“I’ve done this before,” I thought as I traced my pencil lines with the jigsaw, “I think I’ve done this a lot of times before.”
The blade jigged through the last bit of siding and I knelt to the ground to retrieve the tiny corner piece.
I carried the thin sliver of wood in my fist, hoping, praying, “Maybe this time.”
But when I ascended the ladder the truth was evident. The piece did not fit, and in an instant I was back at my sawhorse table, measuring, drawing, sawing.
Act Two: Time-Loop
For how long nobody but me and now all of you know (it was an hour and a half), I measured, drew, sawed, placed, and cussed at my siding before starting again.
I found I had a small influence over the time-loop I had been caught in. In one cycle a piece would be too large, in another too small. Sometimes I would go to the left side of the house, sometimes to the right.
But it always ended the same. Me, back at the sawhorse, measuring, drawing, sawing.
I thought if I could just do it one more time, I could escape the loop. If I got it right, it would all be over but no matter what I tried I just couldn’t.
I thought about jumping from the 160House roof but morbid means never worked for Phil and besides, I would probably just twist an ankle.
Then it occurred to me. At the heart of every awful time-loop plot is a simple trope. The loop allows a protagonist to hone skills to perfection but the skills are never the point. It’s not Phil’s piano lessons that free him.
No one escapes a time-loop without learning a good old fashioned life lesson.
Act Three: Fuck It
On my lucky 13th try I carried my tiny, precious corner piece to the back of the house to once more fit it into the last blank edge at the top of the hutch.
I stood frozen, defeated. I felt as if my entire self-worth were wrapped up in this minuscule piece of siding. Why couldn’t I do this? I had a shiny degree from a prestigious university, right? Haven’t I built this whole house? I’m so good at putting together IKEA furniture!
I stared the piece down, and it stared back at me, taunting me until I declared, “Fuck it!”
Here was my life lesson all scrunched up into a 4ish inch long triangle. I don’t have to do everything right. I don’t have to learn every skill. I just have to finish this fucking house before I lose my mind.
I glued that piece into place, resolved to caulk around it over the weekend, and went home to order pizza. Time-loop broken.
“Look at her, isn’t she beautiful?” they all say passing by but once they get to know her, they face a disappointing reality. Inside she is an empty shell, a hollow skeleton. She likely needs years of work, totaling in the thousands of dollars to become truly whole, self sufficient, move-in-ready.
But damn… she looks good.
Over the past few months the exterior of the 160House has undergone dramatic cosmetic surgery. We flashed the tires, installed vents, sided all four walls, caulked in the trim and windows, and sided and roofed the “rabbit hutch.” All there is left to do is attach the hutch doors and paint the front door an obnoxiously cute canary yellow.
The 160House’ makeover happened just in time for her very first celebrity visitors. My friend Chelsea, an old Sea Scout buddy, is considering making a horrible mistake and wanted to come see what my mistake looked like.
She brought with her Renee Randau McLaughlin and Hillarie Kaczetow, organizers for the San Jose TinyFest. Hillarie is also the builder and resident of Tiny Hell on Wheels (and proud mom to Crusher, the tiny pig!!!). While Crusher rooted for acorns at the foot of my parent’s old oak tree, we stood in the doorway of the house and enthusiastically swapped successes and set-backs. Renee and Hillarie were full of praise, helpful hints, and sympathetic anecdotes. Chelsea did not seem at all deterred from making the worst decision of her young life.
Those glitter counter tops though!
This was my first time kicking it with real tiny house people, and it was truly energizing. It made me want to get more involved in the tiny house community, if for nothing else than to use the successes of my peers as envy based fuel for powering through the remainder of my build.
So thank you to Chelsea and friends for coming to visit for the big tour and letting me show off my most beloved and resented child!
Other thanks this month go to Mio Metals in Petaluma for their well crafted custom flashing pieces we used on the wheel wells and as always to my dad for his skills, time, and mentorship.
Tune in next month to watch me play “Why the Fuck Did I Put this Wire Here 6 Months Ago?”
After literal years of putting time and effort into what appeared to be a generic rectangularish structure, local woman Katelynn Wiley was surprised to discover she’d been building a tiny house all along.
“I had seen them on TV before but I never put two and two together,” Ms. Wiley said in a statement to herself. “It was truly shocking to look up one day and see my project for what it was. You just never think it’s going to happen to you.”
The moment of realization occurred after siding for the structure was properly waterproofed and ready to be installed.
Ms. Wiley and father Lon Wiley had begun to nail boards to the wall when Ms. Wiley reportedly stepped back to say, “Holy shit it’s a house.”
“It’s remarkable that you can spend so much time and energy on a project and not really grasp what’s going on,” Ms. Wiley explained, “I feel like Mrs. Gacy. I should have known.”
Mr. Wiley, who has been an active general contractor for 40 years explained, “In my whole career I’ve never seen anything like it … it’s just so damn cute.”
Despite these ground breaking revelations, the father daughter team reported an uncharacteristically smooth month of work.
Ms. Wiley, who maintains a once monthly blog on the project, expressed concern about how she would go about writing an interesting report on a period of work with so few comical struggles. “I think I’ll write a satirical article conveying what a drastic difference siding makes in the appearance of the house and also lightly mocking myself for how long it’s taken me to get to this point,” she explained.
In the mean time, Ms. Wiley would like to express her gratitude to those who have supported her through this trying time of transition. “One day you’re pouring your time and energy into a big wooden trailer thing and the next you’re building a tiny house. I’m just glad I have friends and family to help me feel grounded in this time of great change.”
In September I chose to stain my siding using a blend of vinegar and steel wool. I was so proud of my swift decisive action that on the first Friday of October I declared that “I was the best decision maker of all time this month!” I then proceeded to spend the rest of the month agonizing over this decision.
On my first October work day, I applied a top coat of transparent stain to the wood. First off, I would like to have a discussion with the manufacturer of this product over the meaning of words like “clear” and “transparent.”
I’d like to clear some things up here about what words mean.
I thought that maybe it would dry clear (purple glue sticks had taught me this was possible) so I tested it on a few boards. It did not dry clear at all but instead turned my gray stains a distinct burnt orange.
What’s more, when I looked at all my boards after having let them sit for a week, I saw that they were wildly different colors and not just between boards but within the boards. Overall they had settled into a deep redwood color, not at all the cool gray I had hoped for originally. I didn’t hate how they looked but they didn’t look like I wanted my house to look.
I call this the steelhead board.
Logical response: That’s cool. I’ll just paint over them.
Actual response: If I paint over these boards I am a failure who has wasted an entire month’s worth of work days. I better waste all of this month’s work days worrying about it just to be sure.
So that’s why there’s no first of November post.
Good news though! This month I am back on track and have real progress to report!
Once I decided to paint my boards instead of sticking with my stain, I had another daunting decision to make. What color? Or I guess just which shade…
I battled indecision and quickly settled on the middle shade. It’s called Chrome.
My dad set up a way better work station than my brain had come up with for my solo painting. Instead of using saw horses to paint three boards at a time and transferring them to ladders to dry, we used an elaborate series of ladders to paint almost all the boards at one time.
We decided to spray instead of roll the boards and it went so fast. It took three short days to get all the boards painted with primer, first coat, and second coat!
And I got to wear this super cute suit!
Forever the icon.
Next I paint my trim, prep the boards, and start installing
One last piece of exciting news is that I dropped a day at one of my jobs so now I have double the tiny house time!
OK, it’s thank you time! Thank you to my dad for his superior painting strategies, to the guys at the paint stores for answering my many many questions, and to my wonderful friends and family for putting up with my tiny house related worries, especially Jonni, who knows there is no stress that cannot be cured by sushi and fried potatoes.
This month it was time to make some decisions about siding aesthetics. Now if you know me, you know I hate to make decisions. Seriously, never take me to the ice cream parlor. But I am super proud of myself! I was the best decision maker of all time this month!
If you recall, at the end of my last post I had just discovered a way to age wood with steel wool and vinegar, and by discovered I mean watched a couple videos on YouTube about it. I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do this with my wood so I bought a semi-transparent gray stain to compare, cut a couple samples out of one of my scrappier boards, and tested out the two methods.
To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold on either but I liked the natural stain better. I could have gone back to the paint store and tried another gray stain but they only sold them by the quart. I imagined myself going through $25 can after $25 can of stain to find the right one and decided to just decide. I would use steel wool and vinegar with a transparent top coat to protect the wood. I still wasn’t totally sure I wasn’t about to eff up $1500 of siding.
The staining took up my next couple of work days. I set up a station and played around with the stain. I wanted a variety of tones in my boards so I played with the ratio of steel wool to vinegar, with how long I let the mixture sit before painting, with how long I left the stain on the boards, and with how many coats I applied.
It was messy work. At one point I went to reapply sunscreen and gave myself a very natural orange glow. I also noticed that I started coughing and getting headaches while I applied the stuff. It didn’t 100% occur to me until the last day of staining that I was basically breathing and bathing in rust, at which point I masked up and slipped on a set of gloves. Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you!
Becoming one with my siding.
Safety looks good on me.
Overall, I am really pleased with the results! The boards are all in different shades of gray and brown, and all of them have a rich, natural look.
Most of the month was just me and the wood as both my parents were off cruising through Europe like good retirees but just in time for my last work day of the month, Dad got back and started mapping out the studs on the house while I stained. Next step is painting the boards with the transparent stain and then it’s siding time! This is all happening people!
Thank you to the guys at Kelly-Moore Paints in Petaluma for their helpful advice and patience with my staining questions, to my roommates for letting me keep a big bucket of vinegar and rust in our garage, and to my dad for helping me out once he had recovered from all the fun he had on his cruise. And of course thank YOU for making the difficult but correct decision to continue reading this blog!
I feel like this month’s update is a little scattered. Let’s blame the eclipse. I mean everyone lost their minds over it so why not? Let’s start with…
We got the trim almost entirely finished, except for a little bit around the door where I still need to flash the wheel well.
I also went on another siding quest. This time I called ahead and got someone on the phone who swore they actually had the materials. Still, there was always the chance that after 40 minutes in traffic, it could all turn out to be a filthy lie so I had to make sure the trip was worth it this time.
Let’s just say I made a little side quest to a certain bright green, misleadingly named Puerto Rican restaurant on the way… you know the one. If you are thinking, “This is a construction blog, why is she writing about some restaurant?” Then you have clearly never been to Sol Food, your life is sad, and I am sorry.
Image from 4feet2mouths blog
Image from Sunset magazine
Image from some guy named Phillip Woodrow’s Foodspotting profile
When I finally arrived at the store with a belly full of limeade and camarones criollos, I made my way apprehensively to the lumber aisle, sure that I would find only an empty space and a note reading “F you Katelynn!” where the promised boards should have been. But when I reached the siding section, there it was, actual siding! My siding! I piled nearly 50 boards onto my cart, most of which were in great condition, and carefully guided my towering load to check out.
I almost made it out without being on the receiving end of any mildly condescending comments about my presence in the lumber aisle. If you have ever been a young woman in a floral shirt and ballet flats just trying to buy some construction materials, you know this is a true miracle. However, it was not the day for acts of God and as I approached the counter a man cocked his head and said, “Ha! You building a whole house there?”
I said, “Yes.” He said nothing.
The glee I got from this small moment of triumph over the patriarchy lasted only minutes until the woman behind the counter said, “Your total today will be half of your monthly income.” After breathing through my heart attack, I handed over my debit card and thought of all the camarones criollos and garlic plantains I could have bought with $1058.37 (seriously… it’s a really good restaurant).
On the bright side, I now have enough boards to really get started on this siding adventure! This coming month, I can stain the boards and maybe even start to side my house! I have decided to do a graywash, and am experimenting with a natural method that uses vinegar and steel wool to artificially age boards.
I watched a couple of YouTube videos which showed this simple method working in moments. I was skeptical but thought I would test it out. All it takes is vinegar, steel wool, and a jar.
I poured the vinegar over the steel wool, covered it most of the way up with tin foil so that gas could escape but dust wouldn’t get it, and let it sit on a shelf for two days.
At the end of two days it looked like this.
I dipped a piece of sample wood in, pulled it out, and left it out overnight. Supposedly you only have to wait a couple minutes for results but I didn’t have two minutes. I had important reading in bed and falling asleep to do.
Ok, so that last process picture is really awful but look how well it worked!
Now I need to decide if I want to do this natural stain and then coat it with a protective layer of transparent exterior wood stain or if I want to skip the YouTube life hack altogether and go straight for a semi-transparent gray exterior wood stain. There is a lot to consider. The second method would protect my siding better in the long run, and also I am not entirely sure that painting my boards with what is essentially rust and acid isn’t damaging the wood… but it looks so good!
I know all of you will be on the edge of your seats this whole month, waiting to find out what I decide!
Thank you to my dad for loaning me his truck and taking the lead on getting the house trimmed, thank you to the San Rafael Home Depot for actually having more than 8 screwed up boards this time, thank you to Sol Food for making life worth living, thank you to YouTube DIYers Chad Cole (video below!) and DIY Pete for their advice on ageing wood with vinegar and steel wool, and thank you for keeping up with my tiny house memoirs!
All I want to do is hang out by Chad’s koi pond and listen to him talk about stuff. Is it just me?
I finally sucked it up and decided to buy what seems to be the only unprimed cedar shiplap siding available in the Bay. The closest Home Depot that had some in stock was an hour of traffic away. I called ahead to make sure they really had the boards but after 10 minutes on hold, I gave up. The website claimed that they had 50 of the 70 boards I needed so it seemed worth the risk of wasted time. I borrowed the truck and went on a mission.
It did not work out…
Annoyed selfies in home depot.
I bought the 8 damaged boards they actually had in stock at 70% off and hauled them back. This seems to be how siding purchases will go until I have what I need. My dad also made a Home Depot run and came back with about a dozen damaged boards. (He only got 50% off. I guess I’m just cuter).
In the mean time, we are preparing by putting up the last of the housing paper/flashing and trimming the windows and door!
That task has taken up most of this month’s work time but we did get one other thing done. We mounted my water heater in the back. It’s not even hooked up and it turns out it’s actually going to be a pain in the ass to install but even tacking it up felt like a big moment. This was the first “thing” that has gone into the house. It’s not part of my house’s skeleton, it’s guts, you know?
That’s it for July but I want to say that it feels so good to be making steady progress on the house. I feel like every month I have at least some small victory to report. There was a time at the end of last year when I looked at the house and genuinely thought “I will never finish this.” I hadn’t been working on it in months, I couldn’t see when I would find the time to pick back up, and honestly folks I was going through some sh**.
In this dark time in 160House history, I came across a blog post that struck really close to home (I recommend that anyone considering building a tiny house read it). The author writes, “People say: “Oh, you’ve come so far! You’re so close to finishing!” No, we really, really aren’t. We’ve been “so close” to finishing nearly every month for the last two and a half years.”
Sometimes I still feel this way. Building a tiny house is not a tiny endeavor. It’s the biggest, craziest, possibly stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and honestly, I know it’s still possible that I won’t finish. But right now it feels like I will. So I am just going to keep putting in the time when I can and making my slow and steady progress and maybe eventually I can retire in my little house on wheels.
Thank yous are short this month. Just a big thank you to my dad for going on this long, slow journey with me, even when you’re grumpy and would rather be fixing your truck. And thank you for reading! The good news for my loyal readers is this blog may be around for years to come! 😉
June and early July were busy times for me. The space I had to work on the house was widdled down by weddings, family and old friends visiting from out of state and out of country, and 4th of July festivities. This was, of course, on top of my two jobs and very important social life. As proof of my busyness I present to you this album. I call it “Excuses.”
However! Despite limited time, I still managed to get in enough work for a real update!
Last month we left our heroine hunting down cedar siding at an affordable price. Well, I found some siding at a rate I guess some would call affordable but unfortunately it does not come in the right length! I had been hoping for unbroken lines on the sides of the house but it looks like I will have to get over it and settle for staggered siding.
How I want it.
How it’s gonna be…
As of now, I am not over it, and as part of my sulking process I have been delaying the purchase. Sadly, this means that this month’s update does not include exciting pictures of the house starting to look like a house.
Instead, the last 4 weeks turned out to be the month of utilities. I finished running and stapling pretty much all of the electrical lines.
My dad and I ran all the PEX tubing for my plumbing.
I bought a water heater and some shower controls.
Marey 10L Tankless Propane Water Heater
Just a boring shower control…
And we built this nifty box on the back of the house for my water heater and some extra storage.
That concludes my quick update. I had to write this blog in just a short hour and a half. For reasons why see “Excuses” above.
Thank you always and forever to my dad for his mentorship, thank you to all of my incredible friends and family who made the past few weeks so hectic and wonderful, and thank you for reading.
It has recently come to my attention that some people do in fact read this blog. Two whole people approached me this past month to tell me they enjoyed my tiny house adventures and they knew too much to have just read the Cliff Notes. Maybe those are my only two readers but whatever the case thank you, thank you both, or thank you all. Your attention and support motivate me to stick with this project on days I would rather be making excuses.
I spent a lot of time this month wandering around hardware stores and lumber yards pricing out cedar siding. What I discovered is that it’s really freaking expensive.
I remembered a design element I had seen in other builds. They used wood siding most of the way up their walls and then switched to another material towards the top. By implementing this simple but appealing design I realized I could save at least a few hundred dollars.
So here’s the thing, I could tell you everything that happened in May but it would be a short story. In fact, here is what that post would look like:
I reparked the trailer again, I installed some more wiring, and I priced out siding.
Instead of ending there, I thought I would tell a different story, the story of how I designed (and continue to design) the 160House.
Phase 1: Convertible Everything
When I first started to dream up the house, I had all sorts of elaborate plans. It looked a lot like this bullshit…
My original few layouts had tables converting into beds and stairs doubling as dressers. It sacrificed no amenities. The exterior was just as bad. I had lofty dreams of awkwardly placed balconies and impractical rooftop terraces.
Phase 2: Keep it simple, Stupid.
My tiny house plans were starting to resemble Fred and Carrie’s Microhouse. There were even a couple iterations with a bathtub. A BATHTUB! (If your curious, it extended underneath the kitchen counter).
I reevaluated. One of my favorite parts of designing the 160House has been taking a deeper look at what is important to me. In a very literal sense it has brought to my attention how much space specific activities take up in my life.
An example: I had been envisioning myself writing my novel in a tiny nook and hosting dinner parties at my family sized dining table but I hate working in cramped spaces and I have never in my quarter century on this planet cooked dinner for my friends. The tiny house wasn’t going to suddenly transform me into a socialite who invites her peers for philosophy and souffle, and I wasn’t going to be happy shoved into a little corner every time I had some creativity to squeeze out. The answer: A big ass desk.
If you want a feel for the inside of the house, watch the video below. I came across it when my entire YouTube suggestion page consisted of tiny house tour videos. The major differences are my shed style roof and my loft over the office space instead of the kitchen area.
Phase 3: You can’t afford that
Now back to my siding dilemma. I simplified the design but was determined not to compromise on aesthetics or quality. Unfortunately, buying nice things is expensive. So, just like this week when I added a new element to my siding plans to cut down on costs, many of my final design decisions have been based on budget.
I don’t have all the windows I once imagined and not all of them are operable, my skylight is not a perfect 4×4 square, the heater is going to be a simple split unit and not one of those cool looking wall mounts where you can see the flames, and the kitchen sink won’t be a classic farmhouse basin but just a big ass metal tub my mother found for $5 at an estate sale.
To Be Continued…
I am sure there will be many more compromises and days spent shaking my head as I flip back and forth between Lowe’s website and my bank statement but so far I have made it through every dilemma with a decision I feel confident about.
Thank yous! Thank you to my friend Andrew who made digital renderings of some of my plans. Sorry I changed the design afterwards! Thank you to my dad for his patience as I deliberate, redeliberate, and obsess my way through this project. And thank you for taking the time to stay caught up on my Tiny House adventures.
“Can your truck tow a tiny house?” I laughed. No one else did.
In horror, I realized that my off handed, half-brag joke had become an offering. “I mean, it’s really big and it doesn’t have any siding,” I tried to back track but the board was undeterred.
“The truck can tow it,” said the executive director, “and we fix homes so it makes sense that it’s unfinished.”
It was decided. I was out of non-lazy reasons to say no, and the 160House would be the Rebuilding Together float in the Petaluma Butter and Egg Days Parade.
Since my last post, I mostly spent my work days preparing the house, clearing debris from in and around it, scouring the floor for sharp objects, vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning windows, and relocating spiders.
Look at it!!!
The day before the parade the Butter and Eggs committee (renamed the Beer, Butter, and Eggs committee because hey, I was on it) met to clear the last of the debris around the house and tow it downtown.
Because nothing can ever be simple with the 160House, this became a complicated three hour ordeal. In a single afternoon I became a regular at the local auto-parts store, returning three times to fetch the proper tow ball, electrical hookups, and flat tire repair equipment (I have no idea how my trailer got a flat when it wasn’t even resting on its tires). Finally, we did get the house hitched and ready.
Another board member towed the trailer downtown and I left slightly after the truck so it took me a moment to catch up. Every turn I made, I could see where the house had been. Under every tree was a murder scene of broken branches and fallen leaves, and I caught up just in time to see us take out a phone line (I feel no remorse. My house is street legal. Hang your lines higher PG&E!).
The whole way downtown, heads turned and fingers pointed. I was pretty impressed with myself. I had built that massive, tree destroying, phone line snapping, attention grabbing trailer.
It had been a lot of work but it was worth it to support an organization I care about.
Then the above picture was sent to our executive director. “It’s really big and it doesn’t have any siding,” she texted back, “I don’t think we should use it.”
In the morning I went downtown to retrieve my house and tried not to think about the many hours of progress I had lost that month. On the way back we managed not to take out anymore power lines, and we almost made it without incident but just as we made the final turn, a tree took its just revenge. A branch slapped into one of my top windows, shattering the glass and the last of my good humor. “$200,” I involuntarily muttered.
I gathered the broken pieces of custom window from the street, patted my gal and told her she was beautiful no matter what anybody said, and then we headed back to the parade. The rest of the day was great and was probably a lot less stressful than it would have been with the house in tow. We got the truck decorated, threw cute kids in the back, and handed out old t-shirts from wheel barrels. Afterwards I celebrated in true Butter and Egg Days fashion, by day drinking with people I went to high school with.
A couple days later, we got the tiny house back in her spot and leveled up, another all day ordeal, and a day later a neighbor hosting an open house begged us to move it. I didn’t have to be there for the second move. My dad towed it with a friend while I was at work. But still, more labor undone.
This whole post has felt very negative so here, a few positive things that came from the Butter and Eggs Debacle:
Planning for the parade motivated me to finish my roof.
The inside of my house will be much easier to work in now that it’s clean.
I learned new life skills for towing and tire maintenance.
I formed valuable relationships with the good people at O’Reilly Autoparts.
I know that my house won’t fall apart when I tow it (but trees and powerlines…)
I got a deep sense of pride and happiness watching people point and stare.
I can totally guilt the Rebuilding Together board of directors into helping me bust out my siding now.
Thank you to my dad for putting up with all this crap. Thank you to everyone who smiled and pointed when they saw my house. Thank you to the guys at the autoparts store for their humor and guidance. Thank you to all you cool kids who came back to town for our hometown holiday, caught me on my way back to my car, and talked me into drowning my tiny house sorrows in cheap bottles of PBR. It was great catching up after all these years! And thank you everyone at Rebuilding Together Petaluma for offering to fix my window for me, for helping me put up my siding (really so kind of you to offer with no pressure from me at all…), and for mobilizing over 600 volunteers to repair more than 50 homes and non-profit facilities in Petaluma every year! Seriously, you’re worth the hassle! And thank you Reader, for being excited enough about this project to follow my blog. I will try to have some real progress for you next month!