“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?”
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!
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.
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.
BUT IT IS SO PRETTY!
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.
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!
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!
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.)
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.
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.
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
People with tilted heads looking at crooked art gallery painting
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
You can nail the wrong piece
You can nail the right piece in the wrong place
You can nail the right piece in the right place in the wrong order
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
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
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
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
Alternatively, you can nearly complete a section and realize it was all measured all wrong in the first place.
Now that you’re angry, you can drive that stupid nail in so hard it cracks the lumber.
Or you can drive a nail in at the wrong angle and bend it to hell.
Or even better you can miss the nail entirely and slam that hate fueled hammer right into your thumb and forefinger.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.