A Wool Sweater with Some Gypsum on Top

In the past, I’ve approached insulation with a general dreariness. Minuscule particles of fiberglass stinging my arms like a thousand tiny splinters and a nasty hacking cough are the first things that come to mind. On top of that, my insulation job was going to be horrendous. I had random widths between 2×4’s and lots of triangular spaces to fill (between braces).

After a lot of research, I figured it would be worth the investment to go for stone wool insulation. While this stuff leaves you with plenty of itching and coughing, it still has a ton of advantages over fiberglass.

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First off, it’s stone wool, not fiberglass. The tiny particles it lets off are hazardous to your lungs but not much more than sawdust would be. It’s not tiny shards of glass. There was an added piece of mind with that knowledge.┬áSecondly, it installs with a friction fit between studs. There’s no face on it, which means you don’t have to staple anything. And since I had many odd shapes and sizes to fill, this stuff was perfect. Thirdly, it has a slightly better R-value (R-15) than the 2×4 equivalent in fiberglass (R-13).

I’m not sure if it’s the size of the house, or the good insulation, or perhaps a combination of the both, but our tiny home is now very easy to warm up. This morning, the temperature was 51 degrees when I arrived on site. After plugging in a small electric, oil-filled space heater that is rated for about 300 square feet, the entire place was heated up to 67 degrees in an hour and a half. The temperature outside hadn’t changed.

So what’s the downside to this stuff? The price. It’s easily double the amount you could expect to pay for fiberglass insulation. But I will never use fiberglass again. This stuff is awesome.

Then came the fun part… (sarcasm). Two items that do not go together are “timber frame” and “drywall”. Every single piece I’ve installed, yes every one, has needed cut at least once and usually about three times. When you’re working around braces, lots of electrical outlets, and most of your walls span less than three feet, you will be left with LOTS of scrap drywall. By the way, if anyone needs some scrap drywall, I have enough for a decent-sized doghouse.

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While I could have used many smaller pieces on certain sections, I made it a point to have the least amount of joints to mud as possible. I’ve done drywall before, and once was enough to know, the less mudding, the better. So seriously, anyone need any scraps?

I still have a small portion of the living room to hang and after that, the finishing begins.

I’ve decided that once the drywall is finished, I’ll try to complete the bathroom first. So far, I have the tub installed and the cement board shower surround and the cement board on the floor. Installing the bathtub was a chore, but I was lucky enough to have my dad lend me a hand. The tub I purchased required a bed of mortar under it to give it full support. It makes for a nice solid job, but installation was certainly stressful. Me and concrete don’t do well together.

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I also added a bit of extra electrical before finishing the insulation. Faith wanted a chandelier (cue Sia) in the library loft, so after some brain racking, I came up with a decent solution.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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This place feels more like home everyday.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.