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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Note: I did not actually hit any cars or people, I swear.
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.
Also, because I am buying my trailer from Portland, get ready for Portlandia references on every trailer post. Sorry not sorry.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Starting now! I am already in the process of designing, budgeting, and searching for a trailer. I plan to finish the project by Summer.
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!
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.