Build: Day One and Two


Monday was the first day of the build, and build we did! Or rather, build Jeff did: I’m working M/Th/Sat this week. But he and my mom supervised the delivery of New! Trailer! at the build site, which went in without a hitch. At least, getting it there went without a hitch: when Mom went in to make sure she was directing the trailer delivery guy to the right place, the feed store guy told her that oh, by the way, he’d changed the space he’d initially told us we were going to get and was putting us way in the back. He made it sound like a great thing, since there was a separate fence we could shut and lock at night, more room, blah blah blah, and that was all well and good until he mentioned the one tiny little detail that THERE WAS NO POWER. Yep! No electrical hookups, and we are BUILDING A HOUSE (in a non-Amish way). And when Mom mentioned the usefulness of electricity in BUILDING A HOUSE and tried to get him to put us in the space he’d initially set up, he totally dug in his heels and refused, because all of the sudden, hey, maybe his insurance doesn’t cover it and he doesn’t want to be responsible and blee bling bloo (nearly all of the guys who work at the site are fabulous and I love them: this one guy who was on that day is the exception). Anyway, after some frantic calls back and forth between my mom and Jeff and me at work, the trailer ended up going to the power-free back lot (which is where they store their hay).

DSC09958The trailer in its new habitat
DSC09949So, there’s no power, but there is water! And by water, I mean a random utility sink propped up on concrete blocks and hooked directly into the main waterline. Stay classy!
DSC09977The sink contained many confused lizards that I had to rescue before I tried out the tap.

I, in the meantime, did one of those things you never think you’re going to do until you’re in the middle of doing it: I rented a portable generator.

Why yes, that is a large generator in the back of a Scion xa. The Scion xa can also fit four (4) taiko drums, a queen-sized mattress set, three dogs/two cats, and all the things one might need for a year in Canada (not at the same time). BEST CAR!

I knew nothing about generators before up and renting one for the month, and I still know very little. They are loud, they run on gas, they start up like a lawnmower, the one I got is apparently the good kind, and in southern AZ, they apparently cost $228/month plus tax to rent. The more you know! Jeff primarily needs it for his skillsaw: the rest of his stuff is generally cordless, and that’s going to solve our power needs (plus, Jeff is going to try to do as many of the cuts for the day as possible at his own house and just bring them down). Since it was only $36 bucks a month to rent the spot at the feed store, since I didn’t have a backup plan and since it would have cost money to hire somebody to move the trailer again, it seemed like the whole generator business was worth it. But that dude’s on my shit list, I’ll tell you what.

Anyway, then I went back to work, got home, went over to Jeff’s to see how things had gone (he lives next door) and found out that in the four hours I spent at work that afternoon, Jeff had BUILT AND INSULATED THE ENTIRE FLOOR. He’d just cut all the wood with a handsaw, no big deal. BEST CONTRACTOR.

DSC09963So just for the construction-minded among you, here’s how it was put together: first, he put flashing [PS: don’t do a google image search for ‘floor flashing’–you’ll get gross pictures of Courtney Stodden] and a vapor barrier over the wood deck of the trailer, then he did a grid of 2x4s and 1x2s all across the bed of the trailer (which sounds complicated, but if you’ve ever seen a slatted Ikea bed, it basically looks like that: big center support, slats going out on both sides). That’s the bottom layer of the little stack you see in this picture (sorry I don’t have in-progress shots)
DSC09962Jeff bolted the wood frame into the base of the trailer, using the brackets that came welded onto the trailer itself: we’re also going to weld some long vertical supports to the trailer frame and when we do the walls, we’ll build those vertical supports right in (which means the trailer really is integral to the construction of the house: the house isn’t just sitting on top of it). There are crazy heavy welded wire tie-downs built into the bottom of the trailer, and if I connect those to a concrete pad when I park the house, that house is not going anywhere in inclimate weather: it’s much sturdier than a mobile home, which basically just sits on the ground, and in some cases, it’s going to be sturdier than the kind of normal stick-built house that just rests on its foundation. In this case, there’s no real structural separation between the foundation and the house.Anyway, then he insulated the floor with foam that had been lined on both sides with a reflective barrier (which is going to help both with moisture and with insulation.) It looks like this (this is just a scrap that was laying around):

The insulation thing has really been a thorn in my side: I am trying to go as low VOC as possible with this thing, and I was prepared to make insulation kind of my hill to die on. You see, I really wanted to do denim insulation: the R-value is good, it is recycled and not full of horrifying chemicals, and you can just roll it on like fiberglass without worrying about the shards getting in your skin and lungs (it’s just jeans). Jeff really wanted to use rigid foam board: he pointed out that it was narrower (space saving!), had a comparable R-value (true), was cheaper (definitely true), and that he knew how to install it (fair): he also sort of subtly implied that he thought the denim was hippie nonsense (which, yes, but it is also totally great by lots of different practical metrics.) I countered with the fact that I had already bought some denim insulation on Craigslist (I did: not enough, but it’s a sizeable amount), and by god we were gonna use it. And then he just up and insulated the floor using the stuff he wanted to use in the first place. WORST CONTRACTOR! (just kidding, he really is the best). I am still holding out for denim in the walls, but I am grudgingly beginning to admit that there may be a place for this foam business in the floor and ceiling. AND we are using this crazy composite roll-out material on the roof instead of the nice, friendly, sounds-good-in-the-rain tin I wanted because of the way the roof is sloping. ALREADY I AM SELLING OUT!

Oh, right, back to the floor. After the insulation, he did the top layer, which in my case is a nice, marine-grade plywood (also good for keeping water out). It’s all nailed together, kind of like a very sturdy wooden sandwich. We’ve just put the floor in over the deck: we’re also going to extend it up and over the fenders of the trailer (it’ll be a little wood box, which on one side of the house will be part of the stairs and on the other side will be….architectural interest) and then over the hitch (to make a little three foot bump-out/library/bay window). That’s part of Thursday’s project. Anyway, it is quite a floor.


Today I painted it! Once we have walls, I’m going to put in bamboo flooring over the plywood subfloor, so you will never see this paint job, but I did it both to help seal/protect the subfloor and to, yet again, help keep moisture out.

Please be in awe of my fancy painting table
DSC09968I decided to live large and buy myself an extendable handle that screwed onto my paint roller. Dear friends: if you ever have to paint a floor, do yourself a favor and acquire one of these. It ruled.
DSC09970Paintin’ a floor
DSC09971Mistakes were made. I did not think to bring a) an edger or b) painter’s tape, because I was under the mistaken impression that the floor would be up and over the fenders already and I wouldn’t have any detail work to do. Which meant when I got to my beautiful diamond-plate fenders, this happened:


Diamond-plate metal fenders are not something I ever thought I would have an opinion about, but when I saw paint going on MY fenders of MY trailer, even though I knew that they were going to be covered eventually, well, I just could not have that. Had I brought a rag or a drop cloth? I HAD NOT. Luckily, I had a little piece of fleece from making dog tugs in my car, and I roped it into service, first as a rag and then as a fender cover.

Learning curve!

Much better

About that point, my mom came over to help, and boy, my mom does not mess around when it comes to painting. I had only painted about a third of the floor when she got there, but after she showed up, we had that baby knocked out in about 45 minutes.

Do not mess with my mom, or she will paint you.

BOOM. Done!

…ish. Ignore that part in the front, which requires an edger.


Tomorrow, I shall go back and do it all over again once this first coat cures.

Jeff’s got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so he’s not going to be back building until Thursday, but on Thursday, I will be able to help, and that is when we are going to be framing out the back of the house! And then the front of the house the next time he’s there! It is going to be like a barn raising!

Here’s what the back of the house looks like right now (and also, there’s Jeff, who attempted to escape into his house when he saw me get out the camera).


I got home and immediately jumped into working on my stove (sanded and put special high-heat enamel on the rusty cast-iron burners, polished up all the chrome with Turtle Wax: now it just needs some de-rusting on the inside, and of course to be looked at by someone who is a specialist in making alcohol stoves Not A Deathtrap). It was only when I finished that that I realized that the pool had closed, which is a problem given my mom’s eccentric notion that one does not need to have hot water in one’s house if there’s a perfectly good shower at the pool down the street. So now I am going to go, disgusting and covered in paint, to bed. Yet another of the many perils of fine homebuilding.