Build: Day Seven

Merry Thanksgivingukkah Eve! It is 1:09 AM and I just got done making some pie crusts (tomorrow’s pies: chocolate bourbon walnut, pear hazelnut and–new for me–sweet potato, because I heard this story on NPR and hearing the part where the chef’s grandmother poured evaporated milk on the top and let it reduce down to a crackle really got me in the mood to make sweet potato pie. I am going to two different dinners tomorrow, and the old standby pies are already going to be there, so I thought I’d mix it up a bit. Also, I’m making a bunch of different whipped creams (lavender, bourbon, vanilla), some bread and some cranberry business, because even though I am not hosting this year, you can’t show up at a Thanksgiving emptyhanded).

Anyway, before I crash, I wanted to do a quick update on Today In Homebuilding, because

In brief:
1) We hung all the windows (except the loft windows, which we can’t do until we get the walls clad). I am now the proud owner of five nice new low-E, energy efficient slider windows (single hung, as I am not Warren Buffet) and more importantly, I now know how to hang a window (well, mostly. I know there is an awful lot of leveling involved.)Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

2) We cut all the flashing (small galvanized metal barrier that goes along the bottom of the house, both to prevent moisture and to ward off termites)

Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

…and attached it to all the edges of the floor
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

3) We built the frame for the faux-larium
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

….and installed it! It’s not as deep as I was thinking it was going to be, so I have to rethink my plans for the egg chair (it’s coming, I’m just no longer sure where it’s going.) Maybe a window seat in the fauxlarium? I have to think about it.
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

Here it is with its new window installed.
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

So that took most of the morning. And then *trumpet fanfare* we started siding the house!

And guys, omg. Siding is SUCH a pain. We’re using T1-11 siding to clad the walls, and I have to admit, it is probably my least favorite material we’re using in the house: it’s a tongue-in-groove plywood that is finished on one side to look like rough-sawed wood. The benefits are that it’s affordable, it doesn’t offgass like regular ply, it’s light(ish), it’s not environmentally terrible and it goes on easier than regular wood would with less waste. But I don’t know, it feels kind of cheap and Ikea-y to me (though it’s going to be a million times better once I paint it and possibly install a horizontal cedar slat screen.)

Anyway, one of the things about it is that it’s softish, so you can’t use a nailgun on it: each nail has to be hand-hammered in (through the siding, into the stud) or the pressure will leave huge divots in the wall. After hammering in my fifty millionth nail, I would have probably copped to preferring divots.

Anyway, first you cut and dry-fit the sheets to exactly the shape you want them.
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

Then you put construction adhesive on the studs where you’re going to attach the siding.
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

Then you lift the pieces up and rest them on the groove of the flashing (no pictures of this, because whoa, it is a two person job.) Then you nail and nail and nail, and eventually it affixes to the studs. I hammered in about 90% of those nails, but here’s an artsy picture of Jeff nailing anyway.
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

What it looks like with siding on:
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Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

From indoors:
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Back wall
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

Ta-daa!
Day Seven: windows, framing faux-larium, some siding

OK, gotta go to sleep before I keel over. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Build: Day Six

Now that I have (nearly) all of my exterior walls finished up (waaaaaalls!), today was the day to start on the ceiling framing (we just did the front section of the house today). This was weirdly fun, even though it involved a LOT of sawdust in the eyes.  I have learned a ton from this build, but today was especially like OJT Woodworking School; this was in part because almost everything we did today had an identical copy of (we were framing two identical small ceiling sections), so the way things evolved is that Jeff did one thing, then I watched him and tried to duplicate what he did for the second thing. Fun! Jeff and I talk very little during the build (Jeff, who is a very nice guy, is nevertheless not a talker). Also, the generator is loud, and makes it hard for anybody to hear anybody. So we conducted a lot of today’s Intro to Ceiling Framing in mime: Jeff would do something, and then he would mutely hand me some wood and a pencil and a power tool and I would copy it. It was in this manner that I learned how to make rafters.

But before we even get to rafters, let’s talk ceiling beams! (sorry! FUNNEST BLOG EVER, right?)[Oh, PS: Sorry for the picture quality today: I realized when I got there that I’d left my camera’s battery in the charger at home, so all of these were taken with an elderly iPhone that features a half-busted LED.]

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So apparently there are two ways you can go with beams: you can either get huge, heavy thick cut pieces of wood like you might see in a mead hall of the sort featured in an early Anglo-Saxon text called “How To Slaughter A Thousand Men in a Mead Hall”. Orrrr, if you’re working in primarily 2x4s (like we are), you can take two 2x4s, glue them together with hard core construction adhesive, fire a bunch of nails in them, and boom! instant beam! This has the benefit of still being strong without being so heavy that it takes out your entire ceiling (though they’re still pretty heavy: I was lifting them over my head all day and now my shoulders are mad at me.)

Step one: glue (this is Beam #1, which Jeff is doing, but I built Beam #2, go me!)
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Step two: Nail
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Step three: cut a little notch in the wall framing on both sides and slot the beam into that.

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Step four: profit!

Dos beams (and one thumb)!
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Actually, there’s a step 3.5 in there: cut down the temporary lintel over the door that held everything together, pre-beams. Once we cut it down, I put it to the side and said to Jeff, “I’ll just put this over here in case we have to fight any orcs”, which I am telling you about now because it ACTUALLY GOT A CHUCKLE OUT OF JEFF! This was the greatest accomplishment of my day.

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Next, we cut the rafters, fourteen little ones that sloped down just on one side (for both eight foot ceilings) and seven bigger ones that sloped on both sides (for the 10 foot ceiling). Cutting rafters is so fun!

Jeff did a little measuring, then drew out a the shape he wanted the rafter to be on a 2×4 (you can just see that in the picture): he cut that shape out and then used it as a template for the rest of the rafters.

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This went very fast. Here’s our pile-o-rafters:
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Then we arranged them from the side of the house to the beam and nailed them in.
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This all was done up on the ladder: when Jeff was installing his side, instead of putting one rafter up, coming down the ladder, moving the ladder, going back up with another rafter, etc., when he was done, he just kind of did a pull up on the ceiling beams, then I moved the ladder a few feet, then he pulled himself over a few feet monkey-style until he could get his feet back on the ladder. When it came time for me to install my side, I just went up and down the ladder a lot, because I found that that shit was way beyond me. Jeff is kind of a superstar. I didn’t leave him hanging on the ceiling so I could get a picture–that would have been unkind–but here’s some more monkey stuff up in the ceiling.

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I believe in that picture he is tiptoeing on one foot on the ladder and has the other foot just braced somewhere in space. BEST CONTRACTOR/MOST INSANE CONTRACTOR!

Right set of rafters installed
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Left set of rafters installed! (that is MY SIDE!)
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Next, we had to build  the inner edges of the eight foot ceilings up a bit, so the rafters for the ten foot ceiling would have something to rest on. One of the best lessons I learned in Woodworking School today was that if you have a complicated section to frame out, especially if it’s anywhere higher than at eye level, it makes the most sense to build the section on the ground and then just lift it up and install it.

…which is why Jeff is building these little hold-the-ceiling-up boxes on the ground
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Once that was built, we lifted it up above the eight foot ceiling (harder than it sounds!) and nailed it in
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After that, we had a level base on which to place the bigger rafters (the ones that go over the ten foot ceiling.) See how they’re resting on the new box we built on the ground? Incidentally, I don’t know WTH Jeff is doing there, but it apparently involves some epic veins.
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All three sets in!
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EPIC CEILING SHOT!
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[Does the ceiling make a little more sense now? I was having trouble really explaining it yesterday]

The whole shebang
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And then we called it a day, because come on, that’s awesome.

Oh, also: I have had another failure in The Battle For Denim Insulation, which is that the lady from Craigslist that had a bunch of extra denim wrote me today and said they’d run into problems with their build and were actually going to be using all of their insulation after all. And of course, I could just buy it from an actual store, but that starts getting somewhat spendy. We’ll see how it goes; right now, I am trying hard to convince myself of the merits of rigid foam board. The labeling on the side is trying hard to convince me that it is awesome!
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Which, whatever, foam board, I know that you are functionally non-recyclable and I do not care for that, though I do appreciate your relative paucity of toxic chemicals.

After the day’s fun ceiling action was over, I ran home, let the poor dogs out, threw some dogs in the car and headed up to Lumber Liquidators to help resolve my floor dilemma. I got lost in some crazy construction-related detours, ended up getting there five minutes after they closed, somehow persuaded the nice salesman to give me some samples anyway and then came home. I got samples of strand bamboo in dark, medium and light (I don’t know which specific finishes they are, since I didn’t want to make the poor guy hunt: I just asked for the first things he saw in dark, light and medium.) Had I gotten there on time, I also would have picked up some cork (which I’m considering for the floor in the loft), but as it was, I didn’t want to press my luck. Tomorrow, I am going to brush all the animals and see what their hair looks like on each of the floor samples (I may try to figure out how to get them to dig at the board too, just to gauge scratchability). Also, while the nice guy was getting me samples, I took a look at that tiger-stripe bamboo, which turns out to be a lot more subtle and pretty in person (it is interesting, but not nearly as HEY LOOKIT ME, I’M A FLOOR! as it appears in the picture.) Strong contender, I think!

Tomorrow is the last build day before Thanksgiving, which Jeff is remarkably taking off: we’re only working in the morning, but the plan is to frame the rest of the ceiling out (over the loft/kitchen/bathroom.) Yay house!

Back in the sun Build: Day Five

This is going to be primarily a picture post, because I actually had no part of the building today (like a chump, I had to work.) But I zoomed down after work to take pictures of the house through the fence at the build site (which closes at 5, half an hour after I get done with work, and since I had to get Widget and my grandmother’s dog from daycare first, I missed my window). And even though I didn’t get to jump around in the house, I was glad I went down to see it, because it turns out Jeff has been BUSY!

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SO MANY WALLS, YOU GUYS! All of the exterior wall framing is done now, with the exception of the faux-larium over the hitch (which is a somewhat more complicated build and is going to happen last). Once the walls are sided and the ceiling is framed out, it’ll look a whole lot less like an adorable cartoon tractor.

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The tall thing that’s centered here is the door to the faux-larium, which will stick out over the hitch (this will be a framed doorway with a step up to it, but it won’t have an actual door). The tall posts on top will connect straight back to the loft wall (the highest part of the house, at 13.5 ft.) What this means is that while the edges of the living room ceiling will be 8.5 feet, the bulk of the ceiling (from the faux-larium all the way to the loft) will be 10 ft: there will be two skylights in the 10 ft part. What one could do with this design is to have the door to the faux-larium be the front door of the house and then put a little porch over the hitch: I opted to have more indoor space instead. What I think I’m going to do is to put a foldup porch/awning where my front door is (on the side of the house), which can drop down when the house is stationary (and can also fold up for extra security if I’m away.) Please also note the big windows on each side of the front of the house. That’s nine windows, plus the bay window in the faux-larium, plus two skylights in the living room (and maybe another skylight in the loft if I can find one that lies basically flush with the roof: I have no extra room to play with on the top).

I took lots of pictures from different angles, which you can see on my flickr, but they all look basically the same, so here’s a parting shot of the tiny house from the frontage road outside the feed store.

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It is kind of crazy to think that one week ago today, the tiny house looked like this:
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Build: Day Four

Today featured SO MANY WALLS! Today was also the first day I actually got to assist in the honest-to-god framing: the last few days I’ve sort of shown up and been like, “Oh, huh! Some walls/a floor!”. It was pretty educational! Primary lessons of the day were as follows: 1) building a wall is basically like building a big slatted box. It’s pretty much the same idea as building a raised garden bed, except in some ways, it’s less complex. 2) Framing a wall involves a lot of cutting boards exactly to size and squeezing them together to form the interior box/es: a lot of what’s holding the wall up is the rest of the wall. We nailed everything together, of course, but even without nails, most of our wall framing would have held together just by physics: that’s how squeezed together almost everything was!

I got to the site maybe 45 minutes later than Jeff did, as I had dogs to walk: by the time I got there, the back wall was up!DSC00009Please note the freaking ginormous window on that back wall (it’s 4’x4′): that’s my egress window in case my kitchen blows up or something. It’s going to let so much light in, and it’s going to create a great crossbreeze with the bay window in the front. There is one major problem, which is that that’s going to be the future bathroom (if you are visualizing, the shower is going to be in the left corner there). The plans, as it stand, have the toilet basically directly in front of the egress window, with a tiny sink and the utility stack to the right. I am gently but firmly trying to get Jeff to move that somehow, because a) that’s going to involve a lot of curtain raising and lowering and/or a lot of accidental public nudity and b) if I am trying to get lots of light and crossbreeze, the bathroom door will have to be open, and that means that when you walk in the front door, the house’s focal point will basically be a toilet. Not awesome.

Anyway, next, we framed the third wall (on the right in the picture below), and that’s something I got to help with.

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It went amazingly fast! We laid the frame out right there on the bed of the trailer and nailed it together (Jeff has an enormous, hard core air-powered nail gun that has its own compressor, which meant that it took about three minutes to nail it all together). Then we measured out where we wanted the studs to go, squeezed them in, nailed them in. Then we built a box for the window that went between two studs: the sides were 2x4s, just like the studs, and the top and bottom were thicker to support the weight of the window. Squeezed that in, nailed it, then raised the whole thing up and attached it to the lower support that Jeff had already bolted into the fender/the trailer deck. Then we nailed it to the back wall, and boom! a new wall had gone up. INCREDIBLY satisfying, and it took maybe an hour?

Anyway, now we come to the part of the story where Mistakes Were Made, so let’s just have a brief lacuna to look at Construction Pit Bull, who had to be tethered during the wall-building part of the morning (so she didn’t get squashed) but had a great time supervising from Ft. Nellie anyway.

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[That Noz2Noz collapsible fabric crate is seriously one of the greatest things I have ever purchased. Totally worth the money even if you don’t win it for $20 on ebay like I did]

So. Go look at the picture above the one of Nellie. Look specifically at the corners where the three walls intersect. See how the back wall and the wall on the right intersect? Now look at the wall on the left (the first one Jeff built) and the back wall. NOT IDENTICAL. I wish I could say that I noticed that the left wall was like eight inches higher than the other walls and had assumed that it was deliberately sloping to let off rain water or something (note: the roof IS going to slope a bit, but in the other direction, so towards the front). The truth is, though, that I was so excited about Framing! My! Wall! that I hadn’t even noticed. Jeff had been freaking out about it for 36 hours, though (quietly. to himself. he is not a talker). It was just a calculation error, and since it was the first wall, he didn’t catch it until the others went up. But it was a problem, because the extra height of the too-big wall made the house too tall to safely travel (there’s a legal max height of 13’6″ from the ground, so you can get through tunnels, etc.), and that meant I couldn’t just work it into the design or build the other wall up or something. And of course taking it down was easier said than done, as it was by this point built into the rest of the house.

Now, this is where I am glad I had Jeff: I know he made the error, but honestly, if it had just been me, I totally would have done something just as stupid. However, if it had been just me, I would have been like, “Welp, everything needs to come down so I can fix it, so let’s do that and then I am going to drink Scotch for three days and feel sorry for myself.” Not Jeff. Jeff looked at the too-big wall, measured how too-big it was, and then decided that he was just going to cut the wall off at the ankles and then nail it back into the frame. This idea sounded crazy to me. But, here’s how it went down in pictures.

See those cuts in the studs at the bottom of the wall? Yep! We were going to cut them off and then just let the wall fall straight down, kind of like when you get a row of blocks in Tetris.
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Here’s Jeff cutting them off with his crazy saw that saws through nails. Please note how the studs to the right of Jeff are just stone cold HANGING IN SPACE.
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He cut the studs that were over the trailer fender all the way first: he cut the last one, thinking that he would slowly lower the section down, but the whole wall immediately went KERTHUMP and fell straight down (Tetris-style): just like he thought, but a little prematurely. Please note how the top support now looks like a pagoda.
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After he re-nailed/re-bolted the studs to their new position, he repeated the same kind of ankle-chopping on the other side of the wall (the side that hit the actual trailer deck). And wouldn’t you know it? That side KERTHUMPED, the pagoda board unbent, and voila, we had three walls that intersected perfectly at the corners. A couple of nails later and you never would have known that the wall had been shrinky-dinked! It was extremely awesome, and took like 45 minutes.

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Anyway, after that it all went very smoothly. We added beams to the top edge (extra support) and put a large joist between the left and right walls…
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…built a little frame for the top-front (same as the wall: built a box, ran studs between the top and bottom of the box)…
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…and nailed it up. Yay!
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So if you can visualize this, everything above that big center joist is going to be the sleeping loft; the ceiling for the kitchen and bathroom will be below the center joist (or rather, kind of in the middle of the joist, but that’s the general idea.) This is where I had my first quiet freakout about size (I think if you’re building a tiny house, you’re allowed one or two). The kitchen/bathroom ceilings are going to be LOW (in what is otherwise going to be a high-ceiling’ed and open-feeling space), mostly to accommodate a comfortable loft. When I was designing the thing on paper, I put the kitchen/bath ceiling at 6’6; on paper, that seemed reasonable, but it’s quite a different thing to be standing in the space and thinking, “Holy shit, that’s only a foot above my actual head.” So I freaked out for a second, until I got myself together and realized that actually, it was going to be fine. It was actually a little taller than the galley kitchen on my ex’s family’s boat, and that felt cozy but not impossible, the appliances and the storage cabinets (pantry, etc) were going to be the major thing under the short ceiling (the counter space extends out from under the loft, and also, that I am actually a short little 5’6 person, and I am the one this house is for and if the Jolly Green Giant came in and felt a little claustrophobic getting ice out of the fridge, well, too damn bad. So then I felt better. And having a loft that doesn’t feel like a coffin is going to make it allllll worth it.

So here’s what we have at the end of the day!
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The whole back section of the house is framed out successfully, including all the spots for windows (seven windows so far!) That’s the loft (which still needs to be internally framed), the bathroom and the kitchen. The front of the house (the rest of the floor, as currently framed out) is the living area, and then you will take a few steps up (over the support bar in front of the trailer) and walk into the bay window ‘room’, which will extend over the hitch (this is the ‘library’/’solarium’/’other grandiose name’, with its built in bookshelves below the bay window and probably this chair hanging from the ceiling). Can you kind of see it a little bit? It doesn’t quite look like a house yet, but it’s beginning to come together!

The next thing to do is to frame out the front, of course, but I am not sure when that’s going to happen, because GRIM NEWS.

the weather

I live in the desert. Except for briefly during the monsoon season, you never see four day rainstorms! It’s already sprinkling now, and tomorrow’s supposed to be a doozy, involving Actual Thunder and Actual Lightning. Poor exposed tiny house! I am glad I painted the subfloor. So anyway, we’ll see what happens between now and Monday. Watch, I’ll get there and it’ll turn out that Jeff framed out the whole front end by himself in the middle of a lightning storm. And he probably will have insulated the whole thing with foam, the jerk.

STATS!

Mom, Jeff and I just did our big monetary breakdown today (which we’re going to do once a week), which I thought I would share with you guys:

Trailer, tax, delivery: $5063.79
Permanent title/license fee: $159
Padlock to lock generator to trailer while it’s at the build site: $15.90
Generator rental (for a month, including tax): $241.91

Wood, nails, building stuff: $777.13
Labor (Jeff: $30/hr.): $720

2 gallons of expensive fancy floor paint, metric ton of painting supplies: $86.16

Total: $7063.89.  If you don’t factor in the trailer cost, which I think is one of the most variable aspects of the project*, that’s about two grand for a house that’s a little less than 1/2 framed. See also: two months of rent in my shared apartment in Santa Monica, 1.5 months of rent in my way-too-large-and-expensive house in Richmond.

*I love my trailer and am very very glad to have gotten something new and large and comparatively fancy, but lots of people start a tiny house by ripping down an old camper shell, or by buying a used trailer, or by buying a 16 ft utility trailer for $1000 or so. Admittedly, they usually spend a bunch of money retrofitting their trailer, buying new brakes and tires and lights, reworking the electrical, etc. But it can be an area of cost savings, if you’re thinking about doing this yourself. I got a good deal on my trailer, but the initial outlay was still at the higher end of the spectrum.

We’ve used 77 24-ft. boards so far (give or take: there are a bunch of short scraps left over that will eventually be turned into something else). Not counting the ply (which was too complicated to calculate) and assuming an average-sized Douglas fir (the bulk of the wood we’ve been using), if I did the math right, I think we’ve used about 4/5ths of a tree. Thanks, tree.

Build: Day Three

So my plan today was pretty easy: I was just going to go put a second coat of paint on the floor and call it a day. But Jeff came by early this morning and said that he was going to just drop some stuff off at the site and wanted me to bring the generator down a little later. So as soon as I walked the dogs, I headed down there, and when I arrived, I found Jeff PUTTING UP A WALL. Jeff! Best contractor! I helped him actually get it lifted in the air and mounted, and when I came back later, he’d gotten it bolted up, attached it to the trailer frame and gotten it propped up in preparation for the other two back walls, which are going on tomorrow.

WOO WALL! (PS: Those diagonal side beams are just holding it up: they will go away.)
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Future loft windows
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I brought Nellie down to help me, and she turned out to be an excellent Construction Pit Bull. There was a lot of space for her to run around and explore, but she took her job as Build Foreman very seriously and mostly just hung out in a pile of hay and watched me work. Here she is, posing majestically on my floor (pre-second coat).
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I told her that yellow pit bulls and white paint did not mix, so while I was painting, she basically just hung out and observed.

Painting is SO BORING!
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Not a lot to report otherwise: floor looked white when I started and whiter when I finished, but it is visually underwhelming. I was smarter this time and taped everything off, though!
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Also brought my edger, which meant I finally got to paint that raw edge on the front! (Also, I just realized that my camera was accidentally set on ‘Auto’ the whole time, which is why these all look washed out–sorry!)

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All painted! Nellie apparently thinks she’s the figurehead on a ship. (She is standing in the future home of what my mom hilariously calls the solarium.)
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FutureWalls!
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