Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Little" Progress, Lotsa Fun

Since the start of this project back in September, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to not have a single team work weekend rained out.  This has been fantastic for me because not only do I get to maximize the working hours of my helpers, it also means that they haven’t wasted a 2.5+ hour drive to Chester.

Of course, this trend wasn’t going to last forever, especially now that spring is upon us.  Last Saturday started out sunny enough, even though the weather man was calling for rain all day.  After having plans needlessly cancelled multiple times due to “possible bad weather”, I’ve gotten into the habit of ignoring the weather and setting out with a determination to enjoy myself no matter what.  Normally it works, but by noon the skies were overcast and a deluge forced my dad and I inside to sit it out while having lunch. 

The rain didn’t really go away for the rest of the day.  I don’t have any pictures of us working under the gloomy, overcast sky because, naturally, we weren’t much in the mood for taking pictures.  The plan had been to work on installing trim and soffit under the roof, a task that I wanted to be done with so that we could move on to more glamorous projects.  So of course I wasn’t too thrilled to have progress slowed by the steady drip of water onto my face and the threat of electrocution from the mixture of water and power tools. 

Sounds like the weekend sucked, doesn’t it?  Well, not really, actually.  I was primed for the rain by last weekend’s backpacking adventure in West Virginia.  It was a similar situation of forecasted rain, sunny morning, wet and dreary afternoon.  When it started to rain while we were on the ridge above Seneca Creek, I could feel the temperature drop and the waterproofing on my rain jacket fail.  I thought “This sucks.  Like, I’m really uncomfortable, and I’d rather just be somewhere warm and dry with somebody taking care of me.”  Then it occurred to me that there was a day (in my “younger years”) when I would have gotten the jollies from such miserable weather, you know, the thrill of "braving the elements and overcoming obstacles".  I decided then that I wasn’t going to let a little discomfort ruin the trip, so I saddled my pack back on and had a great time with some wonderful people in an awesome place!  (I go hiking with a group called Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers, so you know they’re not going to let a little bad weather get them down!) 

So instead of falling into a bad mood because of some drops of rain on my work weekend, I considered everything I had to be grateful for, and my dad and I pressed on, albeit at a reduced pace.  And I had bucket loads for which to be thankful!  My buddy Eric came down Friday afternoon, and we got to spend some time at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum, after which we hit up the taco truck caravan outside, walked out to Belle Isle after dark, made a little fire at El Tiny House and camped out in the “Great Room” (I’m hoping that Eric’s starting to catch on to how AWESOME RVA can be!).  It was great to have both my dad and Eric helping out the next day, and by taking our time, we were able to get some pretty good work done.  And, last but not least, how cool is it to have your own house to duck into when it starts raining?!

Despite some of the problematic weather recently, I have been able to make some progress on the plumbing and the kitchen.  My last update described some of my excitement over finally having running water in the house.  Well, I’ve decided that, for the most part, I kind of like plumbing.  After a little practice, I’ve figured out that, like most things, if you take some time to plan it out and fit everything together properly, the stuff actually has the potential to function like it should!  Here’s some pics of the drain I installed from the kitchen sink, where it connects with the shower drain underneath to make up the “gray water” system:

Also in the kitchen, I have been busy framing up the kitchen cabinets.  My planning on these wasn’t exact (the framing was back ½” too far), but, all in all it looks pretty decent and is really sturdy.  I used 1x4s for most of it, which I screwed together with a “pocket jig” where I wanted to conceal things.  At $15, a pocket jig is another one of those brilliant inventions like the door handle installation kit.  If you couldn’t tell, I like devices that lock things in place so you don’t have any room for error!

Speaking of tools, Mr. Makita, my new hammer drill, started making some knocking noises Saturday when I was cutting out vent holes in the soffit.  It was some tough, rather dangerous work in the rain (the drill got ripped from my hands a couple times- I recommend easing the hole saw into the wood instead of plunging straight down), so I can understand why Mr. Makita may have been a little grumpy, but I decided I had better take it safe and return him to Home Depot before the warranty ran out.  They replaced it with what they said was the last one on the shelf, but when I got back to the house I noticed this:

Ha, dirt on a brand new drill?!  It was obviously a return or rebuilt, and a lot of the parts were dusty or sticking, so I went back to the store once again and picked out a new Milwaukee.  It just drills, doesn’t hammer, but seems to be sufficiently zippy so far.  It did a good job with the pocket jig, so I have some high hopes for this new tool.
As of right now, my game plan is to basically complete the house by the end of this month, move out of my current rental, and, if I haven’t found another home by then, I’ll move the tiny house to one of the local mobile home parks (but before that happens, I still have to finish siding, dry walling, electrical, trim, and painting!).  I have a variety of prospective adventures rapidly coming up in my life, so I’ll keep you all updated as things unfold!

Tiny house under the oak tree on a perfect spring evening



  1. Marie (Mom) RiedelMay 9, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    The House is looking great, Kevin!! I can't wait to come down, along with your siblings, to see it and host a house-warming party!(Unless you'd really like us to come and help with drywalling and painting!)

  2. I like your idea about a tiny house community. Landscaping, personal garden spots, golf carts, oh yea!

    1. Gotta have the golf carts, haha! I took a community development class in college, and one of the trends discussed was "cohousing" (, basically a neighborhood of personally owned houses around a shared green space. I think that could work pretty well for tiny houses!

  3. I live in Richmond and have been reading your blog since it was featured in Its awesome seeing your house taking shape! I was wondering if you wouldn't mind my coming to take a look at it at some point. I've been interested in and following the tiny house movement for about 5 years now and would love to see one in person. I also love the cohousing concept, I've actually had something like that in mind so it's great to have an actual term for it! There is a website that you might find useful and you may have already heard of it if you ever look at the craigslist real estate section. It's and there are lots of listings for land in and around VA. Again, I would love to come check out your house whenever it may be most convenient to you. Thanks and keep up the good work on your blog!

  4. I'm sure we can set up a tour sometime! I'll be busy with building for the next couple of weeks, but I'll send you a message when my schedule frees up a bit. I just happened to notice an article when I went to that cohousing website. Apparently there's some interest in starting a development here in Richmond!

    I interviewed some people with the group in Blacksburg. They all seemed to love the community and thought it was a great way to reduce their impact.

  5. Kevin, I really enjoyed this and all of your posts! It's nice to know there's another tiny houser not too far away (I'm up in the Philly area) working many steps ahead of me... I'm starting to build this Sunday! One thing I wanted to ask you, as I noticed your walls in the kitchen pic: What did you use for the walls? Is that wainscoting and plywood or ?

    Keep up the great work (and blogging)!

    1. Awesome, good luck with your build! For the lower half of the walls, I sanded rough-saw yellow poplar and added a ship lap cut on the edges to join it together (kind of like a tongue and groove). If you have any more questions as you're building, let me know!