Plywood Sheathing Almost Complete

Once again I change my plans.¬† I’m free to do so as no-one else is inconvenienced by it. ūüôā

I was going to skip hanging the building felt paper altogether.  I forgot, though, what my favorite website Building Science has to say:

“The drainage plane in this assembly is the building paper or building wrap. The air barrier can be any of the following: the interior gypsum board, the exterior stucco rendering, the exterior sheathing or the exterior building wrap.”

Since Oliver’s Nest will live in a very cold climate, the air barrier should be to the inside and¬† latex-painted barn board attached to thin plywood will serve that function.

(Quote and pictures copied from from


In Oliver’s Nest, substitute ceder siding and metal roof panels for the painted stucco with paper bond break.¬† They act similarly.¬† Then the thin rigid foam panels, which were going to serve as the drain field.¬† But the author recommends building paper (ah-ha!) as the drain field.¬† Then, plywood sheathing and the wool inside the wood stud cavity.¬† On the interior of the wall will be a very thin layer of plywood and latex-painted wood boards (fastened to the thin plywood), which act like the “Kraft facing on a fiberglass batt or a “smart vapor barrier membrane” combined with the latex-painted gypsum board.¬† I researched and it’s a very fine substitute. The big change is that my drain field *was* going to be the water-impermeable rigid foam panels, instead of the more water-permeable building felt.¬† This change allows a much easier exit for water vapor inside the wall assembly.¬† It’s important.¬† I’m glad I caught it.

As the rigid foam panels I have are very thin at a quarter inch, my walls are more like the above than the below illustration:


If I were able to use much thicker foam insulation, I would go with the above design, but I’m limited by house width and (mostly) financial constraints.¬† If I had the funds, I’d go wide.¬† After all, the roof is almost 10 feet across.¬† In fact, now I’m wondering whether to use the foam panels at all, as they won’t provide a thermal break as much as the drain field does, rendering them pretty much unhelpful.¬† They are a process I think I can safely skip.¬† Very nice.¬† I have a future project on my property that they were originally intended for anyway.

I went ahead and finished with the plywood sheathing across the South side.  It ended up looking like this:

Yeah, there are wider gaps...I know.

Yeah, there are wide gaps…I know.

Ugly but functional.¬† Now just the upper part of the North side and I can go forward with the building felt.¬† I had a couple rolls from the Restore that got wet in a sideways rain storm, so went back and got a couple more for $5 each.¬† Not happy that the originals got ruined, but so it goes when you don’t have an indoor space to build and store supplies.¬† I’d recommend one.
Based on my past performance, it’ll take a couple to three days to finish getting up the plywood.¬† I have no idea how long hanging the building felt will take. Hopefully not more than a couple days.¬† We’ll see!

Oh! And the wool?¬† It’s drying so fast that I’m fluffing a couple times a day instead of every couple days, so the whole process is going super quick.¬† It’s looking like I won’t need the dehumidifier.¬† Unless it starts raining again before I get this baby weather-tight.¬† My poor knee.

Up On The Rooo-ooofff…

The roof is going up! ¬† A little later than planned, but weather and finances, health and mood all have to come together in a perfect storm. ¬† It’s OK though, because I spent the time re-thinking (for approximately the thousandth time) how I wanted the roof to come together.¬†¬† And of course I changed my mind…again! ¬† Actually, I didn’t so much change my mind, as recall a method of insulating my flat roof that I’d run across more than a year ago. ¬† So glad I came found it again!¬† This is the illustration from the website Building Science Information:

Breaking the thermal bridge

Basically, you build a thermal break into the roof with an extra layer of exterior grade plywood over a layer of rigid foam insulation.¬†¬† You can’t use OSB, which can’t handle moisture or breathe ~ it has to be plywood.¬†¬† One of the local lumber yards sells what they call “utility” grade 3/8‚ÄĚ sheets for only $10, which I feel is fine for this purpose. ¬† The more (thicker) insulation you use, the better ~ I used 1 1/2 inch expanded foam.¬†¬† I really wanted to use extruded foam, but it’s out of my financial reach.¬†¬† This extra layer goes up before the trusses, and creates a thermal break, making the insulation laid between the trusses more effective.¬†¬† It adds to the total R-Value, as well.

An important step is to keep interior moisture from getting into the foam, so having a vapor barrier between the rigid insulation and the interior air is vital.¬†¬† On the other hand, it’s also vital to allow any moisture that does get into the foam or wood an easy path back to the outdoors. ¬† Good ventilation combined with keeping rain out is key here. ¬† I’ve purchased perforated foil radiant barrier to ensure air flow, and will keep wind and wind-blown rain out of the roof with a good-sized overhang and deep fascia.¬† The point of the foil is to keep insulation fluff in place, while still allowing it to breathe with the perforations.¬† I’m using this stuff:

perforated radiant barrier foil watermarked

48 inches wide so easy-peasy to install


There are products made specifically to create air channels, too, called Attic Vents or something similar.¬† Some I’ve seen are made out of cardboard ~ easy to DIY.


Here’s a simplified list of the roof layers:

Ceiling treatment ~ in my case, I’ll use painted barn boards.

Vapor barrier of visqueen/thick plastic sheeting

3/8 inch CDX plywood

1 1/2 inch rigid foam board (R-Value 7.5)

3/8‚ÄĚ CDX plywood

2×8 trusses filled with 5 1/2″ Roxul (23 R-Value)


Almost as good as sheep wool, and more familiar to any inspectors who nose around once I’m on my property.

Perforated radiant barrier

23/32‚ÄĚ CDX plywood sheathing, with the gaps filled with a flexible sealant

.60‚ÄĚ thick EPDM from Gentite fully adhered to the sheathing

10 by 25 feet ~ no seams!


I am pretty sure I have linked to this site before, but it’s so full of good information that I’m going to do it again.¬† You can get lost in there, digging ever deeper in technical building goodness.¬† Anyone thinking of constructing a building should check out the Documents section, even if it’s not a DIY.

UPDATE: I started writing out this blog entry on June 2nd, and didn’t get around to finishing up that day.¬† Now, a couple days later, I am embarrassed to say that I’ve managed to injure myself (again).¬† I’d like to pretend it hasn’t happened, but this is a record of my experience building my own home.¬† And part of that experience is the occasional (I HOPE it is only occasional) booboo.¬† Soooo, this time I jacked up my right knee pretty well.¬† It’s actually kind of amusing, as I first hurt this knee way back a couple years ago when I was first starting out on the build, by tearing the meniscus.¬† A few shots of cortisone, several weeks in a brace, and many painful months later I could walk without a limp.¬† But the dratted thing locks up multiple times daily, and on Saturday morning it locked up while my hands were full of plywood, causing me to force it straight instead of babying it out ~ ow!¬† Then, a few minutes later, I dropped that same sheet of plywood (on edge) onto that knee.¬† Swearing ensued.¬† THEN, and I’m still not clear how I managed to do this, I hyper-extended the SAME KNEE with my full weight plus (you got it) a sheet of plywood TWICE, and felt something finally give in the back. OMG OUCH!!!

Yeah. Don’t work alone with heavy stuff if you can help it, and always make safety your highest priority.¬† Trying to get the roof on in dry weather, meaning fast, caused me to do several clumsy things, and now I’m in a sort of removable cast to keep the knee immobile, and supposed to stay off the leg entirely.¬† Probably won’t happen, as I still need to get the roof on before it rains again.¬† We’ll see.

Here’s some pictures of what I gotten done so far:

1/4 inch sheets of plywood are hard to manage when you're short and out of shape

1/4 inch sheets of plywood are hard to manage when you’re short and out of shape

I painted these sheets top, bottom and sides because I wasn’t sure if they are CDX.


Laying out the rigid insulation

Rigid insulation

Starting to frame in the rigid insulation “sandwich” layer.


Covering the foam with thin CDX plywood

Covering the foam with thin CDX plywood.

This is still pre-knee destruction.  Look at the cool camo paint, heh.


This is some of the pile I schlepped back and forth on the roof

This is some of the pile I schlepped back and forth on the roof.

My son came over early Saturday morning to hoist a bunch of heavy/bulky stuff up to the roof for me.¬† I really wanted to do this whole house by myself, but I simply could not get these heavy things up there.¬† Of course, this meant I had to repeatedly move a big pile of (heavy!/bulky!) stuff around, trying to keep it out of the way. ¬† Great workout.¬† At this point I’ve already done some of the knee damage, but the hurt hasn’t truly hit yet.


Trusses laid out, before cutting them into the right shape

Thermal break put in, and more room to work in!  Trusses laid out, before cutting them into the right shape.

My 2×8 trusses measure out to literally 7 inches, not 7 1/2 like I expected.¬† This meant I could only use 5 1/2 inch insulation batts instead of the 7 1/2 inch I originally planned on because¬† I want a good inch and a half of air between the Roxul and the sheathing.¬† I purchased the planks from two different lumberyards, so I guess it’s just lumber math?¬† Heh, or instead insert men measuring joke here.¬† So now I’m only getting an R-Value of 23 between the trusses, instead of 30.


Waste, but not too bad.

Waste, but not too bad.

The middle of the trusses are left at the full 7 inches, and are cut down to 6 inches at the ends.¬† Not quite as much of an angle as I wanted, but there’s that whole “7” instead of “8” inches thing again.


All washed up and ready to be cut to size.

All washed up and ready to be cut to size.

Part of my huge pile of wood pulled out to use for the flying rafters and barge boards.  I had to scrub a couple years worth of dirt off of them, due to losing the pile in canary grass.  That stuff grows to over 6 feet here!  Not my fault for piling it in the pasture, nope!


DIY bird blocks to ensure great air flow and hopefully no bugs.

DIY bird blocks to ensure great air flow and hopefully no bugs.

Bird blocks are those wood pieces with holes covered by mesh you find up under the eaves.¬† From the research I did, the holes don’t offer enough air flow in most cases, so I made these.¬† The mesh I used is 1/8th inch to deter insects stapled to 2x4s.¬† These will be obscured by the deep fascia boards I plan, which in theory should keep rain and direct wind out of the roof interior.

That’s all for now!


Offline Antics

I just got a taste of off-grid life I’ve been dreading ~ no internet.¬† I’m still in the middle of a city, and cut off from my life-line….

One of the consequences of choosing land way out in the wilderness is a lack of¬† amenities.¬† No easy-on power, no land phone lines, no internet (no 4g or even 3g).¬†¬† Spotty cell phone coverage.¬† No fire department close by, nor police presence. I¬† bought the property knowing all of this. Good thing I like simple living, right?¬†¬† Being certifiably nuts helps, too….

It took a couple days for the Comcast-free lifestyle to sink in…No Netflix?!¬† No¬† quick google searching?¬† What’s going on with Pinterest today, who’s emailed me,¬† what can I expect from the weather?¬† Ack!¬† Simple breathing exercises helped with¬† the adjustment.¬† Once the panic (seriously, panic) subsided, I remembered a precious¬† thing ~ books.

Oh, lovely books.¬† I have such a huge library, even after purging time and time¬† again, that I don’t anticipate running out of reading material for years.¬† However!¬†¬† Most of them are boxed up and stored away and not accessible in preparation for my future move.

I also kept busy with the build.¬† The top plates are on, all windows and doors¬† framed in, and some other details attended to.¬† I used the time to revisit proper¬† roof framing, too.¬† So glad I have Building Construction Illustrated, by Francis¬† D.K. Ching.¬† I will use it again and again while building the other structures I’ll¬† need.

I finally found and purchased a pretty sink.¬† It definitely was a bathroom sink, but¬† is deep and wide enough to do dishes in.¬† Kitchen sinks are just not attractive to¬† me, and seem to run either very large or laughably small.¬† If not for living in this¬† trailer, I’d not have known how important having a big enough sink is. I’m totally¬† over wanting a “cute” tiny kitchen sink.

Last, I unexpectedly located two more windows from the Tacoma ReStore.¬† If I’d found¬† the windows even a day or two later, too much would have to be changed in the¬† framing, so the timing was very good.¬†¬† I decided to move the two 4-foot, non- opening arched windows from the loft and replace them with the new, openable (is¬† that a word?) windows to allow more air flow and cross breezes.¬† One of the arched¬† windows is now framed in over the french doors.¬† The other is being kept for a¬† planned add-on once Oliver’s Nest is in place on my land.¬† I love that the addition¬† will sport an identical window, tying it in with the original space.¬† Oh, and the¬† new windows I found?¬† $25 each.¬† Brand new.¬† Same brand as most of the others I¬† have, too.¬† Very big smile on my face.

Newest windows framed in

Newest windows framed in


So very tall!

So very tall!


I still haven't re=stacked the barn wood

I still haven’t re-stacked the barn wood… There is so much more than it looks like here.



So lucky to have found great windows that match

So lucky to have found great windows that match


Gratuitous critter pic.

Gratuitous critter pic.

Building Hurts After A Kick In The Ribs!

Ouch.¬† Ouch….ouch ouch ouch.

I’ve worked with horses most of my life, so know my way safely around them, at least you’d think!¬† But even though I KNEW Gaia has a potential of kicking (she’s not the most gentle soul), and I thought I was being careful, she smacked me a good one yesterday ~ she, I found out, is flexible, and has terrific aim.¬†¬† I’m pretty sure I yelped comically as I flew (!) backwards into the mud.¬† I’m so very, very glad I had the heavy loft beams already up before this happened!

I’m fine, just bruised, no ribs broken.

I’ve been working hard on Oliver’s Nest, as the weather has been outright beautiful and staying busy keeps me positive instead of sad.¬† As of tonight, all of the framing in the lower portion is complete, including the framing of both doors (finally!), and as I already mentioned, the loft support beams.¬† Woot!¬† Also, as I was able to use some 4x6s from the old barn for the loft support as I had hoped, I could place them much further apart than if I’d used 2x4s.¬† I want an open look to the area under the loft, and having fewer beams will help with that.¬† I’m short at 5’5″, and decided to place the 4x6s at a height of 6 feet, which makes the ceiling between them 6’4″ ~ plenty of head room for me, even in heels!¬† The reward is a lot more head room in the loft.¬† I have learned from living in the truck camper that being able to sit up in bed is REALLY important to me.¬† The ceiling height in the loft will be an amazing 4’4″!¬† I’m thrilled!

Next up is buying nice looking 2x6s in 14 foot lengths for the loft floor.¬† I don’t want to build the pony walls while clinging to framing – I want a good solid floor to stand on while up that high.¬† It’s not that I’m afraid of heights, or even of falling – it’s just a lot harder to work with power tools safely when doing a monkey impersonation.

There’s one particular lumber yard in town which caters to higher-end contractors.¬† Super nice guys.¬† They have the highest grade of wood available (#1) in the widest variety of width and lengths, and are more than happy to dig through that nice stuff and find the best boards for me.¬† I plan to use them for all visible wood in my little home, and for my roof trusses, too.¬† The snow load is so heavy where my property is, I don’t want to mess around with iffy wood for the roof support.¬† I’ve shopped at nearly every lumber yard in the greater Olympia area, including the big box stores, and for most applications, any place has acceptable wood.¬† But it’s worth it to spend a little more for great quality wood when you have to look at it every day, and for anything that need to be really strong.

It’s kind of funny I suppose, that I’m using such a wide spectrum of materials….reusing old wood, re-purposing all sorts of things including the trailer bed from an old travel trailer, and then going first class on some things.¬†¬† Wool insulation, expensive roofing materials like thick EPDM over the best quality lumber, big new windows….I like how it’s coming together though.¬† If I save money where reasonable (and safe), I can spend more on what matters the most to me.¬† It is such a personal creation, this tiny home of mine.¬† I’m proud of it, and I’m proud of myself.

2014-04-13 18.28.44

The loft beams! I’m a messy builder, aren’t I? My big red beast of a truck is back there, and a glimpse of the lovely tarp.


2014-04-13 18.28.22

Look at that blue sky through the trees!


One more thing ~ I am loving my new Makita impact drill!¬† It has made the construction process go a lot faster and easier!¬† I highly recommend the 18 volt cordless Makita line.¬† Now that 24 volt tools are showing up, the 18 volt tool prices are dropping and it’s easier to find them for a steal.¬† I’ve got the circular saw, the impact drill, the sawzall, and the battery charger with three batteries.¬† They charge really fast, and having three has kept me from ever having to stop building and wait.¬† I realize I’m sounding like an advertisement for Makita….it’s the only brand I have hands-on experience with.¬† I’m sure most of the 18 volt brands available are just as good.¬† Hurray for cordless tools!¬† Just be sure to buy an extra battery or two ~ it’s well worth the expense.

Be well, everyone! ūüôā

Reclaimed Wood: Sweat + Time = Treasure

Things are moving ahead.  The pasture is  cleared of stacked wood (yay!), over half of the barn wood has been de-nailed and had the worst bits cut off, a large amount of 4x4s and 4x6s have been found and look great (!), and the tree overgrowth is getting whacked.  Feels good!

Those 4x4s and 4x6s are at a minimum 8 feet.¬† Some are over 12 feet.¬† Since they came from the barn’s interior, they are in perfect shape, other than some nails and green growth.¬† Well, everything here has green growth.¬† It’s the way of the Pacific Northwest to cover anything and everything with life….Anyway, the plan is to clean them up and use them in the build.¬† I’ve decided to use the 4x6s for the loft beams.¬† I love that by doing so, the supports can be placed much farther apart, thus making more perceived headroom underneath.¬† I also love not having to buy more lumber, and as always, I love reusing materials.¬† The 4x4s will be used as headers for the doors.¬† Nice!

Building a house on the cheap means compromises.¬† I’ve had to put up with piles of stuff EVERYWHERE for several years – even dragging some of the piles with me when I moved here.¬† It’s been absolutely worth it (for me, if not for house-mates or mothers).¬† Some of this stuff came free from a nearby closing metal recycling place, lots from the barn, Craigslist, the local ReStores, donations (which also involved accepting things I really didn’t want), and plain ol’ scrounging.¬† I’d call all that a compromise, when compared to a quick jaunt to the local lumber mill to buy exactly what you want, when you need it.¬† Another possible downside is the necessity of drawing up plans in accordance to what you have on hand instead of the other way ’round.

I don’t know.¬† I’ve been ok doing things this way, but I can see it being literally unbearable for other folks.¬† It adds a ton of effort.¬† If you can view it as an opportunity for creativity and thriftiness and keeping your carbon foot-print low, then the effort is worth it.¬† It becomes…an adventure.

More Has Been Accomplished, Despite – You Got It – Rain.

So here I sit under my new tarp tent, which only took two hours to erect, lol. After several glorious days of sunshine and 50-ish degrees, we’re back to rain, drizzle, mist, rain, downpours….yeah. Out of desperation, I searched online for pop-up tents, and hoo-boy, are they expensive! And the buyers’ reviews don’t look promising, either. As I was up feeding the rabbit colony, I looked around and noticed all the tarps I’d already put up to keep various things dryish. Hey! Oh yeah! I forgot about those! Actually, I also dislike how ugly they are, but I can’t deny that they do help. Tarps are your friend. Your ugly, obnoxious, yet helpful friend.
I’ve been busy working on the barn wood. It’s in such bad shape – dry rot in places, tons of nail holes, cracks and knots. I won’t be using it on the exterior of Oliver’s Nest. It’ll be new wood (bummer) and metal siding. However, I think there’s enough after cutting off the bad bits for the interior walls! I sure hope so, as I want to use reclaimed materials as much as I can. Plus, it has a LOT of character. I’m thinking to use a strong wood glue and small nails to attach the boards to a half-inch plywood base. That should give a nice, sturdy wall with a nice cabiny feel. Yay!
Speaking of nail holes, wow, it’s been taking days to get all the nails out! So far, I’ve accumulated two 5 gallon buckets full of nails, and the job isn’t done yet. Phew!

2014-03-23 16.17.18

The nails…the nails… oy, the nails….

2014-03-23 16.17.54

This is only part of the big pile of barn wood to go through.

2014-03-23 16.16.24

Merrily I burn the junk wood that’s accumulated over several years!


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Here’s a quick shot of some of the sheathing. There are lots of big holes because there will be lots of windows on this side (faces South). Also visible are those metal straps I want to salvage.

2013-10-08 11.56.10

Hank the cowdog. My faithful companion. He can’t wait for the new house to be built, as our tiny camper is TINY.