The Inaugural Tow

Making our Tiny Life a Reality

After an entire summer of futility in searching for land, and with my mom on the cusp of moving to Ontario (thus putting her house up for rent), we needed to make some big decisions. The tiny house had been sitting, waiting, in the lot outside the warehouse where we had been building, and it really couldn’t stay there any longer. It wasn’t in the way, but I felt bad about it being there unattended to for so long. In addition to that, since our tyvek had been ripped off in the wind and we’d only installed 2 out of the 12 windows in the house, it was just one big leaky box! Every week that went by was adding to my mounting stress. Also, when the tiny house had been moved outside in the spring, it wasn’t levelled up with our jacks, creating an opportunity for water to pool in one corner. We went out there after a rainstorm one weekend to tidy up, and I literally had to bail water out of the back right corner with a cut off plastic jug. Needless to say, I was freaking out. We’d gone from a perfect, dry, controlled build to a vulnerable, wet, and unpredictable situation. Blaarrhgg.

Fortunately, before too long at all, we found a great 1 bedroom apartment for rent on Bauline Line, which is only about 15 – 20 minutes from downtown. The landlord and his family own some 80 acres of land and run a heavy equipment company (similar to the father son duo who helped us out with our initial build site!). They didn’t mind us parking our tiny house nearby and continuing to work on it. Huzzah! So we signed the lease and started carting our belongings over there. Even after having done a significant cull before leaving for Japan, we still have too much stuff. Definitely in need of doing another cull before the final jump to tiny life.

We were hoping that the family friend who had towed our trailer from St. John’s out to our build site in Chapel Arm could help us again. He wasn’t available until near the end of September, and we were really hoping to get it in sooner. But, another lucky thing – the job that Tim scored upon our return also employed a great deal of mechanics. It seems that mechanics, at least around here, are pretty comfortable with towing things and often own big sturdy trucks. One of Tim’s work buddies in particular had experience towing RVs from a dealership near St. John’s out to the Argentia ferry on the regular. He was available on Sunday morning, September 10th, and agreed to tow it for us! So off to the NL Motor Vehicle Registration building we went to obtain our second In-Transit permit for a homemade trailer.

Tim’s friend told us that if wind can blow into something being towed, it’s gotta find a way out. It can build up a lot of pressure and potentially blow the walls out. Imagine! So,
the day before the tow, we went out to Chapel Arm to board up the window holes. Before starting, I had to once again bail out the back right corner of the tiny, holding back melodramatic tears from adding to the giant puddle. It poured rain the entire day, and we got thoroughly soaked. We had enough scrap plywood left over from the build to do the job, but no more scaffolding. Two ladders would need to suffice. What a different experience! By nightfall, we’d finished the bulk of the work, but we still needed to jerry-rig some wheel wells in order to prevent the tires from splashing a thick film of mud up inside of the tiny house while being towed, and, connect the wiring for the tail lights. We decided that rather than fumbling around in the dark, it would be best to go home and come back bright and early in the morning to finish these last few tasks before our guy arrived.

20170910_105318And that we did. We didn’t have much time, so I took on the wheel well project with some 2 x 4s and a big tarp while Tim took care of the lights and wiring. I literally just banged some boards together into a skeleton box, and stapled a tarp around it and then to the floor. Good to go.

When Tim’s friend arrived it had just started to rain, yet again. He was super kind and came out to help us hitch up the trailer to his truck. He even brought an extra wrench so we could move the adjustable hitch and get everything nice and level. We couldn’t believe how bad the weather was… we’d watched the forecast and knew that it wasn’t going to be great, but it was just downright miserable (and the tiny house miserable looking…). After having an exceedingly nice summer it just seemed too ironic that this was the day we were going to drive out over the highway with our baby of a house.

th before towing

Everything up to this point was theory… and although the guy who owned the warehouse had moved our tiny house several times without us to re-position it, we had never seen it move before. Watching it roll for the first time was pretty surreal. It was hard to believe that we had built that thing with our own hands. Now it was going to go hurtling down the road at up to 100 km / hour, and, for the next hour, its fate was out of our control. The adrenaline was crazy, I was all shaky, and my concept of time was all messed up. I guess to anyone else, including our guy towing, all this wasn’t that big of a deal. It was just like towing an RV and we needed to get it done so we could all go home out of the rain. To us however, it was really intense.

We had a few last words with our driver, and then he set out on the road. Hurriedly we followed, but first, had to lock up the gate, and of course, it was like I had two left hands. I got into our car and we took off after the tiny house, but at this point, we couldn’t see it anymore. We headed onto the ramp and merged into the highway, and still, couldn’t see the tiny house. 20170910_112244A minute later, there it was, rolling along leaving a big wake of rainwater behind it, looking very tiny indeed in the surrounding envelope of fog. There must have been at least 40 or 50 km of wind and more during the gusts. The entire ride was a blur with our eyes fixated on the tiny house in front of us.  We defended the space directly behind it, not letting anyone separate us.

Our driver’s girlfriend was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, and even though we’d only just met, I called her several times on the phone during the ride. She kindly and calmly answered all my questions about how it was towing and if there were any issues. Everything seemed to be just fine!

20170910_124522When we arrived at our destination we had a short drive down a dirt road to the final parking place. The rain had washed a channel perpendicularly through the road, and probably had been doing so every time it rained for quite some time. The truck went over it, but as the tiny house wheels headed down into the miniature valley, the tail end of our trailer brought up on the road, suspending one set of tires, spinning, in mid air. Normally, I probably would not have reacted so calmly, but in that moment, it didn’t feel like a big deal at all. Maybe it was because I was in disbelief over how smoothly the journey had gone and in comparison to what could have gone wrong, it was really pretty small. We grabbed some 2 x 4s and strips of plywood that were lying around and built up the valley so that as the wheels went over it a second time they would be propped up higher, lending clearance space for the back of the tiny house.

It worked! The corner that was dragged on the ground prior to our bridge building ingenuity had had its flashing peeled back a bit, but the insulation behind it was unharmed. An easy fix. With that, we decoupled our future home from our friend’s truck, walked away with big smiles, feeling very much in need of a pint and a warm dry place to relax.  To the Duke of Duckworth it was!



Meanwhile, in Japan.

Research Phase

This post begins with an apology to all our readers and supporters. In December 2015, we left Newfoundland to travel to India for a friend’s wedding, and two months later, continued on to Japan where we have been living ever since. During this time, we have been living in the moment as best we can while observing and taking notes on so many different housing and living choices.

In India, we were able to truly realize what we did and did not need in order to travel comfortably, and find purpose in what we were doing. Not surprisingly, this surmounted to very little. We found that as long as we had a shower, clean water to drink, and a place to sleep at night, we were totally fine. Food was never a problem. The things we brought in our packs (in no specific order), and could not compromise on, included the following:
[I included links to Amazon for both my American and Canadian readers – sorry to everyone else!!]

As long as we had these things, we were ok. We actually had a bit more than that in our packs, and we did buy souvenirs (mostly for friends and family), but next time we know what we’d leave at home.We never missed having an expansive wardrobe or my shelves of books, nor did we feel our lives were lacking because we weren’t surrounded by our possessions.

In Japan, we were able to truly realize what we did and did not need in order to live comfortably, and find purpose in what we were doing. Not surprisingly, this amounted to very little. This sounds crazy, but our apartment in downtown Nagoya (the 4th largest city in Japan) is smaller, less convenient and less efficient than what our tiny house will be. It’s only 190 sq. ft. – 9’2″ by 20’8″. It was arranged for us by the school I’m teaching at, so we didn’t really have a choice in the matter if we wanted to be living together in the same apartment. But it was just fine for us, given our tiny aspirations and all.


Our kitchen is less than the size of what our tiny house bathroom vanity will be. It consists of a stainless steel sink with a cupboard underneath and a one-burner induction stove top; only 6 inches of counter in between the two. Above the sink is a drying rack for dishes, built with stainless steel rods to allow for water to drip back down. Above this are two shelves, about 22 inches wide and 10 inches deep. Between the side of the shelving unit and the side wall of this odd little kitchen unit, we’ve put in spring-loaded expandable poles. On these, we’ve been able to hang most of our utensils and useful things with hooks. Outside of said utensils, we have two titanium sporks, two sets of chopsticks, two large shallow bowls, 3 small bowls, two soy sauce dishes, two wine glasses, two titanium mugs, one saucepan, one frying pan, one steel mixing bowl and one sake decanter with two small cups for drinking. That’s it! We put a suction-cup towel rack on the front of the shelving unit for dish towels. In the space under the stove top, there is a small, cube-shaped bar fridge with an interior volume of about 1.2 cubic feet (35 litres). That’s about enough space for 3 days worth of groceries.


Our bathroom is also smaller than what our tiny house bathroom will be. The apartment is quite old, probably built in the 1970s or thereabouts, so the bathroom is kind of a one-unit module that has the toilet box, sink, and tub all in one piece. Even the floor, walls and ceiling are moulded together to form one continuous plastic box. The sink faucet swivels and can reach out over the edge of the tub to fill it up if you want a bath. There is no real counter space, but we have used the space on top of the toilet box effectively with some organizers for our personal items. There is another shelf/rack thing above the toilet – same as the one that’s above the kitchen sink, built from steel rods. We keep extra supplies up there, and have hung some small decorative containers from it with hooks for extra storage. I hate all the plastic, but it works. One benefit from this set-up is that it acts like a wet-bath. You don’t have to worry about anything getting wet, and if water spills onto the floor, it’s slightly tilted towards the drain located under the sink (a gap exists at the bottom of the sink unit for this purpose). You’ll also notice a ceiling fan, and an access hatch in the ceiling for the pipes. We did have a leak once, so this was incredibly useful.

dsc00958The entrance way is a typical Genkan, a slightly sunken square of tiled flooring where you must awkwardly take your shoes off with no hands, while you have no where to put down your things, and simultaneously avoid trodding on anyone else’s shoes or the recycling that needs to be taken down to street level. I’m all for taking your shoes off, like you would being from Canada and all, but you need a bit of space! On one side of the Genkan is a closet of sorts, with multiple shelves inside supported by more of those spring-loaded expandable poles (read: they can’t hold a lot of weight). On the other side is a narrow rectangular alcove, with one shelf in the middle of it. We keep umbrellas and that sort of thing underneath it. A friend of ours who’s been living in Japan for a decade and has lived in these type of studio apartments before let us in a sweet bit of info – the front door is steel. That meant we were able to get magnetic hooks and hang up our sweaters and jackets. There’s literally no other place for them, so that was a win!

dsc03207As for the rest of the apartment, it’s just one ‘big’ room (lolz). When we arrived, there was a twin bed on a wooden frame, a modern-ish desk with filing cabinet and folding chair, and a small chest of 4 drawers – 1 drawer for Tim, 2 for me, and 1 for out of season clothes. We added a full length mirror, a metal shelving unit for storage and extended kitchen prep-space (the shelves are adjustable, so we put one right at counter height), a collapsible coffee table, a TV (for movies, we don’t have cable or satellite) and a small sectional couch. Everything we bought was second hand. Bought new, we acquired bed clothes and some canvas storage bins. There is a small balcony with just enough space to hang up your washing… I would have liked to put a small table and stools out there to enjoy the evening sun, but there’s really not enough space. The balcony has nice big glass sliding doors though, which let in lots of light. We’ve left them open from April – June and now again from October – December. During the winter, I can count on my hands how many times we turned the heater on, but in the summer, we used the air conditioner daily. It gets too bloody hot in this country for my constitution.

In conclusion, we have been living on a shoestring for almost exactly a year, and we’re really quite content. The things I miss the most are

  1. Having an oven
  2. Having a freezer
  3. Having enough space in the fridge for leftovers
  4. Personal things, like artwork, that remind us of our past and our travels

These, we know we need and plan to include in our tiny house. Outside that, Tim laments not bringing his safety razor. He bought a cheap one here in Japan, so it’s alright, but a nice quality steel safety razor body saves a load of money on disposable razors. He also wishes he brought a pair of jeans (I did :P). Tim has been doing a lot of online work with respect to his photography and building a website so he has relied on my laptop. It is nice to have your own personal laptop and not have to share with anyone, but again, we have made do and it hasn’t been unworkable. The same can be said about smartphones. We’ve shared just one the entire time, and it’s been fine. I’ve actually really enjoyed not having one on me when I leave the house, it has been very liberating. I could have gotten one in Japan, but I decided it was unnecessary. The only time it’s really a pain is if I go out after work with friends, but in that case, I just ask to borrow someone’s phone to shoot Tim a quick message to let him know.

We haven’t signed an internet contract for our apartment either – the whole time we’ve just been hot-spotting from Tim’s iPhone to the laptop. He bought a sim card with unlimited data when we arrived in Japan, so we never have to worry about going over. For a 6-month term, it costs $174 CAD (¥14,400).  Although this method makes for very slow download speeds and inconvenient browsing, we choose to visit a local cafe once a week for heavy internet use, where we can relax with a coffee and piece of quiche. This might seem wasteful (you can make coffee at home!), but it’s an awesome substitution for having an internet bill.

For the sake of people who want more concrete evidence on this whole concept, i.e. ‘living tiny is a lifestyle choice that allows you to have so much more’, I’m going to continue to lay out costs and expenditures, specifically. I’ve read lots of articles that present tiny living as either extremely luxurious and trendy, or as a solution for homelessness, without any reference to people in between the two. I’m not criticizing either of these scenarios, tiny houses are means to so many different ends!  But I think a lot of the criticism that is directed towards tiny houses / tiny living results from a lack of detailed information about how the lives of people on this path play out, and how these decisions translate practically. “The house is so cute, but are they really happy?”, they ask. I say yes, it requires some compromises, and yes, you do have to make some sacrifices; but, it also allows you to spend a lot more of your time (and money) having fun because you don’t have so much financial baggage!

Rent for us is $478 CAD (¥40,000) per month. Our monthly electric bill has come to an average of $34 CAD (¥2800), our gas bill is around $23 CAD (¥1900), and water works out to about $13 CAD (¥1100). Conservatively, groceries surmount to no more than $478 CAD (¥40,000) per month as well (for two people) but you can do it for less than that (we like treats). My subway fare to get to work and back every day comes to $124 CAD (¥10,400), but I am reimbursed for this by my employer.

So, our monthly utilities costs run us about $100. Including rent and food, in total, we pay ~$1,067 CAD (¥89,285) per month to live in Japan, with no frills. Remember, this covers two people. The total one-time investment we put into making our tiny space livable with furnishings came to $445 (¥37,200).

Now of course, there have been a few frills! We’ve gone on a week long camping and hitch-hiking trip through Aichi, Gifu, Nagano, and Niigata Prefectures. This cost us about $417 CAD (¥35,000). We went on another such trip down to Nara and on to Kobe, which cost a bit more (around $620 CAD (¥51,900)) because we stayed two nights in a hotel. We went to the Summer Sonic music festival in Osaka, which cost about $980 CAD (¥82,100) (including tickets). We went to Kyoto for Tim’s birthday in July, which cost only $380 CAD (¥31,800) because we camped both nights. For my birthday in November, we went to Tokyo, which was our most densely expensive trip – 3 days and 2 nights, no hitch-hiking or camping, and travel by bullet train, we spent $975 CAD (¥81,600) (we did A LOT of cool shit). Oh, and we hiked Mount Fuji in September, that trip cost us $465 (¥39,000). A few smaller trips include going to Ena, Gifu in the spring for rice planting and again for harvesting in the fall; and we went to the same town to stay overnight in an old traditional thatch-roofed inn in July. We went to a firefly festival about an hour away in June, and the Toyota Rock Festival in September. In October we went to an expo park to see a re-creation of the house from My Neighbour Totoro (Japanese animated movie). All of those experiences cost us between $60 and $120 CAD each (¥5,000 – ¥10,000). Halloween night, summer festivals in Nagoya, and various parties and evenings on the town were had as well.

Due to the fact that I still have 4 months left on my contract, I’m not yet allowed to divulge my salary, but I can tell you that my plan is to have $10,000 CAD saved by the time we leave to go home to Canada (after a little more than a year of working). It’s looking like this goal will be achieved even before it comes time to leave. We’ve lived extremely modestly (two people on only one salary), but have had a LOAD of fun times, as you can see.


My point in all this is that by having a tiny house (and a tiny amount of possessions) you can actually live very large. This is our aim. This is our mentality. The past 12 months have proved to us that not only is it doable, it is enjoyable, and allows us to have so many more new experiences that we would otherwise not be able to afford. I feel ready, prepared, and motivated to return home and complete our build, so we can try out this life on Canadian soil. The part that blows my mind is that our tiny house will allow us so much more efficiency, beauty, and quality in our living space than our Japanese apartment does, and we will own it outright when it is finished. I will forever be grateful that I discovered this path as early on as I did, and didn’t waste my time and money on a McMansion, mortgage, and material possessions. Cheers to tiny house living!


Framing is Complete – The Bones of the Tiny House

Exterior Shell, The Walls

At the time of the last post I wrote, we had the front and back walls built and raised, and needed to complete the smaller left and right walls. Well we finished everything on Friday evening, September 25th – a month and five days after our first day at the build. The framing took 8 days in total, and we certainly became more proficient at it as time went on. Here’s a video we made showing all four walls going up!

The first nail (we used 3 1/2″ galvanized nails) I drove took somewhere around 25 smacks… pretty bad accuracy haha. My best now is 5!! On the topic of nails, we weren’t sure how many to get and started out with a mere 10 lbs. These lasted about a day and a half, and we went back to the store and bought an entire box – 50lbs. It is cheaper by almost $30 to buy the whole box compared to the same amount using the per pound rate. Lesson learned! By the end, I estimate we used about 35 pounds for all our framing needs. We also bought 3 lbs of 2 1/2″ galvanized nails for toe-nailing, which was definitely sufficient. Toe-nailing is when you attach a vertical stud to a horizontal plate using a nail on an angle.



Using Pythagorean theorum to solve for the hypotenuse – our top plate 🙂

Gradually, we relied on the computer model less and less as well, because it was just
easier to decide exactly where the windows were going ourselves based on the centre line of a wall. Once you’ve logically thought all this through, it’s easy to then mark out the studs accordingly. The narrow end walls were interesting to design since they connect two parallel walls of differing heights. The front, high wall, is 10’11” and the lower back wall is 9’8″. This meant that the top plate had to be positioned on a 10° angle, and each stud running from bottom to top had to be a different height. It also meant that each stud connecting with the top plate needed to be angled (mitred), to fit snugly into place. The best way to lay this out is on the floor, using chalk lines, outlining the angles and various heights of studs. I even did a little bit of math in order to get the exact length of the top plate – imagine that! Although these walls were smaller, they took a day each to complete because of the added complexity with the angles. We were so glad to be completely done!

To give you some perspective on the process of actually framing a wall, we made a video of the fourth wall coming together. It’s the rake wall on the right hand side of the house, where our guest loft and bathroom will be located.

A few words on window placement: the windows that are located in the loft areas were easy to position, because we needed them as high as they could go in order to have as much wall/floor space as possible up there. The windows on the main floor area were a little trickier. Given that we are having two lofts at either end of the tiny house, we had to find a happy balance between headroom under the loft, headroom in the loft, and the height of counters, and couches. The size of our windows had been decided on, based on our Google Sketch-Up model we had designed. So those were fixed variables that could not be changed at this point; but of course, you can’t have a window intersecting the platform that forms your loft floor. IMG_20150922_145226To make it easier to visualize, we actually got a piece of 2′ x 4′ and suspended it from the tops of our front and back walls using rope, at various heights, until we were happy that we had enough space downstairs and upstairs for everything we needed. At first, we assumed that we were going to install standard height counters (36″ from the ground), but during our window positioning process, we realized that since we are building this ourselves, we can actually venture away from the standards and choose something that fits us better, personally. I did some reading and found out that the standard counter height of 36″ has been around since the early 1900s, at a time when people were on average, much shorter. Ergonomically, the best height for a counter is that which results in your forearms being positioned at a 45° angle when your palms are placed flat on the counter top. Keep in mind – to achieve this, it isn’t how tall you are overall that is important, just the height of your elbow since it is the lower arm that does (or should be doing) all the prep work when at a counter. When a counter is not at the correct height for your body, you will compensate for this unconsciously by changing your position in order to get your arm into the right position for working on the surface. If the angle is greater than 45° (counter is too high), approaching 90°, you will have a tendency to step or lean back a little; and if the angle is smaller than this (counter is too low), you will have a tendency to lean forward. Both of these scenarios end up in pain – upper back and shoulder pain with counters that are too high, and lower back pain with counters that are too low. Here’s a good source that I found very useful on this topic.

We decided that we are going to go with 38″ counter tops, as we are both a little taller, and I do spend a lot of time experimenting and creating in the kitchen. Might as well make it more enjoyable since we have the option! Our kitchen window sill will then be positioned 2″ above the counter height, which means our loft platform allows us a total vertical space of 6’5 1/2″ in the kitchen and bathroom. All our ‘downstairs’ windows are 3′ high, so we positioned them all at the same height from the floor based on this carefully calculated kitchen window position. It works out great for the height of our sectional couch and living room window as well, and the window in the bathroom. Remember to factor in the thickness of your finish flooring when making this decision for yourself!

Once we had all four walls framed, we had to permanently attach them to one another at the corners before we could remove the bracing. This part actually wasn’t incorporated into the plans we bought, but we emailed the designers and they were able to explain what to do via email! Such a relief.



You basically have to shove the walls into place so that any given corner will be level and square. This was made easier by ratchet-strapping the left wall to one of the axles. Ratchet straps are awesome! Tim and I have been maintaining some really good teamwork throughout the framing process, but of course, we have our ups and downs. We are getting better at being able to read when we’re too tired or too hungry, or experiencing the dreaded h-anger (when you’re so hungry that you start to express anger in a seemingly unwarranted manner)…. ok I’ll admit that I am the bigger victim of feeling hangry (lol). I feel like I’m in a snickers commercial sometimes. I’m just not myself when I’ve worked for 9 hours and I’m hungry! We’ve both become more forgiving with respect to differences of opinion if it means that one of us will be a lot happier if we do something a certain way. Sometimes it is likely unnecessary or redundant, but our comfort level and the gift of being on the same page is totally worth it!!

Sub-floor Prep

Exterior Shell, Sub-floor

Now that the trailer has been completed, we have started what we’ve been fondly referring to as “The Real Build”. The anticipation to start working with wood has been high, and we got our first taste of it on Friday, August 28th. It took us nearly 9 hours to install the wooden rails around the outside perimeter of the main frame of the trailer. These rails will provide a nailing surface for our plywood sub-floor and the bottom plates of our studs. IMG_20150828_153023I have to say, it was really enjoyable! Wood is a DREAM to work with compared to metal. Even though we were still attaching wood to metal, it was the wood that we were manipulating and levelling, and what a difference!!!

The first thing we did was spend about 10 minutes levelling the trailer from all four corners using our 2-ton scissor jacks, and then we were ready to get at it. We used 2″ self-tapping screws to go through the 1.5″ of wood and 1/4″ of steel, and staggered each screw 1′ apart along the length of each piece of wood. Alternating our screws from a higher position to a lower position, with respect to the centre line of the wood, prevented the creation of a single axis of screws along which the wood could curl and potentially crack, over time. IMG_20150828_183357Our purchased plans said to place screws every 2′, but this didn’t seem sturdy enough to us, so we went with the 1′ intervals. The imperial system is still driving me nuts, but on top of that, I find it so irritating how the measurements of wood are not even true to their imperial names. 2″ x 4″ wood in reality is actually only 1.5″ x 3.5″. AND, any given piece of so-called 2″ x 4″ has a better chance of spouting maple syrup than it does being actually straight! Rant over….

It wasn’t in the plans we bought, but it was mentioned to us that it might be wise to use a cushioning / water barrier material between the wood side rails and the metal of the trailer frame, as well as when we’re laying down the plywood sub-floor. I brought this query to the awesome facebook group “Tiny House People”, where I got a resounding “Yes!” to this question. So glad that we decided to do this. I’ve already complained about how wood isn’t straight, but we didn’t really take into account the fact that even though our metal should theoretically be flat, after painting, the surface was a little uneven due to drops of paint having dripped down and hardening into little convex ridges here and there. We picked up a roll (in the range of 80′) of 6″ sill gasket, and wrapped it around the entire exterior perimeter of the trailer frame in one continuous piece, sandwiching it with our 2″ x 4″ wood rails as we went. It filled any gaps between the two materials, creating a nice tight seal. This stuff is basically composed of a squishy, white, open cell foam sheet.

Before we could start attaching anything, Tim notched out cylinder shaped channels in the wood where it would line up with our welded-on threaded rod. We didn’t really have the right tool for the job… I think a router would have worked well. But we had a grinder, so Tim marked lines showing the needed width of the grooves and just ground out the wood with a wheel on his grinder. Not perfect, but it worked.

C-clamps are now my very best friends. They are amazing. If there’s a bow in your wood, or it’s twisted in any way, they are there to reduce the amount of profanities used and make your life generally easier. Self-tapping screws however… we’re not as good friends. I’ve heard you can buy ones that actually work, but ours were a big sham. Somehow, the very first one went in ok, but after that they kept breaking so we had to drill pilot holes.

We bought a box of 100 screws, and ended up having 5 left over. Sunk a few additional screws around the pieces of welded-on threaded rod, to bring the wood as tight as we could around those, as well as any other places that needed a little extra coaxing to be tight and straight.

In addition, we made the realization that our trailer is actually about 3/4″ longer than expected! We measured everything and it turns out that the 24′ pieces of HSS from the mill were slightly longer than spec. Never even considered that could be possible! Haha. The wooden 2″ x 4″s come in 10′ and 8′ lengths, so we needed two 10s and an 8 to flank each side of the trailer entirely. With the newly discovered discrepancy, this meant we had a little 3/4 inch gap between the tail piece and each side rail. To accommodate, we cut two small blocks and hammered them down into each gap and screwed them in from the end. No biggie.

I feel terrible writing about all of this next bit, it will be such dull reading. But, I’m afraid if I don’t write it down, I will forget the small details if we do this all again someday. If you’re curious about the specifics, read on! If not, stop here 🙂



The process of sinking each screw went a little like this:

  1. Place the sill gasket against the metal trailer frame with left hand, then hold the 2″ x 4″ wood against the sill gasket with right hand. Tighten clamp around the whole thing. Your partner does the same thing at the other end.
  2. Take a measuring tape and stretch it the length of your 2″ x 4″. Mark a vertical line with a pencil at each 12″ interval, making sure to have the two end screws 2″ in from the edge of the wood, regardless of where the nearest 12″ interval lies. Mark a horizontal line at each interval, 1″ down from the top or 1″ up from the bottom, alternating, creating a zig-zag pattern. The intersection of the lines at each position will be the home for each screw.
  3. Make sure the top of 2″ x 4″ is flush with the top of the metal using a combination square and a level, so that the plywood sub-floor will lay flat across them both.
  4. If the situation isn’t level, use a rubber mallet to hammer up or down on the wood, whichever is necessary, on the outside of the clamp. Doing this allows small increments of change in the position of the wood, all the while keeping it snugly in place thanks to the clamp.
  5. Drill a little piece out using a 1/2″ drill bit, to a depth of about 1/8″ to 1/4″, giving a space to counter sink the screw head. This way, the heads of the screws won’t be poking out making it impossible to get our sheathing and siding flat against this wood down the road. Pro tip: wrap some painter’s tape around the tip of the bit, making an edge so you know exactly how deep to go when drilling. Don’t want to make these too deep.
  6. Drill a pilot hole through both the wood and the metal so that your “self-tapping screws” (i’m convinced this concept is a sham) will go through without getting worn down or snapping off. We used #10 screws, which have a shank diameter of somewhere around 13/64″ (imperial, whyyy???) so we needed the pilot hole to be smaller than this. I think it was something like 9/64″.
  7. Sink your screw, at last. Move clamp further down the line.
  8. Repeat


Moving Day #1!

Trailer Build Phase

As it turns out, professional sand blasting and painting is extremely expensive and outside our budget! We got a few quotes around town, and all were much more than we were expecting. I don’t know if this has to do with the fact that most shops are doing work in compliance with offshore steel requirements, or if that just really is how much they charge regularly. After very little deliberation, we decided to hack it ourselves, out at the build site. Three visits to motor registration later, in search of clarification on the rules of transporting the trailer, we finally received an in-transit permit on August 14th! This permit is basically a one-time-use document that allows you to move a trailer or other vehicle from one location to another, on an agreed upon date.IMG_20150814_165719 The conditions of this permit require you to have working electric brakes and all lights (tail and signal lights, front, and side amber marker lights), and the trailer must be unloaded. It was $15, and hassle-free; my favourite kind of permit! The next day, my kind and helpful brother stopped by and helped us wire up everything (he’s an electrician). We didn’t want to permanently affix anything to the trailer since it was all going to come off once we got it out to the build site anyway for rust removal and painting. So, we attached all the lights and wires to the steel with plastic zip-ties! Brilliant invention. I wish we had had black ones though instead of the white, as they would be a little less conspicuous. After we had finished, the trailer ominously looked as if it were held together by those zip-ties. I will discuss the ins and outs of the wiring later when we do it in a permanent way, since the focus right now was just to get it working for the time being.

On Sunday, August 16th, the trailer made its way from St. John’s out to the bottom of Trinity Bay without a hitch! Well that’s a lie, it did have a hitch, to attach it to the truck. HA! I wasn’t able to attend this monumental event since I had previously committed to coming out of retirement and attending a track and field meet in honour of my coach. I think this was for the best because I would have been super nervous and anxious about things that could possibly go wrong. Tim’s cousin who is a professional truck driver kindly offered to give us a hand and towed the trailer for us from A to B. We were so grateful to have someone so experienced help us with this! IMG_9035Apparently there were no issues encountered, and the trailer was just fine in transit! With the safety chains hooked on, and the 7-pin plug plugged in, away they went. Tim followed behind in our car. He said the only thing was that since the trailer was so light, completely unloaded, it did a bit of bouncing up and down when going over bumps. I was so excited to see the picture of the trailer from behind on the highway with the functioning tail lights!! This past week we’ve just been getting our things packed up and ready to head out to the build site for what we hope will be about a month of construction work to complete the shell of our tiny house. We are staying in a summer home out there so we can stay close to the build and have steady progress every day.

Getting Ready for Take-Off

Research Phase

I don’t have any additional research to discuss at this point, but I wanted to write a little about where we stand right now. On Tuesday, June 2nd, we ordered our tandem 7000 lb drop axles, which, with everything included (hangers, springs, break away cable set, 8000 lb jack, chains, etc.), cost us an arm and a leg. There is absolutely NO going back now! These are custom ordered, so they can’t be returned. At the end of the build, I will post an overall breakdown of actual costs rather than discuss each purchase as it happens.

We are experiencing a lot of late nights and early mornings, unable to sleep, mulling over details in our heads regarding measurements on the scale of fractions of inches, the uncertainties we haven’t decided on yet, and the fact that this pipe dream is becoming a reality. Recently, we tried to set a rule of “No Tiny Housing after 10pm” to allow our minds to be in a restful state when going to bed… we haven’t had a lot of luck with sticking to this rule yet! Shocking.

I was speaking with my mom about all the goings on with the Tiny House plans, and she brought up an interesting point. She basically told me to cherish and hold on to my youthful ‘ignorance’ and willingness to take risks. She said that from her experience, as people get older, often times they become more acutely aware of the potential negative outcomes of various decisions, resulting in a more reserved approach. Of course this isn’t true as a rule, but I think in a lot of cases she’s right. I also think that this is something that can be changed. If more people take on projects that are risky and show the people around them it CAN be done, it won’t be seen as such a crazy thing when the status quo is challenged.

If I could give a piece of advice to anyone wanting to go this route, it would be this: reach out and ask for help! I have been kinda nervous about telling people about our plans, for fear of judgement, or disapproval. Until a few weeks ago, we didn’t have a solid plan for where we were actually going to build our Tiny House. So we decided to appeal to our friends and family and see if anyone could help us. And it was most successful!! At first, we were thinking that we should be trying to track down a vacant piece of land to use for our build. And then it dawned on me while out for a drive around the bay last week, that what would make a lot more sense, would be to seek a cabin that had adjacent land available for the build, and rent it. If there’s one asset that most Newfoundlanders have, it’s a cabin. We were put in touch with a fella with just the thing, and will be starting the framing part of the build near his cabin towards the end of June! Shout out to all the people who responded to my facebook and word of mouth requests!! I was so touched by all the offers that came out of the woodwork. It has really meant the world to me to have all of your support behind us 😀

Another heads up to those interested in going Tiny- if you’re building the trailer yourself like we are, keep in mind that the axles take time to be shipped since they will most likely be custom made. We were told two weeks. It actually isn’t terrible though, because with that time, Tim is able to carefully solidify his plans for the steel order and the construction of the trailer. We expect the axles to arrive the week of June 15 – June 19, which means we can get started on the trailer as early as June 20. Tim expects the metal fabrication and welding to take approximately 5 days. Fortunately, we are able to do all of that work at a local welding shop, which won’t cost us anything since Tim (and his handy assistant, Jess!) is doing the work.

So until our axles arrive, we will continue watching our DIY How-To videos, measuring twice, and try not to get too ahead of ourselves by comparing interior finish and appliance options (I’m guilty :P). Can’t wait for the build to start. We have been helping my dad clean out his garage, and I found an old leather tool belt which he has given to me with his blessing- I am ecstatic. The next post will hopefully have some pictures of our real life trailer parts!

Here’s a great article for your reading pleasure: