A preview inside my tiny house

01/23/2009

And a request for ideas on how to finish this small space!

Folks who show up to our tiny house meetup will get a tour of our small house and our tiny trailer. We’ve already received plenty of RSVPs, which I’m excited about. Meeting people who share an interest in small space living, believe it or not, is my idea of a good time. But what I’m really feeling the need for is some advice and inspiration about finishing up the interior of our little Compact Jr. (If you missed it here is the progress to-date.)

I’m giving you, dear reader, a sneak peek at the inside in the hopes that I will receive some illuminating words of wisdom in return.

Built-in Furniture

Mike and I ripped out the original built-in cabinetry and designed simple, functional furniture to replace it with. We constructed two long benches that run the whole length (10 ft) of the trailer, screwed in several support legs, and kept the original foam pads for seating (not pictured). Instead of doing closed, hinged-top benches we left them completely open underneath for flexible storage possibilities.

bench

You can see a small lip on the benches which function to hold the middle piece of plywood, creating a platform for a nice-sized bed.

trailer_bed

We really like the way these benches maximized the “living area” while keeping roughly the same amount of storage space as before. Overall I think the new furniture (1/2 inch ply) amounts to a net loss in weight — a good thing with my sporty 4-door as the tow vehicle. We haven’t weighed this tiny house yet so the weight claim could be disputed. The original Compact Jr. brochure says “shipping weight” is 975 lbs.

mitsubishitowingtrailer

Insulation

I knew I wanted to add insulation because, well, why restrict myself to trailer living in SoCal? I’m drawn to the climate of Northern California and other latitudes where it gets colder of course. Our first step was lining the inside with Reflectix, a bubble wrap encased in foil. Intended as an eco-friendly, reflective, radiant barrier where its effectiveness is based on how much space it has, we found that it was about the cheapest material we could find at the local home store (about $0.40/sq ft). Eager to get started, I purchase a few rolls of it, some glue canisters and re-lined the fiberglass shell with it.

reflectex

Though it worked well, the Reflectix was thin and I still wanted more insulation. We researched all the different types of insulation out there — and greener options too — but it all seemed so expensive. Plus, after attending one of Jay Shafer’s tiny house building workshops, I wasn’t convinced that greener options were better performers. We decided that good insulation was green in and of itself as we would spend less energy heating the place. Ultimately we bought big 3/4-inch-thick sheets of foam board (CFC-free expanded polystyrene) at the local home store (about $0.32/sq ft) and I custom fit them to the slightly curved walls. The result? A high insulating R-value with relatively little thickness.

polystyrene

While this appears to have worked, when leaning against the walls you can tell they weren’t properly glued in (they squeak and shift back and forth). This is because adhesive had seemingly cursed my life. We ran out of the stuff we used for the Reflectix and it didn’t seem to be available at any home stores anymore. I tried several substitutes but nothing pleased me – who knew that gluing foam board onto foil-wrapped curved fiberglass walls would be so aggravating?

Now I’m thinking I will take some of that GreatStuff insulation spray, peel back what I can of the foam sheets, and spray in there as much as I can… just spray the crap out of it. StickyStuff is a more appropriate name for this product and it would be a big ol’ messy project. Any thoughts?

Walls

Because of my adhesive woes I have hesitated going forward with trying to adhere anything to the foam board. In terms of materials, I’ve thought of all different kinds of cheap, lightweight wall lining, even faux fur. If I could afford it I might look into some funky sticky-back paper or adhesive cork, but not at $1, $2, even $3 per square foot. Others have suggested a super-thin wood paneling, but I’m afraid that may bust my practically nonexistent budget for trailer improvements as well. I’m at a loss.

Help me get unstuck, so to speak, and get back on track with my trailer renovation! Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

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