Tiny Tiny House

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Intro: Tiny Tiny House

This is the first tiny house we have built, so it was enough of a challenge to build that the documenting side was let slide to a fair extent. Regardless, I will walk you thorough what we did, and how we did it to the best of my ability.
We used as many natural, unprocessed, and re-used materials as possible, which made it less expensive but much more time consuming than buying everything from the lumber yard. 

Step 1: Preparing the Frame

As we used an old trailer frame to build this on, we started by demolishing the trailer, separating out the aluminum to be recycled. The plywood floor was saved to be re-used as the sub-floor. Then we went at it with an angle grinder and drill with wire wheel and wire brushes for the hard to reach parts. As we removed the failing old paint and surface rust we looked for signs of penetrating rust which would need welding to maintain the integrity of the frame. Thankfully, we found none.

So we moved right on to priming with a rusty metal primer, and then a coat or two of quality metal paint.  

Step 2: The Floor


As we live near an old steam powered sawmill, we decided to use rough milled redwood 1x6's for the floor, so we ran them through the planner and then the edger to get a beautiful floor. As we were using true one inch thick boards we decided to screw them in with appropriate length screws from the underside so that no fasteners would be visible. To protect it for the rest of the project we covered it with some 1/8 inch plywood pieces we had laying around. 

Step 3: Framing the Walls

We decided to frame the walls with rough cut 2x2s, which made it a little more challenging than it would have been to use consistently sized lumber from the lumber yard. Se la vie!
We did the framing with 3 inch star drive screws, which are stronger and much easier to drive than philips screws of the same length. I Highly recommend them to anyone who has ever stripped out a screw, or a few. ;-)

As it is only 6x10 feet inside, we decided to keep the back wall without windows, and so we put a window in the other three walls. 
Due to the roughness of the lumber we framed with, varying in thickness by up to a quarter inch, the structure started taking on its own dimensions, which we allowed, knowing that it would give it character. 

Step 4: Framing the Roof

As this structure is designed for use around the San Francisco Bay area where snow load is nonexistent, we used 1x3 rafters for the roof and 1x2 framing for the trusses. 
As we framed it out we did our best to remove as much weight as possible while creating a sturdy movable structure, thus the use of 1x2's, 2x2's, and 2x3's at different places in the frame.

Step 5: Siding With 1/8 Inch Plywood

We had a big stack of 1/8 inch ply ready for use so we decided to skin the structure with it for shear strength (to prevent twisting and increase rigidity). Unfortunately the sheets were 5x5 foot, so we had to cut them to fit our random stud spacing and use two to reach the top of the walls. But they were free so we didn't complain much. They were fastened with narrow gauge staples fired from a compressed air staple gun. This was very quick.
We chose to overhang the sheets in the corners and trim them later with a sharp handsaw. We did the same with the windows and roof line, but using a Sawzall where a handsaw wouldn't fit.
The roof was decked with 1/2 inch plywood for strength and lightness.  

Step 6: Lap Siding

For the exterior siding we used rough milled cedar and fir boards of an average thickness of 1/4 inch. They ranged in width from 5 inches to 10 inches and we mixed them up randomly to give it an organic feel. These were stapled on the same as the plywood, but lapped so that the staples were hidden.

Step 7: Insulation and Interior Siding

In the end we decided to go with recycled blue jeans insulation as it is much more likely to stay evenly distributed in the wall than loose wool. Although it is twice the price of fiberglass, it is so much more pleasant to work with that it was well worth it. It doesn't cut with a knife like fiberglass, but can be pulled apart with your hands. As the walls are going to be breathable, we did not want fiberglass particles getting into the air inside the room.

For interior siding we chose the boards with the fewest knots and ran them through the planer and edger until they were straight and beautiful. Then we tacked them up with a finish nailer.  

Step 8: Windows and Door

As we were re-using the old trailer's aluminum windows we made a frame with rounded bottom corners to fit it out of old-growth redwood. It was tricky and it would be much simpler to install normal windows from a house. 
The door was a very tricky thing. We decided that it had to be rounded as there were so many straight lines already. This was eventually accomplished by cutting the curve out of a big slab of 2x12 redwood, adding other framing and then sheathing the outside with 1/8 inch ply and then covering both sides with planed cedar, fir and redwood thin boards.

Step 9: Roofing

I was not present for the installation of the roof, so there are no pictures, but I can tell you what was done. 8 foot sheets of 1/2 inch plywood were laid across 1x3 rafters, over the already in-place ceiling and insulation. We used a fairly large overhang, about a foot all round to make it look less like a box the way a lot of tiny houses do. This also protects the walls, door and windows from rain. We bought metal roofing to size for about $240, which should last a few decades.

Step 10: Trimming It All Out

We wanted to use at least a little raw wood which we cut down ourselves, and so we quartered a 3 inch fir tree on a band saw, then rad it through the edger many times until it was a good quarter round. These were put in the corners of the room. The window boxes were trimmed with 1/4 inch fir and most everything else was trimmed using old growth redwood. The facia boards are cut wavy for cuteness. 

Step 11: Finished!

Well there you go. Probably $1500 in raw materials and hundreds of hours processing them and putting it all together, not to mention figuring out the inevitable complications that come up. We are now advertizing it on SF Craigslist for $8500 and are hoping to make more to-order in the near future. If you are interested, check us out at:
organicbuilding.webs.com

I hope this inspires you to build your own tiny house, don't forget to have fun....

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    142 Discussions

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    MarkSindone

    12 months ago

    This tiny house is actually pretty amazing! But I couldn't live in a tiny home that didn't at least have indoor plumbing. I can't imagine what I would need to do if I had to go and there wasn't a decent place around for me to go at! For a house that incorporates that, it would need to be at least twice the size, no?

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    dieter dittrich

    1 year ago

    Great to see people going small and recycling and repuprosing with awesome craftsmanship, job well done.

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    sdrumm

    1 year ago

    Nice Job!, truly my favorites are the details. In particular the DOOR!!!! (gorgeous!)& the random wavy trim details very creative.

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    paulbsa

    5 years ago on Introduction

    My major concern is also about weight. Did you consider the weight limit of the trailer frame, axle, and wheels? The wood, occupants, and stuff inside will all be heavy. Also, what type of jack stands will you be using to level it out and secure it when parked?

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    AmyCat59paulbsa

    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes, trailer wieght limits are why I'm reading through all the comments to see if he ever answers the weight question. I'm looking to build a little vardo (gypsy wagon) or "Tudor"-style Tiny House On Wheels for use at events like RenFaires (not full-time living), and the FIRST thing I'd need to know is finished weight before buying a trailer... Long before you've overloaded your tow vehicle, you'd be in danger of overloading the dinky tires or the suspension on many cheaper trailers! Blow-outs on your T.H.O.W. wheels (even at non-highway speeds) can really mess up your home!

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    Electrolight

    2 years ago

    I've looked at lots of tiny houses, but I always come back to this one in amazement. It's easily the best looking tiny house I've seen from the exterior. It looks so picturesque and welcoming.

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    jonkun227

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Dude, you have issues. Yes, unprovoked bear attacks are rare, but they do happen (you even provided a perfect example of such instances). All he said is that if that he would prefer to have something substantial between him and the bear. You are reading your own issues into that in order to take offense on behalf of the bears. He is talking about leaving the bears alone and the bears leaving him alone, with the help of a wooden structure if it happens to be a bear as quick to take offense as you.

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    woodshd3jonkun227

    Reply 2 years ago

    Very well said, bosmaru lacks something called, "Common Sense"

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    legamin

    4 years ago on Step 11

    now if you could work out a jointed bi-frame folding tunnel connected tracking quad axle 50' wheeled home at 8' wide with pull-outs and hot tub.... I'd be right there behind you to finance that endeavor....(unfortunately the only company that can do this for us is in Italy and 2 years out on custom orders).

    I was with you all the way on this build until you started using narrow gauge brads. Over time,with sheer and vibration they will fail one by one but in the end, spectacularly. A ring shanked nail of appropriate length and extra wide head should have been used. They are more expensive and the guns to pneumatically insert them have have custom piston push rod heads made to accommodate them. (It's better to have a lot of a few hundred thousand made to order out of a galvanized steel and be sure you lube your gun often during use.) but if you want your product to reflect the amazing care you obviously have in building these (and want a reputation for quality). Also..anchor your roof and roofing. The lift aerodynamics of its directionality along with the cyclone force winds that it will regularly face during transport will create lift that could cause random shards of roofing, if not the entirety, to peel off and litter the highway. Good luck!

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    stuffmanlegamin

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 11

    Agreed. I'm not sure what I'd have done differently to make the roof less of a sail, but there's a reason most tow-behind trailers have a round profile. It's to minimize upward force of the wind, and help with aerodynamics. This seems really cool, but I don't know how roadworthy it really is.

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    legaminstuffman

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 11

    I've seen a couple of responses to this engineering inefficiency. One is to create a 'Barn Style' peaked roof with a leading and trailing peak angled 45deg into and out of the direction of the wind (from towing). This also increases the stability against side buffeting. Unfortunately the drawback of this form raises the overall height and requires a well tuned stiff suspension. This, on the other hand, is desirable in every handling and parked aspect...a win win if you please. There are preformed roofing models that can be prefabbed quite inexpensively and so are very repeatable. In the end you would only need a four inch side overhang to keep water from hydrostatically retreating onto your beautiful siding. And as far as towing in the rain... There is a 'shrink wrap' type product that is made for buildings on 4-6-8+' rolls. You wrap the entire frame outside before windows or ply or siding. Then use a heat gun to thicken the material and adhere it firmly to all surfaces. You do this on your rafters pre boarding or roofing as well. Pay special attention to go back and re wrap corners, around outsides of windows - doors and all of the leading edge, wall and up over the 45 deg. Roof set at least twice. There is something to be said for "breathing and healthy" walls...but in the modern trade we refer to that as 'Drafty'. Superior quality trailer windows, as you said you would be using, and ceiling vents in living area and bath (1 vent per 3sq. m as a rule is very adequate. My trailers vents are 20 years old and still seal just fine. I think your onto a great thing for people who are sick of the government (or whoever) trying to interfere in their lives and need an affordable alternative. My wife and I among them. Best of all luck.

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    ganeshruskinlegamin

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Does this look like an RV to you?

    It is a frisking house! A tiny, tiny house. It has moved once, on a second trailer, to a spot 60 miles away, and there it will live out the remainder of its natural life…

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    Rodeodog

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I agree wholeheartedly with you about the poor maligned bear, in fact, everybody should adopt a family of them to help protect them! However, if I was out in the wild and a bear, for any reason, thought my space was better than his, I, too, would be praying for wood walls to keep our spaces apart, rather than fabric!

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    Rodeodog

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Nice!!! I only wish I had the youth, skills, and energy. Good Job!

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    megglie

    3 years ago on Step 11

    Well, you have impressed this very old woman who moved to San Francisco in a motorhome... how much more fun to have come in one like this. How I wish I had married a wood craftsman rather then an engineer. My grandfather would have loved your work... he owned a lumber company in Michigan and taught me how to use tools. Wish you were my grandchildren... I'd help you build.

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    Smushles

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Hi all, what size trailer would you recommend for something like this? I've seen a few trailers ranging from 8x6 all the way to 16x8! I'd be looking to live in something like this permanently/fairly long time - right now it's just thoughts for when I'm older. (would need a microwave/mini fridge/small living space and bed space) - I'm thinking probably as big as I can get but I thought I should ask the experienced builders