August update: finishing the floor; starting the walls


August updates, in video:

August updates, in prose and pictures:

Day 4: Finishing insulation, fighting with drills, and crawling about underneath the trailer

Having framed and insulated the floor in early August, my next day on the job involved stuffing the remaining spaces between the floor joists with insulation, then filling in all the tiny gaps and cracks between the insulation and the joists with an expanding foam substance to seal everything up. Messy, but manageable.

(Non-functiong) water pump on site.
Next, I had to finish securing the floor to the trailer: ensuring it (and the walls to be built on top of it) could survive a trip on the open road, strong winds, or another DC earthquake. To do so, I had to drill ten 3/4" holes through (1) the floor joists and (2) some absurdly-tough steel tubing that was welded on a few weeks earlier, through which a threaded rod will (eventually) be inserted to bolt everything (trailer, floor, and walls) together. Alas, drilling holes of that width and depth is not an easy task, so I spent about half the day fighting a bucking drill (and its nine-inch, $60, deadly-weapon-looking bit that I had to specially order) through six inches of lumber (not too difficult) and two layers of uber-strong steel (much more difficult).

Finally, I crawled underneath the trailer to finish up the bolting that Justin had helped out with the week prior: ratcheting in a total of sixty or seventy bolts through the decking and the floor joists to tie the two together. Tough work indeed, but between those bolts and the aforementioned threaded rods (in addition to the fifty-plus decking-to-trailer screws that were done on the very first day of building), the Matchbox should be affixed securely enough to the trailer to withstand the meanest of tornadoes (of course, none of this does anything to prevent the whole structure from just blowing awayit simply means that if the house does indeed blow away, it'll take the trailer with it).

Hours: 6.5
Hours to date: 39.5

Day 5: Making the floor a floor (or, putting sheathing atop the joists)

With the Matchbox's foundation finally squared away, Tony and I next began work on creating a sturdy floor: that is, covering up the floor joists and insulation with the swaths of plywood on which the hardwood flooring will ultimately rest. The morning consisted of making sure everything was painstakingly level (a very important thing for all subsequent work)lots of hammering down joists to just the right height as their neighbors, picking off pieces of expandable insulation that had crept up over the joists. and sweeping minor debris of off the floor's frame.

Then it was on to sheathing! This process went fairly quickly: a bit of cutting and fine-tuning, but in essence, I just slapped some construction adhesive down on each joist (to provide support and prevent future squeaking and creaking), we placed the 8' x 4' sheets of plywood on top, and then we  screwed each down into the various joists underneath. And by late afternoon, we had a solid floor: a 130-square-foot stage on which one could walk (we did), sit at a table and drink (we did), or dance (we, sadly, did not).

The flooring wrapped up just in time for a Boneyard gathering we had with some friends, who were all quite excited to see the fresh progress.

The completed floor (note the sloped trailer, which got some much-needed leveling/loving on Day 8).
Hours: 8.5
Hours to date: 48

Day 6: The search for some decent lumber

Early on in Day 5, it became apparent that we would be making it to walls this weekend and would need lots and lots of lumber to get that process started. So I called my friendly neighborhood Home Depot, hoping to get a hefty delivery of top-quality 2x4s the following day.

I won't bore you with the specifics of this particular exchange or the subsequent mercantile disaster, but in a nutshell: Home Depot (or Home Despot, as Tony calls 'em), royally screwed up the order in every way imaginable, requiring a four-hour visit to the store itself at the start of Day 6, during which we determined that Home Depot does not have enough usable lumber to frame even the tiniest of houses.

By the fourth hour in that big orange prison, I decided to cut my losses, make it out with what I had, and swear off Home Depot for the rest of eternity. Fortunately, we got enough wood to start building the walls (though only enough to build the bottom section of each), so Tony and I loaded what we had into the shipping container, talked details on wall layout, and called it a day.

Hours: 7.5
Hours to date: 55.5

Day 7: Building walls!

With the lumber we had from our ill-fated Home Depot run, Tony, Justin, Jen, and I began actually building the walls: first spending a few hours making some final design considerations, next salvaging some plywood from Lee's scrap materials, then cutting lots and lots of 2x4s to specific heights, and finally tacking and screwing it all together like a giant, immensely-fulfilling puzzle. By early evening we had completed the front and back walls and just about finished piecing together the first of the two longer walls, but rain was a-comin', so we covered everything up with my tarp and left the site with a great feeling of accomplishment.

Justin salvaging plywood from scrap material.
Cutting lumber for the walls.
Taking a look at the first wall.

Making room to build the second wall.

Taking a look at the second wall.
Hours: 12
Hours to date: 67.5

Day 8: Locating lumber, leveling the trailer, and more work on that pesky third wall

Knowing that we'd need more wood for the Matchbox's fourth wall, I started the day early with a trip to the Galliher & Huguely lumber yard, a locally-owned alternative to the less-than-stellar Home Depot of days past. G&H was wonderfully pleasantquiet, friendly and helpful staff, surprisingly close to Boneyard Studiosand my purchase of 40 2x4s and about 30 sheets of plywood was quick, fun, and stress-free.

Upon arriving at the lot, I set out to level my trailer (something I've been putting off for weeks), which consists of raising and lowering its four corners with a pair of scissor jacks and a quartet of jack stands (it gets raised by the former and then ultimately rests upon the latter) and toying with a two-foot level for the better part of a few hours.

Then Tony and I got back to that third wall we had left from the prior weekend, realizing (quite to our joint dismay) that many of the boards had warped or twisted from the heat and humidity of the past week. Squaring everything up required a bit of time and patience (along with a few replacement boards), but by the afternoon, we successfully screwed everything together, triple-checked our measurements, and finished work on the first longer wall.

Working on the third wall.
The third wall, with spacing for windows and stuff.
Hours: 10
Hours to date: 77.5

And so ...

I'll be building this Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday, hoping to start and finish the fourth wall by early Friday, get all four walls raised by Friday afternoon, and begin working on the sheathing and roof by this weekend. This should be a tremendously exciting weekwithin seven days, a skeleton of the Matchbox should be affixed firmly to the trailer!so if you're around and would like to come out and help build, definitely let me know.

A few thanks as well:

  • Tony, for continued and absolutely invaluable help at these crucial stages.
  • Justin, for the use of his truck and of his labor, and for helping to make some really great header boards to support the windows.
  • Jen, for coming out to help build a wall when she could have been packing for her move to California.
  • Sarah, for teaching me some gardening basics and for helping me to start growing in my Boneyard garden plot (more on this soon).
  • Alix, for coming out to the site on a rainy day with a half-dozen delicious vegan cupcakes, the last of which I am enjoying at this very moment.
  • Lauren, Cari, and Bryan, for enthusiastically accompanying Alix to said site on said rainy day.
  • Jeff, for the G&H recommendation (which I should have heeded much earlier).
  • Our Stronghold neighbors, for their continued encouragement and excitement on those long, hot days on the lot.

"I shall move into a quiet and simple room, an old gallery lying deep in the heart of a large park, hidden from the town with its noise and incidents. I shall live there the whole winter and rejoice in the great quietness, from which I am hoping for the gift of good and profitable hours."  Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Real progress!: construction commences on the tiny house floor


This will not be a post in which I talk about how I'm going to start building soon and then bore with you winding philosophical rants and/or minimalist musings. No, dear reader: this will be an actual update of actual work completed on the actual house. Behold: progress!

Day 1: Getting materials and installing the decking

Lots and lots of lumber: plywood and 2x6s for the floor.
As I mentioned in my last post, last Saturday marked the official start of Matchbox construction. The day began, bright and early, with a protracted trip to the local Home Depot, during which Tony and I acquired all the materials we would need to build a floor: lots and lots of 2x6s, a few plywood panels, an assortment of nuts and bolts and screws, several rolls of aluminum flashing, and some general-purpose construction gear like hammers and gloves and tape measures.

Three hours and $1,300 later, we arrived at Boneyard Studios with building supplies in tow. Adam, my welder, was already on site welding some steel tubing to the outside of my trailer (needed to support the walls and affix the house to its foundation), so while he finished up, Tony and I moved the wood from the truck to the shipping container. Then we got to work on the decking, the pressure-treated 2x6s on which the floor joists (and eventually the entire home) will ultimately rest.

If you'll recall, I purchased the trailer sans deckingthat is, without anything to stand on but a few steel beams running the width of it. To remedy that, I needed to cut some pressure-treated wood to span from beam to beam, then screw that wood into the steel beneath it to hold it in place.

Drilling several scores of screws into steel was a slow and sweaty process, so once completed, we packed it in for the night and called it a solid first day of work on the job.

Hours: 10
Hours to date: 10

Day 2: Flashing and framing the floor

With the decking firmly in place, this Friday I began building the floor. First, a brief stop at Home Depot to pick up some things that were out-of-stock the previous weekend (like insulation), then back to Boneyard to resume work.

We started by rolling out tar paper across the length of the trailer. This tar paper, I am told, acts as a barrier between the pressure-treated wood of the decking and the soon-to-be-added aluminum flashing; if absent, the former's chemicals will corrode the latter. After stapling the paper to wood, we then rolled out and nailed in the flashing: a sturdy aluminum that seals the floor's underbelly and prevents moisture and monsters from creeping up into the floorboards. Next, we got started on joists, the actual frame and structure of the floor itself. While Tony began taking measurements, I commenced cutting with the chopsaw, slicing a few dozen 2x6s to just the right length for their respective placements.

We spent a good portion of the day cutting and measuring and aligning and realigning, and as night approached, we managed to get the joists more or less screwed together and set in place.

Hours: 12
Hours to date: 22

Day 3: Finishing framing and installing insulation

The next day, we spent a few hours taking precise measurements of the joist placement, ensuring that the floor's frame was indeed straight and square and sturdy, as any imperfections in the floor would be problematic for proper alignment of the walls. We also ran into a few snags getting all of the joists uniformly levelsome sat higher than othersand rectifying that minute variance took a bit of time. Despite the slow start, however, a good amount of work was done: a few wonderful friends came out to help screw in L-brackets, which joined the joists and decking, and to get underneath the trailer and ratchet some very-necessary bolts into its steel frame.

Once everything was pieced togetherthat is, once the floor's framing was completeI started cutting insulation, aiming to squeeze just the right amount of foam into each joist pocket in order to best keep the cold from entering through the floor. Working with the insulation's rigid foam was a mildly frustrating (and rather messy) ordeal, but by the end of the day, nearly every box within the frame was stuffed with 2" of EnergyStar insulating material, providing an r-value of about 13 from below.

Hours: 11
Hours to date: 33
Total expenses to date: $7,125

And so ...

So yes: the Matchbox now has a nearly-completed floor! During the next day of building, I'll need to finish up the insulation installation, cover the whole thing up with plywood, and take care of the remaining boltingthen it'll be on to the walls! In the meantime, here's a short timelapse video that condenses three days (or thirty-three hours) of work into just three minutes. Enjoy!

I'm positively thrilled to finally be started, and immensely appreciative of all the support and encouragement I've received since this project's inception. I'd also like to thank a few individuals in particular:

  • Justin, for the use of his truck on the aforementioned lumber runs, and for coming out to the site on an absurdly hot Saturday to climb underneath a trailer and help out with the build.
  • Dan, for coming out to the site on an absurdly hot Saturday to help out with the build, even after being given the wrong address (by me) and winding up on the other side of an enormous cemetery on foot.
  • Jeff and Mona, for the use of their tools and for stopping by to check on the build and offer encouragement.
  • Julia, for architecture tips and access to her library of construction books.
  • Tony, for his absolutely tremendous help and guidance in these first steps of building, enabling progress that would not be possible without his superb tutelage.
  • Lee, for putting me in touch with Tony, sharing his fantastic services, and making a lumber run on Saturday for a much-needed missing 2x6.
  • Brian, for makin' it all happen.
  • And you, for giving a damn and reading this and demonstrating some interest (perhaps through a comment below?) so that I'm reassured that this whole venture isn't (entirely) crazy.

:) Thanks guys.

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