Category Archives: Planning

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Siding Completed!

The exterior siding on my tiny house is done!   This weekend we finished up the siding on the dormers and it is really satisfying to see the house with all of its siding completed.  Unfortunately, the roof wasn’t able to be done this past week because the 4″ screws weren’t delivered.  So, fingers crossed, the roof will get done this week.

In order to put up the siding on the dormers, the flashing had to go up along the front and two sides of the dormer where they meet the roof line.  Aluminum flashing 4×4 L flashing was cut to size and nailed into place with the roofing nailer and then strips of  weather guard  was installed on the side of the flashing that was on the roof.  All of this to keep water out.  After the flashing was installed, the trim was put up and then the siding.

The angled sides of the dormers ended up going more quickly than expected.  Getting the angles for the slope of the roof took a bit of time, but once that was done, it was a matter of getting one piece cut and checking that the angles were right (there angles were not the same for each dormer – some of that due to the insulation, the flashing, etc) and then cutting it to size and then using that piece as a template for the piece above it.  I was rocking the mitre saw, changing the angle of the saw and making some simple notches.  I then would run the cut pieces to Stefan, who was up on the scaffolding or a ladder and he would check the fit, get me to adjust the size and then install them.  The last couple of pieces on each side of the dormers were the trickiest, requiring lots of different angles.  There wasn’t much waste and I should have enough siding left over to build a small utility shed on the tongue side of the house.

Once all the siding was up, we moved the interior siding that was delivered back in October into the tiny house.  I started to move it early this week with the help of my aunt and two of my cousins. It became clear  that my original plan for getting the interior siding into the tiny house was not going to work out.  So we left the job half done and Stefan and I finished it this weekend. Stacking 16′ long boards inside a 20’10” house takes patience and delicacy.

Next step, a roof (everyone send good thoughts out for a delivery of 4″ metal roofing screws on Tuesday), then getting the electrical and gas lines roughed in, so that the spray foam insulation can go in.  Once that is done, the interior can begin.

A dormer with all of the siding up.
A dormer with all of the siding up.
Stefan installing the flashing.
Stefan installing the flashing.

Getting ready to pick up my trailer

My trailer is ready and registered and Tuesday I pick it up and bring it back to Montreal.  Getting ready for the trailer is its own adventure.   I bought a trailer dolly, jacks, registered my trailer, have arranged to have the path to my construction site cleared and ready for the trailer to be moved in. I have read about backing up trailers and rented a truck.

My trailer needs a 2 5⧸16 ball on the hitch.  I bought my own trailer hitch, I know that I will need a hitch again in the future and now I won’t have to worry about having the hitch work with the trailer.  A bonus – the hitches were on sale at Canadian Tire.

The truck is actually hilarious.  It is far bigger than I need to tow the trailer back to Montreal, but it’s all the rental company had that accepts a trailer hitch. My 5’5″ self is driving a Super Duty Ford truck, with a huge antenna on the back.  During the drive to PEI we were higher up than all of the other pick up trucks. While packing the truck for the trip from Montreal to PEI, I went to step out of the back seat, misjudged the distance to the ground and ended falling out of the truck.  I didn’t hurt myself, but find myself on my back with my legs up in the air, one shoe went flying into the bushes behind me.  It was pretty funny.  So a word of warning to those who are considering renting a truck to move your tiny home, if you get a Super Duty Ford, the distance to the ground may be greater than you think.

My Super Duty Pick Up truck!
My Super Duty Pick Up truck!

Wood stoves and Montreal

The past couple of weeks have been rather quiet on the tiny house front.  My tiny house plans have not been completely left alone, I have made the order for my siding, rented a truck to go pick up my trailer (next weekend), contacted the provincial vehicle registration authority (the SAAQ – we are very fond of acronyms in Québec) and spend a good amount of time thinking about my heat source.  I have been debating whether or not I want to use a wood stove with the Kimberly stove being a front-runner, or a propane heater such as the Dickinson Marine Heater.  The Kimberley stove is efficient, doesn’t take up much space compared to other wood stoves, and is an expensive option.  The Dickinson doesn’t need to be babysat, has an even smaller footprint and when I went to the Tumbleweed workshop in Boston, we toured a tiny house that had wintered in New Hampshire and the feedback was that the Dickinson had not heated the house sufficiently for the climate.  So the Kimberley has been winning out, the cost seems worth it, I want to be able to live in my house year round.

This week, it was reported in the news that the City of Montreal is in the process of creating a bylaw to ban wood stoves in the city limits by 2020.  Fantastic.  I am building my tiny house in a demerged city on the Island of Montreal, so in this doesn’t affect me at present, but it could in the future.  Fun!

Kitchen Layout and Siding

This past weekend has been happily filled with tiny house planning.  Some of it wise and some of it not so wise, but enjoyable for the most part.  I ventured out to Ikea on Sunday because their summer kitchen event was ending and I wanted to see if it was worth my while get my kitchen from Ikea.  Going to Ikea on a Sunday was probably not what one would consider wise.  It was a madhouse.   It took 15 minutes just to get on the waiting list  and then another hour to see an Ikea staff member.  In the end, I spent more time with their design app than with a staff member.  It worked out for the best, as I had figured out the larger elements of the layout of my tiny house, but not the details of the layout of each space.

So I spent a good chunk of time at Ikea with my plans and my scale ruler looking very official, playing with the layout of my kitchen.  My kitchen is important to me.  I love to cook and having a space that feels good to work in is a big deal.  I want to have as efficient a kitchen as possible.  I would like to have storage, counter-space to work on, a standard sized sink, and an apartment size fridge, and possibly have room for 2 people to work or be in the kitchen at once.  Much to my delight, I have found an energy-efficient apartment sized fridge with the freezer on the bottom, that seems to be made in Canada.  Much to my chagrin, after spending part of my afternoon at Ikea on Sunday, I am wondering if I have the space.

A word about the Ikea app, it has its limitations, but it also has some really useful things built in.  It has a series of warnings that let you know if you might be putting somethings too close together or too close to a doorway or window.  It was a bit annoying because my house will be too small to give heed to all of those rules, at the same time, it did make me think about my counter depths and whether or not I wanted cupboards facing each other that were both drawers or shelves.   I won’t go into the exact details of Ikea cabinets right now, as I will have to go back if I choose to order from them.  A couple of things that some might find useful, they only have 2 depths for counters, 26″ or 12 7/8″.  They do have a good selection of widths for their cabinets.

In the little time I did spend with an Ikea staff member, I discovered that they have another kitchen event in the fall and that they can only delay delivery of a kitchen for 3 weeks from the date it was ordered.  Just as well, I can let my subconscious play with my kitchen design and look at it with fresh eyes a bit later.

The exercise did force me to think about some issues that should probably be reflected in the framing of the house.  I have confirmed that I want my bathroom along width of the hitch end of the house and since I would like to have an exhaust fan, I will need to use 2 x 6 studs in the loft framing over the bathroom and that I will have to rework the framing for the loft so that there is room for the fan.

Monday, I ventured out to a sawmill. I had prepared myself decently well and crunched numbers for the amount of interior and exterior siding I need.  I felt prepared, but a little nervous because this was going to be my first time talking to a supplier who didn’t necessarily know what a tiny house was and I was not in the mood to defend or justify why one would even consider building tiny house, let alone live in one.  My fears were unfounded.  I will be getting my interior and exterior siding for a good price, they didn’t bat an eyelash when I asked for a 21′ 4×6 for my roof, they had 2 good options for flooring and their prices were good.  Yay!  I did forget to discuss getting my roofing material with them, but  I know that I can and I have to get back in touch with them to confirm my order so that they can pull it from their current stock and put it aside.

Next steps:  go through my lumber needs and start getting that order together, determine my wall width (now that I know what my siding will be) and start get some quotes so that I can order my windows.

Questions and the next step

So my trailer is ordered and should be ready by the end of August.  I am looking at the next steps to begin building my tiny house.  I find this task exciting and rather daunting at the same time.  I have spent the past year dreaming, researching and building my tiny house in my head and it feels really close.  There are still some important questions that I need answers to regarding ventilation, insulation and water/plumbing.  On Monday, I met with a friend who is a carpenter to look over the plans that I bought.

The evening did not completely turn out as expected – I had hoped that he would be able to help me a fair amount with my build, unfortunately he has quite a few commitments throughout the fall and may be able to come by and help from time to time, he won’t be able to commit to a specific timeline and doesn’t want to make promises that he can’t keep.   In the end, this will force me to take the lead in the build in my home, which was the original plan.  I will be able to contact him for advice, and then will have to implement that advice on my own.

As for the plans, he had some wonderful insight and also was able to point me in the right direction for the next steps on my build.  This is his first exposure to tiny houses, and brings a great deal of experience to the table with regards to building a traditional house.  He also questions things in a way that I very much appreciate.  I am not a carpenter, and will follow the directions given to me by those that I trust as experts, I don’t know which aspects of the design that I have bought to question.  Having someone ask those questions can be challenging, but it also forces me to get the answers.

Here are a couple of questions raised during our conversation include:

  • Why frame the subfloor when the trailer bed offers has enough strength to support the house?  The answer is inches, which is to say, though a bit of a pain, framing the subfloor allows the house to have a slightly larger footprint and in a tiny house, every inch matters.   If you were to lay down flashing, 1/2″ plywood, several inches of rigid polyfoam insulation and then 3/4″ plywood and create essentially an insulation sandwich over top of the trailer’s welded frame onto which you build your house, the house would be  several inches shorter on each side.
  • Why are the studs 24″ on centre and not 16″ on centre? According to Tiny House Design and Construction Guide by Dan Louche, a tiny house does not need to be built at 16 on centre and can be built 24 on centre (wall studs are 24 inches apart, on centre refers to measure from the centre of one stud to the next), without loosing any structural integrity.

I happened upon the answers to his questions quite haphazardly.  I love when the answers to your questions jump out at you without you having to look too hard.

As for the next steps of my journey, I have calculated the square footage of interior and exterior siding that I will need so that I can go and select choose my siding.  I am leaning towards burnt cedar for the exterior siding and I am still not sure what my interior siding will be.  My carpenter friend recommended a local saw mill to check out for siding and suggested that I bring my plans along as the owner of the sawmill is extremely helpful and may have some good insight for me.  The sawmill can also supply my roofing and ridge beam, if I choose to go with them.

Once I have chosen and ordered my siding, I can calculate the wall thickness of my house and order my doors and windows.  It seems as though most doors and windows in Québec are made to order, so there aren’t really any stock sizes anymore.  My plans have a comprehensive materials list, which includes the windows, which is really lovely.  I am changing the plans enough that I have to recalculate the materials list, at least I have a place to start.  One of the things I am changing is my door placement and the size of my door.   I do not like the idea of having a door that is narrow. I don’t want to have to negotiate my way through the door every time I am carrying anything into or out of the house.  It just doesn’t seem particularly practical and the romance of having a beautiful little door on your tiny house will lose its charm quickly.  My door will be 6″ shorter than a standard door, which may make bringing large items like a mattress difficult and will probably mess with the mind of anyone over 5’6″.  Luckily I am only 5’5″.

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