You may have seen around the web that the Yestermorrow Design School  http://www.yestermorrow.org/workshops/detail/tiny-house-design-build?StartDate=2012-07-30&SortColumn=StartDate&SortDir=ASC is building a tiny structure this September in their class.  I’m very excited to report that my Textile Studio project has been selected for this year’s class.

Here’s the deal:  this school is known to many in the natural and sustainable community because of its coursework and community involvement.  For some of their classes, they build specific projects.   In this case, they want to teach the students construction techniques during the day, and students will design their own tiny structures in the evening.  The course is short and the plans and materials need to be in place from the beginning, so that the students will not lose valuable time.

It was on the basis of time considerations that my project was selected, I was told.  I’m responsible to supply plans, a trailer, and money for materials.  They will supply student labor, supervised by the teachers, a place to build, and insurance for their students while it’s built.  After the class is over, I am responsible to take the project off of the Yestermorrow site so that they can build other things there.  It’s understood that the students will not be able to finish the whole structure during the class.  Minus the roof (the clients added it later), this is how far the class got last year: 

So far, I can see that this partnership is beneficial for more reasons than the obvious.  In order for the students to build the house, their professors need to be very aware of the particulars of the plan.  In reading the plan, Paul Hanke had a lot of suggestions and a few changes.  This is going to improve the overall build.   Their team of experienced instructors are far, far ahead of me in their ability to foresee potential problems with the design.  They also have many information resources that they’re open about sharing.

Further,  the professor in charge of the class itself, Patti Garbeck, has been a working carpenter for 30 years.  She has supervised many classes and construction projects, and I have no doubt that her students will do better work than they think themselves capable of.  Really, I wish I could take the class, too, but I will already be back at work.

There are still a few logistical questions to work out:

1.  With whom and when will I take all of my reclaimed materials and my trailer from Michigan to Vermont?

2.  Who will bring the partially-completed studio back from Vermont when the class is finished with it, and where should the trailer be parked until I get back?

3.  How will I get a roof on it before the winter (the class does not get involved with standing seam roofing)?

I’m very excited about working with the Yestermorrow school.  If you’re signed up to take the course, look for me to make a Skype appearance or two!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was really committed to using reclaimed wood from Detroit for my studio.  There are other places to order it from, but I want to support WARM Training http://warmtraining.org/ which has really done a lot of good for the people of Detroit, and their year-old reclaiming program, Reclaiming Detroit http://reclaimingdetroit.org/.

So I drove to Detroit yesterday in my friend’s car, in the rain, to a location with which I should have been familiar already, but wasn’t.  Reclaiming Detroit has its warehouse as part of the Focus Hope complex, on Oakman near Rosa Parks.  I have driven very near it many times, going to the Muslim Center of Detroit, but had never turned in that direction.

The warehouse is clearly signposted from Oakman Boulevard, so it was easy for me to pull up outside and to see a lot of the constructed products that they had made from reclaimed wood and were now selling. 

Inside, I was introduced to James Willer and Jeremy Haines, who had been advised of my appointment and were ready to meet with me.  James had a lot of experience as an architect and in costing and planning building materials, and Jeremy was their brand-new sales manager.

The meeting was very successful and I gained a lot of understanding of what would be needed to construct my  studio and of what materials were available.  Jim was able to advise me on which materials could and could not be used for specific purposes.  For example, I wanted to use maple on the floors, and he pointed out that the specifications were fir, and that the fir was being used structurally,  so that another material could not be substituted for it.  If I wanted to use maple, I would need to use a subfloor beneath it for stability.  There were many other such points, and I really felt that Reclaiming Detroit was a partner in this process, not just a supplier.

The warehouse was very small, so they were careful to store materials correctly in their labeled locations.  Interestingly, they also listed the house that the wood came from on the bundles and on the racks or cages where the wood is held.  So when you buy materials, you will find out where the wood came from.  I’m looking forward to getting pictures of the source homes.

For people who love Detroit, like myself, it is bittersweet to walk around the warehouse and see the pieces of so many homes.  This wood looks like Grandma’s kitchen, this other wood looks like my living room in my house in SW Detroit, and this other section looks like so many houses I know.  Hot tears burned me when I saw the corner cabinets of a traditional stick-built kitchen – I’m trying to see if they can be fit into my textile processing area in any way.  I want to use their butcher block for countertops too.  

Jeremy will be changing their blog and website so that it is more accessible and understandable, so if you go to the website in the next little while, be aware that it will be clearer soon.  Reclaiming Detroit is just in the beginning of their process of selling the materials they’ve collected, so some patience is necessary.

There are similar reclaiming operations in many areas of the country,  and even a few others in the Detroit area.  People building Tiny Houses are advised to go and check some of them out.

My reasons for using Reclaiming Detroit

1.  It is part of the WARM Training Center, which I love and want to support.

2. Buying new wood material when you can avoid it is against Islamic teachings.  Abu Bakr, the first successor to the Prophet Muhammad, told the believers not to cut down fruit-bearing trees.  He also told us that the trees were a blessing from Allah.  This has been interpreted to mean that cutting any trees without need is hated by Allah.  If we can use trees that have already been cut and don’t cut any new ones, this will be pleasing to Allah.

3.  Buying reclaimed wood stops it from being sent to landfills.  This reduces the pressure on our already-over burdened landfills and saves society’s resources for use on other things.

4. Reclaimed softwood is usually better than softwood available today.  It is almost always denser and stronger than what is available now.

5.  For me, sentimentally, I would like to use a piece of Detroit in my studio.  In this case, lots of pieces.  It will be Detroit inside and out.  That includes me – I was made in Detroit too!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had decided to order a custom aluminum trailer, because of the video posted by Ethan http://www.thetinyhouse.net/2012/01/15/the-trailer-debate-steel-vs-aluminum/ and his excellent arguments.

I sent out requests for quotes to three companies and also called a company that had been used by a local tinyhouser.  I’ll call them companies A, B, C, and D.

Company A did not respond to me at all, and when I also called the place during normal business hours, no-one picked up.

Company B responded immediately with a price.  $4054

Company C told me that they would get back to me, they had to check with a supplier, and then they did eventually get back to me with a price of $3295.

Company D said on the phone that they did not do custom aluminum work.

So we’re left with companies B and C.

I liked the price of company C’s estimate, but there were a few concerns.

1.  They do not themselves manufacture the trailer, they send it out to someone to be manufactured.  So their custom spec writing  will have to be perfect to ensure that the maker understands exactly what I want.  The invoice was not correct when issued.  I wrote back and called in with my explanation of the needed changes, but they still did not write it up correctly.   He didn’t seem to be looking back carefully at the sketches and specs that I had sent.  This worried me.

2. I didn’t understand why their price was so low.  This price is only $100 more than an off-the-lot steel trailer, not even a custom job.  Aluminum trailers should be a good deal more expensive.  Maybe their price was so low because they didn’t completely understand what I was asking for?  And they only want a 10% deposit, which should not make sense if the trailer is truly custom.

3.  Although their website stated a 7 year warranty, the man said that the trailer would have only a 2 year warranty.

4.  It will take 4-5 weeks for the trailer to arrive.

Company B  is a manufacturer located in Michigan.  Their price was higher but they made a better case as far as I’m concerned.  I’ll explain.

1.  These guys are themselves the manufacturer.  I was able to talk to the man and walk him through the diagram, explaining what I wanted.  He had more insightful questions and contributions than the other guy.  He also understood the importance of matching the trailer dimensions exactly .

2. He didn’t have a hesitation in raising the price from his standard when he understood about the 10 hurricane tie-downs that had to be attached to the base of the trailer.  This signaled to me that he is not just trying to get a sale, but that he is conscious of his costs and respects his time.  He requires a deposit of 25%.

3. I am offered a limited lifetime warranty for as long as I own the trailer.

4.  It will take 3 1/2 weeks for the trailer to arrive.

 

I really thought about going with company C but I was just unsettled and uncomfortable with the above concerns.  So I’ll be ordering from company B, if the invoice with the specs is written out correctly (I think it will be).  Once the trailer arrives and I am happy with their service, I’ll update this post to give their name.

Another decision about the trailer: I notice that the drawing from Tumbleweed indicates only decking boards are to be left on the bottom of the trailer.  This guideline is supposedly so that you can save weight.  But I’m concerned that the decking boards would then have greater pressure on each one of them.  What if there’s a problem with one or another decking board over the years?  The aluminum trailer weighs 300 pounds less than a steel trailer would weigh, so I think I’m going to keep all of the decking boards except for the small part under the porch, where I will remove a few, so that water can fall through.  This obviates the aluminum flashing issue and just makes the whole situation more sturdy.

Because the trailer is aluminum, I cannot use standard treated wood and will have to use one of the more expensive ones which is not preserved with copper.  This is apparently due to the fact that the copper would cause the aluminum to corrode.  I’ll have to calculate that carefully and get my order ready for the lumberyard.

So maybe in a couple of hours I can put my deposit down on the trailer!

 

I am new to the tiny house blogging community, and new to blogging in general.  I have been aware for some time that bloggers were sometimes approached by companies for sponsorship, and that indeed, some bloggers make a living from their blogs because of this corporate sponsorship.  I have, however, been dismayed recently by some of the blog posts  I have seen in the Tiny House community.

One posting, re-posted and re-blogged everywhere, deals with the solar solution that one couple found to give electricity to their tiny house.  If you went to their specific blog and looked at their sponsors list, you could tell that the item was from a company which sponsored them.  But otherwise, especially if you read their blog post on another site, the only impression you could get was that this couple shopped around and that this particular solar solution was the best they found out there.  Other commenters complained about the expense of the product compared to different systems, but little criticism was made of the fact that the product was given to them at a discount from a sponsor.

Another posting was much clearer as to who the sponsor was and why the couple was using the product.  This couple decided to use a particular sub-flooring for their home and acknowledged in the post that they had gotten it from their sponsor.  Full disclosure is good, thank you.  But when I went to the sponsor’s website and looked at the material carefully,  it stated that it was not for use in residential structures.  The couple in the example I am referring to are very, very eco-conscious and I believe they would never knowingly have used something in their home that might be toxic to them or to their new baby.  I believe that the fact of having gotten it from a sponsor stopped them from doing the diligent investigation that they have made in regards to other products.

I recognize the importance of sponsors to commercial journalism all over the world.  The partnership between the two has supported a free press in this and many other countries.  Bloggers are free to commercialize themselves as well.  But I don’t plan on accepting or seeking sponsorship in writing this blog.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my reason for writing this blog is to help community members to learn from my experience and to make it easier for them to build their own tiny houses, tiny textile studios, or other types of structures.  As more people learn about my experience and subscribe, some of them may follow specific choices I have made.  For example, when my friend Lynnelle, a sewing blogger, researched and bought a specialty machine, I went out and did the same without researching it myself.  How would it look if it turned out that Lynnelle was only recommending the machine because she was paid to do so?

For those reasons,  you can be sure that when I mention a particular product or company, I was not paid to do so. When I buy something, the supplier most likely doesn’t even know that I am blogging.   You can do your own research and take advantage of the same sales or discounts that I do (and I will mention them in the posting, as well as noting them in the cost sheet).

For more information about ethics in blogging, you may want to visit http://digitalethics.org/resources/best-practices-for-bloggers/

 

I dreamed of a woman with long gray-white hair, dyeing fabric with natural dyes.  In her wood-lined studio,  she had a wall with fabric samples and colors pinned to it, with the names of each dyeplant attached.  Could this be me?  I want it to be.

A lot of steps will be needed to get from the stage of dreaming to that of reality, though.

I’m building this Weebee as a textile studio, but down the road I, or someone else, may want to live in it.  As much as possible, then, I need to think through the systems from the beginning, even if I don’t plan on installing all of them.

Electric: I plan to use regular 110 supply.  If I go off-grid, I will assemble the necessary solar panels and inverters.  I know some tiny housing people advise 12 volt, but my computerized sewing machines do not operate on 12 volt, so there would have to be a transformer or some other method anyway.  So I’ll just make it easy on myself and stay with 110.

Water:  I plan to use a regular city water hookup.  For off-grid living later, I will use gutters and downspouts to collect rainwater.  Since this is a textile studio, I need to be able to wash fabrics and yarns and to give them a lot of space.  So I’m definitely going to install the shower and a larger kitchen sink than is specified in the Weebee plans.

One more thing about the water.  I noticed that the Weebee design does not allow for a sink in the bathroom.  You have to open the door with your dirty hands, then go into the kitchen to wash them!  Not at all what I’m thinking, you know?  I’ve seen a little triangular sink and I plan on getting at least one of those for the bathroom.  Oh, yeah.

Heating:  I won’t need any heat as I use the place in summer or warm weather locations only.  But down the road if it ever comes to that, I think I want to heat with wood.  http://www.marinestove.com/sardineinfo.htm These people have built a lovely small stove which other people have already installed in their tiny homes.  I’ll allocate a place for it in my initial design.  You can also cook one-pot meals on the Sardine stove.

Cooling:  I have always felt that one didn’t need air conditioning in Michigan.  In my current house, for the few days it was really unbearable upstairs, I took and camped in the living room on the couch.    It seems to me that air conditioning was bad for the environment and also ruined communities.

I know that air conditioning is needed in some places.  Here in the UAE, I use the air conditioning all the time.  The buildings are not structured for non-air-conditioned life.  But in more normal climates, the air conditioning cuts you off from the neighbors, from the community.

So I don’t want to use air conditioning in the textile studio.  I plan on installing a whole-house fan and a roof window.  So if someone needs to go upstairs and sleep in the loft on a hot day, she can at least let some of the heat out by using the roof window.  And at night she can use the fan to bring cool air throughout the structure.  Another thing I feel to be important is that she should park the studio in a shady spot in the first place!

People in the New York Times are discussing if air conditioning is a good or a bad thing – http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/06/21/should-air-conditioning-go-global-or-be-rationed-away .  I’m staying out of that public debate.  But I think air conditioning is a bad idea in my textile studio.

I can see myself using the studio, knitting in a rocker, cutting at the collapsible cutting table. sewing at the desk.  How about you, lovely readers?  Are you visualizing and moving toward some goals?

 

About.  These people are talking about getting land and working together in Northern California.  I’m interested in hearing more about their plans – when they get back from summer hiatus!

Tumbleweed provides you with the cost estimates on the Weebee as follows:

Trailer:  $3200.  I’ve found that if I order an aluminum trailer, it will be closer to $4200.

General Materials: $5000.  I don’t know how they came up with that extremely round number.  But since I will be using reclaimed materials and things that I already have, I estimate this at $2500 instead.

Insulation $450.  Probably not going to find the proper insulation at any of the donation places, but I will keep my eyes open.  At this point I am not expecting to save here.

Roofing $550.  Again, I will look at Craigslist and at the donation places.  But I’m not too hopeful, so I expect to pay the full price.

Exterior and Interior Siding and flooring: $1800.  I’ll eat my hijab if this can’t be found for less than half of the quote.  This is EXACTLY the stuff that is reclaimed from houses in Detroit.  If necessary, I’ll go and reclaim some of it myself.

Windows: $3300.  I have checked around on other people’s posts and Ethan, among other people, has found that the recommended windows for his Fencl would be much more than Tumbleweed says.  http://www.thetinyhouse.net/2011/11/02/windows-windows-windows/  I talked to two local lumberyards about this.  One wouldn’t deal with me at all, although I had been a long time customer of theirs.  The other was interested in working with me but quoted me $5200 for the windows as specified.   I was also advised that Jeld-wen windows do not belong in a shower enclosure.  They are to keep water from outside of the house away, but they are not rated to deal with water on the inside of the house.

As EllaHarp did, http://littleyellowdoor.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/a-window-or-ten/#comments, I had to decide to change the windows slightly in order to be able to make them look correct.  Jeld-Wen’s vinyl windows have the same insulation value as the wood ones do, and a longer warranty, so it’s probably better in the long run to have made the switch.

Heater $1000.  Websites have this for $689 delivered.  I don’t plan on installing it right away though.  I won’t need it in Michigan in the summer.  For Atlanta in the winter, I would need it if I were actually living there, but for a studio, I might be okay with just a small electric heater.  I don’t want to install a propane heater yet because if later I decide to move to an ecovillage, propane heat would not be allowed.  http://www.dancingrabbit.org/about-dancing-rabbit-ecovillage/vision/ecological-covenants/

Appliances $1000  I have no idea how they got to this number.  I see the cooktop for $120.  I need a cooktop for the large dyepots and for starching fabric, sometimes for felting.  A refrigerator is $240.  The Bio-let non-electric toilet is $1000.  I don’t need to buy that immediately but still none of them seem much cheaper than that anywhere.  Water heaters start at $490.  Again, I don’t need it immediately but my calculation shows a total of $1850 for appliances.  There is also no allowance for installation of any of these items.

Counters $1100  Counters and sinks will be less than $100 total at any reclaiming center.  I would get a new faucet with sprayer for maybe $70 or less.

Shower $1500  What kind of shower is this?  $448 for the metal, $169 for the truck bed liner, $200 for the shower plumbing/hardware.  Maybe the rest of the amount the shower is scheduled to cost is for the labor of having an outside person coming in and installing it.  Probably I would order the aluminum and the fabrication of the shower surround from the same company I plan to order the trailer from.

The shower is important to install initially because the walls have to close around the plumbing.  Plus I will need the spray to fill up large tubs for fabric and yarn, for washing or dyeing.

Conclusion:  I think the numbers given on the website might be close to okay in the average, but many of the quotations are too low or too high.

My plan is to get the exterior and structural part of the house ready this summer of 2012, and to work on the interior during my winter and spring vacations, as well as the next summer of 2013.  As this means that a good deal of the construction will be done during Ramadan,  everything must be ready to hit the ground running.  Work will probably only be possible from 6 AM until 1 pm daily.

A.  I need to get the windows for this house ordered right away.  It could take weeks for the windows to come in.  Another tiny house blogger, Ethan, has posted about the difficulty of deciding what is best to order.  http://thetinyhouse.posterous.com/overwhelmed-with-decisions  I share his concerns.

Many other bloggers have posted about “scoring” windows on Craigslist or at re-use centers.   I have two concerns about changing the windows..

1.  The windows on a Tiny House are mobile.  Yes, if you are making your own RV, you do not have to comply with the regulations that manufacturers do, but it’s good to find out what those are.  According to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, campers must be glazed with safety glass.  http://law.justia.com/cfr/title49/49-6.1.2.3.36.html#49:6.1.2.3.36.2.7.54  If you go to the link, you would need to scroll down to section 205.  This regulation is for the safety of people potentially riding inside.  Well, we know that you do not ride inside a tiny house while it’s being towed.  But people are at risk if they are outside of it during a crash as well.  When the tiny housers buy random windows, like as not, they’re not tempered glass.

Tempered glass is also more resistant to breaking than is standard glass,  so you will have less likelihood of having to replace a pane after driving it up and down the highway.

2.  They’ve had to redo framing of the walls to deal with those variably- sized windows.  I am not interested in recalculating framing dimensions to account for windows of different widths or heights.  I don’t have the skill to do it, and would have to pay someone to do the thinking on this,  which would partially eliminate the savings on the windows.

3.  Resale value of the Tumbleweed will be lower if it is built to non-standard specifications.

Tumbleweed estimates that the windows will cost $3300.  I’m okay with that.  I called my local lumberyard and they could not give me a competitive price for the windows.  So I’m planning to get to a Jeld-wen dealer right away.

B.  I need to calculate what will be needed for the framing and exterior sheathing, siding, and roofing.  That has to be ordered.  The Tumbleweed plans do not indicate exactly which quantities will be needed for these items, and plus, I may make some changes to the exterior trim, according to what is available at the reclaimed facilities in my area.

 

 

I’ve been reading many posts about the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses that people have built, and they have had many different approaches to the trailer.

1.  Some have bought a used trailer and built on it pretty much as is.

2.  Some have bought a used trailer and refurbished it.

3.  Some have bought a new trailer, out of dealer stock.

4.  Some have ordered a custom trailer.

For options 1-3, apparently you will have to do some grinding or cutting, then some filing, priming, and painting, because standard trailers generally have metal attachments which would make it impossible to actually construct the house.  You will also have to take off part of the deck if there is one.

For option 4, you can of course order your trailer with no extraneous parts, and you can choose to have longitudinal joists built into it in metal, which will obviate the decking boards altogether.  You can go straight to flashing and joists.

 

I looked into option 2, and prevailed upon my friend J, who is a blacksmith, to go and look at it.  She came back with some pretty gnarly pictures

and I was concerned that with this being a 13-year old trailer, and having been sitting outside for four years, it might in a couple of years get metal fatigue while going down the highway. Probably it would be okay, but I don’t want to take the chance.

If I do find another used trailer which might be okay, I’ll look at it.  But basically I am leaning toward buying a custom trailer.  Then I don’t have to fool with it myself – it will arrive ready to go.  I wrote to Big Tex to get the name of my local dealer, and I will check with a couple other dealers to see who can offer me the best deal on a custom trailer.  I need to get started on that right away so that the order will be ready when it’s time for me to get started.

 

I initially planned not to blog about this experience at all.  Everybody and his dog (literally) has a blog about his Tiny House Build.  What could I say about my studio that hasn’t been said?  All I could do would be to attract unwanted attention.

But I realized that, indeed, there are a couple of things I could contribute to the blogosphere about this subject.

1.  So far, I haven’t seen any blogs about tiny houses by Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans or other members of traditionally disenfranchised groups.  There’s a lot of talk about the fact that tiny houses can help people overcome difficulty, but it might also help some people who are considering building a tiny house if they could log on and see another person who might remind them of someone in their community.  Maybe it won’t help them, maybe they won’t even log on at all.  But until we have eliminated the problems of race and identity in this country, I think it’s important to try.

2.  A lot of American Muslims live in substandard housing because of a religious belief that paying interest on a mortgage is forbidden by Allah.  We often talk about this in our community.  A few years ago, a group of us looked into co-housing but when the time came to bring the cash, the project fell through.  If I can publicize the self-built tiny house as an option, perhaps some people in the community can look to it as a solution.  Last prayer group meeting, I talked to the ladies about my plan and one immediately said,  “I could stop worrying about paying  mortgage and could spend more time with my grandchildren.”  I plan to take the Textile Studio to the next Michigan Muslim American Conference so that people can look at it and tour it.

3. I have much love for the Detroit community organization http://www.warmtraining.org/ and one of my first steps in plannng this project was to write to the amazingly multi-skilled Jacob Stevens Corvidae, their Green Programs Manager http://www.warmtraining.org/contact/staff/bio/jacob.html .   I was interested in using as much reclaimed material as I could in my project, to move toward my goal of sustainability, and Jacob told me that WARM had just started a new program devoted to reclaiming material from Detroit’s 78,000 vacant structures.  The goods are taken to the warehouse instead of to the landfill.  http://reclaimingdetroit.org/

I got right on board with that idea and immediately began planning what I wanted to buy there for my first load.  During this time, I have also been reading lots and lots of tiny house blogs, and I was particularly impressed with the folks at http://charlestontinyhouse.com/ .  Two separate couples thus far have made their projects and their blogs into advertisements for their local sustainable reclaiming project.  I don’t plan to emulate them by actually trying to build the studio inside the Reclaiming Detroit Warehouse, but I hope to gain publicity for Reclaiming Detroit through this blog.  If it can help the WARM training and Reclaiming Detroit groups,  I will also bring it to some of their “Green Fairs” or publicity events so people can see what can be made from reclaimed materials.

Allah willing, this blog can help some people and, eventually, help the rest of the environment as well.

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