Saturday, September 26, 2015

(Sep 26) Builders are people too! :)

Good Morning!  Jay is out of town visiting his Dad on his 82 birthday.  Wow!  I hope I'm still up and going at that age.  We also have a brother-in-law who is very ill with cancer.  Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

I rarely post anything on the blog.  It's really Jay's domain, but he encourages me to write.  Today I'm on a mission to support builders of Tiny Homes. 

I was browsing Facebook posts this morning as usual and felt compelled to speak out in support of builders of Tiny Houses.   The specific post (or rather the comments about the post) that got me going is the TinyHouseBlog sharing Tiny House Listings photo featuring Tiny House   This is a beautiful home showing many great features and amenities available thru Tiny House Chattanooga.

I know, there have been many naysayers for years regarding the cost of Tiny Homes, but for some reason this morning I felt the need to speak up.  People who blurt out negative comments about the price of a Tiny Home leave me assuming they don't understand what it takes to build a home, or what it takes to financially support and run a business.

We are two years into the process of building our Tiny House ourselves, with no real experience in home building.  We knew how to use basic tools like tape measures, hammers, and saws etc. from previous home improvement projects.  The rest we learned by reading, researching, asking questions, listening to speakers, networking with other Tiny House Enthusiasts like the DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts and their DFW-Tiny-House-Enthusiasts Meetup Group then doing all of those things over again, and again, and again.  It's been a wonderful and educational journey that will continue for years to come.  I highly recommend it.

While we are certainly saving money vs. buying a home built by a professional, it is not an inexpensive project mainly because we chose to upgrade from a box with no doors, windows (we have nine large windows in 240 sq ft), a/c, and so on.  There are several things to keep in mind regarding cost.  The property taxes, utility, and insurance savings alone is a no brainer.  This will make it possible for us to retire earlier and enjoy life while we are still able to do so.  What would you save per year if you could reduce your property taxes, utility, and insurance expenses down to $100 or even $200 a month total?  Even if you have a mortgage on your Tiny House, you can save significant dollars on the other expenses to own and maintain it.  How would that affect your budget and what you could do with the extra money?  Seriously.  Calculate the savings and see if it doesn’t make sense. 

At first glance the price tag seems high, but there are so many ways to cut back on the cost.  Use standard windows, doors, counter tops, shower/no tub, and window a/c unit.  Use a standard refrigerator instead of propane, tie into the grid or use a generator for power and use a composting bucket.  FYI…I think Natures Head has one of the best units and value for the dollar out there if you are going to get a commercial composting toilet – and I don’t own one – yet (ssshhh - don't tell Jay).  Our Tiny has a bucket for now.  The list is long on how to reduce the cost to fit your budget including buying used, salvaged, or discounted appliances and materials.   

Builders are a business that must be profitable to pay their overhead and provide for their own families.  This is their livelihood.  I don't think it's right to criticize the price of the homes they build.  Want to use a builder?  Great, work with them on a budget and customize your home to fit.  You could even have them do the shell and you do the finish work.

A beautifully done CUSTOM home with all these wonderful upgrades and amenities will be expensive per square foot, just like any home would be.  At $83K and 240 sq ft this home costs about $346 per sq ft.   Take that same $346 and multiply it by the size of your current home.  Let’s say you live in a 1500 sq ft home x $346 and it was built as custom and high end as this house is.  Do you live in a 1500 sq ft $519,000 home?  Maybe, but probably not.  Clearly you would not have to have all the high-end bells and whistles this wonderful home has.

Living Tiny is not for everyone, for a lot of reasons.  It is, however, certainly worth looking into, or even trying.  If nothing else, you will meet a diverse, talented, and great group of people.


Monday, September 21, 2015

(Sep 20) Bathroom Door Hung

Glad to say, we got Kim's barn door hung in the house this weekend. She's been wanting a sliding door for ages. :) The kit we got from HD worked like a champ and came with everything we needed except for a sturdy wall and the door itself.


During (yes, I am still wearing my TCU pajamas! :)  Go FROGS!)


We had to calculate where the hardware would attach on the bathroom wall and then move a shelf to intersect it and be the support beam to screw into. Since barn style doors don't fit flush against the wall, we also had to play with the positioning a bit to make sure that you weren't on display while taking a shower. If you' feel the need to be an exhibitionist, just leave the door open. :)

Routing the bottom of the door for the rudder took a little effort as I was challenged to figure out how to get the router set to the proper depth. Yes, Jay, you have to be smarter than what you're working with!  We also ended up sanding off the bottom of the door a little as there was a high spot in the flooring.

Challenges aside, I do think it came out looking nice. We've decided to not use our bar in it's current form as it would be so tall as to hide the door and desk area. Instead, we'll modify it or build something into a standing bar that you can see over while sitting at the desk. This will give a workspace feel but not close you in while working on the computer.

Part of an entertainment center we picked up at Restore. Ran lighting and turned into a bar. 

We adjusted the burners on the stovetop and the oven. Only difficulty was finding a super skinny flathead screwdriver that was long enough to reach through the knob stem of each burner. I still have some work to do on the broiler. Either I didn't change the regulator over when I adapted the stove for propane or something is off because we still had a 6" flame shooting out of it instead of the 1" that it should be.

Speaking of stoves - we had parmesan cheese pasta for dinner on Saturday and fixed some great grilled cheese wraps (Jay Wraps as my family calls them) for lunch on Sunday after we got the door set. Grill both sides of a flour tortilla. Generously sprinkle after you turn it over with grated cheese. Add your choice of meat - ham, chicken, lunchmeat, etc - along with your choice of grilled mushrooms, bell peppers and onions with a drizzle of mustard and mayo. Salt, pepper and garlic powder to top it off. Take it out when the 2nd side is brown and crispy. Roll it up and serve with sides (guac, salsa picante, sour cream) or plain. They're kind of a crispy flour taquito with dinner ingredients. Best to hang out in the kitchen. You can't wait around for everyone to get theirs to start eating these. This is a meal where everyone is definitely on their own. Gotta eat 'em hot out of the skillet. I eat mine while I'm cooking 'cause there's no time to sit down. More than 3 people, better get a 2nd skillet cooking! :)

2nd half of Sunday, we plotted on how to finish out the bathroom and build our loo. We want to stick with the compost bucket but definitely want a urine diverter. I'll run a pipe down through the floor and out to a leach line and down the hill behind the house. We just have to work out the details of the lid and storage areas for peat moss and paper waste.

I brought out my Kill A Watt meter (measures all things to do with electricity usage for AC appliances. I love this thing! Everyone who's going Tiny should have one of these to help understand how much electricity each of your appliances draws) and hooked up the new fridge. It runs from 6 watts at rest to about 140 watts when the compressor kicks in. After a few minutes, it drops to 110 watts and then shuts off. I'll leave it hooked up for a couple of days to get a feel for how much total power it draws over a longer period.

We're trying to see how much battery power it will take to keep the fridge going during the week while we're gone. The 2 deep-cell batteries right now that I have hooked up have about 200 amp hours of juice when charged. If we only want to run them down to about 50% of this, that would give us 100 amp hours to play with before they would have to be recharged. This should be plenty to run the fridge for a couple of days without sunshine. We may add another pair of batteries to the mix just to have extra power to use while we're there. It'll be really nice to leave the fridge stocked and running throughout the week once we get the solar panels installed next month. We'll also run on battery power at night when we don't need to run the generator/air conditioner. To make it easier to read, be sure and pick up a short grounded (no pun intended) extension cord. This way, you don't have to get down on your knees and read the meter while it's plugged into the wall.

One last bit of work on Sunday, we routed the power cable for the lights in the IKEA PAX closet to the back rear of the unit and drilled a hole in the unit to run the power cord out to the outlet. I had to shave some of the plastic off of the plug to get it through the hole but that was better than drilling a larger hole. We put split loom on the cord to blend in with the black interior of the closet. I'm really happy with this unit and look forward to adding a 2nd set of drawers. It offers a lot of storage and makes good use of our vertical space.

Split loom - 10' roll of 1/2" and 3/8"

Monday, September 14, 2015

(Sep 13) Kitchen Appliance Installed

This week reaffirmed that life is about changes and transitions and making adjustments as you go. I had spent considerable time working on one wall in the kitchen last month only to decide to turn 180° and do something else this week because I thought it looked better. Anyway, I'm thrilled that we get our kitchen further along and more thrilled that Kim and I work so well together! We really are having fun doing this!

I was worried for a bit that we were going to have trouble getting the fridge and stove carried into the cabin by ourselves but we did pretty good for a couple of old people!  :)  I got the truck backed up as far as I could and put down some OSB to transition to the pallets we call a porch. From there the hardest part was getting it up over the threshold. All-in-all, it went pretty smoothly.

Guess we should have put out a sign for free beer to help unload appliances! :) 

We started with the stove. I cut a hole in the floor to bring the gas line in through. This still freaks me out every time I have to do it! We're just using our 20lb propane bottle right now until we get our large tank delivered and installed. I took extra care in attaching all of the pipe adapters and hoses to make sure there were no leaks. I doped up all of the threads and sprayed it all down with soapy water to make sure. Hard to enjoy your new digs when you're dead.  

I did feel bad. I had set a box of pool cleaning supplies (really irritating when you consider we don't even have the pool anymore!) on the stove when it was in our garage. Some of the chemicals had leached through their container and rusted a couple of the burner grates. They're cast iron, so they cleaned right up but I hate that our brand new stove started off with a blemish!  I do think the colors look great in the kitchen. Our first meals were eggs, sausage and skillet toast for breakfast and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Good to be back cooking with gas! :) I look forward to baking with the convection oven also though I think most of that will be done in the cooler months. I hate heating up the place when I can do a lot of cooking outside still. It did give us an excuse to test out the vent though. Glad to report it all works well. The first time I fired up the vent, it scared a hummingbird that was feeding right outside the window. I've moved the feeder since.

New stove in place under microwave vent-a-hood

Next, we turned attention to getting the fridge put into place. It seemed harder to level than the stove had been. I had already reversed the door swing on the fridge as well as changed all of the jets and regulator on the stove to accommodate propane. This was about an hour on the fridge and about 30 min on the stove. Wasn't hard, just followed the directions that came with both. The stove is a full sized 5 burner Kenmore with convection oven and the fridge is a Kenmore 20 cubic foot bottom freezer model. 
I think the stainless and black enamel on them blend in well with our kitchen.

New appliances installed!

After these were done. We decided to finish "bricking" the bathroom walls. After spending a entire day trimming out and finishing the shelves by the fridge, I decided to cover it all up after seeing how good the brick veneer looked in that corner. We decided that we had enough pantry space to give up the storage in order to keep the look consistent. I think we made the right choice. It looks great!

Bathroom bricked in and trimmed with the new fridge in place

We had to take down the Elfa shelves and re-install them over the brick but it was also worth it. We raised them to accommodate room underneath for Kim's sewing cabinet. I like them on that brick wall so well that I think we've nixed the idea of building a cabinet around them. 

Kim found a transition piece for the the bathroom entrance. The flooring in the kitchen was a bit taller than the bathroom tile and I was worried that someone might trip eventually. It went down pretty easily except for the fact that I cut it 1/4" too short! Really irritates me when I get in a hurry and lose track of what I'm doing. 

We also trimmed out the bathroom entrance and installed a cedar beam across the header of that wall to tie the two walls together. We installed the header above the doorway high enough to leave about 6" open above the sliding barn door hardware. We wanted to keep the bathroom well ventilated. 

Bathroom door in front of new brick wall

We put a coat of Tung Oil on the cedar door jams and header as well as another coat on the door itself. I ran out of time and didn't get any on the beam across the top of the wall. It will have to wait 'til next week as well as installing the sliding door hardware. I can't wait. It's like Christmas after waiting for over 2 years to get some of this finished! :)

Overall view of kitchen area

As a parting note, here is our raccoon family that visits nightly. The kids are getting bigger by the week. Couldn't have anything to do with our feeding them nightly! They're so fun to watch, constantly washing their hands and food in the water bowl we put out. I did have to move the humming bird feeders to raised PVC poles to keep them from ravaging them nightly. Sorry guys! No more sugar water for you! They don't seem to mind the noise of the generator or even our sticking our heads out of the door occasionally to take a quick picture. 

Raccoon family feeding outside our front window

Monday, September 7, 2015

(Sep 7) Kitchen Counter Finished

We were very happy that our daughter, Stephanie, and family came out to visit and help this weekend. Great to share the time with family! David got his introduction to scorpions, centipedes and Brown Recluse spiders. Welcome to East Texas! We were clearing a wood pile that had several of each. You don't work outdoors without your gloves and you don't set your gloves down without checking them when you put them back on! Just part of living in the woods. :)

Stephanie and Riley, relaxing in the cabin since it was nearly 100° this weekend!

 We also worked on installing the pipe for the stove vent on the microwave. Had to cut through Hardi Board, OSB and drywall to get the vent secured to the outside of the building. Not too bad but I broke off a saw blade in my jigsaw so I had to finish it off with a drywall saw. Toughest part was the Hardi. After we got the pipe through the wall, I sealed it off with some joint compound on the inside and silicone on the outside.

Through-the-wall vent for microwave/vent-a-hood

On Monday, we got busy readying the kitchen to install the fridge and stove. We had to cap off the counters and finally get them secured to the wall. Since we reconfigured the kitchen after we had closed the walls in, we didn't have all of the bracing in place behind the drywall. We had to make do with studs and braces we added under the counters. We also put some stops on the floor for the Elfa drawers, just to make sure they didn't get pushed back under the counter. We were really happy though with the outcome. Great to have it all secured finally.

Kitchen counter with sideboards and secured to the wall

 We started getting the bathroom door stained and ready to install. I'll be the 1st to admit, I was putting a lot of faith in the hope that our door was an Ugly Duckling. I could see the potential and truly hoped that it would turn out beautiful - once we treated it. I was happy with the style, the workmanship and the grain. I just couldn't be sure how it was going to take the Tung Oil we had picked out for it. We had tried a little on some pine tongue and groove we had left over but we were underwhelmed. Yeah, it looked better but it wasn't a metamorphic transformation. I held my breath and started putting oil on our door.

Hardwood door before we applied finish

Door - after just one coat of Tung Oil

WOW! I couldn't have asked for more. The wood darkened up and came to life. All of a sudden, you could see the depth of the grain. The knots came to life and had character. The whole thing took on a deep glow. This was the vision I had when I saw it, sadly sitting in the discount pile at Home Depot. Can't wait to see what it looks like after another 2-3 coats of Tung Oil. It'll go GREAT over our "Brick" wall that we put up this weekend. Looking forward to getting the sliding barn door hardware put on and finishing the whole desk area. Not sure where it's going to end up but I'm liking what it looks like so far! :) 

Bathroom door and new Elfa shelves for living area

We're still playing with the idea of maybe bricking the other side of the wall and taking out the shelves that we built a couple of weeks ago. We've about decided to brick behind the new Elfa shelves in the living area too. It would give the appearance that the bathroom was completely walled by bricks. We'll play with it some more and see how it comes out. 

Bathroom door sitting in front of new "bricked" wall