Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building

I'm going to help finish this tiny house!

I'm going to help finish this tiny house!

I’ve landed my summer dream job thanks to Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, LLC. I’m apprenticing with his construction crew to build tiny houses this summer. The first house we’re working on was started last summer by a woman who was building it for herself with the help of some friends. Changes in her life pointed her in a different direction, so the tiny house sat all winter, waiting to be finished. I found this tiny house on Craigslist and decided it wasn’t for me, so I showed it to Eli and he hauled the wee house from Sauvie Island to his place in Cully. It’s now parked in his driveway, where we built the shell of my friend Jane’s Tiny Barn during an intensive week-long build. The interior design is evolving a bit, but we’re certain the tiny house will have a bathroom, a kitchenette, a hang out space, a sleeping loft, and a storage loft.

putting up cement board siding

putting up cement board siding

The thing I find especially cool about working on this tiny house is that when I joined the crew it was at exactly the stage Jane’s Tiny Barn was when my spring break ended and I shifted back into school mode. The house was secured to its 20 foot long trailer foundation, the walls and roof were framed up, sheathed, and tyveked, and the windows were in. So I got to pick up right where I left off with the last tiny house.

This week we’ve been working on exterior finish for the tiny house. We’ve put up our corner trim, a belly band and a head band. We’re using concrete board which is fine since this tiny house probably won’t be moving very often. But it’s been a steep learning curve for me since I’d never worked with it before. In general Hardi Board is not the best material for tiny house siding since it’s heavy, fragile, and not very forgiving. I’ve been working alone some days, so I’ve been using strategies like propping up one side of the board while I screw the other end to the house.

I hung the door! hooray!

I hung the door! hooray!

Most days I’ve been working directly with Cully Grove‘s project assistant who went through the Oregon Tradeswoman program and has taught carpentry. I feel very lucky to be working with her because she’s a great teacher in addition to being a really cool person. When she set me up to hang the door she asked “You got this, right? Feeling confident?” I laughed and told her I’d let her know if I needed a hand. I was glad she was confident in my abilities. It made me more confident, too. Doors are tricky and I had to modify the door to fit a mis-matched frame, but I got it to work. (And I learned how to use chisels in the process!) The exterior finish has gone slower than I thought it would, but I’m starting to get the hang of it and I think the pace will pick up next week. It feels so good to be working outside and I am immensely grateful to be spending my summer this way!

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11 Responses to Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building

  1. Diane says:

    First let me say, congratulations! What a perfect summer job for you! All the better to have as much experience as possible before diving into your own home build.

    Second, wow, can you imagine how lovely it would be to live on Sauvie Island?

    Have you seen this tiny home? … might even have been on your blog that I saw them, so apologies if that is the case! It looks like it avoids the tiny porch conundrum with a side door. Their blog also has another incredible tiny home built by a friend… a really unique way to get into the loft is in that home, stair-step cupboards.

    • Little Life says:

      Zboatman, thanks so much for the encouragement. I’ll post updates about our progress.

    • Little Life says:

      Diane, I agree that it will be really helpful to have this experience before I begin building my own tiny house. Yes, Sauvie Island is a lovely place, but a bit tricky to navigate for those of us who are car-free. I have heard of the Tiny Tack House but haven’t yet seen it myself. And the stair step cupboards are fantastic! Thanks for sharing these resources!

  2. Zboatman says:

    What a great opportunity, you will soon become the most knowledgeable Tiny House person in all of Portland. Can’t wait to see more pics and stories about the project.

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