Treading Water

Hello, lovelies.

If you aren’t connected to Casita Bella’s Facebook page yet, you should be. Extra words for the blog, you may have noticed, have been in short supply. Last summer, as intense as it often was, accumulated a sort of magical force that protected my tiny house project from diversion and distraction, allowing me to focus almost fully on building in between the hours spent at my paying job.

This summer has developed so far in a remarkably different manner, punctuated by laughter-infused gatherings, familial responsibilities and celebrations, and the engrossing gut-wrenching, heart-melting, mind-bending adventure that is falling in love. All of these wonderful and sometimes-stressful distractions have left little time for mi casita, but progress is being made still in my haphazard manner. I’ve just about thrown time goals out the window, although I am driven to finish before the snow arrives (if it ever does). I laugh when thinking about how I had wanted to have the siding on months ago, and now here I am practically to the middle of July with Tyvek still rockin’ exposure.

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Since the last time I wrote, the window exteriors got primed & painted, the front door got mostly sanded down, the door hardware got partially installed along with the door frame & threshold. Siding is about halfway complete and I ended up spraying the interior of my house with poison.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I avoid killing even mosquitoes, but the ants were marching purposefully into the little house on the extension cord, loitering disturbingly in quiet corners of the structure where I feared they were starting networks of nests. The recommendation to spray came to me via a wonderful finish carpenter, Claudio, whom I found on Craigslist.

After finishing up with the windows, I was experiencing another point of inertia and felt lost about putting up siding. I decided to get some paid help from someone who really knew what they were doing, and changed my approach for posting an ad on Craigslist from last summer’s mishap. This time I asked for people specifically experienced with wood siding, or finish carpenters. I also didn’t put a dollar value on the post, waiting instead to hear the various quotes people offered me. I talked to about 10 people and followed my instincts. Some were too gruff or too uncommunicative or too expensive or too arrogant or too passive to work one on one with. People were asking anywhere from $15/hour to $300/day. Claudio was the last person to call me and I instantly resonated. He sounded like a buddy.

When he showed up for our first day of work, we quickly learned that we had some notable connections: One, we are both Saggitarius Roosters (he is one of two I have met recently, a fun kinship reflected). Two, he and his wife are considering moving to a farm community in Olympia where some friends of mine lived when I was going to college there back in ’01-’03. It’s quite rare for me that I encounter others with a Northwest connection here in the Mid Atlantic, so this was heartwarming for me. Claudio also happens to be an excellent carpenter, so it’s been a great situation all around (except on my finances). It’s a breath of fresh air to talk with someone who knows what they’re doing and I’ve gathered excellent advice on everything from wood finishes to porch overhangs to bug treatment.

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During the wettest June on record, we started siding. Once we did, I realized there was very little to it. Measure, cut, sand the end, stain the end, put roofing nails in between the boards for spacing, drill, screw. I like the rhythm of it. I had been thrown off by the instructions I read online which said not to nail/screw across the face of the boards. As it turns out, with softwood shiplap this is pretty much an imperative. Claudio said the stainless steel finish screws I got didn’t even necessitate a pilot hole, although once I started working on my own, I switched to using them just because it looks a little cleaner up close. He and his family were leaving to visit Olympia so I continued on and was fortunate to have some help along the way, too.

Now I’ve been stalled for the last two weeks with my little sister’s wedding taking center stage, but family has departed and the summer is settling in and things are quieting down. I like this. Expect to see more progress in the coming weeks now… Detail work on the exterior, including deciding whether or not to put an overhang over the front door (and window?) before siding goes up in front… Sealing the front door, putting in the pest screen, finishing the eaves, and THEN I can turn my attention to plumbing and electric.

Last note on sealing wood for exterior applications: My boyfriend’s brother is amazing with this stuff, completely rebuilding his own house. He gave me a tip on Waterlox, a tung oil product that comes in a marine grade. It’s horribly expensive but I’m gonna try it out for my door… and maybe the cedar trim? I saw the doors on his house and they looked incredible. Claudio mentioned creating a mix that is possibly similar but much cheaper that I intend to use for my window interiors: 3 parts tung oil, 2 parts boiled linseed oil, 1 part spar varnish or polyurethane. I decided to switch to this mix from using just the pure tung oil with solvent because I heard crazy stories about having to use up to 8 coats of that stuff just to saturate the wood. Time is so precious these days, I am happy to try something a little more chemy for speedier and potentially more durable results.

Happy summering, everyone!

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