Clumsy Progress

Erratic sleep schedules, stress levels leading to angry cussing (a rarity for me) and stress headaches, Facebook and sugary treat escapism, feeling like I don’t have energy for anyone else, occasions verging on insanity… it’s all in a tiny house build.

What happened to my peaceful, slow-moving, meditative lifestyle?

It’s just a normal abnormal course of the commitment for me now, kind of like a scabbed knee scrape that keeps splitting back open compared to the fresh blood at the beginning of the project; It’s still rather painful and inconvenient, but you just slap a bandage over it and keep going.

Well, as long as you can, anyway. Unless it gets uber-infected and you have to go to the doctor to take care of it. I think that’s what is happening now. Except the infection is in my mind and the doctor is a 10-day meditation course. 🙂

I almost have the roof sheathed, and I’m really quite burnt-out. The slow and constipated rate with which I’ve been building this house has taken its toll on me, especially after the last bout of heavy rains we had during which the tarp covering the house was pooling in the middle and leaking buckets onto the tarp covering the floor, which was no match for the volume of water. I frantically mopped it all up and put up a second tarp inside of the big one, along the ridge. I then had a fan in there for 4 days going nonstop, and finally a dry day came which helped a lot, too. It now appears to be completely dry, and I keep saying “thank goodness” I put that 6 mil vapor barrier over the wool insulation…. but still, with the screw holes, I know some water had to get in there.

What I’m finding is that in this stage of the build, my physical skill set has expanded a bit, which is satisfying and great. But my mental skills are really being tested (and failing), which I suppose is also great for me in a sense, perfectionist that I can be. Ella just wrote a great post on this mental aspect of building your own house – tiny though it may be.


This round of time-running-out-freak-outs started two weeks ago when, after John had installed the ridgepole and rafters, my dad got up there and checked the whole thing out. We weren’t happy with what he found.

It turns out that the ridge wasn’t level, all of the rafters were off in their birdsmouth angles so that they didn’t sit properly on the top plate while having a big gap between the exterior plywood and the mouth. On top of that, the rafter ends were too long (i.e. too wide for legal road limit of 8’6″), weren’t plumb, and our 2×4 ridgepole splice was messing with the roof line and needed to be angled. Oh, and we had forgotten to add notches to the 8 end rafters for the outriggers (crossing 2x4s that extend the roof line beyond the house itself).

Oy vey. I hung out there for a few minutes absorbing our findings. Could we have left it all up there and just made some minor adjustments? Probably. But I wanted my roof  to be proper and strong. At first I thought, well, let’s get to it and start all over. So I went to the hardware store and spent another $60 on 2x4s to cut fresh rafters.

At the same time, we were verifying all of the measurements against Michael’s actual plans, and found that the gables weren’t framed according to spec. Again, could we have left them and worked with it? Maybe. But it would have made the overhang a lot dicier to execute. So my dad re-cut those. Didn’t take too long. Fortunately we were able to re-use many of the rafters, as John had for some reason cut the birdsmouths quite shallow. I could go into excruciating detail if I’m not careful, but for the sake of interesting, hang-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-tiny-house-talk, I’ll spare you. Basically we re-cut the rafters, re-did the ridge splice, cut notches, cut outriggers, put everything back up, added hardware, and added blocking.

While my dad went from working on the kitchen full-time to working with the baby part-time, I busied myself with some more detailed tasks so as to avoid having to hurt my brain by figuring out rafter math by myself: I sanded and sealed all of the loft beams and installed them, which has made working on the roof SO MUCH easier! I love them – they’re Douglas Fir, a wood I have become quite fond of working with; it smells amazing, looks pretty, is cheap, and appears to be much harder than pine or other firs.

I also got to work stripping the paint off my front door, the first step in a lengthly refinishing process. It’s looking beautiful though, and although I don’t think I’ll be able to get all of the paint out of the grain, it should be relatively close, and have a nice shabby-chic look. It appears to be made from Douglas Fir as well. 🙂

After cutting the rafters together, I did a lot of solo work getting them installed, putting in all of the hardware, and cutting/installing blocking. We just got the gables sheathed, and now we’re finally ready to sheath the roof, which should begin tomorrow and will go as far as we can before I leave for the meditation course this week.

a tiny house landscape

So, John’s mistakes only cost us a week. I really didn’t blame him – the mistake was actually mine; What I learned through the past two weeks is that despite the extensive work I’ve done over the years to overcome my challenging tendency to put people on a pedestal and think that they can do no wrong until they do –  it appears to still be happening. This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, except that when I do that, I put way too much trust in them and end up relinquishing my control in the process… Until it’s too late and I’m left with a mess to clean up. Of my own design. (A little self-sabotage, anyone?) A little healthy skepticism and making sure people earn your trust never hurt anyone, right?

I also noticed this tendency in my idealization of Grandpa. Remember I mentioned getting a phone call from him, asking how my project was going? Well – it turns out he just wanted to see about selling me his truck to tow my house. He did say he would like to come to my open house when the construction is finished, though. 🙂 Ah well, I guess it’s my innocent trusting nature that makes me so lovely as well, eh?  Two sides to every coin… including to my innocent trusting nature – how can I simultaneously be so intimately untrusting? Human beings make my head hurt.

As a side note, this experience also increased my already-idealized faith in Michael Janzen for his framing plans; The level of detail with which he thought out every aspect of the design is truly impressive. Talk about a concentrated mind! He literally hasn’t led me astray. (If we had just been paying closer attention…)

Anyway. Lots of pictures for you to enjoy. Sorry I didn’t get to the financial update. I might have to save that for after the build… or at least until I have my house waterproof, a wood stove burning inside, and interior work ahead of me for the quickly-approaching winter!


TBC after some meditative work and some bluegrass dancing. Cheers, y’all!


6 thoughts on “Clumsy Progress

  1. ==========
    Just keep plugging away; what more can you do? When I built The Retreat, though, I did learn that if I did something on it every day — no matter how small it seemed — it helped maintain my focus and keep the momentum going. (And I always allowed myself to feel good about at least doing something!) Every project has its own momentum and, once lost, it can be tough to get it ‘rolling’ again. The hardest part and, yes, it’s a daily thing, is getting started. Once you’re started (more often than not) you’ll begin to get more excited about what you’re doing and THEN (sometimes) it can be tough to quit! There were many nights that I rigged up a light or two, fired up my generator, and just kept on going until I got to a good spot to quit.
    At the end of each day I would always reward myself with a little chill time — just sitting there in my camp chair admiring the work I had done . . . thinking about the next step . . . feeling good that, in fact, some progress was being made.
    I go through the same mental challenge every morning as I consider pedaling those ten miles to work (year ’round & our winter temps are often in the teens or colder). But five or ten minutes into it, I’m stoked! My body is like, “Yeah man . . . see? Shut up brain!” I’ve never once arrived at my destination and thought, “Man, this is BS; there simply must be a better way.” Not even once . . . and I’ve been commuting on my bike for a few years now.

    • Nicely put! Keep going, that’s usually the answer. Fortunately my burnout hasn’t had too much impact on my motivation for the project- it’s more that I need an emotional time-out. 😉 haha… Anyway thanks for the encouragement and positivity! Always appreciated!

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. I can’t believe you paid someone to do shoddy work on your house when I offered to do it for free.

    For real though, you’re definitely Making Progress and it’s house-shaped. Looks great!

    • Hi Matt, yeah except he was semi-skilled and available to work weekdays, and you were just a sweet man offering up his only day off 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words, it’s definitely feeling like a house, too!

      Sent from my iPhone

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