Portahut, We Have Walls

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< Tiny house portahut plans

Progress report on our backcountry skiing portahut tiny house:

The temporary structure on wheels we’re building as durable RV that can hold up to the winter mountain environment. Walls are up and the roof framing has commenced. We’ll be moving the gypsy wagon; caravan; mobile home; trailer house; caravan; tiny house; portahut to the backcountry within the next few weeks, where we’ll finish it up so we quit bothering the neighbors with construction noise.

This design won’t be as easy to move around as some of the tiny houses out there (it’s heavy, tall, and wide), but it’s on a double axle trailer and will remain totally portable and easy to relocate within about a 100 mile radius. Not only is a building this size (about 9 x 16 feet) easy to heat, but it’s much less money to build than something much larger. With careful interior design it is amazing what you can do with available space. Similar to interior design for RVs.

Conventional stick framing has its advantages. Easy to build now and modify later, for example. But we could have built using insulated wall panels (SIPs) as well.

Conventional stick framing has its advantages. Easy to build now and modify later, for example. But we could have built using insulated wall panels (SIPs) as well.

Another view of the framing. Sheathing is 5/8 CDX plywood, which will act both as interor walls and substrate for siding made from mineral roll roofing material.

Another view of the framing the tiny house portahut. Sheathing is 5/8 CDX plywood, which will act as interior walls and as substrate for siding made from mineral roll roofing material. So far our framing material costs have been reasonable, but we ordered a decent set of windows and a steel entry door -- that stuff ate up some money. Solar system and wood stove are also pricey if done well, but hey, it is a backcountry skiing RV, not a tent.

Without a large flat deck to work on (the wheels protrude), squaring and sheathing the walls reguired some extra work, but turned out fine. Scott and I found the side walls were too heavy for a quick lift so we had to do some Egyptian engineering to get them up.

Without a large flat deck to work on (the wheels protrude), squaring and sheathing the walls required extra work, but turned out fine. Scott and I found the side walls were too heavy for a quick lift so we had to do some Egyptian engineering to get them up.

We built the hut about three feet wider than the trailer, then added some steel to tie it all together. Total width is 9 feet 6 inches. We'll need a wide load permit for moves, but getting those in Colorado is quick and easy.

We built the hut about three feet wider than the trailer, then added some steel to tie it all together. Total width is 9 feet 6 inches. We'll need a wide load permit for moves, but getting those in Colorado is quick and easy. We can't wait to backcountry ski out of this thing!

Roof is a classic square gable, meaning it's 45 degrees. That'll shed snow and make a good kicker when the snow gets deep. In this photo I'm framing the gable ends for a 'ladder' style eave/overhang, which is the stronger way to frame such a thing (need to consider that possible 150psf snowload!).

Tiny house roof is a classic square gable, meaning it's 45 degrees. That'll shed snow and make a good kicker when the snow gets deep. In this photo I'm framing the gable ends for a 'ladder' style eave/overhang, which is the stronger way to frame such a thing (need to consider that possible 150psf snowload!).

This endwall is next to the sleeping loft and includes an escape window. Framing is a bit more involved, but still a hundred times faster than some of those roof systems I used to work on up in Aspen. Math helps, even with a roof this simple. Euclid is my friend.

This endwall is next to the portahut tiny house sleeping loft and includes an escape window. Framing is a bit more involved, but still a hundred times faster than some of those roof systems I used to work on up in Aspen. Math helps, even with a roof this simple. Euclid is my friend.

The easier endwall, still needs more studs, they're going in today!

The easier of the two endwalls, still needs more studs, they're going in today!

More portahut and tiny house RV posts.

Comments

25 Responses to “Portahut, We Have Walls”

  1. Mark W September 6th, 2010 8:30 am

    Pretty cool hut evolution. Cool that it’s mobile.

  2. John Gloor September 6th, 2010 9:38 am

    Nice ski hut Lou. Did you guys toss around the idea of building the walls and roof on site as opposed to moving the whole thing assembled?

  3. Lou September 6th, 2010 10:30 am

    John, actually, it is kitted out and I’ll probably transport with the wall laying flat. Way easier. The roof is what I have to figure out so that it can be taken apart without a wrecking ball. Bituthane is out, for example, but at 45 degrees I don’t see why tar paper under Pro-panel won’t work fine…

    Thanks for checking in. Come on by and check it out. You know anything about solar? Want to wire it?

  4. John Gloor September 6th, 2010 10:49 am

    I should have known you had a plan. It was looking kind of big, especially with a 12/12 roof. I have not dealt with solar at all, so I would not be of much use. Al B. recently put a solar system in his cabin up on Chair Mtn. It turned out nice and he has a good idea of what is needed. You should pick his brain about the solar system.

  5. Marti September 6th, 2010 12:56 pm

    For solar, you want to wire your system just like you would for a regular120/220 volt house, except you need a DC rated junction box and heavier gauge wire. This is a bit counter-intuitive, at least to me, as the 12v seems like it would require lighter wire/boxes, not heavier, but this is not the case. The good side of this is that if you ever switch the portahut over to AC, your system will be way overkill. Backwoods Solar (http://www.backwoodssolar.com/) has all this info and more. You can get a good starter system at CostCo or Harbor Frieght for about $200 – $250 that will charge a deep cycle 12v battery.

    Harbor Freight also has Vogelzang wood stoves for $100, which is amazing as I don’t think you could ship them from Carbondale to Aspen for twice that. They are heavy.

  6. Dan September 6th, 2010 2:01 pm

    Considering how nice that endwall looks in the second picture w/you, think you’ll be able to wire solar in your sleep. Lived in a yurt for awhile that had a sort of fun option, if you’re into the “unfinished” look. Just ran unsheathed large gauge copper wire in a big ring through the ceiling/roof members and had LEDs wired to alligator clips for movable task lighting. Doubt that would ever pass any kind of code, but considering it’s all low voltage DC…

  7. Lou September 6th, 2010 3:05 pm

    Dan, yeah! I can wire a house so I shouldn’t have any problem rigging solar with some help on the web. Just overwhelmed so always reaching out for volunteer labor as hut night trades (grin). Lou

  8. Ed September 6th, 2010 3:42 pm

    Lou, if the hut is going to be used in the “shoulder seasons” especially, ever given thought to protection from porcupines? Lots’a places here in the Great White North (last “banquet” we provided was outside of Golden BC) are pretty well infested with them – if you don’t chicken wire your truck you’re gonna be walkin’ home! We’ve even tried that “Dog No Chew” stuff – brushed on plywood and signs etc. – but the little fella’s just considered it to be hot sauce! Love that glue! Anyone any brilliant ideas?

  9. Lou September 6th, 2010 5:10 pm

    Ed, good point! I’ve made some bad mistakes with crumby rodent proofing. This place will be covered with metal in one form or another up higher than the porker can reach.

    By the way, ever tried Ropel? It’s said to repel porcupines, but does get washed off by the rain. I use it under the jeep at trailheads, and on the seats, seems to keep the marmots from feasting.

  10. David September 6th, 2010 6:47 pm

    Lou, consider using air cell insulation on the roof rather than tar paper. It’s like bubble wrap between two sheets of foil.

    The insulation properties are amazing. I’ve just used it on my new roof and was put on to it by a buddy who owns a roofing company.

  11. Ed September 6th, 2010 7:46 pm

    Lou never heard of most of that company’s products up here. Me thinks they haven’t gone thru regulatory approvals for a federal Pest Control Products registration – see their website at:
    http://www.nixalite.com/PDFs/itemavailability.pdf
    Hence even import into Canada wouldn’t work, officially at least.
    Most of the times parking lots where there’s been porc problems have chicken wire – sometimes for multiple vehicles (remember to close the gate for a fenced off area!) – one place I can think of where the critters are legend is the parking lot at trailhead into the Bugaboos:
    http://www.photoseek.com/CanadaBugaboo.html and
    http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/bugaboo/ (see the special notes)
    Great chemical tip but guess we all up here have to stay with fencing for now . . . . that and liberal use of gramma’s old broom . . .

  12. John Gloor September 6th, 2010 9:42 pm

    Marti, the reason you need larger wire is that for a given wattage appliance, if you use 1/10 the voltage (12 volt) you need wire large enough for 10X the amperage. In addition there is much more voltage drop at lower voltage, so wires need to be additionally upsized. It is important to realize that low voltage does not necessarily mean low power. A great example is a welding machine. Improper low voltage wiring can easily cause a fire.

  13. telemike September 6th, 2010 10:20 pm

    where are you putting it Lou? Do you need a permit to put it in the backcountry?

  14. Lou September 6th, 2010 10:59 pm

    Telemike, We have access to various private land options. But it is a licensed trailer and we could park it on public land for up to 14 days before it would need to be moved. It’s just a camp trailer, really, and actually quite a bit smaller than some of the larger ones you see on the highway Just home made and with a stronger roof and walls that’ll hold up to a big snow dump. If it’s used on private land, it can’t be used as a permanent residence but can be used for camping, which is what we intend. Definitly important issues, especially regarding public lands because they do have a constant problem with people “squatting,” meaning they overstay their 14 day limit.

  15. Christian September 6th, 2010 11:32 pm

    Lou:

    I’d be happy to help with the solar aspect. I just went through it recently and spent many hours.

    E-mail me your questions, I can even send you wiring diagrams, and product recommendations. I sent Mike the same.

    My system is working great on my popup camper. I don’t even need to tie into my truck’s electrical system, but could if needed.

  16. Christian September 6th, 2010 11:36 pm

    I’m pretty local too, so can stop by and lend a hand if need be. One thing on the solar that you want to focus on is that it would be nice if you were charging while not there. Snow cover is going to be the issue. Unless you trade out some usage time for cleaning the panel off.

  17. off grid steve September 7th, 2010 1:12 pm

    Lou – ditto on the solar thing. I’d be up for helping with the install for some ski night trades – I’m currently working with the 10th mtn huts on upgrading all their systems. Our company also did the system for the Friends hut.

    I don’t think snow will spend much time on the panel at 45 degrees, but I would suggest not putting it on the roof. I’ve seen or heard about a number getting pulled off in big dumps. – either a pole mount or flush on a wall seems to work OK for the other huts. I would only do the flush thing if you are only using the hut in the winter.

  18. Sean Lohr September 13th, 2010 10:03 am

    Nice work Lou!

    I recently noticed an ad for a new solar rechargeable battery system that supposedly works great in any environment. Its called Goal 0. Have you looked into their systems at all? I was wondering about getting some myself but wasn’t sure if there were better ways. Supposedly their batteries work fine in cold environments. Perhaps they’ll send you some cheap so you can blog them up?

  19. Lou September 13th, 2010 11:11 am

    Sean, no, I’ve not looked into that. I think our solar is going to be pretty basic as we just need to run a couple of lights and have some extra for charging small stuff and running a netbook now and then. Good point about the batteries, do need to make sure that the cold won’t damage them…

  20. cory September 14th, 2010 10:38 am

    Ok…so I missed the initial article on this. Anyone out there that can help me locate it?

  21. Elliott Fey September 16th, 2010 2:39 pm

    Lou, just let me know if you need a hand or an extra vehicle and I’ll be there.

  22. Toby October 18th, 2010 12:26 pm

    When is the next post on progress of the build?

  23. gtrantow November 24th, 2010 7:18 pm

    Any new pics of the portahut?
    GT

  24. Mike May 24th, 2011 4:56 pm

    Hi Lou – any pictures/update on the portahut?

    Thanks!

  25. Lou May 24th, 2011 6:01 pm

    Due to privacy concerns we’re not detailing it yet. Stay tuned.

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