Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Exterior Color Concepts...

Exterior colors have been a very important facet of this Tiny House project. Since the rough structure began with a shed frame, it is important that the final structure, e.g. micro-mansion, not look like a shed. Color and paint scheme, as such, are key.

Torn between natural surrounding colors of browns and greens and the pastels that beckon the child in all, I happened upon a small cottage with what I believe are ideal colors for the Micro-Mansion. 

This mix of light green, purple and pure white are the colors that I have settled upon and think will be fabulous. This decision has occurred a couple weeks late and there is now a need to wait until spring as it appears the cold weather has settled in for the duration of the winter...

Sleeping Solutions

One of the largest considerations in a tiny space is the sleeping area. If you are young, nimble, and adventurous a sleeping loft may be your thing. Both of my teenagers love the lofts. 

While the lofts do have windows now, and also some half decent headroom, the mid-night journeys up and down the ladder to visit the tiny girl's room have not been my cup of tea. I tried it for 3 months and while it was definitely do-able, it really is not my preference if I had my druthers... which I do!

So the convertible, first-floor sleeping arrangements are what I decided upon. During the winter this will give me quick and easy access to the wood stove in addition to the tiny girls room.

I have researched many options including Murphy beds, hide-aways, and sleeper sofas. Given my time-frame and the amount of building I need to do on other projects such as the dinning room table, closet space, and finish work, I decided to go with the sleeper sofa option.

Keeping with my recycle, reuse mentality (and my budget!) I searched Craig's List, EBay, and local thrift stores for options. After a few weeks of searching I found a wonderful second hand sleeper-sofa on Craig's list that was pet and smoke free. It does not match the decor I had in mind for the living room. However, I've never re-upholstered a couch and it sounds like a great, cold-weekend project.

Wonderful Wildlife...

One of the huge benefits of living in a tiny house is that your living room is your entire backyard. We have installed bird feeders and enjoy daily viewing of an abundance of wildlife including a wide variety of song birds, deer, turkey, pheasant, rabbit, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, Canadian geese, hawks, and even an occasional bald eagle.

We absolutely love animals and despite the tiny living quarters we have made room for five pets including one dog (Buddy) and four cats (Ginger, Spice, Sage, and Thomas).

Our pets love to play with the local wildlife as well. Buddy gets especially excited when he gets to play with the deer and rabbits. This adorable little bird I snatched from Sage who thought he had found a wonderful playmate. Our feathery-friend was a little stunned by his impromptu play date with our mischievous kitty, but after a 5 minute rest on the palm of my hand he flittered off unscathed!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Installing the Shed Roof

Neighbor Tom helping raise the walls
The design of the shed roof was simple. There needed to be a roof to keep water out of the kitchen and stored items dry. In addition, since the structure was so long, it would be a good source for rain water collection.

The roof was designed with a 1' pitch from front to back to accommodate installation of a long gutter on the back of the shed for rain water catchment. The front 1' elevation box was built on the ground in two sixteen foot sections then elevated via ladder and nailed in place. Then 10' rafters were placed bridging the front and back framing for the roof. 

Purlins will be used to bridge the 2' wide spanse between rafters and to adhere the roofing. If I can find some recycled roofing material I would prefer to go with a metal roof. Especially since we will be harvesting rain water.

Shed Siding on a Tight Budget

About an hour out of town there is a wood mill that sells huge bundles of scrap wood for $5. They also are a source for free sawdust for the compost pile.

Originally I bought the wood with my neighbor as firewood. When I say a "Large" bundle I mean LARGE. When it is tightly and neatly stacked it measures three feet by three feet by four feet. Each of the pieces is in the shape of a 1/2" x 5" slat. 

When designing the shed I came up with the great idea of utilizing the scrap wood slats as siding. It gives the shed a nice weathered barn board look about it. I've almost finished siding the south side of the shed and have only utilized a quarter of my stack of wood. I figure to side three sides of the shed it will cost about $40 including wood and nails.

Not bad on a tight building budget... score!

The Outside Kitchen and Workshop

After living in the micro-mansion for going on 10 weeks now, it has become obvious that we need more family space for relaxing, playing games, and eating at a tale suitable for three-to-four people to sit comfortably at. This means some alterations within the main living area.

The kitchen is headed outside which will open up the second half of the downstairs for the wood stove (yes, it is starting to become chilly here in IA at night) and a fold down dinning table. 

In order to accommodate our space change I have designed and begun the framing for a nice sized shed just outside the micro-mansion. It is 8'x30' and has three divided bays. The first bay is 15' long and will house the outside kitchen and the workshop. The second bay which is just 5' will house the golf cart, which we use to get around the land and to carry things. The last shed bay, at 10' long, will hold storage so we can get rid of the storage unit we leased when we moved this summer. It will be nice to have the additional $85 back in our pockets each month! 

Insulating the Floor in the Micro-Mansion

Since the micro-mansion's original framework was that of a shed, there was no subfloor created to install the insulation in. Even though the downstairs living area is only 6'6" I've decided to built a subfloor from the inside and up. 

I will lay the 2"x4" framework on top of the existing plywood floor then fill the newly made cavities with insulation prior to topping it off with a new subfloor. I will lose 4" in height but since we are all under 6' at this time it shouldn't be that much of a loss. 

Another option was to place the insulation on the underside to the micro-mansion, however it was important to keep the floor joists accessible for when the micro-mansion is placed on a trailer, which is the long-term plan. 

More Widows Please!

The Micro Mansion has been wonderful as a temporary living space, especially with a few upgrades. In the living room and kitchen area I removed the two shop-type windows and installed two double-paned insulated storm windows. Along the back wall I installed a four foot window for the view and some cross ventilation. Finally, up in the lofts I installed two insulated windows for the light, the views, ventilation, and emergency egress should it ever be needed.

The original plan was to give each of the kids their own loft and I would sleep in the living room at night. My son wasn't fond of the lofts originally, but now that the windows have been installed he has agreed to move upstairs.

The picture above was taken after the loft windows were installed but before the insulation was installed and the walls/ceiling enclosed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cooking in the MicroMansion...

The first couple weeks cooking took place on the outdoor grill and its side burner. During this time period I did quite a bit of online research for alternative cooking apparatuses.

I finally decided to purchase a sun oven. Since the sun oven was something that we would take with us to the Tiny House I opted for a sturdy, well reviewed sun oven opposed to the cheaper models. With some searching online at eBay, Amazon, and Craig's List I was able to find a new sun oven for 30% off including shipping.

Unless I have been experiencing it myself I would never have believed that cooking with the sun made food taste so much more wholesome, nutritious, and tasty. It is simply incredible.

Between the sun oven and the grill we are eating every type of meal we would have normally eaten in our big house, except for the fact that we are now eating mostly organic. I have been able to make pancakes, eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfasts. Dinner has included some yummy homemade stews, whole chicken meals followed by chicken soup, biscuits, brownies, pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, casseroles, just to name a few!

Laundry in the MicroMansion

Laundry has been a long research process over the past year. Of everything I looked into I really loved the combination, compact washer-drier unit. Unfortunately with our budget the $1200-2000 price tag is currently out of the question.

After hours of online searching I ended up ordering a WonderWash and a Spin Dry. I love the WonderWash. It does a good job cleaning and I found our melted refrigeration ice is a great recycled source for our laundry water. Unfortunately once we established our daily rituals I found that there is not enough space to easily set up the WonderWash for clothes cleaning, the MM is just too small. So we have been taking weekly trips to the laundromat in town and I must say I really have enjoyed the extra family time with the kids.

I haven't had the opportunity to use the Spin Dry yet, which does run from electric power. I am very much looking forward to trying it out once we get into our larger Tiny House!

Refrigeration in the Micro Mansion

My plans had been to design a passive cooling system for refrigeration during the winter months for the Tiny House. However, here we were in the middle of an Iowa hot, humid summer needing refrigeration for the MicroMansion (MM).

In my travels I happened upon a small fridge/freezer combo at Sears that had been refurbished. At approximately 36" high it was a perfect solution for our refrigeration needs in the MM. Since we were not connected to the grid for electricity, I converted the veggie drawer into an ice bin and used ice for cooling foods throughout the summer.

It took a couple weeks and a few spoiled containers of milk before we acclimated to our new refrigeration system. After a bit of trial and error we discovered that a small bag of ice would last 1.5 days in really hot weather and up to three days when it began to get cooler out.

We ended up using the top freezer section as a bread box and just planned our meals without the use of freezer products. This was fairly easy to do as our meal menu experienced a huge healthy upgrade as we were eating more fresh veggies and fruits and converting nearly all of our foods to organic.

I must express that changing to an organic diet made a HUGE difference in our health and overall temperament. I can see a huge difference in the kids overall dispositions when we cheat and eat a non-organic meal, they have less patience with each other and tend to be less engaged in 'family'.

Time was Passing... I was collecting

Antique Wall Sconce for Oil Lamp
Even though I had a full time course load at MUM, and the kids were busy with school and various activities, I still continued to work on my Tiny House Project.

Frame for Pictures Doubles
as Fold-Down Table with
Recycled Glass Top -
Will fold up into wall
when not in use
Besides the actual construction of the structure, which was on hold through the Winter and rainy Spring months, Tiny Houses need a LOT of planning. The normal everyday functioning of a family still needs to occur in a Tiny House, so many functions need extensive planning and stacked into a smaller space.
Cool Old Door for Bathroom
Throughout the spring while I was not building, I was doing research on-line and shopping. My research online consisted of following the Tiny House Movement newsletters, blogs and magazines to collect interior structural ideas for stacking functions in small spaces. For instance a 3'x3' bathroom that is designed with a toilet, sink, and triples as a shower stall. I was also constantly searching through Craig's List and visiting our local ReStore for recycled materials of the Tiny House.

Little Bathroom Corner Shelf
Now with the temporary Micro-Mansion living arrangement, additional new projects and space-saving ideas were needed to make our temporary housing suitable. We needed a plan for food refrigeration, clothes washing, some type of power source, as well as water and bathing access.

Some of the systems we would design for the Micro-Mansion would be transferrable to the Tiny House, while others would be chalked up to experience.

Finances Force A Move

Last March the children and I were sitting in a little three bedroom home in the heart of Fairfield. It is amazing how nature can support your desires without you realizing what is happening! Due to circumstances beyond our control we needed to move out of our little three bedroom house. The move wasn't going to be that frightening because we had been planning all along to move once the Tiny House was finished, or close to being finished. 

As our move date of early June 2014 quickly approached, some creative problem solving needed to take place. We needed housing for a few months while the Tiny House was being built to the point where we could move in.

My new friend, Tom who I had begun an internship with, offered to lease me an acre of his newly purchased 5.5 acres out on Walton Road. This was wonderful only we did not have a structure to live in. One consideration was tenting for the summer, the kids and I are use to camping during the summer months so this would not have been that much of a hardship. However, as timing would have it in mid May, my internship at Farrer's Farm landed me in a Fairfield parking lot filled with pre-made sheds and outbuildings. Tom was interested in a shed for the farm to store tools and the like for all of the upcoming projects.

With a mere monthly rental rate of $136/mo. my mind began racing and I thought we could spend the summer in a rented outbuilding, delivered out on Walton Road, while the Heather's Tiny House was being built. The little 10'x16' tiny structure was quite a bit larger than any tent we would camp in and it had two lofts and two windows to boot!

Before I knew it the outbuilding was delivered and we were moving into our little "Micro-Mansion!"

Back on Track

Out of sight does not necessarily indicate out of mind. In October 2013, one year ago, I had my took my first official "Senior Project" block at MUM. As previously mentioned, my Senior Project is to build a tiny house and live in it for a year with my two teens, documenting my journey along the way.  My elbow injury last October modified my timeline and here it is October 2014 and I find myself beginning my second Senior Project block, of a total of three blocks. The final Senior Project block is November 2014 so I find myself very lucky to have an uninterrupted eight weeks to work on my Tiny House, the Universe willing.

One thing is for certain, even though I thought this would never happen to me, things do happen and building a tiny house ends up taking a lot more time than one thinks or plans. In my next several blogs I will cover what I've been doing since early March 2014 so we can catch up to today. I won't spoil the fun of the journey but I will say lots has happened and our journey into the Tiny House has taken a detour through the Micro Mansion!

Join me for a look back at the last several months of Heather's Tiny House Project.

Friday, March 7, 2014

An Interesting Land Lease Opportunity...

For the past several days I have been reviewing properties online and over the phone with various folks. I came across an interesting prospect for a land lease but I have some research that I need to do. It is ideal timing as my preference for a four year term is acceptable.
The property is 2.6 acres and has some character. It has some rolling hills and a tree line on one side. There are a couple of fenced pastures which is also nice. The dilemma I am having is that when I looked at the property on the County website I discovered that it is surrounded by active crop fields / farmland on three sides. The fields are abutted right up against the property lines with no buffer.
I am concerned about airborne pesticides when the wind is blowing and the crops are being sprayed. Is that silly? I was planning on having rain water runoff, but I'm uncertain if the pesticides will blow upon the roof when it is windy and be washed into our water supply. We would be drinking bottled water but still the thought of bathing in pesticide laden water doesn't sound like a good idea.
I'll ask around the university to see if anyone is knowledgeable in this regard. If any readers know of any resources or have any information regarding this topic please feel free to comment below. I can use all of the help I can get on this one.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Excuses, Excuses...

Wow, what a winter in Iowa this year. I can not believe that it's been since October since I've updated the blog, but the reality is that not too much has happened over the winter.
My grand plan of getting buttoned up and in before the snow flies actually flew out the window in October. Shortly after my last post I tore some ligaments in my right elbow. I actually attempted to work with the injury as I was not aware of how bad it was.
Needless to say I was in physical therapy all winter. I only have one more session and I think I will be good to go. But it has become obvious to me that I will need to get some help with some of the heavy lifting as I can not afford to get another injury like this last one.
So, my plans for living in the tiny house with the kids through the winter did not come to fruition. My land lease is up in June so my thought is rather than finish building it on site where it is now I should move it to where it will be residing for the foreseeable future, then finish it.
So I am in the market again for the perfect tiny house parking space. It can not be within city limits as the minimum footprint required by local ordinance/zoning is 1,000 sq. ft. in Fairfield. Luckily there are a few options here as there are some tiny house communities cropping up around the outlying areas. I have made some phone calls and had some conversations and believe that a solution will present itself within the next few weeks by the time we get the thaw we have all been looking for!