Group Build 2013: A Strong Foundation, and a Wall

Hi Tumbleweed fans,

It’s been an eventful month here at our group build site in Sonoma. We’ve been building subfloors onto our trailers and starting to frame our walls.

Dan, Meg, and Sarah insulating the subfloor

Dan, Meg, and Sarah insulating the subfloor

I’m sure we’ll get used to it one day, but for now Joseph and I often find ourselves thinking, “This is actually happening! This is our house!” There is something so special about knowing exactly what is going into every single part of this house–every self-tapping metal screw, piece of plywood, and batt of insulation.

Joseph and the nail gun

We started by protecting our future houses by screwing pressure-treated 2X6s all around trailer’s outer edge. It’s not easy to screw through pressure-treated lumber or steel trailers, let alone both. But we got much better at it as we went around each trailer, eventually settling into the right balance between effort and gentleness to get the screws all the way in without breaking.

Next we put in the subfloors. Meg and Dan (Team Yellow) and Joe and Breanna (Team Purple) used polystyrene insulation that they cut to fit between their trailer struts. After Team Red’s (that’s us) woeful experiment with washing wool for insulation we bought batts of recycled denim and fit those in. We put down construction adhesive, sill sealer, then we attached ¾” plywood. Yahoo–we have subfloors!

We are doing a traditional “stick build,” so we got going on modifying our plans to fit our salvaged windows, and then cutting sill plates for the whole house. We then cut the studs for the back wall and nailed them together with our new serious, dangerous tool, a pneumatic nail gun. Ka-thunk! We now have a back wall.

Sharing tools, batteries, and hands was such a benefit in this physical process.  Lifting ¾” ply is not easy by yourself, nevermind placing the tongue in the groove and getting it all screwed down. When we made a mistake on our house, it was satisfying to be able to talk about what happened, and prevent our co-builders from doing the same thing.

Meg and Sarah measuring the wall

Meg and Sarah measuring the wall

The other two couples are building with SIPS (structural insulated panels), which have not yet arrived. In the meantime, Joe and Bre are researching old-time-y locks with skeleton keys for their front door. They’re also shopping around for a speak-easy door hatch.

Dan applying construction glue

Sarah and Joseph putting screws in the subfloor

Coming up next, a good old-fashioned SIPS-raising. Also, torching exterior siding shou-sugi-ban-style (What? You’ll see!) And more walls from us, definitely.

Sarah Weintraub and Joseph Schommer of Seeds With Wings and are part of the Tumbleweed writing team for the next few months, reporting on a group build of three Tumbleweeds to take place this Summer and Fall in Sonoma, CA.


  • Kyle Meadows

    Great to see photos of the installation! Would it be possible to see large resolution photos, to get a close up look at the details? You mentioned that you started by screwing pressure-treated 2X4s all around trailer’s outer edge. They look pretty tall- did you mean 2×6′s? Thanks!

    • Tumbleweed_Tiny_House_Company

      Hi Kyle!

      We have our graphic designer working on touching up the photos as best as he can to give them a better resolution and larger size. And you are right, they are pressure-treated 2×6′s. Thanks for catching that, we have updated the post.

  • Cassondra Sole

    This is so cool…..wish I was there.

  • Doug

    Do any of these houses come with working toilets or are they always going to be composting/chemical toilets?

    • texadillo

      Look at what’s available for RVs and boats. Or consider constructing it on a site with plumbing. But remember, every contractor and building permit adds to the cost. I think many composting/chemical toilets are just as good as “working toilets,” and better for the environment.

      • Brenda Myers

        I have -considered the composting-but what chemical use? Like used in a natural compost? I also thought about a y have it where I could turn one off when parked-or connected at some place. Idea’s? Help?

    • Anne Mallin

      Doug,” hyper-build” a solar system, so you can use an ‘Encolet’ toilet.
      Hyper- building solar also give you extra elec. for our future cars. Remember, you can also build your roof like a ‘lean-to’, it’s much more friendly for Solar and you can visit the DSIRE website to take advantage of each individual states’ solar incentives. Why buy back or sell your solar energy when they are a corp. , by law, have to show stockholders they can make a profit? Utility companies stockholders are jumping ship, and the people who will remain hooked into the grid are doomed to help defray the maint. of lines and power poles, digging, etc. Why bother?Jump ship now and let them worry about how they will turn a profit for their shareholders.
      You will not need water for your toilet, but bathing. A shared well is also nice, too.


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