Category Archives: Construction

Plumbing

The tiny house is moving forward in leaps and bounds, and then something comes up that stalls everything for a bit and then the build moves forward in a different direction until something comes up that has to be creatively encountered.    The plumbing demands of the house have certainly caused a few minor stalls, creative problem solving and multiple trips to the hardware store.

There are conversations in the tiny house community about the cost of a tiny house per square foot vs the cost of a traditional home.  I have strong opinions about that and won’t get into them now, but I will say that in a tiny house, particularly one in this climate, you have to fit in a lot of the same elements as a traditional home in a much smaller space and then fit in some things you would have to think about let alone find space for.

I started figuring out my plumbing needs and purchasing the big elements of my plumbing several months ago.  My plumbing system allows for pressurized water supply from a hose and also a supply via a  26 gallon fresh water tank under my kitchen sink.  The pressurized water is pretty straightforward – the water comes in and goes either directly to supply the taps of the kitchen sink, bathroom sink or bathtub with the normal bypass to the hot water heater OR it can fill the fresh water tank.  The fresh water tank can be filled 3 ways: (1) the pressurized supply that comes in through an RV water inlet that has a hose connection and  (2) a poured water supply line, (3) poured in through a marine water inlet in the counter.  Once the fresh water tank is filled, there is a water pump that draws water from the tank to supply cold water directly to the taps or to the hot water heater to supply hot water to the taps.    The reasons for the fresh water tank and the multiple ways of  filling it are weather related.  At -30 celsius, there is no guarantee that even the best heated potable water hose will be able to supply water to the house, and at the same time I want to be able to fill the water tank from inside – getting water into a small hole at chest height at -30 is not my idea of fun.

Once the supply aspect of the fresh water system was worked out and plumbed, the rest of the fresh water went really quickly.  The fresh water plumbing is done with pex and clear vinyl tubing (for filling the fresh water tank through the exterior and interior inlets).

The grey water has had its challenges as well.  The grey water from the bathtub, the kitchen and bathroom sinks all goes out of the house at the same spot under the tub.  The grey water will leave the house and go into a storage tank or a french drain will have to be set up, depending on the location of the house.  That system will work well until the weather goes below freezing.  I have no desire to chance what will happen in a grey water outlet or tank once the water in it freezes and expands.  Visions of cold hours under my trailer at -30  are also not my idea of fun.  The original plan was to have buckets under the sinks and to shower elsewhere in winter, both of which I am fine with.   Unfortunately, fitting a fresh water tank, a pump and a water heater under a counter does not leave any space for a bucket.

Here is the solution:  the grey water from the kitchen goes past the bathtub, joins up with the grey water from the bathroom sink and then heads to a valve that either sends it towards the tubs grey water and out of the house or to a grey water container inside the bathroom.  Putting the solution in place called for some creative plumbing and pieces.  I am still on the hunt for a 5-6 gallon  grey water tank that I will be able to remove from its spot in the bathroom and empty in a suitable location.

Flooring Part II

Progress on Tiny Refuge is just chugging along.  Tiny Refuge now has flooring!  Yesterday morning, we installed the cork flooring in the lofts and started on the porcelain tiles in the kitchen and great room and today we finished tiling the kitchen and great room.

Tomorrow, the grout goes on and then a field trip to a counter supplier!

 

Sanding And Then More Sanding

It has been two weeks since Tiny Refuge has been under full-time construction.  During the first couple of weeks, most of the work done was mostly at Stefan’s shop as he built the kitchen cabinets out of the leftover interior siding or panelling.  There was just enough wood to build the cabinets out of, it was very tight, it took every single plank left to build the cabinets.  It was a labour intensive process, Stefan cut and planed down each board, glued them together, cut them again to size, built doors, drawers and cabinets.  I helped out with sanding and applying wood filler where necessary on each piece that Stefan built and then sanding them again.  Once everything was sanded, we started painting the cabinets.  I bought white milk paint for the cabinets and they are finished with hemp oil.

As he was working in the shop, the interior siding was sanded to get it ready to have SafeCoat Clear applied to it.  SafeCoat Clear is a fire retardant.  It is used in the film industry and in industrial applications on wood.  If my walls were drywall or  solid sheets of plywood instead of panelling, or if I had used rock wool or sheep wool insulation, they would meet code for fire safety without adding a fire retardant.  On the plus side, it has no VOCs and it’s a Canadian product.

When I wasn’t sanding my kitchen cabinets at the shop, I was sanding the walls of the tiny house.  Alex and my mom helped out with sanding the chamfered edges each of the panels of the interior siding.  It was a full day of sanding after several days of sanding before that.  It was a long but well worthwhile process.  The walls look great.  After they were completely sanded, wiped down and the tiny house thoroughly vacuumed, Stefan came over and applied a sealant to the walls with .  Once the sealant dried, we very lightly sanded the walls again and then started applying the first coat of fire retardant.  SafeCoat Clear has to be mixed on site, and we half of it as that’s what we needed for the first coat.  That was unwise. Once mixed, the SafeCoat clear only has a 2-3 hour pot life.  As it gets closer to the end of its pot life, it gets thicker and stickier.  By the time we were applying the SafeCoat Clear to the last section of the tiny house, it was tough going.

The second coat went on much better.  The walls look so much richer after the sealant and fire retardant.

Interior Siding: Part II

This has been a wonderfully busy week for Tiny Refuge.  The replacement for my door finally arrived and it was installed.  The door they originally sent was 1/4″ too short, leaving enough space for the weather to get in. I have been waiting for the new door for months.  Not only do I have a new door, I have a door handle and a deadbolt.  Much fancier than the scraps of 2×4 that were standing in for a door handle.

I spent quite a few hours this week sanding the ridge beam.  I wasn’t sure if the ridge beam was going to be visible or not, so I didn’t get it sanded at the sawmill.  It had a few dark marks on it and was rough enough that you could get splinters if you rubbed it the wrong way.  I  used a palm sander and got that ridge beam smooth.  I am going to leave it exposed and as we installed some of the ceiling this weekend, it needed to be sanded before hand.

By the time Saturday rolled around, the tiny house was ready for some more siding.  Saturday we finished the dormer fronts and  the ceiling in the dormers.  The dormer fronts were pretty straightforward, with far fewer cutouts than the main floor.  The ceiling on the other hand was a little more challenging.  I am using wider boards on my ceiling and unlike the walls, where I manned the saw and Stefan did the installation, we were both up in the lofts getting the boards in place.  We started the installation at the ridge beam and then worked towards the walls.

Sunday, we started tackling the dormer sides and I was up in the loft installing the siding.  Saturday, I used a nail gun (the brad nailer) for the first time and Sunday I was manning the brad nailer.  The dormer sides are slow going.  The angles are slightly different on each one and the top two pieces of siding require cuts on the table saw and the mitre saw.  The tiny house only has space for the mitre saw, so the top two pieces required quite a few trips outside.  We got 5 ½ dormers done and one of the small sections of 12/12 pitch ceiling done in the small loft.

Next weekend: the dormer sides will get finished, as will the ceiling on the rest of the 12/12 ceiling. The bathroom wall will get built and sided and then we start on trim.

Interior Siding: The Beginning

Last week was quite the week.  Tiny Refuge went from bare studs with electrical, to purple with some studs coming through to beautiful knotty pine siding.  Part of me had forgotten what  a difference siding made to the exterior of the house. It is certainly making a wonderful difference to the interior.

The interior siding arrived just under four months ago when the ridge beam was delivered.  It was stacked beside the big house, protected under tarps, until December when it was brought inside before the snow fell.  Although it might have been fine to stay outside, the thought of snow sneaking its way inside the tarp and then melting, was enough to move the whole lot into the tiny house.  That pile of siding, much of which is 16′ in length was really interesting to get inside the house and then even more interesting to cut and install.

We set up the mitre saw next to the large window on the short wall of the house.  Then we set up a ladder outside, lined up with the window.  Whenever a 16′ board was cut, we had to open the window and slide the board outside, where  it would rest on the ladder and stay level to be cut.  If the board was the wrong way around, it was fed outside through the window, turned and then sent back in through the window.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold on Saturday and though colder on Sunday, it wasn’t too bad.  The insulation got it’s first real test and I have to say, it did a great job.  I had read a post by Laura Moreland of Tiny House Ontario on Tiny House Listings that described the effect opening a door had on the heat in her tiny house.  It had me rather nervous, and I am happy to say that Tiny Refuge held its heat fairly well.  Granted it was a balmy -12C (10F) and not -31C (-23).  Nonetheless, it was reassuring that with the small electrical heater going, the house remained comfortable while the window was completely open for minutes at a time.

We started by installing the 2×3 stud that is the beginning of the bathroom wall, with cutouts in it for the wires to be able to reach the breaker panel that will be in the wall.  Then the siding started going up.  It was a little bit of slow going with all of the cutouts needed for the electrical outlets and switches and for the wheel wells and windows.  Stefan used the table saw for the long straight cuts and we used two different tools for the smaller cutouts.  The first was a jigsaw and the second  was an oscillating multi-tool.  We used the multi-tool a little with the exterior siding, but it really got good use with the interior siding.  It was nice tool to use.  The jigsaw was also fun, I even got to cut circles with it and they were pretty fantastic for my first shot of cutting circles with a jigsaw.

We had wonderful help on Saturday from René.  He manned the mitre saw and juggled 16′ boards.

An Unexpected Break Ending in a Purple Haze

My tiny house has been getting a lot of wonderful attention over the past couple of weeks. It has been truly wonderful to have people coming out and visiting  the construction site and getting the opportunity to geek out about tiny houses with them.  I have also been contacted by a freelance journalist and found a Tiny House Movement group online.  Very exciting times, and it’s a good thing too as I have not been able to move forward with the construction of my tiny house much over the past 3 weeks as I have been waiting for a plumber to rough in my propane lines before getting the house insulated.

Two days ago, I was finally able to book the insulation!  They are insulating as I write.  Apparently insulating Tiny Refuge will take 2-3 hours, in theory.

Lessons learned over the past three weeks:  propane is one of the few codes here in Québec when it comes to how to build an RV.  That code dictates that propane tanks be 10′ from any source of ignition and 3′ away from any opening into the house.  So we had to move the electrical inlet and one of the exterior plugs.  The exterior plug was easy to move.  The electrical inlet proved to be far more challenging when one of the screws, that secures the 6 gauge wire that runs from the inlet to the electrical panel, broke.  A trip to the hardware store proved only somewhat helpful, the right width of screw with the right threading was in the store attached to a stove plug outlet, unfortunately, the screw was too long.  Time was spent grinding the screw down.  While we attempted to reinstall the electrical inlet, another screw snapped in half.  So we called it a day.  I contacted the manufacturer, Marinco and they were amazing.  They replaced the whole inlet and sent it off to me, it arrived within a week and we were able to install the new electrical inlet without any issues.

While waiting for the electrical inlet to arrive, I contacted my neighbour, a plumber who had agreed to do my plumbing, about roughing in the propane.  Unfortunately, he isn’t certified to do propane.  He recommended a friend, who does a fair amount of propane installations, residential and commercial, and I contacted him.  Long story short it took three weeks to discover that the propane should actually be done after the insulation and be installed under the trailer.  That came to light Tuesday, and right now the interior of my tiny house is getting sprayed in WALLTITE closed cell spray foam insulation, which happens to be purple. Walltite is considered an ecological choice for spray foam, it’s plastic based (recycled plastic) and is also low in VOCs after the first hour of installation.  Installers have to be certified by the manufacturer and take a course in order to be allowed to install it.  From what I have read, the effectiveness of spray foam insulation  depends a fair amount on how well it is installed.

I have gone with spray foam insulation because it packs one of the best R-values per inch.  Vacuum insulated panels (VIPs) have an amazing R-value, R29 per ½”, but if they are perforated in any way they lose their R-value completely.  They are also not readily available.  If I were building a house on a foundation, without size restrictions, I would still build tiny, but my walls would be thicker so that I could get a good R-value with something like wool insulation.  Unfortunately, to heat my house throughout the winter in this climate an R-value of R13 or R18 will take a more resources.  As a wood stove is a bit touchy in Montreal, I am heating with propane, which isn’t the most sustainable choice,  and as such, I want to use as little propane as I can.

A view of the whole wall ready for spray foam.  You can also see the box built around the wheel well.  The big blue tarp is covering/protecting the interior siding that have to be stored inside the tiny house.
A view of the whole wall ready for spray foam. You can also see the box built around the wheel well. The big blue tarp is covering/protecting the interior siding that have to be stored inside the tiny house.
Electrical roughed in, ready for spray foam
Electrical roughed in, ready for spray foam.
Main loft electrical rough in.  I chose to light the loft with two lights at the end of the loft and there will be 2 outlets on either side of both windows.
Main loft electrical rough in. I chose to light the loft with two lights at the end of the loft and there will be 2 outlets on either side of both windows.
The bunch of wires on the lower right of the photo are all ready to go to the panel which will go into the wall dividing the bathroom from the kitchen - the only interior wall in the house.  The grey tube in the top right of the photo is the housing for the HRV unit.  The tube will be cut down to size later on.
The bunch of wires on the lower right of the photo are all ready to go to the panel which will go into the wall dividing the bathroom from the kitchen – the only interior wall in the house. The grey tube in the top right of the photo is the housing for the HRV unit. The tube will be cut down to size later on.
The grey box on the lower right of the photo is the new location for the electrical inlet.  The conduit will make it easier to make any modifications to that inlet down the road if needed.
The grey box on the lower right of the photo is the new location for the electrical inlet. The conduit will make it easier to make any modifications to that inlet down the road if needed.
A close up of some of the wiring roughed in and ready for spray foam.
A close up of some of the wiring roughed in and ready for spray foam.