Tiny Home: Arborion

Tansu Stairs

Initially I was not going to build stairs for Arborion. I thought that the room they would take up was not worth accessing the sleeping loft more conveniently, nor the extra storage space. However, I slowly came around to seeing the benefits beautiful tansu style stairs could offer.

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Initial clamping to make sure everything lines up before gluing

Where ever possible we used a datto for more strength when joining the 3/4″ maple plywood. The front edge is banded with walnut, but the inside is left the lighter maple in order to reflect more light.

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Assembly begins

The largest cabinet opening will be used for hanging clothing like shirts and jackets.

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A little chiseling and sanding

Dad built the pulls that will be inserted into the top right corner of each door.

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Doors and pulls

The treads are red oak with a very dark stain to match the flooring.

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Dark stain on red oak stair treads

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Tansu stairs with treads

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Tansu stairs up to sleeping loft

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Kitchen Counter Tops

These kitchen cabinets have been in need of beautiful black walnut countertops for some time now. Here’s how my Dad and I made that happen.

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Kitchen cabinets ready for countertops

It all starts with careful measurements and a cardboard template. The gas range and sink are located along with faucet and knobs.

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Cardboard template for the countertop

We used a generous amount of marine grade epoxy and clamped up the strips of walnut to cure.

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Strips of walnut are epoxied and clamped together

The countertop for the pantry cabinet is also complete. Now it’s time to transfer the final dimensions using the templates.

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Template used to mark out the countertops

Using a router and straightedge, the edges of the countertops are trimmed.

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Trimming with a router and guide

Marine grade epoxy is applied in coats on both sides to seal out moisture.

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Countertop sealed with epoxy

The epoxy is sanded down to a satin finish. Drop in cutting board will cover the sink and add more counter space.

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Countertop with drop in cutting board

The finished counter tops fit nicely. I oiled with with several coats of bee’s wax and linseed oil until the walnut looked beautiful.

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Countertops in place and oiled

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Extendable Futon

Just inside Arborion’s front door is a maple futon under a large window. As with all things in a tiny house it has to serve multiple functions to maximize the usefulness. This futon is both a bench and bed, but also Scout’s bed fits underneath.

The construction of a physical scale model was crucial to getting this project right the first time. From this I was able to experiment and learn what worked best and the trouble areas I might encounter during the actual build.

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1/8 scale working model of the futon

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Large maple boards for best yield

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All the pieces for the futon are blanked out

The spacing between the slats was critical. Dad insisted on making Formica spacers to go between every one on both ends. This was a very important step! With each slat in the correct location I could make the attachments to the supports.

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Assembly of the 46 slats with proper spacing

After a little more oiling it was time to install the futon in place.

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Futon in bench mode

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Futon extended into a 4′ x 6′ bed

 

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Composting Toilet & Bathroom Cabinet

This post is about the business end of the bathroom. The bathroom measures 2′ 6″ wide by 7′ 4″ long. On the right side is the composting toilet and upper cabinet. This cabinet is for towels, toiletries and other bathroom supplies.

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Bathroom cabinet frame

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Bathroom cabinet doors

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Bathroom cabinet

The composting toilet is a waterless system where waste is broken down through proper chemistry (nitrogen + carbon) into rich soil. The process takes about a year in an external bin, but it keeps the build simple and does not pollute water like traditional toilets.

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Composting toilet base

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Toilet lids clamped up

The center hole is where the human waste goes. The left and right holes are for sawdust (to cover the human waste) and regular trash.

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Assembled top of toilet

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Composting toilet

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Bathroom perspective from tub

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I’ve got the POWER!

The days of running an extension cord out of the main house in order to power Arborion are over. Its wonderful to be able to run the air conditioner with the turn of a knob or turn on the lights at the press of a switch.

The tiny house is supplied power through an RV style 30 amp receiver located under the utility annex. I installed a RV receptacle nearby fed from the main house and connected the two with hardy 10 gauge extension cable.

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30 amp twist lock receiver

The circuit panel was a challenge to get into position with all the wires feeding from different angles. In the end, it just took a large measure of patience and sweat. Mostly patience.

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Tight fit!

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All tidy and buttoned up

Arborion feels ‘alive’ now that it has that warm glow.

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Looking mighty cozy

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Mysterious Leak

Last Wednesday I drove home from work during a fierce thunder storm. I was wondering how Arborion was doing since I had left the windows open on either end to allow for a little airflow while I was gone for the day. These particular windows are below a one foot overhang so they are fairly protected from the weather, except when it is windy. I was nervous because this storm was gusting heavily from the south as it plowed through.

I arrived home safely glad to be out of the traffic and dashed from my big house through the rain and standing water to the cozy tiny house and jumped inside trying to let as little water in as I could. I was pretty wet at this point, but there was cardboard on the floor to catch the drips.

I checked the interior and closed the windows. And that’s when I saw water all over the window casing beside the door. It appeared that it was the result of the rain being blown in through the previously open window, but I caught sight of a trickle of water from the top of the window frame. I opened the door and stood on the front landing and checked outside on top of the window, but that was well protected under the foot overhang directly above.

I jumped back inside, shut the door, and calmed myself. I tried to think about this as clearly as I could. I figured the water was making it’s way through the siding, then the storm guard, the plywood sheathing, and the waterproof closed cell spray foam insulation in order to find it’s way to the top of the window frame.

At this time the wind shifted and the rain came in from the north. I noticed that water was beginning to seep past one end of the threshold under the door. The rain was now blowing directly at the porch landing and front door. I grabbed a towel and mopped it up and  left it along the length of the threshold to hold back water. Then turned my attention back to the window frame leak.

The leak was much slower now. Barely a drip. This was a clue that the leak was on the south side of something as it all but stopped once the wind shifted. I then saw that the interior maple wall was dark along a seam directly above the window. I marked it with painter’s tape and followed the ‘line’ vertically up until I saw that it lined up with the south side of the awning window up in the storage loft. That was the moment when I knew I had it right. Rain must be getting in around the awning window in the loft.

I had never noticed this issue in the past even during many days of rain, but this was no ordinary storm. This was a wind driven thunder storm coming from just the right angle. Once I got over the shock, I was glad to have been there to witness the leak and identify the problem before it got any worse. I also recognize that if the weather had not been as fierce, or if I had not gone out into Arborion at that time then I may not have found this leak and it may have resulted in a bigger problem down the road.

The next day I carefully removed the window and added a generous dose of caulking to the window frame. I also recaulked around the threshold. Withing twenty-four hours I experienced another serious rain storm and I’m happy to report that it appears the window and threshold are both properly sealed. No more leaks.

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Inspiration from my Granddad

On July 21, 2015 at 10:10 in the evening my Grandfather passed away peacefully. His name was Ron, and he was a great man. The best Grandfather anyone could hope for. He never forgot any of his grandchildren’s birthdays and always made the holidays extra special with his child-like enthusiasm. He’d end every conversation letting me know how special I was and that he was proud of me. And now that he is gone it has occurred to me that I’m not sure if I ever let him know just how much he inspired me.

My earliest memories are explorations around my Granddad’s river house. It is one of, if not the oldest, original house built in Brevard county. Built in 1786 along the Indian River in Sharpes, Florida, it is a two-story river house with wrap-around balconies, rope swings hanging from huge magnolia trees and a long dock out into the river. My two younger brothers and I spent our early childhood growing up in this old house. That grand river house had character, but it needed repairs. My granddad restored the house with help from others including my Dad. It was truly a sight when completed.

Ron also built an A-frame in Port St. John, Florida with the aid of a government grant based on his environmental design. I was still too young to help with the construction at this time, but my Dad and a couple of his brothers were put to work.

I remember going with my Mom and brothers to the site and bringing lunches. The stages of building a house looked so much like a life-sized version of the same forts my brothers and I spent our days building out in the woods.

My family moved from the river house into a house that my Dad built almost entirely by himself. I remember helping alongside my Mom and brothers as we swung hammers, soaked bricks, and played under a hand pump in the backyard. My granddad helped with this design as well. Passive solar winter heating, and convection currents were employed to make our house more energy efficient.

Memories of Granddad

It’s been two years since I’ve said goodbye to Grandfather Ron. He continues to inspire me to this day. His memory lives on.

Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Kitchen Cabinets

I enjoy trying to organize each of these posts into logical pieces that show an entire step of the tiny house build. In the case of the kitchen cabinets I chose to post them all together rather than brake it up into individual components. This covers about three months of weekend working and many times we were working on multiple cabinets and shelves at once.

It all starts with the face frames constructed from the bi-pass door tracks.

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Dad cutting tracks for the bi-pass doors

The upper kitchen cabinet is assembled and clamped ready for the face frame.

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Upper kitchen cabinet clamped up

The completed upper cabinet features a built in knife rack.

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Upper kitchen cabinet completed

The lower pantry cabinet is assembled and awaiting bi pass doors and finishing.

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Pantry cabinet

The lower kitchen cabinet assembly. This will have a trash chute on the left side and sink in the middle.

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Lower kitchen cabinet assembly

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Lower kitchen cabinet process

We were able to construct this spice rack in a single day.

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Spice rack single day build

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Spice rack mounted

 

Kitchen cabinets in place.

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Kitchen cabinets in position

 

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Loft Storage

Much has happened since my last post. We have been busy finalizing designs and building the cabinets for Arborion. The first of these cabinets were ‘foot lockers’ for loft storage. I call them foot lockers because they are one foot high by one foot deep and used for storage. They also create a nice shelf just below the gable windows.

Foot locker frame and pieces

They are constructed from solid maple stock for the face frames and cleats, along with 1/2″ maple plywood. There is also a 1/2″ walnut plywood top on each.

Assembled and clamped up

There is a center partition for reinforcement which compliment a pair of bi-pass sliding doors.

Ready to transport and install

Storage loft locker

Sleeping loft locker

 

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Shoji Door & Pocket Wall

There are only two doors in Arborion. The front door and a sliding bathroom door. Stepping through the front door and looking to the other end of the tiny house past the kitchen, sits the shoji-style sliding door. This separates the bathroom from the kitchen and one of the first things seen upon entry.

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Door frame

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Making halflap mullins

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Dry fit

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Pulls and catches

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Wooden clamps on walnut panels

Dad came up with a unique way to affix the paneling to the pocket wall in place using wooden clamps and wedges.

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Wooden clamps on maple panels

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Pocket wall and shoji door

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