Category Archives: preparing to build

A Day at the Salvage Yard

by Sarah

We are trying to salvage as many of the materials for our house as we can.  It fits with our environmental goals, and it fits with our budget!  We’ve written about salvaging our windows before, but we thought it’d be fun to take you along with us on a day of salvaging.

We’ve been to most of the main salvage yards in the Bay Area, and we really like  Whole House Building Supply in San Mateo.  We were there with Meg last Saturday, then went back with our truck on Tuesday to really spend some time, pick up Meg’s doors and our own purchases, and to film along the way.  Whole House has a great selection of lumber, as well as the doors, windows, sinks, and other items we’ve seen in other places.  They also have really fair prices, artwork made of salvaged objects, and demolition sales, where you can go to a house they are taking apart and buy things right off of it (we have yet to do that!).

We’ve also visited:

Urban Ore, Berkeley – major “eco-park” with lots of interesting stuff.

Ohmega Salvage, Berkeley – more like an antique store, inspiring but expensive.

The Away Station, Fairfax.

Heritage Salvage, Petaluma – beautiful furniture made from salvaged materials, and a small salvage materials yard we have yet to explore.

Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, Santa Rosa – we got many of our windows there, lots of great stuff.

And, of course, our home away from home, Maselli’s, Petaluma, where we bought many of our tools, our strong ties, and countless extremely useful odds and ends.

And still on our list is to check out the Sonoma County Dump and Building Resources in San Francisco.   Any recommendations for more salvage opportunities in the Bay Area?

We got a great haul from Whole House including flooring, interior siding, odd pieces of finish plywood for shelving, a mirror, a couple of tiles, a few sheets of plywood in good condition, and more.

Check out our video to see inside the salvage yard and to see our purchases!


Steep Learning Curves in All Directions

by Joseph

We’ve been planning for our tiny house, watching “how-to” videos, and thinking “this’ll be a breeze.”  Okay, not a breeze… but I have some construction/carpentry experience and Sarah excels at learning new things.  She’s got one of those sticky brains that will hold onto obscure, yet important information like what size nail we need to frame with (8d) or the R-value of denim insulation (???).  So, whether by blissful ignorance, or misguided confidence we totally thought we were going to figure this thing out on our own.  Not true.

As with all things, it takes a community.  During these past few weeks of construction, that’s been hammered home (pun definitely intended).   The following are some small steps on the steep learning curve we’ve started climbing.

I’ve used metal-tapping screws before.  I could even explain how they work to someone who’s never heard of them.  What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to use them with the pressure-treated wood and tempered steel of our new trailer!  Impact drivers sucking down 18 volt batteries and burning through gloves as I put my WHOLE WEIGHT into it, digging boots into grass and absorbing the shock with my arms, shoulders, and back.  After doing this a few dozen times on our trailer, it was time to do Meg and Dan’s.  After the trial and error on our trailer, I relaxed a bit, pre-drilled the holes and went slower (which makes a straighter, therefore more efficient, hole).  Our whole group did this together and we all learned how to be more efficient,  transferring our new skills to each others’ builds.

Another example of this transference:

With great difficulty, Sarah finagled the two tail-lights off our trailer (necessary before attaching the pressure-treated lumber, the lights will be put back on the outside of the house later), then did another trailer, and by the time she got to the third trailer it took her all of 10 minutes to handle the tricky wiring tucked neatly into the trailers frame.

And another:

Sarah and I cut the  tongue-and-groove plywood for our sub-floor, and when we placed it we found that we were 1/4” off on each piece because we didn’t account for the tongue.  The cutting, sealing, fitting, and attaching (more metal-tapping screws) took four of us all day to do.   But the next morning we cut the plywood to the right size and knocked Meg and Dan’s sub-floor out in 2 hours!

So, though the learning curves are steep, it has helped to remember “We’re not in this alone!”  Not only are we building with two awesome couples, but we have friends and family offering feedback along the way, and we have each other for balance and support when our sunburned arms are tired from impact-wrenching into steel.  And we have YOU, dear reader, allowing  us to fully process our journey.

Deep bows of gratitude to all those from whom we’ve drawn guidance, inspiration and knowledge.  The path has been cared for by those who walked before us.  May we also care for the path that others may tread safely to their dreams.

Impact drilling the plywood into the trailer

Meet the Cast and Crew of our Group Build

As you may know, Joseph and I are undertaking this tiny house build in good company—we’re doing a group build of three tiny houses with two other couples.   In this post we’re introducing the great people we’re building with.  It was published on the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company newsletter, where we’ll be writing regularly about the group build.

Meet our Group Build crew, and their design plans:

Meg and Dan Stephens will be building Meg’s own design, the Tumbleweed Linden.  Meg is the rockstar, ahem, in-house architect at Tumbleweed.

Meet Joe and Breanna in this sweet Valentine’s Day story about how a love of tiny houses actually brought them together.  They will be building the classic yet modern Cypress 20 with dormers.

And of course, Joseph and I can’t wait to get started building the tiny house of our dreams, a modified Cypress 20.  By the way, did you know were posting tons of build photos to Seeds with Wings Facebook page?

Over the next few months we six will be sharing a work site, some tools and resources, and muscles.  Each couple will be working mainly on their own house, but we’ll help each other out as needed, with practical things like lifting up the walls, and with the intangibles, like advice and learning from each others’ mistakes.   Even as we’re just getting started, it’s also nice to know that there are others in this with us.

We’ve been planning for our builds and buying materials for a couple of months now, but we felt like we were getting started for real when our beautiful new Tumbleweed trailers rolled into town.  As you can see in the photo, the trailers look great (and so do we!)

Joseph and I found out they also roll (and brake!) just as beautifully when we hitched ours to our truck and towed it a few hours into Eastern California to pick up some cedar siding.  We’re already seeing a financial benefit to doing the build as a group as we were able to share the cost of a full pallet of surplus siding at a good price.  A pallet is too much for one tiny house, but should work out just great for three houses.

Since the trailers arrived, we’ve worked together to get the subfloors into the three houses, and we’re about half a day’s work away from finishing that step.  Next step, framing our walls!

Here are a few photos from the first few weekends of group building:

IMG_1161 IMG_1170 IMG_1175For more photos, please do like us on Facebook and check out our build progress album!