Tag Archives: suppliers

Building Bonanza Update: Kitchen Installation

It has been a full week of building.  The kitchen cabinets are in, the plumbing has been started and is almost complete inside the house, another order of lumber was done  for the bathroom siding, the ceiling under the loft and the remainder of the trim; the bathtub has been built and the fiberglass tub is ⅔ complete.

The kitchen cabinets went in beautifully.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze in some spots, the wheel well boxes had to be shaved down in size and there are shims in places I didn’t even know one would put shims.  The kitchen looks great. I was concerned that the house would feel smaller once the kitchen was in, but it doesn’t.  I wanted to be sure that there was a good amount of storage and counter space in the kitchen, but that there is also enough space between the counters so that two people can work in the kitchen and so that someone can still get to the bathroom if someone is cooking.  Mission accomplished!  There is just about 3′ of space between the kitchen cabinets and the comfort of that space has been tested thoroughly as construction continues.  It’s a great spot to work out the next challenge.  I can feel the kitchen parties happening already.

A word about my countertop. I have decided to go with a butcher block countertop.  Not the best choice weight wise, but a good choice as far as handling the stresses of the road.  We took a field trip after my last post to visit  a countertop supplier in Montreal.  They had gorgeous options in all things countertop.   They came in at twice to almost three times the price of Ikea for a solid wood butcher block counter.   To see the Ikea countertop, I had to buy the countertop sight unseen with the exception of well-worn sample in the kitchen department.  Another field trip to Ikea.  After watching the stock for the countertops  for a week, they were finally in stock on Good Friday.  So off we went to find the store packed.  We navigated through the maze of the showroom using as many shortcuts as possible to stand in a considerable line and wait to order the countertop. Once ordered, another journey to navigate through the rest of the showroom and then down to the stock floor and navigate out of the small items stock into the large item stock room to wait in a longer line to pay for the countertops.  Then to the returns/merchandise pick up counter, where I took a number, with only 41 people ahead of me to find out that I didn’t need to pick a number, just stand and wait in front of a large screen to watch my order travel through three columns of received, being prepared, and completed.  Fortunately, my order was automatically put in the queue when I paid and equally fortunate, I got another number about halfway through my first wait of 41 people, in case I had to return the countertops.  I got the countertops and decided to return them, despite the long wait to see them.  The joinery in the butcher block made for weak point that would be problematic in the road.  There was a wooden table like the countertop  in the As-Is department that was bowed out of shape.  I highly recommend staying away from Ikea on a holiday or weekend if at all possible, unless you enjoy long lines and lots of waiting.

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 part two

The sides of the house are covered in siding! My original order of interior and exterior siding was not enough.  So,  on Friday, JTM Scierie, a local sawmill, from whom I ordered my ridge beam and siding, delivered the rest of the exterior siding and trim that I needed.    We finished putting up the trim on the rest of the house excluding the dormers and then we got to work on the siding.  Finishing up the siding on the main sections of the four exterior walls was pretty straightforward, the whole process slowed down as soon as we hit the angled sections on the two short walls.

I have discovered that my brain is not comfortable with some of the pattern making required in construction.  Figuring out how to adjust angles and how to trace out sections that have to be cut out makes my brain hurt.  Fortunately, Stefan was kind enough to get down off the ladder when need be to figure out a new angle on the saw or cutout, getting down off the ladder helped him stay warm.  My neighbour was also kind enough to lend me his table saw so we had an easier time ripping down siding this weekend.  I have not worked a table saw before and Stefan set about to teach me how to use it, but it turns out that learning how to use a table saw in subfreezing temperatures while wearing gloves is not strongly advised.  Which is a drag because it slowed us down a little, but I got to keep all my fingers, so all in all, I’m glad I am waiting to learn how to use a table saw.

The dormers didn’t have any strapping on them when we started putting up the siding, so all of the strapping for the dormers had to be cut and installed.  Unfortunately, we ran out of the 1×3 we were using for strapping.  The roof is supposed to be installed this coming week and getting the strapping up will help the roofers.  So we put up as much as we could.  Fortunately, I cut almost all of the strapping for the angled sides of the dormers, so we won’t have to worry about remembering to many of the angles needed for that strapping.

We did get to put up the trim and siding on the face of one of the dormers.  What a difference it makes to have siding up.  It’s really starting to look like a house.  It will look so much better once the blue tarp is down.  That poor tarp has seen better days.

To finish up this weekends build, we caulked the windows on the main floor and the door.  I am not particularly comfortable caulking.  First of all, it makes me giggle every time I have to say I am going to caulk something, because I’m a little bit twisted and spend most of my life with my mind in or very close to the gutter.  This weekend I discovered why I have so much trouble caulking (see I’m giggling to myself as I even write it).  I have trouble caulking because my fingers are too small.  If you haven’t had to seal an edge with caulk before that may sound really strange.  The process involves laying a bead of caulk along the edge you wish to seal, then spraying it lightly with some soapy water (a step that Stefan taught me, which does make things a little easier) and then you take your finger and with gentle pressure, move it along the caulk so that you spread the caulk enough to create a good seal.  When I attempt to swipe the sealant with my finger, I end up removing most of the sealant, apparently my thumb is my only digit big enough to tackle the job.

We may not be able caulk the dormer windows until spring because it was already a bit cold to install the caulk this weekend and then it needs a few days above freezing to cure.

First dormer front all trimmed up and with siding installed.
First dormer front all trimmed up and with siding installed.
The bathroom wall (tongue end of the trailer).
The bathroom wall (tongue end of the trailer).
Dormer with all of the strapping up.
Dormer with all of the strapping up.
All of the siding up on the back wall.
All of the siding up on the back wall.
The big window wall.
The big window wall.
Another view of the dormer and large window siding.
Another view of the dormer and large window siding.
Another view of the back wall.
Another view of the back wall.
Getting ready to caulk.
Getting ready to caulk.

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″.