Posts Tagged With: 50 shades of over-engineered

Bathroom Sink

I was in need of a compact bathroom sink that did not exist. The only one that came close was a tiny IKEA design, but it only came in one color — white porcelain. This is not what I was looking for.


Face frame and sides

Since my Dad is an expert woodworker, and always up to a new challenge, I talked him into helping me build a black walnut vanity.   The design measures 18″ tall, 19″ wide, 10″ deep with a 6″ deep sink. Just large enough to wash hands, shave over, or brush teeth.


Initial clamp up


Sink basin is added

Below the sink is a small amount of storage area.


Taped off for multiple coats of epoxy


Epoxied, oiled and drain installed

The inside of the sink basin is also epoxied to remain waterproof while the rest of the outside is oiled.


Look at that curly walnut!

Now that the shower panels are installed I can mount the bathroom sink.


Vanity mounted in place


A beautiful addition to the bathroom

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Shower & Soaking Tub

When designing the shower for Arborion I knew I wanted a tub for multiple reasons. The first was to be able to soak in a bath. The Japanese often make use of small soaking tubs such as this. I also wanted a backup to washing clothes at a laundry mat. This tub would provide that utility if needed. A tub also provides more assurance that the water from a shower leaves through the drain instead of being held back by the low lip of a shower pan.


Tub parts stained and drying in the sun

The tub is constructed from marine grade fir plywood and maple. These pieces were stained dark on the faces that would be seen. The bottom of the tub was built up with an additional layer of maple and shaped by sanding a gradual slope to the drain location.


Tub assembled


Tub epoxied with several coats to keep it watertight


Tub installed with drain


Marine grade plywood wall substrate


Applying the Max-metal to shower wall surfaces starting with the ceiling

It took me months to locate a suitable material for the waterproof surface in the shower. Although, just about the time I was ready for the material I found a local supplier.

I did not have confidence in thin plastic liners or tile so I went a different route. This material goes by Dibond or Max-metal. It is two layers of aluminum with a core of poly ethylene. It can be cut easily enough so using it in a custom sized shower was not a problem. It is waterproof and will not corrode. It is also lightweight and durable.


Max-metal aluminum panels glued to plywood substrate

I chose a brushed aluminum surface which looks great in such a small space. Now all that is left is to use silicone in the corners and install the shower head and faucet.


All that is missing now is a bit of walnut trim

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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.


Dad cutting tracks for the bi-pass doors

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


Upper kitchen cabinet clamped up

The completed upper cabinet features a built in knife rack.


Upper kitchen cabinet completed

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


Pantry cabinet

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


Lower kitchen cabinet assembly


Lower kitchen cabinet process

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


Spice rack single day build


Spice rack mounted


Kitchen cabinets in place.


Kitchen cabinets in position


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Hardwood Flooring

I was so certain I was going to use bamboo flooring in the tiny house. That was until I researched the color and texture options in conjunction with the weight of the better brands. Of the bamboo choices I had access to, the better constructed ones were too heavy to use throughout Arborion. It was going to be over 800 pounds to cover the subfloor and the lofts. Plus the colors and textures were not exactly what Carrie and I were envisioning.


Flooring ready to install

We did however, find the perfect flooring at Lumber Liquidators. It was the right dark color to tie in the bronze window frames and outlets. It was the right hand-scraped texture to feel worn in. It also was constructed from red oak and poplar plywood which gives a hard surface with a light weight and very stable core. And finally this beautiful flooring was on sale.


First couple of courses to set us straight


Flooring is looking good


Lofts get fancy flooring as well.


Sleeping loft decked out with flooring

It took about 2-1/2 days to install. Much of that time was dialing in the finish nailer to give of the best results. The process went smoothly and was a lot of fun picking out which floor boards go where.


Scout approves

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Lofts, Ceilings & Finish

The ridge of the 10′ ceiling is complete all the way into both lofts.


Sleeping loft decking


Back of Arborion

The lofts now have the bottom side covered with the 1/2″ maple plywood. This makes up the ceiling in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the reading nook under the storage loft. The tops have been decked over with 5/8″ plywood on the sleeping loft and 1/2″ in the storage loft. The same bronze can lights are installed in the kitchen and bathroom ceilings as I used for the porch landing.


Storage loft decking


Front of Arborion

For the finish on the maple I used three coats of water-based matte polyurethane. The walnut was coated with a mixture of paraffin and linseed oil to match the door.

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Maple & Walnut Walls

For several weekends my Dad and I have been installing lightweight 1/2″ plywood as the finished walls inside the tiny house Arborion. Other than a few trim pieces, the walls are complete. Many of the pieces were fairly complex. They required careful measuring and several trips back to the work area under my carport to fine tune the shaping of each section. Like the ceiling, each section was installed one piece at a time with super construction adhesive and finish nails.


My Dad applying construction adhesive before attaching the maple plywood panel

My brother, Daniel, was able to to help out during the first weekend of wall installation which was awesome. Having an extra set of hands and eyes on some of these large intricate sections was very helpful.


Daniel and Dad working together on a complicated panel section

The walnut portion of the walls make up the lower 30 inches in a wainscot sort of appearance, while the maple fills the rest of the walls and ceiling. I am currently in the time consuming process of filling the small nail holes in preparation for the finishes I will be applying soon.


Walnut panels in the bathroom


Back of Arborion and bathroom


Front of Arborion and reading nook


Wall sections complete

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Maple-Paneling: Ceiling

I have been really excited to share this latest step in the tiny house build. Arborion has really taken on a beautiful look with its ceiling clad in light maple.


First two panel pieces glued and finish nailed

I’m using half inch maple plywood with a garnica core that makes it very flat and light weight. The quality of the maple is such that the wood grain is very subtle, which is good since it covers such a large area. There is a warmth to the light that bounces down from the dormer windows off the angles of the maple ceiling.


Sleeping loft complete except for a thin ridge panel

Fitting the panels to the angles and shapes of the ceiling and gables is a slow and painstaking task. By making cardboard templates of the trickier areas we saved making mistakes with our more expensive materials. We used construction adhesive and small finish nails in order to make a strong and permanent bond and keep a cleaner finished appearance.


Main ceiling is coming along

On a separate note I must add that shaving down the closed-cell foam insulation is messy and time consuming work. The installers did wonderful work, but there are always areas that need more attention and trimming in order for the paneling to be installed properly.


Storage loft looking good

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Insulation Installation

The choice of using a closed-cell spray foam insulation for Arborion did not come easy. I logged countless hours of research into many of the more commonly used tiny house insulation options. The main points I considered was cost, R-value, environmentally friendly, weight, ease of installation, water absorption/mildew.

Closed-cell spray foam was definitely the most expensive option because it requires professionals to install it properly. The R-value is the best by far achieving a rating of 21 in the 3.5″ cavities of the walls and roofs. Although the foam itself is not environmentally friendly, if used responsibly it can provided a life-time of energy savings. The weight is slightly heavier than other insulation, but that was a minor difference. The installation is part of what makes this insulation so expensive, but that makes the installation effortless on my part. The closed-cell spray foam was the only insulation that does not absorb any water meaning it also provides a waterproof seal. There was even a bonus advantage of this particular choice – added structural strength. It’s hard to explain just how much more rigid this dense foam has made everything, but think of a lightweight glue holding every structural component in it’s place. One last detail I’d like to share is that this stuff is messy until you get the interior wall sheathing up.

Having been through the experience, I would highly recommend giving closed-cell spray foam your consideration. If you are in central Florida then ask Tailored Foam any of your spray foam questions.


Tailored Foam installers Jose and Joey

Thank you Joey and Jose for your excellent work and attention to detail.


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Pressure Testing & Insulation Prep

The countdown has started for the closed-cell spray foam installation. This will be the first, and probably only, step of the tiny house construction that I will sub-contract to professionals. The plan is to have Icynene insulation applied to all exterior walls and roof in the last half of February. To be ready for this step the rough-in plumbing, propane, and electrical must be complete. Once the spray foam is installed there is almost no chance for corrections. There will be more on why I chose to use Icynene insulation in a later post.

The main test that had to be conducted was a pressure test on the plumbing lines inside the walls. Due to the shower assembly, this is the only spot where there are any Pro Pex fittings within the walls. These fittings are the only ones that I will be unable to access after the spray foam installation. After several overnight tests and replacing the shower faucet neck, we finally had a successful week long pressure test at 50psi.


Pressure testing the entire plumbing system


Pressure testing the plumbing inside the walls with air

In the meantime, several other small projects needed to be addressed to be ready for the spray foam as well. Boxes were built to enclosed the wheel wells and receive insulation. The flush mount porch light was hung and boxed in since the area over the porch would also be spray foamed.


Wheel well boxes


Tight fit with front door open


Completed wheel well box

Work has taken place in the utility annex as well. The Ecco Temp L5 tankless water heater was installed. Also, the electrical panel was framed in and fitted.


Electrical panel



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Learning Curves and Flexible Pipes

This step of the tiny house build involved an enormous amount of research. I had never before roughed in plumbing, electrical or propane and now I was going to tackle all three. Since each of these systems was to be permanently sealed up inside the walls I had to be sure I knew what I was getting myself into. Searching for what I thought to be the very best of each system for my needs and the space available, I invested countless hours getting advice from professionals in the trade, watching you tube how-to videos, product demonstrations, online browsing/shopping and visiting home improvement and specialty stores. It was a huge learning curve.


I kept all the plumbing in one corner of the tiny house which made things simpler. This includes a kitchen sink, shower/tub, and bathroom sink. The water lines had to be tough and yet flexible since I wanted the entire run of each pipe to be without joints in the walls. This is just one less thing to worry about going wrong inside the walls years down the road. For these reasons I chose to use the Uponor Pro Pex. My cousin, Russell, a general contractor and draftsman, highly recommended I use this product as well. It does not use the crimp rings like other pex styles. Instead it uses expandable pex couplings that contract around the pipe and fitting for a very secure and long-lasting bond.

Pro Pex

Pro Pex

Shower plumbing

Shower plumbing


This was the most labor intensive of the rough ins, but in my opinion it was also the easiest. The wire had to be run through the walls to every corner and in the lofts, but careful planning made that task easy and fun. I used standard 12/2 Romex-type wire for all connections. There are a total of six circuits inside the tiny house and one in the utility annex in case I want to power something outside. Each circuit is on a 20 amp breaker. The six inside circuits are divided according to load. The outlets near the ac unit and toaster oven are on there own circuits.

Driiling a hole for the wires to enter the utility annex

Drilling a hole for the wires to enter the utility annex

Dad drilling holes to run the wires

Dad drilling holes to run the wires

Tricky corner threading

Tricky corner threading

Running the wires

Running the wires

Sleeping loft

Sleeping loft


My propane requirements were similar to the plumbing.  I needed two continuous lines each run to either side of the tiny house. One will supply a double gas range top in the kitchen and the other for a possible future heater. Since I did not want any fittings inside the walls I went with Home Flex stainless steel flexible line. Bending it through holes in the corners of the tiny house was a challenge, but it worked.

Kitchen wall

Kitchen wall

Propane termination flanges in utility annex

Propane termination flanges in utility annex

In the end I feel I learned so much and made some really great choices. These choices were not cheap, but since it will be sealed up in the walls, and buried permanently in closed-cell spray foam, I wanted the confidence of knowing I assembled everything to the best of my ability. Everything is now in place for the spray-in insulation.

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