The Floor is Down and Some Pallets are Up

As promised here are photos of real progress. I had a busy weekend working on the tiny free house. Like most do-it-yourselfers I didn’t get as far as hoped but I definitely made some progress. This photo is of Heidi Shumann as she wraps up a photo shoot for the New York Times.

I’ve kept pretty quiet up until now about this but a while back New York Times reporter Steven Kurutz contacted me about my tiny free house project. He was interested in writing about what I was doing and why.

The Times also sent out Max Whittaker two weekends ago to get pictures of me getting started on construction. Both Max and Heidi were great and got lots of photos of me sweating in the summer heat. There’s no way to know if all this will make the Times of when but I’m very hopeful now.

Now back to my progress update. I arrived at the family farm on Saturday and as soon as our two year old daughter Katie was settled in and playing with Grammie and Pop I got to work. Below is a photo of my truck loaded with more pallets and some reclaimed lumber. The bare trailer is in the foreground.

We moved the trailer into the shade and I started picking out the best heavy pallets for the floor. I followed my plans fairly well but none of the pallets were really perfect 40×48′s, so I found myself cobbling them together. The front end has two pallets framed into one big pallet. The rear pallets are spliced together, and the area over the axles is one big pallet I made from one good pallet and some left over pieces.

I lucked out and used some free sheets of thin plywood to cover the floor. If you’ve noticed that the floor doesn’t quite look flat you’re right. The trailer was a bit bent here and there and the pallets showed off the imperfection. I did my best to shim it up here and there but I’m happy to report the tiny free how will be cute, strong, AND funky! I suspect the outside will take on an interesting old settled house quality which should just add to personality of this unique tiny house.

Working with pallets is an adventure. It’s very slow work because you have to work with what you have. You also have to cut through a lot of hard wood. Normally when we hear the words “hard wood” we assume that’s a good thing, like in “hard wood floors”. But when you’re cutting, drilling and screwing this material together you quickly learn that “hard wood” means hard to work-with wood.

It was amazing to me how many different types of wood there were too. As the first day progressed I became more and more aware that I was working with wood from trees that might have been growing in a rain forest not long ago. I even found myself feeling a little guilty but then snapped out of it when I remembered that it was a far better thing for this wood to live on in my tiny house than rot away in a discarded pallet.

The picture above is a burn mark from my circular saw blade on the 2×4. My blade was toast (dull) after that cut, which was the last of many less smoky cuts. Below is a reciprocating saw blade dulled after cutting through too many nails. Some of the nails cut like butter; others seemed to be made out of some kind of super strength steel.

I also found that my clamps came in handy a lot. Instead of using nails I’m screwing a lot of things together. The wood is really tough so I need both hands on the drill to drive in the screws. By clamping things together I found it was much easier to get things just the way I needed them.

At about 3PM on Sunday I couldn’t take the heat, exhaustion, flys (in the sun) and mosquitos (in the shade), anymore and knocked off work. Heidi arrived at about 5PM and shot photos until the sun started to set. As you can see I got the front door and window bucks in place and got a little start on the side walls.

Next I’ll build half walls on the other end of the house and then tie them together with a long but shorter built-up pallet over the wheels. Then I’ll add more pallets to bring the walls up to where the roof will begin. Once the roof is on I’ll begin the siding work with the little 16″ lap joined pallet boards and close the whole thing in. I’m not sure what kind of roofing or insulation I’ll use yet but I’m sure something will pop up free on craigslist.

My sore muscles tell me I had a very productive weekend. This week I’ll work on finding more pallets and  other building materials. I’m not exactly sure when the article will come out in the New York Times because it has to make the final editorial cut. If it does make print I’ll post a link as soon as I spot it.

Updated Design with Windows

Below is a quick drawing of the tiny free house with the free windows I picked up today. They are a bit bigger than I expected but they seem to fit pretty good proportionally. The only one that looks a bit on the big side is the bathroom window on the back wall (far left). We’ll see how it really looks like this weekend. I’m shooting to get all the walls up and window openings cut and framed. The next image you see here should be a photo… all things equal.

Good Day For Free Stuff

Before work I was able to get a load of good pallets. I even got a few over-sized pallets. It will be handy having a few long 2x4s. I discovered that car lots, of all places, are good place to get free pallets. I guess they order auto parts in bulk and they come on pallets. I’m sure some items, like body parts, also come on pallets. I’ll start calling more car lots tomorrow. I’m going to try to get the walls up this weekend so I need as many pallets as I can get my hands on so I have plenty of good ones for the walls.

After work I drove about 10 miles away to pick up some free windows. I’ll post a revised drawing tonight showing how the final windows will look on the house. Rich, the guy who had the windows, is replacing all his windows one at a time and had a pile of old double glazed aluminum windows growing in his yard. He posted them on craigslist this morning and minutes later had people contacting him saying they could come pick them up immediately. Lucky for me he liked the idea of giving them to people like me and not to the people who were clearly going to resell them. Thanks Rich!

Here are the pallets in the back of my truck out behind the car dealership. By the way… be sure to ask first before taking pallets. The fellow I called to get these said that you’re on camera the second you drive onto the lot and they don’t like people picking stuff up without permission. I guess they get a lot of theft.