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San Juan Island Small House Update


This week was all about rafters and building things that would allow us to install even more rafters. We are now at the point where we are just about completely done with them, even installing the short rafters that comprise the clipped gables. There remain only four rafters to install for the main roof structure, those being at the very end of the house proper. In the relatively near future it will be time to install the merge and fly rafters as well, but we are not there yet (need to build knee braces prior).

We also built the north and south dormers and got them raised and sheathed in plywood and then installed the dormer rafters. It was nice to see the gaps in the rafters fill in. I must say, too, that there is a certain shame about having to install a roof over top of a full rafter installation. There is something beautiful and even moving about seeing the framework of a roof standing out against a blue summer sky. Fortunately, my dreamy architecture gazing got a reminder of why it’s important to take the extra steps and finish the roof when we had a bit of rain on Thursday afternoon. Friday the sun was out again and we finished the first downward rafter for the clipped gables. The cuts for these rafters are deceptively complicated, but working slowly and deliberately, we got them done and installed. We have an adjustment to make to them tomorrow, but the fit was good and we are pleased to see them rounding out the edges of the house. The gable end walls have a beginning to them, with the main windowed part of the wall framed in on both the east and west sides of the home. We will finish the gable end walls this week and install the final four rafters for the main roof at that time. 

The dormers have made for a very spacious upstairs and we are pleased to see the layout taking shape. Tomorrow we’ll be back at it, finishing up work on the clipped gable rafters, installing the exterior rafters, building out the rest of the gable end walls. At that point, it may well be time to shift gears a little bit and build the pergolas that will be on the east and west side of the home. These pergolas will provide us with built in staging and help us immensely with sheathing the gable end walls and then installing the barge and fly rafters. We aren’t sure how long that will take, but in a sense, the building of the pergolas is the next step in roof framing, at least for us!  

Another piece of exciting news is that we have chosen our paint colors and the paint is on the way. That might seem a bit premature, but in fact, a lot of the trim rafters I like to prime and paint completely before installing to save on the job later on when they are high above my head. Check out our colors in the photos included below. The trim will be red and the siding gold. The window exteriors will be ebony and so provide a third color. We are again using Mythic Non-Toxic Paint for all of our exterior paint. Not only do they mix lovely colors, but the paint is great in terms of weight, coverage, luster and is also completely non toxic. I am going to do a full review of the product later this summer and include details on how you can get a discount coupon on your next order from them!

Alexis Givens Interview


This month we did an interview for the Alexis Givens design blog! Alexis Givens has worked as editor for a variety of publications, including Redbook, Martha Stewart Living, O At Home, House Beautiful, and Real Simple. Read the two-part interview and check out her awesome design ideas! Read the interview here:

Alexis Givens Interview

Alexis Givens Interview

Bioshield "Aqua Resin" floor finish review

Shawn A. Dehner

I took a few weeks off from work recently to celebrate the close of summer and all the chores involved in it (interior and exterior house painting, siding, etc) with a week's getaway, but also to finish sanding and whitewashing the floors of our home in anticipation of move in. 

We have never bought raw wood flooring and finished it ourselves, though we've flirted with the idea since first thinking about building and remodeling over a decade ago. The idea was somewhat intimidating because of the finishing. Twenty years ago, as a very young man, Shawn helped his roommates apply a polyurethane coating to a floor and it was a difficult endeavor indeed. The polyurethane rippled and buckled in areas and was generally a beast to apply by an inexperienced crew. Anyway, despite having had a lot of good experiences with things we're unfamiliar with since then, the idea of applying a coating to a flooring was still a little intimidating. I feared having a similar experience, though I figured floor coatings of all sorts had probably come a long way since the early nineties...not to mention the power that learning bestows on one over the decades.

For our floor coating we tried a product made by a company specializing in non toxic coatings called BioShield. The product is made in Germany. It's called Aqua Resin Floor Finish and comes in a huge variety of colors.  The product is a stain and finish in one.  One interested in purchasing this product should also be aware that there is another product by the same company with a similar name that is the stain only and does not contain polyurethane, so choose according to your individual needs. From the website: "Tinted, semi-transparent, water-based finish for interior floors and furniture. Use Aqua Resin Floor Finish for priming and finishing heavily used surfaces. High abrasion resistance. BioShield Aqua Resin Floor Finish is formaldehyde free."  We had installed the floors early in the building process and then proceeded to work and walk on them throughout the finishing of the house in order to give them a good used look (we were aiming for rustic and wanted to avoid a super slick engineered look in our floors). By late October of this year, the floors were well trodden and quite dirty from shoes indoors, drywall dust and just general hard wear. In other words, nearly perfect. I say nearly perfect because I intended to do a thorough sanding before applying the finishing coats. The sanding work cleaned up the wood beautifully, removing all the surface grime and deep construction related scratches and gouges. It was time to apply the first of the three recommended coats. The company recommends applying the product with a short nap roller, which I did. I used the same smooth nap that I did for interior wall painting.  

Bioshield Aqua Resin in the Beekeeper's Bungalow

The first coat was pretty rugged to put on - meaning that it took some true physical effort. I worked room by room, area by area, but given that the floor plan is somewhat open, this generally entailed completing large areas at a time. The first coat was sucked into our flooring very quickly and seemed alarmingly uneven in application at first. I was worried that I would end up with lines and areas that were darker than others, and at the close of the first coat, I had a bit of this going on. I found it a little tricky to load my roller in such a way that I could get all the way across flooring areas without having to break and then re-apply the material. This breaking and then re-starting the process left lines that I didn't like. The first coat was also extremely light. I hadn't expected to need three coats, but I found that this was an exactly perfect recommendation for the finish to reach its full color potential. Despite my trepidation about the first coating (applied in the small bedroom so I could have a chance to get used to the product and apply it properly) I followed the recommendations of the company and allowed it to fully dry (they suggest allowing 4-5 hours between coats with a one week full cure time) and then sanded the overlap areas lightly. I found that this removed the glaring overlap nicely. I was also very pleasantly surprised by the application of the second coating. For one thing, it rolled on much more smoothly. The first coat is a work out because your floor is really thirsty and taking in lots of the product. But the first coating also leaves a slightly slick plasticized coating over the wood and the second coating adheres very nicely to this first coating. I found the second coat not only easy to apply, but interesting in that it almost seemed intuitive. By that I mean that the second coat seemed to take more evenly in terms of coloration, layering in more color in the areas that had turned out lighter in the first coat. The third coat was similar in that it was easy to apply, smooth and seemed to coat with a nice regularity. As I applied the material, I got better at loading my roller and not overlapping too much. Where I had slight overlap lines, I tried to lightly coat and then sand gently to avoid stark lines and blend the product. This worked pretty well. I also found that working with the boards as groups to be helpful in applying. I went with the grain for the most part, but found the application perfect going against the grain and across boards as well. The upstairs of the house has sloped ceilings and I had no problem with cross grain application in those areas where I couldn't stand properly or where my roller wouldn't fit except by working across the grain. In fact, it worked extremely well. 

The final coating is white and glows with a faintly warm pink tone that relates to the flooring underneath (southern yellow pine downstairs and western white pine upstairs). The upstairs wood we face nailed and I really like the effect of the slight darkening around the nails with the whitewash overlaid. It's very rustic and cottage-y. Overall, this is a product I would both recommend and plan to use again (that blue is calling out "someday" to me in a not uncertain whisper). Bioshield specializes in non toxic finishes and I felt very comfortable using the product despite the polyurethane. The product contains less than 115 grams of VOC per liter. There is an odor to the product which airs out quickly and I can't detect at all once dried. The resulting surface is slick to the touch and has a lovely lustrous shine to it - light plays beautifully on it. The feel of the floor surface is stronger and sturdier feeling than any of the pre-finished flooring that we've ever bought before. The whitewash effect is perfect for a rustic look or a beach type cottage and the white brightens the room marvelously while allowing nails and knots and other wonders of woodgrain to show through and please the eye. The surface also has a really nice hardness to it. It's definitely sealed. Water and other liquids are totally repelled from the wood and wipe up easily. I am thoroughly pleased. Aside from the slight rigor of the first coating's application (and the tedium of the sanding - which could easily be remedied by renting a large floor sander rather than using the little orbital sander that I did) this was an easy, no fuss and no fear process. Rippling was never a problem, I had a smooth, beautiful application without having to do any more than read the label and follow the directions. 

Bioshield Aqua Resin floor finish is a non-toxic polyurethane "whitewash" for wood floors.

Bioshield Aqua Resin floor finish is a non-toxic polyurethane "whitewash" for wood floors.

My only suggestion with this product is to purchase more than is recommended in terms of square footage, especially if you want a lot of color in the flooring. We ordered ten liters to start based on Bioshield's suggestion that the product covers 140-160 square feet per liter. We ended up ordering another five liters and I think once the stairs are done, this will be perfect for our desired look. A more experienced person or someone desiring a lighter color for the finished product might find the manufacturer's recommendation perfect. Further, one should pay attention to the warning by the company to not over-agitate the product prior to application. You are aiming to mix the product gently without shaking it to the point where air bubbles form. Apparently, if you over shake the product, the air bubbles may show up in the floor coating. I was a little nervous about this (the fear of rippling polyurethane runs deep, I suppose) and because the product comes in a squat bottle with a small spout, I wasn't sure how to go about mixing at first. I tried inserting a paint stick into the small spout and this was unsurprisingly a complete failure. I settled on slowly rotating the bottle upside down and in all directions while avoiding actively shaking the material. This worked well. The product should definitely be mixed well before using. If not, you won't get the color and may not get the proper polyurethane mix in the blend either. 

I had a great experience with this product. I loved the quality, the ease of application and the beauty of the final product. I expect that by the feel of the finished floor it will last a good long time. 

The Scandinavian Wall

Design PhilosophyShawn A. Dehner

The Scandinavian wall design enables a single piece of insulation (e.g. a fiberglass batt) to be fully inserted into a stud bay without being interrupted - and therefore compromised - by electrical wiring, gang boxes, plumbing and other systems. It also allows a vapor retarder or barrier to be installed continuously, without excessive puncturing, over the studs and insulation. The results are walls that greatly reduce air and moisture migration.

Bricor Shower Head Review and Giveaway!


The Leader in Low Flow Shower Heads and Water Saving Products.

As many of our readers are aware, we have been “buttoning up” the Beekeeper’s Bungalow over the last couple of weeks. While we’ve had phenomenally dry, truly spectacular weather in this transition to fall time of year, the very thought of showers and water flow of any kind has been somewhat of a verboten subject in our household. However, THE small HOUSE CATALOG was recently given the opportunity to try out a special low flow shower head, the B100 Ultramax, made by the folks at Bricor. This is the kind of shower that I can talk about quite freely and happily and now that the roof is safely on and working well (we had our first light rain shower this afternoon to test it out) I’d really like to share my thoughts with readers about this product. I have to admit that Shawn and I have had overwhelmingly positive results with the B100 Ultramax and love it.

From now until October 15, 2012 we’re hosting a giveaway of one brand new Bricor B100 Max shower head, a sibling of the B100 Ultramax, and a $74.95 value. Please read on for your chance to win and see what you think of this product!

About Bricor’s Most Water Efficient Shower Heads:

B100 Ultramax & B100 Max

The B100 Ultramax is an ultra low flow shower head specially designed for situations like RV’s  - or tiny houses – where you might have only limited water to use at one time. Since we are currently living in our tiny house, an ultra low flow shower head solves a number of needs. For one thing, like most people these days, we are aware and always trying to be more aware of our water usage. Northwest winters are notoriously wet and rainy, but summers are super dry, and this has been a very dry one, and while obviously advantageous and just what you hope for when building, this dryness also gives one pause for thought. With so much of the country in extreme drought, water saving and conservation is something high on most people’s list of environmentally responsible priorities. But our tiny house gives us a further reason to be water conscious; and that’s the importance of being able to take a decently long shower when dealing with a water heater that holds less than 4 gallons of hot water! You read that correctly: less than 4 gallons. In our tiny house, using the B100 Ultramax we enjoy 15 minute showers that use less than 4 gallons of hot water. It’s amazing! Bricor’s patented Vinturi Physics aeration technology makes it feel like you are getting much more water than you actually are. How? By using air to “fluff up” the water and making it spread over a larger area. This means more coverage and a stronger feeling stream. The ultra low flow nature of the Bricor B100 Max (1 GPM) and Ultramax (.5525 GPM) means that anyone can enjoy a long, luxurious hot shower while saving water and not running through a limited quantity of hot water in your RV, tiny house, cottage, or whatever application you are using these shower heads. The B100 Ultramax and B100 Max are small shower heads with plenty of heft. Right away you know they are not plastic. They feel like good tools made to last a lifetime. They’re also handsome with their shiny chrome finishes. Note: If you have different finishes, you can find a variety of finish options available for different Bricor heads. It’s also easy to install these shower heads on any new or existing plumbing: simply unscrew the old water-wasting shower head, if you have one, wrap a little plumber’s tape around the threading of your wall stub-out and screw on the Bricor. You’re ready for your first wonderful low-flow shower!

The Bricor Touch

Something unique and impressive about buying directly from Bricor is that the folks there will help “personalize” your shower head. By that I mean that they will ask you about your particular psi, rather than assuming you have a particular flow rate, so they can “set” the shower head to run most efficiently for your application. You just call your local water department – or find out what your well flows at. For example, our local water department told us that our pressure is 110 psi. We have a pressure reducer installed at our water meter due to high water pressure and this brings our psi down to about 50 to 55. The B100 Ultramax that we tried out is set to flow at .55 gpm (gallons per minute) at 55 psi. Something important to note here is that an ultra low flow shower head will work exceptionally well and will truly reduce your water usage in the shower, but in order to function, you’ve got to pay attention to your psi. If you try to use an ultra low flow shower head set to flow at 1 gpm at 50 psi but your actual psi is 110, you will not have the results you are looking for. I thought this was important to stress because typically when you purchase a shower head, water flow is not primarily on your mind. You might be looking at the style or finish and not give much thought to your psi. That’s all fine and well. Bricor offers a variety of finishes (from chrome to satin nickel and other options in between) for their shower heads, but you’ll definitely want to inform yourself and Bricor of your psi so that the truly special quality of the shower head, that being the water saving ability of the head, can be maximized.

Getting Down to the Dirt…

I had some concerns that a water saving unit might render up the savings either in a maddeningly wimpy flow that leaves you feeling as though you can’t get enough water out of the head to get the soap off or such a lot of air flowing with the water that pressure might feel good but you still can’t get the soap off. The Bricor doesn’t have these problems at all. The flow is strong and “watery.” It’s not so strong that it feels like you are being pelted with nails but there’s no wimpiness to the flow either. It’s just a nice, steady, strong flow that seems balanced perfectly. It’s warm, satisfying and pleasantly effective. I suppose I really feel like I can’t say enough good things about our own Bricor shower head. Bricor offers a simple solution to a problem that in one way or another all of us encounter. For tiny house enthusiasts, RV’ers, and others the B100 Ultramax and other shower heads in Bricor’s ultra low flow category will be a welcome addition to the plumbing because it solves a space related problem of how to take a reasonably long and comfy hot shower while using a necessarily tiny hot water heater. For those living in very arid conditions, or other locations where water is a costly and conserved resource, the B100 Ultramax will provide similar benefits in terms of water conservation more obviously than hot water preservation.  For all of us (and there are many of us now) who are concerned about water as the precious resource that it is, the Bricor series of low flow and ultra low flow shower heads will help you to be a part of the solution to water wastage. You’ll feel better and notice the difference only in your overall water bill rather than in a lowered sense of comfort in the shower.

Bricor Shower Head Giveaway Details:

Tell the world how you enjoy saving water in the comments section below or right at the Bricor posting on Facebook.

It can be any way at all, just share your ideas!

A random comment will be chosen as the winner and we will arrange to ship the shower head to you.

The giveaway contest will end on October 15th at 6 pm pst, so get your comments posted at the end of this blog post or on Facebook ASAP!