Sunday, June 16, 2013

Change Up

This week we took a field trip to Home Depot to stock up on lumber for building the rest of our walls and to start building the kitchen counters. The Envoy SUV we typically use for these trips was out of commission so we decided to just take the bus. This turned out to work great as there's a long empty parking lot along the side of Home Depot which was easy to park and turn around in. Chris encouraged me to do some of the driving since he typically drives and I don't have as much experience. I'm happy to report the drive was uneventful and I'm a natural bus driver.

Just Right Parking Spot
We began the week with virtually nothing done on the passenger side of the bus. We started by sealing up the two windows over the wheel well with insulation and plywood.

We then began framing out the closet walls. The difference on this side from the drivers side is that we needed to accommodate a wider forward closer wall as it would also be a shared wall with the bath room, which with my mom's help have nicknamed the "privy" (since it does not contain any sort of "bath")

We left the privy window as is but sealed up the next one as it will be behind the fridge.

I drew a Winston face on the plywood since the insulation looked like his mustache sticking out.

All sealed up!
We then built the final floor to ceiling wall in the bus, the second wall of the Privy. We cut a hole in the stud and wall behind it so that the fridge outlet could be located inside the walled area.

The yellow wire poking out will be the outlet for the fridge
Here's a mockup of the toilet. More details on our composting toilet to come in a separate post.
As we continued to work on the privy walls, we began visualizing the kitchen makeup, taking into account plumbing and electrical. This was our attempt at a counter mockup to get a grasp of the height and depth (not length) of the counter space.

There have been thunder storms nearly every day for the last couple of weeks. We're very fortunate that despite the heavy rains, we're able to keep working on the bus since it's been weather proof since day one. A lot of our tiny house peers don't have this luxury until they reach the dry stage of their builds and we're very grateful to not have to go through that. Though working in a hot, muggy bus in 95* weather during a rain storm with the windows closed is hardly a pleasure. We're very excited for the AC which is set to arrive sometime in the next week.

Willow is *not* amused by the thunder and found her safe spot under the bed
While on one of our many trips to the hardware store we picked up a small can of metal paint called "harbor blue" and I slapped some of it on the bus to see what it might look like. We like blue, and we like the price of this blue, though we aren't 100% sold on the color. Painting is going to be one of the last steps of the build so there's no hurry, but it was exciting to imagine what the bus will look like when it's all done.

We've been visiting our electrician twice a week for the last 3 weeks and we're happy to report all of the wiring within the bus is completed and hooked up to our circuit breaker/converter box and inverter. Next he will instal the external input plug for shore power as well as the internal outlets and the batteries.

The circuit breakers is a flush mount and we framed it in nicely.
The circuit breaker box/converter and our inverter have built in fans but we added a vent to the side of the electrical box for added circulation. This, along with all of the equipment being located near the AC will hopefully keep the air moving and the area cool. We will build a lid for this box once Kevin has put in the plug to the outside and cleaned up the rest of the wiring.

Earlier this week we decided on a floor plan change up! I quickly drafted it up in floorplanner so please excuse the fact that the dimensions and proportions are inaccurate. However you get the gist. We will now have a "classic kitchen triangle" as one of our Facebook followers penned it. The kitchen will be split with a fridge and stove on one side and sink on the other. We'll also have a fold down counter over the tub for additional counter space. We've decided to switch up our sink for a larger one and picked out the counter top we think will be "Just Right" from Ikea, which we will pick up this week!

This new floor plan will also allow our guests to face each other to chat with a split 4' section of couch on either side of the bus. Although this eliminates our twin bed couch idea, I decided that any guests that would like to sleep over would be just as comfy on the wood floor with the couch cushions as they'd be on the wood couch with the couch cushions. Plus this is a bus designed to be just right for us, not just right for everyone so some sacrifices will have to be made.

Here we were laying out what could work with the appliances we already have
 After we picked out the counter top, we did a slight redesign of our hamper. I wanted the fold down counter over the tub to line up with the top of the hamper and the top of the sink counter so we had to raise up the height of the hamper some. There will be a faceplate put on this to seal it in and then concrete board and tile on the current plywood face to help protect it from moisture of the tub. We've ordered our tub faucet and are waiting for it to arrive (ETA on Tuesday) before proceeding with the plumbing.

On Friday we drove 2 hours to Lake Wales to pick up our water tank. It's a 69 gallon tank that we had custom made to fit the middle area under our bed. This will allow storage in drawers toward the front of the bus and "garage" storage under the bed accessible from the back door. We'll store our tools and such in the "garage".

Water tank in place, a "Just Right" fit!

Today, after a ridiculous amount of time planning for our tub, counters and couches, we splurged and bought our new refrigerator. It's a 10 cubic foot Vissani from Home Depot. I wouldn't wish a trip to Home Dept the day before father's day on even my worst enemies. I managed to convince Chris that a trip to Ikea afterwards was a very bad idea. With help from dad, we managed to get it into the bus (through the back door) and out of the box without a scratch or dent.

It fits perfectly over 1 window with the required clearance as per the instructions.

So we have a fridge, a bed and a tub! With an extension cord and a hose our bus is quite liveable. Though, an air conditioner will really make or break the decision to sleep in it. The ETA for the mini split was today so we're on the edge of our seat, hoping it will arrive soon. This week begins our adventure into the word of kitchen cupboards and plumbing, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rain Rain Go Away

We've been very busy working away on the bus and apologize for the delay in posts. For frequent updates be sure to "like" us on facebook, as I update there almost daily. As you may know, we started building at the back of the bus with the bed and are working our way forward. It's been interesting and we've made more than one mistake but we are figuring things out as we go. It's really hard to stop and remind ourselves that planning 2-10 steps ahead will keep us from having to go back and redo areas we already completed. Alas, sometimes just "doing something" feels better than thinking about other things that we aren't sure how we're going to do yet.

We framed out the bed and mounted it on the walls at the "just right height" so our water tank will fit underneath. We'll have storage in the back, accessible by the back doors, and we'll make drawers for the front. On top of the bed frame are 3 pieces of 3/4 inch plywood that can be lifted up and slid to one side to access the area underneath. They won't provide as much support as a box spring, but we think they'll be comfy enough.

Here are the 3 pieces of plywood in place.
We also built most of the closets over the wheel wells. This was an interesting challenge as the bus is not a perfect rectangle like a house. It has a curved roof, slanted walls and is not level in the yard. We threw the level away on the first day of the project, as it was useless. So rather than building the furniture level, we're building things parallel or perpandicular to each other. It doesn't really matter if the two closet walls are level or perfectly vertical to the ground, as long as they're parallel to each other. We accomplished this using some pretty wacky techniques like hanging string, using the laser level, and a lot of use of the t-square to ensure things are at 90* angles.

First two studs for the closet in place

2 windows sealed up and insulated.

One nice thing about our project is that our walls aren't "structural". In a normal house, walls support the roof. In our house, they just support whatever we mount on or to them. This really removes some of the pressure since we know that even if the walls fall down, our house will still be a steel tank underneath. (For the record, these walls aren't going anywhere with the number of screws and L-brackets we used to attach them to the bus)

Wall plywood in place and wire chase back above the window.

Starting the box around the wheel well
At first, we mounted two pieces of 2x4 horizontally on the walls to mount the plywood to. Since the walls slant inward at the top, this resulted in a serious bend in the plywood and a big gap between the wall stud and the wall.

See the light shining through the gap?

The wire chase also got in the way of the stud
So after a whole day of putting the above mess together we packed up and went to bed. I had nightmares about the gap. I hated the gap. So the next day we took it all down and came up with an alternative. To fix the bend in the plywood, we replaced the top horizontal 2x4 with a 1/2 inch by 3 inch piece of plywood. This lessened the bend. Then, to stop the stud from hitting the wire chase, we just chopped off the top of it.

Here's the new stud installed, much better!
 While we had the wall down, we were also able to run wire though it for the lighting in the kitchen. We drilled a small square in the wire chase so it could be threaded into it, this hole won't be visible in the closet.

We also filled in the wheel well box with insulation and closed it up with plywood on the top and sides.

This area behind the 2x6 to the right will be our hamper.

Our washer dryer will sit on top of the wheel well

Winston, Willow and Bailey all approve of the bed.

Two shelves, perfectly square to each other

We're very happy to report we found an electrician who has 30 years of experience working with RV's. He will be helping us with our electric, plumbing and will also do some welding to hold our tanks underneath the bus. We already have all of the wiring in place for our 110 electric and are finishing up the DC wiring this weekend. The Circuit breaker box and surge protector are in place and next we get our inverter, batteries, battery panel and outlets. Chris will write a more in-depth post on our electrical system in the coming weeks, as that's been his area of research more than mine.

Here's Kevin hooking up our circuit breaker box
With the driver side closet of the bus almost done, we've started working on the passenger side. This is going much more quickly since we practiced it once already. This week we hope to finish the closet and the rest of the walls as well as start the bathroom and tub area. Also, our water tanks and AC have been ordered, we're just waiting on their shipment. Things are really coming together nicely!

passenger side closet wall in place
With all the rain we've been getting (it rains every afternoon in Florida during the summer) we decided to set up this tent so that we don't have to constantly bring the tools in and out of the bus. Of course, the first day we put it up a tropical storm decides to hit Tampa so we had to promptly take it down before the wind took it away to Kansas. It'll go back up once the storm passes and business will proceed as usual.