Long Beach

I am booked on the red-eye back to Boston this evening leaving me the better part of the day for some sightseeing. I decided to visit Long Beach, arriving by 6am, well ahead of the morning rush hour traffic. I spent three hours walking around the marina area before visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific, one of the best in the world.


I emerged with a bevy of great photos five hours later and was in the mood to get off my feet. A nearby cinema offered the respite I was seeking. I saw Atomic Blonde, a movie I was fairly certain would not interest Jeanine and one which I knew I would enjoy (billed as the female 007).

Happy Couple

Karuna, whose birthday is on Monday, joined Nicolai for the long weekend in Los Angeles. The two have been dating since high school and seem so happy together. They will spend tomorrow at Laguna Beach for some well deserved R&R before returning to Colorado.

Today’s final match against Haiti was no different from the first two. The fouls against Nico continued and were so flagrant it was almost comical. One foul near the Haiti goal led to a free kick that Nico buried into the net for his only goal of the weekend.

Despite the treatment he received on the field, Nicolai kept his cool and accepted defeat graciously. I am as proud of the leadership he demonstrates as captain of the team as I am of his athletic performance on the field.

Foul Play

The US National Amputee Soccer Team was in action this weekend against the national team from Haiti.  The Haitian team includes many survivors of the 2010 earthquake that devastated their country. Regrettably, despite having a superior team in terms of speed and skill, the Haitians resorted to deliberately fouling Nicolai to prevent him from scoring. The sequence of pictures here shows what happened after Nicolai beat one of their players (who lost his balance as Nico dribbled around him). While falling to the ground he swung his crutch at Nicolai, fracturing the extremely strong carbon fiber tube of his crutch. I shudder to think what would have happened if he had hit Nico’s leg instead.

This was by no means the only such example of foul play.  It became pretty clear by the second game that fouling Nico was part of their strategy to neutralize him.  Unfortunately it was fairly effective.

Newport Beach

An early direct flight into LAX had me on the ground there by 11am where I met up with two of Nico’s amputee soccer teammates. We drove in my rental car to Garden Grove where the team has rented a large house through airbnb which will be our base of operations for the weekend. 

With three hours to kill before checkin, we decided to drive over to Newport Beach to check out the ocean scene. The water was too cold for my taste, but there was no lack of interesting photographic subjects.

Miter Jig

Tomorrow I leave for Los Angeles where I will spend 4 days with Nicolai. He will be competing with the US National Amputee Soccer Team in an international match against Haiti.  While I am away, Maya will be working on tiny house insulation.  This morning I built the jig pictured above to simplify cutting 22.5″ wide 2″ thick foam core panels at the angles required for our roof (18, 40 and 90  degrees). My afternoon was an exercise in exasperation as I spent hours at the RMV getting plates for the tiny house trailer.

All Wrapped Up

The Audi was pressed into service as a pickup truck this morning.  A couple of 2x4s attached to my home built kayak carrier made for a very simple but effective way to transport 4’x8′ sheet goods.  We ran out of sheathing panels yesterday and needed two more to complete the job.  Our original design was for a 20 foot long trailer and we calculated lumber requirements accordingly.  When we had to switch to a 24 foot trailer we knew that we would be coming up short on a lot of materials. While I was at Home Depot I also picked up the front door that Maya had picked out on a previous visit.

Motivated, as we have often been, by forecasted rain we made significant progress today.  We completed all of the wall sheathing, cut window openings that had been paneled over, completed the last of the wiring, installed an HDTV antenna and HDMI interface for the television, and wrapped the house in Tyvek.  The last job would have been impossible without help from Kyle. He unwrapped, supported and aligned the roll of 9′ wide material while Maya stapled it to the house. I ran around with scissors and a utility knife to cut the material to fit around fenders, jacks, and various other items. Tyvek (Dupont brand house wrap) provides an air and liquid water barrier between the sheathing and the frame/insulation while allowing water vapor to escape.

Shaping Up

We nearly completed all of the sheathing today before running out of material.  Remaining to be done are the loft walls and porch roof. Maya has learned to properly use use all of the tools we have been using on the project including a number of saws (miter saw, band saw, circular saw, hand pull saw, oscillating saw, jigsaw). She has been reluctant, however, to use the table saw having been injured by a kickback when she was younger. Today she got back in the saddle cutting a few simple pieces.  Kickback is no joke. When I was working on a project many years ago a kickback from the same saw shot a piece of wood through the wall of my shop. This only has to happen once before you learn not to stand directly behind the blade.

Wall Sheathing

Rain forecasted for tomorrow has Maya and I working feverishly to complete as much wall sheathing as possible. Working until 9PM we were able to finish about half of the house and to re-tarp the remaining open areas. We are using glue and screws to attach the sheathing. Maya did most of the panel cutting.  I did most of the adhesive application. We shared the screw driving equally.  With an average of 40 screws per panel it is the most tedious part of the job.

Cozy Insulation

Insulation is a very important component of our tiny house construction project. We used foam core in the base of the trailer (6″ thick) and will use it again in the ceilings (4″ thick).  We are also using it selectively in sections of the walls where we wish to provide maximum protection to plumbing and drain lines. It has an insulation value of R-5 for every inch of thickness. For a 3-1/2″ wall that translates to R-17.5.  Using sheets of 2″ and 1-1/2″ material allows us to snuggly sandwich plumbing lines.  We also use foam core in angled framing corners an area often overlooked.  Around the shower stall we were able to fit a full 4″ of foam core for a toasty R-20.  We hope the future owner of this tiny house will appreciate the level of care that went into creating such an energy efficient living space.

Testing Day

We designed Maya’s tiny house to connect to utilities with standard RV connections. On the left is the water supply inlet and on the right is the 220V 50A electrical connector. Today was spent testing our water supply, drain and wiring before insulation and sheathing make it more difficult to address any issues. The test results: Wiring (PASS); Drain Lines (PASS), Water Supply Lines (FAIL). The water supply had two leaks.  The first from a PEX connection that I had inadvertently forgotten to crimp (dumb mistake but easily rectified in all of 30 seconds).  The second was from the factory supplied fitting at the outlet from the water heater. Even after tightening the compression fitting there was still a tiny leak.  I decided to replace both inlet and outlet fittings with new ones which meant a one hour trip to Home Depot. The new fittings addressed the problem and we kept the lines pressurized for another 2 hours to ensure we had caught everything.  The remainder of the day was devoted to completion of the branch wiring circuits. Maya installed most of the boxes, drilled holes for and pulled much of the wiring.

In Hot Water

Maya completed wall framing today on her tiny house. She no longer needs any assistance from me and worked independently while I continued making progress on the plumbing and some early electrical work.  She is using the mini sledge hammer for alignment rather than nailing. All framing has been secured with screws.  A small amount of roof framing remains and then we can begin sheathing.

We decided to use a full 30 inch wide front door rather than the initially planned 28 inch door.  It will not match the scale of the house as well but will ensure that furniture, appliances, and cabinetwork will easily fit through.  We have seen many designs with doors so narrow that you have to build the appliances into the house and hope they last forever.

I focused on plumbing and select wiring which is much easier to do now than after the sheathing has gone up.  We are using an on demand electric water heater which will provide limitless hot water. You may notice that it is mounted sideways.  This is part of an overall approach to facilitate easy winterization.  Unlike traditional homes, we must assume that our tiny house may be unoccupied and unheated for parts of the year, possibly including the winter months. All of our water supply lines slope downwards and the “U” shaped heater core inside the water heater is oriented so that it will drain completely using gravity alone. A single valve drains the hot water supply lines and the cold water supply drains when the supply hose is removed. All homes require drain pipes that slope downwards. I am unaware of any other home designed with water supply lines that do so as well.  I hope the future owner of this home appreciates the ease of winterization because it took a great deal of planning and extra work to arrive at this solution.

Even though Maya’s tiny house will feature a composting toilet, we have provided plumbing to support a traditional toilet should the future owner wish to have one installed.

The light switch for the bathroom was the first to be installed. Once the sheathing is up, no further access to the back of this wall will be possible.

The shower needs a little trim work but is almost ready for testing. We need to test all water, drain, and refrigerant lines for leaks before we start closing up the walls.

Happy Camper

Today’s photos are all courtesy of Maya’s boyfriend, Caleb. The pair have just returned from a four day camping adventure in Acadia National Park. By all accounts, it sounds like the they had a wonderful time in the great outdoors. They hiked Cadillac Mountain to be the first in the US to see the sunrise and the Beehive Trail, an exhilarating and vertigo inducing scramble. Reports of pancake breakfasts and taco dinners left me salivating. The image of Jordon Pond House popovers and ice cream brought back fond memories of our last family vacation in Acadia.

Pipe Dream

Maya is still in Maine and I have been taking advantage of the good weather to make progress on the tiny house.  After completing the wall framing on two sides of the house I began installing the remainder of the drain pipes and the HVAC mini-split refrigerant lines (covered in black foam insulation). The latter are often run on the outside of the house inside a bulky cover. Routing them inside the walls is much more aesthetically pleasing but a lot more work. Pictured above is the arrangement I came up with for the washer/dryer drain, kitchen sink drain, HVAC condensate drain and stack vent.

Wilting Roses

Normally roses are photographed when they are at their peak splendor.  These, a gift to Jeanine from her husband, appealed to my eye even as they were heading for the compost pile. Had I taken the time to place them in front of a better background this might have been a very compelling photo.

Drain Challenge

One of the most challenging construction elements of the tiny house is the grey water drain plumbing.  In a normal house you can run these lines (with a constant downward slope) between floor joists. Not so when your floor joists are made of steel,  run the wrong direction and have all voids filled with foam core insulation. Many tiny home builders simply run their pipes down through the trailer and make all the connections below.  That is not an option for us as we are designing for the Northeast’s cold winters.  Our challenge involves the shower which by its nature has a very low drain point and therefore is very difficult to route to a lower exit drain while staying above the subfloor.  To make a long story short we had to employ an oddly angled pipe straight from the shower drain trap to the exit stack.  This angle created a baseline for the rest of the plumbing which is 12 degrees off axis to our walls and there is no such thing as a 12 degree pipe fitting. To get back on axis, I decided to make my own 12 degree fitting by cutting out a section of a 22.5 degree fitting and solvent welding the pieces back together. I hot melt glued the fitting into a cutting fixture which held it in perfect alignment as I made the necessary cuts. The new fitting worked perfectly and I was rather pleased with myself for the idea and its execution.

UPDATE: I eventually decided to replace this fitting for fears that the solvent weld would not stand up to the stresses of road travel.  The consequences of a failure and the difficulty of repair led me to a more complicated but bullet proof solution. After cutting the fitting out, I tested to see how strong the joint was.  I was able to make it fail but only under very high torsional stress.  The joint would have lasted a lifetime in the trailer but I had no way of knowing this without testing it to the failure point.

Schenectady Visit

My sister-in-law Lauren and her husband were in the vicinity of Schenectady and decided to visit my mother while in the area. Between her ballroom dancing and gardening, my mother remains in good health and great shape even as she approaches her 89th birthday next month.

Maya and Caleb are off to Acadia National Park for a 4 day camping trip. Working on the tiny house has been more physically exhausting than I would have ever imagined and I am happy to have the day off while my boss is on vacation.