Build Workshop that ShelterWise and PAD collaborated on last April:

So if you’d like to help make Naj Haus a reality while learning skills from the masters and having a kickass time to boot, I’d love to see you!

For more info and to register…

Categories: PAD | Tags: , | 2 Comments

On camels, cameras, courage & kindness

camel trek trilogy

From Alice to Ocean now joins my well-worn and well-loved mementos of Robyn Davidson’s journey.

Those of you who read my first blog post, On camels and tiny houses, know that one of my huge influences as a kid was the National Geographic story on Robyn Davidson’s trek alone across the Australian outback with her camels. I was completely floored the other day when Rick Smolan, the photographer for the story and who has since gone on to do other incredible photojournalism projects, wrote on my blog. I was even more amazed when he offered to send me a copy of From Alice to Ocean, the coffee table book he did documenting Robyn’s trek (also see the addendum to the Blood, sweat, tears, blueberries & the most awesome three walls ever… post for yet another interesting connection).

Yesterday, 35 years ago to the month from when I first got that magazine in the mail, I received Rick’s book. It was a strange feeling leafing through the beautiful, vivid photographs accompanied by excerpts from Robyn’s book Tracks. It transported me back those many years and to the other side of the world. It was like no time had passed. I was in awe all over again.

But it’s also notable because it’s a reminder just how small the world can be. This has been coming up again and again since starting this blog, demonstrating what is good about the internet: it brings people together in ways you’d never dream. Rick’s thoughtful gift is also a reminder about how a small gesture can have great meaning for whom it’s bestowed upon – the power of random acts of kindness. Ridiculous perhaps, but, holding it in my hands, it feels significant, like things have come full circle; a sort of biblio-benediction from the gods that this tiny house – or at least the journey – was meant to be. That feels very heartwarming.

My first post talked about how I saw parallels between Robyn’s journey and my decision to build a tiny house. I was going to elaborate more on that but realized that Robyn and Rick put if far more perfectly than I can —
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Categories: tangents | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

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