Ceiling done!




Hitting the ceiling

I picked out my ceiling and loft wall materials and got them delivered Thursday, and was raring to go Monday to start on the ceiling. The ceiling is 1″x6″ shiplap pine, here’s 320 linear feet of it in my garage:


I really like this material, it’s quite substantial and has fewer knots and defects in it than the cedar I used for the walls. The process is to nail 3-4 boards into place (for those scoring at home, I’m using 16 gauge 2″ finishing nails) and stuff the cavities with wool insulation.


I made good progress today, completing 2/3 of the ceiling and using up two bags of wool so far.

Taming the Sun

Here’s half the roof with the Reflectix baffling installed. The radiant barrier and air gap on the underside of the roof make a big difference in temp – the bare plywood was noticeably hotter to the touch than the Reflectix-lined bays. Today’s temp was around 75 degrees F. Imagine it in the 90’s!


I’ve been running on solar power since Tuesday, when I hooked up my PV panel on a temporary stand to test the connector cables I made. I look forward to permanently bidding PG&E adieu!



I made some progress on the baffles to keep the roof deck plywood ventilated and dry above the insulation. While you can buy prefabricated plastic or styrofoam baffles, I recycled scrap wood for almost everything (except the Reflectix, more on that below), so its cheaper, though it will require more labor to install. I got time.

I started at the bird block vents by adding 3/4″ thick vertical spacers and then a 1/4″ plywood baffle for each rafter bay. Besides keeping the insulation from blocking the vents, it will also prevent 60MPH air from driving on the freeway from bunching up the insulation:



For the roof deck part of the baffles, I’m using Reflectix, a radiant heat barrier product made from polyethylene bubble wrap sandwiched between metal foil layers. I bought four 4′ x 10′ rolls and cut them into 16″ wide sections, one for each rafter bay:


IMG_6256Here it is test-fit into place. I’m using plastic capped roofing nails to attach it. The Reflectix will not only keep insulation from impeding the airflow, it will also reflect 97% of the sun’s energy, so the loft should be much cooler in the summer.

Brooke’s Ladder

With the main loft stairway completed, I started on a ladder for Brooke to reach her loft. Most of the wood ladders I found on the internet were too short or way too expensive for me, so time to DIY it on a budget. I’m happy to report that I built this for under $25 – plus I got the enjoyment of making another useful thing myself.

I used kiln-dried doug fir 2″ x 3″ studs for the rails – straight and strong, they just required a little sanding to get them smooth and presentable looking. I sistered them together with tape to keep everything aligned for drilling the holes for the rungs.


As I picked 1.25″ diameter hardwood dowels for the seven rungs, I had to drill 14 of that that size hole on the inside faces of the rails. To keep all my drilling plumb and to the same depth, I used my drill press and my new favorite tool – a Forstner bit, which cuts cleanly and accurately. My dad helped me keep each rail level while I drilled:


I cut the dowels to 20″ length and dry fit them into the rails. The photo makes the ladder look wider than it is. Tomorrow I’ll glue and screw everything together and we’ll test it out.


5 Step Program

My tiny house isn’t big enough for a full 12 step program, so I had to settle for five steps to access the master loft. I’m building a tansu-style stairway with storage shelves, which is basically two big boxes and three smaller boxes stacked together:


This is how far I got today before running out of wood. I’m using pine, 1″ thick stair treads and 2″x 2″s (same as I used for framing the kitchen counter) for the boxes. Each stair is 12.5″ high and 11.5″ deep, steeper than normal but not too bad.

When you get to the top step, you can either transition to hand and knees, or sit down and swing your legs around, to move into the loft. I plan on storing folding chairs, the propane heater and various other crap under the stairs.

Wednesday update: I got more wood and finished the stairs today. I also made two shelves from stair tread left overs and tested out the storage for the Costco folding chairs that will account for about 80% of the furniture! I plan on adding a dowel at the top of the box so it can double as a closet. Hey, am I now compliant with the International Residential Code???


Set the controls for the heart of the sun

No, its not SpaceX delivering solar panels to the international space station. Rather, it’s the 260 watt PV panel I bought today squeezed into my CRV:


…if it was a 261 watt panel, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have fit.

I got a great deal on this closeout REC Solar panel (75 cents per watt) from a company in Campbell called ML Solar. I just need to bodge up some connector wires to start running my Yeti 1250 on sun power! At this point, I’m not planning on permanently mounting the panel on the tiny house. Instead I want to build an adjustable-angled frame that will sit on the ground.




Speed Metal

Last week, I asked the sheet metal shop guy from Bruce Mechanical who did my shower  walls to fabricate a stainless steel back splash for the stove wall and a galvanized metal roof for the utility shed. I called today and they were ready, so I picked them up and had them installed by lunch.

The utility shed roof was a sorry collection of plywood remnants left over from sheathing the tiny house. Besides looking crappy, it wasn’t very weatherly. The new metal roof has built in drip edges and a custom flashing that will manage rain runoff  much better and keep the shed dry. Here it is halfway thru installation:


In the kitchen, you can see the stove back splash in the foreground and the IKEA STENSTORP china holder I also put up today by the sink. This will carry a lot of weight in dishes, bowls, etc, so I spent extra time making sure it was securely mounted to the studs behind the cedar paneling.


At the risk of looking even more like an IKEA catalog, here’s a shot of the completed bathroom with the new IKEA scissor-arm mirror, metal sink back splash and stainless steel towel rack.


“How does this IKEA dining set define me as a person?”



Second, and hopefully last, Electric Koolaid Plumbing Test

With Stoic fortitude and equanimity I chipped away this past week at the plumbing things-to-be-fixed revealed in the first Plumbing Test. One thing I have learned with plumbing is that it’s hard to torque threaded brass fittings too tight. I often had to resort to using a vise and a 12″ long crescent wrench, not to mention yards of teflon tape.

Armed with advice from my building partner on my next project John W.  I successfully replumbed the connections to the shower mixer valve; tightened the hell out of all the leaky T connections at the water heater; and added an accumulator tank (tip from Chris M.) and 6′ of looped nylon line (tip from Shurflo tech support) to the cold water line between the pump and the water heater, which eliminated the pump cycling. Here’s the final configuration in the utility shed. Note the propane tank serving the water heater and range on a platform above the accumulator tank:


For those contemplating an outside installation of their water heater, here’s a tip for keeping it dry and clean when not in use. I used a nylon bag meant for waterproofing backpacks – the 70 liter size perfectly fits the Eccotemp. I’ll simply remove it when the house is in use. I also took the opportunity to add a longer flue (18″) for the heater – thanks Chris M. for the tip.


So the second pressurized water test was a success. Unless something breaks in use, I think plumbing is done!