a story about living small

Construction Diary

Where Are We (and our house) Now? A TINY Update Two Years Later.

Christopher Merete Building Tiny House Colorado

 

It’s hard to believe that Christopher and I finished our Tiny House almost two years ago! There were so many moments during the building process when it seemed like the to do list would just keep unfolding and we’d be working on our sweet little Tiny forever…

But we did finish and that year-long process has become just one chapter out of so many in our lives, though one that impacted and shaped us in major ways.

One of the most frequently asked questions that we get at Q&As when we show the film is, “Are you living in the tiny house now?” Since we want the film to be a standalone story, depicting one moment in time (the way that sometimes it’s nice just to experience a painting without knowing the whole backstory of the artist’s life or how it was painted) we’ve hesitated to post too much online about our lives post-film, so as not to spoil the experience of seeing that story unfold on screen. But for those of you who have already seen the film or have been following us online for quite some time now, here’s an update on where we’ve been and where we are now, as of May 2014:  Continue reading “Where Are We (and our house) Now? A TINY Update Two Years Later.” »


Tiny House Detail: Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring Tabletop.

The table at the front end of our tiny house is a multi-purpose spot. Made for dining, writing, working, and those all-important moments of staring off into the distance with cups of tea. Placed right under the largest window in our house and framed by windows on either side, the view is wide and long; a gold-green valley and snow-capped Colorado peaks.

It was Christopher’s brilliant idea to use leftover reclaimed hardwood flooring to make the tabletop. We decided not to sand the hardwood down or refinish it, as we did with the floor, because we wanted to show the original stain and wear of the wood. Continue reading “Tiny House Detail: Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring Tabletop.” »


Powering our Tiny House, Off the Grid: The SolMan Portable Solar Generator

Perhaps one my favorite things about our tiny house (other than falling asleep to the sound of rain on a steel roof) is that it is entirely off grid.

Christopher and I are both environmentalists of sorts, having spent chunks of our lives studying, researching, and telling stories about humans’ interactions with our natural resources and waste. Part of this tiny house experiment has always been about learning to lessen our own impact.

And there’s also the practical side of things: 40 miles from a major town, our tiny house doesn’t have access to a “grid” of any kind. No gas lines. No power lines. No water lines or sewage system. We’ve had to figure out our own solutions for each of these utilities.

Park County, Colorado gets an average of 246 sunny days each year, so solar power was an obvious choice for our electric needs.  Throughout the building stage, Christopher looked into rigging up a system of his own design, but when we heard about the SolMan portable solar generator, we decided it was be worth it to purchase a professional, pre-made solar unit than to build our own. Continue reading “Powering our Tiny House, Off the Grid: The SolMan Portable Solar Generator” »


Heating our Tiny House: Wood vs. Propane.

Back in March, when we interviewed Ann Holley and Darren Macca of Protohaus (pictured above), we asked them what advice they would give to someone just beginning to build their tiny house. Ann immediately had an answer, “It’s really important to have all of your utilities before you begin building,” she said, “so that you know the exact dimensions and what you’ll need to do to install them. It really helps to plan that out ahead of time.” Christopher and I looked at each other, the obvious truth of this statement dawning on us. Ohhhh. Yeah. That would have made our own construction process sooo much easier.

In case you’re new to this project, here’s some important background info:

1: Neither Christopher or I have any building experience whatsoever.

2: We did not use any plans in the building of this house. Christopher pretty much figured it out/ made it all up as he went along.

For us, this has been part of the adventure. But it has certainly come with its share of challenges. Such as that fateful summer day when we realized that all of the windows we’d bought were horizontal instead of vertical, and that yes, this matters when constructing a house.

This project has been about learning as we go, and part of that, inevitably, means making mistakes, having a sense of humor, and adjusting accordingly. Picking out a stove for our house has been no exception.

Continue reading “Heating our Tiny House: Wood vs. Propane.” »


Tiny House Construction Update: Separating the Bathroom from the Kitchen.

Nothing has made the house feel like an actual house more than the addition of our first real “room.”

Many of you may already know that we’re not building this house with any plans. Christopher chose to figure it out as he went along—partly because he felt that designing the house himself was part of his dream to truly create a home of his own. If you know Christopher personally, you’ll agree that the whole “figure it out as we go along” mentality is sort of that way that he lives his life. The house has been conquered by taking each step as it comes, and learning as he goes.

And so, we invite you to stand back and watch the genesis of our bathroom/kitchen wall/closet/built-in bookcase, step by step. In this slideshow, you’ll see the evolution of the bathroom, followed by the narrow closet that opens onto the kitchen, and finally, the built-in bookshelf made out of  our leftover barnwood.

Continue reading “Tiny House Construction Update: Separating the Bathroom from the Kitchen.” »


Tiny House Construction Update: The Hardwood Floors.

sweeping tiny house hardwood floor "tiny a story about living small"

With the installation of the hardwood floors, we’re proud to say that now (almost) every inch of the tiny house interior is covered with some sort of semi-finished surface. No more unsightly plywood or insulation sticks out, and each day it’s looking more and more like a real house. (Except the bathroom—the tile floor will go in later this month.)

We’re finding ourselves asking questions that have seemed far away for so much of this process. Questions like, “How deep should the built-in shelves be?” or, “Should we put a desk or a dining table under the front window?” These are Finish questions, and our minds are drifting to thoughts about curtain materials and light fixtures…

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Ahem. Back to the floors. Continue reading “Tiny House Construction Update: The Hardwood Floors.” »


Tiny House Construction Update: A Year of Photos, Step-by-Step.

Whew! It’s hard to believe that our last official construction update was posted almost six months ago, back when the house was still a plywood box topped with skeletal rafters.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Since time has gotten the best of us, if you’re interested in following the step-by-step progress on the house, we invite you to check out our Construction Process photo album on facebook. Pictures speak louder than words, and we’ve added captions so you can track our work through the months of May through January and beyond.

If—like Christopher—you’re thinking about building your own tiny house or learning as you go, here are a few of our favorite blogs and sites that offer step-by-step photo albums and more in-depth D.I.Y. tiny house How Tos:

Chris and Malissa’s Tiny Tack House

Steven Wolverton’s tiny house in Texas

Kevin’s MicroHomestead on Youtube

The How-To Section at TinyRevolution

And if you know of other favorite how-to building resources, let us know and we’ll add them to the list!

 

~ Merete Mueller, 1/25/11

 

 

 


Tiny House Construction Update: A Wall of Barnwood.

Last summer, Christopher found a load of old barn wood advertised on Craigslist. The wood was cheap and being offered up in the mountains only about 30 minutes away, so we jumped into his truck and took an early morning drive to escape the lowland heat and pick up some lumber.

This was back in the early stages of building, when we didn’t exactly know what we would do with the wood. We just thought, “It’s cheap, good quality wood, and we’re building a house. So we’re bound to need it, right?”

After laying under a tarp for most of the summer, autumn and some of the winter, the barn wood was finally pulled out last week. We decided to use it for the tall interior wall on the south side of the house, to accent the lighter blue-stain pine walls that have already gone up.

The result is a pretty elegant looking wall, if we do say so ourselves, with roots right here in the mountains:

 

~ Merete Mueller, 1/9/12


Tiny House Construction Update: A Porch is Born.

My favorite part of the tiny house’s new porch has been watching Christopher figure out how to build it.

Because of the house’s cantilevered porch (Chirstopher’s invention, to maximize floor space inside the house), the design was a bit trickier than your standard tiny house deck. When the house is stationary, the 3-foot section of the porch that hangs suspended over the edge of the trailer is supported with jacks. But when the house is transported, there will be nothing but air beneath this section. Most porch designs would have put too much weight on the ends of these beams, so Christopher had to get creative. Continue reading “Tiny House Construction Update: A Porch is Born.” »


Beetle Kill Pine Siding: A Local, Sustainable Option.

Siding Stacked Up

Siding Stacked Up

Today, I picked up the siding for the tiny house.

At the beginning of this project, we decided to use reclaimed and other environmentally friendly materials as much as possible. One of my reasons for building the house in the first place was to live closer to the Western landscape that I love. Since this house was inspired by my appreciation for the land, I want to do everything that I can to help preserve it, by building in a sustainable way. Hopefully, this project will help to show how inexpensive and easy it can be to build a house sustainably.

When choosing siding, we decided to go with Beetle Kill Pine (also known as “blue-stain pine tongue and groove”). It’s called “Blue Stain” because of the blue-ish tint of the wood, which is milled from Lodge Pole Pine trees that have been killed by the bark beetles plaguing forests in this part of the country. Continue reading “Beetle Kill Pine Siding: A Local, Sustainable Option.” »


Tiny House Construction Update: Windows and a Small Setback.

Window Tape

Window Tape
Photo by Kevin Hoth

Part of building a house with no experience is learning as we go. We make mistakes, sometimes cringing, sometimes laughing, mostly agreeing that each snafoo will add to the charm of the finished product. But today’s mistake turned out to be pretty expensive, and a little tough on our morale. Continue reading “Tiny House Construction Update: Windows and a Small Setback.” »


Summer Thunderstorms and the Race to Weather-proof.

Summer along Colorado’s front range brings thunderstorms like clockwork. Almost every day, between 3:30 and 4:30pm.

Out at the building site, we can see them coming from miles away. Long gray fingers of rain that extend from the clouds to the plains, dark and quickly moving cloud formations, lighting in the distance and then thunder. We stop to count (1 Misissippi, 2 Mississippi…) to see how many miles away the storm is, and then notice which direction the wind is blowing—whether it’s moving towards us or away—and how fast it might come.

Today, we saw the storm coming and knew it would be a big one, but had just one more piece of trim to cut, with a rented table saw due back that afternoon. Christopher was balancing on the ladder, holding the trim against the roof with one hand and waving for a pencil with the other, when the rain reached us. Fast. I was running around the house, slipping through the mud in my Toms, trying to find the missing pencil and hand it up to him. By the time I did, my hair was dripping and we had no choice but to unplug all the power chords, as soon as possible, and get the rented table saw under plastic. Continue reading “Summer Thunderstorms and the Race to Weather-proof.” »


Tiny House Progress Report: Walls and Roof Complete

Rafters finished.

I have been working away on the Tiny House and filming for the past month or so. Progress has been slow and steady and the familiar outline of a house has finally taken shape. I have been working mostly alone, but have had some dedicated support from a few good friends.

Continue reading “Tiny House Progress Report: Walls and Roof Complete” »


How It All Started

It’s hard to remember exactly when or where Christopher and I each learned about Tiny Houses, but we think it started for both of us with this issue of Yes! Magazine, back in 2008:

This was before we knew each other, and long before Christopher would buy his land and I would suggest that he film the process of building a tiny house from scratch, and we would decide to make a short documentary.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before any of this happened, for much longer than I’ve known him, Christopher has had a fantasy of building a small cabin in the Colorado mountains. It would be remote, surrounded by open space, and it would include a porch with two rocking chairs, a dog, a banjo, and possibly a pick-up truck. It was the kind of fantasy that started out vague, the details slowly being filled in over the years (his friend David would sit on the porch and play banjo during rain storms, the dog’s name would be “Buck”). But the potential of making this dream into a reality was always pushed off to someday in the future. “When I get older.” “When I have money.” “When I feel like settling down.” A few months after I first met Christopher, he sheepishly showed me that he had a Park County real-estate website bookmarked on this computer, featuring cheap parcels of land that were far from any amenities. This is when he first told me about the cabin that he one day wanted to build. The dream was there, always in the background.

Continue reading “How It All Started” »