Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Electrical

This is a really important topic. It is also one thats more complicated than cutting a 2x4 or nailing up some siding. Let me preface this by stating that I'm not an electrician, so use this as a guide only for something that has personally worked for me. That said, I struggled for a long time with this topic since I didn't really know how to approach it. 

First off I needed to get power to the house. What I knew was that I wanted a mixed use system where there would be some AC 120V supply but also a separate electrical system on a DC 12V basis (predominantly for any and all lighting plus a vent). That determination led me to this unit:


Before I dive deeper into that part, let's talk about getting 30AMP service to the house itself. I have electric at the road and there are even conveniently two RV 30AMP ports on the pole. I wasn't sure there were two. Turns out that one is hooked up all wrong. All this is likely better viewed in the following video which starts with the successful power inside the house and follows the trail back to the pole. 



The Progressive Dynamics "Mighty Mini" RV panel. This panel incorporates an RV appropriate AC section and it also powers a 12V DC section. There is a also a way to loop in solar into the 12V side but that aspect was not relevant for my purposes since I'm not doing and off the grid house (you can't run an Incinolet with a couple solar panels...). The only complaint with the panel is that instructions are sparse and unless you are an actual electrician, the use and implementation of this is not instantly apparent. That led me to stare at the panel for a long time to try to make sense of it. I couldn't really find any installation related videos but after I was able to clarify a few minor aspects, it started to make sense. I won't bore you by writing about it but instead will bore you with  a video I made on the topic. Big apologies for it being sideways. Not sure how that happened. I'll see if I can remedy that. Any suggestions?


Hopefully that gives you a pretty good basis in regard to what to do. Any uncertainty should result in you consulting an electrician. I was lucky too that there was already a 30AMP hook up at the pole, since the prior owner of the property kept a traditional camper on the land. 

It’s been great to have full electricity in the house since before I was running everything off a glorified extension cord. That didn’t include an induction cook top, a water heater or a fridge. It’s also a real luxury to have proper lighting in the house after so much darkness (especially at night…).  I have not had any regrets on any of this work. The only thing that I have not hooked up is the Incinolet. I’m hoping that I don’t trigger any kind of issue with that since tripping breakers has not been an issue thus far and that’s with some pretty high amp type construction tools being used. 

One thing that I did not do is put in an exterior outlet. As I’m starting to close up the walls on the inside now, it’s kind of now or never. I haven’t really had a need for power outside and when I have, I have simply run a cord out the door. Sure it would be nicer to have that power outside but that’s ok. I’ll see if I change my mind in any way before the closed up walls make this endeavor that much harder to implement. 

I guess that this write up doesn’t help you much if you are looking to install solar panels or want to run a purely low voltage set up. I can only relay what has worked for me based on what I was looking to build. There should be other resources out there that can help you further in your quest. Thanks for reading this. 


I’m about to embark on writing on the other BIG topic of plumbing. I’m happy to say that that is completed as well. More to come. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kitchen

For the kitchen I had this vision of taking a sideboard/buffet and turning it into a 'kitchen'. The concept was that the piece of furniture would have a sink (small) and a two burner induction top dropped into it. I was able to finally find the right piece on Craigslist after a pretty lengthy search. I had a number of criteria that needed to be met:
- Price
- Color
- Style
- Ideally the sides would have doors underneath the top of the piece and not drawers since the cook top and sink would be at either end of the piece respectively and it make wiring and drainage easier.
Here is what I got:
Not a great picture, but you get the idea. It measures about 60" wide and 19" deep. There were some screw on leg but I took them off so that I could stay below the 36" lower sill of the window. The space you see to the right is where the loft ladder conveniently rolls into for storage. The bar sink which I purchased (used on Ebay) was to go into the right hand side of this piece, so I taped that area off with painters tape.
 The sink sit on top and isn't an under-mount, so I traced it onto the tape surface after having it centered and where I wanted it.
 That looked something like this. Note the out line of the whole sink and the internal cut lines, so that the sink will slot in but obviously no fall through the hole. 
 Then I cut the piece out. I was surprised how thick the wood was. It's a nice quality. 
 ...and the sink dropped in nicely. 
 Nice and flush. The drawer beneath the sink will no longer be usable but beneath that there is simply a door (and a removable shelf) that will house the drainage assembly from below the sink. 
 So the sink is in. Plumbing hook ups and stove installation to follow when I get to that part. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Truck sold

My trusty Dodge Ram 1500 has been sold. I bought it mainly for hauling supplies to the tiny house. There is much less need for that these days since it's really down to smaller tasks at this point. The truck did tow the tiny house for about 20 miles when I retrieved it early on from a storage facility I dropped it off at, post cross country trek. 
The truck struggled immensely with the weight of what was just the shell at that point. It clearly was not up to the task of longer towing excursions. 
I bought the truck on Craigslist and sold it on Ebay. It's hard to find a good truck. Most of them have some sort of issue and if you are in a high mileage bracket (as this one was), you run the risk that anything could go wrong at any time. Anyway, I'm glad it's gone...but will miss it a wee bit. 

Trailer Hitch Cover

The constant exposure to the elements concerns me in regard to the trailer that house sits on. Although I have no plans to move the house, perhaps one day I will want to or need to. What I want to prevent is rust and decay from taking too much of a toll on the substructure. The tires I have covered with RV wheel covers and that prevents the damaging UV radiation from drying out the rubber. This will only go so far though to prevent deterioration. Beyond that I have bought a spray that it supposed to coat exposed (metal) surfaces and hinder or slow rust. Haven't used that yet but may do a post on that as well. Any further suggestions in this regard are certainly welcome. 
One thing that I knew I could protect was the trailer hitch assembly as that has always been exposed to the rain, snow, etc. My plan was to create a triangular sloped cover and attach that to the side of the house. This is what I wanted to cover. 
 It has a natural triangular shape and that is what I sought to mimic.
 Cut was made out of a standard sheet of plywood (4'x8').
 Used some 2x4 supports to brace the underside.
 Also added a center beam which was to simply lie on top of the hitch. The back of the triangle was to mount into the outer cedar uprights of the house with a sturdy eye and hook hardware.
 With the triangle done, checked for general fit. 
 This was the intended slope, so that water and snow could run off. 
 I had some spare siding still left and wanted it to look as nice as possible. 
 I marked up the plywood with the lengths siding I would need for each row. Trick was to attach the very first small board with one centrally placed nail. This allowed me to adjust and straighten all subsequent boards before nailing them on. 
 With the 10 rows arranged (with overlap), I nailed them all into place. 
 Final step was simply to trim off the overlap. I like this picture since it has a very menacing Star Wars, Death Star feel to it, no?
 Here is the finished product. Looks pretty good and I'm glad I did it before the snow hits the area. 
 Only point of concern is the unsupported middle section close to the house. I may need to brace that from below, since I have noticed that dripping water from the roof that refreezes on here is pretty heavy. As it is, the piece is pretty easy for one person to put on or take off via the hook and eye attachments I described above. An added benefit is that the power and water entry points into the house are covered now as well. If I were really ambitious, I'd put some sides on this as well but that will have to wait. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bathroom/Closet Door

Since space is always not in ample supply in the house, I wanted a unique solution for the two things in the house requiring a door. One is the closet and the other is the bathroom. Both open up to the 'hallway' leading to the 2nd bedroom in the back of the house. Instead of doing a door for the bathroom and a curtain or similar of the closet, I wanted to have something that would do both. Th solution for me was to use a ceiling mounted track system like old barn doors, and do it that way. This was the hardware that I needed:
Rollers that go onto a track. This was again from Ebay and a pretty good deal at around $80 as these tracks can be on the pricey side. 


The 2x4 is just a place holder here to see what width a door would have to have to accomplish both of my goals. To mount the rail at a sufficient height, and to have the roller be able to move freely, the loft support beam had to be chiseled away a bit. You can clearly see the cutout in the image above. This was not enough of a cut to compromise structural integrity...but I was a bit worried for a little while. 
I wasn't sure what the door would look like that I intended to hang here but that problem was solved quickly when I stumbled upon a really great distressed door that people had given up on. One person's trash is another person's treasure. 
This was a stroke of luck. Problem was that door was too wide and needed to be cut down. The height was actually pretty much perfect for what I needed. I wanted to preserve the 'X' so I cut off equal parts from both sides. To do this I had to somewhat take the door apart, cut and then reassemble ('X' had to be cut down on both sides as well). 
The back of the door had some support too that made the door too thick. I decided to replace those wood supports with a thin metal hurricane brace in various places. Looks good and is functional (see below). Final step was to preserve the look of the door but make it a bit more 'friendly' since it was pretty easy to get a splinter on it's rather rough surface. I chose to 'encase' it in an acrylic and it all turned out rather well.
This is what it looked like after sides where trimmed off. Note that the 'X' is still centered.
On went the acrylic.
Still retains original look but without the roughness and splinters. I went with a 'semi gloss' for this step. It did make the wood a bit darker but I was happy with the result overall. 

The door has now been hung but still needs the a 'guide' on the floor to keep it from flopping around and I also want to put in some front and back stops to complete this part of the project. It completely does what I wanted though which is either the closet is closed or you slide it to close the bathroom. 


And finally, this is the view from inside the bathroom with the door closed. Walls are not covered yet but it will be great when done. 




The Front Door

There are a lot of ways to make a tiny house look different, add character and infuse your own personal style into the constructions process. I liked this aspect of it since I had opted for the Amish Barnraiser from Tumbleweed. Although this took a lot of work off my plate, it didn't in anyway minimize my ability to create my own unique dwelling since what I started with was really a blank canvas.
I am adding my share of 'personal touches' to the place but there is something about the front door that really lends itself to making a statement. Initially this house had a lowly makeshift plywood front door, but that had to go eventually. 

What I had really wanted was having a door with ample character. Much like the loft ladder is a focal point inside the house, the front door represents it from the exterior. Ella has a great blog and the front door has particular importance in her tiny house too. I wanted something similar. 

I opted for a vintage solid (heavy) wood door. I found one where I find most things...Ebay. The door was suitably distressed yet very solid. The person selling this door (in PA) also offered to create a frame for it via a craftsman that he worked with. I opted for this up charge and provided the rough opening dimensions. The door needed to be cut down a fair amount since tiny houses have...well...tiny doors. Beyond the door itself, I wanted some vintage hardware too. Conveniently the seller on Ebay was able to accommodate that part as well and the hardware was integrated into the door I had selected (by the framing carpenter). Best to see some pictures of this...
This was loosely the look I was going for. To get to this point though, the frame for the door had to be mounted into the rough opening for the door. This was a bit of a dicey project since it required a lot of leveling and shimming. Crooked door frame or a door that doesn't close properly is so annoying, so my dad and I took our time and did it right. Hardest part I think was when shimming, if you applied too much pressure, the frame would bend in...too loose and it wasn't possible to mount the frame (you didn't want wiggle while mounting it). It was tough to balance out, but we managed. 








A really effective way to check the work to see if the sides were straight and true, was to use a straight edge and look for any gaps or buckles or similar.
This also helped in seeing where more shims where needed and where too much pressure was being exerted. Ultimately once we were satisfied it was as good as it was going to get, we mounted the frame into the opening with a number of long wood screws. There is invariably a gap between the door frame and the rough opening in the house and that was later filled in with expanding foam. 

Now on to the aforementioned hardware. This is a 100 year old mechanism that I trust will easily last another hundred years. They don't make stuff like this anymore. 

It's a beautiful aged brass (?). Looks great. Note the shiny lock cylinder. I temporarily replaced the original since there was no key with the lock and I had to have one made for it. The original cylinder is now back in place and is more in line with the overall look of the lock. 
Next step was to add in a window to the door. I opted for a (heavy) brass maritime sailboat port hole. This piece was also off of Ebay and also very old. To get it into the door, a hole had to be drilled/cut into the door. This was a bit tricky since the back of the port hole was not straight but rather slanted, so the oval hole had to be cut at an angle to drop the piece into the door.
This is what it looks like in.
Some more pictures of the finished product.
Note: Frame has been dressed up with a piece of molding and the original door lock cylinder is in in this photo. 
There is also a really nice back piece on this to go on the inside.

You can kind of see the diagonal shift from front to back here that made this a bit difficult to cut the opening for. 
One final part to add was that I wanted the door to catch the eye and as stated up top, to make a statement on the house. To do that I wanted a bright color to make a bold statement (without looking garish). After sanding the outside surface of the door down, I opted for a cheery blue and think that it turned out pretty damn nicely. :)


The door is done. Since some of you will likely be curious in regard to costs, here is the rough breakdown. 
The door (wood part) - $100
Lock hardware - $150
Framing - $250
(no shipping since we picked it up in PA ourselves)
Porthole - $125
Blue paint - $20
Getting key made - $15
Trim - $15
It's a somewhat pricey door, but I don't regret for one second, having splashed out on this since it truly is everything and more of what I wanted to have and it looks great, feels great and works great.