Wall Framing, The First Hint of a House

Exterior Shell, The Walls

We have been long awaiting the day when we would raise our first wall of the tiny house, and it finally arrived! Right after we finished the subfloor we though we were ready to go, but quickly realized that we needed to do a bit more planning. As I’ve mentioned, we bought the plans to hOMe, built and designed by the Morrisons; however, with the drastic changes we made to the interior floor plan came a few small tweaks to the framing in terms of window positioning and the exact location of the front door. The little tweaks were enough to prevent us from completely following hOMe’s framing plans though, and we had to go back to the drawing board. As a fun little add on before heading back to the house to crack open Google Sketch-up, we decided to lay out our floor plan on our completed subfloor using painter’s tape. Here is the very first tour of our tiny house, on YouTube!

So, we went back to the drawing board and confirmed the position of each and every stud, and the exact position of each window and door. Tim is the SketchUp guy, so he worked on this, and it was very time consuming. I would highly recommend this software program though, it has been instrumental in our planning. Tim will write a post about his experience with it soon. We made an estimate for how many 2″ x 4″s we IMG_9489would need, and the number of those that would be 8′, 10′, 12′, 14′ and 16′ long.
The next day, we purchased the 2″ x 4″s, and organized them into stacks according to length, under our trailer – a great way to keep them out of the way and accessible at the same time. At that point, there really wasn’t anything standing between us and our first wall anymore. I don’t know why this was so intimidating… I feel like everything up to this point was just manual labour, that really anyone could do if they have time and willingness. There was something about the framing though that make me feel like we should have someone else there to at least supervise. As it turns out, of course, my worry was all for naught. Framing is SUPER fun, and very straight forward once you just dive into it. It’s sort of comparable to a puzzle of sorts, figuring out where everything goes and each piece fitting perfectly with its neighbours.

Labelled photo of framing for one of our windows. The bottom plate is down below the field of view. I love Microsoft Paint :)

Labelled photo of framing for one of our windows. The bottom plate is down below the field of view. I love Microsoft Paint šŸ™‚

I’m no carpenter, but all you really need to know is that there are four types of studs: a regular stud, a king stud, a trimmer stud, and a cripple stud. Regular studs run through the entire wall space from the bottom plate to the top plate, and provide the structural skeleton of your wall. Often, they’re positioned on 16″ centres, but in our build we are using 24″ inch centres. The remaining three types are used to handle windows and doors. Since windows and doors are not meant to be structural, load bearing surfaces, they need help from the framing. The window header acts like a bridge that runs over the top of the window, transferring the above load to two trimmer studs at either end of the window. Trimmer studs run from top plate to bottom plate but they pinch a header, and in the case of a window, they also pinch a sill. This breaks the trimmer into three pieces. Trimmer studs are also called jack studs by some people, and they are always buddied up with king studs. King studs, one on each side of the window (outside the trimmers, header and sill) tie together the entire window framing assembly to keep it all nice and straight, and add additional rigidity.

Cripple studs are just like regular studs, except they run from the bottom plate up to a window sill, OR from the top plate down to a header. They are positioned on the ever important 24″ centre lines, and would normally run all the way through the wall space, but windows and doors get in the way sometimes!

Google Sketch-Up framing model open on the laptop, and laying out our studs according to the plan.

Google Sketch-Up framing model open on the laptop, and laying out our studs according to the plan.

It is possible for a window and a door (or two windows!) to share king studs, which we did on both sides of our front door. If one of your window/door assembly studs lands close to a 24″ centre, it may be tempting to forgo putting in a cripple or another regular stud, but it is really important to do it anyway. When it comes time to put the exterior (and interior for that matter) sheathing up, you need to have studs right on those intervals as a nailing surface. If you don’t, you’ll have floating edges of plywood, and that will create major weaknesses in your wall with respect to moisture, and structural integrity. WITH that said though, it is possible for a king or trimmer stud to land on a 24″ centre, and act as a nailing surface for the sheathing. We also had this situation many times in our design, which is great, because studs that run double duty let us use less wood, and the wall is that much lighter.

18" (height) x 60" (width) window header dimensions.

18″ (height) x 60″ (width) window header dimensions.

 

 

A note on headers: the size of a header is proportional to the width of the opening it is bridging. The instructions in our plans communicated that a 4′ wide opening would need a 4″ x 4″ header, a 6′ wide opening would need a 4″ x 6″ header, an 8′ wide opening would need a 4″ x 8″ header, and so on. Of course, like regular ol’ 2″ x 4″s, all these call outs in reality are 1/2″ smaller in both directions. It seems though that you can’t always buy wood of these dimensions, so you have to get creative. The three windows that go along the top of our front wall are all 5′ wide, so we constructed 4″ x 6″ headers using two 2″ x 6″s, with a strip of 1/2″ plywood sandwiched in between. The three pieces were nailed together liberally.

First piece of the front wall, ready to raise.

First piece of the front wall, ready to raise.

So, with that information, we went about building the first piece of our wall, flat on the deck of the trailer. Once it was built, we then lifted it up and stood it in place where it needed to go. From start to finish, this first 16′ long piece took us two days to complete. The second piece, which was just over 12′ took us only 7 hours to build and raise. Thank you, learning curve šŸ™‚ It’s important to have a brace ready to go once you get your wall raised, so it can stay in place without needing someone to hold it. It’s also equally important to nail on some blocks to the edge of the subfloor, to prevent the wall from sliding off the edge of the trailer when raising it.

Wall #1!

Wall #1!

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Tim, securing one piece of a wall to another. Using a ratchet strap around two studs of the adjoining pieces allows you get everything nice a snug before driving nails.

Tim, securing one piece of a wall to another. Using a ratchet strap around two studs of the adjoining pieces allows you get everything nice and snug before driving nails.

 

Tying the two pieces of wall together to form one cohesive unit wasn’t too hard. We are using what’s called a double top plate, which means that for each piece of adjoining wall, there’s an extra 2″x4″ stacked on top that is either longer or shorter thanĀ the regular top plate. Our first piece of wall was 16′ long, with a 12’3″ double top plate stacked on top. Our second piece of wall was 12’3″ with a 16′ double top plate stacked on top. When the two pieces come together, we can nail the double top plates together from above, and the seam between the two lies staggered and away from the seam of the two pieces of wall.

View from the tongue end of the trailer, front wall is on the right and back wall is on the left.

View from the tongue end of the trailer, front wall is on the right and back wall is on the left.

As you can see in the picture, the front wall is higher than the back wall – a differenceĀ of about 1’3″. This difference allows the roof to be sloped towards the back of the house, which is essential to prevent rain or snow from pooling on the roof. It makes sense for the slope to angle away from the front door too, so you don’t get soaked trying to get in on rainy days. The angle of the slope is what’s called a 2 and 12 (for every 12″ run/horizontal, there is a rise/vertical change of 2″) which converts to about 10Ā°. A lot of people building tiny houses, and any house for that matter, use a gable style roof (peak in the centre, sloping down to either side). We think it makes more sense to go with the style in our plan, also known as a shed roof, because it allows the maximum amount of head room in the loft to be concentrated at one end. If you’re sitting in bed, chances are you’re going to be leaning against the headboard / wall, and your feet will be at the opposite end, so this configuration for head room is the best. Having the maximum head space in the centre would work if you like sitting in the centre of your bed, but really, when do you ever do that?

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The Long Awaited Floorplan!

Research Phase

It is April and winter is quickly slipping away, closing the gap between the research phase, and the build phase. It’s been a while since I last wrote a post, so many things have happened and/or changed since then. The biggest thing was that I was laid off from my crazy adult corporate job. This was a big relief, and great timing. I was unhappy working the 9-5 cube lifestyle (as are most people looking to go Tiny), and it was a real catalyst to stop and say ‘hey. this is really happening now. we’re doing this, because the universe is setting everything up for maximum convenience and opportunity’.

We’ve really amped up our time spent reading about tiny houses and design, and making tough decisions. We also began ‘The Great Purge’ which has been a gradual and sometimes overwhelming process. Only 2 years have passed since I moved back home from Halifax, and I’m not a materialistic shopping enthusiast, but we have somehow managed to accumulate a lot of STUFF all the same. Having my days free to do with as I please, I’ve had lots of time to itemize and organize, which is really the harder part of the process. Getting rid of things you don’t want, haven’t used in over a year, or are no longer useful- that’s straight forward. And very liberating! But it’s the stuff that ends up in the ‘keep pile’ that causes stress. Inevitably, everything in the keep pile won’t fit in the Tiny House. Or at least I’m being led to believe by the sensationalized episodes of Tiny House Nation, aired by FYI… I think in reality, the storage space in our Tiny House will be even greater than what is currently in our apartment, simply due to smart design and no wasted space.


I want to talk about the evolution of our floor plan now, and discuss why we put things where we put them. Our ideas are based mainly on intuition and some Ā of our favourite Tiny Homes from around the world, so there will likely be small tweaks, in practice, in order to make things fit with Newfoundland Building Codes. I think based on the level of research we’ve done, these changes will be minor.

Initially, we were going to follow closely the plan of Shaye and Tom from New Zealand. Here’s their webpage, andĀ their Facebook page. But we decided in the end that splitting the width of the space lengthwise would just be too narrow to cook comfortably in. To see what I mean, here is a sketch I made ages ago of our first plan:

The first floor plan we designed back in the fall of 2014.

The first floor plan we designed back in the fall of 2014.

First off, the drawing is to scale, and the rectangle on the left is the main floor. The two squares on the right are the loft spaces, that would fit directly above the main floor space on their immediate left. As you can see on the main floor, the bathroom is running tandem to the kitchen at the back of the house, splitting the space into two roughly 4-foot halves, which is fine, but it creates a few problems. First, the requirement of the dreaded CORNER CUPBOARD. I hate these with a passion. They contain a myriad of things that are impossible to get out without banging a wall, cupboard door, head, fingers.. etc. The other major problem would be clearance for drawers and the oven door. With a drawer open, or the oven door down, no one would be able to walk by, or enter the bathroom, respectively. We felt this was too limiting. So we changed our plan to this: *excuse the messy white out job – we ran out!

The second floor plan we designed, which we’ve been happy with for a few months now.

This new plan (drawn by Tim this time) places the bathroom at the back of the house spanning the entire width of the space, and the kitchen directly in front of it. This solves both problems. With a galley-style kitchen, we no longer have corner cupboards. And, there is ample room for movement in the full, nearly 8-foot wide space. Some other things to notice that have changed- the fold out table with chairs is gone. We thought about this long and hard, and realized that we likely wouldn’t use a table like that. We have a table right now, and we don’t eat at it. A better solution for us is a coffee table with a telescoping pedestal enabling it to change heights. That way, we can use the couch as seating during meals, and place chairs opposite it when guests are over. This idea is a marine-inspired one, and there are some cool space-saving furniture companies that are focused on these sorts of designs. We have to figure out if we’re going to buy it, or make it custom, which is why the dimensions aren’t on the drawing yet. It would be great if it could have a leaf or two as well. A great example of another tiny house employing this strategy is Brian Levy’s ‘The Minum House’.Ā If you’re short on time, skip ahead to the 7:00 minute mark.

Overall, the features to take note of for our Tiny House plan are as follows:

  • Full sectional couch, approximately 7.5 ft x 9 ft, which will be custom built with storage underneath to accommodate our camping gear and seasonal things.
  • Full set of stairs leading up to main loft, with storage all underneath, composed of a series of drawers and cupboards. This will accommodate our coat closet, shoe and boot storage, and any other frequently usedĀ things.
  • A full size fridge in the kitchen at the back right corner.
  • A combination washer/dryer (one machine does double duty) adjacent to it, with a utilities cupboard and electrical panel above it. Check out this linkĀ for the combo units by LG.
  • 10 foot long counter space on the left side of the kitchen, which will have a full sized sink at one end, and a 3-burner cooktop and oven at the other end, forming the magic triangle between fridge, stove and sink, that kitchen ergonomics suggests.
  • A full sized enclosed shower ( 4 x 2.5 ft ) in the bathroom, with the composting toilet placed adjacent, and a bathroom sink with floor to ceiling storage cupboard on the right hand side. This accommodates towels, linens, etc. Just like a normal bathroom.
  • The dotted lines at about 1/3 and 2/3 of the length of the tiny house indicate the edges of the loft spaces at either end. The centre section will be open from floor to ceiling, approximately 10.5 feet high.

I should explain why I’m using imperial measurements. Initially, I started out all metric, like you would, but it very quickly became impossible. In North America, building materialsĀ and appliance specs are usually all in imperial, likely because of the dominance of the United States, and the need for congruence. There’s probably a connection also to not wanting to make things too complicated for the generation of workers that grew up using the imperial system. That’s my hunch anyway. Perhaps after a certain amount of time has passed since Canada switched to metric (1970), they will make it a complete switch for all the trades as well. It’s frustrating during the time being for someone like me who thinks in metric, but it’s a necessary adjustment to operate in the building world.

What is even better than the above hand drawn sketch are the following screen shots from our model in google sketch-up. Tim is completely responsible for this and spent many days, weeks, probably months learning how to use this program and putting together a 3D version of our plan that is to scale. All of the furnishings and appliances, really everything for that matter, are representative only. Tim found them in a bank of 3D images available for google sketch up, and so they’re just used as place holders, more or less. The bed in the guest loft will hopefully be ‘in-laid’, so the top of the mattress is flush with the floor surface.

This will allow for smugglers hatches all around it, where we can have in-floor storage! These look like trap doors that lift up on a hinge. We haven’t decided yet if we want to put a window on the wall opposite the tv/media bookshelf. The more windows the better, but we don’t want to sacrifice structural integrity or insulation too much. It will be a question I’ll have for someone more experienced, very soon. We haven’t put walls up around the lofts yet as they would strongly impede the view into the house. But if you remember those long narrow windows oriented horizontally from hOMe (an image is on my first blog post), we will be having the same ones in the lofts on both sides.

Plan view of the main floor. The lofts were temporarily removed.

Plan view of the main floor. The lofts were temporarily removed.

Exterior view, showing the trailer tongue, and the lofts on top exposed. The loft that is furthest away will be ours, and the one closest will be the guest.

Exterior view, showing the trailer tongue, and the lofts on top exposed. The loft that is furthest away will be ours, and the one closest will be the guest.

The bathroom, and master loft above.

The bathroom, and master loft above.

The bathroom. Temporarily removed the wall and window to give a better view. you can see all the amenities, and the floor to ceiling cupboard for storage. Can also see the combo washer/drier through the shower door.

The bathroom. Temporarily removed the wall and window to give a better view. you can see all the amenities, and the floor to ceiling cupboard for storage. Can also see the combo washer/drier through the shower door.

The kitchen area, with stairs on the right leading up to the main loft, and our tiny sardine woodstove!! There will be metal flashing on the end of the counter and cupboards.

The kitchen area, with stairs on the right leading up to the main loft, and our tiny sardine woodstove!! There will be metal flashing on the end of the counter and cupboards.

View of the main working kitchen area, with large window the left of the sink. This was to accommodate the drip-dry cedar shelving that will go above the sink, to allow our plates/bowls/glasses etc. to go straight to their homes after being washed. Slots in the shelves allow the water to drip down. Hurrah for freeing up counter space!

View of the main working kitchen area, with large window to the left of the sink. This was to accommodate the drip-dry cedar shelving that will go above the sink, to allow our plates/bowls/glasses etc. to go straight to their homes after being washed. Slots in the shelves allow the water to drip down. Hurrah for freeing up counter space!

The kitchen looking down the hall. Note the awesome open stud shelving at the end by the sink, which is capable of holding 40 mason jars. We measured! Also, the round window in the bathroom.

The kitchen looking down the hall. Note the awesome open stud shelving at the end by the sink, which is capable of holding 40 mason jars. We measured! Also, the round window in the bathroom.

The living room!

The living room!

Let me know what you think! Have we missed something or could we use the space in better ways?