Tag Archives: Off Grid

House update: upstairs framing

I last left off just after we got out stairs completed at the end of March.

April was all about framing in the upstairs.

We were so excited to get the walls up so that it would not be as easy to fall off the edge.

When my brother came to pick up his daughter whom we had been babysitting, we roped him into helping raise this wall. 😊

The peak looks even further away now!

Our guardian angel given to us by a good friend. We decided to put her in the upper perlin to watch over the building. 😊

Once we had the edge wall up, Flower Girl and I built the smaller wall all by ourselves. You can read more about that here.

Learning to measure

OUR wall

Our friend who helped on the hat channel come over again to help with the framing.

Her very first time using a nail gun.

Me thinks she liked it!

How do you build a large access door into a utility closet when you have a steeply sloped roof?

The answer is, you don’t.

You build THREE doors!

Papa bear, Mama bear, and Baby bear

This way, all areas of the closet can be accessed, no matter what gets stuffed in there.

At some point, the compressor went kaput and we were forced to use hammers.

You can see how happy I was about that!

Even knowing that we didn’t have power tools, some sister-friends came over to help anyway!

And luckily, whatever was wrong with the compressor was fixed by the hubby, cause we still had a whole other half of the upstairs to do!

And one last small wall, the short pony wall for the central loft/open area of the upstairs.

And suddenly the upstairs framing was finished!

The next project we worked on was getting all the windows and doors in (you can see a sneak peak in that last picture with all that natural light.)

Oh, and you know those stairs we had completed the month before?

So. Very. Nice!

So that brings us up to May.

May was spent doing little odd and ends, finishing up smaller tasks and getting our framing inspection (which unbeknownst to us we didn’t have everything done we needed to get done, but he said the framing looked good – yay!)

The next post will be about the doors and windows. That was June’s task.

July was spent prepping for and being out of town for a large family vacation.

August has so far been a lot of working my summer job, researching and prepping for electrical, and doing small odds and ends. Oh, and prepping for the school year, which starts the day after Labor Day.

And it’s HOT, so our motivation to work is almost non-existent. All we want to do is sit around in the shade and stay as cool as we can.

But we gotta get things done, so we do little bits here and there. Slow forward progress is still progress.

Hopefully I’ll get the post about the doors and windows loaded soon. Then I’ll have a garden update/overview to write up. And then finally be caught up. 😊

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House Update: Upper floor framing

Quite a bit of progress lately – finally!

I am pretty much completely healed from the broken rib and we are finding our groove once more.

While I was still injured, we had several friends come by on several different days to help us move along. With the help of these guys, we were able to complete the floor joists and get all the flooring on.

We can’t thank these gentlemen enough. They are amazing!

Hubby, of course, was there when his work schedule permitted.

One weekend while Hubs was out of town, one of the guys came over and we were able to finish the subfloor and even raised the first of the upstairs walls.

Subfloor done! Time to focus on the wall.

Once that wall was raised and securely fastened, we realized before we could go any farther, we needed to attach the “hat channel” on the ceiling.

The hat channel, also called resilient channel, is basically a metal stud that is lightweight but strong and can span long distances. It attaches to the ceiling perlins every 16 inches and then the sheetrock is attached to those.

We’ve been working on the hat channel for a couple days now and have figured out a good system. It feels great to be working as a team again, and even just working again in general.

And it feels great to be getting somewhere once more!

It is also cool to finally see where the actual ceiling is going to be and how much space we will ultimately have.

Pajii is 6′ tall for reference. It will be short at the sides, but still useable space there.

It’s pretty amazing to be down on the first floor and see all the hat channel on the ceiling. We got just about all of it done on the south half of the house.

We will build the other end wall, then the short side walls next. After that, we tackle the difficult section by putting the hat channel on the north half of the house using the scaffold.

After that, we work on the tall walls and the railing wall upstairs. Oh, and the stairs themselves!

Exciting times!

I just thank God that I have healed enough to be able to work!

PS, Oh, and you know how awesome it is to be able to continue working inside our nice secure house with the warm fire going when it looks like this outside?

Yeah, so nice!

How we do this Off-Grid thing

So you all know we live “off-grid” on our homestead in our trailers and are building our house to be off-grid as well.

But what does that mean?

It does not mean that we are completely independent from modern conveniences. I mean, I do drive a vehicle (more than I want to, I admit). We heat our trailers with propane. And there are times our little temporary solar system just does not cut it and we need to run the generator to charge the batteries. Like when the sun hasn’t come out for days.

Or, like today, when we did have some sun, but I didn’t get laundry out on the line in time for it to dry and needed to use the generator to run the clothes dryer.

It’s times like this that I’m very glad for modern conveniences like generators and the gasoline needed to run them.

Big generator pulled up to the well shed to run the dryer

Our washer can run on our small solar system, but the dryer requires more power.

BTW this is how we vent the dryer. We don’t want to put a hole in the shed wall since this is temporary until we can move the washer and dryer into the house. We also route the washer drain out this window.

So, yeah, for us, living off-grid does not mean that we do not rely on the grid. We are not one of those families who live in the wilderness, eating only what we can hunt or gather or grow, heating our house only with wood we can gather, etc. Not by a long shot!

But it does mean that we produce about 90% of our daily (not construction) power needs through our solar system. (And once we are living in the house it will be even more since our solar system will be larger.) And we stock up on propane and gasoline when the storms are threatening. It means that in an emergency situation, we could live quite comfortably for quite a while. And in a long term situation, we could get by without the backup generators if we ran out of gas. Yeah, it might mean not watching TV, and having to do essential bits of laundry by hand and hanging it to dry in front of the fire in the house, but we’d get by till the sun came back out. Way better than most people who rely completely on the grid. For us, it’s about being as self sufficient as is feasible in our current lifestyle. I also like the idea that by using mostly solar power, we are reducing our carbon footprint.

Now, to just get this house built so that we can focus on producing our own food again and be even more sustainable. 😁

House update: more interior framing

We have more walls up!

We have had many of our friends ask when they could come up to help with the house. So, we set a date for a Framing Party for Saturday, December 29th and let all of our friends know about it.

But before everyone showed up, we needed to get the most complicated wall built since it was heavy on the calculations and decision making – something Hubs and I wouldn’t necessarily have time to do with 10-15 people looking for direction.

So on the 27th, Ahma and Pops (my mom and stepdad) came up to help with that wall.

It was all angles and complicated calculations and we had to make decisions on where (exactly) the door and window needed to go.

But we got it built and raised in about 6 hours.

On the 28th we prepped for the work day.

Framing Party:

December 29, 2018

Here you’ll see a couple familiar faces, but mainly these are friends from church and a few others.

These ladies provided us with lunch. It was amazing that we didn’t even have to think about it. They just showed up with the food and we ate!

When all was said and done, we were able to build and raise 8 walls in one day. Eight! On the 27th, we got one. On the 29th we got eight!

We definitely couldn’t have done that without all the help from our wonderful friends.

And then we ran out of the right length studs. Guess my calculations were off.

So, an after-church trip to the lumber store was in order the next day.

Today is Monday the 31st. We have yet another friend coming today to help out. We should be able to finish all the bottom level framing. Then it’s time to put on the floor joists and floor sheeting and then the upstairs walls. But that will take a bit of time. Nothing like 8 big walls in one day!

Probably without even thinking too hard, you can guess what our goal for the New Year is. 😄

Finish this house!

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Here’s our biggest and best gift this Christmas…

Our wood stove was installed earlier than expected!

This has been a game changer! Not only is the house nowhere near ready to install a furnace, but we plan to heat nearly exclusively with wood, so having this system installed and usable is amazing.

Since we were closing in on Christmas and were loving just hanging out by the stove, we moved some of our collected free furniture into a living room of sorts.

I was even able to spread out for wrapping Christmas gifts. So nice after the last couple of years of using my bed as a table to wrap.

We collected a bunch of junk wood that we had laying around and cut it down to length. I jokingly said that this pile would last us a day or two, and I wasn’t too far off.

With as cold as it was and as small as this wood was, and as little insulated as the house is with gaps still here and there, we went though that wood very quickly.

But it kept us warm enough that we decided to have our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and day celebrations in the house.

Our first Christmas in our house!

We moved our tiny tree and stockings from the trailer and put them on the scaffold. 😊

And the girls spent Christmas Eve night and Christmas night on the pulled out hide-a-bed. The first people to sleep in our house!

We woke up Christmas morning to a slightly white Christmas. We normally get the majority of our snow in January and February.

So it was magical to have snow on Christmas.

And then we had a good friend give us some actual real firewood.

This stuff burns much slower. It is great to put a few logs on and not have to feed it again for several hours.

On New Year’s Day, we are hosting a movie marathon and we’ll all be down in the house. All because of a wood stove.

So nice!

I hope you all are having a great holiday season, no matter how you celebrate.

Happy Holidays.

House update: Interior Framing!

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. The start of interior framing means that our house is beginning to look like a house.

We haven’t gotten very far yet, but it’s started!

So, as a reminder, the frame and exterior shell of our house is basically a metal warehouse/shop type building.

On the inside

In order to support our second floor/loft, and to have something to attach sheetrock to on the inside, we have to build a 2×4 wall inside the metal frame. It gets attached to the metal frame with brackets and everything is nice and solid and tied together at that point.

Lay-out:

So, on October 24th, our contractor friend – who helped us get our foundation laid – came back to help us lay out our interior framing. (That means measuring where the walls are going to go and marking them on the floors.)

As I write that, I realize it’s been over a month and a half since we started framing, and we don’t have a lot to show for it. But there have been a lot of small things to try to figure out as we go along, birthdays and holidays and sick days and mental health days.

*Sigh*

I guess that’s how it goes when you are an owner-builder. If you’re not doing it, it doesn’t get done. Oh well, we have quite a bit of forward momentum now. Let hope we can keep it up.

Prepping:

Once we had the walls marked out on the floor and could get accurate measurements, we started cutting sill plates and top plates and studs.

First Wall!:

After we had done more prep work, we started actually forming the walls. We chose the front wall first so we could get in a door asap to close off the gaping hole in our building.

We framed the walls on the floor first.

Nearly there. Just a bit more work needed to frame in the window above the front door.

Time to raise it! Mr Contactor had a winch to use, so just the two of us were able to get this entire wall into place.

In fact, I made a little video of the process. (This is my first time trying to embed a video into a blog post, so bear with me if it doesn’t work.)

Ta-da!

The shape looks funny because the right hand side will have a second story on it…eventually.

Front door:
After we secured that wall to the metal frame, it was time to install the front door!

In the picture below, I marked where the eventual doors and windows will be cut and placed. It’s gonna be so nice…eventually!

Not nearly all the windows we’re gonna need, but it’s a start!

Then we put the front door into place to test-fit it.

Then moved it back out of the way and applied a thick seal of silicone under the threshold.

Then placed it again, shimmed it, tinkered with the fit for a while, screwed it into place, and now have a fully functioning front door!

Ta-da!

We eventually stuffed insulation around it to stop the drafts.

But it is a beautiful sight to behold.

More walls:

If I were making a video, the next section would be a montage of us putting up more walls. My brother and sis-in-law and her family came on a couple different evenings to help build then raise a couple more walls. (Though the first wall of this montage was was completely built and raised by Hubs, Princess Girl, and myself.)

Made a mistake in the placement of this anchor bolt and had to cut it off. We will replace it in the proper location later.

Even my brother’s dog, Tsunami, came to help. 😁

My studly hubby

Just cleaning up some sawdust so it’s not slippery under foot when we go to raise this wall.

We were not sure how heavy this wall would be to lift, so we wanted to add a bit of safety. We created a pulley type system where the wall was attached at the top by a rope, through an eye bolt in the ceiling, to our other (anchored) wall with a friction device used in climbing. This way, if things went terribly wrong, at least the wall wouldn’t come crashing down on our heads.

Our safety mechanism.

Princess Girl was in charge of taking up the slack and locking the rope as we raised the wall. She was “belaying” the wall just like we do with a climber at the ropes course!

With 5 of us lifting, we “accidentally” lifted the wall into place.

No, seriously, we didn’t really mean to do it. We we’re waiting on Bro and SIL to get there so we’d have a couple more hands and the five of us (Hubs, SIL’s mom and 2 brothers, and I) decided to “just see how heavy it was going to be.” And, fwoop, there it went.

Yes, that’s the actual sound it made.

“Fwoop.”

At least in my mind. 😁

I didn’t have the cameras ready or anything. So I took this “staged” shot of the 4 of then holding the wall in place after it was already standing.

Once we got the wall secured in a few places…

we called it a night and had dinner and just sat around chatting for the next 2 hours. 😁

Then we spent another evening or two putting in all the braces and fixing some areas we had messed up on (more on that later).

One thing we did do is buy a scaffold. It has already come in SO handy, and will continue to for quite some time to come.

And that’s where we are at right now.

Winter hit here in Northern Nevada and the temperatures dropped substantially. Though there is some insulation on the building, it is not a lot, and without a heat source, insulation doesn’t help a whole lot anyway. So the temps inside the house were getting down into the 30’s and not warming up. We had a snow storm come through and then we stayed cloudy for 10 whole days! That is almost unheard of here in the high desert. When the sun doesn’t come out, things don’t warm up. On top of that, Flower Girl got sick, and I could feel my body fighting a cold, so we decided that until something changes, we’re not going to stress over working in the house.

Besides, who wants to be building when there’s cookies to be made?

But, things are looking up. The sun has come back out (yay!) and, a huge piece of news, our wood stove is going to be installed next week! Yay! Yay! Yay! We will soon have a source of heat in the house, and will have no more excuses not to get rocking and rolling once more.

(Except…cookie baking, fudge making, present wrapping, feast eating…!)

We are so excited to get that stove in and have real heat in the house so we can keep on working (maybe after Christmas?). It’s going to be so. Very. Nice! What a great Christmas present!

House update: Floor staining

Starting near the beginning of October and lasting for a couple weeks, we worked on staining our concrete slab. We knew that it was going to be a whole heck of a lot easier to do the floors before any of the interior walls went up, and we had a run of really mild temperatures, so we decided to git ‘er done.

It took so long because we had no experience with acid staining concrete, and we did it in sections in order to test our procedures. So in some of the pictures below you might see areas that are already stained in the background.

The first step was to clean out the cut lines.

Flower Girl was very helpful in this since she liked to scrape out the cracks and vacuum up the mess.

Once the cracks were cleaned out, it was time to wash the floors.

Scrub, scrub, scrub

Brother and sis-in-law came to help and to learn the process. We really appreciated their help!

It felt really weird to run the hose in the house to rinse off the degreaser/cleaner (and later the stain). But with one person on the hose controlling the flow, and the other people using the squeegee and push brooms, we were able to keep the puddling to a minimum.

The next step was to make sure all the water was cleaned up. The easiest way to get all the water was to sweep and squeegee out the majority, then use the shop vacs for the remainder.

Once the floors were dry, it was time to apply the acid stain with a weed sprayer.

This was the easy part!

Once the stain had sat and developed for 8 hours, we neutralized it with ammonia water and then had to rinse all of that out the doors.

We had to run the big generator in order to run all three shop vacuums at once.

And then it was time to wait. Once the stain was neutralized and rinsed, we had to wait for it to thoroughly and completely dry before applying the sealer. Since we were testing procedures as we went, we needed to wait each time we did a section to get some sealer on it to see what the final result would look like. That’s why it took so long to get everything done.

But finally, we did get it all stained and sealed.

Applying the sealer

Before the seal

And that’s when we ran into problems. For whatever reason, when we applied the sealer in some areas, it turned a milky white when it dried.

After much trial and error and frustration, we discovered that a stiff scrubbing pad, water, and a LOT of plain old elbow grease would strip the sealer off the floor. So for two days we scrubbed those floors. We had to be careful since too much scrubbing would eventually strip the stain off the floor as well.

This job was too much like playing Cinderella.

But eventually we got the problem spots scrubbed off and once again waited a few days for everything to dry completely. Then applied the sealer, doing some experimenting in order to avoid the previous issues.

And just like that, our floors are finished! Of course now, one month and some more building later, and they are completely covered in dust and dirt. But that will sweep and mop up. We might have to touch up a couple areas, but for now, it feels good to have yet one more project done!