Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Dawn of a New Era

I had been planning on devoting a post last week to discussing the affordability of tiny houses, but I spent a couple thousand miles on the road and then got wrapped up in work on the tiny house, so there just wasn't much time for me to sit down and write.  But, that means that I do have a bunch more pictures of the house!

My projects Easter weekend were to finish the shiplap cuts on the yellow poplar and build the kitchen counter.  I stopped by Home Depot Thursday evening to pick up materials on my way home.  Two hours and about $500 later, I had enough stuff to keep me busy for the rest of the month, but I"ll be honest, I didn't really have much of a plan for making these cabinets.  The only thing I was fairly sure about was the counter top.  A few months back when I was purchasing the last windows, I asked the sales lady for some advice on making cabinets.  She strongly recommended using a pour-on epoxy over birch plywood for the counter top.  I decided to give it a try, and here's how it came out!

One of the tricks to this project is keeping the surface level and wind off while the epoxy dries.  As it turns out, my parents' chest freezer is not level, and they do have some air currents traveling through their basement.  I had to leave it drying at their house so I don't actually know how it worked out, but when I left at 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening, it was looking pretty tolerable.  Connie also had the nifty idea of embedding mementos in the surface-

If you don't understand, just shout it out loud- SUUUUEEY! :)

I've spent quite a bit of time talking about "poplar" on this blog.  I've been referring to the wood of the tree, liriodendron tulipifera, one of Virginia's lesser valued timber species, but still a tree of impressive form, size and beauty.  As a "soft hardwood", poplar is similar to pine and can be found growing arrow straight on fertile sites.

So why did I choose poplar for the interior walls of my house?  Well, as a forester, I wanted to utilize materials from the local woodshed.  The guy who made my flooring happened to have several hundred board feet of this 1/2"x6" lumber that he had sawn a couple years back, so I was able to get a good deal on it.  Initially, I had hopped that it would be a simple process to turn it from rough boards into a finished wall covering.  How wrong I was!  One pass through the table saw quickly turned into three passes through the router.  Many of the boards had slight warping, and most were weathered, requiring extensive sanding.  Halfway through the process, I wasn't really sure if it was going to be worth using.  But, I finally was able to fit everything into place this past weekend, and it doesn't look half bad!

All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn some new techniques, put some sweat equity into my house, and really gain an appreciation for what previous generations went through to build things.  And, I happen to like how it looks- "French Country" is how I describe it.  It definitely won't be mistaken for some machined lumber wrapped in plastic and purchased at Home Depot!

Probably the most exciting achievement of the weekend, however, was my cold water plumbing test.  After I got just about all of the pipes in the walls covered up, I decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to test them out to check for leaks.  But first, I had to complete "Plumbing Central".  After some consideration, I determined that it would be best to run the hose inlet up through the floor so that it would be hidden.  Some quick spins from Mr. Makita opened up a hole in the floor underneath where the kitchen sink will be, and I fitted some CPVC with a 5/8" garden hose adapter:

From there, the pipe makes a couple turns to connect to a valve and the "plumbing tree", where it branches out to the various applications.

I'm really, really glad I included that shut off valve, because as it turns out, I forgot to glue a fitting connecting the toilet...

The test basically went like this: I turned the hose on, heard a bunch of air hissing through it as I walked back to the house, where I eased the valve open, and BAM! the toilet exploded!  Or so I thought as I frantically reached for the shut off valve and turned around to see water gushing out of the wall.  Thankfully, it wasn't anywhere near as catastrophic as I thought, and I was able to glue the fitting, wait a couple hours, and test the whole system again, when it proved to be solid except for a couple loose hose clamps that were easily tightened.

The coolest thing about this event?  Flush toilet baby!

A swirly flusher too!  Not only is this a flushing toilet, it also marks the 1st functioning utility in my house.  If you can imagine that toilet right there as the moon, I'm an ecstatic astronaut celebrating the dawning of a new era.  Yeah, its that big, and I'm grateful to everybody that has helped me get this far.

P.S.- For other tiny housers, I'm curious about what waste water and plumbing systems you're using.  Do you have freshwater and black water tanks? Composting toilets?