The floor is finally finished.
It took me a month to complete. I am so happy it’s done!
Now I have to get ready for vertical integration. 🙂 Woo woo!
What to say – I have been soooo busy since my last blog post, not enough time for blogging really, just trying to keep up with life. There were soooo many steps involved with making this floor, I could hardly believe how complex it turned out to be. Mostly because I was messing up all along the way, so two steps forward one step back (still nothing irreversible! woohoo!)… I’m sure professional builders would be shaking their heads at some of the things I did… but I got through it, and it’s a solid, level, water-resistant floor! I guess my inexperience defined this introductory portion of the project, but I learned so much and am developing a stronger sense for things.
For example, I have gotten more comfortable using the circular saw, learned how to use a jigsaw (definitely my favorite in the saw family!), learned about bolts, shimming, planing, toenailing, etc. etc. etc!
But more than all of that, I’m learning the art of balance; when to move fast, when to move slow, when to just let things happen, when to make extra effort… this aspect I didn’t foresee being a big part of the building experience, I’m not sure why. When I first started I was incredibly impatient. I was getting really agitated when things were taking so much longer than anticipated. That went on for a couple weeks, until finally I had a really horrible building day. You know, one of those days when you roll out of bed and trip over something and then someone says something obnoxious to you and you burn your toast or forget to do something important, etc. etc. It was like that. I believe it was the day I got halfway through stapling the aluminum flashing to the deck, and discovered that the instructions I had read to leave trailer decking 24″ apart was totally wrong for using aluminum flashing which comes in 20″ wide rolls. So I had to remove all of the staples on one of the sheets, add two deck pieces back, drill new holes into the steel ribs below and piecemealing one of them since I had used up all of the long pieces to build the floor frame.
I smartly decided to step away from the project for a while and go pick up my roofing and windows at Home Depot. After renting a truck and having them load everything up, they were carefully strapping it all down while I stood directly in back of the roofing, staring at it extending 20 feet in front of me. As I did, a thought developed in my mind, uuuuhhhhh ohhhhh: The ridges on these 20′ sections of corrugated roofing (the length of my roof from front to back) would be horizontal when applied, meaning the water would not be flowing downwards as intended.
I hopped in the truck and drive the four miles home, unloading the windows with my dad’s help. After working through it some more, I called Home Depot and explained the situation and they said to bring it back and they would help me get it taken care of. I spent the rest of my afternoon there and long story short, we agreed on having them cut the 20′ sections down to the appropriate 6′ lengths (the length on either side of the ridge line) and ordered six more sheets to accommodate overlap. Initially (when I ordered everything) the guy at the Pro Desk, who was quite helpful and kind but slightly misguided, told me these sheets wouldn’t need overlapping. Which intuitively felt wrong to me, but I thought: He works at the Pro Desk, he should know! The whole thing wasn’t really my fault or his fault, but faulty communication. I gave him my roof measurements and put the ordering into his hands, trusting his experience. I got the sense that if I threw a fit about it they would have definitely re-ordered the proper lengths without charging me a re-stocking fee. I didn’t mind having them cut it, and it helped keep the material from who-knows-what-fate. Having a cut edge on galvanized steel isn’t ideal (re: rust), but most of them can be hidden under the ridge cap so no biggie. As I understand it, galvanized steel roofing will last quite a long time as is, anyway.
Just another laughable mistake in a long series of foibles. Anyway, after my stress levels that day peaked significantly, I decided I really had to make a concerted effort to stop taking each step so seriously and just relax about it all. There I was in the middle of this dream project, and instead of enjoying the steps, I was rushing to be done with them. I also decided around the same time that making time goals for myself was a cruel activity indeed, and that I just want to be in the moment more and worry less by not setting any goals. I’ll finish when I finish, and that will be just right.
As per usual in my life, I am challenged by the mental aspects much more than the physical. I can deal with blood blisters and sunburn and a sore back, but stress? No thank you. I can honestly say the whole project has gone much smoother (and more fun) since I’ve been making that effort to get out of the way and let things happen as they’re going to happen. All I have to do is keep moving…
I do understand why most tiny house builders don’t give much detail on their blogs of the actual how-to: By the time you get to the computer, you’re either too exhausted or too blurred by everything you did to actually write out how you did it. But I do hope to start a new section on the blog soon detailing every step I’ve done. I have the sense there would have been some much better ways to do my floor if (or when?) I do it again.
Some things I would change next time:
1. I would not use treated wood for the floor framing. I don’t actually think this makes any sense. It would be one thing if it were going to be exposed to water directly, but since it really shouldn’t be if the aluminum flashing (or whatever subfloor you choose) is properly sealed and doing its job, this is overkill. It’s heavier and created a lot of extra steps to keep it from coming in contact with the aluminum.
2. I think I would use 2×4 floor framing instead of 2×6. 2×6 takes up extra inches that could be used for headroom in the loft and most heat is lost through the roof, not floor. I might consider using 2×6 in the roof instead. But I’ll have to wait until I’m living in it to make a definitive judgement on this one. 🙂
3. Get the trailer bed custom welded as per Dee Williams’ instructions. Adding those 4×4 floor supports sucked and loosing the height associated with building a floor frame on top of the trailer deck is inefficient. I think sitting the floor frame inside of the steel frame would be the way to go. If I didn’t get it custom welded, I would at least leave more of the decking pieces on the frame to provide more support and attachment points for the floor cavity. (Although FYI, I had just enough decking to recycle into the complete floor frame!)
4. I would use rigid foam in the floor instead of wool. I’m glad I’m using wool insulation overall. It has a really nice feel to it and I think it will do a good job keeping the house evenly warm. Nevertheless, it’s a loose fill insulation that requires extra protection in the floor from moisture: I ended up taping the aluminum seams with a toxic rubberized self-sealing flashing, sealing the cavity seams with expanding foam, and applying 6 mil plastic across the floor prior to screwing in the plywood. It also takes a really really long time to break up (it arrives compressed) and distribute it – a whole day in my case! People had told me that it takes about the same amount of time to install as rigid foam, which may be true in the walls where there’s a lot more cutting you probably have to do with the rigid foam. But for the floor, where you’re mostly installing simple rectangular sheets, I think I would use the rigid foam for speed, resistance to moisture and vermin, and structural strength.
One other note on the wool insulation: On Oregon Shepherd’s website as well as what’s been written by other builders using it, they say it’s totally safe to use and you don’t even need gloves, a mask, or eyewear. While it is non-toxic, I experienced that statement to be false . Because it’s treated with borax, I believe, when you pull it apart to fluff it up, it is incredibly dusty. My skin was coated with it and it got in my eyes/throat. I also found that when I handled it without gloves, it seriously dried out my hands (again, borax). So needless to say, I wore gloves, glasses, and a mask when applying this stuff. Otherwise I’m really happy with it and it is true that the wool expands and fills gaps!
I am also considering renting an insulation blower to apply the wool to the walls and ceiling once I get to that part – it really does take forever to break it up by hand! (But the 2×4 will go more quickly too…)
Some things I would repeat on the floor:
1. Corner brackets. They’re awesome. I wish I had used more of them. I think they probably do more for my peace of mind than actual support, but so be it.
2. Tyvek strips to separate aluminum from any treated wood, and Tyvek tape to seal some of the seams. That stuff is amazing!
Just one more thing to do to the floor: Add some straps to connect the floor directly to the trailer frame since I fear I used too few connection points (18 3/8″ lag bolts from floor to deck). Then I’ll be moving up…
One side note about balance: This is the first time in a long time that I’m having to actively not do things to keep myself from getting stressed out (not just because of my tiny project! ;)). That means doing nothing in particular one day in a while. I want to go into the city to see the movie Moonrise Kingdom. Has anyone seen it? Unbelievably, it hasn’t been released anywhere in the suburbs. Wes Anderson is probably my all-time favorite filmmaker, I find him thoroughly brilliant and have loved every one of his films! If you haven’t checked him out, see The Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling Limited, or the adorable stop-motion animation film Fantastic Mr. Fox.