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.

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.

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.)

portlandia
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!

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The roof is on!

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The house is wrapped!

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Much reclaimed wood has been refurbished!

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Both lofts and my internal wall are framed!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Oregon Trailer

Last week my dad and I took a quick jaunt up to Portland, Oregon to drink beer… I mean pick up my trailer.  My dad had graciously agreed to let me use his truck to haul my foundation back down to California and I had talked him into staying an extra night to have some time to spend in what is absolutely one of my favorite cities.

Day 1:

We began our quest up North early Tuesday morning, switching off every few hours. It was actually my first time driving anything larger than my sedan, which to be fair is kind of a boat. I did pretty well though. I think I only hit 5 cars and I don’t think I killed anyone but I was in such a hury to get to my trailer I didn’t stop to check on that one guy…

After a 9 hour drive we arrived at our Motel 6 in Tigard, Oregon, a few miles south of Portland. Hey, it was cheap. We drove into town a little after and kicked off our beer tour right with pizza and a 15 beer sampler from Hopworks.

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A good start

Day 2:

We picked up my trailer at the Iron Eagle facilities in Fairview Wednesday morning so that we would have the afternoon for our beer tour. Rob was as nice and helpful in person as he had been over the phone. He took a few minutes to talk to me about the trailer’s many tiny house specific feautures, then ran a series of tests to make sure that both the trailer and the truck’s towing equipment was fully functional before bringing me to his office to finalize the purchase. And then it was mine!

Rob from Iron Eagle!
Rob from Iron Eagle!
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Trailer in tow!

Once we had the trailer parked back at the hotel, we immediately caught public transport into Portland. We had limited time and a serious plan. The first thing on our to-do list was a visit to one of our favorite places on Earth!

Mecca
Mecca
Perusing out some tiny house literature...
Perusing out some tiny house literature…

Then it was time to get to the really serious business. We had planned a walking tour of a few breweries in downtown Portland. There are 92 breweries and beer bars in Portland! That’s the most in any city in the United States (probably)! We had a lot of options but we ultimately decided to hit up Rogue, Fat Head, and Deschutes and were not disapointed.

Rogue
Rogue
Fat Head
Fat Head
Deschutes
Deschutes

Day 3:

We left Portland at sunrise on Thursday morning, knowing we had a long trip back in the slow lane.

I was a little nervous about towing for the first time but quickly became comfortable, maybe too comfortable. As I was passing another trailer at around 80 miles per hour, I glanced to my left and saw a police car. The officer pulled onto the freeway and I knew I was doomed. But then… A MIRACLE! The officer pulled up and flipped his lights on behind the poor trailer I had just passed!

Thankfully, the rest of the drive was uneventful, probably because I drove a lot slower after that.

In all the trip back down lasted a little over 10 hours but fortunately we were in good company. We made it back home just before dark.

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Home!

The trip was only 3 days long and we spent as much time in the car as we did in Portland but I think we made the most of our time there. Not only did I retrieve my beautiful tiny house foundation from Iron Eagle Trailers, we were also able stop in at the glorious Powells City of Books, and sample nearly 40 Portland brews (38 if you’re counting… which I am of course)!

Thank you so much to my dad for taking this wonderful trip with me. Thank you to our bartender at Fat Head Brewing for sneaking us extra samples! Thank you to that other trailer for doing whatever it did to get pulled over! And thank you to Rob and everyone else at Iron Eagle Trailers for making at least one of my decisions easy and for making such high-quality, reasonably priced products. For anyone out there trying to decide on a trailer company, I give my highest recommendation to Iron Eagle Trailers in Oregon!

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Look, they even put a bird on it!

Note: I did not actually hit any cars or people, I swear.

Material Girl

Today is a monumental day for the 160House because it is the day I officially acquired my first building materials!

Yesterday morning one of my oldest friends called to tell me that her family had a barn full of building supplies left over from their remodel that they were willing to let me raid. I confirmed with her parents later that afternoon, and today I went to check everything out.

I ended the day with enough redwood to build my rooftop deck and all the wiring I need for my entire home!

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Yes, I said rooftop deck. Exciting things are happening.

Wow!

I feel so grateful to the Thomas family for their extremely generous contribution to my project and to my amazing father for helping me pick and haul.

Cannot wait to head up to Oregon later this week to pick up my beautiful new trailer and grab some local brews with my dad! Stay tuned friends.

I Bought a Trailer!

Today I made my first and hopefully biggest investment towards the OneSixty House when I ordered a custom built trailer from Iron Eagle Trailers in Portland, Oregon. There is no going back now. Soon I will have a several thousand dollar, several thousand pound purchase sitting in my yard.

Look at that sexy trailer...
Look at that sexy prototype…

Also, because I am buying my trailer from Portland, get ready for Portlandia references on every trailer post. Sorry not sorry.

Deal with it
Deal with it

I had originally planned to buy used and modify but realized quickly that this was not a good plan for me. After a couple weeks of researching, checking out trailers, and calling custom shops to get estimates on modification costs, all the evidence indicated that I was about to spend months of my life searching for something with no guarantee that when I actually made a purchase it would be the right one. I decided that the time I would save and the peace of mind I would get from knowing my trailer was being built by experts was worth the extra money. Plus, the Portland cell phone guy has a good point.

after you pay for it

A fellow member of the tiny house community referred me to Iron Eagle Trailers and I am so glad she did. They have a series of trailers specifically designed to serve as the foundations of tiny houses on wheels and their tiny home trailer expert Rob always clearly and quickly answered any questions I had during the decision making process. I feel confident that I have chosen a trustworthy company.

The completion is estimated at 6 weeks from now which means I will be able to go pick it up mid-March. The estimate they gave me was March 19! I guess I’m taking a road trip to Portland! Bummer.

Oh sh*** its that Katelynn coming into town?
Oh sh*** is that Katelynn coming into town?

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped me towards this huge step. To my mother and father for keeping their eyes open for used trailers, to Maggie for referring me to her helpful cousin Pepper, to Pepper for referring me to Iron Eagle, and to Rob and the rest of the crew at Iron Eagle in Portland for making this stage of my tiny house journey easy.

Now to start some serious designing…

Like deciding where to put the bird on it...
Like deciding where to put a bird on it…

A Tiny Statement of Intent

I want to share something exciting with my friends, family, and network. I have decided to build my own home! Actually, I have decided to build my own tiny home. Yes, those little cabins on trailers which have been flooding your social media feeds: I am making one!

Real adults aren't afraid to build houses and color with crayons.
Real adults aren’t afraid to build houses and color with crayons.

I will be using this blog to share my progress and resources with loved ones and other members of the ever growing tiny home community!

Let me quickly run you through the what, where, when, why, and hows of my project!

What?

My little house will be a lot like any other house. It will have a bathroom, office space, kitchen, lounge area, room for guests to stay, and a place for me to sleep. The only difference is that mine will be mobile and will have a footprint of only 160 square feet! The entire structure will be built on top of an 8′ by 20′ trailer and measure 14′ from ground to the tip of the roof.

Where?

I will be constructing the little house in the backyard of my Sonoma County home and sourcing as many of my materials from Northern California as possible!

When?

Starting now! I am already in the process of designing, budgeting, and searching for a trailer.  I plan to finish the project by Summer.

Why?

There are many aspects of building a tiny home on a trailer that appeal to me: mobility, a low environmental impact, the opportunity to design my own living space, the confidence that comes from planning and executing such a big project. But one reason looms above all others…

IT’S CHEAP! The estimated cost of building a 160sqft tiny home on a trailer is $10-15,000. With savings from rent in California, this project will pay for itself within two years of use! With all the money I save, imagine all the extra travelling I can do!

How?

One answer is “With my own bare hands, dammit!” but the real answer is with a lot of hard work, will power, and the help of my many talented friends. I admit it… I NEED HELP! I cannot do this alone.

I have already been surprised and uplifted by the unanimous reactions of enthusiasm and support from everyone I have shared my plans with. So thank you to those who have already offered their hands, advice, and blessings. I know that when the OneSixty House is complete it will not only be my perfect living space but also a tangible representation of my beautiful, supportive community.