Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Bitchen: Bathroom + Kitchen

Tim came over to help me install the shower pan and shower surround. When he saw the roofing panels he asked me if I didn't want to install a fiberglass shower surround.

"That would just be too suburban," I said.

"I knew I missed you," he said. It took him much longer to install my corrugated roofing panels, but it was worth it. He had to install a backer board to support the corner. And cut the panel to fit at the end. Then screw it all down with numerous screws. We will trim the edges with wood later.

I love the shimmering reflective surface. It is a humble building material that reminds me of Thailand. Yet it also has a modern industrial look to it.

Protecting the surface did worry me. I didn't want it to rust. Others who had used galvanized metal just sprayed on the Rustoleum clear aerosol, but aerosol products are against my religion. I chose the Rustoleum clear latex and brushed it on. It sagged a bit, but I just kept brushing it upward. At the end of the job I read the back of the can and it said not to use it on metal. Well heck. Then I read another tutorial on using galvanized roofing for a shower and they didn't protect it with any product and reported that it just dulled over time. So we'll see.

The drain for the shower pan proved a challenge to find at my local hardware store. Standard shower pans use a much bigger drain. This being an RV shower pan it had only a 2" drain. In the end I had to order a drain from an RV site. I chose one with a stopper so I could use the shower pan as a giant foot bath and a sink if needed. The RV pan has much higher sides than a conventional one so gave me this option. I hadn't decided whether to go with a conventional shower pan or an RV pan, but in the end I had to choose the RV pan because I was afraid the drain hole would land on top of one of the beams of the trailer below. Only RV pans offer a drain on the side like this. I also worried about how it would be installed because conventional shower pans need to be mudded in to drain properly. It turns out that the RV pan comes with a very thick styrofoam base that supports the pan so it drains properly. Tim had to cut some of the wood away from the wall to get it to line up flush to the wall. This was a better idea than trying to fill the void with wood as I had thought to do.

While Tim worked on the shower I worked on my kitchen cupboard doors. I had assembled the door frames with the Kreg tool and was satisfied with how that worked. I cut thin ply to cover the back of the doors and painted the ply to match. Then using the left over corrugated metal I cut pieces to fit inside the door frames. Tin snips were too arduous for cutting and left a mangled edge so I ventured to try the grinder with a metal cutting wheel and that worked well. I made sure to use the factory edge on the side that would be seen most and it looks fine.

I did not really like any of the door pulls I found at the hardware store although I would have used a nickel bar type handle if I had not found some conduit pipe hangers in my dad's workshop drawers. They inspired me to try making my own handles because they only had tabs on one side so did not need to be mounted flush. And when I held them up to the doors I found that I could mount them inside the frame which would then hold the conduit pipe away from the surface. This looked terrific when I put in the pieces of conduit pipe.

Having derived such cool handles I now needed to choose the right hinges. I tried gate style hinges, but they covered too much of the frame. It became clear that a butt hinge would mirror the shape of the handles in a very stylish way even though it would require the use of a chisel to cut a mortise for every single hinge twice. Style won out and I got out my chisels.

The completed cupboard door. Even though it took two pieces of leftover corrugated panel to cover the door you cannot see the joint. Such is the power of illusion. Viewed from above the line is not noticeable.

I also created a rolling cutting board cart to fit between the cabinets. It wasn't part of my design, but when I realized that I had made the counter taller than normal because I had forgotten to take into account the thickness of the counter I decided to make a pull out cart of the right height that would also give me the opportunity to work in a compost bucket for greater efficiency of clean up. And the height of the cart in turn created a perfect space for a trash can and recycling bin. The cart itself is only 8" wide but could support a cutting board of any width.

It took me a while to build this cart because of all the components that had to be painted separately. I again used pieces of doors which gives the shelves that nice thickness. Thin ply make up the back and side. I had a lot of conduit pipe left over from the 18 tables I made for a play two years ago so wanted to use it in the design. The construction is not as solid as I would want it to be because the conduit pipe flexes a little in the joint, but it is good enough.

I also took the trouble to install shelves in the back of the cabinet I got from the desk because Tim pointed out that there was space behind the drawers and he suggested I make a secret compartment. I decided I would make extra shelves which will come in handy for canned goods and other supplies.

Once installed the entire kitchen came together in a very satisfying way. All the components looked great together. I put in a different trash can I had in my office and the porthole gave the whole thing a nautical look like a ships galley.

You can also see the installation of my horse feeder sink which is simply screwed to the wall with lag bolts in the valleys of the corrugated panel. I ordered a sink drain from an RV store which was chrome and gave it a touch of class. Tim installed the hose bib which goes right through the wall and connects to an inlet valve for connecting to an outdoor hose. The inlet valve is another RV specialty item.

The wood counter is finished with 4 coats of Waterlox which is the preferred product for kitchen counters because it fills the pores of the wood and locks out moisture. It was easy to apply, but must dry 24 hours before it can be coated again. I was very pleased with how nicely that old desk cleaned up.

When I showed this picture on Facebook one of my fellow tiny house builders called it a Bitchen. It certainly isn't a bathroom in the conventional sense. I can still fit in the shower pan with the sink there and use it for bathing, but mostly it's a utility area for washing up. There is no shower head. Only a cold water tap. My intention is to fill the sink with cold water and add hot water from my electric kettle. Then pour water over myself Thai style. I couldn't be happier with how it all turned out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Salvaged Paint Covers Multitude of Sins

When you build with mismatched scrap wood, paint goes a long way to giving the completed unit a finished look. I'm not sure how I feel about this scratched up dragging technique. It looks like a bad paint job though in a stylish way so appears intentional. It certainly distracts from any imperfections in the wood and joinery.

Dragging a brush through wet paint was a popular technique for walls in Victorian times which favored rich textures in decor. A number of painting techniques were derived including ragging (rolling a rag through paint) and lots of faux furniture finishes. I loved the book "Paint Magic" by Jocasta Innes though I rarely had the patience to do more than sponging two colors.

As for mixing paint I read an article once about a painter of San Francisco Victorians. He had a large collection of paint in quart cans in his truck and when he was on a job if he didn't have the color he wanted he would just mix it.

I collected the paints my clients were discarding in garage clean-outs, then culled it down to gloss or semi-gloss or flats of strong colors. And if these colors weren't right for a project I'd mix a new color. Some of these paints were 20 years old in cans with rusty rims. But as long as the paint could be stirred into a smooth consistency with no solid bits they were fine. Sometimes adding water would help.

It was always an experiment not the sure thing that a paint chip would provide, but paint chips have notoriously turned out to be the wrong choice due to operator perception error. Or you end up trying out 14 different colors looking for just that certain shade you saw at someone's house. Better that you are making samples as you go and if you mix it yourself you are more likely to like it hooked, as it were, by the transformation of it all.

I started with a base coat of a grey green from the Ralph Lauren collection. I am not a designer label person but the color choices are nice. It tugged at me in a visceral way (which Mr. Lauren probably intended thus his success). I liked it better than the blue grey I had. Then I mixed some garish green and some deep blue paint to get the teal.

While browsing Pinterest for paint techniques I found a recipe for chalk paint and since I already had Plaster of Paris on hand I decided to try making chalk paint. And while I was looking in my paint stuff I found a wallpaper brush I bought once because I liked the old world look of it. I decided to use this brush for the dragging part.

The recipe I used was 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup plaster of paris, 3/4 cups latex paint. It expanded the amount of paint and toned down the intensity of the color a tiny bit, but it dried chalky as promised. Then because I wanted a washable surface for my kitchen I put on a final coat of semi-gloss varnish from a job refinishing desks for an office. Now it was no longer a chalk paint except where I left it unvarnished inside cabinet doors. In the end I would have preferred a satin finish, but this project is all about reuse and a decorating preference did not justify buying new had it occurred to me beforehand.

Painting takes very little time to apply, but needs time to dry so it's nice to have a place to paint where I can leave it and work on it when I'm home with 15 minutes to fill here and there. I sure will miss my painting porch here at Ridge Ranch.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Minimalist Mattress

Compared to the hard mattresses I grew up with, Western beds are way too soft. I realized this last time I came home from Thailand and my bed with mattress topper had me waking up feeling crumpled up. I did away with the topper and returned to my usual 4" foam mattress with egg crate topper and woke up feeling more aligned. So I was not surprised to read a medical research paper about instinctive human sleeping positions confirming that the body has a natural means of correcting most spinal and peripheral joint lesions while sleeping albeit on a much harder mattress than the deep mattresses we now buy. "When the head is down, the vertebrae are stretched between two anchors and every time the ribs move through breathing the tension is increased, the vertebrae realign themselves, and the movement keeps the joints lubricated." (It was also in this article that I learned how the "Asian squat" is an automatic manipulator for resetting of the sacroiliac joints.)

The blogger quoting this article said he slept on a 3" memory foam mattress topper. I decided this might be the way to go for the tiny house loft since every inch counts. There were lots of such toppers being sold on craigslist and they were snatched up quickly so before I could buy one for $20. I had also read that rubber gym mats improved the firmness of the thin mattresses found in RVs so I got six of those too from an online rubber mat store ($24). When I could finally get the two together it felt just right, said Goldilocks. I added an egg crate foam topper someone gave away on next door in case the memory foam felt too jelly like.

I cut the mattress to clear the loft ladder which made it 48" wide just big enough to accommodate a visiting lover and still allow a path to the closet. I had also thought about sleeping across the loft, but the sloping roofline coming down to my head felt odd in a bad feng shui sort of way. The topper was a queen size so what I cut off could make a narrow couch which inspired ideas about a couch that would separate into seating benches for dining.

Sheets were the next order of business, but a 48" wide mattress now only 3" thick is a very odd size. Fitted sheets for this size can be found on RV sites but are pricey. I could make my own I decided and found instructions to make fitted sheets. And while browsing ebay I found surplus army hospital sheets that were extra wide in a hospital scrubs blue green (for $19 including shipping). I'm a sucker for repurposing the unusual so ordered them (2 sheets and a pillow case), but they were so rough to the touch I wanted to start over. I gave them a wash in baking soda with a vinegar rinse to soften them and that took out enough of the stiffness to keep me interested. They should be ok after five washes or so.