Thursday, February 19, 2015

(Feb 19) Fridge and Stove Purchased

After much hunting and contemplation, we finally decided to go with a full sized refrigerator and stove/oven. Yes! I know they take up a lot of space - but . . .   We do a lot of cooking. Even now, living in the middle of restaurant Mecca, we cook a lot. Once we move out to a much more remote location, we really felt that this was something that we would do even more of. 

We looked at 20", 22" & 24" stoves. We just couldn't find anything that got great reviews that offered what we wanted at a reasonable price. Same thing really on a fridge. I could have lived with a 15 cubic foot unit, but I couldn't find one with a bottom freezer, a feature I really wanted, without spending a fortune. That meant going down to a 10 cf or up to a 20 cf. The 10s were just too small and we felt we wouldn't be able to store enough fresh food for our lifestyle. So, up to the 20 it was. This meant 30" wide on both appliances. :(

We also had the added confidence that we had plenty of work space provided by the pull-down table on the bottom of the Murphy Bed. At 5' x 30", it should be a nice surface to prepare our meals. I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of putting the stove next to the fridge, but we managed to allocate about 10" between them which will make a nice tall storage for our flat bakeware like cookie sheets, jelly roll pans and broiling pans. We have a similar cabinet in our house in Arlington and it's one of the features we really wanted to carry over to this house. 

We went with Kenmore on both apllicance. The Stove is a 5 burner gas model with a full sized convection oven. It has a large Turbo burner at 18,500 BTU for quick boiling. It also has a Simmer burner that goes down to a very low setting when you need delicate cooking. Large cast iron grates make a solid cooking surface for improved safety and easy clean up. Full function timers including Timed Start and Timed Cook will be very handy. There is also a Keep Warm function on the oven that maintains a serving temperature once the dish is cooked. The large storage drawer under the unit will also facilitate much of our bakeware. I cook as much as possible in cast iron and tend to keep them on the stove top after they've been cleaned and oiled. A large window and lighted interior were also features we had deemed necessary. 

The fridge is 20 cf with a bottom freezer. Also in Stainless steel since they would basically sit next to each other. I really like the idea a the refrigerator portion being on top. In the past, top freezer units meant that I was constantly crouching down to get to bottom drawers or shelves and since I'm in the fridge section 3-4 times as often as the freezer, having the fresh foods at eye level was a convenience I was really looking forward to. We didn't get an ice maker since we have no plans to have public water hooked up to the house. I may regret this later if we decide to put in a well pump and pressurized system but it just didn't seem worth the extra expense for something we might never use, especially in the foreseeable future until we move out here permanently. An ice bin would just be in the way have to be emptied and drained every time we left since we will likely not be able to maintain above freezing temps until our electricity is provided by the grid. 

True to most items we have looked at for our Tiny House, the smaller they get, the more expensive they get, even with a smaller feature set. The same was true here. The feature rich, full-sized stove was cheaper then many of the smaller stoves we had looked at, as was the fridge. The 20 cf unit was about the same price as many of the 10 cf units. The price we paid was in inches though. Combined, the 2 appliances were 12" wider than their smaller counterparts. If we put them on the same wall, we lose a full foot off of that wall's counter space. If we put them on adjacent walls, we lose 6" off of each. We decided to put them on the same wall and leave the full foot of extra space on the segment of counter with the sink, giving us a larger prep area there. Either way, the pull down table would be our main work area. It just means cleaning it up before we could serve a meal there. Otherwise, we would move to the living area and eat there in front of the bay windows or at the sofa with TV trays.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

(Feb 15) Decking Down on the Shed

We picked up supplies for the weekend and come out on Saturday. Weather is absolutely perfect - 70° with a light breeze and not a bug in sight! :) Doesn't get any better.

We got Advantech ¾" decking for the floor, 2x6x16' for rafters and a variety of 2x4 and 2x6 lengths for framing. I had forgotten how heavy wood is compared to the metal that we had built the house out of. Quite a difference! The Advantech was 75lbs per sheet. It's very dense with and infused with resin to help with waterproofing. No, it's not marine plywood, but it's also only ⅓ the price. We picked up all of the wood supplies from Fort Worth Lumber. Really nice people to work with and they carry a lot of dimensional lumber, plywoods and beams that you just can't find at the DIY centers.

After playing with the layout of how we wanted the decking to go down, we finally got started by rolling out some 30# tar paper. I know the Advantech does a great job handling moisture but I just wanted another layer of protection down to start with. This should also help with any creaking of wood rubbing against the metal joists and wire decking. Well worth the $10 worth we used.

 We started laying out the sheets and screwing them down to the steel frame. I was pleased that the self-tapping screws we had picked up did a nice job of both drilling through the decking and tapping into the steel joists. Be sure you have a #3 phillips bit if you don't buy the big bucket that includes one. They drive much better with it than a #2. The tongue and groove edging on the decking fit very smoothly and made for a great, uniform seam. We put our cut edges against the wall side and left a factory edge for the middle of the floor. By splitting the difference on the middle beam, we were able to share it with the next sheet much like you would share a stud for 2 sheets of drywall. The 2 factory edges of decking also made a very nice seam where they met in the middle. It's good when things work as you planned!

What we didn't have any control of the width of the building as it's set by the length of the steel beams that connect the upright ends. As it turned out, we came up about 1 ½" shy of covering the floor with the 3 sheets wide. This was because T&G dimension is from edge of the groove to the edge of the tongue, which tucks inside the next sheet's groove. You end up getting 47 ½" coverage from a sheet, not 48" if you had used plywood. The problem with plywood we've found is that the edges curl up over the years as humidity soaks in. The T&G should hold nice and smooth in contrast. I was too cheap to purchase another sheet to cover the small gap so we ripped down a 2x4 and set it into the gap. Since everything is getting screwed down to the steel beams, I'm not worried about it shifting over time.

We had tried cutting the decking with our table saw, but it was just too heavy and we found it unmanageable in our primitive surroundings of the woods. A clamped straight edge and a skill saw did the trick nicely. It gave us a quick cut with a razor straight edge.

We took the opportunity also to move the supports in the middle upright on the tall side to make room for our door. I'll need to cut down the diagonal supports a bit and re-drill some holes in it but we should be able to reinstall as soon as we do.

Once we got a row of decking in place, I tacked it down and we moved to the next knowing we wouldn't bump anything out of place. The floor felt nice and solid when we finished and we turned our attention to getting the rafters up.

We needed to set a header across the front and back walls. Luckily the upright members of steel were flat faced and gave us a good surface area to screw the headers to. We decided to make an "L" shaped member to set on top of the upright posts with a 2x4 and a 2x6 with the 2x6 facing outward. This member would be what the rafters would rest on and give us a good surface to nail in blocking to close the gaps between the rafters. I'll secure it to the steel with some hurricane steel straps as well as the screws we used.

We got the other header made but we ran out of daylight and decided to quit for the night. We turned off the generator and sat down to enjoy the quiet for a bit. We took a walk up the trail where we had our wildlife camera positioned. We were really surprised to see that a couple of coyotes had visited as well as a group of deer in the middle of the day. Our raccoon friend as well but only at night. We also found some hog tracks back at one corner of the property so we moved the camera to that area to see if we could tell how many were moving through.

This coming weekend we're helping with a materials demonstration at the DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts meet up. We should make it out to the property after that and will work on getting the roof put on the storage building. We need to pick up OSB, screws, tar paper and facia boards. No rest for the wicked! :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

(Feb 9) Storage Building Frame Goes Up

We were running out of room in our tiny house with all of the tools and building supplies, so we decided it was time to dedicate some time and resources (money) to building a storage shed. I've been wanting to build with warehouse pallet racks for a long time! This looked like the opportunity.

Turns out, there's a huge supply of used warehouse racks available. As the economy was sputtering along in 2008-2010, companies who sold warehouse racks (like you see at Home Depot, Lowe's, Sam's, Costco) had to convince companies to replace their racks as they moved into new warehouses. There were also a lot of companies going out of business. Landlords would sell off assets as warehouses were abandoned. Kind of like the abundance of shipping containers that we see people making tiny houses out of now, these racks have been piling up in steel yards by the ton. They're heavy duty and incredibly durable. Time to repurpose!

We started with an 8'x8' design and slowly talked our way into a 12'x12' with an open area of 8'x12' and 4' of shelves on one side. We went with the same basic shape as the house, a single floor slant roof. This time we're going to put the door on the front instead of the side. It will have an open floor all steel frame, wood rafters, OSB siding and decking, steel corrugated on the outside. We also left a little overhang (4') for a side porch. The height difference from front to back will also lend itself to putting in a 3' deep loft on the tall side. Should give us lots of storage for the things we don't want in the house all of the time - off-season clothes, seasonal decorations, memorabilia, etc.

Friday afternoon, I roughed out a CAD sketch on my Mac and got bids on the materials we would need. Placed the order and got the steel picked up the same day. The guy who was pulling the order at the steel yard looked at me a little funny when I pointed to the old Dodge. I must admit I was a bit worried when he got it all gathered. About 1400 lbs worth. It was only hanging 6' out the back of the bed. I also had to get the 3 of us in with our gear for the weekend. A quick stop to put some more air in the tires can't hurt.

Saturday, we scouted the spot and started clearing. We wanted something that was accessible to the house but not right next to it. We positioned the door so that it'll be convenient as I'm sure we'll be in and out of it all the time. We had 3-4 small trees to remove and some brush. A new chain and bar on the chainsaw meant it went quickly. Harder part was leveling the area. We unloaded the steel and went to Emory to pick up more supplies - runner beams, concrete pads and hardware for assembling it all along with some tools that we had forgotten in Arlington. We now own 3 ratchet/socket sets! :(

We marked out the beams with a chalkline to register where the footing bolts would go and drilled through with a paddle bit. Yes, one hole is larger than the other. The hardware store did not have any ⅝" galvanized bolts long enough, so I mixed some ⅝" stainless steel with some ½" hot dipped galvanized. The stainless were just so expensive, I couldn't force myself to use them on every hole. I set one stainless and one galvanized on each footing.

I put a buffer of tar paper between the footings and the beam just to reduce exposure of the metal to the chemicals in the wood.

Here's a breakdown of the components we were working with, in case (like us) you've never put together a warehouse pallet rack. lol
Upright Assembly. Teardrop shaped holes on sides give this style it's name. 2 rows of teardrops allow for beams to be attached on both the left side and right side. Alternating supports (sometimes bolted, sometimes welded) give it tremendous strength. Think of it as a vertical truss. Thicknesses of the steel runs from 15 gauge to ¼". They come in a number of sizes from 30" to 52" wide and from 8' tall to 25' or more. These go on the ends of the pallet racks with beams running between them to make a shelf support.
Beam attached to teardrop upright. Beams are typically 3"-6" tall and about 2" wide. They are made to support from 2,000-10,000 lbs, depending on the thickness of the uprights you are attaching them to.
Inside view of beam tabs locking into teardrop holes of upright. The small tab in the 3rd hold down from the top is a locking mechanism. This prevents the beam from accidentally coming up out of the upright once installed. Thus, they can be assembled and taken apart without tools.

Assembled teardrop pallet rack. An upright assembly (green & silver) on each end. Beams (orange in this pic, available in lengths from 4' to 12')  running from one upright to another on bottom and top, front and back. This pic also show pallet supports (silver) spanning the beams. Each footing has 2-4 holes for anchoring. Once bolted to the floor, it's very sturdy! Within this teardrop style, all manufacturers build to the same hole pattern so that parts are interchangeable and easily assembled by a 2-3 man team with little to no tools. 

The footing bolts are to the inside of these uprights. This means that the measurement of the beam is flush to the outside edge in this case. These uprights were listed as 42" wide and 10' tall.

Kim, standing next to the short side (10 feet) for scale. 

We got all 3 uprights on the north side mounted to the skid beam in about an hour. We used a 9" spacer between each upright to get our wall length of 12'. (42"+9"+42"+9"+42"=144") I couldn't find a supplier that had 48" wide uprights with all of the other pieces (beams, wire racks, etc) on the spur of the moment so I went with 42" and got spacers to finish out my design. Spacers come in various widths from 3" to 12". I wanted to stay with something divisible by 4' so to make good use of my other building materials like plywood and OSB.
North side uprights attached to beam.

We then started attaching uprights to the other skid and started tying them together with 12' steel box beams. Notice the lip ledge on the top/inside of each beam pair. This is to accommodate wire decking that drops into place once assembled. It's 1 ⅝" tall so you could also cut 2"x wood to make a solid shelf.
Kim, standing next to south uprights (12' tall) for scale.
After we got all of the beams attached to the uprights, we put in the wire decking. This is a welded wire grid over a series of cross supports. This will act as my subfloor. I'll line the whole deck assembly with heavy tar paper and then lay ¾" pressure treated decking over that. We're not planning on this being a workshop (that comes next), just a storage building. It just happens to be a very heavy duty, steel reinforced storage building. My wife accuses me of getting carried away with these projects sometimes but I really can't tell from where I'm standing. :)

Since the cross supports are bolted in on the tall (blue) side (the green ones are welded), I'll pull those and rearrange to leave a door opening in the center upright. It's a 36" opening.

South side upright wall - 12' tall. 

Since the uprights are made of 3" square steel members, they'll easily accommodate attaching our OSB skin. We'll just use carriage bolts at the corners and self-tapping metal screws throughout the body.

After the flooring, we set beams at the top of the 10' sections as well as additional beams on the west side wall to make shelves, thus the extra wire decking that's laying there in the previous picture.

East view of building frame. 
After the building is finished, we'll come back and add a couple of short beams to finish out the small porch on the side.

West view of building frame

Beam making up shelf on west side. Notice the locking clip (silver) in the middle 

Next - we'll start with the roofing and siding. I don't have any delusions that it will go as quickly as the frame did! Not bad though for about 9-10 hours of work for 2 old people and a 9 year old boy! :) I can't wait to get started some day on the workshop. It'll be 5 times the footprint and twice as tall as this. I'm thinking something big enough to build a tiny house in? ;)

The uprights and wire racks we purchased were used. The beams were new. The steel cost me $989, tax included and was available for pickup here in DFW same day. The 16' 4"x 6" PT wood beams were $28 ea and we spent another $100 on nuts, bolts and washers. We've got another $800 budgeted for roof, walls and flooring. That should put us just shy of $2K for this build. Add some insulation and cabinetry and you could just about call this a tiny house. 144sf with bunk beds and a storage loft. I'm predicting we'll see a lot more of these going up across the country as people figure out how easy the assembly is and how sturdy the structure is.

We'll make the next trek out in a couple of weeks, weather permitting, for round 2. This spring weather (it was 72° all weekend) has got me itching to do some gardening. Too many projects, too little time. Having to work for a living sure eats into your play time! Who knows, some day, maybe we'll figure out how to make a living out of our hobbies. How amazing would that be!

Have a great Valentine's Day and be safe!

BTW, our new wildlife camera caught the culprits that had been opening the can that we store the bird feed and corn in. Here's one of the 3 we've seen so far. :) He's much smaller than the other 2!

Night shot of a raccoon on the tree by the cabin