Electrical

In our patience with finances, the electric company, and many end of summer activities, I’ve grown quite restless. When others ask how the house is coming along, my response is always “slowly, but surely.” However, Faith and I have been very blessed recently with her new job. We’re now making twice as much as we used to and we’ve been able to kick things in gear again.

Good thing, too, because building supplies are impossibly expensive anymore. Electrical work is no exception when it comes to draining your bank account.

The power company finally hooked up service on the house about a month ago and I was wiring up the basement within a couple of days. I find electrical work quite pleasing work. Despite my love for an unplugged lifestyle, electrical work is instantaneous gratification. You hook up some wire and all of the sudden, there is light. And with my father-in-law being an electrician, I have the added comfort of knowing what I’m doing is guided professionally.

The basement received two outlets and two lights. Since it will be not much more than a root cellar, I didn’t give it too much attention.

IMG_0526

The overall service is 200 amps and I purchased a box with enough space to accommodate the addition for the house in the future.

IMG_0527Just about everything is wired into the box in that picture other than the water heater, which I do not have yet. (Another $500)

I’ve heard from many different tiny home projects that building a tiny house is very similar to building a regular sized home in price because you still have certain necessities that will cost lots of money despite the size of your home. I now know what they mean. I spend much less money on lumber and other bulk goods, but there are certain amenities that cost no matter what. If you plan to live in comfort and with low maintenance, you will spend thousands and thousands, regardless of the size.

The wiring upstairs was rather extensive. In our current home, it’s amazing how many things have been thrown on to single circuits. Knowing what I know now, it’s essential to make sure you don’t overload your circuits. And while I could read lots of material on circuit loading, it’s been much easier to have my father-in-law tell me what can and can’t go somewhere.

The main barrier we had in wiring was making it around my behemoth timbers. I came to the conclusion quickly that there was no way around them. So we went through them.

IMG_0533This part of the project was a great pain, but it makes a nice job now that it’s finished. We had to use a right angle drill and come from both sides slowly until it met in the middle. In retrospect, I would have bored these holes while I was cutting the timbers.

All in all, there’s not much else to say about the wiring. I added a fan in the bathroom vented to the outside to deal with humidity, but even that was fairly straightforward. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

IMG_0522The bath fan vents directly to the outside wall. It seemed to be fairly quiet when I fired it up.

IMG_0529

IMG_0521The electric stove outlet required a 6-3 wire to a 50 amp double pole breaker.

IMG_0519These lights will eventually be single head track lighting that angles towards to rafters to light up the ceiling.

IMG_0518The two switches on the right are for the interior track lights and the one on the left is for the outside lights.

IMG_0525

IMG_0523

IMG_0520

Aside from electrical, I’ve finished the aluminum fascia cover and installed plywood underlayment to prepare for our finished flooring.

IMG_0531

IMG_0524

IMG_0530

This place feels more like home everyday.

Advertisements

Front Porch and Financial Patience

Coming from an inpatient person, this project has been a valuable lesson. Patience is an incredible virtue when it comes to construction and I’ve been given plenty of opportunity to exercise it. There’s been days where I would buy a few boards, install them the next day, and then wait a week for the next paycheck to get some more boards. And while I’ve been tempted to use a credit card at times, I know it will just lead to a steady hill climb of debt. So far, we’re entirely debt free on the build.

When last we left off, I had begun the frame work for the front porch. I had no clue how much money and time were involved in a porch. It’s rather insane. Just the framework for the deck was over 200 dollars. The deck boards, posts, and stringers for the stairs were another 250. Screws are easily 25 dollars per a 5lb box and you go through many of them. The railing is a good 75 more. The skirting around the deck to keep critters and children from playing under it requires almost as many deck boards as it took to do the surface and adds up fast.

I’ve decided to skip the skirting around the remainder of the deck this year until we’re moved in. It can be finished anytime and getting the interior finished is higher on the list at the moment. Luckily, I was able to source some used stiles for the railing from a friend of mine for 20 dollars. With some pressure washing, the stain came off pretty easily and should look uniform when we put the stain on our deck.

0825151348a

0825151349

Stairs are a secret beast in the construction biz. I had my introduction to them a couple years back when I tried to widen the tread on the stairs going to my basement in our current house. What I learned is that if you start to overthink stairs, you’ll screw them up. I won’t try to explain them here because I’ll probably confuse the heck out of you. But I encourage you to buy a book that does a great job of explaining them. That book is ‘How To Build A House’ by Larry Haun. It covers the basic construction methods used on homes made for Habitat for Humanity. Larry was a carpenter by trade (I believe he’s passed) and is great at explaining basic carpentry. I also referenced this book a good bit when it came to the roofing.

My grandmother tried out the stairs a week ago and gave the big stamp of approval, so I think it’s safe to say I have overcome.

0825151349a

As with any post I put out on the blog, if you want more specifics about the way I constructed things, don’t hesitate to comment or email.

There’s been a few other things I’ve tackled since I last left off. I made the trap door for the basement and installed the 200 amp electrical service entry wire. The trap door was simpler than I thought it would be and will have a couple inset handles that will be recessed into the floor. This way, a rug will lay flush and the trap door will give us a way to get canned goods out of the basement in the dead of winter.

0803151114-1 (2)

With the electrical, it’s been hurry up and wait. I got the conduit ran, ground installed, and everything inspected and now have been waiting three weeks for the company to hook up my service. Hopefully, I’ll have some lights in the next blog.

Cedar Siding

I understand the lure of modern building materials, I really do. I understand that vinyl siding is incredibly maintenance free. I understand that fiber cement is practically fireproof. And yes, I understand that wood siding is outdated. However, it would have been a crime to wrap a timber frame home in anything other than a natural material.

And before you ask, yes it was fairly pricey, but I find it well worth the investment. I sourced cedar bevel siding from a distributor out of Scottdale, Pennsylvania. The customer service was greatly lacking and I am thrilled that I’m done dealing with them, but the product is very nice and there were only a handful of boards that were unacceptable. The total price for 900 square feet was $2,200. It’s much cheaper than what I could source anywhere else.

The size of the siding was 1″x8″ and came in varying lengths up to 12′.

untitled 5

The initial row was the most important and had to be equally distanced from the eaves of the roof. Keeping the siding level was important, especially when it came to trimming around windows, but an entire house from front to back tends to be out of level here and there… especially if I’m the carpenter.

So once my starter strip was installed (just like you would with shingles, but this helps create a rain flare on the base of the wall) I was able to go right up with the siding using a jig I had made. You can purchase a special jig online that is meant for fiber cement and wood bevel siding that allows you to clamp both ends of the board ensuring that they are spaced correctly. However, they are expensive and I was able to have help when installing the siding. With two people, a jig works fine.

IMG_20150805_161933

As you can see, it makes a drastic difference to the overall appearance of our tiny home.

untitled 2

There were some special techniques I had to use for certain parts of the install. When installing vinyl siding, there are no butt joints. One piece simply slides over another. With wood siding, you don’t have that luxury. Some installation manuals recommend that you caulk the end of each board where the two meet. And while this would certainly suffice, the proper way is to put a piece of flashing behind each butt joint that overlaps the next course of siding so that every little bit of water that gets in the crack finds its way out. This took some extra time, but I’m pleased to know that it’s that much more weatherproof.

The next thing to consider was the point of contact between the top of the window trim and the siding. Caulking will eventually fail and windows are the number one places for leaks on a wall. So I installed some homemade aluminum flashing above the window that I shaped into the form I wanted. I could have bought the flashing in the big box store, but this saved me a few bucks and I kinda like the metal-worked look it has to it.

The last technique I had to consider was whether I would face nail or blind nail my pieces. I understand the argument that comes with blind nailing, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave that much of a board unsupported. Plus, my siding tapered to around an 1/8″ on the top of the board. With that little material to work with, the nails were very prone to split the boards. So yes, nails are exposed on my house, but no, it does not bother me one bit.

What we did next made many people, including ourselves, sick. We painted the gorgeous stuff. I know what you’re thinking… “How could you??” Well, let me defend myself. I want this siding to last as long as possible. Stain/sealer will extend the life of wood siding by many, many years; but only paint can give a true waterproof protection that makes it last for 100 years. I didn’t want to re-stain my house every 3-4 years and I like the option of being able to change the appearance of our home with a few coats of paint in 10 years time.

So, we primed it, and painted it an earthy green. Pa calls it OD green (which I’ve concluded is some kind of green he was very familiar with in the Army). With the rustic cedar trim, which is stained, it really pops. Faith and I love it a great deal.

IMG_8936

IMG_8941

Now that the siding is done, I’ll begin electrical and add a front porch before my Summer runs out.

Here’s some finished pics with my wife’s phone. Not as good quality, but it’s the finished result. Eventually we’ll add a stone veneer to the foundation.

IMG_20150805_161959

IMG_20150805_162012

Loft Bridge and Finishing Timbers

I wish that I were as organized as some contractors I watch or read about. Then I would be able to pass from one project to another with ease, without hesitation, waiting for funds, or researching how to do what I’m about to do. Alas, I’m not a contractor, I do hesitate, we are building debt free, and I have lots to learn. So while others are moving in to homes two months after a build begins, we’re still trudging through the elementary steps of basic construction.

We have, however, made leaps of progress on the interior. As I stated in the previous post, we decided to make a bridge to stretch from one loft to the other. This way, we only need one ladder on the main floor space. I kept the design as basic as possible but used timber frame construction, simply adding two more floor joists a couple feet off center. I then used oak planks with a 1/4″ gap between the planks to span the distance.

IMG_8938

IMG_8939

 

IMG_8946

We hope to incorporate a rustic railing to the design that uses rebar and more rough timbers. It’s still in the planning process.

As much as I would have liked to let my timbers age naturally and receive their gray hue of antiquity, I felt it necessary to give some sort of finish to them. This is mostly due to the fact that our ceiling is pine and pine tends to yellow over time. Since the rafters are oak and poplar, were I to let them age, the contrast from gray to yellow does not seem appealing to us. So we decided we must finish them.

There are many different ways in which I could have finished the timbers. The first that I considered was to stain both the tongue and groove ceiling and all of the timbers to give a uniform color throughout. While I think this would be attractive, it felt a crime to take away the natural color of our timbers. And once they were stained, there would be no going back.

The second option we considered was to oil the wood with a natural oil. I certainly entertained this idea for quite some time but decided against it in the end. The only reason was that oil is much different than other finishes in that it soaks into the grain of the wood. It leaves a dark rich glow to the natural color of the timber but does need re-oiled within a few years. I didn’t want to setup a scaffolding in the center of my house once it was finished in a few years to redo the whole interior.

Long story short, we decided to go with a clear satin polyurethane. That being said, I rather hate the stuff and I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s quite unnatural, requires much prep work, and stinks to high heavens. But once the timbers were finished, they were finished, and my mind can be at ease for quite some time. We went through about 3 gallons worth, but that is less than I had anticipated.

IMG_8947

The siding is also done now, but that is the topic of the next blog.