Tyvekking the tiny house was a really fun task. It was a moment where all previous Christmases and family members’ birthdays culminated into a pinnacle of miraculous large-scale gift-wrapping, putting all my skills to the test.
Just to bring you up to speed, Tyvek, a brand of house wrap, is semi-permeable membrane that kinda just looks and feels like paper with a plastic-y coating on it. What it does is allow water vapour to move from the inside of the house to the outside world, while simultaneously blocking liquid water (rain) from coming in through the walls. A lot of other blogs and videos I’ve seen recommend using a particular type of Tyvek that features vertical ridges which are supposed to allow water to easily drain out from behind it, but we couldn’t find that. As with every task relating to the tiny house, there is a balance to be found between recommendations from others, and best / common practices for the area you live in.
Through the jigs and the reels, we ended up Tvekking our tiny house twice. I’m going to use our first time as the demonstration for our methodology, since it was very controlled, and done inside a warehouse where the wind couldn’t bother us. It took us 4 hours to complete on the afternoon of October 21, 2015. We bought a 100ft roll of Tykvek (9ft wide), and that covered our needs just perfectly.
We picked a place to start, NOT on a corner…
Made it all the way around once…
Cut our roll in half…
And then went around a second time to finish.
We used a staple gun (the normal kind, not the fancy hammer stapler) to attach the Tyvek to the plywood sheathing. We tried to use as few attachment points as possible, in order to limit the entry points for water. If we were doing this outdoors, we’d likely have to use a bunch more staples and wooden strapping to protect the Tyvek from being ripped off in the wind. But of course, every time you pierce this membrane, you’re taking away from its ability to do its job.
You definitely need at least two people for this task. One to hold the roll and unfurl it, and one to smooth out the wrinkles and staple. The goal is to get this Tyvek as snug and straight as you can, to prevent any bunching. We found having a milk crate handy to rest the roll on from time to time was a huge help. This allows the person whose job it is to hold the roll an opportunity to step back and survey the situation (it’s hard to tell if you’re going straight from up close), or to assist the stapler. A tiny misalignment early on can translate to a huge gap down the line. Readjust yourself as early as possible if you notice you’re getting off kilter.
To seal in the seams where two ends of Tyvek met, we used red tuck tape – standard practice. It’s important to overlap the ends (we overlapped by a good foot or so), to ensure a good seal, and equally important to pay attention to how your horizontal seems are layered. BE THE WATER DROP! That second go-around on the top portion of the house had to overlap the first one, again, by about a foot. This prevents any water from getting in behind the Tyvek in the case that our tuck tape failed at some point in the future.
When considering how to tape down the loose edges at the top of the house, on to the roof sheathing, the same logic applies: be the drop of water.
1. Tape down the edge on the lower end of the sloped roof
2. Pleat the bottom corners so they overlap the straight edge at the lower end (just like a present!)
3. Tape down the edges on both sides of the roof
4. Pleat the top corners, so they overlap the side edge. DO NOT tape down these pleats, or the top loose edge of Tyvek at the higher end of your sloped roof.
In order to maintain that shingling effect with your layers, so water won’t have an opportunity to get behind anything, you’ve got to slip the top edge of tar paper UNDER the edge of Tyvek at the higher end of your roof. Tar paper goes on your roof sheathing, underneath your finish roofing material, but this step wasn’t going to be happening for a little while longer. We just left that top edge loose until we were ready.
Next, we cut an upside down Y into each door / window opening. At this stage, it’s enough to just wrap the flaps around the trimmer studs and staple them back out of the way, to the inside. Done! Key things to remember: limit the number of seams, staples, wrinkles. Layer top over bottom, and face your pleats down-slope.
Fast forward to September 2017. Our tiny house had been in storage from November 2015 until March 2017 inside the warehouse, while we were gone to India and Japan. Then, it had to come outside to make room for other things going on inside the space. This happened a few weeks before we arrived home, but had we been there, we definitely would have have strapped the Tyvek with wooden furring strips and added more staples right away. The wind, of course, doesn’t waste time. By the time we landed in NL most of the Tyvek had been ripped off or shredded, save a narrow strip around the top perimeter along the roof-line and around the door and few windows we had installed before leaving it in 2015.
We would have loved to jump right back into the build at this point, but Tim found a job in St. John’s, making it impossible for us to live near the build site. One of us needed to be working to put food on the table. It sat in the yard, waiting for us to find a new temporary home for it, or ideally, its forever home. And we were less than successful in finding a new place until the fall. Over the summer, our lovely fresh plywood also got bleached in the sun. It was a sad time. But, not the end of the world. Battling the elements is the reality for most construction projects in Newfoundland and Labrador. Not many people have the advantage of building inside a warehouse, and we knew it had to end at some point.
Navigating our new outdoor building space took a few days, but we found a rhythm in short order. We started round 2 of Tyvekking on October 20th, 2017 and finished the following day. It took 7 hours this time (cursed wind!), so you could still do it in one day. At this point I had also found a job, so both of us were only available to work on the tiny house during weekends and evenings.
In the end, we were able to fix it up good as new. We were generous with our tuck tape, and gave a little extra care to the seams. It was a good lesson in accepting fall-backs and not letting them slow you down. Everything is workable. You just need to find your path forward and get moving. That’s a wrap! ‘Till next time.