Saturday, February 26, 2011

And Still...More Snow

We were just dumped on yesterday. The snow fell so thick and fast that, as soon as I cleared something off--like my car, I had to start all over again. Made it kind of frightening to consider driving to Portland to see the Stuart McLean (The Vinyl Cafe) show at the Merrill Auditorium. But, I had tickets--and the show went on. Well worth it; what a terrific show! All that laughing helped relieve some of the tension from the driving. :-)

It is becoming difficult to see out of the windows of my house.

Seeing the river from my yard is even becoming challenging.

I cannot remember a winter when I had higher snowbanks in my yard...

The snow will not slow me down! Today I head out to price windows for my JayBee. I haven't yet found anything through Craigslist or Uncle Henry's that will do.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Do you ever have such strong resistance to dealing with something that your mind very conveniently conspires to help you avoid this one thing? I have thought for some time that I should go to my town office, spell out my plans for my tiny home and for tearing down my current home and rebuilding, and see what permits I need. I've dreaded this. I know my plans are unconventional, and wasn't sure if I would encounter helpfulness or resistance.

Yesterday, I "lost track of time" so that, by the time I left the house, I could not fit in a stop at the town office as well as make the appointments I had. Hmm. Had a good talk with myself about that. After all, I took two days off of work just so I could deal with some of these things that have to be done during weekday hours. Then, as I was leaving the house this morning and mentally reminding myself of all the things I had to do while I was out, I left the town-office stop off the list. My goodness! I can be my own worst enemy sometimes. Luckily, I had the town-office stop on my written list and used the list to take myself in hand...

Long story short: I did stop in at the town office today, and it looks like I will be able to carry out my projects as I envision. Yes, my plans are somewhat unconventional. I had to give the Code Enforcement Officer time to wrap his mind around all that I hope to do and figure out how the codes apply to my projects and timelines. And I have the additional complications of 1) living in a rural residential zone with a shoreland overlay that affects where my house sits, and 2) having my current home situated in a way that doesn't conform to the current codes. In the end, because I intend to tie my tiny home into the existing water and septic systems, it looks like my tiny home can be permitted as a "permanent campsite." Phew.

It also turns out I will need a permit to demolish my existing home. I had no idea! Pays to find out these things, I guess...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Trade-Offs

In addition to the list I posted the other day...
- Initially, I had assumed I would insulate my tiny home with polystyrene, as so many tiny-home builders do (even though I have experienced the breathing and environmental horror of cutting large blocks of styrofoam before). As I researched, though, I discovered that polystyrene is highly combustible. If it is covered with sheetrock, at least the sheetrock serves as a bit of a fire break. I won't be using any sheetrock in my home, however. Should a fire start in my tiny home, rather than having the entire home erupt into a towering inferno, I'd like to have enough time to escape with my life. So...I will be using wool insulation (which is fire retardant as well as a joy to work with) in the walls and roof, even though it costs more. I may use polystyrene in the floor, since no wiring (the most common cause of home fires) will run through the floors. I will use a radiant barrier throughout, to add R value. I will also use a vapor barrier throughout. In the floor and ceiling, the radiant barrier and vapor barrier will be one and the same; in the walls, they will be two separate things. By the way, does anyone have any thoughts about air-tightness in tiny homes? Will I need to have some mechanism for pulling fresh air into my home? Do I need to worry about making my home too tight?
- Although most tiny homes seem to be sided with clapboards or board-and-batten siding, I plan to use cedar shingles. I haven't been able to decide about using spacers between the house wrap and the siding. I've read that spacers are necessary to allow moisture to dry out, and I've read that spacers cause more problems than they solve by creating a tiny micro-climate behind the siding that actually causes a buildup of moisture. Installing spacers behind shingles would be harder than it is for clapboards. Perhaps the little ridges on shingles allow enough air movement behind them?
- I thought I was set on metal roofing. Now I've been reading about recycled rubber roofing...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Life is full of trade-offs. Roads taken--or not. Designing and building a house is no exception. In fact, it could be the poster child for trade-offs. The process involves a seemingly endless series of decisions and choices. Once one decision gets made, it narrows the options for future decisions. For example, once I decide to build a home on a trailer, a home that I intend to be roadworthy without a special permit, I have committed to build a home that is no more than 8.5 feet wide and will stand no more than 13.5 feet high off the ground. All other decisions have to work within those size constraints. (And not just building decisions. There are huge lifestyle choices constrained by that decision as well.) Same goes for cost. When I decide that my house cannot cost more than $X, all other decisions have to work within that financial constraint.

Is this a problem? I don't think so. I find it empowering. I am enjoying defining the way I live, and the ways I want to live, and how they relate to the space I live in. I enjoy reading all the stories that can be found online about how others have navigated this process for themselves. There are as many unique housing solutions/configurations as there are people on the planet. Or more, since our needs shift through time. The choices I am making today about my tiny home are certainly different from what they would have been during earlier phases of my life (when I was younger, when I was partnered, when I was childrearing, etc.).

I find myself shaking my head sometimes--when I read a story online in which someone shares some of the decisions they've made or some of the features they've incorporated into their tiny home in such a way as to make it sound like they have THE answer and all other tiny homes built differently are wrong. Ah, no. Your home may be beautiful and adorable. (Most of them are, aren't they? :-) Congratulations; you've found the answer for you (and maybe part of the answer for others with similar needs). I can guarantee you, though, that you haven't found the answer for everyone. That's just the nature of things.

So, here's the fine print for the whole rest of my blog: If, in my enthusiasm for some discovery or decision I've made about my home, my tone sounds at all like I think other ways of doing things are wrong, I sincerely apologize. That's not my intent at all. I'm merely leaping for joy at finding a workable solution for me--just me.

Here are some of the trade-off home decisions I've made already:
- I may be ready for my home to be constrained to 8.5 feet wide and 13.5 feet high, but I've purchased a longer-than-typical trailer. My home will be 26 feet long. Well, even longer than that because each end of my home will have a small bumpout as well. Given how I live, I just could not imagine my life working in less space than this.
- In order for my tiny home to work in my life, I need to: 1) downsize. I've been selling and giving things away on Craigslist and Uncle Henry's. This is turning out to be unexpectedly fun! I'll do a separate post about this soon. 2) figure out some storage solutions outside my tiny home. I'm a project person. Consequently, I have tools and materials to support my sewing, knitting, crocheting, drafting, and woodworking projects. I have no plans to divest myself of my tools, and I know they will not all fit in my tiny home. Thus, my need for outside storage.
- Table. Most tiny homes I've seen either devote significant space to a table or have a table that can be folded against a wall when not in use. If I was not living alone, I would need a table like that, too. What I've discovered living alone is that I only use a table when I have people visiting. Never in my life have I worked at a desk. I work in my lap. Even more so now, with my laptop computer. I don't eat at a table either--unless I have company. Since I do have people over to dinner on a regular basis, I do need to be able to turn my home's living area completely into a dining area on occasion. My tiny house will have a folding table and chairs that are slid into a narrow closet until needed. This round table is 28" in diameter, but I can expand it to 48" with an extender board that can be opened up on top of it.
- Bathroom sink. I went around and around about this. Seems a little redundant to have both a bathroom and a kitchen sink--within a few feet of one another. The thought of guests coming out of the bathroom and using my kitchen sink while I'm preparing dinner was enough for me to decide that my home would have a bathroom sink--although a tiny one.
- Bed on the first floor. I decided I want a queen-sized bed on the first floor of my tiny home--one that I don't have to set up every time I want to use it. I have to give up a lot of floor space to make this happen. I'm hoping all the underbed storage space and the possibility of using the bed for overflow living-room sitting space might make up for some of the downside.
- Shower vs. tub. I love baths. Given all my other priorities, however, I've let go of having a tub in my tiny home. Since making that decision, I've figured out that I can easily set up a tub outside for use during the warmer months. (See previous Bathroom Fixtures post.)
- Full-sized stove, oven, kitchen sink, and refrigerator. I love camping--truly. I know myself well enough to know, though, that I would not find it fun to face the challenges of camp cooking and cleanup every day. I would cope by rarely cooking anything. My stove/oven has the added benefit of having a 40,000 btu heater in its side--which will provide heat for my home. When I purchased a new refrigerator a year ago, my top priority was to find the most energy efficient model I could find. I thought I would get a smallish one. Imagine my surprise/disgust to discover that the smaller refrigerators use more energy than the really efficient larger ones. I did buy the most energy efficient model I found. It's of moderate--not huge--size. When I host a big event--a holiday gathering, for example--I supplement by using a cooler to store some things.
- Small living room. Given all the items/spaces I feel I need in my home, my living room will be quite small. Sometimes I see floor plans for a tiny home that makes me re-think my plans. "How come they have such a large living room?" I wonder. After I look closely and realize that that home has no storage space and no kitchen, etc., I end up thinking my plans are really a better fit for me.
- Little head room in loft. My home will have two lofts. The larger loft--over the kitchen and bathroom--will probably be only for storage since it won't have much headroom. The smaller loft--over the bed--will be a good spot for reading or for a guest to sleep. It will have a lot of headroom because, being over the bed, the joists for it will be much lower than the joists for the other loft.

And the decision-making about trade-offs continues...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bathroom Fixtures

I have collected some things over the last 20 years that I hoped to include in my future home. I have used a few of these things in my current home (like light fixtures), but most things have just been waiting. Enough time has gone by that some of my ideas have changed. For example, I acquired an antique claw-foot bathtub for a very good price 20 years ago--and it's been sitting in my garage ever since. Not long ago I decided that, much as I love the tub, I will not install it in a future home. The next tub I install will be one with a side door for easy entry/exit. Instead of selling the claw-foot tub, though, I am going to set it up outside so I can still take a bath eight months of the year--since my JayBee will have only a tiny shower. (Just thinking about setting up my tub outdoors makes me think of an Australian TV show, McLeod's Daughters. [I know; I don't have TV. I watched every episode of every season through Netflix.] Drover's Run had an outdoor tub; when used at night, bathers were surrounded by that vast Australian sky...[Yes, of course they were surrounded by the sky during daytime, too. :)])

Although I prefer a classic (even rustic) look, the fixtures I will install in my JayBee bathroom will have a more contemporary look. I guess the term for the look is "transitional." The toilet has smooth, clean lines (easier to keep clean!); dual flush (.9/1.6); ADA-compliant height; and one of those slow-closing lids. The sink is really cute. It's small (10" x 15.5"), but has good depth. I get annoyed having to adjust hot and cold water with separate faucets in my present sink, so I'm eager to try this single bathroom-sink faucet. The hand that is steadying the sink in this photo gives you some perspective of just how small this sink is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trailer is Done

Rick Lauze, of Northlander Trailers (Machiasport, Maine), sent me this photo of my finished trailer--before it was moved outside for the rest of the winter. Although the tongue is cut off on the left side of the photo, you can see part of it at the bottom of the photo.

I have been working on framing drawings, so this feeds my excitement! I need to find a way to be enthused without getting so over-amped that I don't sleep. I lost another night's sleep last night because I was so excited about a solution I had worked out for a small framing dilemma. Silly me.

Also see:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Washer/Dryer Update

Since I've had a number of people express concern that stacking my washer and dryer might put their controls out of reach, I thought I'd post a bit more information. I took photos of my washer and dryer and very crudely "stacked" them in Photoshop (dryer on top, washer on bottom).

Note that all of the controls are on the fronts of the units. It appears that the dryer controls will be just above my forehead--not much of a reach up. I won't even have to stand on tip toe to make sure I've removed everything from the dryer!
Now, as long as I make sure there is enough vertical clearance--floor to ceiling--for the units to fit in my tiny house when stacked... :-)

(It's a bit of a stretch to add this post to the "duh" category, but I just had to do it for you, Shannon.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

*Raking* the Roof

After worrying all week about the snow load on the shop end of my house (I could see the sag in the framing over the windows and had vivid imaginings of dramatic cave-ins), I decided I just had to find the old roof rake and go to work removing some of the snow from that part of the house. Until today, I had not used a roof rake for about 15 years. I purchased one all those years ago to try to deal with the ice dams and snow build-up on the main part of the house. I quickly learned that roof rakes can cause more problems than they solve. When I removed the snow load from the eaves and the temperatures stayed really low, the ice dams then formed higher up on the roof and caused leaks inside the house. Not good. I switched my strategy to climbing up on the roof and shoveling ALL of the snow off of the roof over the main part of the house. Either I removed all of it, or I didn't touch it. No more raking just the edges.

I will not allow anyone to walk on the roof of the shop. I know it's in poor shape, and I don't trust it to hold a person and a snow load. So, for the last 15 years, it has not been shoveled. Because it is unheated, ice dams don't form on it, and eventually the snow goes away. THIS winter, however, the snow load on the shop is excessive. (Even though the snow only measures 20-24" deep on that roof, it is a very packed, dense load.)

Found the old roof rake, body-surfed over the snow bank and--a little over an hour later--I think that roof was breathing easier. I know I was.

P.S. All of the "roof work" I have done over the last 20 years has serious impact on the kind of roof I will even consider building. One of my fantasies is that I find a way never to shovel a roof again. My JayBee roof will have a good slope, metal roofing, excellent insulation AND venting, and no skylights. The gable over the front door makes me nervous--I wish I could make the roof simple, with no valleys at all--but I think it would be foolish to channel all rain and snow right onto the heads of people going in and out the door...ah, which would be primarily me!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wash & Dry

When I purchased a new washer and dryer last summer, I wasn't even thinking of building a small trailer house. After making the decision to build a tiny house, I assumed I'd have to store my new washer and dryer somewhere; surely they would be too big for my tiny house. I worried that I would ruin them in storage. (What if I didn't get all of the water drained out and something froze/burst?) I thought my only shot at having a washer and dryer in my tiny house was if I found/bought stacked ones or one of those combined ones (that don't seem to work all that well).

Last night, as I was thinking all of this over, I decided that it made no sense to purchase a new set. Just too wasteful. I was convincing myself that maybe I could live with either just installing the washer I have, or go completely without and have more closet space in my home--which I could use. This was a depressing thought because I really dislike using a laundromat. REALLY dislike. We all have our *things*--the things we can tolerate easily, and the things that really drive us nuts. I don't mind shoveling snow, I don't mind mowing the lawn. I don't mind washing dishes by hand. I don't mind doing the laundry--when I can simply put in a load and go about doing something else. If I have to go to a laundromat to do laundry, I will find every reason imaginable to put it off. So, after depressing myself with these thoughts, I wondered: "Just how much larger than a stacked washer/dryer is my set?" ... My set measures the same as the typical stacked set--27"x27". Hmm.

I found out today that a "stacking kit" for my washer/dryer set costs $30. (Yes, I know; sometimes I take the most convoluted route to the most obvious answer.) Looks like I will have a washer and dryer in my tiny house!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why don't you just...? a yurt an apartment
...haul a clunker RV or mobile home onto your property a modular home a mobile home
...fix your current home

These are all suggestions that have been offered by well-meaning people who hear that I plan to build a tiny house to live in so I can tear down my wreck of a house--and hopefully, eventually, build a new house to replace the old one. These suggestions are offered by people who think their idea will cost less and take less time than what I have planned. Probably some also doubt I will successfully build my tiny house, so think it would be wiser not to take the risk.

I have repeated these interactions so many times in one form or another, they have caused me to think at some length about the term "cost effective." To me, the term "cost effective" means achieving a desired end result for a reasonable price. To even begin to know if the price is reasonable, one has to fully grasp the desired end result.

Many of the suggested courses of action would definitely cost less money and less time than what I have planned.
-Yurt: Easier to build. Less expensive. Great solution--for someone else. I don't live in some remote outback. I live in a town, and there have been break-ins at some of my neighbors' homes. I need a more secure structure. Also, how exactly would I feed a wood stove every 15 minutes throughout the winter when I work 40+ hours a week away from home?
-Rent an apartment: I worked hard to keep this property during my scary-lean years. I have finally paid off the mortgage. Living here feels like living in paradise to me. I should pay money to live in an apartment somewhere else? Nope; not for me.
-Live in clunker RV or mobile home: I even had a free RV (with a bashed in corner--roof leak) offered to me a few years ago. The thought of having condensation dripping on the inside during the winter, roof leaks, high heating costs, possibly frozen pipes, etc... <sigh> I have much of that now--in my wreck of a house--but, at least in this house, I know all the issues and workarounds. I have no energy for moving from one wreck to another.
-Fix current home: Believe me, I've studied whether this might make sense throughout the 20 years I've lived here. This house has no foundation, and it would not be possible to jack it up and give it one--given how it's been cobbled together. The house has virtually no insulation, and there are vast areas of it that just cannot be insulated. I could go on and on. When you add it all up... One could spend/waste a LOT of money trying to fix this place, with very unsatisfying results. Believe me, it's gotta go.
-Buy modular or mobile home: Good answer, for someone else. I have wanted to build my own home, with my own hands, for a very long time. For me, it's not just about the shelter. It's also about the building. The whole process. If I build my JayBee and live in it, I will be a happy woman--even if something should prevent me from building another home in the future. (Not to suggest that I'm not happy now, cuz I am. :-)

It all makes perfect sense to me.

Heat & Hot Water

I have been asked about the source of heat I will have for my JayBee. Here it is:

I know this kind of stove as a "gas on gas stove." My first experience with one was 30 years ago in an apartment in old mill housing in South Barre, Massachusetts. It is a propane stovetop and oven that also has a 40,000 btu heater in the left side of it. I remembered how great this heater was when, ten years later, I needed a stove for the house I had just purchased. After an extensive search, I finally found this one. The beauty of it is that it still has pilot lights (as opposed to electronic ignition) so, when I lose power in a snow or wind storm, I still have heat and I can still cook. This heater should have no problem keeping the JayBee warm.

These stoves are hard to find now, due to the fact that most things are no longer made with pilot lights. Speaking of which... When I needed to replace my hot water tank last summer, one of the reasons that I did not replace it with an on-demand unit (as I had assumed I would) was because current models of those units are now built with electronic ignitions. I like having hot water even when I lose power and I did not want to lose that. The older on-demand models that still have pilot lights did not qualify for the energy-efficiency rebates. Add on the expense of the on-demand units and the fact that they need a lot of ventilation space...I ended up buying a small propane regular hot water tank. The tank will be moved into the JayBee as my hot water tank there as well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Winter Xtreme

The weather forecast is for more snow--starting tonight and continuing throughout the day tomorrow. Where do you think the new snow can go?

Should I take bets on what date I might be able to take delivery of my travel trailer and begin framing in my JayBee? I have seen photos and stories about people building their tiny houses inside huge shops/garages. That won't be my experience...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

JayBee Floor Plan

I posted my latest drawing of the JayBee's floor plan today. Once again, I changed things a bit, so now the drawing of the southern elevation is out of date. (The left window and stove pipe will have to be moved further to the left in that drawing.)

About the floor plan:
- I know I'd have a larger living room if I slept in a loft, or used a Murphy bed, or used a smaller-than-queen-sized bed, or had a smaller kitchen...
- I don't want to set up my bed every night. While I could get into a loft right now, I know better than to count on that always being the case. When I dislocated my hip last January, I would not have been able to come home from the hospital and climb up into a loft to sleep. I don't like the thought of navigating a ladder to use the bathroom at night, either.
- Sleep does not always come easily to me. I need a full queen-sized bed for the tossing and turning I do. A nice side benefit to the queen-sized bed is all the underbed storage space I will have.
- The kitchen: While I think bar sinks and dorm-sized refrigerators, etc., are cute, I'd be happy using them on a daily basis for about three days. I do not eat out all the time; I eat at home. And I have people over for dinner on a regular basis. I need a good-sized refrigerator, sink, stove, and oven. My stove/oven also has a 40,000 btu heater on one side--the source of heat for my JayBee. There is no substitute for a large sink; when you need one, you need one. I have a nice, large cutting board that will cover half the sink--and add counter space--until I move it to make use of the whole sink.
- Loft space: The JayBee will have two lofts. The one over the bed will have a lot of head room because the loft joists will be only 5'10" above the floor. The living room area will have a cathedral ceiling. There will be a second loft--with much less head room--over the kitchen and bathroom.

I posted a new drawing of the floor plan on 25 July 2011. It corporates the changes I've made to the design since the first posting.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

JayBee's Southern Elevation

I re-drew the JayBee's southern elevation today--to incorporate the new information I've learned about the trailer, and to incorporate discoveries I made while drawing the framing for this southern wall. (I posted the drawing in the new "drawings" section in the right-hand navigation. Sorry you have to click twice in order to open the drawing in its own window; I couldn't figure out how to do it any other way.)

I did try to colorize the drawing in Photoshop. Oh, my goodness! I just had to stop. It would have taken me forever.

Notes about the southern elevation:
- yes, there will be steps (a small deck, in fact) in front of that door
- roofing is metal standing seam
- siding is cedar shingles
- it is hard to tell in this drawing, but the door is a step in from the outside edge of the trailer; this will be more obvious in the floor plan (which I will hopefully post this weekend as well)
- at this point, my vision of colors is that the roofing and vinyl outside of the windows will be a forest green; all the siding and trim, and the door, will be natural cedar color
- yes, I know that the convention is to have the tops of all doors and windows aligned; to the right of the door is a bed with a low loft above, which necessitates the lower placement of that window
- all my previous drawings of this elevation included a small window in the gable above the door but, no matter what size or shape, it looked wrong; it looks better to me without trying to squeeze a window in there
- my previous drawing did not include the trim boards at the outer corners and, frankly, I thought it looked better that way; I think the corner trim boards make sense for a house that may travel down the road, however...