Tag Archives: recycled building supplies

our alternative building journey

I’ve noticed a bunch of folk find my site looking for information on yurts and cool, funky examples of alternative building on the cheap. I’ve got that, for sure, but it’s buried in with the farming and writing and unschooling. I’ve made this post to help you find what you’re looking for.

We’re bootstrapping this operation, (meaning we build a little, save a little $, build a little more….) so we have an ever changing, if a bit strange, compound of many small structures, scattered through our bit of woods. It’s like a patchwork quilt: yurt here, cordwood there, masonry on this one, stick building on that other one…you get the idea.

We’ve use tons of recycled materials, both purchased and scrounged, in sometimes weird and creative ways, because hey, we can’t afford anything else it’s better for the environment! Basically, we’ve made our home out of other people’s junk, and saved a bunch of stuff from going to the landfill in the process. Go, us!

We’ve put up a yurt, and lived in a yurt for many years now. We’ve built a goat house for almost nothing, a tool shed for even less, and a chicken house out of the box the yurt came in. We’ve also recycled an entire tiny house.

2010 will bring a new building to our compound…we’re in the imagining stages at the moment, so stay tuned.

My blog is a bit like my house—lots of different bits, linked by my life. Sometimes a map helps.

All my alt-building posts from the beginning of time:

[catlist id=3 numberposts=50]

in which we move in to the recycled house, and are pleased

We have completely, and thoroughly, moved in, FINALLY, to the Noah House!

[cue cheering!]

That is to say, we haven’t moved out of the yurt, we’re just…spreading. And in case you don’t know what I am talking about, here is the beginning of the story of recycling a tiny house, the tiny house my cousin Noah built, and, more recently, here is a picture of how it looks from the outside.

But today I offer you pictures from the inside! With all our STUFF! I know you’ve been just aching to see these, come on, admit it.

Okay, without further ado, let’s walk in through the front door. What do we see but….

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A sofa! And some kids! On the floor, coloring! And some book shelves! Ooo, ahhh.

For contrast, let’s look at the view the day after the carpentry crew left:

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And here it is when Paul was about half-way done:

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But now, it’s a real room. With toys and books and computers and all my yoga props…I’m so happy to have a place for my yoga props, I can’t tell you.

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This is the view when I am sitting on that green futon sofa (craigslist, we love you). Look, you can see the yurt through the windows! And if you look a bit to the left, you see this:

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Lots of pine bead board and recycled cherry wood trim….

…and a little farther to the left, you see this:

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(UPDATE: for what happened with the little room to the side, visit here.) It’s an extremely pleasant space. It’s odd that it can be so small, 12′ x 12′, and still feel quite spacious, but it does, probably because of the height of the ceilings.

Because here is what I see if I look up:

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It’s fourteen feet high at the top, because Noah wanted to be able to stand up in the loft. In a tiny house, design follows the physical body of the person doing the building.

But Noah, being the thrill seeker he is, used to sleep up there with no rails. Not so great for small kids. So, look at those lovely rails that Paul built so that Sophie could have a loft, and I could NOT have a heart attack every time she went up there. Aren’t they pretty? The wood for the posts was left over from something else, stored for years now under the yurt. Paul says he cleared out a ton of old wood he had been storing, making all the trim. So whoopee for having less junk around, I say, not to mention the attractive price-point.

But really, I didn’t realize trim was such a big deal. (Don’t tell Paul I said that, because he used to be a trim carpenter.) Never the less, I can now say with confidence, trim is not just some wood slapped up in the corners! Trim makes the room. Trim is the trimmings, the details. And attention to the details is what transforms a space from a box to a lovely room you want to hang out in. I swear.

For example, here is the first step in the front door:


It’s a piece of cast off granite, rescued from a dumpster, and framed by Paul in oak. The floor here is recycled walnut. Plus a kitten always helps.

It’s gorgeous. Every time I step in, even if I don’t consciously think about it, I take in that beauty. The more details like that, the more a space feels right.

Build a small square room and it could be a hovel, a dark cave, a boring box. Give it lots of exposed wood, windows on all sides with lots of them in the south, and tons of love in the details, and suddenly you have something else entirely. I really do think the lack of love in the details is the reason speed-built, mass-produced houses so frequently lack soul. When you build things yourself, and when you do it on a tiny scale, the details are all within your power and creativity. And that’s a good thing.

Quick, before we leave, let’s take a peek up in the loft.

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Sophie lined up a bunch of teddy bears to live under the windows. Sitting here, reading while it rains outside, is about the most peaceful thing ever.

One last view from the corner. Hey, where did the kids go?

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Oh, here they are.


Keep it small, build it yourself, pay little or nothing for recycled materials, and make the details yours. You, too, can have a tiny, beautiful, personal, space.

Thank you, again, Noah.

poof, another room

We are in the process of moving into the Noah House. I don’t mean moving out of the yurt, just adding the Noah House as another room in our weird, Tiny House Compound. As I mentioned here, Paul finished the interior trim last weekend and, although there is still a punch list of thing to do (screens, door stop, improve the ladder up to the loft, just for a few examples), especially in the little side room (which we are conflicted about how to use—a writing office for me? Toy storage for the kids? Tiny loft for Luc?), we did get the electricity hooked up last week and we are now officially using it as an actual space.

Finally, huh? Well, it takes a while when the primary (and only) carpenter on the job works full time elsewhere as well as having a demanding *cough* family life. But here he is, finishing the deck yesterday….

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And here is the finished deck this morning…

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The deck functions now as a room of it’s own, in a way, another living space. I hadn’t expected that, but I’m delighted.

In keeping with our recycled building modus operandi, the stain Paul used was $5 a gallon cast-offs from the Habitat store. I’m not sure if you can see it in the photo but the horizontal surface is a gray-green and the outer trim is a blue-green that matches nicely with the blue-green on the door and windows. That was a happy accident, as you take what you get when you dip into the $5 bin. But those gallons would have been $30-$40 a gallon new, and it looks great, so win for us. Sometimes making do with what you’ve got can have lovely results.

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I especially like the stone stairs that Paul made, fitting together some rocks we had laying around. There is a solar light tucked in the corner that turns on at dusk, another cast-off. Thank goodness people throw out so much good stuff.

And look, the bottom rock has fern fossils!

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Can’t see it? Here, try this close up.

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Isn’t that cool?

Sophie and I shared a chocolate eclair in these chairs this morning while the sun came up over the trees. Our new breakfast nook?


recycled playground

If you’ve been hanging around a bit, you know we are bootstrap builders, putting together our country estate (cough), on very little cash, by building with junk recycled materials. (And if that’s news to you, but sounds fun, look over there in the tag list and you’ll find recycled building has its very own tag. Aren’t I organized?) But houses, tool sheds, and goat barns aren’t all you can build with recycled materials. Today I bring you: a Huge Wooden Playset, assembled from the broken pieces of Other People’s Trash!

Our playset has evolved over the years. At the moment it has a tower, a swing section, a platform with another slide, a sandbox, monkey bars, and a tree climbing section off the back. Do you know how much a set like would cost new? I didn’t, not until just now when I went and googled it. Well, I mean, you CAN’T buy a set like this, but it turns out that the sets that were sort of similar (a tower, a bunch of swings, some monkey bars) were $1000-3000!


In contrast, almost all of our set was FREE. Most of what you see here either came from the dump or from craigslist ads that said “Free if you come and get it!” I think the grand total is somewhere around $50 bucks. And that includes the sand.

It pays to scrounge.

Here’s our set:

Wait, why are we so far away in this picture! Oh yeah, it’s because I’m plunked down on my bum with my twisted ankle propped up, all the way across the yard. Where is that zoom button? Here we go….closer…

There, that’s better. Our set started with the pink slide section and the little platform behind it. Paul actually bought the beam that goes across the top new and installed a selection of cast-off swings from various thrown-out sets on it. The things hanging from the bar have changed as the kids have gotten bigger. For example, we started out with a baby swing for Luc that has since been discarded, and we’ve added a trapeze bar for Sophie, who likes to do tricks.

He also made the sandbox at the foot of the pink slide, fashioned from a thrown away frog sandbox and some sandbags.

Next came the tower section, for which I think we paid $30. Craigslist. You can see it on the right of this photo. And hey, I actually had to get up off my butt to get this shot—ah, how I suffer for my art!

Look at that, a third slide on the back! You can also see the faded remains of a once spiffy play kitchen. Another freebie that has seen a LOT of use. The kids like to cook up sand cakes in the kitchen. They also like to play Hulk and knock the kitchen over with a big crash and climb on it. An advantage to getting stuff for free is that it’s no big deal if the kids delight in destroying it.

Let’s keep going on around it. Here we are, further along the back…

See the monkey bars shooting off the side? Here’s a better pic:

And look! There is a monkey swinging across them!

But my favorite part of the set is the balance bridge tree thingy that Paul rigged up….

That U shape at the end is one tree, grown in a strange shape because of storm damage. You can’t really see it but there is a rope hanging across the top of the U and a bit dangling down, good for Tarzan games.

The log off to the left makes a bridge….

…that leads into the woods, partially cleared out by Paul. A few improvement, like this small plank and platform make a good pirate boat, rocket ship, whatever.

The board is scrap, the platform thingy was made from scrap and used to hold up the barrel that held up the air conditioner, but Paul invented some other solution, and the platform got moved out here…. But the real attraction here is the forest. Shadowy cool, lots of downed trees, criss-crossing the ground in a maze of balance beams, great for playing, say, Jungle Adventure, as the kids call it, as in, “Mom, we’re playing Jungle Adventure—we need backpacks full of snacks!”

Because a playground is better if it leads into the woods, don’t you think?

Bottom line: you don’t have to pay $3000 for an awesome playset!

Trash can be just as fun.

some principles of recycled building

We build with junk. Or, rather, Paul builds with junk, and I (1) complain about the mess in the yard, and (2) enjoy the results of his hard work. It’s called ‘consulting’ and it is integral to the creative process. First you put your hands on your hips, and then you point at things….

But I’m not here to talk about that. What I’m here to talk about building with junk—that is, turning other people’s junk into beautiful, usable buildings.

First, the nuts and bolts:

Principle #1: Have a truck. When Paul said this, I suggested that this isn’t really a principle, but he was adamant. Having a truck is crucial to Recycled Building because, you must

Principle #2: Always be on the look out for good junk.

Here’s how it works. You’re driving down the street in your truck (#1 above) and you notice that someone is throwing away some perfectly good glass doors! Put them in the truck. Or you’re driving along and you see someone taking off a slate roof and putting up an asphalt roof (why would anyone do that? that’s a totally silly thing to do!)—pull over, make friends with the slate guy, and get the ok to take home a truck load of discarded slate. Or, you’re driving along and notice that there is a marble countertop business that is throwing away the granite and marble scrap from their countertop cutouts every day. Make friends with the manager and get the okay to raid their dumpsters whenever you’re in that part of town. Rinse and repeat, which leads directly to:

Principle #3: Be prepared to store stuff until you need it.

Because it isn’t that you have an immediate need for a glass door, some slate tiles, or some slabs of marble. It’s that you know you have building projects ahead of you, and you’re going to need stuff to build with (#3). Good and interesting materials can later be worked into the project in ways you haven’t even thought of yet, because you aren’t in that part of the building process yet. So gather and store your stuff until the day comes when you realize you need it.

Of course, part of the art here is recognizing good junk when you see it. Sometimes it’s easy, but sometimes it takes more…vision. Paul has lots of vision. I’m always saying, “Dude, why did you bring home all that trash?” I mean, sometimes junk really is just junk. But recycled building requires that you,

Principle #4: See the potential in stuff, that is, how things can be reused or turned into something else.

Sometimes you recycle something as what it is—someone’s old floor becomes your new floor.

But sometimes you can use something in an entirely new way. Those stairway pickets can become a gate fence.

That bowling alley can become a kitchen counter.

And that pipe insulation is just what you’ll need to wrap up the outlet pipe on the waterstove (that pipe insulation really looked like trash to me, but it wasn’t to Paul). (Sorry, no picture on this one.)

This is where recycled building can get wacky and fun. You didn’t know you needed a bowling ball on the top of a post in the chicken yard, did you? But, hey, it looks great up there!

The normal way, as far as I can tell, of building a house, is to design a house on paper, buy the materials to build that house, and build it. In recycled building, it’s pretty much the opposite.

Principle #5: Look at what you have to build with, then design in a way to use that stuff.

and it’s close corollary,

Principle #6: Look at what you are building, then figure out how to solve that building problem with the stuff you have on hand.

Either way, it’s about finding ways to make use of the stuff you’ve gathered.

For example, in building the goat barn, Paul knew he had a bunch of old glass doors, so he put them in as high up windows that the goats couldn’t kick, but would let in plenty of light.

Building the goat barn went back and forth between #4 and #5, looking at what he had to build with and designing from there, as well as solving the problems at hand, with the stuff he had. Which is what happens when you…

Principle #7: Design as you go.

Say Paul is working on the tool shed and the concrete block foundation is looking kind of grim, so he starts looking around at what we’ve got to improve the situation. Hmmm, some slate facing would be just the thing!

Recycled building is not wandering through Lowes picking stuff out, it’s wandering through life and gathering supplies like puzzle pieces for puzzles you haven’t started yet, or, perhaps, are right in the middle of. The granite and marble castoffs I mentioned before are a good case study. Paul collected lots of pieces, both small and large, when his job took him by the dumpster on a regular basis. That stuff has been turned into paths and entryways,


(here’s a close up of this pretty piece of stone)

and floors, both rough and polished.

All free. All headed for the dump if we hadn’t grabbed them.

Recycled building (a fancy name for Building With Other People’s Junk) is, at heart, deeply practical. The fact is, there is tons of stuff out there, going to the dump, unless someone rescues it. There is no question that a bunch of concrete blocks have a high embodied energy that makes them unsuitable for Green Building. On the other hand, Recycled Building says, yeah, these concrete blocks contain a lot of embodied energy, and yeah, it would be better for the planet if we built with something else, but these blocks are already here, getting thrown away, and that’s an even bigger waste. So I’m going to keep them out of the dump by using them. (Which makes it cheap, or even free, so, again with the deeply practical.)

So Recycling Building is green, but might not exactly be Green, in the way that cob, cordwood, strawbale, are. All of those building systems are great and can produce truely lovely spaces. We’ve played with several of them and I’m sure will do more. And, of course, Green building can be combined—and well!—with recycled building. But Green building can also be buying all the new, fancy, expensive green materials, such as natural paint, bamboo floors, papercrete, cotton insulation, etc., and while I’d love to have the moola to drop on some of these spiffy green materials, honestly, the majority of that stuff is way, way, way out of our price range. We’ve got two kids and one income, and we’re bootstrapping this operation, room by room. We make due with the stuff we find. Scavengers-R-Us!

Recycled Building is all about using what’s out there, because, it IS out there. And why bother to produce more stuff when the pickings in the dumpsters, and craigslist folk, and habitat reuse stores, are so rich?

calcifer the waterstove

Two years ago, we ran across an old Taylor Waterstove for sale (great heater, really awful website). Heating with propane that first winter in the yurt broke the bank and we were looking for a wood burning option that didn’t put a wood stove in the yurt. (The reasons for that were (1) we didn’t want to cut a hole in the yurt skin for a chimney, (2) we had little kids running around, (3) a wood stove, and the buffer around it, would take a very large portion of our very small amount of floor space.) We had an indoor wood stove at the farm house we lived in before the yurt, and while we liked wood heat, we did not like the smoke or dirt a wood stove brings in. The waterstove was a perfect solution.

So, what the heck is a waterstove? Here’s ours, sitting in the woods near the yurt.

Ugly, ain’t it? Like a furnace for burning bodies or something. To get a sense of the scale, look at the right side of the photo for the Narnia-style lamppost, which is about six feet tall. This heater is BIG.

So how does a giant, ugly, wood burner, sitting out in the trees, heat the yurt?

It’s pretty nifty, actually.

The fire box is in the center of that hulking metal thing and is surrounded by a 100+ gallons of water. You build a fire in it and the fire heats the water. A temperature gauge notices when the water temp is too low and turns on a fan that blows air into the fire, stoking it up and keeping the water around 170 degrees. That’s the first part.

The second part is inside the yurt, where a thermostat reads the room temp. When the air temp drops below whatever we have set it for, the thermostat turns on a water pump on the stove that pumps the hot water through an underground pipe, up through the floor of the yurt, and into this radiator.

It looks a little pitiful doesn’t it? Paul got it off the side of the road somewhere, no kidding. Someone was throwing it away. Let’s hear it for FREE! Paul keeps meaning to paint the poor thing, but honestly, that’s so low on the list of tasks it may never happen. Works great, though, so I’m happy.

Anyway, the radiator gets full of hot water which makes it…um…hot. The fan we’ve got tucked behind it blows the heat into the yurt. We can get about a 30 degree lift off this one, small radiator, which is surprising, given the volume of space in the yurt (16 foot tall ceiling!). The water then passes through the radiator and back to the tank—minus the heat it has left in the yurt—and this, cooler, water lowers the water temp in the tank. Which turns the fan on. Which stokes the fire. All in this endless feedback loop. See? Nifty.

Here’s the best part: when it’s cold and we’re keeping a fire going night and day, Paul loads the fire box once in the morning and once in the evening, and that’s it. The heater does the rest. Anyone who has lived with a wood stove knows the endless rounds of tending and feeding the fire, night and day. TIn comparison, twice in 24 hours is like a miracle.

One of the properties of water is that it takes a long time to change temperature, which is both good and bad for a waterstove. On one hand, it means that it takes a long time, several hours, for the radiator to start feeling warm if we’re starting from cold water. So heating takes a little planning. On the other hand, it also means that once you have heated all that water, you can save wood by letting the fire go out during the day (unless it’s really cold) and the radiator will continue putting out heat all day long, and even into the next day, because it takes so long for the water to cool back down. Which is really, really nice.

Honestly, we’re under using the stove—with another radiator we could get a lot more heat out of that water and into the yurt. A 30 degree lift is usually plenty for our mild climate, and we have the propane back-up to kick in if we need it, say on really cold nights. But, if we were to do it again, I would have scraped harder to find the money to put in the tubing under the floor that would have given us radiant floor heating, which we could have heated with the waterstove. With the whole floor as a heat transfer point, instead of one little radiator, we could get a lot more than a 30 degree lift when we wanted it. The stove could totally handle it. But at the time we had no idea we would get a waterstove, so I try to be easy on myself about it. House building is full of regrets. Oh well.

As it is, though, we can run pipes to the bathhouse, and to the new Noah House, and to any other buildings we put up that need heat, putting a small radiator in each, and heat all three structures with one fire. That’s cool. I mean, warm. In theory, we could heat our water with it, too. A waterstove-heated hot tub would be awesome.

Of course, entropy and the list of tasks being what it is, the heater might rust out by the time we get to any of that.

Although, we could always get another (used) stove when this one kicks it, and use the piping we’ve already laid, so we’re probably good either way. Given how happy we are with it, I’d be surprised if we didn’t replace this one. We call it Calcifer. What? You haven’t seen Miazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle? Go see it! It’s great. Or read Diana Wynn Jone’s book of the same title. It’s great, too!

In the interests of fair reporting, here’s one more downside to the heater: it uses a small amount of electricity to power the fan and the pump, so when the power goes out, without a generator or a battery set up, there’s no way to get the heat from the stove to the yurt. Which is one reason we keep our propane heater. (It’s also better for instant shots of heat, say when the mornings are chilly, but the day is going to be warm and we don’t need to fire up the whole heater.) So if the power comes and goes where you are, this may not be the best option, unless you hook it up to a solar panel or something, which we would love to do. So many projects, so little time.

But on the whole, we love it. Paul loads it up and we’re good for twelve hours. I don’t have to tend a wood stove during the day (or night, which we had to do at the farm house or the fire went out—that sucked), and we have no smoke, dirt, or wood in the house, just clean, radiant heat, bringing our propane bill down to very small, manageable amount. Highly recommended as an alternative to an in-house wood stove.

how to recycle oak flooring

We floored the yurt with recycled oak flooring. We paid $800 dollars for 800 square feet of the stuff (its sells for $3-$5 / square foot, new), and since the yurt wasn’t ready for it, we lived in our old farmhouse with metal bound bundles of it filling our living room knee deep for about three months. I don’t recommend that, but it was too good a deal to pass up and we had nowhere else to put it. Ah, the silly life of recycled-house-builders.

I’ll show you how in a minute, but first, here is the yurt platform with the flooring put down. You can see the ragged edge around the circle that hasn’t been trimmed yet, and the finish is the old finish—nothing has been sanded yet. This stuff had already had the old nails removed, which was part of the appeal of the deal.

And here they are, sanding:

The crazy thing about yurt flooring is that you have to put it down before you put the yurt up because the yurt lattice will sit right on the floor—so you can’t finish it once the yurt is up (unless you’re willing to leave a strip unfinished around the edges). Once they started laying the stuff down, the race was on to get it finished and the yurt up, before the next rain. How do they do this part in Seattle, I wonder?

On the night before the yurt was to go up, they were projecting 30% chance of showers, so Paul rigged up the biggest tarp on the planet. Here he is, putting on another coat of finish before the big Yurt Raising.

Luckily, it did not rain a drop. Phew.

Here is what the floor looked like once it was sanded, and finished:

Absolutely beautiful.

There are lots of places to get used flooring. Craigslist is a good source of scrap from larger projects, though the quantities may be small. Sometimes you can get the extra that a person ordered that was never installed, extra boxes/bundles from a big job. Other time it might be used and you’ll have to take out the old nails. Either way, you can get some really nice flooring for incredibly cheap. Other options are to get the flooring that is being pulled up in a remodeling job—this is how we got our yurt floor. Another good source is used building supply stores—there is a big Habitat store near here that we use for a lot things. Of course, if you have to get flooring from several sources in order to get enough for your project, it’s better to go with unfinished stuff, because when you sand it down, it will all be the same anyway.

But back to the present. We—or rather, Paul—is putting flooring down in the little Noah House today. With the yurt, he had to finish the floor after it was put down, but this time he is using pre-finished stuff, mostly because he got a good deal on a used flooring gun off of craigslist that came with a load of the stuff. With recycled building, sometimes you have to take what’s available when you need it and make it work.

Here is the truck load of scraps from someone else’s floor. An advantage to building a tiny house is that the leftover scrap from some huge McMansion is enough to be valuable material at the tinier scale.

Here Paul is using a grinder to cut off the old nails. This goes pretty quickly, and puts off cool looking sparks. The kids love that part. Luc especially liked the job of gathering up the cut off nails with one of his dump trucks and driving them to the Nail Dump. With sound effects.

When you’re ready to lay the floor, you put tar paper down, then start putting in one strip at a time, using the flooring nail gun to fix it into place. The pictures below are from from the little 6×6 extension on the side of the Noah House. It would have been Noah’s bathroom, but I think we’ll make it into a Luc Room, with a fun-to-climb bunk bed sort of arrangement that Paul will build. A cool little boy space.

Okay, flooring guns. Basically, your options are to buy a new gun (expensive, and if you don’t have a huge job, a waste once you’re done, though reselling might be a good option), buy a used gun (might not work, no returns), rent a gun (time consuming to go get it and return it, and you have to get all the work done in one day as the cost for more than one day is often the same as the cost of a used gun), or hammer it in in by hand (takes a very long time, wearing on your muscles, not as finished a result, could be a good choice if the area is very small). Like I said, Paul opted to get a used gun—he’ll probably resell it and recoup most of the cost.

Here he is using it.

It’s a cool, very specialized tool, holding the flooring strip in place, lining up the nail, and driving it in when you hit the back of it with a mallet. It fires the nail in with a puff of air (the red hose is going to a compressor), so you don’t have to apply a lot of force (which is hard on your body, especially with a big floor). It’s very fast. Boom, boom, boom.

The advantage, obviously, with the pre-finished stuff, is that once you get it down, you’re done. And it’s pretty, as well offering a durable surface—good for a little boy’s room. If he was using regular flooring, once it was in place he would have to sand it (probably renting a sander) and then finish it with tung oil, or polyurethane, or whatever suited the situation. I actually like the way the regular flooring looks, better, as there is a beveled groove on the pre-finished that bothers me (instead of the pieces fitting flush with each other), and the finish looks a little fake. But for what we paid, and for what it’s being used for—and the fact that we got it with the gun—it’s a good choice for this space.

Here is the completed floor in that little room.

Pretty, huh? With a space this small, the whole thing only took a few hours. Happy flooring!

how to recycle a tiny house, day five

After taking a day off for the big snow, the guys were back at work for their fifth day recycling our new, tiny house (see the last few posts for details if you are new to the story). They arrived just about the time I was going out to the barn. Here is Fancy saying “Good morning,” and “What took you so long?”

As I blearily made my way up the path, a grinding noise and then pop! Out fell a piece of the wall. We’d decided on an extra window and here they are, putting it in before I’ve even cleaned out the milker.

Here Monty is on the inside, trimming out the new hole.

And here the window is a hour later, installed, and surrounded by shiny siding.

Next came the interior walls, pine beadboard….

and while that was going on, outside, they got the deck started.

Meanwhile, Sophie was also hard at work building her own house.

I love the back view.

By the afternoon, the deck was nearly done.

And the interior was starting to look quite lovely.

The ceiling and the walls in little side room were the last things remaining unfinished as they packed up for the day.

Here is the view from the back at the end of day five.

And the front.

From a pile of junk, it has regained it’s cuteness! It was there, and now it is here, re-materialized, reconstituted, resurrected! Recycled!

My favorite country music lyrics of the day are also celebratory:

Maybe I’ll get me a new tattoo, or take my harley on a three day cruise, or even grow me a fu man chu….

Tomorrow, they’ll finish up the last details, and then, this weekend, we’ll get the electricity running out to it and start to fill it with…well, toys, probably. Oodles and oodles of toys. Books, too, as Paul has promised me mucho book shelves for my birthday, and maybe that will ease the book pressure as we currently have leaning towers of books on every surface, those not already covered with toys, in the yurt. We need to get a couch, maybe one of those futon ones that open into a bed—future guests, rejoice! And a railing for Sophie’s loft, and, and, and—

Moving the house is nearly complete—now comes the fun part of turning into part of our home.

ETA: They finished on day six. On the seventh day they rested. And Paul got to work. Ceiling sheetrock, oak flooring, interior trim and bookshelves…all lie before us. I mean, before him. But the moving of the house is complete and the recycling experiment is a success. This house cost my cousin Noah about $7000 in materials to build, and cost us about $4000 to move. Go tiny, and building a house becomes quite doable!

ETA 8/1/2009: Here you can see pictures of the finished interior. Woo hoo!

Click here to go back to day four, the afternoon.

how to recycle a tiny house, day four, afternoon

Continuing on in the amazing process of recycling an entire house. Here we are after the guys came back to work after lunch.

Monty started working inside, making the door between the two sections, putting up the loft, putting in the electrical outlets, etc, while Matt and Jose worked on the siding on the little side room.

Here are some shots of the inside so far.

Next, they started putting the tin on the roof. Sophie was totally interested in this part, I think because of the danger-factor of these guys high up in the air. She’s going to be one of those people they drop out of helicopters to snow board or something, little danger-junkie that she is. She took these pictures. I love the one of their feet.

Next the windows.

Jose continued on putting up the siding. It’s starting to look like itself again!

Here is how it looked as they were packing up for the day.

Recall that this:

is how it looked that morning, just eight hours before! A platform. That’s it. Now there is a house! How weird is that?

At the rate they work, they have maybe a day left, finishing the siding, and putting up the interior walls and ceiling. Oh, and the deck. The kids and I have had a great time watching them—it really is like a circus act, what with the ladder walking, speed building, and feats of strength. At one point they were throwing things up to the roof guy—tape measure, extension cord, pieces of wood, cordless drills—as needed the ground guy would just toss a thing high, high, high, to have it plucked effortlessly out of the air by the roof guy, whomever it was at the moment. It was like a dance, and they had obviously practiced a million times. That was cool.

And it’s a darn good thing they got so much done in one day, because here is what it looked like the next morning:

Covered in snow! I hope they take today off.

Click here to go back to day four, the morning. Click here to go to day five.

how to recycle a tiny house, day four

After taking the weekend off, the carpentry crew was back at eight this morning, slamming it into gear with their incredibly loud music and their hammers and full on get-it-done work ethic. I’ve been staring through the window in awe at their industry.

They’d been here about 45 minutes when it looked like this.

It’s just amazing to watch a building appear where there was nothing. Essentially, a recycled house is a pre-fab house—my cousin Noah fabricated it in its old spot. The fact that it is so small means four guys can handle a whole wall section and the whole thing is going up like a magic trick. Watch….

After getting the outer three walls up, they started on the tricker (because of the height) front fall, muscling it into position.

You can see the outer two guys are hauling ass on ropes while the two inside guys do their Incredible Hulk faces as they push that thing up. Then the rope guys held it while the ladder guys scurried around fixing it into place. I think I held my breath the whole time. It probably best that I’m not a carpenter or I would keep passing out from lack of oxygen.

Next came the lower front wall panel.

You see the guy on the ladder? Ladders to me are things to try to make absolutely stable—they are NOT TO MOVE while I am on them. But these dudes think of ladders more like…stilts. Or maybe surf boards. They just stick’em there, scurry up, and it’s rocking back and forth as the lean here or there, stretched way the hell out—one guy even kind of walked his ladder down the wall, while he was standing on it. It’s a carpentry circus out there.

Paul, who used to be into rock climbing, scoffs at ladders. He tends to just crawl up the walls, balancing the ball of one foot on some invisible ledge on the wall, swinging a leg up and over the roof edge, hammering out on some precipice like he’s a spider monkey. A spider monkey with a hammer. I, on the other hand, am good at standing here with my coffee and watching out the window. That’s my part in all this. Oh, and I take pictures. They’ve all been really good natured about my picture taking. But I suspect they think I’m a fruitcake.

Back to the action. The roof.

This guy, Monty, is up twenty feet in the air, his feet balanced on those little rafters, hammering away, like its nothing.

I was impressed, anyway.

Here’s what it looked like from the back after about three hours.

Four hours in…

And it’s time for lunch.

I snuck this picture through the yurt window—they just looked so cute, sitting in a row like that, admiring their progress. And they should. They’ve been busting their humps out there, drinking their red bull and blasting their country music. Yurt walls let sound pass right through, which can be cool at night, listening to the owls outside—but that country music is as loud in the yurt as it is out there for the guys to hear over the pounding of their hammers, and I’m realizing I’ve never really listened to country music. Most of the songs start with something like, “Sometimes I hate my job,” or, “My brother just got out of prison,” but then by the end they seem to be about gratitude, like, “my ticker keeps on ticking,’ or, “I’ve got a cold bear on a friday night.” Appreciating the small things in life. I can get behind that, I reckon.

Half the day’s work is done. Tune in for the afternoon’s update!

Click here to go to day four, the afternoon. Click here to go back to day three.