How to Stain Siding and Everything Else

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.

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Ma’am, you’ve been standing in line, starring at the board for 20 minutes. Do you want Cookies and Cream or Birthday Cake? No, you cannot try another sample.

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.

 

Going industrial.

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.

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All aboard the staining train ‘cuz this is the work station!

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!

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.

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Ta-da! I present to you… Slightly darker, shittier looking wood!

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!

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Mapping those studs.

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!

Siding Science

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…

The Trim

We got the trim almost entirely finished, except for a little bit around the door where I still need to flash the wheel well.

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Good trim.

Siding Adventure

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.

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).

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This is what $1000 of wood looks like.

For Science!

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.

 

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Science Step 1: Gather Materials

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.

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Science Step 2: Combine Materials.

At the end of two days it looked like this.

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Science Step 3: Observe

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.

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Science Step 4: Do the thing in the middle of the night after you get off work and you’re real tired, take one incredibly blurry picture of it, and say, “f*** it that’s good enough!”

Ok, so that last process picture is really awful but look how well it worked!

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Science!

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 Yous!

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?

 

 

Just a Trim

Update on the siding saga!

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…

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!

 

 

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Fun fact: More people read my blog when the picture in the link has my face in it.
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?

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Not that interesting.
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.

retirement-planning-reliance-trust

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! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.)

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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.

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.