The Lady Loam (Re)Creation Story

Part 4: The Era of Plywood and FRP

To catch up on the first part of the series, read Part 1: Big Dreams require Bigger Decisions and Part 2: More than a Fixer-Upper, and then Part 3: My Independent Study Project

December 5, 2022: the trailer returned to our house, but this time it had steel framed walls! We painted the raw steel with a silver steel paint meant for auto frames, and began cutting, sealing, and installing the ceiling and floor plywood. Next was the 2x2 wood spacers on the interor walls for the FRP to screw into. We decided on FRP (fiber reinforced plastic panels) for the exterior of the walls because it is relatively light, UV protected and scratch resistent, paintable, and thin. In our front yard, we cut each piece to size and sanded one side so we could paint it the deep navy color I had been imagining for months. Wearing full protective gear so the plastic dust didn’t get in our lungs or irritate our skin, we repeated the process for the 12 wall panels and 4 roof panels. Some of the mini projects I had worked on during my Independent Study time with the college shop were put to use right away, while others had to wait their turn.

Work began to slow in the Spring of 2023, as I was full time student teaching (40 hours/week plus 45 minute commute and after-school meetings and assignments), managing my part-time work (15-25 hours/week), and somehow still found time to feed us and keep a tidy home. Isaac also started working full time remotely in his dream job! In April, we also adopted Artie, our 5 year old cattle dog, and Isaac’s parents generously took care of him for a month and a half until I graduated. Isaac also bought his first car! He is a proud 2020 Ford F-150 owner, a big red truck complete with 4WD and the full towing package. The car was another of those big to-do list items we were relieved to check off; how are we going to travel in a trailer if we have nothing to tow it with?

Still, we chipped away at the project as we found time, and by mid May I had graduated and finished my job, and could work on the project full-time for the first time. Let me tell you - I have never devoted myself to a project as intensely as this one. I mustered all the self-discipline I could to make the deadline of August (when a roomate came back to live in our bedroom) and Isaac worked tierlessly to answer my questions throughout the days and work with me after his workday ended. I woke up early before the heat to walk and train with Artie, hydrate, and begin the long day of construction. My routine was as follows: I woke around 6, fed and walked Artie, made breakfast, then by 8 I worked on the trailer until 3 (when the heat of the day peaked around 95-110ºF daily), when I ate lunched, rinsed off in the shower, and rested in total darkness in my bedroom until 4PM, when work resumed until 10PM and relutantly paused work for dinner.

At this point, we had the exterior walls (FRP) installed, and next was to caulk the inside of every single steel pipe where the metal met the FRP from the interior. My wrist tendonitis flared up, but I became an exepert calker. I measured and cut every piece of foam board insulation with a box cutter, and stuffed it in each crevice (this was a surprisingly really fun job), then cut the MDF flooring and gently placed it down. We then observed that the single layer plywood base for the floor bowed a bit, even after laying the MDF subfloor, so I removed the subfloor and added 1x1 wood spacers supporting the floor surrounding the insulation layer, and Isaac reinforced the underside of the trailer with small steel beams that I cut, sanded, and coated with protective steel paint. We found that helped reduce the bowing. Next was building the wheelwell boxes. We had tried to find some second hand boxes, but had no luck. We spent an entire day drafting and building a box, but found that it was too bulky and required too much material, so Isaac pivoted and built one in cabinet style (pocket screws, fancy 1” birch board we used for the interior furniture) which worked very well.

In general, every piece of construction wood had to be measured, cut, sanded, and sealed for weatherproofing of some sort. Our Ryobi tool collection had exponentially exanded, as have our graveyard of Ryobi-exclusive battery packs. Isaac and I spent a long night cutting and laying the tongue and groove flooring we salvaged from Isaac’s generous aunt and uncle. We spent a small fortune on sealant and calk this far, and filled in some gaps in the flooring with it. I built the window frames and became an expert in pocket-screwing (Kreg rules supreme). Then I embarked on the nonintuitive task of cutting holes in the walls to reveal the door, 4 windows, skylight, back garage door, and wheel wells on either side. I cleaned the old crud and installed our 2 side widows we salveged from a second-hand material yard in Tucson, and a new skylight from Amazon for a good price. Isaac built a beautiful doorframe and cedar fencepost front door, and I delicately calked around all the openings after the frames were installed. I bought 2 large opening windows on struts built for food trucks from Amazon for the front and back of the tiny home. These giant windows were about $500 each, and delayed a week and a half, which really set back our deadline. When they finally arrived, they sent us a model that has a solid material instead of clear plexiglass. Not wanting to compromise on a solid window and not having time to return the windows to the vendor, I spent a day cutting out the interior material, cutting plexiglass to fit in the frame, and setting it with caulk. We definately do not recommend this, and have regretted this decision since, as we know our time is limited with their durability. We also placed heavy roofing tape on the seams of the FRP, which is not my favorite to look at but is imparative for the trailer’s functionality to keep out water, protect the edges of the panels, and allow the materials to torque with the shifting movement of the trailer. With the windows, skylight, vent fan, and door installed and as water tight as possible, Isaac worked on the exterior light installation on the trailer. He wired everything together and we installed the retro style lights from Amazon on the exterior. I spent a few excrutiating days measuring, cutting, and painting the interior wall panels made of luan, and miraculously erected the inside. Isaac installed the roof brackets and 3 salvaged solar panels for our power set up. Our power system was developing, but we still needed to actually build the living components of the interior.

The end of July marked the end of working on the exterior and structure of the tiny home, and now we had to hustle to get the interior structures finished for our (final and non-negotiable) deadline of 2 weeks!

isabelle's painted sky ● Copywright 2023