Wicked Tiny House - Finish Work
First up for interior finishes, putting up the cedar tongue and groove (T&G) walls! The cedar was milled in Oakfield, Maine and I got a great deal by getting it directly from the mill. The T&G was "camp grade", so it was knotty and had "character". The first step was prepping the boards by sanding with 80 grit, 150 grit, and 220 grit, which was time consuming and messy. Then wood conditioner, natural stain, one coat of poly, and then sanding again with 220 grit. The final coat of poly will go on once the boards are installed. I started installation with an easy section, the small "nook" wall at the back of the house. It looked great, and I was super happy with the look. From there, I continued along the kitchen wall, and eventually up to the ceiling. Next was the loft, and finally the bathroom, kitchen, and finishing the living area. Because the wood was camp grade, many of the pieces were not perfectly straight and required some brute force to get lined up.
With the interior roughed in, it was time to start putting on the finishes. When I bought the frame and trailer, the previous owner had a stack of old pine boards off an old barn. Some were floor boards, some were siding, some were painted, and most had quite a few nails in them. I had originally thrown them out of the house and considered them scrap wood, but when I started to look at flooring costs, I decided to give them another look. I sanded one down, put some stain on, and it looked amazing! Flooring found! They needed a lot of work though. First, I spent 3 hours carefully inspecting each board and pulling out every single nail I could find. Then, I borrowed a planer, and planed them all down to 3/4" thick. Some of the boards only took one pass. Many of them took 3, 4, and even 5 passes, so it was a very time consuming process. With the planing done, I sanded each board with a belt sanded with 40 grit and then 80 grit sand paper. Then it was on to a handheld orbital sander with 80 grit, 150 grit, and finally 220 grit. Next, wood conditioner, stain, a coat of poly, sand with 220 grit, coat of poly, sand with 220 grit, and a final coat of poly. Very time intensive, but I am extremely happy with the results, and the price was right! I installed the bathroom floor first and then moved on to the main floor. These were all previously used boards, so the width and length of each board was different, and most of them were not straight. Needless to say, installation was a challenge. It was part jigsaw puzzle trying to find pieces that fit and part brute strength manhandling them into position. It took the better part of a day to put the floor in, but I am very happy with the results!
One of the more difficult things about the interior of the tiny house is that almost nothing is a standard size. You can't just go to Home Depot and pick out a set of cabinets and put them into a tiny house. Almost everything needs to be custom built which is either expensive or time consuming. Being the cheap guy that I am, I went the time consuming route. The kitchen cabinets were framed with 2x3 lumber, and finished with cedar T&G that I ripped/cut to size as needed. The cabinet doors & drawers were again made with a cedar frame with a 1/4" plywood center for character. Custom shelves were built for the bathroom and clothes closet. Six 20x20x20 storage boxes were built to act as the couch/chairs/additional storage. The boxes were again framed with cedar T&G that I cut/ripped into 1x1 pieces. The four sides of the boxes are 1/4" plywood and the top/bottoms are 3/8" plywood. I wanted something unique for a ladder, so when I saw some recently cut smaller hemlock trees, I saw a great opportunity! I set the logs aside, and a 8 months later de-barked them and fashioned them into a rustic folding ladder. I cut the ladder in 1/2" and put hinges on so that when not in use, the ladder can fold up and slide between the cabinets and refrigerator.
Probably the most challenging custom project for the tiny house was the countertops. I have been collecting sea glass for years, and although I knew it didn't make sense to lug it around in the house, I still didn't want to get rid of it. The solution? Incorporate it into the countertops! I've seen plenty of counters made of cement with the sea glass pressed in, but I wanted something better looking than that. That's when I came up with the idea for a backlit sea glass countertop! The first problem was, what to use for a base? With cement, you could just use plywood, but in order for light to make it through, I needed something clear. 1/4" Plexiglas did the trick. Next, what to use for a counter surface? I decided on Kleer Koat, which is manufactured by US Composites for the restaurant industry. It is typically used as a durable finish for wood bar tops. The final problem was backlight just the sea glass without having the entire counter lit up. After a couple of trial runs, I found that the best combination was to put down a layer of epoxy about 1/8" thick, press the sea glass into the epoxy, and then cover the entire thing with black sand. Any less epoxy and not enough sand would stick to be opaque. Too much and the epoxy would migrate up through the sand and cover the sea glass. Once we were confident in our methods, I got to work constructing the counter. I started by creating a wood frame for the Plexiglas. I cut 1/4" grooves in the frame that the Plexiglas fits into and then screwed the frame together. Then we did the first 1/8" epoxy pour, pressed in the sea glass piece by piece, and covered with a mixture of sand from Martha's Vineyard and black arts & crafts sand. I let that sit overnight, and the next morning dumped all the excess sand off the counter. The results were perfect. Next, I did three separate 1/4" pours, waiting about 6 hours between each pour. With the bulk of the work done, I installed the counter, and then painted the wooden frame and backsplash with the same epoxy mixed with graphite to turn it black.