Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tiny House Workshop Recap

Thank you to everyone who made the first tiny house building workshop so successful! It was our first workshop in collaboration with Worcester Think Tank, and we had a full house with six participants! The goal of the workshop was to start with a bare trailer, and we had hoped that by the end of the week we would have a house fully framed, sheathed, roofed, wrapped, the windows installed and a little bit of the sidewall shingling complete.

The week started out with a nice hot sunny day. The participants arrived for a delicious lunch prepared by Giseli, our chef for the week. We can't thank her enough for her work. Coming in from and intense morning of learning and physical labor to a hot, healthy, and delicious meal was very important. She managed to read the weather and mood of the group and come up with a perfect meal each day, most of it grown in the gardens on the property. After getting settled and introductions, we went right to work, starting with tool safety, then jumping right into preparing the deck. One of the most challenging aspects of building a tiny house is preparing the trailer and creating a level, square platform to build off of. This is especially tricky if you are using a used trailer as it most likely has been overloaded and abused during its life. Every steel member of the trailer was padded out with specially cut wood shims and joists. We placed polyiso rigid foam in between the steel framing. This is when the first change-order happened. We thought, why not install radiant heat tubing while the floor was still opened up? The materials are inexpensive, and it gives Hannah the option of distributing the heat from the woodstove, or heating with a small propane or solar hydronic system. It would be very hard to retrofit later. Something we learned early on is that Hannah like being warm. Hannah found a foam insulation product with molded in tracks for the tubing. This would be installed directly under the subfloor. We worked late into the night to try to stay on schedule with the added work.

Day two involved finishing the radiant heating, some plumbing for the bathroom up front, building a section over the trailer's beavertail, and installing the subfloor. Everyone worked very well together to get this major section of work finished.

The third day started out cold, and then turned downright raw when the rain started. This would become a standard condition for much of the rest of the workshop. Luckily we had anticipated this and the team spent some time setting up the bigtop tent which was constructed out of and old billboard, some rope and stakes. It worked quite well to keep us and the tools dry. We learned about material options and selection as we build the first wall. Everyone seemed to understand the need for accurate measurements and cuts, and soon were measuring finer than a sixteenth of an inch. The resulting walls were better looking than those made by many professional framing crews... At the end of another late night we had both long walls standing.

On the fourth day we worked on the two end walls, pausing briefly for a geometry and trigonometry lesson. Yes, those subjects you glossed over in school actually do become useful. It seemed to be a particularly cold wet day. Needless to say, everyone was ready for a hot lunch in front of the fireplace after that.

Day five was spent squaring up the frame, applying the sheathing and working on the roof system. The rain broke and we were able to disassemble the tent, just in time for the roof work! While working on the rafters, I even saw some trig functions scrawled on the studs and calculators being used. Success!

On the last day we installed the steel roofing, wrapped the house with tar paper and installed one of the windows. We broke early for a little celebration and discussion of the week.

While we didn't get quite as far as hoped, we actually covered more material that we planned to and the only thing that was omitted was shingling. I know that on the organizational end, Dermott, Hannah, Lauren and I were incredibly happy with the entire experience. I saw a lot of smiles on the faces of the participants as well. By the end people were working together and tackling tasks like they had been doing it for a long time. I am confident that if we had that crew for another week we could have been well on the way to having a finished house!

Thank you again, and come on back for the next workshop!

*all photos taken by D. Morley


  1. Hello!
    My name is Ty. I am looking to build my own tiny house. Will you have another workshop?

  2. Hi Ty,

    We are working out the details for a workshop scheduled for early June. This will be a slightly bigger structure at about 200 square feet. It will also be a timberframe, the same style as my house. I should have all of the info up in a week. Here is a sneak peak-

  3. Hey there,
    Great site. I am looking at an trailer with a tapered tail like the one above. Was there any challenges with that? You simply built those supports at the back so the subfloor would be level, right? Thanks!

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