Category Archives: framing

Learning to build, then building, then learning to fix our mistakes

by Sarah

So this house-building thing takes a long time.  The house may be tiny… but it still takes a long time!

After reviewing the Tumbleweed DVD this morning, we realized we’d missed a little detail… the sheathing that we’ve put up on the three walls we’ve constructed was supposed to overhang above and below the wall in order to attach to the roof and trailer’s fascia.  We made an overhang below the wall and not above.  It’s probably not that big of a deal.  As in, we won’t have to re-do those walls.  We will figure out a way to fix it, to attach small pieces of sheathing to something, to make it work.

After this little setback, and the ensuing disappointment, I reminded myself that:

1.  It’s got to be about the process and not just the destination.  Because the destination is far away, sometimes it feels very far away.

2.  We are learning how to build.  This is a useful and transferable skill.

3.  We are learning to work together.

4.  We are learning to be humble and to learn a new thing.  How often in our adult lives do we get to learn something totally new, to be complete beginners again?  Not that often.

I hesitated writing this post, because I want this website to be fun, and not to focus too much on the frustrations.  At the same time, frustration is a big part of building a tiny house if you’ve never built a house before.  I want to be honest about this.  It is hard.  It’s not obvious.  There are many little pieces and no clear and simple recipe.  Building is an art, and it’s vast.  We are sloppily finger-painting our ways towards something.  I hope it will be a house that stands straight, resists rains, and keeps us warm.

I did feel encouraged when I ran through those four points, though, reminding myself of all the ways we are learning and growing, even when the external progress on the house appears so slow.

Also encouraging, we’ve had company this week!  Joseph’s brother Adam stayed with us for the past ten days and it was so fun to have another person to build with.  Since we left our Sonoma build site, it’s just been the two of us (and sometimes only Joseph!).  Having Adam here reminded us of how fun and energizing it is to do things with other people!

Here are some photos of our build progress.

Building the latest wall
Building the latest wall


Adam and Joseph cutting the plywood to fit around the wheel well.
Adam and Joseph cutting the plywood to fit around the wheel well.




We've got three walls!
We’ve got three walls!

Building Update

We sent out a blank post earlier today!  Oops.  Here’s the real thing!

by Joseph

Hello All. We’ve been cooking along on our tiny house, and have received so much encouragement and physical, emotional and cyber-ical help from y’all. Thanks! We figured it was time for an update on the nuts and bolts of the build.

Our second wall is UP!  Building this wall went SO much faster than building our first wall, which is about a third as big.  Meg and Bre, two of our group build compatriots, helped us measure, nail, and everything else to make this wall happen.  We’ve discovered building goes much faster with three or four people than with just us two.  Once we had the wall built, we got even more help.  Five generous, charming, and strong Tumbleweed staffers joined us to lift the wall’s thousand pound mass up and over the welded-on trailer bolts, and then tilt it carefully into place.

Our new wall is a little out of square, but after letting it sit for a few days  it went from one-and-a-half inches out down to three quarters of an inch out… and we think (hope!) once we start strapping and bolting things down it’ll get even more level/plumb.

Here are some pictures of our progress.

Base Plates in place and pre-drilled
base plates in place and pre-drilled
a header for the window
a header for the window
Sarah measuring and placing things for a dry run.
Sarah measuring and placing things for a dry run.
Meg Measuring
Meg measuring
Measuring X 2
Measuring X 2
tissues = KEY! ;-)
tissues = KEY!
Joseph and Bre hammering the coil strap
Joseph and Bre hammering the coil strap
mas coil strap
more coil strap
The Tumbleweed staff took a break from the office to lift the wall into place
The Tumbleweed staff took a break from the office to lift the wall into place
I have no idea how we would have done it without them!
I have no idea how we would have done it without them!
plywood overhand
plywood overhang to connect the walls

Team Purple (Bre and Joe) are working on their shou-sugi-ban siding while they wait for their SIPS to be delivered; it is beautiful! Shou-sugi-ban is a traditional Japanese wood treatment.  They torch the wood, then sand/wipe it, then treat it. We’ve included some pics here and we’ll definitely share more as they progress.

wpid-20130908_121656.jpg wpid-20130908_121649.jpg wpid-20130908_121527.jpg

Meg is making a beautiful butcher block for her interior counter tops using multi-colored strips of hardwood. Here’s a video we took while deciding on butcher block design (also more of this to come).

We also met with Meg to hammer out a new vision for the interior of our house.  This made the whole thing feel very real all of a sudden.  This actually took a few hours, as we walked around on our two-walled trailer platform and visualized various things, drew in our sink and oven and thought thoroughly about who we are and what’s important to us in a space. We asked questions like: How do you enter a space?  What’s the first thing you do? the second?  How do we want to use the space? Cooking, computer work, yoga, dinner parties, getting dressed, bathing, watching movies, reading, day-dreaming, cuddling (Sarah wrote that last one, I swear).

Also, we’ve been thinking about who each of us are and what we each need. Por ejemplo: Sarah needs private place to write. Joseph wants be able to be an introvert, even within a shared small space.  And, we like sitting around the table together. All of this process was really helpful to start thinking about. Sarah and I were just so focused on how to frame a house, that we started letting the inner details fade. Here’s a picture of the sketch Meg made for our interior, though we feel this will be it’s own post when we get a bit closer.

Interior first floor design
Interior first floor design

A Strong Foundation, and a Wall

by Joseph and Sarah

It’s been an eventful month here at our group build site in Sonoma.  As a group, we’ve been building subfloors onto our trailers and starting to frame our walls.   Here’s a little update we wrote for the Tumbleweed Tiny House newsletter, and we added a bonus here:  a short video of our build progress!  Check it out at the end of this post.

I’m sure we’ll get used to it one day, but for now Joseph and I often find ourselves thinking, “This is actually happening! This is our house!”  There is something so special about knowing exactly what is going into every single part of this house–every self-tapping metal screw, piece of plywood, and batt of insulation.

We started by protecting our future houses by screwing pressure-treated 2X6s all around trailer’s outer edge.  It’s not easy to screw through pressure-treated lumber or steel trailers, let alone both.  But we got much better at it as we went around each trailer, eventually settling into the right balance between effort and gentleness to get the screws all the way in without breaking.

Next we put in the subfloors.  Meg and Dan (Team Yellow) and Joe and Breanna (Team Purple) used polystyrene insulation that they cut to fit between their trailer struts.  After Team Red’s (that’s us) woeful experiment with washing wool for insulation we bought batts of recycled denim and fit those in.  We put down construction adhesive, sill sealer, then we attached ¾” plywood.  Yahoo–we have subfloors!

We are doing a traditional “stick build,” so we got going on modifying our plans to fit our salvaged windows, and then cutting sill plates for the whole house.  We then cut the studs for the back wall and nailed them together with our new serious, dangerous tool, a pneumatic nail gun.  Ka-thunk!  We now have a back wall.

Sharing tools, batteries, and hands was such a benefit in this physical process.  Lifting ¾” ply is not easy by yourself, nevermind placing the tongue in the groove and getting it all screwed down.  When we made a mistake on our house, it was satisfying to be able to talk about what happened, and prevent our co-builders from doing the same thing.

The other two couples are building with SIPS (structural insulated panels), which have not yet arrived.  In the meantime, Joe and Bre are researching old-time-y locks with skeleton keys for their front door.  They’re also shopping around for a speak-easy door hatch.

Coming up next, a good old-fashioned SIPS-raising.  Also, torching exterior siding shou-sugi-ban-style (What? You’ll see!) And more walls from us, definitely.

If you’re on Facebook, please check out our Seeds with Wings page – we are trying to post photo updates pretty often.  And below is our fascinating yet concise build update video and pictures.  You can see our first wall!