Paint & Stainathon, Time-Compressed

Jeff’s taking it easy this week–as he should!– and as my mom’s jetting off for a b-day trip soon and has a lot on her plate, the large bulk of the work this week has been done solo by yours truly (and of course, Nellie and Widget, General Contractors). Most of the stuff I’ve done has been related to turning things from one color into another, and that does not always make for scintillating reading, so I thought I’d compress all of my projects from the week into one post and show you the before/afters.

Project One: Finish the PaintDone and done! Two coats of Benjamin Moore Atrium White are up on the walls and the ceilings (and the ceiling paint means that I also have two coats of Benjamin Moore Atrium White on all of my clothes, my contacts, my dogs, etc.)

It looks really good. All of my fears about white on white have totally evaporated.
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Interior painting

One minor caveat follows my fondness for this paint: BOY, it is easy to scuff a whole lot of matte white paint! This is something I totally should have thought about before but did not something I definitely gave a lot of serious thought to beforehand, so why don’t you go look at the other pretty pictures while I emergency-buy a whole bunch of AFM Safecoat to slap on everything? I am for sure going to have to do a little touch-up coat, especially after the trim painting/wood staining I’ve been doing (more on that in a sec.)

Completion rate: 90% done. I’ve got to do touch ups, and somehow I totally forgot that I needed to paint the bathroom ceiling (since I’m not painting the bathroom walls), so I’ve got to do that probably tomorrow. Everything else is looking solid, though.

Project Two: Paint the Horrible, Horrible Trim

Note: the trim itself is just fine. I have discovered, however, that I totally hate painting trim: apparently my skills as a painter veer towards “get lots of paint on stuff quickly and efficiently with a roller” and not towards “do anything that requires a modicum of precision”. This is quadruply true of quarter round, which is SO ANNOYING to paint, because it is, as the name implies, ROUNDED. And that means no using the paint pad, no using the mini roller, no using any useful tool beyond a teeny tiny angle brush and a lot lot lot of painter’s tape. This is emphatically not my skill set, which I learned as I was putting a terrible, uneven, drippy layer all over the trim. Thankfully, my mom is totally that kind of detail-y painter that I am not, so she came over yesterday, scraped off all my drippy mistakes and made the trim look gooooooood. (Trim paint, PS, is Benjamin Moore semi-gloss Decorator’s White).

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Completion rate: About 10%, tragically. Mom came really close to finishing everything that was up already when she came over yesterday, but there is a ton of trim that isn’t even up yet (Jeff needs to come down and sit in a chair and tell us where to nail everything up: he precut it all.) See all those raw-looking edges with bits of vapor barrier poking out in the picture above? Yeah, that all needs to be trimmed, and those areas are basically everywhere (+ floor molding all around the house.)

Project Three: Stain the bathroom walls and beams somehow

This has been my favorite project of the week, and the way it worked out is what I would call an excellently happy accident. My working plan was to put some kind of poly or other sealant on the bathroom walls, which I am leaving unpainted (just to have a little change of pace and leave some of the super pretty plywood intact: I’d initially planned to put cedar closet lining all over the bathroom, but the ply accomplishes the same goal aesthetically). I also had planned to do some kind of darker stain on the beams. Well, in the course of looking into how precisely I was going to do that, I came across a couple facts:
a. nearly all wood stains are very drippy, and thus it can be really challenging to use them on an overhead application
b. Wood stains in general are about as chemically and VOC-laden as you can imagine, and even though there are a handful of low-VOC stains, they are a touch obscure and definitely not carried by any of my little town’s three hardware stores.

So anyway, blah blah blah, I eventually found a couple of good products, and looking at their website’s Dealer Locators, I was led to an awesome hippie building store in the teeny, funny little warehousey Tucson arts district. Somehow I did not know about it previously, which was an oversight: they have been there for ten years, and they source all kinds of awesome hippie building material (denim insulation! All manner of expensive-yet-gorgeous recycled countertops! Wall paints made out of milk that you buy in powder form, tint with the addition of various dry clays and then just add water to yourself! Kelsey heaven, is what I’m saying.) Anyway, when I told the lady at the store my stain thoughts, she was like, “Well, we’ve got those, but they are about $40 a quart (!!!!!!) and if you’re doing an entire bathroom…..” She must have seen me going a little green, because she pulled me away to another side of the store and suggested that if she were going to do such a project, she would just use tung oil and forgo stain altogether. Tung oil, it transpires, penetrates just like stain, seals everything very well, is so water resistant that it’s often used as a boat finish and is totally nontoxic (downside: it takes a while to dry, but as I am not actually living in the house, I figured NBD). Plus, big 32 oz bottles were only $16 each. Normally I would have gone home and done some research and then come back, but I was still so dazed by the whole $40/quart stain that I was just like, “Yep, sure, tung oil, sounds awesome, sell me some of that” and bought two big bottles, one dark and one clear. It’s actually made by the company that makes dry paint out of milk, and the bottles it comes in are very reminiscent of Dr. Bronner’s.
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So I brought it back to the house, got some good brushes for putting it on and some disposable microfiber cloths for wiping off the excess, and started slapping it up places. And you know what, guys? Tung oil turns out to be AWESOME. First of all, it smells nutty and nice, and it wipes off your hands without any big deal (unlike tung oil-laced varnishes like the one Minwax makes, which are a bear on your hands). Second, it goes on really easy (very much like paint) with very little dripping; like stain, you put some on and then wipe off the excess with a cloth, so it’s not the fastest going, but it’s no more complex than stain. And third of all, it is gorgeous.

Here’s some of the bathroom ply once I’d put the first coat on:DSC00553

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The irregularities in the picture are partially the light reflecting on the walls, but partially because the wood just absorbs the stain in different ways and at different rates (makes sense: it’s ply). A second coat totally smoothed that out, though.
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[note: those gaps in the ply will also be trimmed]

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[took the picture while the oil was still drying; that’s why it’s shiny]

Then I got some of the darker stuff and tried it a few places: the edges of the staircase, the beams, and the frame around the loft window. And oh man, do I love the way the dark oil looks. To wit:

Hubba hubba
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Stairs (the uprights are going to be turned into drawers and I am probably going to put leftover flooring on the treads, so don’t worry about the bleedover)
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Loft window (one coat in the picture: I’ve put a second coat on since)
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Starting the beams
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First coat on
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Second coat on
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I LOVE the way this looks, especially against the white ceiling. I am a total tung oil convert now. One of the things I really love is that it’s not totally opaque, which means that in my case, you can see the stamping and other lettering on the wood through the oil.
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I know this is not for everyone, but I really really really like it. I am down with some touches of industrial scattered around (I’m making towel bars and such for the bathroom out of galvanized plumbing pipe, and if I can swing it, the stairs are going to have a bannister that includes some rebar). Also, my inner minimalist enjoys having the actual building materials be evident: if this house is made from trees, and those trees are processed in a semi-industrial way, I would like for that not to be obscured, at least to some extent. The other upside is that the tung oil DID cover the blackish discoloration on the beams, which I thought was a lot less cool looking.

(Messy) tools of the trade
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Completion rate: Depends: I think 100%, unless the oil soaks in all weird tonight and I need to do another coat at some point.

Project Four: Scrap porch!

Step one was locating some good scraps, which I did last week. Step two was figuring out how to arrange them into something porch-shaped. I already decided that for the bottom porch (the part that supports the second stairstep), I wanted to make some panels of the same size that I could connect with mending plates (which could come apart when I have to move the house.) So last night, I laid them out on the floor in my mom’s house and played around with them until I had some good panels (yay for a Lego-filled childhood!).

Not totally done, but you get the idea
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Currently, there are some little spaces in the panels, which I think are feature-not-bug, as they will let leaves and water and such fall through the porch. That said, I may end up having to put ply below the panels (just depending on how structurally sound they are when I’m done putting them together), in which case, that benefit is nullified and I end up filling in the holes with offcuts or shims.

Next step: glue the individual pieces together into panels with heavy duty construction adhesive. I did this today: here’s that process, with unfortunately the most boring and least patchwork-y panel showing.
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My thinking is that tomorrow, I’ll put some wood screws in them to bolster up the construction adhesive, then I will edge the whole thing in 2x2s and screw on some small legs. If it’s wobbly, though, I will do something else. This is a totally improvised (and totally free) project, so I will not be too stressed if it’s a disaster.

Completion rate: Maybe 40%? There are definitely some more steps, even if everything holds together perfectly.

Project Five: Lay floating floor in loft

OK, I could not believe how easy this was, even for a click-together floating floor. First, I put down some spacers over the ply underlay (the wrong way, it turns out: when Mom saw these pictures, she told me that the spacers needed to be upright so there’s only about a 1/4″ space between the floor and wall. Oops! Tomorrow I will go change those around and then slide the whole floor over, as it’s not attached to anything yet.)
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Then I laid the first row of boards down, putting the tongue of one board into the groove of the previous board and then folding them down. For the next row, I did the same thing, but when I got each board in place, I carefully pounded it in with a hammer and woodblock so it snapped into the groove of the corresponding plank in the first row.

The seam between the two rows of planks before I got the boards pounded in
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[PS: I have not, as of yet, staggered the planks: I just laid them out in even rows. This is maybe a stupid idea, structurally? It seems to be working OK for the moment, though: it’s a small space, there’s only going to be three rows of flooring, and it’ll be held in by molding. And seriously, this whole thing took me about 45 minutes, so if I need to redo it, it is no big loss.]

Finished for the day. Tomorrow, I need to bust out Ye Olde Chop Saw and cut some pieces to fit between row #2 and the back wall, plus the edge pieces (the third row is not going to be quite as long as the current planks)
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Yay! Tomorrow’s pre-dog class projects: finish the loft floor, start touch-up painting, paint the bathroom ceiling, maybe do a paper template for the bathroom floor so I know where to cut the vinyl.

Finally, one shot of the house exterior as of today. ❤ ❤ ❤
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…and one of a cool Cooper’s Hawk I saw on the way home, when I took the dogs to run in Elephant Head as a reward for being good patient contractors today.
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Build: Day 19

I have to admit that a lot of the actual building today was done by Jeff: I came down late in the day and pounded some nails into some pre-cut wallboards, but I spent most of the day out playing hunter-gatherer.

Biggest news: Interior wallboard is all up! It looks unfinished, since there is no molding on the floor, filler between the sheets of ply or quarter round at the seams, but it is U-P-up! I can now officially say that the house has walls, which is always the first question I am asked by jovial senior citizens. Here’s proof!
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Here’s the view from the loft.
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Also, the shower is all the way up now. I may just have to accept that the layout of the bathroom means I will never get a good picture of the shower. Just use your imagination, though: it is a shower enclosure, and an especially boring one at that. Right now it is being used as extra insulation/sink storage.
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The fauxlarium is looking good now that it’s insulated and has walls! Now that that’s happened, I need to figure out precisely what I’m going to do with it. Drawers? Bookshelf? Cute window seat? Some combination of those things? Here’s Nellie standing in it, to give you a sense of the dimensions (though if I do bookshelves or something it’ll obviously be built out a bit.
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Here’s the exterior of the house + the super-blue sky today. The chile ristra is a present from my mom: it’s too early to be in the ‘decorate the exterior of the house’ stage, but I loved it so much I wanted it to be in its place of honor (though I will be replacing the random offset nail I hammered in with an Actual Hook at some point soon.)
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So that’s what happened while I was gone. When I got to the site today, I swept up a ton of sawdust (learning in the process that I need a different set of tools for sweeping the loft, since the big broom is too tall), pounded in some wallboard, and played around in the house with the dogs.

The dogs are pro-houselet.
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Gratuitous Widget picture.
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For those of you who know my dogs and are wondering where Lucy is, I will tell you: she’s been down a few times, but the build site is located next to a major highway, and big loud trucks give her the vapors. She’s an anxious kiddo, and the build site is just too much for her right now (she also hates the generator), so I usually just bring Nellie and/or Widget along with me. She just started Prozac a few weeks ago, though, so I have high hopes she’ll be able to manage it before we actually move the houselet to its new home.

Now, onto the day’s hunter-gathering:
1) I bought me a water heater, my water heater pleased me, I fed my water heater under yonder tree (the water heater says fiddle-eye-fee). It’s going to be mounted under the main sink in the kitchen (we hope)

2) I went back to the floor remnants store and bought the flooring for the loft. They ended up selling the bamboo I was hoping for to the original builder, so I bought the cheap laminate instead. I know the laminate was controversial in the last poll and I don’t disagree: it looks OK, but I feel very dubious about its longterm potential. What really pushed me over the edge with it was that they sold it to me for fifty cents a foot, for a total of $53. That makes the grand total for flooring the entire house $237.66 ($60 for the random lot of bamboo at Gerson’s [4 boxes], $88.66 for two more boxes of the same bamboo from Home Depot that I needed to finish out the main floor [that’s all I bought full price], $36 for the awesome hippie fiberfloor from the remnants place, $53 for the loft laminate). Considering that I’m flooring right around 300 sq ft, that is pretty darn good: if I’d gotten the cheapest stuff that I was looking at at Lumber Liquidators ($2.99/ft.2), it would have cost more than three times that much to do the whole house (let’s not even discuss what it would have been from a full-price, non-Lumber Liquidators source!) I’m getting a little closer than I’d like to the edge of my 18K initial budget (my stretch budget is 20K, and I think we’ll make that comfortably, but still), so I was OK going with the less spendy option.

This is the Tiny House Corner in my sainted mother’s garage. You can see all three floors in it: the fiberfloor is the roll, the bamboo is the first six boxes in the stack, and the top four are laminate. Behind all that is my craigslist convection microwave, my free mini-fridge that I’m going to turn into a tiny freezer and a bunch of my Ikea stuff.
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The pile of scrapwood to the left is the beginning of a potentially crazy project. I’ve been thinking about porches lately: after considering it a bit, I think the fold-up porch idea is not going to fly, since we’re skirting pretty close to the max road legal width (8’6″). I really dig how Chris and Malissa of the Tiny Tack House (one of my favorite Internet Tiny Houses) did their porch: it’s substantial, but you can still bring it in when you need to, and it reminds me a bit of pallets (and I loooooove pallet furniture, though I think actual pallets wouldn’t work for a porch).

Anyway, we have all this scrap wood kicking around and I got the idea that I could stain different pieces different colors and put them all together parquet-style, kind of like a patchwork quilt made of wood. After I got the main deck together, I could edge it with 1x2a, put some little legs on it, then I could duplicate the Tiny Tack House porch’s stairsteppy design. It might not work, but I got some construction adhesive and some stain tonight, so if worse comes to worse, I’m just out eight bucks.

A couple more cool scores, thrift and otherwise:
3) I got three bits of this cool natural stone/glass tile at Gerson’s the other day with the intent of turning it into a small backsplash in the kitchen.
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Here’s what I was thinking, using my mom’s sink as an example.
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4) Today I went into the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store with an eye out for exterior lights/floor underlay. They didn’t have either of those things, but they did have these for $3 apiece.
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They are little library card/index card holders, so the drawers are really deep, good for storage of stuff like utensils. They’ll need some love, primarily in the form of paint, but I can do that (oil rubbed bronze? pewter?) I’m thinking about mounting them under the counter in the kitchen, just to have some nice, waist-high drawers to grab things from. I’m also thinking about buying some hairpin legs, putting them on the bottom of two of the card holders and using them as nightstands. In any case, they are awesome and I was pleased.

5) Besides the ristra from my mom, I got two great little houselet-adjacent presents this week. My mom’s friend Jen (my friend too!) sent me this fabulous little mini grater/microplaner, which is adorable and totally houselet scale.
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Also, my Aunt Karen, who’s an incredibly talented and well-known quilter, sent me two tiny quilted squares, complete with tiny easels to display them [PS: the color looks washed out because I had to use a flash, but in person, they’re really beautiful.) I am toying with the idea of making a little mantel for my fireplace out of a little mesquite burl with a live edge, and now that I have some tiny art to display on it, I am even more excited about the idea. I am so happy to have a piece of my aunt’s work to put in the house: stuff like that makes it feel really special and uniquely my own.
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Now, onto the most boring possible subject: white paint! As I promised, I did some test patches of different whites on a scrap piece of the wall ply, and exactly as I feared, it is basically impossible to tell one from the other in pictures. See?
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In the interest of Science!, I decided to try to gauge what my skin tone looked like next to the different whites, because why not, right? My weird Sicilian/Cherokee skin is olive with, no kidding, a purple-y undertone, which means that a. I can wear jewel tones and b. I always look a little bit sickly, so I decided to try just photographing my thumb next to each white to see which made me look the least Zombie Apocalypse. I also tried it out with clear poly, just for kicks. It’s still kind of hard to say, but I ended up deciding that the Benjamin Moore Atrium White was the way to go, probably not least because I am charmed that the White House is the same color. I also really like the Benjamin Moore White Dove (Atrium’s a little pinker, Dove is a little grayer), so I guess my plan is to show up at the paint store and just buy whatever I feel the best about that morning.
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PS: if you are bored by the idea of all white, you might check out the ProtoHaus, which is maybe my most favorite preexisting tiny house (Tack House: close second). They go all white, but because they have nice colorful possessions, the house doesn’t seem boring or sterile at all. The white actually kind of reigns in any visual chaos, and I think it really makes the space open up: that’s why all white is the way I’m doing it.

Painting is happening….really soon, though I don’t know HOW soon, since I am slated to work for the next five days straight. Possibly tomorrow afternoon? We shall see.