Archives for category: Nesting

Another 6 weeks, another propane tank.

Why won’t the Acme nut screw in?

Oh. That plastic thing broke.

Broken Acme Nut

Bought a pig-tail at one hardware store, the one pigtaill they had in stock and it wasn’t the right size nor did they have an adapter to make it fit.

Calling and visiting 5 more places, they either didn’t have any idea of what our needs were or they just didn’t have the proper part in stock.

Well, after calling around town and trying to get a new “pig tail”, we finally met someone at Hometown Hearth & Grill that understood our propane-dilemma. Although Acme nuts are easy to replace by hand, we would be regularly plagued by broken plastic ring thingies. Brass is stronger than plastic, duh.

Brass Fitting

Although a wrench will be required every time we needed to swap tanks, the brass fitting would hold up better in the long run, a run we hope will last many more years.

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After I changed the bathroom door into a bench, we needed a replacement door. Audrey put one on order but we may not have it for another week.

So, we did what was cheap and easy until the new door arrives.

A curtain!

Temporary Bathroom Door

After completing the closet project, I decided that we had put up with the over-built bathroom door long enough. It scraped the door jam every time we opened and closed the door and just didn’t fit the space.

So, I did what any DIY-type guy would do. I ripped it off the wall and did something with the materials.

Work in progress

Tearing apart the old door

I’ve kind of had this idea in my head for a “landing zone” next to the door and underneath the coat hooks. We had been using the bench to place our stuff as we walked into the house, but that always left us feeling cluttered when it was time to sit down.

View from the bench

The old bench in use

Using the pine tongue-and-groove from the bathroom door, I fashioned a new frame and legs with one leg shortened to sit over the wheel wheel.

It was a quick and dirty project that turned out pretty nicely and matches the rest of the house. We have a place to put our backpacks and bags when we walk into the house as well as some nice storage for all our shoes.

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I am so grateful to have such awesome neighbors that were willing to let me use their miter-saw and table-saw to complete these projects.

-Tomas

Today was Sunday Parkways in NE Portland!…an event where the streets close to motor vehicles, and opens to walkers, joggers, cyclists, skateboarders, tall-bike riders, roller skaters…it’s an awesome sight to see and even more fun event to partake in. Our tiny house was on the route!…It was both exciting and a bit nerve-wrecking. Thousands of people going by…What will people say? Will they ogle? Will they call city officials?

As it turns out, it was good practice for next weekend’s Pedalpalooza Tiny Home Tour.

As I gardened in the front, I could hear passersby commenting, “Oh, look at the tiny house!”, and “That must be one of those ‘tiny houses’.” It felt a little odd and vulnerable to be observed. I guess I’m still apprehensive since the lifestyle is not completely accepted as of yet. We’re still somewhat at the mercy of the community.

As I caught up with a friend outside near our house, a few cyclists stopped by and asked to take a peek inside. This gave more people the opportunity to stop by as well. We then had a good group of folks asking questions and chatting about our locale. Some were amazed that two people and a cat live comfortably in under 200 sq ft. Others commented on the point that most of the world lives in smaller than typical American homes.

It was fun to hear the insights of others and see their perspectives. And nice to meet new friends! Next week’s going to be exciting!

We’ve now been living in the tiny house for 7 months!

This month we’ve been busy, camping, hiking, exploring…we even summitted Mt. St. Helens! We’ve been busy how we want to be busy which has been great. Summer is off to a good start.

As for tiny house living this month? We’ve hit more bumps…but things are gradually getting smoothed out. (Either that or we’re building up an immunity to house stresses.)

Mold 

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This has been a big bump. While continuing to tear apart the closet, we noticed some mold on the frame wood. Extremely concerned we called called for backup and checked with Derin as well as a mold specialist. The consensus was that it’s “lumberyard mold“, not harmful to humans or pets (thankfully), but not ideal to have in one’s home either. It probably got there during the construction process when the framing was up and exposed to moisture/rain. And as long as we can control moisture in the house it (and any other mold) should be prevented from growing. This is where the situation gets complicated.

Our house appears to be double wrapped in plastic. We wouldn’t know this except there’s a missing panel in the closet where the vapor barrier is visible. It looks like there’s two layers of plastic which wouldn’t allow for the “breathing” process of the moisture to move outside and it would also create a space between the two sheets of plastic vulnerable to trapped moisture. From what I’ve learned, it’s controversial whether vapor barriers should be used in house construction especially in the wet Pacific Northwest.

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We learned from the mold specialist that the humidity should be under 55%, so we purchased a digital humidity reader and saw that our level was way too high (60%-70%+). Either we stop breathing, bathing, drying our wool inside, bringing in rain jackets, and cooking…or we find another way to control it. We tried a small dehumidifier but it didn’t help much. Derin has temporarily lent us his larger dehumidifyer which has been working great at keeping the moisture under control. We are also going to look into replacing the bathroom vent as the current one has very low CFM  “Cubic Feet Per Minute” air movement. Maybe we’ll replace it with something like this?

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We may just have to run a dehumidifyer during wetter months to keep the humidity levels down. It’s something we’re not particularly happy about, but since we’re not going to move to the deserts of Arizona any time soon, it’s something we’ll have to deal with. Moisture mediation in a small space in the Pacific Northwest is something to pay attention to when considering tiny house builds…just sayin.

Schrödinger’s Cat

We had concerns about our shower head and plumbing once Derin pointed out that the pipe to the shower head shouldn’t rotate the way it does. We had a contractor check on it and he thinks that it is not screwed in properly and needs to be tightened but may be a non-issue. There’s also concern about the sharkbite fitings (plumbing connections). We’ve decided that “Schrödinger’s cat” lives in our bathroom walls. Our plumbing may be both leaking and not leaking…but until we tear the walls down, or we notice water leaking, or obvious signs of water damage I’m not allowed to worry about what I can’t see. Until then, replacing the shower/tub/walls is staying on the long-term project list. (Hopefully this update won’t follow with a “Quantum leaks” update….hah!)

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The Closet Part IV

So, yeah, there’s the mold. BUT we’ve made some improvements too! We tore out more of the unnecessary frame wood, and replaced it with some nice cedar and oak pieces. It’s still a work in progress, but we think it’s looking better.

The Bathroom Door

Right now we don’t have a bathroom door (don’t tell OSHA). Tomas tossed it and the awful framing that was on there when he fixed the closet. We’ve never liked that door. I’ve since ordered a new one (that we’ll have to trim shorter)…we continue to enjoy making the house more our own. We might turn the old bathroom door into a bench or something.

Help

When we were in the thick of worrying about the mold, and leaks, and moisture and all the things that we can’t see and don’t know are problems, I had the idea to get a home inspection. This way we can have everything officially checked over. I called a couple of places but so far I haven’t found anyone who is willing to take on the job because “how are these homes regulated?”. I feel a little helpless. I realize that traditional trades-people don’t want to take on these jobs because it is a unique building structure and the only way we may be able to get help is through networking, friends, and references. In this case, community really is key.

Registration

We’re STILL waiting for the MCO “Manufacture Certificate of Origin” from the builder. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

registration

Bins and Clutter

I got new purple and green bins! I think they look good with our colors and they’re slightly bigger than our others. I also got new gloves, and shoes, and socks, and trekking poles, and…and…and…I’ve noticed the clutter creeping back in. We’ve gotten more lax in our tidying and it’s taking a toll on our comfort level in the house. We still haven’t found the greatest way to organize and it continues to be a challenge that we work on. I’m especially bad at filing away/shredding papers, mail, and receipts. At least we recognize this and the limited space in the house makes it clear when we need to catch up on our cleaning. We’re not minimalists by nature, it definitely takes a conscious effort for us.

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Upcoming Projects

  • The consultant we had check out our plumbing also recommended that we reseal the outdoor caulk along the doors and windows because there are small cracks forming, possibly from the process of moving our house. Water sneaks in these small cracks and causes damage, so we want to be proactive and seal it up during these drier months.

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  • A big looming project is resealing the floors and walls….a big big project. We’re thinking of storing our belongings in the main house garage and camping in the yard while the stain seals…we’ll see how it goes. We need time and extended dry weather. Not to mention learning how to use a sander…
  • We’ve talked about putting up lattice around the house or in front of the wheels and planter boxes around the trailer tongue to make the house look more permanent “house-ish” and less “trailer-ish”.
  • It seems like home ownership is full of never ending upcoming projects….
  • Like adding a twisty slide!

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Upcoming Fun

We’re excited to announce we’re going to be on this year’s Pedalpalooza Tiny Home tour! It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, Tomas and I were on that tour checking out all the cool tiny homes of Portland. We weren’t sure we wanted to be on the tour because of all of our challenges and things that we want to change in the house. But then we realized this is probably a great reason to be on the tour…to tell people our story and if only one person learns from one of our mistakes it’ll be worth it.

We even made a little business card to pass out to the participants!…with some tips we’ve learned along the way. 🙂

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Benjamin

Our kitty continues to be a wonderful tiny house companion. He helps out by being cute, guarding the tiny house, and sitting on paper bags. Even more wonderful this month is that he hasn’t used the indoor litter box once! He’s gone outside to do his business and we are very thankful for that.

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We are extremely lucky to find ourselves and our tiny home in a spot with a kick-ass land lord. She couldn’t be more amazing, open-minded, supportive, all-around awesome…she has a large enough property to have two renters in a main house, an ADU in the back, and us in the front yard. Talk about building a community. In addition, we have a ton of (kind of overwhelming) garden space. We’re going to share the land, the tools, and the bounty with our fellow land-mates.

This is one of the big pros to tiny house community living that we have been looking forward to. Why have 8 houses in a row with 8 lawn-mowers? Why not have 2 or 3 and share them? Sharing feels good.

Since it is now spring (yay!), I have just begun to get my hands dirty. I’ve been referring to it as my “dirt therapy”. It’s so nice to beautify the space around the tiny home as well as making it nicer inside too. It’s relaxing, I enjoy it, I am not always successful at it, but I can be persistent…or just re-plant.

Some shots from my day:

My cat rocks. In fact, he has been my rock for 14 years now. Through thick and thin, ups and downs, cross-country moves, apartments, houses, and now tiny living he’s been by my side. He’s often a pain in the rear and sometimes cranky, but aren’t we all like that sometimes? He’s a great little companion, and super photogenic.

Living with the cat in the tiny house has brought challenges but I wouldn’t change much. Since it’s gotten warmer outside, he’s been going out more frequently to use the bathroom and that has given us more restful nights. There are always those days when he’ll go outside, chomp down on some grass, run into the house to puke on the rug, and then run back outside. He’s funny that way. He gets away with less now that his mischievous ways, like jumping on counters, are mostly within sight. He’s persnickety, playful, full of personality, and I love him to bits.

More cat pictures you say? Find them Here.

And videos!

What we would have had built differently

With the caveat that home design is a very personal and unique process, and that sometimes limited income forces some decisions, I’ll explain some of the things that we would change or have had built differently if we could.

  • Obviously, we would have had the closet built differently. As we have described before, the closet was a disaster upon delivery. Unable to access the full space, Tomas used his handyman skills to saw the sucker apart and make it more usable.
  • One of the ‘lessons learned’ through this process included the location of the entry doors. Standard doors on typical RVs are on the passenger side, ours were built on the driver’s side. Unaware of this when we started this process, it would have been great to have that knowledge for simplicity purposes if by last resort we end up living at an RV park someday. Having the doors on the passenger side or on an end (or both) would be preferred.
  • After using the kitchen for a few months, I’d consider swapping out the stove for a stainless steel 3-burner top and use a toaster oven instead for baking. This might eliminate the GIANT microwave factor that I’m not so keen on.
  •  I’ll eventually swap out the fridge for stainless steel. I wanted light colors to make the small spaces seem less so.
  • We would prefer not to have the 20ft distance from our gas tanks to our water heater and stove. It seems to complicate the gas system by adding the longer gas line under the house. This was arranged as such because of the type of trailer we have with the heavier of the house needing to be over the double axles in the back.
  • We would have designed our kitchen differently if we had known the water heater would have to be outside. Originally the corner of the “L” shape was to hold the water heater. It wasn’t until very late in the build process that this was a known factor, so we have a blank space in this corner. Not ideal in tiny spaces.
  • Standard-size cabinets were installed in our tiny home and they take up a lot of space. It would be great if they could have been smaller/custom built. This also resulted in a large/wide countertop. I love the stainless steel countertop, but would prefer the entire set-up to be narrower.
  • While the reading nook bench continues to be a popular hang-out in the tiny house, I would love to see a design that folds out to be a wider “daybed” configuration.
  • We ran out of budget for the indoor lap pool, the third story loft, and the velociraptor stable. Seriously though, with unlimited income we would have had a metal roof, and local Oregon sheep wool for insulation (no kidding) instead of pink fiberglass, and Tomas would have a stainless steel bathtub/wall with glorious cedar trim all around.

A few of these preferences we have learned from living in the house.  And again, some of the things we would change others wouldn’t. And still others may change different things. Perception and personal preference (the 3 Ps?) are a huge part of home design.

It’s also been important for us to realize no home is perfect and there will always be some project or other that is in need. Something can always be modified or improved, a desire that seems to be innate human nature. At this point, we’re thankful we have a warm, dry space to call our own in a town we love and we’re excited to do what we can to make the space more our own.

A quick note on the things we’re glad we had built: the raised gables that give us a higher ceiling (this equals more headroom in the loft), the added loft storage, the shelves above the nook, the less steep ladder, the drop-kick drawers, and the reading nook/bench. Also, we’ve learned we feel comfortable living in the 8X20 space and are glad we didn’t go with anything smaller or larger…in fact, it seems really spacious to me.

Wow, month three has flown by!

Tomas and I have been busy with work, school, fun winter outings, and helping friends move-by-bike. On the home front, the initial shock of dealing with water usage, toilet duties, and small house challenges have started to blend more into the background and feel more like routine. The unexpected initial costs of new-home madness have also died down (no more $1500 powermovers to purchase). Tomas and I have found our sanctuaries and places in (and outside of) the home and we are looking to the future and how we can make our home better.

So, what have we learned this past month?

Look to the future: We’ve sought the talented help of our friends at Portland Alternative Dwelling (PAD) and their connections and are making arrangements to hire contractors to fix the immediate and easier things that need attention. This would include the floors, the wood finish, the uneven seams and seals, the hammer/nail marks, and trim (to name a few of the issues). Later on we’ll tackle the harder jobs of maybe re-doing cabinetry and replacing the tub set-up.

This is just a place where we live: I’ve been focusing a lot on personal growth through this challenging experience. It has been especially tough for me to let go of the house I had wanted this to be, and accept it for what it is: a place where we live. I had emotionally invested in the picture in my mind of what I wanted: a finished, beautiful, and thoughtful tiny home based on those that I’ve seen around town, pictures I’ve seen online, and the tiny homes some of my friends live in.

I had looked at this house as the epitome of our housing, and thought we would be done after this process. But this space where we live will give us the experience to understand better what we need in a future home. We take comfort in knowing that we will continue to make improvements and alterations to make our home more aesthetically pleasing, functional, and “fit” us better. We also see it as a good starting home and a good way to save up money for something we like better (and maybe would build and design ourselves) later down the line.

Couplehood in the tiny home: As far as how tiny house living has affected Tomas’s and my relationship so far (and it has surely brought on a fair amount of challenges!); I think we have triumphed. Dealing with the trauma of a difficult build process and facing the challenges of living in a smaller space has helped us grow and understand more about ourselves, our needs, values, and beliefs as individuals and as a couple.

We have a good balance of needs and our personalities mesh really well. We thought pretty hard on this subject before deciding to move into a tiny house; small space, but BIG commitment. We’re respectful to each other’s space, needs, sleep habits, hobbies, and quirks. We also both have a lot going on outside the home and have our own interests, friends, and projects. These are things that I think are important to any relationship regardless of living space.

What’s for dinner: We’ve been cooking more than we ever have before as a couple. Quesadillas, pollo asado, greens, and soups have been a favorite. I’ve learned Tomas is a great pancake chef. 😉  We’re also good at compromising kitchen duties, when one cooks, the other does the cleaning up. We both value a clean home and keeping things tidy is important to us. We’re also happy to say we’ve been gas-leak free for the past four weeks (what a relief!).

House hiccups: We had a couple of hiccups this month, including the below freezing days in Portland which froze our water supply to the house. At first, we patiently waited for the temperatures to rise, but once we realized the temps stubbornly continued stay below 0°C we turned to the “drip” method. We let our tap drip ever so slightly which kept the water flowing when we needed it. Luckily we live in a pretty mild climate; I suspect we would have to change many of our system set-ups if we lived in a place that has harsher winters.

Kitty cat: One of the more challenging aspects of our living arrangement this month has been living with the cat. Before the house was delivered, I had not wanted the litter box inside the house. I dreamed of an elaborate tunnel type of cat door coming from the window to a cat-outhouse with a Benji-specific RFID collar reader cat door which would only allow him access to the facilities. But because of the positioning of our house in the driveway, and other constraints this set-up wasn’t feasible.

When we first installed the cat door and shelves to allow him access to the outdoors, he used it pretty frequently and he was using the bathroom outside. Since the weather turned fouler this winter, he has not been going to the bathroom outside and we have been losing sleep, woken up in the middle of the night for his litter box habits. Not a pleasant way to wake up. I adore my 14-year old furball and have hope that things will improve come spring, once it’s more pleasant for him outside playing and pottying. If this is the worst of our problems, I think we’re doing pretty well.

Happy: We’re still happy we live in smaller space. Things have improved if only because of changing our perception of our situation (I’m finding an acceptance of some of the imperfections at least). We continue to learn and that’s one of the more valuable results of overcoming challenges. We reorganize frequently and talk about the things that are working and those that aren’t. We continue to live our lives biking, working, reading, and having friends over (we had the most people over in the tiny home this past month -7!). The house continues to be a place where we live.

In the past two weeks, I have heard from a couple of different people that I am kind of unconventional. It’s funny, I have never looked at myself that way, everything seems so “normal” from my point of view.

Much love, and more to come.

I grew up in a 3 bedroom house with both my parents and 3 siblings. We were taught from very young ages to wield a hammer, turn a screw-driver, hold a wrench, and to not be afraid to fix something.

We remodeled all sorts of parts of our house, finished the basement to include two new bedrooms, built cabinets, tables, repaired bicycles, fashioned toys, and mended clothing…but I still can’t sew.

The day we moved into the Tiny House, I started a list of things to fix, improve, change, and re-build. I’ll gladly pick up the power drill to remount a door, swing a hammer to dismantle benches, re-assemble used wood to craft a bench, and use new tools I’ve never seen to cut out pieces of an oddly built closet. My Leatherman Wave has seen so much action these last two months, it’s rarely left my side.

Audrey even bought me a fancy pair of retro-style safety goggles that are the exact style that my Dad used to wear back in the 1980’s.

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Although I’ve borrowed many tools to work on our house, I’m writing a wish-list of tools so that I can make more changes and build projects at my whim. I’m not going to have a full-blown work-shop, but enough tools to get us through major projects and repairs.

I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone that is considering having a house built or building their own, to be comfortable using tools in correct and safe manner. Even if you have no inkling to build your own home, the inevitable problem may arise during your home-ownership, and you will be glad that you can choose the right bit for the power drill, replace that bit of broken molding, tighten the loose pipe, and hang a shelf to the wall.

-Tomas