Part III: Like an Amish Barn Raising, but a Little Less Beardy

Of course, in the usual way of things, Mike was right. Our tiny house raising went off without a hitch. This entry will feature a lot of impressive things, but if you’ve come looking for harrowing conflict and epic drama that leads the way to a miraculous, mind-blowing resolution worthy of the New York Times’ bestseller list, you will come away disappointed. And thank God for that, because everything was absolutely perfect.

In fact, the worst thing to happen all day was that I lost my car keys at Martin’s for nearly an hour while a horde of hungry volunteers waited for me to return with pizza, which feels a lot like being left in charge of a vital transplant organ and standing in the hospital parking lot with the cooler locked in your car. How do you break that news?

But I digress. I’ll nip back to the beginning of everything and, in a series of imperfect pictures, give you a short peek into our long, long day.

John and I arrived at 6:30am to prep the trailer. Most tiny houses are built with a layer of flashing along the very bottom to protect from water damage, but after comparing prices for a full roll of aluminum, we thought better of it and decided to try something different. Also, instead of the usual stud construction, our subfloor is made from 1″ polystyrene sandwiched between two sheets of 3/4″ OSB.

Which Jake and Melanie and James generously helped us glue together a few weeks ago.

Which Jake and Melanie and James generously helped us glue together a few weeks ago.

This gives our floor plenty of stability and insulation, but at half the usual height and weight. When you’re building on wheels, it’s crucial to think in terms of inches instead of feet and ounces over pounds. We still needed to protect the bottom against taking on water, though, so our first project of the day was to lay out a roll of 6-mil consumer sheeting and wrap up our floor like a big, goofy Christmas present.


Once we’d laid out and squared the floor pieces, James arrived and helped John to attach them from underneath.


Then we moved the trailer to the other side of the blacksmith shop, despite my resounding complaint that this was the worst possible place to get any really good photos of the day’s work. It was bad enough to be immortalizing our project with my camera phone, thanks to an irrational fear that carrying my nice Canon Rebel within 100 feet of the shop is nothing short of a karmic invitation to have the drum sander accidentally dropped out a window and onto my head – and my camera. Naturally, then, to make things worse, they had to park my subject half in shadow and half in direct sunlight, so that 50% of every picture would be hideously overexposed no matter where I was standing.

Some people just don’t understand the struggle.


Anyway, we put up some stud walls.


Occasionally with questionable technique.

And when she wasn’t outstripping all the men in energy and general construction experience, Maura was holding up those stud walls like a pillar of beauty.


We framed the door and windows, and then I put up some roof trusses with the big nailer and my very serious work face.

092014 Maura 01

photo 3

The nails stay in place out of sheer terror.

This is about the point when our house really started to look like a house, and I had a hard time even walking past it without freaking out a little. I had to excuse myself in the name of lunch. That’s when I almost caused a mutiny by losing my keys while there was pizza on the line, but with a little help from St. Anthony, I made it back just in time to celebrate the completion of our basic framing. Hooray!


Jake tested out our home for snoozability and gave it two enthusiastic thumbs asleep.


After lunch, some more intense work began on the roof.




“Listen, Nikki,” said Mike, John, and James, all on separate occasions. “It’s been, like, three hours since lunch. I think we need some beer.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good ide-”

“Of course it is,” they insisted. “And anyway, if you fall off the roof, it’s good to have a little beer in you to cushion the landing.”

I just couldn’t argue with that logic. Especially not three times in a row.


Now, this is where the work ethic of our friends and family goes from commendable to downright extraordinary. We had finished sheathing the roof, and at close to 8pm, it was starting to get dark.


The following day called for rain (surprise!), so the rest of the house needed to be sheathed, too, in order to protect the top layer of subfloor. John and I were more than happy to thank all the wonderful folks who had come out to help, and to press on by ourselves until the project was finished; but they all carried on like nothing had changed, and we worked well into the night by the light of a few shop lamps.


Maura, Jake, and Melanie stayed past midnight, and John and James refused to leave until they’d pounded every last nail into our little red roof at 1:30 on Sunday morning. That’s a whopping 19 hours from the start of our day.


And that was it. The whole thing. Our home had gone from a trailer and a conceptual drawing to a real, tangible structure in just one day. John and I drove to the shop after Mass the next morning to see the house, and I stood inside it, struck dumb by the overwhelming love and support of our friends.




It’s been a week, now, and I still can’t look at these pictures without a rush of completely indescribable admiration for the people who helped us take the biggest, most substantial step toward making our tiny home a reality. James, Mike, Maura, Wyatt, Nick, Jake, Melanie – you are incredible. Completely amazing. We can never, ever thank you enough.

And yet, unbelievably, we received one more gift.

Each of my brothers in law has an incredible talent, and Jake’s happens to be making films. We were initially disappointed to hear that he’d lost all of his tiny house footage in some kind of a formatting disaster; but he surprised me today with the news that most of it was successfully recovered, and he put it together into a very fun little video for us.

There are miles and miles still to go, but I’d say we’ve made a pretty good start.


3 thoughts on “Part III: Like an Amish Barn Raising, but a Little Less Beardy

  1. It’s absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to see in in person.

  2. Sue Muns says:

    So happy you keep us updated! Wonderful!

  3. Nicole Hallford says:

    This is the most amazing thing EVER! I am seriously in awe!

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