Excuse Me

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.”

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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.

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.

Satisfying af. (Full confession, these picture are actually not from this month but I did do more electrical recently and I hadn’t posted about it yet so I don’t feel bad…)

My dad and I ran all the PEX tubing for my plumbing.

All hot water all the time.

I bought a water heater and some shower controls.

And we built this nifty box on the back of the house for my water heater and some extra storage.

This is where I’ll keep my rabbits.

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.

160 Designs

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.

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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.

arteest 3
The artiste with one of her earliest designs.

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.

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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.

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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.

So far I think she looks pretty good…

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.





Butter, Eggs, and Broken Windows

“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.

We are serious about our eggs and dairy products…

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!!!

Look how freaking clean it is!

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.

My baby girl on a hot date with a classic car.

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.

Not her best side.

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.

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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.

Photo by Tyler Chartier

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.

Back where she belongs… briefly.

This whole post has felt very negative so here, a few positive things that came from the Butter and Eggs Debacle:

  1. Planning for the parade motivated me to finish my roof.
  2. The inside of my house will be much easier to work in now that it’s clean.
  3. I learned new life skills for towing and tire maintenance.
  4. I formed valuable relationships with the good people at O’Reilly Autoparts.
  5. I know that my house won’t fall apart when I tow it (but trees and powerlines…)
  6. I got a deep sense of pride and happiness watching people point and stare.
  7. I can totally guilt the Rebuilding Together board of directors into helping me bust out my siding now.
positive thinking
You too can stand in a field of wheat.

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!

Raise the Roof

Alright, I have a very good excuse for not posting in a while… I wasn’t working on the house. But seriously, as I scrolled back through my blog today, I realized that my scheduled release for this post will be exactly one year after my last one. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

I’m going to give myself a little break. I got a nifty job at a non-profit and kept my restaurant job and have been working 6 days a week for a year now. Throw that in with a move and some tumultuous life events and you get roughly 9 months of stalled progress on the 160House.

I picked back up though and am back to making steady progress. Now for the good stuff!

The 160House has a roof! A real roof! It holds out rain and everything! Check it out!

Photo Mar 29, 4 24 13 PM
Wanna party on my roof? Because it’s type EDM!

Of course, nothing can ever be quick and easy so there were plenty of adventures on the way.  As usual, I probably pulled as many screws as I put in, extra parts had to be ordered, creativity had to be used.

However, the biggest pain in the ass was that f***ing skylight.

Let me explain, it turns out Velux does not make flashing (waterproofing) for metal roofs that fit the fancy roof window I was so excited about 365 days ago. So I ended up ordering a Frankenstein kit, bits and pieces of various flashing that I could hobble together into a functional seal.

Now, let’s revisit my last post for a moment. I was a tad bit frustrated with the Velux instructions, I believe I said that I was…

“pretty sure Velux writes their instructions to be as confusing as possible”

Well, we thought ONE Velux manual was fun to navigate… so imagine our joy when all of a sudden we had SEVEN!

Photo Jan 31, 11 36 45 AM
WTF Velux

After deciphering seven manuals made of nonsense…

Photo Jan 31, 5 24 20 PM

watching and rewatching and watching again the following instructional video from the 1970s(?) that made me feel like I was in gym class and we were about to start talking about my body…

And hours on the phone with technical service having conversations that went like this…

Me: Hi, the instructions say to nail the side flashing to my skylight but my skylight is made of metal and plastic.

Technical Service Rep Dwayne: You nail the piece to the wood.

Me: My skylight is made of metal and plastic. There is no wood.

Dwayne: Look on the side of your skylight and you will see wood.

Me: The side of my skylight is made of metal and plastic.

Dwayne: What did you attach the brackets to?

Me: Factory pre-drilled holes in the metal and plastic.

Dwayne: So not into wood..?

I was beyond frustrated.

It was then that my mentor and father stopped and dropped a wisdom bomb. He told me to quit following instructions. He told me that in the 40 years he has worked as a general contractor he has made a lot of mistakes, probably more than most, but in the time it takes another professional to deliberate and do an exacting job, he can have a project screwed up, fixed, and already be halfway through his next mistake. I admit I may have scoffed and rolled my eyes in the moment but shortly after, you know what I did?

I burned all seven instruction manuals as part of a ritual sacrifice to the Grecian god of Chaos, reported the Velux EDM Metal Roof Flashing instructional video to YouTube for sexual content, and blocked Dwayne’s number. I was going rogue.

I treated the remaining pieces like a puzzle and using my big honking smart gal brain, I managed to make a skylight that doesn’t funnel water into my sleeping space when it rains!

Photo Mar 18, 11 15 59 AM
This is not a good picture but it’s the one I’ve got so I don’t wanna hear it.

With the skylight finished, we could put the final touches on the roof.

I am so happy to finally be making progress on the house again and as part of my commitment to make sure another 12 months don’t go by before you hear from me again, I am committing to a regularly scheduled blog post every first Friday!

One last exciting bit of news before I sign off: the 160House is going to be in the Petaluma Butter and Egg Days parade as part of a float for Rebuilding Together Petaluma! Check it out if you’re in the area! (BTW, if you click the RTP link, I want you to know that I made that website. #bragging)

What is this diabolical machine turning cows into bicycles and wine?

Now thank yous: Thank you to my Dad, as always, for once more braving Velux instructions with me and for giving me the some of the best sage Dad advice I never asked for. And thank you to… I guess Dwayne. Even though he thought I couldn’t tell the difference between wood and metal, he still spent a couple hours trying to solve the puzzle of the Frankenstein kit with me. And thank YOU for reading or at least skimming and for still being interested in this project a year later. Maybe by next year I’ll have siding!

Let There Be Skylight!


One of my first visions of me in my tiny home, way back when the 160House was just an exciting thought and not a three ton monster taking over my life and my parents’ yard, was of me in a loft below a wide open skylight. As I developed my ideas and changed the design time and again, the skylight over my bed through which I would gaze at stars and crawl with a friend to clink beers on the roof, remained a non-negotiable feature.

I wanted it big and I wanted it bad.

Well it turns out that big skylights are expensive, like really expensive. A company called Velux essentially has a monopoly on operable, residential skylights and the price for the 4×4 hatch skylight I had in mind was going to be at least $1200.

Mr Money Bags

I compromised. Right before I bought a 2×4, I found a 3×4 for $800. Still more than I had wanted to spend but I think worth it. Except that it doesn’t come with the installation kit, which is another 300 flippin dollars!!! So ok, it turned out to be a pretty expensive feature.


I couldn’t wait to install. I am not ashamed to say that sometimes I went out to the house just to look at it and giggle. Unfortunately, I had to wait a bit because of something called rain but when the sky cleared it was time!

Just one problem… I am pretty sure Velux writes their instructions to be as confusing as possible. Watch this old classic clip to get a sample of the Velux instructional experience.

Got it?

There were no words on Velux’s instructions so I took the liberty of writing some for them.

Step 1: This is a skylight.

Step 2: This arrow points to something important and these ones going in opposite directions are just to be silly.

Step 3: You’ve broken the skylight.

Step 4: Jk, it was supposed to do that.

Step 5: Here is a picture of an installed skylight to motivate you.

Eventually each of us had figured out half of the instructions and after doggedly defending our own interpretations, we realized that we both had separate but critical pieces of the puzzle. We put those somewhat literal puzzle pieces together and made one whole installed roof window.

Sadly, I can’t yet spend my days escaping to my loft to look at the sky, not just because that whole area is covered in sawdust and nails but because the rainy season is not quite over so I had to re-tarp the roof. However, the tarp is blue so if I imagine real hard I can pretend it’s the sky!

The Tiny Home Experience

In other news, I went to a Homes Show at the local fairgrounds with my buddy Ejay to look at the tiny houses and steal ideas. Confession time… this was actually my first time inside of a fully constructed tiny home! Don’t worry, I haven’t changed my mind, in fact I am even more excited now after getting a feel for the space, seeing some of my own ideas in action, and getting some new ideas in the process! It was super fun and lookatthistinysinkIwantit!

Little house buddies. Fun fact, Ejay has built two of his own small houses in his lifetime.

Thank you time! Thank you to my dad for laughing with me throughout the skylight installation process. Thank you Ejay for being my homes show buddy! And NO THANK YOU to Velux for your monopolizing, price gouging, lousy instruction ways (But you do make beautiful products to be fair. I love my skylight so I’m not that mad).

Next time on the 160House blog: Katelynn does electrical and loves it!

Katelynn v. The Blocks

The 160House has officially taken over my life. It occupies most of my days off, about half of my waking thoughts, many of my day to day conversations, and it has become almost the sole topic of my dreams. I have dreamed that I built my house in a tree, that I went away and my dad built three more houses just like it to sell, that I died before I could finish the house, that my coworkers came and did a bunch of work for me, and my personal favorite that I was watching a horror movie about a haunted tiny house (Go ahead and try to tell me that’s not a hilariously good idea. Someone please call Fred and Carrie.)

Microhouse Part 2?

It’s good though. It’s a project worth obsessing over and my obsession has started to pay off. As evidence, I present to you the progress I have made since my last post:

The windows are cut out!


The roof is on!


The house is wrapped!


Much reclaimed wood has been refurbished!


Both lofts and my internal wall are framed!


And thanks once more to my friends the Ongaros and their on-going remodel, the 160House now has a front door that I paid nothing but infinite gratitude for.


As each day my dad and I completed a step that made the 160House feel more whole, I began to feel a sense of accomplishment that I had not been able to access before. I began to feel like the house would actually be finished someday.

Of course it can’t all be big steps every day and the frustration and tedium of detail work quickly caught up with me. After weeks of big deal days I came face to face with THE BLOCKS.

Let me explain, I am going to be putting up sheet rock on my walls but the sheet rock needs to have something to attach to below and above my lofts so I have to put in what is called blocking. It fits between the studs and gives the sheet rock something to attach to as well as helping to prevent the spread of fires. So kind of important but not very interesting.

This is what blocking looks like.

The second I started working on this, I immediately sunk into misery. It felt like a sudden halt to real progress. That combined with cracking boards, my total crap ability to take accurate measurement, how hard I struggled to hold the blocks in place while wielding an unwieldy nail gun in tight spaces, and the necessity of climbing down to reposition the ladder between every set of blocks quickly made this my least favorite activity I have engaged in so far during the 160House construction.

I admit I let my frustration get the better of me for a couple days. I was turning out frankly shameful work. So shameful that I never took any pictures. Here are some visual representations which you may interpret as you like.

I ended up having to recut a lot of the wood, twice actually, and then having to take out and reinstall many of the blocks I had already put in. One afternoon I was so miserable that I could hardly get myself to move. The mopier I got, the worse I felt about being mopey until I really didn’t know how I would power through.

But then something switched on in my brain. Who knows why this sudden change hit me, I would like to believe it’s because I was determined to get back to enjoying myself, but for one reason or another I suddenly reengaged with the work. I realized I just needed a better system. I set up a piece of plywood on the loft to use as my workspace so I didn’t have to move up and down the ladder so much, I predrilled the blocks to stop the wood splitting, and I switched over to a palm nailer so I could have more control and fit better into small spaces.

And suddenly things were going great again. I was back into it, enjoying the work and feeling accomplished again.

On President’s Day afternoon I finished all of the loft blocking. I’m sure there is more blocking in my future but in Katelynn v. The Blocks: Round 1, I came out victorious!

Starting to look like a home.

Thank you so much as always to my dad. Thank you again to the Ongaro family for my beautiful front door and again for the wood from their kitchen remodel which is what we just refurbished! And thanks as always to you Reader for following along.

New Year, New House

Hope everyone had a great holiday season. I definitely did. Despite being sick, I managed to spend plenty of time with friends and family and as a bonus I got all geared up on Christmas day. New hammer, new square, new knife, new tape measure, and a brand new work belt to hold it all together!

Geared Up!

I admit I have mixed emotions right now. A year ago I had just gotten back from four months of wandering through South America, pretending not to be trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I came back with plans but they all ended up hinging on one little thing, the 160House. 365 days ago I was sure that 365 days from then I would have my tiny house finished and could use it to cheaply move to the East Bay and get a job at a non-profit. Yet today, I am still living in my home town and working in a restaurant, and I’m not living in a tiny house.

At the same time, though I didn’t get where I meant to this year, it was still a good one and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been up to. I am volunteering with a non-profit, I made a ridiculous amount of incredible new friends and connections, I met my wonderful partner, and while I am not living in the 160House, I could if I wanted to! I’ve got four walls and a roof (kind of). I have made shelter!

Look! There’s a building on my trailer!

Work in Progress

Over the past couple of months I made a lot of progress. After getting the first wall up, there was still the matter of getting the other enormous wall over to the trailer. My friend Adam came to help me and my dad out. Somehow the three of us managed to shift the wall up on its side and scoot-slide it over alongside the trailer, then we used the pulley system to lift it up on to the trailer where we could maneuver it into place.

Shameless plug for a talented friend: Click here to check out Adam and his band on facebook! Or go catch one of his shows at the Roaring Donkey in Petaluma!

After that, things started happening quickly. We built and erected the last two walls over the course of a couple afternoons, re-leveled the trailer, fixed a few framing mistakes (not all mine!), straightened out walls, put up plywood siding, and cut and placed the rafters.

DSCN6272 - Edited
I know this only sort of fits into my narrative here but I wanted to show how we leveraged the walls into place. I thought it looked cool…


In large part this quick progress is because my father-mentor is around again, meaning there is a professional eye back on the project and an extra set of hands.

But it is also because I have made a much deeper commitment to working on the house, setting aside specific time every week to build. People keep asking me when I plan to finish the house and the answer is I have no idea and I have abandoned the need to set a specific time frame. My new philosophy is that if I keep working regularly, it will get done when it’s ready to be done. So I can’t tell you when I plan to wrap things up but I can tell you what I plan to accomplish next Tuesday (getting the plywood sheeting on the roof).

Rainy Days and Dirty Hands

Our progress has not come without struggle though. For one thing, the year I decide to build a house is the year that California decides it should get back to being rainy and cold. Before we started on the roof, I was laying down plastic every time it rained, then having to carefully direct the water off of the trailer and set up enormous drying fans when the sun came out. Things became a little easier once we were able to get a temporary roof in place but it’s been a pain to reassemble and disassemble every time we get back to work.

It’s much easier to build a tiny pool than a tiny house

There was also the great caulking debacle of 2015, when we glued up the plywood siding and got so much adhesive on our hands that three days later I almost had to call in to work. After scrubbing my hands with regular soap, volcano soap, gojo, nail polish remover,mineral spirits, and gasoline, the winning solution was borax, the rough side of a sponge, and more than an hour of combined scrubbing time (I had to split up the sessions because my hands would start the tingle and burn).

Hello, my name is Katelynn and I will be touching your food tonight…

Father Daughter 

I have decided that my dad and I should not be allowed to work on projects together. Really, we are a mess. Every morning we start the day by running in and out of the house grabbing items we forgot until we are finally ready to start 30 minutes after whenever we had meant to.  We then go through our day to a symphony of angry curses directed towards inanimate objects, playing a constant game of “Where is my _____”  until sunset when we step back and are amazed we have actually gotten something done.

So I guess at least in my case it’s true: We do become our parents.

DSCN6269 - Edited
Don’t worry, I’m embarrassed for us.

Thank Yous!

These last 8 weeks have been rewarding and exciting. With the structure enclosed now, I have been able to get a sense of what the 160House will feel like to live in and am becoming more confident with the design elements I decided on. I can’t wait to keep updating you all on this journey. Thanks as always for reading!

Thank you to Adam for his help getting the second wall up, we could not have done it without you. Thank you again to the Ongaro family for their used materials, some of the wood from your old kitchen has been making its way into my roof. And of course thank you Dad, for molding me into a mini-version of yourself. I can’t think of a better adult to turn in to.

Trials and Errors and Errors and Errors

In early October I began to make what felt like my first real progress on the house. I had a stack of lumber delivered to my house and it was time to start framing.

Hopeful Beginnings

It seemed as if this stage would be quick and easy. In one afternoon, my father and I busted out one of the long walls and laid out most of the second.

First wall!

The next morning my parents left to go gallivanting across the United States in their own tiny home/recreational trailer, leaving me to complete the second wall on my own. I was excited. As much as I love working with and learning from my father, I was eager to prove my own capabilities. My last words as my parents pulled away in their truck was “When you get back I will have this frame done and the walls up!” And I truly believed it.

If it took us both a quarter of an afternoon to build one wall, then I decided it would take me a full day to finish the one we had already started. I fully anticipated being able to gather a party to raise walls by the following week.

Reality is about to wipe that Can-Do Attitude right off my face.
Reality is about to wipe that Can-Do Attitude right off my face.

Reality Hits

But I knew after the very first afternoon that this was going to be a longer endeavor than I anticipated. For that afternoon and several afternoons after, I pulled more nails than I left in… by a lot.

The Graveyard of Nails
The Graveyard of Nails
Someday I will get it right...
Someday I will get it right…

For my dear readers to understand the magnitude of my struggle, I am presenting to you all a list of mistakes you can make while framing, a list which has been thoroughly tested and not at all approved by yours truly!

Ways to F *** Up While Framing

  1. You can nail the wrong piece
  2. You can nail the right piece in the wrong place
  3. You can nail the right piece in the right place in the wrong order
  4. You can nail the right piece in the right place in the right order but not have checked to make sure it was level with the piece it was attached to
  5. You can nail in the right piece in the right place in the right order and have made sure it was level only to discover that the board was more twisted than you realized and won’t nail in correctly on the other end
  6. You can try to leverage this twisted piece in to place and look up to realize that you have now leveraged it out of place on the opposite end
  7. After double checking for right pieces, places, order, levelness, and twistedness, you can finally have an entire section of wall together and realize that you cut a piece slightly too short
  8. Alternatively, you can nearly complete a section and realize it was all measured all wrong in the first place.
  9. Now that you’re angry, you can drive that stupid nail in so hard it cracks the lumber.
  10. Or you can drive a nail in at the wrong angle and bend it to hell.
  11. Or even better you can miss the nail entirely and slam that hate fueled hammer right into your thumb and forefinger.
  12. Now while you’re furious about your bent nails and your cracked lumber and your possibly broken fingers, you can jam your crowbar in with far too much fervor and further crack the piece you’re trying to remove and every piece in the vicinity.
  13. You can repeat these mistakes over and over and over again until it takes you an entire month of working tirelessly on every day off and some mornings before your night job to complete something that you thought would take one little 8 hour work day to knock out.

There are my mistakes. I hope this inspires you to go out and cuss at your own projects.

In the above photo I have just made mistake #1 on my list.

When I decided to take on the 160House I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I did think that my glowing intelligence and positive attitude would make for a quick learning curve. After spending four weeks making and remaking mistakes and practicing my most colorful language skills, I now know that I am going to have to ride this out on pure stubbornness. No matter. I have plenty of that.

Things did eventually pick up. After 4 work days of absolute struggle, I finally started to leave in more nails than I pulled and I stopped having to yell at the wood so much. Eventually I did finish that wall and was ready to gather friends for a good old fashioned barn raising.

The Raising of the Wall

Many heroes showed up at my house that hope-filled Wednesday. My sister and little nephew came to cheerlead and take photos, and my friends Kurt, Ejay, Kate, and my partner Joe came to do the heavy lifting. Together we heaved the surprisingly heavy wall over to the trailer and set it down. An end piece cracked off and fell to the ground. Bad omens (or workmanship but let’s say omens).

Carter is here to help.
Carter is here to help.
Carter is very helpful.
Carter is very helpful.
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Wobbling our way to the trailer.

After attaching a new piece where the other had fallen, we had to strategize. First, problem was that it appeared that the wall, when lifted, would collide with one of the trees beside the trailer. The second problem was that if we pushed the wall any closer to the edge, there wouldn’t be any room for it to slip and it could fall off of the trailer.

We ended up pulling several wooden saw horses to the side of the trailer and lifting the wall on top of those. The plan was to drag the wall back to the trailer and then prop it up quickly by attaching a piece of wood to the tree and wall. (My quickly rejected suggestion was that we attach boards to the trailer as stoppers and just try lifting it to see if it would actually hit the tree. Remember this because I will briefly gloat about it later)

The plan at first seemed to be working. With a little will power and grunting, we got the thing upright, but as quickly as we got it up, things started to go horribly wrong. One of the saw horses began to sink into the ground, tipping backwards. The bottom of the wall started to slip out, causing the top to tip back down towards us. Panic ensued as we simultaneously reconciled with our own mortalities and refused to relinquish our delicate holds on life. We used our superhuman, near death experience strength to keep from being crushed, setting the wall back where we started.

This would have been our success photo.
This would have been our success photo.

For some reason, everyone wanted to go home after I almost killed them.

I probably should have felt more disappointed but mostly I was just thankful that nobody had been hurt and proud of myself and my friends for trying.

The Raising of the Wall Take 2

My dad came home the next day and was nice about not mocking me for my overzealous declaration.

A few days after he returned, just the two of us used a pulley system to get the first wall up. It took about an hour and there were no near death experiences. (For the record, I would like to say that we put a board down to keep the wall from sliding and that the wall didn’t even come close to hitting the tree when we lifted it so I am smart and everyone should listen to everything I say. See, I told you there would be brief gloating).

My turn!
My turn!
Don't look OSHA.
Don’t look OSHA.

It was just one wall but it’s my wall. I made it and I lifted it, all with the help of my amazingly supportive friends and family. I am so proud of myself and thankful for my community.

Ready to move in!
Ready to move in!

So THANK YOU to my Dad for being my teacher and making things look so damn easy, to my Mom for photographing our framing day, to my sister Andra for photographing our wall raising day, to my nephew Carter for being our adorable wall raising mascot, and thank you infinitely to my friends Ejay, Kurt, and Kate and my wonderful partner Joe for their time, hard work, and misplaced trust. This would not be possible without all of your love, support, and efforts.

Floor Down, Four Walls to Go

OK, here is my LONG overdue update, and it’s not even going to bring you all the way up to date but I wanted to announce that the 160 House has a subfloor!

Way back when in late May, I had drawn up a frame plan and purchased all the materials to build a subfloor, which is basically just a floor before you make it pretty with polished wood or tiles or carpet. I spent a couple of mornings cutting lumber to the correct measurements and then I was ready to finally for real begin the 160House build!

Carpenter Kate
Carpenter Kate

On a fine Wednesday afternoon we built the frame, attached waterproof fiberglass panels to the bottom, and with the help of my dad’s friend and employee Martin, managed to lift the entire frame and sink it into the base of the trailer.

Making sure everything is lined up.
Making sure everything is lined up.
Skeleton Floor
Skeleton Floor

Then in early June, my dear friend Saul and former Cal Sailing team Skipper came up to visit and help out with the house. In between trivia games and outstanding burritos and with the guidance of my father we were able to insulate the floor and build a platform on which you can stand!

Saul handling the calk
Turns out neither Saul nor I myself were very good at handling calk

It felt amazing to get the first real work done on the house. It’s not quite move in time yet but now I can stand on the floor of my future home and really start to visualize a life in that space.

Finally some ground to stand on!
Finally some ground to stand on!

In other news, more materials have trickled down my way. My friend’s family was remodeling their kitchen and offered to let me raid their used lumber, a family friend Mary gave me some wooden ceiling panels and (I think this one is really cool) used shelves from my old high school library, and between my mother at estate sales and my dad at swap meets, I have amassed a small collection of important detail pieces like lights, hangers, tiles, a shower head, and cabinet doors.

ALSO I have finished the final design! In my next post (which I plan to have up sooner than 3 months from now.. haha) I will show you my drawings and the fantastic 3D renderings done by my friend Andrew.

Thank you for following and thank you so much as always to my family and to Martin, Saul, the Ongaro Family, Mary, and Andrew for their kindness and contributions. I could not do this alone!

Level Up!

I will be posting a different blog on the actual process soon for other tiny home builders who are starting out with the basics like I am. 

Last week I leveled the trailer! OK, so it’s not that exciting but it was the first work I have put into the house and it felt great finally putting a little sweat into it.

Check out this completely candid photo

Getting the trailer ready for construction made me that much more eager to start the actual build so since then, I have been pricing out materials and continuing to hash out a more detailed design.

Thanks so much to my dad for teaching and helping me and to Morgan for keeping me company on our recent hardware store adventure. I can’t wait to start! More updates soon.