Hard Wear.

A view over UMass Amherst during my vacation 🙂

Hello Blog, I’ve been avoiding you.

FYI, this will likely be a very boring post unless you are yourself looking ahead to the framing hardware stage of building a house on wheels. 🙂

The truth is, there has been much to say personally and little to say tiny house-wise. First I was immersed in a 2-week vacational bliss in CA, MA, and NYC with some very dear old friends and some very sweet new ones, too. And now my family responsibilities have been consuming me, with my parents’ kitchen STILL quite a ways from being done, and my sister/brother-in-law/niece unit moving into their first home, which also requires quite a mountain of labor. There’s little me tethered along for the (sometimes stressful) ride… It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been learning a lot about being human lately, and that makes it all more acceptable.

There have been some spare moments… I’ve filled many of them with artful procrastination from drilling more holes in the steel trailer frame, a task I simply could have done without on this project. (And can’t say why exactly I resist it so…) I’ve also been busy taking care of garden harvests, i.e. canning, drying, seed-saving, and ignoring the many tasks awaiting me there this fall in favor of enjoying the beauty and magic beckoning there right now. The simultaneous bounty and death of a late-summer garden is, after all, a fleeting and wonderful gift in this world.

I do, however, have a few activities to report upon, and a few pictures  detailing my hardware notes below. First, a progress report:

The tarp structure held up beautifully while I was gone, and it is such a relief to report that the floor has remained totally dry. It was a ridiculous thing putting that structure up, but I’m so glad we did. My only worry is that a massive hurricane will move up the coast before I get the roof on, and rip it all to shreds. I got the walls plumb, screwed in a 2×4 to hold them in place, and got the top plate installed. This gave me a little peek into the forthcoming ladder work and the care, awareness, and time one must take in this phase of the build.

I also got the tension ties installed… which of course would hardly be worth mentioning, considering all that’s involved is drilling a 5/8″ hole about 12″ deep with a wood bit, installing the bolt, and nailing the tie into the stud. It was just that easy for 3 of the 4 ties, but the front right corner bolt hole was, for some reason, quite resistant to my efforts. While drilling with the wood bit, I began hitting metal a few inches down, which made sense as it appeared to be at the seam of the subfloor plywood, so I assumed there was a screw in the way. First I considered moving the tie to a different stud, but because of various other factors, this was the only stud in that corner area that I could use. So I went to several different stores until I found the 5/8″ metal bit required. I successfully drilled through that bit of metal and switched back to the wood bit, only to find that I was hitting metal again, now maybe 8″ deep or so. This was puzzling as it would have been somewhere in the floor cavity… But who knows, maybe I was going through the edge of the floor where a nail or screw was located. Unfortunately I could no longer reach deep enough with my shiny new $18 5/8″ metal bit, so I required a drill bit – or extension with a 1/2″ chuck to match the bit I had. This proved another impossible-to-find-locally item after searching every store in my area. So the internet once again came to the rescue in the form of an eBay vendor (and China) selling a 12″-long 5/8″ metal drill bit for $18. Once received, I was able (although it seemed just barely) to drill through whatever was in the way and finally bolt the bugger in there. Why am I including this detailed account? Just as a boring/amusing example of how sometimes the simplest little steps can end up taking weeks of waiting – and many hours of legwork – to complete. This is a process, after all.

And finally, I have razzled myself sufficiently to once again take a drill to the trailer frame, and finally bolt the floor directly to the steel. I’m connecting these with galvanized steel strapping and either 3/8″ or 1/2″ hex bolts. I wanted to make sure I did this before installing wall sheathing, of course. After a few more straps, the anchoring will be complete.

The totals for anchoring hardware responsible for connecting the house to the trailer will be as follows:

18 1/2″ lag bolts sent up through the trailer 2×6 decking into the floor framing

8 8″ heavy-duty Simpson straps running down along the sides of the floor frame to the 4×4 floor supports (which you may remember are themselves bolted with 5/8″ carriage bolts into the steel frame)

4 tension ties

4 18″ Simpson straps lag-bolted into the wall frame kick plate and hex-bolted into the steel trailer frame

4? heavy-duty Simpson T-straps lag-bolted into the floor frame and hex-bolted into the steel trailer frame.

I hope that’s actually helpful information to someone and not just terribly confusing Bob Loblaw.


A hardware report:

Before I started building this house, (having no building experience and doing no research) I thought hardware would be a sidelined, almost-unmentionable cost of the total budget. Oh, how wrong I was. I estimate that I’ve already spent about $300-400 on hardware. This includes nails, screws, bolts, nuts, washers, straps, tension ties, hurricane ties, and various framing reinforcers. It’s no joke when your total budget is $15,000. I suppose this should come as no surprise, considering that these are the parts that hold a stick-built house together safe and strong. Still, if I did this over again, I would have spent time scouring eBay/Craigslist/Restores for good deals on hardware, rather than spending $30/5 lbs. screws at hardware stores.

In addition to the nails & screws used at each joint in the framing and the connectors mentioned above, I also added the following which were all connected with Simpson nails/screws:

Under headers: For the headers in my framing that will carry the weight of the loft rafters, I used heavy-duty corner angles. See angle used here.

Door and large window corners: My front wall studs are connected to a header spanning its length, so I wanted to reinforce the window/door joints, mostly for my own peace of mind. See connector here.

-Wall joints: The long walls have a joint in the middle, since they weren’t built with 18′ 2x4s. I added 9″  20-gauge straps here on either side of the joints. See straps used here.

Random joints that worried me: For example, I had the kick plate on one side of the doorway split about an inch or two. So I construction-glued it, clamped it, and screwed this angle into place alongside it. I also used these on the big window corners.

Here’s what I plan to use in the roof construction:

Rafter-to-rafter: I read recommendations that 12″ straps be used across the ridge beam from one rafter to the other. See straps here.

Rafter-to-wall: Hurricane ties will be used at each joint. I was told to use something like these (Simpson H2.5AZ), but obviously will have to wait and see if they are proper.

For connecting the house to the trailer, you can see the pieces I used:

T-straps -6×6 heavy-duty (although I’m considering exchanging them for this beefier version which is 12×8, since I haven’t installed these yet)

Tension ties (Simpson HTT4)

Heavy-duty straps – 8″

18″ 20-gauge straps

…And there may be more to come.

Common sense means this goes without saying, but this list is by no means exhaustive nor contractor/code approved. Some of my choices were informed by construction books/manuals or advice given by novice or professional builders. Just a few of my choices were made from my own intuition/reason/etc. Long story short: Take the above with a very large grain of salt. I feel pretty confident my house is going to stay in one piece, but if at any point there is uncertainty in your own project, that would probably dictate a consultation with a professional engineer/building inspector/what-have-you. If you are a professional and you have a suggestion on my use of connectors, your comments are always welcome.

Now that my mind is mush and time has once again escaped, I leave you with a few pictures giving perhaps a basic sense of what I’m talking about… I hope next time I write, there will be some vertical plywood to photograph, but it may be a few weeks still before there is time to fit it into this crazy life!


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