Tag Archives: electrical

Overdue for an Update

I have started moving in!  I have been sleeping in the tiny house since my mattress was delivered at the beginning of the month.  It has been glorious to wake up in my loft, hearing the birds outside and feeling so very much at home!  The bathroom isn’t finished yet, there is no electricity and the propane hasn’t been installed yet, up until yesterday there was nothing to sit on and the floors were covered up with cardboard.

Here’s a recap of the work that has been done in the month since my last update:

The bathtub has been built!  The drain was installed, but leaked, so we had to head back to the drawing board and after some consultation and a new drain basket, fingers crossed, I will have a functional tub at the beginning of June.    Here are the tub progress pics.

The toilet bench has also been built.  The final coat of paint is drying as I type this.  The toilet bench also accommodates the winter grey water tank and the fancy grey water plumbing.  I have to attach the piano hinge for the two lids on the bench (one for the toilet and the other for the grey water compartment).  The sawdust will live in a bin that will rest on the grey water compartment.  The toilet will be ready early next week.

The kitchen counter has been installed!  I am really happy with the counter I chose and with the amount of counter there is in the tiny house.  The kitchen sink and faucet were installed and the freshwater plumbing is almost finished, with the exception of the countertop water inlet connection.  As it’s spring, I am all hooked with a potable water hose and I have running water.  The exterior grey water tank or french drain still has to be worked out, but as I am not living in the house full-time yet, it hasn’t been a problem yet.

The HRV units got their boxes, which we filled with spray foam, and then they were finished.  I am really happy with how the HRV units look and I get a bonus space above them to sneak in a knick-knack if the fancy strikes me.

Left to do (nb: this is not an ordered list)

  • Get a welder to come out and weld on the brackets for the propane tanks.
  • Get propane installed.
  • Install the stove and the furnace.
  • Finish the freshwater plumbing.
  • Install the drain and faucet on the tub.
  • Install the lids on the toilet bench.
  • Install ¼” plywood on the front edges of the rafters for the roofers.
  • Get a new roof.
  • Figure out my clothing storage.
  • Install the last of the trim in the bathroom.
  • Install the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
  • Have a house-warming party!

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.

A Little Trim, A Little Electrical

Finishing the trim and starting electrical brings Tiny Refuge another step closer to being lived in.  Saturday we finished the rest of the trim.  A word about the trim, it has taken a while to get through all of the trim because Stefan is making all of the trim out of leftover siding.  There is a lot of leftover siding, which is ironic since I thought ironic since I was convinced in December that I was going to be really short on siding and that I would have to order a great deal more.

Making all of the trim is not the fastest process.  Stefan cuts the pieces to a rough size,  cutting off the groove edge and removing the tongue, cutting the siding to width on the table saw, adding chamfers either with the hand plane, the mitre saw or the table saw depending on the chamfer.  The trim then gets sanded on all sides that are exposed, this was my job,  the ¼ palm sander and I are very good friends now.  Once the trim is sanded, if it’s not already cut to the exact size,  the trim is cut to size and installed.  The windows were pretty straightforward,  with the exception of chamfers,  there are no angled cuts on the window trim.  The trim for the edges of the dormers and between the dormer walls and ceiling needed angled cuts, so there was a lot of cut, check the trim in place and repeat until it’s installed.

Sunday morning we finished the last pieces of trim until the floor goes in.  The bathroom wall was built and sided fairly quickly.  Then the electrical work started.  The panel was placed and as the panel is in the bathroom, I didn’t get to see much of what was going on.  There were moments of banging but it was mostly quiet steady work.  Every time I checked on the panel the mess that was the wires that had been sitting there since January started looking more and more organized.  Order from what had looked so chaotic.  There were two wires coming to the panel that I didn’t label, so they took a short bit to figure out.   I labelled by wires using different coloured electrical tape.  I labelled each circuit and then made a list of the circuits using the same coloured tape.

Next week:  more electrical and maybe some flooring!

Interior Siding and Trim

There is siding on lofts , the great room and the kitchen.  There is just a bit of siding left to do in the kitchen along the wall that divides the kitchen and the bathroom (that wall hasn’t been built yet).  The windows in the loft have their trim and the long dormer edges are trimmed.  All is good and right in the world.  I am possibly a month away from living in my tiny house.  A month!

Saturday, we finished off the siding on the dormers in the bedroom loft and then started on the small bit of 12/12 ceiling at the end of main loft.  Once again I was manning the nail gun and Stefan was on the saw.  It was really satisfying to cover up the insulation and watch the purple disappear.  That satisfaction was only trumped by seeing the windows trimmed.

I discovered this week that I missed a pretty important detail when I ordered my siding.   A lot of tiny houses use ¼” siding to cut down on weight.  I missed that detail and just ordered siding.  My siding is ¾”, which means it’s easier to install, is more solid and three times as heavy.   It’s not the most comfortable of realizations I have had over the course of this build and it impacts a great deal.  Now I just have to weigh one of the pieces of siding and start doing some math before I can choose the flooring I will install, which after a recent decision, choosing flooring has become a bit tricky.

Here’s a bit about that decision: while roughing in the electrical, I decided to add in-floor heating.  I contacted a tiny houser in Vermont who has been wintering in their tiny house with straw bales stacked around the base of their trailer and he wished he had installed in-floor heating.  So I went for it.  I have my in-floor heat mats and 2 thermostats.  I am hoping to install ceramic tile floor – a heavy choice, but a choice that lets the in-floor heating radiate into the room.  Wood insulates , so in-floor heating will heat up the floor, but that heat won’t radiate much into the room.

So choices have to be made and wood has to be weighed.

Fun fact:  in carpentry, a beveled edge is called a chamfer.  I learned that this weekend.

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.






Electrical Rough In and Wheel Well Boxes

One step closer to insulating Tiny Refuge.  Once the insulation is done, we start putting up the interior siding.  So exciting!  Before I get ahead of myself, we completed the electrical rough in this weekend.   The work this weekend was stalled a couple of times due to weather and we ran out of wire, who knew a tiny house would need more than 150m (almost 500ft) of 14/2 wire and then some 14/3 wire too. We worked on finishing the electrical rough in on Saturday and filling in the open spaces in the rafters with leftover rigid insulation so that the spray foam will stay in the house and not come out onto the exterior siding.

First thing Sunday, I ran to Home Depot and picked up more wire so we could finish the wiring and Stefan started on the exterior plugs, inlets, the HRV placement, the furnace flue and the porch light.  When I got back, I got continued with the wiring and insulating the gaps.   My mother came and helped us in the afternoon protecting the outlet boxes and the windows by sealing them in plastic.  Stefan built out the sides of the dormers so that they can put in a full 3″ of insulation and then built the wheel well boxes.  I was outside manning the mitre saw.  It was above freezing, which was nice, but rather treacherous to walk as the snow on the ground had a decent layer of ice overtop and I ran out of salt to ice the path.

Next up will be the propane rough in.

Winter is Here

As winter settles in and the temperature stays below freezing, the realities of building a house on a trailer bed in Montreal make their presence known along with the weather.  When I first decided to build a tiny house I searched and searched for tiny houses built for my climate.  I was frustrated because I found very few resources for adapting a tiny house for northern climates.  I found the story of a tiny house that was riddled with humidity – condensation on all the windows and poor air quality as soon as the house was sealed up against the weather.  I found another house built in the Yukon, but couldn’t find much on how it was handling the winter.

I started my build without all of the answers for my questions and fortunately some of those questions are being answered.  At the beginning of December  I found an HRV unit that will work with both the size of my house and can handle the winters.   I am thrilled to know that my house will have a healthy air quality all year round.  I fully plan on using passive ventilation during the spring, summer and into the fall, but have no desire to let the heat escape and windows freeze open (and then possibly warp) in the winter.

But air quality isn’t the only thing to worry about.  Plumbing also a concern.  How to set up the plumbing so that I can have running water year round.  I have purchased a 26 gallon fresh water tank so that I don’t have to have a connection via hose to have water in my house.  This water tank will live under the sink, and the water pressure will be supplied with the help of a small RV water pump.  To fill the water tank, I have bought a marine fresh water deck inlet that I plan on installing in my counter so that I can fill the water tank from inside the tiny house, I will also be able to run my water from a potable hose in the summer through an exterior water inlet.  I don’t really relish the idea of having to fill my water tank from outside in the middle of January.

Then what to do with the water once it goes through the tap… I am pretty sure I will only be using my grey water tank when the weather is warm and will live with very simple plumbing in the winter – i.e. having a bucket under the sink to collect grey water and showering at friends or the gym.  The direct vent propane tankless water heater that I had really hoped to be able to use, can be susceptible to freezing, and I haven’t been able to find the  one vented through the roof that I selected for order in Canada and it would also require some fancy venting through the kitchen and main sleeping loft.  I went back to the drawing board and have chosen a 6 gallon electric water heater.  As much as I would like a tankless water heater, the  propane options don’t work well for my house.  The electric tankless water heaters require a lot of power each time they are used, and I’m concerned that it will test my electrical system every time it’s used.  The 6 gallon electric water heater will demand more constant but lower demand on the electrical system.

Other considerations I have made for my climate:  an insulated door with a smaller window,  triple pane windows (only an increases the Rvalue by 2, but every point counts), an additional 1″ of insulation on the exterior of the walls and 2″ on the roof.  I am looking into ordering straw bales to go around the bottom of the trailer instead of building a skirt of temporary insulated panels around the base of the tiny house to keep the space underneath the house somewhat insulated.  The straw will also serve as composting material during the summer.  I am sure other things will be added to the list as I go along.