The Difficult Middle Part

It’s been a while since my last tiny house building blog. That’s because I hit the “difficult middle part” — or at least that’s what I am telling myself. Some of that is due to the fact that my rhythm got interrupted due to a month of paragliding (my other passion) which was planned from the very beginning. I knew it would feel like an interruption, and I would probably rather keep building, but the paragliding is the thing that prompted the build. I want to fly more and keep things simple. The Tiny House is helping facilitate that grand plan. I can’t neglect the end goal. Did it have to be a whole month? Well, February is competition month and I love competitions. For me, I’m either all in or I don’t bother. So, all in it was.

The other part was that for all the planning I had done to this point, I reached the bit that seemed so far in the future the details got fuzzy. I had been feeling really good to have created a structure that resembled a house and, for all intents and purposes, it provided shelter — the number one job of a house. The framing, the bracing, the house-wrap, the rafters — they were hard work, but they weren’t really that complicated. Now I had to work out the roof, the siding and start the inside. It’s been struggles-ville.

Struggle number 1 — to roof myself or outsource it. Oh, I wanted to do it myself! But the harsh truth is that roofing is not a one-person job. Nor is it something that you really want to stretch out over a week, waiting for various friends to become available to give you the odd hand. Plus, I struggled to find anyone who had a really clear idea of how it should be done. It’s possible that roofing is like moving house. No one really wants to do it. I felt like I had been pretty lucky with all the help I had received to date, so reluctantly I decided that it was time to pay a professional. Besides, I found a roofer that would also install my beloved skylights (favourite feature of the house!) and a professional installing both might increase the chances of a water-tight result. But… he wasn’t cheap and he wasn’t immediately available. Yes, I got other quotes but my gut feeling said this guy would do a good job. So I wait patiently. Luckily my tarps are doing just fine.

Those tarps stayed until I could make a decision on the roofing…

Struggle number 2 — where, oh where are the Youtube videos showing exactly how to install cedar cladding?! I thought there were how-to videos on EVERYTHING.. I called the cedar supply company and got brochures and (brief) installation instructions. But I really wanted to see someone doing it — step by step. Doesn’t seem to exist (apart from some guy in the US taking 15 minutes to install one board whilst he bores us with the details of his estrangement with his red-neck cousin — who is taking the video). Some of my angst was definitely caused by my inability to accept that not everything is going to be explained by a Youtube video. Some of the angst was caused by the realisation that I could not have researched everything and this was going to be the first (of many) problems I was just going to have to work out on the fly. I did manage to track down an extensive set of instructions from a cladding company in the UK, and found a helpful guy from the supplier who would answer specific questions, albeit somewhat vaguely.

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I read this document so many times! What it didn’t tell me, I worked out myself..

Struggle number 3 — dealing with small jobs that I would rather hand off to a professional but are so small that the callout price alone would be significant in my budget. In this case I am talking about drainage plumbing. I have a composting toilet so no blackwater, only greywater. And the greywater will just drain to a single point which will go out to a greywater trench. All I have is a bathroom basin, a shower, a kitchen sink and a washing machine — all within 1.5 metres radius of each other. It’s not that complicated. That is, if you know what sort of pipes to use, and how to connect them, what grade the pipes need to fall away at, how to vent the pipes and how to get them all to fit inside the subfloor. Again — back to struggle number 2 — not a lot in the way of Youtube videos on this. Yes — there are a few bits (like how to use primer and pvc cement) but the exact how when you have no idea about plumbing is… evasive. I did find a couple of articles by Tiny Housers but they gave the overall story — not the details I was needing. So, in this case, I reached out to my facebook network — friends and tiny housers — and asked for help. In return I got a friend’s plumber husband’s phone number and a great suggestion to use a Plumbers Co-Op rather than expensive suppliers or Bunnings.

Working out how to install drainage plumbing

Struggle number 4 — this is the hard one. Needing to ask strangers in-the-know about things you have no idea about. This makes me feel really stupid and foolish. And maybe it’s just in contrast to my usual level of confidence in things I attempt. I had been working in my previous career for over 10 years and I was at the top of my game. I generally worked for big companies with lots of smart people so even when I struggled with something I normally had people to lean on only a phone call away. Now I was attempting something I had zero experience of, acting mostly on faith that I would work stuff out, believing that other people had managed to build beautiful Tiny Houses on similar budgets, and doing it on my own. I tend to try to all other avenues first — googling, checking purchased plans, quizzing builder friends. And when I have exhausted those options, I have to go stand in front of someone who may well look at me and roll their eyes (“another DIY-er who thinks my trade is so simple an idiot could do it”) and ask them how I might go about solving a particular problem. This is where you need a thick skin. A lot of what they say is going to sting, but generally you walk away more knowledgable than before the conversation. Maybe they’ll even solve your problem. Occasionally these people are even kind (like the patient guy at the Plumbers Co-op) but you can’t avoid the occasional attitude that can make you question why you thought you could do this. Roll with it. No one said this would be easy — and that wasn’t just about the sore hands and back. It’s also about the humility that comes with admitting you have no idea what you are doing.

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Roofer said I had to install the barge boards. I know what a barge board is now…

The biggest realisation I have had this month is that if I don’t know how to approach something — try. I tend to not want to attempt anything until I believe it is the best approach. Some of that is that I don’t want to make an irreversible mistake (although my builder friend Wayne has shown me that not too much is irreversible), but some of that is that I just don’t want to fail at something. I had to assure myself today that the worst I could do with my $50 worth of plumbing supplies is throw it all in the bin and go get another $50 worth of supplies. It’s worth it to waste $50 and learn something so that I can move forward than dwell in the paralysis of the unknown. This idea of having a go, and maybe failing and maybe succeeding is something I’m not used to. To be honest, I’m beginning to like it. There is no professional credibility to lose! Only a few $$. And its good to remember how much working out the right approach is worth! $50 to move forward and install my plumbing? Bargain!


Originally published at My Journey into Tiny.