Four walls and a roof: lots of progress in early September


When I last posted at the end of August, the Matchbox was nothing more than a floor—a subfloor, actually—and an assortment of 2x4s laying atop it. But with a few weeks of (mostly) beautiful weather and a bit more time on the lot in early September, I'm happy to report that the house now has walls and a roof and a porch and a door and, to some extent, actually resembles a tiny home for the very first time!

Here's a recap of the past seven days' work, or 82 hours of labor, in five minutes or less:

Day 9: Framing the last wall and raising them all up

After raising and bracing the first long wall, Tony and I got to work building the fourth one (or, technically, the second to be raised)—first laying out a large amount of 2x4s I had cut earlier that morning, then checking to ensure they were lined up properly, and finally tacking and screwing them together with a bucketload of nails and screws. Cutting and subsequently screwing all that lumber took a good portion of the day, but with the help of Dan and Brian, we were able to get everything squared away and the remaining three walls raised shortly before sundown—easily the most fulfilling and rewarding moment of construction to date.

Raising the first wall!
Securing the first wall.
Tony adjusting the other long wall before raising it.
Raising the second wall!
Moving in the back wall!
Securing the fourth wall!

Hours: 12
Hours to date: 87.5

Day 10: Knee walls and more knee walls

Due to a lack of quality ten-or-twelve-foot 2x4s in the area, we had decided to build the walls with eight-foot 2x4s, and to then attach shorter, sloped structures (creating the roof's one-and-a-half-degree pitch) atop them. So after the first set of walls were raised and secured in place, we got to work determining how to best craft a pair of walls with a slight slope to them. With a (somewhat shoddy) mix of trigonometry and a clever use of a chalk snap line, we worked out a system by which to cut our angled studs and affix them to a top plate that would allow any rain falling on the roof to drain, slowly but surely, to its front.

Building a pitched knee wall.

Hours: 11
Hours to date: 98.5

Day 11: More knee walls and even more knee walls

These shorter walls (or knee walls, as they're called) weren't easy to build, as an even slope requires very exact cuts at a very precise angle. We also, as it turns out, made a few mathematical mistakes in our calculations, and thus ended up with a longer (pitched) knee wall that didn't line up perfectly with the Matchbox's front and back walls (the front being roughly five inches shorter than the back). Dan, thankfully, was on-hand to offer a suggestion that saved us from having to start from scratch, so with a bit of sawing, switching, and swapping, we managed to fix our mistake without creating too much waste, and get all four knee walls secured by the end of the day.

Hours: 12.5
Hours to date: 111

Day 12: Starting the roof and sheathing the walls

With the frame fully in place, the Matchbox was ready to be sheathed: covered in plywood on all sides. Sheathing was an easy, albeit tedious and time-consuming process, which involved a bit of cutting (particularly around the trailer's wheel wells), a bit of gluing (applying a construction adhesive to the studs), and a bit of nailing (shooting ring-shank nails through the plywood and into the studs with a very large and very loud nailer).

Nailing the plywood sheathing to the frame.
Tony sawing a window cutout to reuse otherwise scrap material.

Hours: 8
Hours to date: 119

Day 13: Lots and lots of sheathing

Sheathing took a very, very long time. There were a few fun moments, though, like cutting the doorframe free from behind its plywood cage.

Cutting out space for the door.

Hours: 8
Hours to date: 127

Day 14: Getting more lumber and putting it to use on the roof

Once the sheathing of the walls was complete, I swung by the lumberyard to pick up some 2x6s for the roof (along with a few 2x4s for the microsheds). Because the Matchbox was designed with a flat/livable roof in mind, it needed to be built to support a good deal of weight: snow that wouldn't drop off as easily as on a gabled roof, people that may walk on it from time-to-time, a few raised garden beds in the future, perhaps—and so instead of using 2x4s spaced 16 or 24 inches apart, I opted for 2x6s spaced 12 inches apart. We also installed blocking between each joist to keep them from shifting around too much over time.

Framing the roof wasn't too difficult, nor was the framing of the skylight—which arrived that very same day!—at its back end.

Hours: 10
Hours to date: 137

Day 15: Framing and sheathing the microsheds

The Matchbox's layout includes two microsheds: 18" x 18" closets attached to the back of the house that run the height of the structure and are intended to house things like the water tank, solar equipment, and infrequently-used/seasonal items like camping gear. So we broke a few 2x4s out of the shipping container, quickly framed up a few narrow walls, and sheathed them with plywood we were able to salvage from the window cutouts. Tony and I spent the remainder of the day talking logistics, design, and next steps.

Hours: 11
Hours to date: 148

Day 16: Finishing the roof, framing the porch, and (temporarily) installing the door

With the microsheds framed and the roof joists all in place, we hauled some hefty (23/32" CDX) plywood up to the roof and nailed it down, covering the whole roof in just five or six sheets. Then, aiming to make this plywood box a little more welcoming, we quickly framed up a porch and temporarily installed the door (it'll need to be readjusted once the siding goes on), put a few chairs out front, and took note of the considerable progress in just a few short weeks.

The Matchbox, fully sheathed in plywood.
Installing the door (temporarily).
The Matchbox, porch and all.
Tucking in the Matchbox for a week of rest.

Hours: 6
Hours to date: 154

Next steps

Though the Matchbox has come so far in such little time, there's still a lot of work to be done. On the exterior, I still need to make a decision on siding, install windows, build the porch's awning and rain catchment system, waterproof the roof, housewrap the home, and finish up the porch and microsheds. On the interior, I need to coordinate electrical wiring and plumbing, build the shower and toilet rooms, insulate, install treatment on the walls and ceiling and flooring down below, frame the loft, and then, of course, figure out all the furniture that will line the home's central corridor.

Fortunately, many of these steps are more bite-sized projects that can be started and finished within a day or a weekend, so I hope to have more regular and detailed posts (I apologize for this very bland, very rushed one) about each of them as they occur.

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