160House: The Time-Loop Episode

Act One: That Familiar Feeling

Groundhog Infinito

“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

Time-Loop (1)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.

It was…

Too small.

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.

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#motivationmonday

End of Episode.

 

She’s Beautiful but She’s Empty Inside

May Cover

“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.

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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?”

De-Siding

In September I chose to stain my siding using a blend of vinegar and steel wool. I was so proud of my swift decisive action that on the first Friday of October I declared that “I was the best decision maker of all time this month!” I then proceeded to spend the rest of the month agonizing over this decision.

On my first October work day, I applied a top coat of transparent stain to the wood. First off, I would like to have a discussion with the manufacturer of this product over the meaning of words like “clear” and “transparent.”

 

I thought that maybe it would dry clear (purple glue sticks had taught me this was possible) so I tested it on a few boards. It did not dry clear at all but instead turned my gray stains a distinct burnt orange.

What’s more, when I looked at all my boards after having let them sit for a week, I saw that they were wildly different colors and not just between boards but within the boards. Overall they had settled into a deep redwood color, not at all the cool gray I had hoped for originally. I didn’t hate how they looked but they didn’t look like I wanted my house to look.

 

Logical response: That’s cool. I’ll just paint over them.

Actual response: If I paint over these boards I am a failure who has wasted an entire month’s worth of work days. I better waste all of this month’s work days worrying about it just to be sure.

So that’s why there’s no first of November post.

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Good news though! This month I am back on track and have real progress to report!

Once I decided to paint my boards instead of sticking with my stain, I had another daunting decision to make. What color? Or I guess just which shade…

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I only tried out three, not 50.

I battled indecision and quickly settled on the middle shade. It’s called Chrome.

My dad set up a way better work station than my brain had come up with for my solo painting. Instead of using saw horses to paint three boards at a time and transferring them to ladders to dry, we used an elaborate series of ladders to paint almost all the boards at one time.

We decided to spray instead of roll the boards and it went so fast. It took three short days to get all the boards painted with primer, first coat, and second coat!

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CHROME

And I got to wear this super cute suit!

 

Next I paint my trim, prep the boards, and start installing

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FULL COLOR SCHEME Left to right: ash roof, gray-white trim, lime drop door, chrome siding!

One last piece of exciting news is that I dropped a day at one of my jobs so now I have double the tiny house time!

OK, it’s thank you time! Thank you to my dad for his superior painting strategies, to the guys at the paint stores for answering my many many questions, and to my wonderful friends and family for putting up with my tiny house related worries, especially Jonni, who knows there is no stress that cannot be cured by sushi and fried potatoes.

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

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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! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.