This is the second story in our Two Blondes on a Build video blog series about our adventures in eco-homesteading and living off grid on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.
It follows on from the first story, Two Blondes on a Build story #1: What the bleep have we done?, in which we told you a little bit about Salt Spring Island, how we found our lot and why we took the plunge to buy it!
In this story, we walk you through the step by step process of building our tiny house, the materials we used and how we are maximising our ability to harvest rainwater and capture and use power from the sun for all our daily needs. We really hope you enjoy the video!
The full video transcript
Brett: Hi folks! This is Brett from Two Blondes on a Build and I thought I would give you just a little synopsis of why we are doing what we are doing to start with. When we bought the lot there were certain rules and regulations that we had to agree to as part of the purchase. One is – you are not allowed to put a trailer on the property for any length of time. We could have two, six month sections but we didn’t have any way of getting a trailer up to where we were going to build to start with, which would mean we would be in a tent for a long time.
So I looked at it and thought, “OK here’s a spot where we can build it, let’s frame up a shed, get out of the tent and give us a place to live for the, probably, two years it is going to take me to build the main house”, so that was the reasoning in it.
So we’ll get started.
Framing up the floor
Sarah: Here we have framed up the floor using treated 2 x 8 planks and treated plywood attached to four 4 x 4 corner posts, which are on cement blocks. The floor is nice and level. Now for the next bit. Brett fills in the floor cavity with fibreglass insulation. The shed is south facing.
But before we go any further, let us enjoy a lovely cup of Yorkshire tea in our outdoor canteen.
On top of the insulation layer Brett has put a thick sheet of plastic to seal it up, on which he has nailed down some non-treated plywood. We brought the plastic inside the walls, which you will see a bit later on.
Framing up the walls
Sarah: Then we began to frame up the walls, beginning with the north wall. You have to keep the Gopher behind bars! In case you were wondering, we hand carried every piece of building material and every tool up the hill from the roadway, even the cement blocks and treated plywood. It was lots of fun!
We built the frames for the north and south walls using 2 x 6 by 8 ft SPF (that’s Spruce, Pine and Fir) and the east and west walls using 2 x 6 by 10 ft SPF, because we wanted to make a pitched roof.
The sleeping loft
Brett: We’ve got our floor framed for our ten by ten and we were looking at it and thinking, “I wonder if we can put in a loft” and I did some checking up and as long as we didn’t go over 5 ft 8 inches in height, at the highest point, we could have a loft. I thought “why not?” So we put up the walls: we framed the walls so that we could set in a 2 x 10 floor over the original floor at 8 ft height and on that, we would build our roof truss system, so that it had triangulation on the corners and the top and would allow us 5 ft 8 inches of headroom inside.
Sarah: We fitted non-treated plywood on the outer frame of the walls. This brought the structure together and made it very strong. Our tiny house began to take shape in this deep, dark wood!
Brett: Then we also needed a way of getting up there of course, so what we did was we framed an area in that we could have one of those fold-down attic ladders. We ordered the ladder in and framed it up, that’s how we get up and down. It is a fold-down system and when we can put it up, it is completely out of the way. You wouldn’t even know that a loft was there.
Sarah: Brett is King of the Castle on his ramparts! And look, the ceiling is almost done!
The roof structure
Sarah: We have been working really hard to construct the roof over the sleeping loft. We have nearly finished covering the trusses with plywood. Here is a sneak peek under the eaves. We will have views through windows on the east and west walls up in the forest canopy. Here is a peek of the roof from outside. The water and ice shield goes onto the south side of the roof. After a hard day’s roofing there is nothing better than a pizza and a nice glass of Spanish red wine.
Brett: We went to Windsor Plywood and I said, “You know, I need some windows. We are looking for at least two or three windows” and the salesman there said “Well, I have a set of four windows. They are not big ones but they are dual glazed, they are low-e, they are very good quality” and I said, “hey, for the price, they were worth it!” So we bought all four and made them fit the house. (note – on the video you will see that they are made by Gentek).
What is Typar?
Brett: A little explanation on the white paper product that goes on the outside of the building. It is called Typar and what it is, is it is a breathable covering that doesn’t allow moisture in but allows the walls to breathe. That’s what it is there for. It is part of the building code and everybody should be doing it!
The roof covering
Sarah: You can see that we have put the wind and ice shield on the north side of the roof as well now.
Brett: Here we are we have got the shed up and we are looking at the roof and we are thinking, “Do we go to shingles, like asphalt shingles or something else, roll roofing”, and then I thought, “you know this shed is going to be here a while. We are going to use it for something more than a two year live-in, while we build our house.” So I thought, “let’s put on a really good roof system.”
Also, because we are putting on solar panels on the roof, I wanted it to be something that we could bolt on to it the solar panel frame and hold the solar panels up there. But in the future, if we have to take them off there are no holes in the roof, there is no damage and so a metal roof works really well for that. Then I thought, “do I put on a bright roof, where everyone in the world is going to be able to see it, or do I put in something that basically matches what we are in, a green forest?” and so we went to a green roof.
Sarah: Ouch, watch out, those sheets of roofing are sharp! Well folks, it might look like my husband is wrestling with a python, but this is actually Ventco, it is a material that sits under the peak to allow for ventilation but also to stop insects getting in. Look at that man go! Spiderman has got nothing on him! I think Marvel missed out. People often wonder whether Brett has a screw loose and it is fair to say that he drops them occasionally when he is working. But when he was putting this roofing on, he was actually using nails. So I guess you can say, he nailed it folks!
Using plastic with insulation
Brett: Even though the weather is a lot better on Salt Spring Island than probably anywhere else in Canada, we still want to be warm. So, from the R40 insulation I put in the floor, I then covered that with plastic, then plywood over the top of that. The plastic comes out around the edges all the way around, we put R20 in the walls, all the way around and there is plastic that is sealed over that, sealed to the floor joists.
That plastic runs up to the second floor and is fitted in so that it is actually a solid bag right up to the roof and the attic insulation. The attic insulation is R40, so basically this house is super insulated. We could have it in forty below climate and we would be warm in that shell. The bag inside, which is a solid plastic bag that covers the whole of the inside of the insulation is there to keep moisture out of the insulation and it is done the way I would do a house and it seals around everything, including the windows, so that the window frame is actually taped with the plastic around it, so you don’t have any air leakage at all.
Brett: Now we decided on siding. How do you make siding look good in a forest? We don’t want something that is going to make this building look bright and stand out, we want it to sort of sit in there and looks as if it is part of what the landscape is, so we decided on cedar and we are going to treat it as normal cedar, clear and it is there to accent the beauty of the woods.
Sarah: We have used aromatic red cedar in the sleeping loft.
Sarah: Brett is not the only one with superpowers. Sarah takes planking to new heights, she can hold Gyprock up with her bare hands. Always cutting edge, Brett can nail pine boards to the wall using his lips (just kidding, don’t try this at home). They can install LED lighting and ….
…put in a Grizzly wood stove, which may look small to you but it belts out shed-loads of heat. Here is Brett’s greatest fan. This is an Ecofan that maximises energy efficiency using the power of convection currents.
Sarah: They can get out of any tight corner. No windowsill is too tricky. They can recycle and repurpose barrels that a wasteful coffee company has thrown away and they can capture and use the power of the sun!
Installing solar panels
Brett: As I mentioned earlier our roof is designed to hold solar panels. We put four 325 Watt solar panels on the roof, which run our fridge, freezer and all of our lights and charging systems.
Sarah: Brett discovers new ways of transporting materials and together, the Two Blondes recruit new additions to their dream eco-team, these are five sturdy rain barrels. These will maximise our rainwater harvesting ability.
Some finishing work
Sarah: And now for some finishing work. Stylish wooden trim pieces go on the corners of the shed and around the front door to match the colour of the roof. Brett has fitted Soffit and Fascia to finish off the roof and has then installed an LED light over the front door. Meanwhile, I did some consultancy work outside. We didn’t want to take down this tree but sadly, we had to. Brett exercised his lumberjack skills and immediately, the results paid off.
Home Sweet Home. We love this place
Working with nature
Sarah: And we recognise that we are just passing through our beautiful planet and we really want to be good stewards, while we are here so we have committed to planting trees here on our property.
Rainwater harvesting (continued)
Sarah: Yey, the rain is here and it is filling up our rain barrels. Look at that! Yeah, we put these rain barrels in a few weeks ago and when they are all full, and we have five of them, then it lasts us for a long, long time. However, we have had a lot of dry weather in the last few weeks and we ran out of rainwater, which meant that we had to go and haul water up from one of the local water sources, one of the local lakes up the road.
We do have a water filter, so when we do load up the barrels from the local lake water, it does pass through a filter and then we boil it of course to use in drinks and in cooking as well. But it does make you really appreciate when we do get rainfall. I am so happy to see our barrels filling up look, you can see them here and also that it is soaking the ground and watering all the trees and the plants. It is really good news! I am really grateful.
Tiny house life
Sarah: I am also really grateful for the handy storage in the kitchen, the Beltane Elixir on the table in front of a roaring fire, the handy storage for chairs on the wall, when they are not in use and cooking outside, over an open fire or on the camping stove.
Brett: This is the second in our Two Blondes on a Build series.
Sarah: Thank you all for watching. If you have enjoyed this video, please do give it a like, or leave comments or queries below.
Brett: And don’t forget to share and subscribe!
In this video, I have used some royalty free music from the YouTube Audio Library. Here is the running order:
1. Dreamer by DivKid
2. Freeling by Lauren Duski
3. Saving the World by Aaron Kenny
4. Adventure Theme by Sir Cubworth
5. No.3 Morning Folk Song by Esther Abrami
6. Grassy Hill by Huma-Huma
We will be very grateful if you give this video and blog post a like and share them widely, as we would like to encourage other people to have a go at building tiny homes, as well as working towards living in greater harmony with nature.
Stay tuned for more stories, coming soon to a screen near you!
Peace, love and light,