Wall paneling, insulation and rainbows…


It’s been fairly lousy weather as of late; the shifty, cloudy type where you can barely feel your fingers and are never sure when it will turn drippy. Not too terribly much work got accomplished this weekend as a result, but we got the off-side ready for cedar siding.

Today the rain came. Rain, then rainbows, then snow, then rain again, but I set up inside my house with the light and many layers on to get some work in. I finally sourced my 1/4″ pine tongue and groove wall paneling last week sitting innocently on shelf at Lowes (after being told by several rather rude chaps at Home Depot that this combination was not possible and didn’t exist) so I’ve been dying to get some up since.

With the electric in, I began on the window bump out for my learning curve since it will most likely be hidden by a bench or somesuch. I worked from the bottom up and insulated as I went, placing my sheep wool into each cavity and thoroughly enjoying myself. I used my dad’s pin nailer to hold the boards onto each 2×4 stud and it did a fine job, leaving perfect little little silver dots where each went in.

This part is brilliant in the visual department, so I spent nearly as much time standing back to stare as I did putting everything together; it’s almost therapeutic in the pattern of it. Who needs a shrink when you can stuff wool into a wall?


24 responses »

  1. Hi – I’ve been following your blog ever since the link appeared in the “Tiny House” newsletter and I’m impressed with the work your father and you are doing.
    Today’s post about insulating and putting up the tongue & groove planks has me wondering about the sheep’s wool insulation and the way you are installing it. From all my experience I believe you will need a vapour barrier between the warm air side of the wall and the insulation or it will fill with ice from the warm humid air inside the warm house. Here in Canada we staple a 6 mil poly vapour barrier to the inside of the studs and then panel over top of that. Here is a link to a pdf booklet that may explain this better. http://www.hydro.mb.ca/your_home/home_comfort/booklets_info_sht.shtml
    Thanks for keeping up the blog and the pictures are great.

    • I have debated for a while whether or not to use a vapour barrier, but I decided that in the climate I’ll likely be living in (California caostal) it wouldn’t really be necessary. Hopefully I won’t decide to move where it snows a lot!

  2. Insulating in California might be a bit different than Manitoba Canada, somewhat different climates. Ellaharp’s process of filling the walls with wool could be compared to “drill and fill” method many insulation companies do to existing homes. Vapor barriers are not necessarily good in all climates because they can trap moisture, mostly they are used in climates that have large differences between outdoor and indoor temperatures.

    Ellaharp, just don’t go to Manitoba and you should be fine (no offense to Manitobians in any way:)

      • The main advantage to a vapor barrier isn’t moisture control in the walls, but moderating temperature and humidity inside the dwelling. To be effective, the vapor barrier needs to be placed within the wall according to the local climate, and the wall itself must be as sealed and hole-free as possible; also, most houses aren’t intended to be moved.

        RVs, campers and cars, on the other hand, don’t have any kind of vapor barriers, as you know. This is because they’re not continually used like houses are. A vapor barrier in an RV will only trap moisture inside the RV, which will lead to rot and mold because the temperature and humidity varies wildly through the cycles of use and storage (and the wide range of climates the RV can find itself in). (Also, most RVs don’t even have adequate insulation).

        I was talking to a couple of my local contractors the other day about this very thing and they suggested that if I (because I am also building a tiny house) plan to move my tiny house between warm and cold climates, it’s best to either put the vapor barrier on the inside of the wall insulation and ensure I have more-than-adequate ventilation (and possibly have a dehumidifier handy just in case), or use no vapor barrier at all but use a natural fiber insulation like wool (one of them was on the fence about paper-fiber insulation). They stressed the importance of good ventilation in both cases.

        I assume this is one of the main factors as to why Ella chose wool, as it’s known to absorb and desorb moisture quite readily, making it one of the most versatile insulating materials available to us.

        I live in northern Utah, and I don’t plan on ever moving my tiny house much further south (or towards the coasts), but there’s a wide range of natural temperature and humidity in the areas where I do plan to live. I do plan to use wool (thanks for the suggestion, Ella!), but I am planning on adding a layer of relective foil to the inside (or plastic, depends on availability). I think this will be just fine if I ever decide to haul my house to Florida, as long as I’m attentive to my house and open the windows, etc.

  3. Ella, I have a couple of questions about things you wrote about in previous (ancient, by now) posts, but I don’t really want to post them here as they’d be offtopic. I’m just now finally getting started with my own tiny house project, and I’d really like a better understanding of some of the methods you’ve used, to see how applicable they would be to my project. Is there any way to contact you other than these comments? Thanks!

  4. Hi Ella! Saw your article today on the tiny house blog! I love the house, the name, and you are just beautiful! Congratulations! I live in a really beautiful place, where there is an old workshop that I am going to turn into my tiny home/room. I look forward to reading about your adventure and learning from you! Sincerely Shade

  5. Wondered to your blog by the way of ‘tiny house blog’ on Facebook. It is so wise to invest modestly in a dwelling, especially when you are young. You have already given yourself a huge leg up to following your dreams when you are not tethered to financially supporting a dwelling. Can’t wait to see it finished. I also wanted to add here that you don’t always hear nice stories about step-parents, it was so refreshing to read that your Step-Dad took up his hammer and is working with you to help your dream become reality. Nice.

  6. Ciamar a tha sibh? I love what you’ve named your tiny house. Funny thing is, we named our house Taigh Beag….and then found out later that it can be translated to bathroom. LOL! Oh well. It’s still our Taigh Beag. We don’t live in a tiny house, but rather a small cottage….880 square feet. We is hubby, me, 3 kiddos, 1 baby on the way and our doggy.

    • Tha gu math, tapadh leibh! Yes, I found a similar problem when I was asked by one of my Gaelic teachers what I was going to do when I returned home. I don’t think ‘I’m going to build a toilet’ sounded like a good plan to him. Nevermind! We shall both live in our taighean beaga and be very happy indeed 🙂

  7. I, too, found your blog via the Tiny House blog (what great exposure!). My husband and I are currently in the process of lightening our load, so to speak. Getting rid of everything except the essentials + things that are important or meaningful to us. I’ve been really inspired by the Mongolian nomads and their yurts, so we’re hoping to, one day soon, purchase/build a yurt for our home. It just makes so much more sense to us, especially in this economy. Why get yourself into debt for 30+ years or pay ridiculous amounts of money to the wind via rent, when you can live comfortably for considerably cheaper than most people think is possible. I love coming across other young people who are interested in exploring this “alternative” way to live, and I look forward to following your progress on your tiny house! I’m really impressed with your skill-set, too. I can’t even imagine wielding a saw, cutting those curves around the tires and stuff. It’s inspiring :).

  8. Loving following your home building project. You are doing a fantastic job. I do have a quick question. I noticed that your roof doesn’t have the same profile as the Fencl on the Tumbleweed web site. Did the plans provide for different roof lines and was there a particular reason you chose the one you did? Just curious.

    Thanks for taking the time to post about your project and including all the photos. Really a great record of your work and I love getting to see how it is progressing. Can’t wait to see how you finish the rest of the inside!

    • We figured that the little gable was a bit much for our skill set and I liked the idea of the extra space, so we just repeated what the plans said for the other end of the house. Made it much easier to build and I love the window up there 🙂

  9. Greatings from a very envious tiny house enthusiast living in Japan. Discovered the tiny house movement my three years ago, and moved to Japan a year and a half ago to teach English. Your blog popped up on the tiny house blog (as so many has stated), and will hence forth be one of my frequently checked. Perhaps whenever I return I will follow your sterling example and take the leap into DIY tiny dream house construction. Love the project, good luck!

  10. Found your blog a week or two ago and have been lurking and enjoying.

    The vapor barrier question concerns me. Maybe a question to ask some builders. I know older homes (like my parents 100 year old house) don’t have them. But the difference is there’s no vapor barrier on either side, in or out. Any moisture that gets in will mostly find it’s way out (it’s still not ideal).

    You have house wrap on the outside. And all I know is from watching TV and reading, but I think without a vapor barrier on the inside and a house wrap on the outside, you’re creating a situation where moist air from the inside (showers, cooking, just breathing in and out while inside) can’t get out and will end up inside the walls condensing in your insulation where there’s chance of mold and rot. That’s why I’d ask someone who really knows their stuff before I got too far. If it were me, I know I would investigate further.

    Anyway, enjoying watching your progress and keep going! I wish I had done what you’re doing at your age!

    • Usually house wraps have a certain amount of permeability to it, allowing moisture to escape over time. They can be like a tightly woven blanket, they shed water but also breath or they are perforated every few inches with small holes.

      What a great step dad! I bet you guys will have some good laughs for a long time to come over this project.

  11. Your blog is so cool; it could make any experience sound exciting. I was wondering if there was a large price difference between the standard foam insulation most people use in their tiny homes and the more expensive wool. I only know of Evan and Gabby using the wool insulation in their tiny house. Also, did you order the Jeld-Wen windows that Tumbleweed recommends? Thank you, you’re very inspiring. 🙂

    • I originally balked at the price of wool, but found out that had I used 2 layers of foam to fill the whole wall cavity (as I had planned) the wool wasn’t all that much more expensive, around $150 if I recall correctly. The foam insulation also requires spray foam to fill any gaps, so that would probably add a bit more on as well. I’m really loving the wool and am quite pleased with my decision 🙂

      My windows are by Superior; I was directed to a wonderful window company by a contractor friend of mine and those were the brand they suggested. For the most part I quite like them, although I got single hung and the mechanisms are a bit shady. One arrived not opening so smoothly and now I think another has gone funky. Guess I’ll have to learn how to fix them!

      • FYI, I looked up a youtube video for fixing the mechanisms and tried it out today. It really just involved taking the bottom part out, tweaking a few things then putting it back on. Worked like a charm, so I no longer have anything negative (so far) to report on Superior’s window making.

  12. Hi Ella!

    Met you at an Atlanta Tumbleweed workshop back in 2013. 🙂 I’m now embarking on my own build, and am leaning heavily toward wool insulation. I knew that you had used sheep wool, and now that it’s been a couple of years, I wanted to see how it’s been holding up! Living in Georgia (and eventually trekking to the Northwest), we know we will be dealing with humidity issues, and know we would need to make sure there’s always proper ventilation (we’ll be using a humidity sensing fan in the bathroom, mini-split system with dehumidifier and venting skylight/lots of windows).

    That being said, I’ve seen some people who install wool insulation throughout their home also installs a vapor barrier in their walls/ceiling, and a similar situation on top of their subfloor, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not.

    Would you do anything different? Have you had any issues with condensation or moisture in your walls (that you know of)?

    Thanks so much! 🙂

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