On the 23rd Crae and I went up to Malta, MT to get my sheep wool insulation and we couldn't have asked for a better day. Usually driving across the state in January is a stupid idea, but this winter has been very mild and it was actually about 45ºF and sunny all the way up there. And boy was it a beautiful drive. I thought it'd be flat just like the rest of eastern Montana but we ended up driving next to the Snowy Mountains, the Little Rockies, and through the Charles M. Russel Wildlife Preserve. We also saw tons of pheasants and eagles, which was nice. Highway 191 up to Malta is a great drive to see parts of Montana most people skip over. We left at 7 a.m and got back by 5:30 p.m, so it can be a long day drive, or a nice weekend trip if you spend the night in Lewistown(which also seemed really cool).
Once we got there we met Thayne Mackey, the owner of Montana Green Insulation. He's a retired sheep farmer and jack of all trades. We walked into the shop(which they're in the middle of moving/renovating) and he offered us a cup of coffee and told us about the equipment they use. There are only three scouring trains in the United States like theirs and it was made in the 1870's, which is pretty cool. They also use solar water heaters to heat the water used to wash the wool and afterwards they recycle it. He told us in the summer they raise prawns with it and are considering putting in a large greenhouse in the next couple of years. I told him I was happy to find his product and he had good prices compared to everyone else I looked at and he told me that most wool insulation providers get their wool from South America, but he gets his from Montana and the western U.S, which I assume helps keep cost down. I was nervous meeting Thayne because I thought I'd be meeting an old, grumpy farmer but we sat down and talked for almost an hour and he is just a funny, very friendly, and open minded guy. After Crae and I left we both wished we had more time to talk and swap ideas and stories and Crae was even talking about getting some wool from him for one of her housing projects.
We got back to town just at sunset with 158 pounds of wool, and then I took a nap. But not after taking a picture of me and my new insulation. I'm so relieved and excited because I can actually start to make some big progress on my house now.
Over the past few weeks I've been getting a few things done, mainly little projects...or little pieces of big projects. I am STILL working on the electrical but the only reason is because I had to scrap my original plan for lights in the house, meaning I had to re-do some of the work I had already done. It's okay though, because my new lighting plan is going to be better than my original. I managed to find some low profile, LED recessed lighting with the 12V DC to 120V AC driver built in, which makes wiring them a lot easier. They were even affordable! They should be in the mail tomorrow and I'm sure I'll give a more through review once I hold them in my hand and install them. For those wondering though, these are the lights I will be using in the house: LE 3W 3 inch LED Recessed Ceiling Light
I also ran the propane line through my walls this week for my cooktop. I'm glad I remembered this critical little project before I closed up the walls. I was thinking so far ahead and trying to get ready for the insulation and tongue and groove I actually completely forgot about putting in the gas line. When I first started planning to build a tiny house 2 years ago I thought I could just use a regular old propane hose that you use for BBQ's and put in in the wall...and I thought that up until 2 weeks ago. Boy was I wrong and glad I did some research before I just ran out and bought a really long, soft, hose. The reality is you want something very rigid for two reasons. First off is it keeps the propane properly pressurized traveling over long distances. If you try to run propane to an appliance 50' though a garden hose it will lose a bit of its pressure because the walls of the hose are too soft. The second reason you want a harder gas line is to prevent it from being punctured. It's a lot easier for nails to go through a garden hose than a steel pipe. So, after finding these two things out and thinking about the reality of my situation(I need to snake the line around the house in weird angles), I decided to go with 1/2" CSST flexible tubing. Many other people use regular old steel pipe, however in my situation I would have to have lots of joints and bends in my line, which translates to more chances for a propane leak in my house. With the CSST I can run the line from the propane tank to the cooktop without a single interruption. However, just because the label says "flexible" doesn't mean it's THAT flexible. I had to call in some help from my dad to bend it around the corner and pull it through the wall. I think I was use to running 12/2 romex and it was a little bit of a shock having to use my whole body weight to push the CSST through one hole.
The second project I have been working on is the flooring. I think I have finally collected enough oak pallet boards to cover the floor and then some, so I have started to plane them down. This project has probably been the most satisfying one in a while. I get to see instant results with each board I do. It's amazing how a board can go from black to oak that looks brand new.
I have been planing them down to 1/2" thickness and after that I'll square them up on the table saw and put a half lap joint around the edges using the router. I talked to a flooring guy who said I could do a tongue and groove joint even on this thin of a floor and have it work, but it makes me nervous. I think it'll be easier to do the half lap on our little router and then face nail the boards.
The next big project though is going to get the insulation! Next week I will be going to Malta, MT to pick up my sheep wool insulation from Montana Green Insulation. I changed my mind a lot over what type of insulation to get but ultimately I went with a "local" company. I put local in quotes because it's still a 5 hour drive across the state to get there. However I really want to support their business. They use wool from Montana and the western US and then scour it using biodegradable soap and reuse their water. Their facility is also pretty green, and best of all it's not that expensive! The quote I got said it'd be $500 to insulate my whole house. It's a solid compromise between the cheap-o fiberglass at Home Depot(for about $200) and the $1,000+ cost of spray foam. Plus wool is completely safe to work with and recyclable. When I decided to build a tiny house though it was more for finances, security in the unknown future and the "cool" factor, but choosing some green options sure feels good too.
Lastly, the main reason I decided to document my build is to offer resources to future tiny house builders like myself. When I was first researching and planning, there was some technical info and numbers I really wanted that just weren't out there. SO, please let me know if I'm missing any info that you're dying to know. It can even bee something as mundane as "how tall is your trailer bed off the ground" or "how big is your book shelf going to be?" I'm happy to write on any subject or answer any questions.