The Tiny House is finally complete!
At the beginning of this project, we had very little idea of some of the things needed to build a house. But we learned how to use various tools such as a compound miter saw, a circular saw, a multi-tool, and others, and the different techniques used at different stages of the construction project. We even learned a lot about basic tools, like tape measures, saws, speed squares, clamps and hammers. Our hammering skills improved a lot throughout the project, practice definitely makes perfect!
We learned there are quite a few phases involved with building a house. First we made the foundation of the floor and then we framed the walls. We then wrapped the walls in a special plastic called house wrap that helps prevent water from getting in. We then put on siding, and framed the roof (Dad did that part). We put a special waterproof flashing on the corners and the house openings, and then we installed the windows and door. When we installed plywood sheathing on the roof, it was strong enough that we could stand on top of it to attach the waterproof tar paper and roof shingles. It was a pitched roof, so that the water will run off the edges; we installed metal drip edges for that. A few other dads helped us add insulation to the roof and walls, and we covered the walls with plywood. As an extra touch we decided to add interior trim around the windows to cover up the flashing. To finish everything off we painted the exterior and primed the interior of our house.
Another thing that we learned is how important the work unseen in the finished product is in building a house. We didn’t know how flashing helps waterproof a house or how to install insulation. We didn’t know what shingles looked like when they weren’t on a roof. Now knowing the effort and skill that it takes to build a house we’re even more grateful for our own.
Many friends and family came to help with the house, over 30 people over the past several weeks, which turned it into a big community project. There were kids and adults alike, hammering away, measuring, cutting, sawing, and working together to create this house that a person can actually live in. I think that it is great that so many people wanted to help with the project and spend their time trying to help someone else. It was amazing when someone wanted to come back to help and we had several people return to help for three or four separate days.
Something that was cool about this project was how we could apply our lessons learned from the Loki Lego Launcher projects. From our first launch, one lesson was be willing to reconstruct. This definitely applied to building the tiny house, because there were times that we had worked hard on something but still did it wrong and it was crooked, or too long, or uneven, and we had to take it apart or scrap it and start all over again. I think remembering that lesson was very important as it kept us from being discouraged when we had to try something again.
Another lesson, this time from our second launch, was experience makes a difference. When we first started building the Tiny House, we could barely hammer. We bent the nails and hammered them in crooked and it was just a mess. By the time we were working on the interior plywood sheathing we could hammer a nail in in just a few strokes and it would (usually, not always) go in straight. This didn’t just apply to us, when other people came to help with the project and repeatedly came back to help, we watched them get better and better at not just hammering but efficiently working together to finish the house as fast and the best quality that we could manage. We were able to work a lot faster as the project went on because of our new experience.
One last lesson was from our third launch: Being part of a team. Having just our family working on the house would have been a lot slower, and frankly less fun. Having other people and kids working alongside us not only created a better house faster but made us excited about working on the project. We would take a water break with whoever was helping that day and talk enthusiastically about what we’d accomplished so far and what we still had to do. Having the team spirit at the end of a long build day was rewarding and encouraging and we all left with a feeling that “we did it together”. It was so cool to see other people working with us say that they wanted to try more of whatever we did that day.
We tracked the amount of time we spent on this project, because, well, data. Overall, the Tiny House took us about 66 hours to complete. Some we worked with just our family, others we had large groups of people all contributing to the project. We had kids as young as six years old come to help us and heard them leave wanting to participate more.
It was so cool to learn about the basics of what’s required to build a house, and to be able to put our energy into building something that we know will help someone regain their dignity and perhaps come off the streets. The completed house has been picked up from our driveway and has been moved to the Tiny House Village in South Lake Union, where we hope it will soon be occupied. When we look back on our project we won’t think about the splinters and sweat, but the satisfaction and skills that came from doing this project. Building our Tiny House was very meaningful to us as a way to help homeless people in our city, and it was such a positive experience that we’ll always remember.