Siding and roofing hilarity

Hey folks, I wrote part of this and never published it, but thought it might be helpful/interesting to other Tiny Housers:

The time has come to make another commitment and buy some house siding.

It’s a rare thing in this world to get what you want when you want it, and siding is proving to be no exception. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, wood siding isn’t that common a material. We appear to be quite deficient in wood products in general. What is available, is with limited options. I’ve been able to find beveled cedar siding, beveled and primed pine, and pine shiplap siding with a 6″ reveal.

My ideal, however, is a 3-4″ reveal raw pine shiplap. This is nowhere to be found. The closest I came to that exposure, even, was a 4″-4 1/4″ beveled cedar that would cost me about $1300. Mind you, it would cost about half that if I were living in the Northwest. I just can’t get excited about trucking some cedar across 3,000 miles and I’m feeling a little cheap about siding considering all of the interior purchases still awaiting me. (think: interior paneling, water heater/tank/faucets/plumbing, wood stove parts, electric, fridge, tub, cabinets, etc.) Otherwise I might just say to hell with shipping mileage, just splurge lavishly and get a gorgeous hardwood siding like those shown here:

Nice, right? 😉

Fast forward:

I decided to compromise. I could have bought 1×12″ boards and cut my own shiplap, which at my pace would have taken months and a year from now I would still be grumbling, finishing up this build. I also could have invested in the cedar, since everyone says it’s so great for siding…. But after as much research as I could muster (I’ve been quite disappointed with the level of information I’ve been able to encounter on the interwebs lately – must mean I’m on the fringe?!) I found that pine siding has been ubiquitous on the East Coast for some time now, particularly in the Northeast where it clads many a barn and in the Southeast as well. People were reporting 100-year-old buildings with their pine siding still going strong. Granted, I’m sure that was a much higher-quality old-growth, but nevertheless, this appears to be a totally viable option. So I found two local shops carrying this 1×8 shiplap: one for $1.22/LF and the other for $.89/LF. Sold!

It arrived a few days ago via a lovely delivery guy and the wood is just beautiful. After some super aggressive and rude paint department guys at a couple of Home Depots and Lowe’s basically yelled at me for trying to stain wood when it’s already so cold outside, (apparently acrylic products won’t stick below 50 degrees and oil-based products won’t dry below 35… and they were just being blatantly sexist, something I run into a lot with this project) today we moved a few boards into the basement to stain. I ended up with a slightly darker stain than I wanted (I’m using an Olympic semi-transparent in Espresso, which is an acrylic-oil mix) but I think it will fade and be a nice contrast for the turquoise windows. The wood is really gorgeous, so psyched to put it on the house! This will be a painstaking process though.

FYI, I chose this chemy stain after doing thorough research into waterborne stains and vegetable oil stains. I found a tremendously helpful article detailing the best ones available here: and came very close to using Benjamin Moore’s Arbor Coat, but decided against it because the sample I got looked really washed-out and it required two coats; a stain and separate seal, which was just too expensive ($76 per gallon of coverage) and too much work to deal with at this point in the build (and season).

Today was actually a gorgeous day outside, but our plans to spend the whole day roofing were thwarted when we discovered the roof manufacturer recommends a foam closure strip along the bottom inside edge of the roofing, along with butyl sealing tape to protect the underside of the roof from insects and rodents. I became enraged because no one had mentioned this piece when I ordered the roofing, or when I ordered the drip edge… And I had seen zero mention of such things in all of the material I’d read on roof installation. My unbalanced state was of course compounded by the fact that it was Saturday and none of these manufacturers are open on weekends to answer questions. So I’m sitting tight until Monday, when I can get some sure answers. Then maybe another week of being roofless if I have to special order the closure strips. I did have the idea to use generic weather strips from the hardware store, but when I went to look, none of them were thick enough (1″) to fill the corrugated gap. It’s comical, these pitfalls of a completely inexperienced housebuilder, no? And yet rather agonizing in the moment.

To add to the comedy, we then moved on to windows, thinking, Why waste a sunny warmish day? Let’s put windows in! After going back to the hardware store for the third time in one day to get self-sealing flashing for the sill, we read the window instructions thoroughly and watched some YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the windows I ordered, beautiful as they are, are wood windows with a pre-installed flat trim. NONE of the YouTube videos instruct you in how to install wood windows, let alone with this trim. It’s really just an issue of how to flash/waterproof them that had us stumped. So we got as far as we could before deciding that intuition alone was not sufficient to proceed, and once again customer service was closed, so again – wait til Monday.

Moral of the story? Learn these things far in advance, don’t do big new things on weekends, and chill the freak out. Of course there’s always a silver lining to every insane, meet-a-wall-at-every-turn-day: I got to chat with some super nice local people who came to pick up some supplies I had put up on Craigslist.

Dan, an electrician for 20 years, is building a garage to store his motorcycles and various recreational toys in, and came to buy the lumber I had lying around from that structure I build (and finally took down!!!) around the tiny house. He was a really positive, light guy, very curious about the casita. He came in for a tour. He said he used to be a carpenter and was impressed with my craftswomanship. (Whew!) He also gave me some info/feedback on the electric radiant heat I’ve been considering as a backup for the tiny wood stove and showed me a strip of it he had in his van.  Then Steve, a plumber/electrician and his wife came to buy my leftover Tyvek rolls for an addition they’re putting on their house, and they talked my ear off in the most lovely way. They were also super enthusiastic and positive people. I have to say that as cynical and selfish as people can be here in the Mid-Atlantic, those whom I’ve met through Craigslist have been nothing but kind and open-minded.

I will be really happy to have a house to live in, but my gosh getting it done has been no graceful matter. I’ve been at my worst through a lot of it… but I have also learned that construction will not be in the running for future career paths, so that’s cool to narrow down the field. Although I might consider building a cob home if I ever have a fleet of friends wanting to help… 🙂 Then I wouldn’t have to worry about straight lines, fasteners, synthetic products, sharp edges, etc. etc. etc….

Have a great week, everyone!


6 thoughts on “Siding and roofing hilarity

  1. I just want to say something, Pix. Your Casita journey is like any other large journey we embark on in life. If any of us knew the wormholes and vistas we would experience through things like intimate relationships, extended travel, having children, or anything else of decent magnitude, none of us would sign up for them. The Bella Casita is just like that. But these are things that add depth to our lives, and enable us to grow, and bring us to a different place. With each stage of the Casita you may look back and think about what you learned and what you might do differently, but that’s because you DID learn something. The Casita will be a snapshot of what you knew at that point in time, what you chose at that point in time. What a souvenir of your journey it will be! I can only think that when you reach the final culmination of standing in a completed Casita (which, like most things in life, you will feel will never be really completed–there is always something to improve/change), that you might experience something amazing as you look around at all you have done, all you have gone through, to make a wonderful, practical, cozy little portable place for you to be in the world. I know you’ve experienced this in pieces as each stage is completed already. I commend you for choosing to do this project, not knowing what you were signing up for, and sticking with it. You are also having some wonderful times with your Dad, the kind that few of us have in these very busy times, even if some of them were stressful for both of you. You are doing a great job. Hang in there. It’s a joy reading your blog.

  2. Wow, reading this is really making me feel grateful that I live in the northeast. Here in VT it’s barn central, and I haven’t had much trouble finding siding and other wood products. Funny though, It was difficult to find the somewhat high-tech sheathing I used- Zip System. There was only ONE lumberyard in all of N. Vermont that had it in stock.

    As for your decision to go with pine shiplap, I think it’s a great choice. That’s exactly what I went with for my house, though I decided on 8″ shiplap with a 7″ reveal. Then, Ann (my girlfriend) and I went through the trouble of running every single board through a table router to open up the gap on the outside- so that rather than butting tight, you’ll see a small gap where the boards join. I did this for water drainage and for looks. It was a day of noisy, saw-dusty work but I’m glad we did it.

    Finally, I went with Benjamine Moore Arbor Coat in Teak. You are correct that the Transparent style requires a top coat, but they also make a Translucent version that is one coat only. I managed to kick my parents out of their 2-car garage and heated the space with a propane space heater while I stained all of the boards. It is also a slow job. I’d definitely recommend getting a bucket and roller for applying stain- so much faster than a brush! We had it at about 45-50 degrees and had no trouble getting the stain to dry.

    • Ethan, so nice to read of your own experiences… I like the gap you guys put in your siding, it looks great. A roller, I discovered, is a must. Looks like we might plane the boards down a little to make a smoother face and accommodate the rainwall since my window trim is only 1 1/4″… Keep your great updates coming!

  3. If it’s not too late, I would NOT use the pre-formed closure strips. They don’t stay in place, are expensive, and far more trouble than they’re worth. We use simple self-adhesive (one side only) foam closure strip. It comes in 50′ rolls and is open-cell foam = easily compressible. The only issue I’ve ever had is when trying to screw down THROUGH it, it will sometimes try to wrap around the screw — making a big and frustrating mess of it. So I screw right next to it, but not THROUGH it. If one must go through it — like on a ridge cap — I prefer to carefully drill (watch the wrapping tendency!) after pushing the two layers of metal down tight together and then use a pop rivet instead of a screw. Even then it’s better to put the foam far enough up in there that the neo-screws don’t have to go through it.
    JIM ~ Meridian, ID

    • Jim, really helpful information you shared! I couldn’t find the 50 ft. generic sections you mentioned, though I did find 20-ft sections online…. Unfortunately it was going to cost $100 more than the pre-formed 2′ from the manufacturer!!!! Too bad, ’cause it did look much easier to work with… Anyway, I’ll be glad to be done with it when they arrive in a week. Thanks for your input 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s