This week’s guest is a longtime member of my online tiny house community, Tiny House Engage. His name is Bill Knapp, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to watch his build take shape over the last couple of years. Bill is a retired educator and he’s quite skilled in construction, among other disciplines. He put together a fascinating PowerPoint presentation so we decided to share the video of this podcast interview, which I normally don’t share beyond Tiny House Engage.
In This Episode:
- Electrical design and solar setup
- Water collection, storage, and plumbing that won’t freeze
- Walls, trailer, and floorplan
- Collecting materials and building the tiny house
- Lessons learned and fortuitous accidents
- Finding parking and preparing the site
Links and Resources:
Bill Knapp is a retired industrial Arts teacher who after 8 years of teaching teenagers General Shop, printing, and drafting; migrated to teaching adults Industrial skills such as pneumatics, robotics, and electronics. He retired in 2005 and managed his own construction company renovating inner-city row houses and single-family homes. Bill started designing his THOW when he purchased a Scraped 33′ travel trailer frame in 2019. Since then he has completed the exterior and is now working on the interior fit-out.
Bill's PowerPoint Presentation:
Bill lives with Leo, the best stair-tester there is
There is a little porch over the hitch
The diagonal pieces allow bill to forgo rigid sheathing in the corners of the house
He did have to build new bump-out slides
A part of the electrical system
He was thoughtful about his insulation and sheathing
The leaded glass cupboard doors were a great find!
Moving the tiny house was an adventure, completed by getting stuck!
The original plan was to mount the solar panels on the roof, but that changed to a freestanding panel array
Bill Knapp 0:00
And I had a large tarp going diagonal across the wall, and the heavy rain filled the tarp and pulled the wall down, bending the framing of the west end wall completely out of, and destroying it.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 247 with Bill Knapp. Bill Knapp is a longtime member of my online tiny house community, Tiny House Engage. And I have been watching as his tiny house build has taken shape over the last couple of years. Bill is a retired educator, and he is quite skilled in construction and a lot of other disciplines. And he actually put together a really fantastic slide presentation that goes along with what he is saying on the show today. In fact, if you tuned into my Tiny House Summit, this is kind of like a Summit presentation. So I highly recommend checking out the slides. For this talk, you can follow along yourself, those will be at thetinyhouse.net/247. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/247. We'll also be sharing the video version of this podcast. We don't usually share this beyond Tiny House Engage. But since this is such a visual presentation, we thought it would be nice for you to be able to just watch bill go through the presentation himself. So that again is at thetinyhouse.net/247.
I hope you enjoy our conversation. And if you do I hope you'll leave us a five star review on Apple podcasts or Spotify and share it with any friends, family or colleagues via social media or however you want to share it if you think that they could learn from this conversation as well. Also, if you're listening and you don't follow the show, make sure to hit that follow button in Spotify and Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to so you get a fresh episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast delivered to you every single Friday. I publish episodes on Friday mornings usually so you wake up and the new episode is there for you. And if you want to hear from me even more, head over to thetinyhouse.net/newsletter where you can sign up for the weekly Tiny Tuesdays newsletter. This is a roundup of Tiny House news summaries of the new podcast episode and more written by me every Tuesday. Alright, let's get on with the show.
Right I am here with Bill Knapp. Bill is a retired industrial arts teacher who after eight years of teaching teenagers general shop, printing, and drafting, migrated to teaching adults industrial skills such as pneumatics, robotics and electronics. He retired in 2005 and managed his own construction company renovating inner city row houses and single family homes. Bill started designing his tiny house on wheels when he purchased a scrapped 33 foot travel trailer frame in 2019. Since then, he has completed the exterior and is now working on the interior. Bill Knapp, welcome to the show.
Bill Knapp 3:41
Thank you, Ethan. Great to be here.
Ethan Waldman 3:43
Yeah, great to have you. And we've known each other for a little while as you've been a member of my Tiny House Engage community. So I've really gotten to watch your tiny house build kind of grow and take shape over over time. And it's been it's been really fun to watch.
Bill Knapp 3:59
This is my partner is Leo. He's a Papillon.
Ethan Waldman 4:04
Okay, we're seeing a very cute dog.
Bill Knapp 4:06
He likes to sit on my lap while I'm working on the computer.
Ethan Waldman 4:08
Nice. All right, Leo. Then we've got Leo and Bill here on the interview. Well, Bill, so how long were you kind of dreaming of doing a tiny house before you found your your trailer frame?
Bill Knapp 4:27
It was at least three years.
Ethan Waldman 4:30
Bill Knapp 4:31
I was so watching a lot of tiny house shows. I was sitting in my living room looking at this big empty house and figured why do I want to keep all this when it's just me and my tiny dog? Leo's only nine pounds.
Ethan Waldman 4:51
Oh, that's that's like that's actually less than our cat who is no longer with us. He was very old but our cat was like 13 pounds. So so yeah, so you're looking around and all this space and was was a travel trailer frame. Was that always your plan? Or were you looking for any, you know, are you looking at utility trailers or tiny house trailers as well?
Bill Knapp 5:16
Well, I'm an avid sailor. And I was considering living on a sailboat.
Ethan Waldman 5:22
Bill Knapp 5:23
Versus living on a travel trailer.
Ethan Waldman 5:25
Bill Knapp 5:26
And it was kind of a, which is best for me, and which is going to work out better. And living in the northeast, especially of sailing on the Chesapeake. It's a lot of offseason time, it's almost six months where it's too cold to sail. And then people kind of hunker down and air sailboats who live aboard. So I didn't think it would be too practical.
Ethan Waldman 5:52
Right, yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. I would imagine it'd be pretty chilly living living aboard all winter.
Bill Knapp 5:59
Right. So what I ended up doing was decided to go with a tiny house. And I was looking into buying a trailer. And I went to a trade show that was held in northern Maryland. And there was a couple of trailer manufacturers there. And there was also companies that built her rival tiny homes. But I decided I wanted to design and build my own.
Ethan Waldman 6:29
Okay. So when you got the travel trailer frame, did you have to demolish? Was it already demolished? Or was there a travel trailer on top of it?
Bill Knapp 6:39
Well, why don't I show the PowerPoint presentation?
Ethan Waldman 6:43
Yeah, let's do that. So. So for those who are listening on the show, Bill has put together a really wonderful slide deck of photos and reflections from his build. And those are going to be on the show notes page for this episode. And I can actually tell you I will I will announce the episode number and the show notes page kind of at the end, also at the beginning. So I don't know off the top of my head right now during this interview, but it'll be there. Alright, so we were talking we were talking demolition?
Bill Knapp 7:20
Yeah. So I put this PowerPoint presentation together for friends and family as a history of my build. And then when you invited me to participate in the podcast I thought, "Well, I'll, I'll complete it and use it for the podcast." So the first part is, I had a dream, I then use it as design. And then I started a build. And that's my planning process, dream, design, build. And in the, in between the dream and the design is a lot of visualization. I'm a visual learner. And so I think a lot about what something would look like. And then I go in and put together technical specifications. So my dream in 2016, watching a lot of tiny home shows and seeing a lot of tiny homes in places like conventions was to create an off grid tiny home that allows me to live within retirement income, and be able to travel. I love to travel, especially sailing. This past year. I was in Italy, traveling north of Sicily and Aeolian Islands. So that's my passion. So what I visualized was a home in the woods somewhere in Maryland. The reason for Maryland is it's close to where I sail on the Chesapeake.
Ethan Waldman 8:58
Bill Knapp 8:58
When I had this dream that I would find an abandoned farm where some Corporation had taken over the farmland and the farmhouse was no longer in use, and park a tiny house behind it and rent that little bit of land from the corporation. So the part of my goals in my dream was no mortgage. I would own the THOW free and clear. I build it using my own labor and only with available cash. And because it's off-grid I'd have no utility bills and located THOW close to the Chesapeake. Some of my specifications like Dan came up with to meet those goals. Was that it would be solar powered. I'd have propane heating and cooking an instant hot propane hot water heater, a composting toilet so I wouldn't have to have a septic system. To reduce electric consumption, a low voltage LED lighting, rainwater collection and storage to I don't have to pay for city water, or well water. And I wanted it to be safe. That meant to me fire resistant. So I designed it with steel framing, fiber wool insulation, steel siding and roofing in mine. Now the reason for the fiber wool is I don't know if you know it, but fiberglass insulation is extremely flammable.
I then did a bunch of research, I looked into water storage and delivery, how to collect rainwater, how to store it safely, what's involved in solar components to build a solar system that's totally off the grid. What are the different insulation options, different types of heating systems, and how to cook and store food with little refrigeration? I then do some test systems. And the first one that I built was a solar array. And the electric circuits for that evolved over time as I did more and more research on the YouTube. So I started out with panels and batteries and a charging device. And then I added circuit breakers and battery switch and some other protection devices. The water collection, I looked into a big storage tanks, these big plastic things that you see on farms, or that people who do pressure washing have on their trailers. And then for my water storage and delivery since I'm a sailor, I looked at what we have on boats, and how the pumps were and how the tank is filled and purified. And then how do we heat the water?
Ethan Waldman 12:02
I'm curious with the water storage in the tank. And maybe this isn't an issue for your climate in Maryland. But will you have a way to prevent that water from freezing? Is that inside of the cabin? Or is it is it outside?
Bill Knapp 12:17
Both. I have a 250 gallon tank outside that collects the rainwater from the roof of two buildings. And then inside the ceiling of my tiny house is a 65 gallon water storage tank where the water up using a pump into the tank. And I have not heated my tiny house yet. And that tank has had water in it for three years and has yet to freeze even though we had temperature as low as five degrees.
Ethan Waldman 12:56
Wow. And what do you account for that?
Bill Knapp 13:00
The fact that I don't have any water in the pipes. I installed the valves right at the tank. Yep, yep. So back to my solar system. And we'll talk more about the water system. When I'm showing that picture. I had a 30 amp AC panel that I installed. And I then connected that to my house during the build to give me a live outlets to use for power tools. And I put together a transfer switch between the house power and an inverter that was connected to the solar system. And the solar system has a charge controller connected to batteries. And I'm up to four batteries now in the battery bank. And that powers everything in my tiny home except for the AC outlets. And at this time I'm not using the AC outlets for anything. I'm using the 12 volts or lighting, USB charge ports and the power the inverter. So when I started designing the electrical system I had a vision of four rooms on the far left or the east side of the tiny house would be a bedroom followed by a bathroom then a kitchen and then a living room and the living room would be the biggest room the vision would have both AC and DC supply to each other room. And then I tried a couple of different charge controllers I ended up with a one cold up owl Mr which is an MPPT charge controller. And you can see this is connected in the picture I have to My solar panels, and I'm getting off of three panels 14.5 volts. And on a overcast day, I'm getting about three watts out of it. Okay, so it's constantly charging my batteries.
Ethan Waldman 15:17
Right. And that's the key is that, you know, even though you're not getting a ton on those cloudy days, if you have a big enough battery array, you can store enough energy to get you through.
Bill Knapp 15:27
So for the plumbing specifications, when I looked into collecting water off the roof of buildings, you get a lot of debris. So the first thing to do is to screen the water as it's coming into the big tank. Then I'm I'm putting a whole house water filtration system, which is a just a big cartridge in line with the water that I pump into the tank. So the water going into the tank goes through that filter first. And then I decided to put the tank in the attic of the bathroom. And all of my plumbing and this is the other reason for the not freezing is in an interior wall between the bathroom and the kitchen.
Ethan Waldman 16:17
Bill Knapp 16:18
So I don't have to run pipes in the exterior wall at all. They just go along the inside of the wall, connecting to the kitchen saying the shower, the bathroom sink. And I have an optional hook up in the bathroom for a washer dryer. Okay, and I'm using a regular boat, DC 12 volt pressure pump to give me water pressure.
Ethan Waldman 16:46
As a as a boater, I'm curious, is there a brand or model of pump that you've that you've liked, because I'll share. So I've been using small pumps as well in my tiny house. Mine is not DC. It's an AC model, but they burn out for me every couple of years. And that's with very intermittent use. So I'm curious if there's a particular type that you that you recommend.
Bill Knapp 17:13
Well, I don't know yet because I haven't actually started living in the tiny house. But I do plan for complete placement by putting an excellent panel in the design. So the pump is accessible over the toilet. And there's a just a door to get to the pump to totally replace it. And it also allows me to get to the water filter.
Ethan Waldman 17:38
Bill Knapp 17:40
So my plumbing design is pretty straightforward. You know I've got the water tank up near the roof. I've got a gravity feed down through a valve into the pump. And then from the pump, it branches off to the instant hot water heater. And then from there, it splits up into hot and cold water to the shower, the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, the laundry hookup. And then I have drain lines as well are all of those things that go into a gray water tank that's mounted underneath the trailer but inside insulation. Okay, now I did buy a 12 volt water heater pad to put onto the water tank and under the gray water tank. If I ever have problems with freezing.
Ethan Waldman 18:35
Smart. I didn't even know that that product existed but it's crossed my mind that you know my water tank is directly in contact with the floor. And that you know it could get pretty cold there. Sure.
Bill Knapp 18:51
No wall system because I went with steel framing I had a lot of space to fill because you know unlike studs, it's not solid, it's a U shape. So I took me a lot of time to put in the fiber wool insulation in. Fiber wool is a fire barrier,
Ethan Waldman 19:16
Bill Knapp 19:17
that I've been using for decades in commercial buildings. So when you build a wall in a building, you have to have a fire break between floors. And you can either put in solid wood, or you can put in fiber wool and that's how I learned about the fiber wool. And then I decided to put an extra insulation so rather than wood sheathing on the outside of the walls, I put one inch foil face foam board and that is the insulation factor plus it's a reflective on both the inside keep the heat in and the outside. Keep air the heat out with an air gap between the steel siding and the foam board.
Ethan Waldman 20:07
Okay, so two quick questions. When you say fire wool you mean, I think that you're referring to rocksol or rock wool? I think those are also names for it, right?
Bill Knapp 20:17
Yes, that's the brand name.
Ethan Waldman 20:17
Bill Knapp 20:19
Ethan Waldman 20:20
Yep. Rockwell? Yeah.
Bill Knapp 20:20
Ethan Waldman 20:21
And I'm also a fan of that of that insulation, for many of the reasons that you've, you've mentioned. And then my other question, and we might, we might talk about this when we get to the build photos. You know, so instead of sheathing you've put, you know, foil foil faced foamboard is, do you need a rigid sheeting? I mean, because I would imagine on a on a stick frame structure, you would need some kind of sheathing. But is it the fact that your house is framed with metal? Does that make it so that you don't need a rigid sheathing or will you add a sheathing on the outside of the foam board?
Bill Knapp 20:58
I will not add a sheathing on the outside of the foam board. Both steel and stick built framing requires diagonal bracing.
Ethan Waldman 21:10
Bill Knapp 21:11
When I was growing up as a teenager, they built a housing development near where I played. And they were using at that time back in the 1960s, a cardboard type material. And I watched them put in diagonal bracing in the stick build because the cardboard wasn't rigid enough. And then I guess they didn't pass inspection and they had a put regular half inch sheathing on the corners of the structure. But I don't have to do that. And you'll see it when I get to the framing section.
Ethan Waldman 21:49
Hmm, interesting. Okay.
Bill Knapp 21:52
So then then I had a really positive thing happen of good luck. In 2018. While I was looking online for use trailers, or trailers to buy, an ad came up of a guy who started to build a tiny home in his backyard. And he realized he was in over his head. He was an HVAC contractor, I guess he didn't know construction. And I bought bought at a certain time I looked at it. And here's a picture of me bringing it to my home. He had gotten this far as a total demolition of what was a travel trailer. And he built a two by four jack on top of the steel framing. And then he had put pressure treated three quarter inch plywood over that. So some of the features of the trailer. It had 33 foot long, it was Double Axel had a significant steel frame plus of four leveling jacks. The original travel trailer had a 11 foot four and slide out with the yield rectangular tubes, one that fit inside a bigger one that gave them the ability to slide it out. And then he had built this two by four deck with the sub floor. It also had a evidently a written in the original trailer, two doorways and so it has fold out steel stairs. And what I'm showing now is a picture of the steel for the slide out. So what I ended up doing was having to make new slides because the ones that came with the trailer he had cut off for some reason. And his hydraulic cylinder was bent and mobile hydraulic system was missing. So I went to a local steel fabricator and had to make me new slides. And then I cut out the two by four framing and set it with my own framing inside the floor perimeter so that you can have the slide out all the way in when it's being moved. So the trailer size and stair locations established a parameter for the design of my tiny home. So what I've got up there was a picture of the finished outside of the tiny home with the bump out fully extended. And you can see have a porch over the tiny home Trailer Hitch that's removable when I extended the roof as a permanent roof out over the trailer hitch. So when I I rented a truck to move the tiny home, it had to have a flatbed, it couldn't be a box truck. So in 2019, I started my build on the trailer. And the first thing I did was I laid out with masking tape the floor plan. Now, for almost a year, yeah,
Ethan Waldman 25:25
Everyone should do this. And you should do it before like in, do it early, do it before you even have a trailer like find, you know, go in your garage, go out somewhere flat, and just keep out the floorplan I love it.
Bill Knapp 25:40
Absolutely, no, I had the advantage of having done this in many homes, you know, I would have a customer come to me who had bought a row house in the inner city and say, "Can you add a bathroom on the first floor?" Because all those row houses, the bathrooms are on the second floor.
Ethan Waldman 25:59
Bill Knapp 25:59
And so I would have to find a space, that minimum of five foot by eight foot to put in a bathroom. So I knew what I needed, size wise, what I didn't know was how much space I need for a Murphy bed. And so part of my design as the back wall of the bedroom, slanting out at about a 30 degree angle, so that I get an additional four feet of space. At the ceiling level, that gave me the ability to put up a full size double bed in to the mine bedroom that folds up against the wall. So being a handyman and doing construction, I'm constantly replacing windows and doors. And so over the next year, from 2018, when I got the trailer to 2019, I started collecting things. And I had the good fortune of finding quite a few windows. Some of them were used, some of them were sold at auction. And then I also collected doors. And the doors were all used that I recycled for ones that I replaced for customers.
Ethan Waldman 27:19
Bill Knapp 27:21
So I have a house in Pennsylvania with a good sized backyard. And so I decided to build the tiny house there and then move it to a site in Maryland somewhere in the future. So that's what I did. And the picture I'm showing now is my backyard with my ranch house behind the tiny house trailer. And I've got the initial framing started for the bedroom wall, which is the east wall in my concept. And the reason I call it by points of the compass, is I designed the roof to be two thirds in the south and 1/3 in the north. And I was originally going to put solar panels on the roof. And I continue with the framing, selecting which Windows went in which rooms,
Ethan Waldman 28:23
Bill Knapp 28:24
and built the entire frame in sections, and then lifted it up. And if you look in the picture, when you get to see the PowerPoint presentation, you'll see that in all the walls, there are diagonal pieces of framing. And even in the short wall underneath. On the end, there are diagonal pieces and that's what gives me the ability to not have to have the rigid sheathing on my corners. Right now there's also diagonal pieces coming down bracing the wall to prevent it from oil and overwhelm on building it. But those were later removed. And here's my back wall. This was the first design and you can see one of the diagonal braces on the wall and it's set in flush to the wall. So why not the the framing stud to fit tight against the vertical studs.
Ethan Waldman 29:33
And for those just just listening the back wall there is cantilevered out. So it's at a you know it starts at the floor level and it kind of goes on a diagonal out and away from the trailer.
Bill Knapp 29:46
Exactly. And that gave me an additional four feet in the bedroom and the four feet to go over the trailer hitch. So I then continued to frame the walls. This is an outside project. I didn't have a garage big enough to put it in. So I would cover this with a tarp whenever I wasn't working and use weights to hold the tarp in place. And here you can see that I've got the living room south wall framed out, as well as the bathroom walls. Another thing I do with steel framing is I wrapped the inside of all the window and door openings with pressure treated lumber. And this allows me to use new construction windows to nail the windows with roofing nails into the framing, because you can't nail into a steel stud and using screws that would leave a head that sticks out. I also did the same thing around the doorways so that I could put screws in door frames and make adjustments with the shims to plumb the doors. In this picture, you can also see one of the steel steps fully extended to me that walk up into the tiny home. And in the bottom left corner. You can see that one of the jacks extended to keep it level. Here's a close up of some of the steel bracing and you can see the way I cut the stone and created tabs to screw it on to these vertical framing.
Ethan Waldman 31:26
Yep, you're working with with steel studs that you are these like studs that you purchase at a big box store or these something that you have to order special. Can you tell us a little bit about about your steel? Oh, this slide you're about to.
Bill Knapp 31:43
My disaster. Okay, 24 gauge studs from Home Depot and from Lowe's. And I had a large tarp going diagonal across the wall. And the heavy rain filled the tarp and pulled the wall down bending the framing of the west end wall completely out of and destroying it.
Ethan Waldman 32:07
Bill Knapp 32:07
It turned out that my design hadn't taken into account the fact that this gauge steel was way too weak to support a tiny house. So then I went and researched steel framing because I don't see a going up on commercial buildings all the time to hold up exterior walls. And I discovered a local supplier that sold all different gauges. And so what I did was I tore out the bedroom wall and threw it away and put in 18 gauge studs and 18 gauge steel for the top plate that goes across the top of the studs.
Ethan Waldman 32:53
Bill Knapp 32:54
every four feet in my walls. So the outside corners had to 18 gauge. And then every four feet in my partition my walls along the sides of the house was the 18 gauge. Later on, I visited a manufacturer. And I also saw a video of another manufacturer that does steel framing. And they had been using 20 gauge which is more than sufficient for our tiny house. So mine is kind of overbeat built. I then did started thinking seriously about what I'm going to move the thing. And in Pennsylvania and in Maryland, you need to have a license plate on a travel trailer and a tiny home. And there's a whole specification for travel trailers that you've got to meet. And I went to a local trailer inspection place and they gave me the list. And so I scheduled the time to take the trailer to them. And so now I've got a picture of you know, I've got this steel frame sitting on the trailer. And I wanted to have the brakes and old trailer lighting worked on by this trailer place. And so I jacked the whole steel framing up off of the trailer and left it in the yard, set it up on cement blocks and so on. And then I took the trailer to the trailer store. And unfortunately they wouldn't pass the inspection because they said I had to have the entire tiny home completed and all of the things that they had said listed installed before they would do the inspection. So that that's a gotcha for me. And so I took the trailer there, got a little bit of work done, but I had to bring it back and complete it. So during COVID actually starting in January of 2020, I could finish the framing. And I use two by six steel on the rafters. And I caught what's called Bird mouth, which is a notch in the end of the trailer to hook it over the steel at the top of the wall. And then I also not at the peak and overlap the steel so that it was screwed together. Here I did use rigid sheathing, and I put half inch particle board over the entire steel. And then I put a roofing shield on which is a plastic material that comes in big rolls. And then when I was talking with a manufacturer of the steel roofing, they taught me about a product called Double Bubble insulation. Have you ever heard of that?
Ethan Waldman 36:11
Double Bubble insulation? No, tell us about it.
Bill Knapp 36:14
Okay, so I installed that over the sheathing and then put my steel roofing on. And the purpose of the double bubble is to stop the transfer of heat from the steel into the interior of your home during the summer. And it does that through the fact it's foil faced. And then it also reflects your heat that you generate in the winter to heat your home back into the home. So I went to a local Amish of supplier to find out about buying the steel. And he said well they don't make the steel there. They buy it from a local manufacturer who is an Amish manufacturer.
And so when I've got up as a picture of the machine, actually making the siding, and it's the same machine to make the roofing for my tiny home and the machine has a series of rollers and the silver pieces in the rollers are forms that bend the metal into the shape that gives the steel siding its rigidity. And it's a progressive bending starting at the center of the steel and working out to the outside edges. And in the far back of the picture you see a red rectangle, that's a round roll of flat steel and out the other end of the machine you've got a finished piece.
Ethan Waldman 37:51
Bill Knapp 37:52
One of the advantages of going with this fabricator is that I told him the sizes of my panels. And when he fabricates it, it cuts it to length. So I don't want to do any cutting except that around but windows and doors. And so my hardest part was figuring out these angles for the peaks at both ends to cut the steel and then I had another disaster which tended to be a benefit. I had a number of large trees fall down in my front yard. I have an embankment across the front yard where the road is down about four feet below the embankment height. And during of summer you get a lot of heavy rain. And if you get high winds, lots of times what happens is the roots lose their hold on the soil and the tree falls down. I had five trees come down and there are anywhere from 12 to 30 inch diameter. And I found a local guy who rents a portable sawmill
Ethan Waldman 39:09
Bill Knapp 39:10
and he brought it to my driveway and cut up the tree trunks into boards. And I've got a picture here of him actually cutting one of the trunks up. And the reason I did this is it turns out that all of my trees that fell down a hardwood I have trees in the backyard, but this is black locust and the stuff is like iron. And so I ended up with boards for countertops that are two inches thick. I ended up with boards that are three quarters inch thick, and I had him make boards that are half inch thick.
Ethan Waldman 39:49
To question about the rented mill so does the does the rental come with someone who knows how to operate it or do you have to operate it?
Bill Knapp 39:58
Oh no, he wouldn't let me operate it or anywhere near it.
Ethan Waldman 40:02
So, you rent it, he comes, and they do it.
Bill Knapp 40:03
The only thing I was was allowed to was roll the logs.
Ethan Waldman 40:06
Okay, okay. Glad to hear it.
Bill Knapp 40:08
Yeah, he even had a helper, who would take the boards as they came off the machine and hand them to me.
Ethan Waldman 40:15
Okay, that's good.
Bill Knapp 40:17
And the first stack of boards I stacked in my yard. And then I said to myself, "Well, that's silly, I'm going to need to move this stuff." So on my second stack I put in my utility trailer. Now keep this picture in mind. Because later on, I'm going to show you a picture of the thin boards installed inside the tiny house.
Ethan Waldman 40:40
Yeah, and so we're looking at a trailer load of, of beautiful sawn logs in various different shapes and sizes.
Bill Knapp 40:48
Yep, as opposed to the rough bark of the outside of a tree trunk.
Ethan Waldman 40:53
Bill Knapp 40:55
Now seeing a lot of hurricanes in Florida and in New York City, and some softer ones in Pennsylvania. You know, I'm very conscious about hurricane ties. And whenever I build a deck for a customer, one of the building codes is that you've got to put in hurricane ties between the framing and the girders that the deck is resting on. And so I bought these heavy steel, angled brackets and bolted my framing. Down to the trailer, there's a bolt sideways into the vertical studs, and down through the two by four frame of the floor joists. I also took flat pieces of steel and bent it over the top of the rafters, screwed it into the top, came down a stud screwing it into the stud and wrapping it under the framing of the floor. And screwing it up from the bottom creating a continuous piece to hold the roof on.
Ethan Waldman 42:08
Bill Knapp 42:10
The next picture I have is I've got the rigid foam board going up on my walls. And it's all one inch thick. And you can see that I've got some windows seven and some doors. And this is the bedroom and of the tiny home. And all of the roof has finished in this picture.
Ethan Waldman 42:34
Bill Knapp 42:36
So then I started taking my electrical design and implementing it inside the tiny home. Because at this point, once the foam board was on and taped by all the seams, I could start of doing electrical and plumbing rough-ins. Now in the drawing, I use the standard electrical symbols. So circle with four lines sticking out of it is a light fixture. I have a circle with little L next to it. And that is my LED lighting. So that's a light fixture but LED. And then the J D is where I have junction places or a box for a ceiling fan if I ever want to add one. And then the little line with an asset, the end of it. Those are switches. And I like to build things. So when I designed this, I actually have six outlets on the outside of the tiny house, two on the south wall to one of the deck one on the bedroom wall and one on the north wall. Here you seeing two features of my electrical panel for the DC.
Ethan Waldman 44:01
Bill Knapp 44:01
and you can also see that one of the studs is diagonal. And this is an interior wall between the bedroom and the bathroom. And so that diagonal gives me a rigidity from the walls racking side to side along the length of the tiny home. And in the picture I've got my charge controller, a couple of meters, my DC circuit breakers, an outlet box for switches, a couple of bus bars one for your ground or negative and the red one for your positive and then a battery switch just like you would have on a boat that disconnects the solar from the batteries and it's also disconnects the batteries from all the internal wiring. In the picture on the right. That's a solar disconnect switch that's mounted on the solar array so that when I I want to change the wiring between the solar array and a tiny house or move things, I can turn it off without getting a shock.
Ethan Waldman 45:10
Bill Knapp 45:12
This is a close up of my DC circuit breakers. And you can see that there are six switches. And they all have LED lighting in them and above them as a round button. And that round button is anytime you get a short and you're DC, it's a circuit breaker. So you don't blow a fuse, it blows a breaker and you just push on the button and it resets it and then it's got a voltage monitor that if I see that gets down below 12 volts, I need to go to turn my lights out and wait for things to charge again. And then to the left of that are two charging ports. One is a regular car cigarette lighter style, and the other is a double USB charger.
Ethan Waldman 46:03
Bill Knapp 46:04
While I was roughing in I've got my water storage tank for inside. And this picture is showing a big white tank up in the ceiling of the bathroom. And most of my ceilings are the full 13 foot high of the trailer. Whereas in the bathroom, it's only seven foot high so that I had the storage area. And in the picture you can see that there are three blue handles. Those are all valves that stopped the water from flowing down into my plumbing.
Ethan Waldman 46:42
Bill Knapp 46:43
The one on the left goes to my future hookup for washer. The one in the middle is coming down to my water pump. And then on one on the right is actually a drain so that I can drain my tank if I ever need to. And then you see coming back up that I have read. I feel the hot water coming off the hot water heater and blue pipe coming off the water pump for water pressure. The water pump is down in the bottom of the picture. And it's got a little filter to the left of it and then a DC pump to the right. And that's on its own circuit breaker a net circuit breaker panel.
Ethan Waldman 47:27
Bill Knapp 47:29
And then I bought my siding. And you can see it didn't quite fit in the truck. But I was able to get it home without a problem and just to be different. I bought red siding for the two ends. So I've got brown on the sides. Red on the ends. My roof is green and I realized I couldn't put the Corrugated Roofing on my bump out because I wanted it to be able to slide in. So I had him make flat panels, a green flat panel for the roof and a bump out and a brown for flat panels for the two ends. And then I used regular siding for the face of the wall mount.
Ethan Waldman 48:14
Bill Knapp 48:16
In this picture, you can see that I've got a lot of the brown siding on and you can see the development of it where you've got the foam board, then firing strip over the phone board every foot to screw the siding into and also I wrapped the window in the bedroom with the furring strips. And then on the left side you can see that this finish siding is on now because I'm limited to a 13 foot section height and eight foot six and with for the trailer to be illegal for me to pull it and I wanted gutters to collect water. I didn't want to exceed that eight foot six. So at the top of this picture where the green roofing is, you'll see that the siding doesn't start off at the roofing. There's a flat piece of trim that comes down and then does a z channel out over the siding and that flat piece receives my gutter and it's the same thing on both sides. So my gutter is within the eight foot six require required by law however then I went ahead and built a framing for the bump out and I made a two by four frame just like the rest of the trailer did. And I filled it with the rock bowl. And those spots where there are two by fours in the floor. There are casters underneath those that allow that the bumped out to roll on casters on the sub floor. And then you can see in the right hand picture that I've got my end walls framed, and I have a large window. That's the entire width of the bump out of my living room to bring light in.
Then I've got a picture of the finished living room roughed in. And you can see that I've got French doors at the end where the trailer hatches, my main door to the right, which is the living room door. And you can see the ceiling, the framing how it's two thirds on the south side and 1/3 on the north side. And you can see that I've got temporary plywood pieces, holding the LED lighting in place. And I also have flat metal strips, joining all the ceiling joists together to keep them from twisting or moving. In addition to them being screwed to the sheathing. I have about every eight feet cross piece across the ceiling that joins the outside walls together from left to right, to hold them rigid so that they don't bow out.
Then I had another windfall, happiness monitoring of his website called Nextdoor where people make announcements, ask for somebody to do painting, or they give things away. The lady nearby said she was having her kitchen redone. And they were just replacing all of the doors and the countertops. And did anybody want something like 30 cabinet doors. And so I said yes. And she gave me all of the doors. And three of them were leaded glass. And they're all beautiful white raised panel doors, a variety of sizes. So I'm going to use those for all my cabinets. And it also came with three cabinets to upper cabinets that she was didn't want. And a base cabinet. That's one of those ones that has the the the shelves inside it in a drawer that holds all your canned goods.
Then I started looking for property after watching Ethan's show a few times and hearing about all of the nightmares of people going through trying to find some place. I said, "Well, maybe I better start looking." So three years ago, I started looking for where I can put my tiny house. And there's a couple of websites that advertise. And one of them is a permaculture website. And this lady in Maryland, northern Maryland had advertised that she had places for people to park trailers or tiny homes around. Fantastic. Now I went looked at it. And this is 1/8 of her yard. That picture I'm showing with her driveway coming in from the street. And there's a an old chicken coop and then an open space of grass, and then a whole section of woods beyond it.
Ethan Waldman 53:32
Bill Knapp 53:33
And so I decided I would rent a piece from her. And we agreed that I would take a section that's the south side of her driveway that was fairly clear of trees, I had to cut a few saplings down. And as part of the deal with my rent is I'm doing handyman stuff for and she's got a lot of dead trees and amongst all these trees, and so we cut down some large trees as well. Now in order to make this wouldn't want possible for me to bring my tiny house and I had to bring an awful lot of dirt using my trailer and fill a pathway that was about 10 foot wide. And you can see the piles of dirt in the right hand picture. The left hand picture is where I cleared a spot for me to park him and I put about five tons of gravel as a parking space off the driveway and then mulch beyond that up to my tiny home location. And then I got over ambitious and decided I need a place to work when I'm working on the tiny home. So I talked her into letting me build a woodshop and so I brought it in another five tons of gravel, put in a gravel pan, set cement blocks in it framed out a framed a building that's 12 foot by 16 foot. And it's wide open in the front half, so that I could have windows and doors and it's all solid in the back, four feet, or storage. And then I use the same steel for the roof and the siding as I had for the tiny house.
Now in this picture, it's showing the finish shed with a gutter on the rear. And the gutter is feeding a 250 gallon water tank. And doing more research on water storage, I discovered that that tank is going to grow algae. So I then found out that if you put a an opaque cover over the tank, in my case, I bought a green one, you will never have algae grow because the sun can't get there to let the spores turn into plants while I fix that problem. And then I also have a water tank in the front. That's just a rain barrel. When I had the trees cut up, I had all of this bark leftover on slabs of wood. And these are about a good two to two and a half inches thick. And so I said, "Oh, wouldn't that be cool if I put that on the front of my woodshed." And you can see my rain barrel in this picture, you can see that somehow I screwed up the dimensions for the roof. And the roof came out too big by about two feet. So I extended it out over the front doors, creating a rain shelter for going into doors and cut it shorter over the windows.
Ethan Waldman 57:06
Bill Knapp 57:07
And the doors themselves are about 100 years old. And they were in horrible conditions. They were falling apart and the paint was peeling. In a later picture, you'll see that I've repaired them and painted them. And the plastic in the front of the bark in this picture is where windows go. So here's the current state of the shed, I've got a side door to come in, which is a walkway going into the tiny house. I've got my sawhorses out in front in the yard. We're on painting, like plywood that's going up in the ceiling of the tiny house. And you can see a repaired door that's open, it's painted. And also you can see the cover over the water storage tank in the back. That's like green cover.
Ethan Waldman 58:02
Bill Knapp 58:03
So my goal when I was putting the siding up on the tiny house was to move my tiny house before I did the inside. So it'd be less weight to this property. And that's the road coming up to the property in the picture. And I had to do a 90 degree turn into the driveway. And then a 45 degree turn into the path I cut through the woods. So I plan to do it the weekend of Thanksgiving in November of 2021. And one of my best friends is a CDL driver. And he and I drove the route a couple of times and picked specific roads that we knew a 33 foot trailer behind a truck wouldn't be able to make the turns. And he said I'd never get into this driveway. And so how I ended up having to do was I widened the driveway by about two feet on the right hand side with gravel and put a drainage pipe in it. So I can make the term and everything worked out perfect. I had even cut the embankment on that right hand side down so that the tiny house could swing out over it and there weren't any trees on the way and we we got the tiny house to the property after a couple of small issues. One was the bump out kept sliding out because I hadn't locked it. So I had to tie it in with a rope and then I got a flat tire halfway to the property. That was about an hour drive. And so I had to go buy a new tire and we got to the driveway and the tiny house was still having its tires over the driveway and my truck that I He got stuck in the mud, because it had been raining the whole week before. And we borrowed a backhoe from the next door neighbor. And he got stuck in the mud. You can see the tractor is connected to the trailer hitch. And the bucket on the tractor is lifting up the trailer hurts of the tiny home. And so we scratched our heads because the truck wasn't four wheel drive, it wouldn't work in the void. The tractor was, but it wasn't heavy enough. So we hooked the truck up to the tractor and between the two of them, we were able to get it to the final location.
Ethan Waldman 1:00:46
When in doubt, the tractor always always can do it. Yeah.
Bill Knapp 1:00:51
Now in this final location, part of my preparation was I had a sunk concrete sauna tubes, which are cardboard tubes that you use for deckchairs into the ground at six places where the tiny home goes and filled them with concrete. And then my Jacks sit on those piers. So I don't have to worry about the jacks are sinking into the earth.
Ethan Waldman 1:01:20
That is very smart. I highly recommend doing that. Because I didn't do that. And having to re level the house through all four seasons can be a real pain in the neck.
Bill Knapp 1:01:30
So then over the next year, as my customers donated materials to me. In this first picture, you can see massive framing for a tiny little landing from my bedroom door. And then six by six cedar posts. And the cedar posts. A customer was throwing away paid me to haul them away, because he had his front porch rebuilt with regular framing. And I said I'm not throwing this away. And so I used it to make two landings one from my living room door and one from my bedroom door and the supports from my deck. And that third picture on the right, you can see the deck going out over the trailer hitch. And that's just bolted on. And it would have to be removed to move the tiny home. The side landings are just sitting on the ground next to the tiny home they're not attached to the tiny home at all.
Ethan Waldman 1:02:34
Bill Knapp 1:02:36
And then I built a staircase. And I only have three steps. On the entrances to my tiny home was the ground sloped away a lot. So at the end, I had to do double that number. And here's Leo inspecting my steps Leo and so now you can see what the current state of my exterior shell finished looks like with the exception I haven't done the gutters yet. And during the summer of last year, it got really warm in a tiny house. And so I bought two DC fans. One is a grill fan that I put in the peak of the bedroom and that's going to blow hot air out of the ceiling and the other is around fan that goes into a six inch pipe and I'm going to use that too. In the summer I had it in the window blowing cold air in and in the winter I'm going to use it inside a duct around circular pipe and I'm going to put through the peak of the tiny home.
Ethan Waldman 1:03:51
Bill Knapp 1:03:52
And it's going to take the hot air out of the living room and the kitchen and send it down through a vertical pipe back to the floor. So I may have a couple of those fans to do that. I haven't designed that system yet but I've decided that this past winter when I use my space heater to heat the space the work inside. All the heat is from four feet and up and it's pretty cold below that height. Here's a picture of the bump out coming out and you can see I'm already using my deck to sit and have lunch or to relax. And my girlfriend bought me some plants and they're hanging from the ceiling.
Ethan Waldman 1:04:36
Bill Knapp 1:04:37
And you can see my other water storage tank with the green cover over waiting for the gutters to go on the back of the tiny house. I like to go by the sale card in Lowe's and Home Depot's and up I picked up these exterior light fixtures to put next to my doors and they were half price I think I got them for $10 apiece. And I'm going to have a red light bulb in the right, and a lead for a green light bulb in the left. And the whole concept is for people in waterways in the US. It's red, right returning. So when you come on back home from the Chesapeake, you look for the red buoys on the right.
Ethan Waldman 1:05:23
Bill Knapp 1:05:25
And I still haven't done the trim around the exterior of the wood frame, I'm going to wrap that in brown aluminum so that I don't want to paint it.
Ethan Waldman 1:05:35
Bill Knapp 1:05:37
Now I've got pictures of the interior fitting that out. And I've just about finished insulating all of the interior with Rockwool. And you can see in the picture on the left, that I've got both DC switches and AC switches next to the door, and then an AC outlet, which is going to be over a counter for sitting out. And then that thing that's got some blue light on it, that's actually a USB charger port, and it's a double, and then there's a DC switch next to it. And you can see some of the diagonal bracing in the interior wall at the end of that picture. Then a girlfriend's brothers neighbor was tearing apart a travel motorhome and throw it away all the inside components. And he asked if I wanted any of them. And so I got this black combination oven and three burner stove for free. So I've set it up on a wood frame. Let's see what it looked like. And it came with a cutting board to hide the burners when you're not using them. And so because I didn't have to pay for that I splurge and I got an expensive sink. A nicer sink with special features, Rob that. Then last week, I started hanging those boards that you saw on the trailer. And this is what it looks like on an interior wall. uniform. I cut rabbits in the edges so they overlap. And I'm using gold colored screws to screw the boards to the studs. And that yellow outlet up at like five foot high off the floor is there from my TV that gets mounted right in that spot above the bookshelf.
And then being a sailor, you know, I've got these nautical knickknacks, I picked up that anchor boat hook type thing to my coat hook and hung that next to my front door. Love it. Here's some close ups of the DC switches. And it's hard to tell when you buy things from Amazon. What they actually are. You have round lights, LED lights in them. Some of them have just a little bar, and some of them don't have lights at all. And then it I didn't see in the spec that some of them were tripled position. So you had an opposition in the middle. And if you push it one way, the LED light only goes half right. And if you push it down it goes full bright I was surprised that when I've found that out and so I put the one that's got the three positions in my bedroom. But what they don't have is the ability to mount this thing in a regular electrical box. So I ended up having to fabricate my own plates for the switches to fit into. I drilled holes in those with a hole saw, and then use tin snips and cut the holes into rectangles.
Ethan Waldman 1:09:06
They look great.
Bill Knapp 1:09:07
So this is the underside of the trailer, the picture. And you can still you can see the massiveness of the steel framing as compared to the two by four framing.
Ethan Waldman 1:09:20
Bill Knapp 1:09:21
And there's two things the guy didn't do when he did this. I would have put a vapor barrier between the sub floor and the framing it didn't do that.
Ethan Waldman 1:09:31
Bill Knapp 1:09:32
So I'm going to have to somehow wrap all of those rectangular spaces with a vapor barrier. And then I'm going to fill them with a rockwool. And then I'm going to put foam board below that. And I may even come all the way down to the bottom of the steel and put some kind of a solid surface material under the trailer to keep Keep the foam board from being damaged. And that will give me a good six inches of airspace, blocking the weather from the foam board. So my next steps is to do all that. Then install the balance of the wall coverings and the all the rooms. And then start creating furniture from all that lumber that piled up and install my plumbing fixtures and my gray water tank and then build a Murphy bed in the bedroom and then move in.
Ethan Waldman 1:10:34
Fantastic. What uh, what a thorough presentation. This is, I think gonna give people a lot of inspiration and just specifics on how you did everything. I'm curious if you wouldn't mind sharing, you know, how much have you spent thus far.
Bill Knapp 1:10:49
I knew you were gonna ask that! I have no idea. Have a budget. And then I'm only buying stuff with cash.
Ethan Waldman 1:11:03
Bill Knapp 1:11:04
And so what I've been doing is, when I do a job for somebody, and I get a few extra dollars, I buy some material. So I have a box full of receipts that I've got to total up. So I'll post the of that cost up on my log of my bill. When I get it all total. I know that I'm under $5,000 When I finished the framing.
Ethan Waldman 1:11:36
Nice. And you're really you can do pretty well when you're when you're collecting materials, free or for cheap. That saves a lot, especially those windows and doors.
Bill Knapp 1:11:48
The rock wool really set me back. The COVID has just pushed the roof of the rock wool through unbelievable prices. I think I'm paying $80 of bundle now.
Ethan Waldman 1:12:03
Bill Knapp 1:12:05
And it took four bundles just to do the living room and the kitchen walls. And then it was like eight bundles of the thicker rock wool to do the rafters.
Ethan Waldman 1:12:18
Yeah. Well, Bill, this, this has been fantastic. I thank you so much. And people can again, check out the show notes for the episode where they can see we'll embed the PowerPoint presentation. And we might also just share the video publicly. People can kind of watch you go through it. Can't thank you enough.
Bill Knapp 1:12:39
Oh, you're welcome.
Ethan Waldman 1:12:40
Thank you so much to Bill nap for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including all of those slides all the images that Bill was looking at and we were talking about, there's so much great detail in what he shares. So I definitely recommend heading over to thetinyhouse.net/247 to check out the show notes and check out that PowerPoint presentation. There. You'll also find a video version of today's interview. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/247. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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