Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Testing the Waters

Steve and I are selling our tiny house, or attempting to.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking we want to move out because the place is too small, too inconvenient to live in.  Nope.  We just want to build another one.  I saw an amazing school bus converted into a house.  Here's a picture:
Hank's Bus
I fell in love with the design, much the same way I did with Jay Shafer's Tumbleweeds.  Of course there are other reasons.  I'd love to get back some of the money I put into our current home (converting a school bus has the potential to be cheaper if done right).  And, well, building them is sort of addicting.  I've been daydreaming about wooden floors, salvaged pallets, and furniture design for a while now.  So if you see our house listed online, don't be surprised.  We're testing the waters as it were, and who knows?  If things go well I might just start a new blog.  Halley's School Bus... House.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Move.

It's true, we moved!  Wanting to be closer to Steve's current job, we mustered up the courage and prepared to make it happen.  The house had a few last projects that needed tweaking, the biggest of which was cleaning and (re)staining the cedar.  It was a chore made more monotonous by the pollen that spewed everywhere.
 

Pollen.

The roof is supposed to be red.

Pollen.

The wheel well is not supposed to be green.

And more pollen.
 
The stain was supposed to last 2-4 years, but alas, it was already graying in some areas.  Cedar is like a woman in that being lovely and high-maintenance seem to go hand in hand.  So after a year it was already time to scrub her down again with the TSP powder.  
 

The roof was restored, red once more.  Steve almost fell off the ladder while cleaning it, but fortunately I was there to... take pictures. 


One scrub and two coats later and the house was looking new again.

 
  Steve was tempted to hire someone else to tow the house.  I swear he was haunted by the memory of our tires, they looked fit to burst the one time we took the house off its jacks.  What he forgot (and only remembered much later) was that he let the air out of the tires some months before because it extends their life.  So filling up the tires helped relieve some of our fear that the house was too heavy.  We (mostly me) found a few truck rentals capable of towing our house if, if, it weighed under 10,000 lbs.  So that was the real question.  And we weren't sure how to answer it because we needed to move the house to weigh it, and we wanted to weigh the house before we moved it.  It was that old chicken and the egg dilemma.  We (mostly Steve) found a trick that solved our problems.  You can measure the tongue weight, the weight that presses down on the hitch, by using a scale, some piping and a few boards.  Knowing that our house was by far its heaviest over the tongue (thanks to the tile bathroom) we knew that if the tongue weight fell between 9-15% of 10,000 lbs, that our house didn't weigh too much.  And it doesn't, though it's very close.  


Despite being under the 10,000 lbs. mark, we still carried out everything we could, piling our furniture up to be moved separately.  This guy waited patiently as we hooked up the hitch, it took longer than we expected.  Hours longer. 

This guy.
 
Actually moving the house was easy, but getting it out of the driveway and back into a lot was quite difficult.  We almost tipped it into a pond at one point... no joke.  

 
Aside from the weight problem, my only other fear was snagging a low hanging wire on our way to the highway.  Our house is within the height requirements, but I was still paranoid.  I'm glad to say I worried for nothing.  We might have bumped a branch or two, but nothing serious. 

 
 
The last few pictures at my sister's house.  Goodbye Stone Mountain! 




Hello, LaGrange!

 
We're staying at an RV park, a very woodsy place.  I like it, a lot, but have one complaint.  The bugs! 
 
 
We had to shave our dog down to find all the ticks... I'm not sure who hated it more, us or him.
 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Winter Update: Crisis Averted

 
I would like to write the equivalent of a pat-on-the-back blog, where I describe how happy we are, living in tiny house bliss, basically underlining the correctness of our decision and endeavors with the fencl.  Unfortunately, I have chosen to forgo the ego-stroke and tell the truth, giving you an overview of what I like to call the winter crisis of 2012. 
It started with the discovery of mold or mildew (still not sure of the difference) that grew just inside the windows, gray and fuzzy.  Then I noticed it along the walls, and it felt, for a very short time, like we were drowning in it.
 
 
A gross picture for your viewing pleasure.
 
After taking apart sections of the wall, Steve and I were relieved to find very little mold growing behind the removed panels.  It was only over the wheel wells, where the cold metal was creating condensation, which left the boards damp.  This was actually good news, because for a while we were worried that rain was somehow getting through the walls, but no, nothing so serious.   
 

Behind the wall panels.
 
Condensation Galore
 
To remedy the problem we simply used spray foam insulation on the inside of the wheel wells, creating a barrier of sorts.  It looks a little funny, a massive pile of bright yellow, visible behind the tires, but I don't care.  It works.  Any metal that comes in direct contact with our wall boards is no longer exposed to cold air.  An obvious problem with an obvious solution, but in all my reading preparation I never heard the heads-up.  So there it is.
As for the windows, I sprayed them with bleach and let them marinade in it.  Then I rinsed them off, removing all traces of mold, before rubbling them down with tung oil.  I leave them cracked now, the cool air sweeping in just enough to dry out the panes.  The bay window is the worst though, with no opening, it wants to be one giant mold fest.  But I've got things figured out now.  Small houses are more likely to grow mold, Steve warned me of this having lived in a camper, but it doesn't have to be a losing battle.  I am happy to say our house is mold free. 



Monday, November 12, 2012

Autumn Update: Out with the Old and in with the New.


Steve started his own business and has been working from home.  I've been helping him out, both of us stationed side by side at our new desks.  I asked him if it feels different now that we're both home all day in such a small space.  He said it feels the same, and I have to agree.  There was an adjustment period, a very subtle one, but now that we've settled in for lots of months, I don't know how many, maybe twelve, our life has fallen into a nice routine. 


Our replacement desk/table.
 
We're living right under an oak tree and the acorns have been dropping down for months.  With a metal roof and no attic to insulate the noise it's something of an irritant.  The sound of them dinging off the bell-shaped chimney could wake the dead.  Fall is lovely, but this year I'll be glad when the trees are finally bare.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The End.

Hello, all.  It has been a long time since I posted something and while I wish I had a really good excuse for my months of neglect, like an illness or death in the family, I don't, unfortunetly I'm fine and everyone I know is still alive.  So what have I been busy doing?  Living in the house, I guess. 
At first we intended to move it from the driveway to the backyard.  After a year of hogging my sister's driveway it just seemed like the polite thing to do.  So Steve rented a Uhaul and everything seemed hunky-dory... until it all went to crap.  The ball on our trailer wasn't compatible with the truck, although that didn't stop us, sadly, the hill did.  Steve would have had to floor the truck while going in reverse, and even then it might not have gone up the front yard's slight hill, but since he was trying to squeeze it between two houses (with only a few inches to spare on either side) he eventually gave up.  I pretty much had one long heart attack while Steve and my brother-in-law maneuvered it around the front yard.  At one point my niece came out to tape the whole fiasco, and I could just see it going around the internet, a viral video called: Couple Crashes New Home After a Year of Building
So we've been living in the driveway for... a half a year or so?  Really, it's not so bad.



I took a bunch of pictures for this post (probably my last now that we're done) but bear in mind that our house is now thoroughly lived in.  I did clean it before I took pictures, but then I somehow managed to delete half of them while transferring them to the computer... ack! I don't want to talk about it, the point is I didn't feel like cleaning all over again, so you may notice some dirty dishes, dog toys, etc.  Something I never bothered to clean was the outside of the house, so these pictures may be less impressive than the previous lot.  You'll notice the roof is no longer a bright and shiny red--Georgia pollen is the devil's dust.  Also, I never did stain the stairs so there is a marked difference in the coloring which is sad because I spent a lot of time bragging about how I made them all by myself.  But anway, here are the pictures, now that I spent an entire paragraph describing why they suck.


I told Steve that there was one side of our house that was my favorite, the back (see picture above).  He was like, "What!  Why'd I spent all that time on the front then?"  Too true, the front was such a chore and not nearly as cute as the back.  You can see in the pictures all of our wires: water, propane, internet, and electric.  Because we haven't yet managed to put the house out back we have to stretch the wires across the driveway like a giant umbilical cord.  Continuously driving over them is not the best option, two hoses have burst and we're currently on our third, but for the time being it works.


We have two tanks under our house to seperate black and gray water.  One day every weekend Steve and I load up the black water tank and drive it to Stone Mountain Park where (for an entrance fee and five dollars) we dump it in their RV park.  What's that like?  It's not the most fun I've ever had with my husband, but you know what they say, "Those who dump their sh*t together, fit together."  Actually I just made that up, I'm pretty sure no one has ever said that.


For the last six months we've been working out the kinks, living and solving problems one day at a time.  But one headache remains: to weigh or not to weigh.  We added an extra axle to our trailer because our house was six feet longer and we anticipated that much heavier.  But did we anticipate enough?  When we attempted to move the house (and failed miserably) we lowered it off the jacks and the tires looked fit to burst.  Our next project is to weigh the house, a trial run of sorts.  We're hoping that we can successfully tow it to the nearest weigh station, and if we're lucky, it'll be under 10,000 lbs.  And if we're not lucky, then we'll just be homeless... kidding.  Sort of.


Perhaps I have given you a bad impression.  So far I've only outlined some of the obstacles we've had to overcome, or will have to overcome.  I want to be honest about living in a tiny house for those of you who are considering it, so I won't say everything is perfect, that I've never been happier, or that rainbows shoot out of the faucets.  Truthfully, it can be inconvenient, and at times feel small, but for the most part I don't think about it, and when I do, it's usually to admire what we have made.  I'll admit, sometimes I feel insanely proud. 


Our main reason for building the tiny house was a desire for freedom.  Not only did we want to be able to move our house (and hopefully we can) but we didn't want to live in debt.  One thing we should have planned more was what to do when we were finished.  RV parks can cost as much as renting an apartment, and I don't mean to sound like a hoity-toity jerk, but trailer parks are scary.  So unless you buy your own land or get lucky enough to have a generous family (Thanks Kylee and Paul!) you are S.O.L.  So my advice is this:  Plan ahead you schmuck!  That's what I would have told myself if I could go back in time.  But I would've still built the house anyway, time machine or no, because even though we may have some challenges before we get to where we want to be, the fact is this: we own a home, and it's paid off. 


We have a dog.  His name is Floyd.  You might be skeptical, but frankly, living with him is easy.  I say that, but then, owning a dog was the one thing we did put a lot of forethought into.  First we studied breeds, looking for a small dog that fit all of our requirements--we had a lot.  And after that we just got lucky.  He had a few accidents before he was house trained, but the process was surprisingly easy.  And I have yet to find a single hair!  He's the cleanest, cutest, best behaved dog and I'd recommend a Floyd to anyone who wants to live in a tiny house and own a pet.



 



I think I've already bragged about the chairs in our bay window area, how well they fit.  And they do fit really well, but they weren't enough, so Steve and I got an ottoman to match and now I'm satisfed.  Though after that I'd say a comfortable, well situated place to sit is the most vital feature to get just right when living in a small space.  That's where we spend most of our time!




We have a fancy hamper because everyone can see it.  Although I often suspect Steve wouldn't care a fig if he had to squirrel his dirty clothes at the bottom of his closet, I certainly would.  Two rules to living in a tiny house:
1.  Don't have a lot of stuff.
2.  Everything should have a place and always be in its place.
Those two other containers in the next picture are our version of dresser drawers.  I'm stuck with the bottom two while Steve gets the conveniently located top two, on account of his height.  Not fair, but I didn't begrudge him.  So we each have two shelves and a small closet for our clothing.  It's not a lot, but I don't really mind.  That reminds me of another rule:
3.  Don't buy something new unless you've already disposed of something old.
I'm totally making up these rules as I go along, but we do live by them.  I recently bought a new T-shirt and as soon as I got home I got rid of three old ones.  Clutter is for the elderly, I'll save my memories later, for now I'd prefer an unclogged dwelling.



Another of our many mistakes was not planning an air conditioning unit into the layout.  And honestly, who would think to do that?  So now we have a rolling upright in the living room, front and center, with a giant hose connecting to the window.  Hindsight is 20/20.  A window unit would have saved space, but we didn't plan for it, so all of our windows were awning.  Outdoor units exist, but we'd have to drill a huge hole into the house (which I loathe doing), not to mention they're more expensive.  On the bright side, we can hide the AC between our fridge and hot water heater when we're not using it.  On the less than bright side, we live in Georgia, so it won't be there for long.  

Air Conditioner

Before the tiny house I had never owned a toaster oven, never even used one.  But I'm impressed, they're just like little ovens!  I've managed to make all of our dinners with it, or the range when required.  The only thing that makes cooking in the kitchen difficult is the lack of counter space.  If someone needs to get by to use the bathroom while I'm juggling dinner preperations, I can loose my sh*t.  Sometimes my step-daughter will be sweet and offer to help cook and I have to refuse.  Two people can squeeze by, but when working, there's really only room for one.  And even Floyd has learned it's best not to get underfoot in the kitchen. 


Our bathroom door turned out to be quite the success.  After all the trouble we had with the front door, making nearly every mistake you can make, and then making those mistakes again, we pretty much knew what to do, or rather what not to do.  Hanging doors is all about precision, you don't want to cut corners or you'll have a big gap that will bother you until you move out or fix it.  I know because Steve just fixed ours.  Seriously, gaps are no joke, they're bug doors, and bugs are gross.

 
I am very pleased with our kitchen overall.  There were no surprises that came to light after using it, no problems or 'kinks' that needed fixing.  I like the way it looks, and I don't feel like it's too crowded.  Don't let the pictures fool you, it may look stuffed with stuff, but our house still has plenty of untapped storage space. 


Look at the picture below.  I made that shelfy thing that goes around the toaster oven using scraps of leftover wood.  It's not very sturdy, and will, probably, eventually fall apart.  But doesn't it look nice?


The internet is great.  I might have trouble saving and transferring pictures on my computer, but I can always manage to buy stuff online.  That is where I bought a miniature iron and ironing board (I have a deep emotional connection to both) and my silverware caddie and paper towel holder, neither of which is very exciting, but I had to get both with certain dimensions to fit where I wanted to put them.  I could have gotten an RV dish drainer,  which is tiny and wouldn't take up half the counter like ours does.  But our dish drainer is always full, so I can't imagine cutting back to smaller size.  I will recommend the RV broom though, it folds down to like... a toothpick.  Okay, slight exaggeration, but RV accessories are quite crafty.


Like I said, no regrets about the kitchen, no major issues either. Which, frankly, is surprising, because it has the most potential for clutter. This is where we not only keep pots, pans and the like, our food, dog food, and other pet supplies, but cleaning supplies, tools and the trash can. Most of that stuff we keep under the sink.  We managed to keep the clutter at bay by moving in slowly, and only bringing our things to the tiny house as we needed them.  And there is plenty of room for more, though you might not think so when you see the pictures below--under the counter.

I have included numerous photos of our bathroom.  We tiled it all, a time consuming project that may, ultimately be the culprit of our weight problem.  Tiles are heavy, so was the mortar and other materials.  But it turned out to be, by far, the prettiest room, not that there are many rooms to choose from mind you, but it still wins.







Aside from the fact that tiling the entire bathroom added considerable weight, there are a few other problems.  First of all, there is a slight puddle in the bottom of our shower, even though we added a pro-slope, there is one spot that doesn't want to drain.  Which leads me to the second problem.  Mildew loves grout.  If you are looking for a low-maintenance bathroom surface, I don't recommend tile.  




I made the bathroom shelves, also using the scrap material we had lying around.  



One of the main reasons why we made our tiny house longer was the need to include a second loft for my step-daughter.  I didn't add many pictures of the loft areas, but you aren't missing much, just imagine a heap of blankets and there you go.

Ellie in her loft.

Ellie stays with us for the summer and between the ladder and curtain, I think she feels like it's less of a bedroom and more of a fort.

We intended to buy a shallow full size mattress so that we'd have plenty of room in our loft, only when we went to the store we found a really comfortable king size mattress on sale.  Steve calculated the dimensions in his head and said it would fit if we turned it sideways.  And I guess it does fit, sort of, though changing the sheets is a nightmare.  You can see it below, the mattress so thick it covers the window and shelves. 

 

For some reason, most likely from ignorance, we bolted the jacks in the wrong place.  We knew enough to put them in the corners--duh, but we didn't put them on the front and back like we ought, instead we bolted them under the sides of our house.  What's the big deal,? you might ask.  Well it wasn't a big deal until an eleven year old came for an extended stay.  Kids don't sit still.  And as Ellie likes to spend alot of time in her loft, where the house is easily rocked, the house never sits still either.  Steve wants to move the jacks, or maybe add new jacks.  I don't know.  I just remember that it took us weeks to get them on, and it was no easy task, arguably the most difficult and time consuming part of building the house.  So Steve wants to fix it and I'm like, "Why? I don't get seasick!" 
Who knows what we'll do about it--probably something.  It just hasn't sunk in yet, even after living in the house for months: we are finished.  The house is finished.  We can't seem to stop working and relax.  There is always a picture frame to hang, a curtain, something demanding our attention.  But like I said, if I had a time machine, I wouldn't change a thing.