We’ve moved in!

Wow! We’ve been living in the tiny house now since late March, and WE LOVE IT. It’s not finished — we still don’t have most of our storage places finished, and our couch is full of power tools, but the basics are here! Our TH is living on a lovely little rented plot of land in Cocoa, Florida.

I realize I haven’t been updating the blog much — but I do post MUCH more frequently on our Facebook page, so I’d encourage anyone who wants to keep up to date to follow us there!

In the mean time, here are some more recent photos:

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Quick photo update!

Hey everyone — Just wanted to make a quick post with some progress photos! If you’ve been following, you know we’ve finished the exterior, and now we’re tackling the guts. We’ve almost finished the electric (minus the solar system, to be added later), and the plumbling supply. To do next: propane plumbing & drain plumbing. We’ve put up a few walls & ceiling pieces because they’re less intimidating, but we really need to finish what’s in the walls before going further!

Continuous insulation, window boxes, tyvek, and more!

Hey everyone! Since it’s been so long since I’ve updated the blog with any useful information, I’m going to give you all a massive photo dump & some explanations below — this should be really helpful in particular for anyone considering using steel framing! Steel framing is awesome, but it does come with some unique challenges that you should be aware of. Please see this former post if you’d like details on the framing itself!

Insulation

Because steel is a great thermal conductor, it really pays to use a technique called ‘Continuous Insulation.’ Basically, this means putting at least some of your insulation outside the studs, instead of putting everything between the studs as in typical wood frame construction. This is actually a great energy efficient technique for wood framing too, but it’s really essential when using steel.

We decided to put all of our wall insulation on the outside, leaving the stud cavities free for easy running of electrical, plumbing, propane lines, and even shelving in some key areas. Directly over the plywood sheathing, we applied 3″ of polyisocyanurate rigid foam, which has an R-value of about 6.5/inch. We did two layers of 1.5″ foam, layering the ends of the pieces so that no seams ran straight from the outside to the inside. All of the seams were taped with Tyvek tape so that the foam acts as an air barrier.

Window Bucks

At the same time we were adding the foam, we were building wood bucks for all of our windows. We wanted to do “outie” windows for a couple of reasons — 1) we’d have nice deep windowsills inside, which we love!, and 2) the flashing details are a bit easier. However, with the 3″ of foam, this meant that our windows wouldn’t be directly supported by the steel studs. Window bucks allowed us to “build out” the structural framing, giving our windows a strong place to sit. We used 2x8s, which provided a solid nailing surface for our windows (which have an integral nailing fin). They were also the perfect width to be flush on the inside of the framing and the outside of the foam (7.5″)! The only downside of the window bucks is their weight — we basically lost the weight savings we had from using steel instead of wood when we added these, since we have so many windows!

Housewrap

The next step was the Tyvek house wrap. This is a pretty straightforward, and we had gotten a great deal on a mostly full roll of Tyvek from Craigslist. By the last face of the house, we were cobbling together all the scraps we could find, but we had just enough to cover all the foam! Again, all of these seams were taped.

Furring

We used capnails to temporarily hold the Tyvek to the foam — but really, the furring strips were the piece that keeps the Tyvek in place. Ahh, the furring strips… these were a really interesting and challenging part of the plan. The purpose of the furring strips (0.75″ thick) is to lift the siding away from the house, providing an air space that allows for better drainage & evaporation of water that does get behind siding; this configuration is called a “rain screen.” The siding is then attached to the furring strips.

But in order to provide a strong base for the siding, the furring absolutely has to be anchored well, which means it needs to be directly connected to the studs. The studs are now under 3″ of foam and .5″ of sheathing — which meant that we needed really nice long, self-drilling screws! We ended up having to special order 5″ long #10 self-drilling screws, as these are not available at the local store. We were also worried about hitting the sheathing screws, so we did a crazy plan where we held each piece of furring up to the house before putting on any insulation, so we could choose where the screws would go. After the insulation and Tyvek, we had to measure very carefully to make sure each piece of furring was still aligned with a stud. This was even more complicated by us using both horizontal & vertical pieces of furring in different areas (the furring should be perpendicular to the siding direction, and we had a complicated siding plan)! Mostly, it went pretty well, but there were more than a few measuring mistakes as well.

Next post, windows & door!

The exterior is finished & I’m a slacker

Hey everyone! It’s been ages since I updated the blog, but we’ve made a lot of progress.

In fact, the exterior is totally finished, as of a couple weeks ago!!

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I would encourage you all to follow the facebook page, as I post there much more regularly! I hope to add a bit more detail about the construction steps here soon, but don’t hold your breath. I’m happy to answer any questions that you have, just ask!

Installing the metal roof, and a note about building science

This post is about several roof related things:

  • Installation of a roof window
  • Installation of the metal roofing panels
  • Some notes on vented vs unvented roof assemblies

Check out the previous post on how we did our roof decking, including a layer of rigid foam. Next step was to add the drip edge trim to the eaves of the house — fairly simple stuff. After that, we installed the roofing underlayment. We chose a peel & stick type, since that seemed easy, and it was high temperature rated for use under metal roofing. Ours was GAF StormGuard; pretty much like Grace Ice & Water Shield, but came at a discount with our roofing panels. It’s not too bad to install… pretty self explanatory.

The hardest thing about roofing was reaching everywhere! We did end up buying that 12′ ladder… sooooo worth it. I don’t know how we would have done it without it… we tried to save money a few months ago by buying the 8′, but it’s just not enough. Spring for the 12′!!

Roof Window Installation

We decided on a large roof window instead of a fixed or venting skylight. The basic difference is that it’s huge and can function as an egress. We had a window just like this in our little apartment in France and LOVED it. We ordered the flashing kit that’s made for the roof window (Fakro brand). I would definitely recommend that. Watch all the videos a couple times. There aren’t any English instructions (or any words at all) — these windows are really popular in Europe, so they just make picture instructions. There’s nothing terribly difficult, just a lot of steps. The hardest part was actually getting the glass back into the hinges after installing the frame — we didn’t pay attention to the mechanism when we took it out, and eventually we had to look up the patent to understand how it fit together. It’s quite a heavy window, so one person had to be supporting it while the other tried to make the damn things fit together. It was super frustrating at first, but now we’re pretty good at it.

The Metal Roofing

The metal roofing panels came next! Actually, it’s kind of required to do some of this in conjunction with the roof window installation, so that all the flashing is properly lapped. You have to do a big of measuring, cutting, and hoping for the best.

As suggested by the instructions, we predrilled our panels on the ground — since we went with an exposed fastener type roof, it looks a lot better if all the holes are lined up neatly. I’ve read good & bad things about exposed fastener, but it definitely has a couple of big advantages — it’s cheaper, and it’s easier to install than standing seam. Although some say it’s more likely to leak, our roof came with a 40 year warranty, and as long as it’s installed properly, it should last. The exposed fasteners are basically wood screws with a neoprene washer to help seal them shut. Additionally, the thick asphalt peel & stick underlayment is self-repairing & provides an additional seal around the screw.  The roofing ended up costing about $600 total, which seemed great to us! It’s a beautiful metallic copper color and just shines in the sun.

As I mentioned, the hardest part was figuring out how to reach everything — the roof is only a 30 degree slope, but that’s a lot on a slippery surface 13 feet in the air. We were able to reach all the fastener locations either from the 12′ ladder, or by carefully crawling out onto the ridge from the roof window.

Finally, putting on the ridge cap was a bit tricky… it had the profile for a vented roof, so it didn’t sit super flat. Since the roof was slippery, Rob couldn’t figure out a way to screw in the fasteners without sitting on the metal… and he kind of ended up squishing it as he worked his way down… so the ridge cap is definitely a little bit derpy. Squished in the middle, then we tried to correct it, and it just got worse & worse. We’ll probably end up replacing it eventually, but for now it’s water-tight, and gives it that “home made” look….

Now that I’m thinking about it again, he should have been sitting on the side that was already screwed in, not the side he was screwing in… seems obvious now… gahh. Anyway, there’s a pro tip for you all.

Unvented  vs Vented Roofs

I wanted to address this topic because of a recent post from Little Yellow Door. I feel really bad for Ella having to tear down her entire ceiling! Of course, it’s a huge bummer when you realize you did something wrong and need to redo it. And I’m absolutely sure she’s not the only one who made an unvented roof assembly — in fact, that’s exactly what we did. Now I’m going to drop some building science on you that explains what makes ours (hopefully) work, and hers fail.

Remember learning about condensation and dew point? No? That’s ok, because you already intuitively know about the topic: Think about your nice cold beer on a hot summer day — there’s water just dripping down the sides of the glass; the beer inside is cold & the temperature outside is hot.  Well, the exact same effect can happen in your roof — if it’s cold outside and nice & toasty inside, water can condense out of the air and cling to the underside of your roof sheathing, resulting in mold. Condensation occurs when the air is colder than the dew point (which varies with pressure & humidity).

Basically, if we keep our roof deck warm, condensation won’t occur (warm is defined as 45 degrees F by buildingscience.com [1]). The easiest way to do this is to install rigid foam over the roof deck. The amount you’ll need does vary by climate — for Florida, we need a measly R-5, just .75″ inches of polyiso. If you live somewhere much colder, you’ll need thicker foam, which could cause trouble for height-limited tiny houses. We happened to be installing rigid foam anyway, as a thermal break for our studs! You can see in our last post, we used .5″ plywood sheathing, .75″ of rigid foam, and then another .5″ plywood as a screw base for our metal roof. If you do go this route, make sure not to add an interior vapor barrier. YMMV.

Here are a few more resources on the topic:

[1] Unvented roof systems report from buildingscience.com: http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/reports/rr-0108-unvented-roof-systems/

[2] Building Science Insights, Confusion about Diffusion: http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/insights/bsi-049-confusion-about-diffusion

[3] How to Build an Insulated Cathedral Ceiling: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/how-build-insulated-cathedral-ceiling

[4] 2cycle2gether Tiny House: http://2cycle2gether.com/2011/02/tiny-house-building-science-the-roof/

[5] http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/confpapers/cp-0705-field-performance-unvented-cathedral-ceiling-ucc-in-vancouver

We’re all dried in!

Hi everyone! So, I obviously haven’t updated the blog in a really long time… like months. Sorry about that. Writing actually isn’t one of my favorite things to do. But, we’ve gotten a lot done in a past couple months! I’m going to try to do a big push this week and publish a lot of more specific updates…

  • The metal roof is on!
  • The roof window is installed!
  • The 3″ rigid foam wall insulation is all applied!
  • The house wrap is on!
  • All of the windows are flashed & looking great!
  • The front door from hell is installed and even opens & closes!
  • Lots of furring strips are up!

That means that we’re all dried in! Yay!

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So keep a look out for the new posts this week and feel free to harass me if you don’t see them! If you don’t follow us on facebook, I’d suggest you start! I tend to update slightly more frequently there 🙂

Sheathing & Roof

Hello again! I’m terrible at updating the blog, but we’ve made some progress – partial sheathing on the walls and roof!

Sheathing

We’ve got the sheathing up on the two longs walls. It’s been a trial and error process — attaching sheathing to steel studs is a lot harder than to wood. We finally figured out the best way by the very end…

First, use self-drilling screws, like this:

screwlathe

A self-drilling screw with a low-profile (lathe) head! These can be found at Lowe’s. These are the same thing we put the studs together with.

These are really sheet metal screws — so when you want to pass through wood first, you have a little problem. The screw drills really fast through the wood, and then the wood starts climbing the threads while it slowly drills through the metal. This isn’t so good — it can pull out nearby screws, rendering those holes you drilled useless, and you have to make more. We tried just pressing really hard on the screw gun; this had limited success….

Then we tried pre-drilling small pilot holes to help the screws drill through the metal – basically, the same problem, but we also had to spend forever (and lots of drill bits) drilling through the metal.

Finally, we used our brains — we pre-drilled holes through the wood, large enough for the screw shank to fit through, but not the head. This is the right solution! The screw is just acting as a clamp, holding the sheathing to the studs. Then we learned they make special screws to do this — they have little wings that keep the wood from engaging the threads; those wings (theoretically) break off when they hit metal. They only make these in larger sizes than we needed for the sheathing, but we did buy them for the roof (more below)!

We’ll finish the sheathing on the two ends soon, but wanted to get the roof on. The sheathing that’s out there has been rained on a lot, and it’s quite obviously getting pretty weathered. We’ve had a little bit of warping, but nothing too serious, and no delamination.

Roof Sheathing

Roofing sheathing is like more complicated wall sheathing — thicker, higher up in the air, and at an angle. Our roofing sheathing consists of three layers — 3/4″ rigid polyiso foam sandwiched between two layers of 1/2″ plywood. Since we’re using steel, we need a thermal break outside the rafters. The 3/4″ polyiso gives us R-5, which is enough for Florida. We’ll also be adding more insulation between the studs later. (Check out this cool and helpful post for more info).

With me in the loft and Rob on the ladder, we first lifted one piece of plywood and positioned it. We put in two screws to hold it in place while we positioned the foam (held by a nail) and the second piece of plywood. Then, we screwed the entire sandwich down at once using #12 self-drilling wood-to-metal screws (those fancy ones with wings). The wings are nice, but they don’t always break off… Rob learned how to finesse the speed of the screw gun to get the highest success rate.

Working on the roof isn’t the easiest thing — we only have a couple of 8′ ladders, and it’d be nice to have something taller! So far, we’ve been working over the loft, which has been really convenient. I have a feeling the rest of the roof is going to be a bit more challenging!

It’s really neat to sit up in the loft now that it’s got a ceiling — we’re really feeling what it will be like to sleep there! Especially with the HUGE roof window cut out, it feels quite spacious. And I only ruined one tool making the window (yes, it’s possible for a jigsaw to saw through its own cord 😦 ).

In other roof news, we decided to go with the copper metallic roofing. I went to pick it up in Ocala a little while ago, and it’s really beautiful!!