Tiny Free House in the NY Times

Not long after I got started down this path, Steven Kurutz, a reporter from the New York Times contacted me about this project. We talked a few times on the phone and they sent out a couple photographers to take pictures of me working in the tiny free house. The article is in the paper today!

Photo credit New York Times

Preparing For Pallet Panel Making This Weekend

I ran out today and scavenged some pallets with my father-in-law. He knew of a good spot near his old pre-retirement job that always had lots of pallets. There weren’t a ton of good ones but enough to fill the back of my truck again. Now that I’m learning where to look I’m starting to think that craigslist might not be the best place to find pallets. It is an excellent place for finding lots of free stuff but it seems that a lot of businesses just toss them out back and hope the garbage man picks them up. There were piles like this one here and there throughout the industrial park we visited this afternoon. Just be sure to ask permission before freeing pallets.

My plan is to stay home this weekend, get caught up on a few things around the house, and knock together a few pallet panels. As I worked on the tiny free house last weekend I found that it’s best to screw 2x4s onto the open ends of pallets before putting them in place. It makes them stronger and give you more places to screw them together. To get the 2x4s I’ll just bust up odd size pallets, use the 2x4s for augmenting my good wall pallets and the slats for exterior siding. I expect to make another pallet run or two before the long weekend is over. As I build these pallet panels I’ll photograph them so you can see what I mean.

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.