Tiny Refuge is now insulated and very purple.
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.
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.
The building done this weekend has been extremely satisfying! Three walls almost completely covered in cedar lap siding, in below freezing temperatures. As I write this I am under a blanket wearing two sweaters, flannel pants and a scarf. After building last night it was the same get up plus a toque. Clover is also cuddled up and snoring next to me and I appreciate the extra warmth.
Saturday morning started with a few small jobs before putting up the siding. We put more blueskin along the bottom edge of the exterior walls to close up the seam between the subfloor and the sheathing. The blueskin was wrapped up about 3″ up the wall. We secured it with roofing nails along the vertical side of the wall and with strips of pressure treated wood, screwing the wood into place along the bottom edge of the wall. This blueskin is in place to help keep water coming up from the road or ground and getting to the sheathing. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of that step. I thought about it, but my hands were pretty cold and the camera is metal…
We also shaved off the extra foam from around the windows on the main floor. Once the bottom edge of the walls was sealed, the trim went in place. Unfortunately, I miscalculated on the amount of trim I ordered, so we were able to trim all of the main floor windows and the door with the exception of the top trim on 2 windows.
Then came siding. A truly satisfying step. There is a lumber yard about a 35 minute drive from my build site that a friend let me know about and I ordered my ridge beam, flooring, exterior and interior siding from them a couple of months ago, before I updated the plans I am using to build, and I didn’t order enough of a couple of things. That order was delivered last month and it is great to get it up on the walls. They helped me get a good price and part of why my price was so good is because I got B grade siding. B grade meaning that there are knots and knot holes in the siding. The knot holes will be filled with foam, and the foam will blend in when the siding is painted. Some of the bottom edges have “faults” in them and I have to say, I am really enjoying the imperfections.
The first two rows of siding on the long walls of the house were slow, having to cut the siding to fit around the wheel wells, but after that it went pretty quickly. As it is lap siding and not tongue & groove, Stefan suggested that we nail the top and the bottom of the siding in so that there is less chance of siding getting loose when the house is on the road. You can see the nails along the bottom of the siding, once again, I don’t mind seeing those nails. They will also be a little less visible when the house is painted, which won’t happen until spring. I am painting the house with semi-transparent exterior paint in what is called atlantic blue. The trim will be white.