Insulating My Vardo Roof

Fast Flashing Ceiling

sealing the ceiling with Fast Flash, photo credit: Matthew Geraths

Friday I picked up Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof and Saturday we worked on Plan F. Yesterday we worked on Plan F: Take 2. And today we (finally!) insulated my roof box!

In the morning Matthew helped me air seal the ceiling. This involved running Fast Flash from the R-Guard system by Prosoco over all of the seams where we’d nailed the ceiling bead board. (You can read about my bead board ceiling in Ceiling Up My Vardo.) Matthew also helped me find the weak points in the ceiling panels by standing inside the house and looking for the spots where the ceiling was translucent. I was on the roof so I tested to see if I had the right spot by covering up the area with my hand. If I blocked the light I knew I’d found my target. (Though I had to remember to not block the area with my shadow since it was so sunny!) I covered these areas with Fast Flash, too. Once the roof was no longer see-through we were ready for the insulation.

covering the weak spots with Fast Flash for good air sealing

covering the weak spots with Fast Flash for good air sealing

This afternoon Tony and Grae helped me install the insulation in my vardo roofbox. We cut 4’ x 8’ sheets of 1” expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam board to fit between the 2×6 at the eves and the outriggers surrounding the skylight box. We decided to leave the spots on either end of the skylight box at the front and back of the house till last because it’s such a nice place to sit and store tools without them slipping off the roof!

Once we’d dry-fitted the foam we removed it and spray foamed the edges. Then slipped the sheets of insulation into place. Once the first piece was in place we put in another 1” sheet of EPS on top of it. Fortunately, these sheets didn’t need to be cut, just tacked down onto the nailers and spray foamed at the edges. As we installed the insulation we discovered we’d installed the skylight box slightly askew, so we cut a couple long strips to fill in the gap. We’ll need to do the same for the sheathing.

My walls have 3 ½ of EPS insulation in the SIPS and my floors have 5 ½” of XPS (extruded polystyrene) insulation because I hate having cold feet. Ideally I would have had at least as much insulation in my roof as in my walls. So I ordered the Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof to be 3 ½” tall – 3” for foam and ½” for the sheathing. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the losses created by the angles. So once we got the second piece of 1” foam into the roof we realized we wouldn’t be able to get more than 2” of foam inside the eve caps with the sheathing in there, too. (The fellow at Vinje’s mentioned when I picked up the Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof that he’d read my blog and he wasn’t sure I’d be able to get 3” of insulation in there. Glad he thought of it, but I wish I’d talked it through with him sooner!)

I am bummed that my roof isn’t better insulated, but as my fellow tiny house builders/energy auditors remind me, my decision to put skylights right in the top of my house pretty much negates the insulation I put in the roof. So I don’t have the best insulation to prevent conductive heat transfer. I’m going to count on that air sealing to help with convective heat transfer. My New Custom Skylight (which will replace the one I broke on my day of Hail and High Water) will help with radiant heat transfer.

all tarpped up (again!) and ready for this week's rain

all tarpped up (again!) and ready for this week’s rain

I was hoping to get the sheathing up today, too, but the breeze tends to pick up in the evenings on our site and it seemed precarious for Grae and I to be lugging sheets of plywood up ladders, only to have the caught by the wind. Besides, I, for one, was getting pretty tired by this point. It was hot today! But it’s expected to rain over the next couple days, so we decided to tarp the house up (again! But hopefully for the last time!)

As evening approached I took a break to get milkshakes for me and my build buddy Laura and then helped her with her siding a little bit before calling it a day. You can read more about Laura’s siding on and A Little Bit of Everything else on her blog.


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Plan F: Take 2

Lina planing the wild edge before installing the barge rafter, photo credit Amy Weller (having photo rotation issues - sorry about that, but this is about how it felt!

Lina planing the wild edge before installing the barge rafter, photo credit Amy Weller (having photo rotation issues – sorry about that, but it sure felt upside down and backwards!)

Yesterday evening were working on Plan F and just placing everything together so we could decide whether to assemble the system on the ground or in the sky when I discovered that 2 x 6s are sold in “dead-on” pre-cut stud length.

Now it makes perfect sense, really. If your sill plate is 1 1/2″ and you have a double top plate that’s 3″ and you’re doing a drywalled ceiling and a finished floor you would, of course, want to just use stud length 2 x 6s that are already cut to 92 5/8.”

I just had no idea they existed. So I didn’t think to make sure I was buying anything other than 96″ studs. In fact, I remember looking at the label for the 96″ studs. It just happened to be the label for the studs above it, not the ones I bought.

So as we discovered this, I began giggling. Then I began laughing maniacally. Then I fell on the ground laughing and crying. Then I just cried for a couple minutes. I was so exhausted. And so frustrated I hadn’t thought to measure. And so annoyed with myself for wasting the time of the people who came to help.

This was my first melt down of the build. I was warned it would happen and yesterday was the day. I was embarrassed my Tiny House Helpers saw me in such a state.

Amy installing outriggers around my skylight box while I point out next steps, photo credit: Love Ablan

Amy installing outriggers around my skylight box while I point out next steps, photo credit: Love Ablan

But Karin was right. It was bound to happen. No one was hurt. No permanent damage was done. It wasn’t even a very big cost. And my friends seem to still love me anyway.

I was feeling tempted to abandon the plan entirely when Angela and Randy convinced me there was no need for a plan G. Plan F was a good one. I just grabbed the wrong materials. Christian and Angela agreed to come back in the morning and help get the eve caps installed.

Angela coaxed me back into the car and we went to the hardware store to pick up 4 brand new 96″ 2x6s. We got them back to site and decided it was time to call it quits for the day. We tidied up the site and headed to Signal Station Pizza for dinner and unwinding.

This morning Christian and Angela helped me get the eve caps up. It took longer than we anticipated since we had to pry the bead board up to slip the eve caps in place, but it worked. Plan F was ultimately successful. As Angela and Christian ducked out, Amy, Melissa, and Love arrived.

Melissa painting my arched window

painting my arched window, photo credit: Amy Weller

Today we cranked out great work all day since the prep was done already yesterday. In addition to getting the Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof installed, we installed the outriggers on either side of the skylight box. We also planed and installed the curved ends of the roof box and installed the barge rafters at the front and back of the house sandwiching them around the ceiling panel, which had been running wild. (This is the first tiny part of my house that looks finished and it’s so rewarding!) We even got the front of the arched window painted!

I’m so grateful for all My Tiny House Helpers! My roof box is now ready for insulation!

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Plan F

I’m on Plan F.

Lina planing the curved ends of the roof box, photo credit Angela Ramseyer

Lina planing the curved ends of the roof box, photo credit Angela Ramseyer

Over the past three years I’ve considered dozens of different ways to build my vardo roof, with its exposed rafters and skylight box. This weekend I found myself working on Plan F. Fortunately, I had some great people by my side.

Because My Curved Rafters are exposed to the interior my roof system needed to be constructed on top of the rafters. This has left my roof vulnerable during several Portland rain showers, so I’ve been eager to get it closed up.

I was already on Plan D when I had Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof fabricated by Vinje & Son Custom Sheet Metal earlier this week. But yesterday morning when Christian, Angela, Karin and I went to install the eve caps, we realized that the top part of the skewed U-shaped metal completely interfered with our ability to anchor it to the rafters. (I have since learned about right angle drill attachments, but did not know about them yesterday morning!)

I was pretty frustrated that Plan D hadn’t worked. So we took a little break and muddled through Plan E. Fortunately, I had a great group of Tiny House Helpers by my side, including my oldest friend Christian, Randy (who had braved Hail & High Water with me last weekend and was back to sort my trim (again!) and pick the best pieces to stain), and two women who have built their own tiny homes: Angela of Mighty Micro Builder and Karin who built Serenity.

Plan E: a 2x4 flat in the eve cap

Plan E: a 2×4 flat in the eve cap

Angela suggested that we install a 2×4 flat against the rafters as a nailer so that we could attach the 2 x 4 to the rafters and the eve cap to the 2 x 4. Furthermore, it would create an outrigger to which I could attach my barge rafter, which was something I’d lost when I ditched Plan AThe trouble we found was that if we slipped a 2 x 4 into the bottom of the bent eve cap it would be at a completely different angle. If the wood wasn’t in contact with the vertical metal surface of my eve caps we wouldn’t have very good attachment. So we decided to rip off the corner at 26 degrees so that our nailer would slip into the eve cap and give us a proper attachment surface.

I cut a sample piece to try it out and we realized that by the time we ripped off the corner at 26 degrees the board wouldn’t be much longer than the flashing and it would once again be tricky to attach it. So Karin suggested we head to the hardware store and pick up some 2 x 6s. Voila, Plan F.

Karin did a great job of cheering me up, telling me about some of the frustrating moments of her build and assuring me that it’s okay to be upset and that My Tiny House Helpers will still love me even if I fall apart. She pointed out, that in fact it’s a good experience for others to see what sort of challenges I encounter and to learn about the problem-solving process. She reminded me that those who have been there before can relate. I know all this, but let me assure you after several weeks of working 10 hour days either at the Breathe Building or on my build site, I was having a hard time with logic. When I thanked Karin for her patience and kindness she assured me that I’ll be returning the favor someday. I have no doubt. No doubt at all.

We swooped into the hardware store, picked the four straightest 2x6s in the pile, and headed back to site where Christian ripped the corners off of the boards and nipped an inch and a half off the end of each one.

And then I made an unfortunate discovery. Read on to learn all about Plan F: Take 2.

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Eve Caps for My Vardo Roof

in Plan A a 2x4 is ripped top and bottom at 64 degrees and bolted to the rafters with a 6" timber lock screw - but I cut my rafter tails at a curve so this won't work

in Plan A a 2×4 is ripped top and bottom at 64 degrees and bolted to the rafters with a 6″ timber lock screw – but I cut my rafter tails at a curve so this won’t work

Last weekend my Tiny House Helpers and I installed the bead board ceiling over My Arched Rafters, which I wrote about in Ceiling Up My Vardo. Then I realized that I’d need to come up with a new plan for the edge of the roof box. (Because my rafters are exposed, I’m having to build my ceiling, insulation, and sheathing from the bottom up!)

My plan for the roof box as I went into the build was to attach 2x4s on end at the edges of the eves with 6″ timber lock screws. I planned to rip the top and bottom at the correct angle (64 degrees) so that they’d sit on the Rafter Tails properly. The trouble was that I’d done my sketches before I cut my rafter tails. (The biggest trick to design I’ve learned is the ability to think 28 steps ahead! I’m working on it!) Once we’d finished Ceiling Up My Vardo, I realized that it wasn’t going to work to put 2x4s on end at the tips of the rafters.

Plan B called for L-shaped flashing tipped up to vertical to catch the insulation

Plan B called for L-shaped flashing tipped up to vertical to catch the insulation

By the way, in these little thumbnail sketches, brown is the rafter, yellow is rigid foam insulation, purple is plywood sheathing, blue is flashing, and green is roofing. The orange on the first one is the 2 x 4 on edge.

So Plan B was to install a piece of normal L shaped flashing at the eves to catch the insulation. I figured with enough finagling, the flashing could be bent up to the proper angle so that it would be vertical. When the metal roofing goes on another piece of flashing would cover up the top of the L-shaped piece before the roof panels went on.

Plan C involved U-shaped flashing to catch the plywood, but it would make my roof box stick out too far

Plan C involved U-shaped flashing to catch the plywood, but it would make my roof box stick out too far

But then it occurred to me that if I had an eve cap shaped like a U the sheathing could be tucked underneath as well. That seam could be flashed with the Fast Flash from the Prosoco R-Guard system. (Read My Tiny House Air Barrier for more on that!) So that was Plan C. However, It wouldn’t work for these U-shaped eve caps to stick out without being bent up to vertical because I’m building my eves to 10′ so I can still move my house with a trip permit. I don’t have enough wiggle room to have the roof box extend out any further. And I knew it would be tricker to bend a U than an L.

So I decided it would be nice to have an eve cap that was already bent to my specifications. It would look much tidier but it would also be easier. So Plan D emerged. Laura and I noodled through the 7th grade geometry and determined that I needed a 64 degree angle at the bottom and a 116 degree angle at the top. The pieces needed to be 2 1/2″ long on the bottom to catch the beadboard and 3 1/2″ tall to accommodate 3″ of insulation and the 1/2″ plywood.

Plan D is to have Vinje's make me custom flashing with a 64 degree angle on the bottom and a 116 degree angle on the top

Plan D is to have Vinje’s make me custom flashing with a 64 degree angle on the bottom and a 116 degree angle on the top

I asked around and everyone told me the place to go is Vinje & Son’s Custom Sheet Metal. Vinje’s is a great local family-owned sheet metal company that works with lots of do-it-yourselfers on jobs both big and small. I called them up and they said it wouldn’t be a problem at all to create just what I envisioned. So I enlisted them to help with Plan D. When I got there we sketched out what I needed and they put my order into the manufacturing queue. They fabricated four 10′ long eve caps that I could piece together to make a 16 foot length. I placed my order on Wednesday morning and the pieces were ready for pick up on Thursday. Their staff was friendly and knowledgeable and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon whether it’s for the Lucky Penny or another project.

Amy spray painting eve caps copper colored

Amy spray painting eve caps copper colored

I was planning to pick up the eve caps in the morning and get to work, but it was raining (again!), so I spent my morning working at the Breathe Building and doing errands. This evening it had cleared up so my friend Amy helped me pick up the flashing pieces and spray paint the bottoms copper. The other portions won’t be seen, but the copper colored eve cap will be visible between the rafters. (By the way, I’d asked the fellow at Vinje’s about copper while I was placing my order, but it would have been a couple hundred dollars instead of $60! So I’m fine with faux copper.)

Amy caulking seams with R-Guard Joint & Seam

Amy caulking seams with R-Guard Joint & Seam

Amy and I also sealed up the joints around the rafters with Joint & Seam and the blocking with Fast Flash from the R-Guard system by Prosoco. (You can read all about that in My Tiny House Air Barrier.)

Tomorrow the plan is to install the eve caps at the ends of the wall and slip the insulation inside. Hopefully we can sheathe the roof on Sunday and I’ll add the air barrier on Monday. Then I won’t have to tarp anymore. Hip, hip, hooray!

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Congress for New Urbanism Salon

CNU CascadiaA couple months ago I was invited by Martin Glastra Van Loon (a Dutch native who now lives and works in Portland as an urban planner) to speak at the Cascadia chapter of Congress for the New Urbanism Salon. This was an exciting prospect for me, not only because I’m interested in smart growth and I admire Martin’s work, but also because it sounded a lot like the Design Colloquiums I’d run in Walla Walla. Since graduating from PSU’s urban planning program I’ve missed the chance to sit around with other urban design geeks talking about the influence of our built environment on our environment and social interactions.

On Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to meet this fine group of designers and do an hour-long presentation about the ways building small is smart. The conversation continued for another three hours, eventually migrating to Bunk Bar. It was a great discussion and I look forward to continuing the conversation about policy, form, and the marketplace. Here’s to many more hours of discussing the way building small is smart!

I’m grateful to Martin for the introduction to this group and to Laurence Qamar for his kind words in a follow up email to the group:

and the view of my beautiful city from the Esplanade on my bike ride home after the CNU Salon

and the view of my beautiful city from the Esplanade on my bike ride home after the CNU Salon

It was a fun and spirited discussion with you, Lina, the other night for our monthly CNU-Cascadia Salon discussing the broad ramifications of the resurgence of the ongoing Tiny House movement.

For those who could not attend, Lina Menard of Niche Design Build presented her work in promoting and building tiny, and often mobile, little homes.

But more than just the average 200 sq ft cottages themselves, Lina spoke of the implications that small homes are having on providing affordable housing options for young and old, or a supplement to an existing home in the form of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

Lina is a wealth of knowledge on the current state of financing, permitting, designing and constructing ADUs in Portland, which she describes as one of the more progressive jurisdictions for this new/old form of housing in the nation.

We considered the potential of increasing overall density throughout the city, which is an ongoing goal of the City of Portland, and Metro regional government.  ADUs have the potential of having much greater benefit to accommodating future growth not only within our growing “Centers and Corridors” but more softly throughout the very “Fabric” of our neighborhoods.

Most important as a link to the broader CNU’s goals, Lina and the group considered numerous models of how tiny houses can be an important element in further building sustainable communities and that “sense of place” that is at the heart of all our work.

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Come Hail & High Water

Eleanor & Shelley taping the window

Eleanor & Shelley taping the window

Yesterday we worked on Ceiling Up My Vardo and today the plan was to continue work on both the roof and the windows. But today was one of those gray days that makes you suspicious from the start. According to the weather forecast there was only a 20% chance of rain, but it started raining while I drove my rental car to the build site in the morning. And actual rain, not just typical Portland spring showers. I hoped maybe that meant we were done with rain for the day. But I decided it wasn’t worthwhile for us to attempt to work on the roof again, just in case.

Matthew and the arched door - the paint makes the light jump!

Matthew and the arched door – the paint makes the light jump!

Instead Randy, Eleanor, Shelley, Matthew, and I worked on windows and door. Shelley and Eleanor did the most meticulous taping job I’ve ever seen in my life and then put the first layer of paint on the exterior of the arched window. Meanwhile Randy and Matthew worked on the door and I put a second coat of paint on the door jamb. It was almost lunchtime and Randy and I were sorting out pieces of varied trim I’d picked up from Green Star International when his rain-o-meter warned us that rain was imminent.

We had a lot of different materials out and realized we’d better get them put away. Eleanor and Shelley created a little tarp tent to protect the window they’d been painting and Randy and I threw tarps over the trim. We were hustling to put our tools away when that 20% chance of rain decided to arrive all at once.

Randy asked me if I wanted to tuck the Skylights for My Vardo inside, too.  ”No, they should be fine in the rain,” I told him as we hurried under cover.

And they were fine with rain. But no so much with the wind. A gust of wind came up and caught one of the skylights and smashed it into the concrete, cracking the acrylic dome in several places.

my cracked skylight

my cracked skylight

I was crestfallen. Not only because I’d gotten a great deal on these skylights from Mark at Natural Light Skylight Co. And not only because I was pleased to have diverted them from the waste stream since they’re salvaged. And not only because I’d already Painted My Skylight Frames. Actually, I was most upset that this was the second skylight I’d broken!

In January when my build buddy Laura Klement and I had been scouting materials for our tiny house builds, I’d come across a dome skylight at Building Material Resources. I checked it over and it was in great shape so I brought it home, only to discover the next morning that it was cracked. I must have cracked it somehow while moving it from the store to Laura’s car to its temporary storage spot. In any case, it wasn’t useable anymore so I took it to the landfill the next day since I was helping a friend with a dump run.

I hated thinking that I was contributing another skylight to the landfill that was in perfectly good condition before it came into my possession! I began wondering if it was a sign from the universe that my mollycroft roof was doomed. I’d already considered removing the skylights from my vardo twice, but couldn’t bring myself to do it because I was so looking forward to the feeling they’d create inside. Fellow tiny house builders had encouraged me to stick to my dream. Now I was wondering if I should just give it up.

Laura berry picking

Laura berry picking

While I was wrestling with all of this frustration I was also attempting to appreciate that I had three really excellent people who had come to help me. We’d made good progress on the door and window. And here we were, all huddled in my house eating our picnic lunch while the rain – and hail! – battered my tarp. It was an adventure! And it was pretty cool being inside in the deluge! It will be really cool once I have skylights on the roof!

Nevertheless, we decided we were done for the day. So when Randy’s rain-o-meter notified us of a relative dry spell from 1:12-1:23 pm we packed the trim away again (in no particular order – just like it had been before we sorted it!) I was afraid it would be floating in standing water since there were puddles everywhere, but it was actually relatively dry so we were able to get it put back just fine.

I was feeling grumpy and not quite sure how to rally. Fortunately, my build buddy Laura cheered me up by suggesting a trip to Sauvie Island. The rain had stopped by now (of course!) so we went to a u-pick strawberry farm. The berries were tiny and super sweet and the farm was beautiful so we had a great time picking pints.

Determined to make the most of the car rental, I ended my day by exploring several hardware stores and making a trip to Ikea. I enjoyed picking up a few supplies I needed and taking the time to wander the aisles to see if there were any new innovations I should be aware of.

Next weekend I’ll be able to work on the tiny house all four days! So we should get the roof buttoned up and we may even get to start installing windows. I can’t wait!

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Ceiling Up My Vardo

Vardo CurvesThe past two weeks I was only able to work on The Lucky Penny one day, so I was excited to have three whole days of building this weekend. I’ve had some help Making Ends Meet, so I was eager to jump into roofing yesterday and get my house buttoned up. Unfortunately, yesterday was so rainy I spent the day doing other errands. Rain is predicted again for tomorrow. This is, after all, spring in Portland! Nevertheless, today was sunny and we made some good progress.

Matthew Painting Door JambThis morning Matthew continued working on the door. He installed the new hinges and the new lockset, which look great! He also helped me pick out a beautiful cranberry color for the my trim that contrasts nicely with the copper. I keep finding myself wandering over to admire it again. While Matthew put the first layer of paint on the door jamb, Love and Kellyn prepped the arched window for its first coat of paint.

Meanwhile, Kenny, Natalie, Alex, and I installed the bead board ceiling over the rafters. (BTW, Kenny has done roofing professionally so I should probably add a “don’t try this at home” to the photos below!) We finally had a decent stapler this time, thanks to Eric for letting me borrow his pneumatic. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world! On each side of the skylight box we stapled two full sheets of pre-finished birch paneling detailed to look like bead board. Then we cut a fifth sheet of bead board panel into two smaller pieces to fill in the gap on either end of the skylight box. Kenny and Alex notched away the bottom corners so that it could rest on the rafter along with the skylight box. Along the way we employed most of my clamps. You really never can have too many clamps!

Kenny & Natalie RoofingYou might wonder why my roof is taking so long when my build buddy Laura Klement had her roof done weeks ago. Basically, because of my exposed rafters I wasn’t able to sheathe the vardo to get it dried in and then insulate and install the ceiling from the inside. So it’s taking longer to get the roof up than it would on a standard roof. I’m so sick of tarpping, I wish I were actually sealing up my vardo, but at least now the ceiling’s up on my vardo! It took most of the day, because of the curves and the little variations here and there. But it sure looks beautiful! It’s starting to come together like I envisioned, thanks to my Tiny House Helpers!

Alex, Lina & KennyWe also picked up EPS foam board for the roof insulation (it seems the 1″ is bendable enough to really make that curve well so we’ll stack it up). I have 5 1/2 inches of insulation in my floors and 3 1/2″ in my walls, so I’m hoping to have 3″ in my roof. That’s all sort of backwards as really it would be best to have the most in the roof, but my roof is mostly skylights, so I’m not sure it will make an enormous difference putting more insulation in there. Instead I’m focusing on air sealing and making plans for shading as well as I can.

As the ceiling went up I noodled over a new plan for the edge of the roof since my initial plan of putting up 2x4s on end was clearly not going to work once I looked at it in the field. When I’d done my sketches I hadn’t accounted for the curve of the rafter tails which reduces the amount of rafter we had to bite into with the Timber Tite screws. I’ll need to keep working on a plan for that. So we decided to tarp it up and pack it in around 5pm. We headed to Occidental Brewing Co to talk tiny. Cheers to a good day’s work! Hopefully we’ll have a productive day again tomorrow…

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Making Ends Meet

Vardo Rafters

Vardo Rafters

Memorial Day Weekend was momentous for me. On Friday we had My SIPs Wall Raising. On Saturday we applied My Tiny House Air Barrier. On Sunday and Monday we had my Vardo Rafter Raising. Fortunately, I had lots of Tiny House Helpers. Then I (mostly) took a break from building for a couple of weeks. I spent the last couple days of May in Walla Walla, Revisiting Homeownership, and then lead a guided bike tour for Portland’s ADU Tour.

The first Monday of June, I snuck in a build day with my friend Chris who helped me install blocking between my rafters. This involved nipping off a corner at 26 degrees. Fortunately, Chris got really good at doing this with my circular saw.

Chris Cutting Blocking for Rafters

Chris Cutting Blocking for Rafters

Then we worked on figuring out a plan to close up the end walls. While I was finishing up Building My Arched Rafters, I Ordered My Tiny House SIPs. I figured it might be tricky to match the curve of the rafters, so my plan was to build rafters that would fit into the end wall. But then I learned that the SIPs company could cut the panels to a radius and put blocking in for me. So Patrick Sughrue of Structures Northwest and I figured out what the radius must be based on the rise of 15” at the 8’ mark. It turns out that, even though the rafter jig was based on a radius, the rafters have a more oblong curve because of the spring back that happens when they’re released from the form.

So when we put the rafter up against the end wall to test it, we discovered the curves didn’t match up properly. Once I had the birdsmouths in the rafters there was only ¼” difference between the curves at the top but 2 ½” difference at the ends.

Making Ends Meet

making ends meet – comparing the rafter curve to the end wall

So Chris and I explored a lot of different options last week and Tony chimed in, too, when he swung by. “Why don’t you just build more rafters?” he asked. “I can’t do that,” I said. “I already returned the jig. I’d have to source the strips and I wouldn’t be able to get the fir strips milled down in time so I’d have to use hemlock lathe. I’d have to build the rafters and plane them and sand them and birdsmouth them and seal them and install them.”

Eventually we decided to cut a curved piece of plywood to seal up the exterior and on the interior install the barge rafters I’d built. We got the rafters in place, tarpped everything up again, and called it a day.

The trouble was, it just looked off to me. As Jacob Deva Racusin, one of my natural building instructors, taught me, there are two rules to hack:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Can you live with it?

Using the rafters this way was safe, but I couldn’t live with it. I couldn’t sleep that night. At 3 AM I found myself devising a new plan. And I’ve learned about myself that when I come up with a plan at in the middle of the night I’d better at least give it some good thought in the morning.

Eric Jigging Out Birdmouths

Eric Jigging Out Birdmouths

The next morning I decided it was going to be a pain, but it was still a good plan. So a couple days later my friend Willie helped me pick up the rafter jig again from Katy and I ordered 52 strips of 12′ long hemlock lathe and built myself four new rafters – one for each side of each end wall.

Then I spent the weekend out of state at a family reunion where I got to show off baby pictures of my tiny house (which were, of course, completely upstaged by my nephew who is admittedly way cuter!) Yesterday Eric helped me plane the rafters and Jack arrived just in time to help us sand them. We took a lunch break while waiting for the sealer to dry and then installed the rafters and fixed the blocking.

Shaving Off Extra Spray Foam

Shaving Off Extra Spray Foam

I filled the gap between the new end wall rafters with spray foam and got myself good and sticky as I always seem to do when attempting to make Great Stuff go where I want it to. The trick here is to just let the foam do its thing and then shave away the excess with an old saw once it’s hardened.

We wanted to get the bead board up, too, but the staples I’d picked up weren’t long enough to hold the bead board into the rafters on that curve. So we set the bead board aside (again!) and tarpped the roof up.

I plan to have work parties again this weekend with the assistance of more Tiny House Helpers. Hopefully we’ll be Building My Roofbox on Saturday and Sunday. Stay tuned!

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Revisiting Homeownership

2014-05-31 17.06.06

front yard ready for summer veggies

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and we cracked open The Lucky Penny, starting with My SIPs Wall Raising. This weekend I’m taking a break from tiny house building to focus on other small homes. Friday and Saturday I turned over my 800 square foot bungalow in Walla Walla for new renters. And today I’ll be leading The Inside Scoop bike tour as part of Portland’s Build Small, Live Large ADU Tour. Both my guided tour and the self-guided tour sold out quickly, so if you aren’t able to join us today stay tuned for the next one! It’s been amazing how much attention ADUs are getting in Portland and I’m glad the ADU Case Studies Project has played a role in that.

a quick hello with friends

a quick hello with friends

The past couple days it was interesting experiencing another dose of the Joys of Homeownership. I feel fortunate that I was able to purchase property while I was young but I’ve also been amazed by what a burden homeownership can be. During the four years I lived in my little house I spent most of my time, money, and energy on green renovations and creating an edible landscape with bird, bee, butterfly, and bat habitat. I anticipated I’d be moving back to my beloved house as soon as I finished my graduate program in Urban Planning, so it was hard to leave. However, I was excited about trying on tiny house living, so I entrusted my place to a visiting Whitman professor when I headed to Portland. Considering she and her husband added a puppy and a baby to their family in the year they lived there, they left it in decent condition. But it took me three days to get the house back into shipshape for the next set of renters and it got me thinking about how much a year of living little had changed me. I wrote all about this in Oh, the Joys of Homeownership.

so much summer produce potential!

so much summer produce potential!

Fortunately, the students who lived in my house the past two years took very good care of the place. And this time I had great help turning the house over for new renters. Marty Cook, who has helped me with a handful of home improvement projects in the past, was my right-hand-man for the weekend. Not only was it great having a second set of hands and another noggin for figuring out the best game plan, I also got to hear Marty’s stories. I rarely meet someone so integrious, so positive, so proud of his son, and so utterly smitten with his wife. (If you live in Walla Walla and are looking for a trustworthy builder and landscaper, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Marty!)

As you might imagine, working on my property again the past couple days – taking a toothbrush to the cracks and coaxing the cheat grass away from the raised veggie beds (again!) – got me thinking about homeownership anew. Like how I was scrubbing and weeding instead of visiting with my friends in town. (If I didn’t get to see you, please know I plan to come visit as soon as I can on a trip that’s about fun instead of work!)

I have learned so very much from owning my home – about home improvement, about my decision making process, about Murphy’s Law. Most importantly, my garden cottage taught me how to make home. What’s interesting is realizing that now that I know how to make home I don’t necessarily need to live in this home. I have made home everywhere I’ve lived since.

adarondak chairs on the patio

adarondak chairs on the patio

As I sat in an adarondak chair on my front patio after the house was cleaned up, sipping a coconut water and watching the ducks in the pond across the street, I realized I still like the idea of moving back into my house someday. But for now living tiny is the right fit for me. And it seems my little Walla Walla house will be a good fit for my new tenants.

I’m not sure whether my house will ever pencil out as a wise financial investment. But it was definitely a good investment in my education and my wellbeing. I suppose it’s all in how you count. For now I’m glad I can rent my house out to others so that they can enjoy a charming home and I have housing flexibility for the future.

And I’m really glad I can clean my tiny house top to bottom in an hour instead of a full day! (Check out my Tiny House Cleaning Checklist for my how-to!)

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Vardo Rafter Raising

I am grateful to all the Tiny House Helpers who spent their Memorial Day weekend giving shape to the Lucky Penny. Special thanks to Angela Ramseyer of Mighty Micro Built who made the trip down from Whidbey Island to be my right-hand-woman for the weekend, Chris Robison who spent three whole days helping, and to Randy, Tony, Audrey and Tomas who committed two days of their holiday weekend. My tiny house on wheels is well on its way!

My SIPs Wall Raising was on Friday. On Saturday we applied My Tiny House Air Barrier and put up one of the walls of my build buddy Laura’s tiny house. Yesterday we raised the rafters for the Lucky Penny and raised another of Laura’s walls. Today we put the skylight box into place and prepped the beadboard sheets for installation.

I knew that Sunday would require some noodling as we figured out the spot for the birdsmouths, the scribing for the skylight box, and the spacing of the rafters (since they couldn’t be quite even). My roof is fairly complex because I have both curved rafters and skylights. Fortunately, I had lots of help and plenty of sounding boards. Everyone played a role in getting my roof overhead.

On Sunday Aline finished up the spot sanding on the rafters to remove scuffmarks and Randy and Anita sealed the rafters with a clear sealer. (I’d already sanded and sealed the rafters, but they were jostled around enough between then and now that they needed a little more TLC.) Angela scribed the rafter curve onto the skylight box and made the cuts with a jigsaw. Tony and I worked together to figure out the placement of the birdsmouths and to map out the rafter layout on the top plate. Tony and Angela, who have both built themselves tiny houses on wheels, were a great help as I figured out how to take the ideas that were in my head and my sketch book and manifest them in three dimensions in the real world.

We had just put the rafters up when the wind and rain kicked up and we realized we would be rained out. So we threw the tarp over the top of the Lucky Penny and secured it down all around. Aline and Tony buzzed up to the Ace Hardware in St. John’s to pick up four more tarps to cover my door and windows. Once we’d battened down the hatches we headed to Proper Eats where a few other tiny housers joined us for dinner. It was a very celebratory atmosphere, especially because amongst us there are three tiny houses in the works and several of the other tiny houses have recently found great parking spots!

Today Tony, Chris, and I secured My Arched Rafters into place with Timbertite screws. This involved drilling a pilot hole followed by a larger hole to countersink the screw head. Supposedly we didn’t need to predrill but enough of us had put time into the rafters by this point we wanted to be careful with them! We ratcheted the Timbertite into place with an impact driver fitted with a 5/16″ hex head. Once the rafters were secure, Miles, Matthew, and Rebecca helped hoist the skylight box into place. Fortunately, Angela did a great job with her scribing and cutting so the skylight box lined up nicely with the rafters that were placed to support it. We secured the skylight box into the rafters with more Timbertites.

Meanwhile, Matthew and Rebecca worked on reversing the swing of My Arched Door and Audrey and Tomas put a layer of sealer on the beadboard sheets. I’d considered using true beadboard the way Katy Anderson does for her vardos, but the sheet good seemed like it would be quick and lightweight. We had started to put the beadboard in place when I realized that the staples weren’t holding well enough. I wanted to keep working, but I decided it would be best to tarp everything up well and call it a day. Or rather, call it a couple weeks. I’m going to have to let the Lucky Penny sit for a couple weekends because I’ll be out of town and leading a Guided Tour for Portland’s ADU Tour.

Fortunately, I already have some Tiny House Helpers lined up for the weekend of June 14-15 and a couple more for the weekend of June 20-21. If you’d like to join in on the fun, please contact me. If you can’t make it out to help, but you’d like to Support the Lucky Penny, you can contribute via The Lucky Penny Wish List or send me notes of encouragement on Facebook. Thanks everyone!

P.S. Lots more photos to come!


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