The pace seems to be picking up, though today I hesitated on the project.
It’s hot, and the earliest I could have gotten a delivery for my next day off at the day job would have arrived in the afternoon. I’ll be holding off for a week to see if anything changes. I might drop by the property with some spray foam tomorrow to finish sealing things up.
Sunday, when I went out, I had a head start. I spent a few hours on “short days” getting the lumber delivered for the floor sheathing and ensuring that everything would be good to go before the sub-floor install was official.
Here’s the thing about houses, or any built structure. The foundation needs be sturdy, the finished part of this process completes a “box” that will serve as a base for the whole structure. It must bear all the weight placed upon it. Being solid is a requirement.
Anything that falls “below the fold,” in internet speake, is essentially sealed off. Once this part is tacked down, at least on my house, getting at the under workings involves ripping off a sheet of the skirting or digging through the floor itself. Thus is why I elected to keep as much of the essential functional pieces above floor level. The piping you see here is all drainage, so there is little chance that I’ll ever need to get down there. I do have a clean-out on the front in case of clogging, but I hardly think it’ll be a problem.
Everything else, the water lines, the electric lines, heat and A/C will go above floor level. I thought about bringing the drainage “inside” as well with some clever piping, but decided that it was best for such a small house to keep it below.
As such, my biggest goal with the floor sheathing, aside from “sealing the box,” was to correct any un-squareness in the foundation framing. Not everything is perfect in the real world, and I’m doing this all on my own, so it’s natural that things might be off a quarter inch here or there.
The picture above was the beginning of that process. Getting it true and square at this point is much more critical, as the walls will need to be as close to perfect as possible. This isn’t eccentricity on my part, but a function of modern “stick” building technique. Once the roof rafters are up, there’s no going back, and if their base is off, even slightly, it leads to huge mistakes when laying the final roof sheathing. If I had a thatched roof, it would be nothing worth worrying over, but boards tend to be very particular about how they line up.
That said, nothing was finalized except one corner of the structure until I could ensure all of my measurements were true and square. A tiny bit of bending and twisting aside, everything lined up great! On close inspection, there is a difference between my foundation and the sub-floor resting on it. It’s out by almost half an inch on one corner.
When checking for square, you check three measurements. The lengths of opposite main walls, and the diagonals. My diagonals pulled perfectly at this step, the short walls are perfect (to as near as my eye can tell on a steel tape), and only the long walls are off by 1/8th of an inch. This is because the side walls aren’t exactly parallel, but and 1/8th can be fixed much more easily than 1/2 or 3/4 of an inch.
The great thing about walls is that I have a perfectly flat surface that I can mark with chalk lines or pencil. I can measure precisely before I even start putting them together, and mark out the lines they should follow on the inside. This is how you turn “almost square” into “perfect square. Once up, they can be wiggled and moved on top until the tops are plumb (top rail directly over the bottom) and square. This means an easier time when I need to start climbing about on the roof itself.
5 hours Sunday to get this all finished, which puts me back on track. I’m 9 actual working days into building, and I have my base. I’m pretty happy about how things are progressing, though I may add a day for walls. I originally planned to do wall framing and sheathing on different days, but I’ve decided to pivot and install the sheathing on the ground, while building the walls. This will give me nicer cut-outs for doors and windows, and less fuss. They’ll be heavier, but I can manage. If a local friend or two comes out to help, I could still get the whole thing knocked out in a day, but I’m not counting on that. (hopeful, but I won’t fault anyone for not showing up, people have their own lives).
Roof trusses should take me about a day to build and another to install. Roof sheathing another day. After that, I’m working inside (or outside) of a shell. Sheet rock, roofing, interior walls, power setup, and my fireplace will be next on the list, and I’ll let weather determine what I’m working on that day.
I’ve seen people discussing their own tiny house builds (those little house-on-a-trailer setups) taking 3-6 months, or even a year or two to reach the “shell” stage. If you decide to make your own home, I wouldn’t base your commitment off of them. 9 eight-hour days of hard work got me from bare ground to here, and I’m no expert or carpenter (though I do have the upshot of being far enough from city lights to have no worries about inspections and permits). It is hard work, but it’s rewarding. I can walk around on that finished pad and envision my bathroom, the fireplace, my work station and the window I’ll be staring out of blankly, and even my little bedroom (bed nook?). Once the walls are up, the feeling will be that much stronger. I can feel my life coming to completion of a dream I had around fifteen years ago.
Even when it’s done, there will be other worries and problems. This is normal I think. Off-grid living isn’t for everyone, but I’m not foolish enough to take the water and power systems for granted. There will most certainly be unforeseen problems, but I’m ready to weather them. I may have failed to cave-man it out there in an 80 square foot shell, but I lasted well over a month at a time. My water tanks alone are a luxury and a huge asset compared to what I had before. Can’t wait to get all of my stellar observing equipment out there and spend some free time at night taking snapshots of that beautiful sky.