Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Utility Closet- FINALLY

We got a taste of the old days this weekend. :)

I'm happy to report that we made some decent headway this weekend. Post worthy headway! The ground is still deciding whether to be muck or frozen solid, but the snow is slowly leaving the yard. At this point, we are wondering if we will be able to move the tiny house before May! It's hard to believe it's almost April, and we are looking to get another few inches of snow here in Rhode Island. But, we are keeping positive and looking at this as some time given back for all the procrastination of the winter- since we can't move, let's get caught up on projects!

If you plan to use pallets for creating something
cool or just as firewood- always look for
the "HT" stamp, meaning heat treated.
Avoid "MB" - noxious poisons. Don't use
and certainly don't burn those ones!

We finally located a steady supply of free pallets, and conveniently, it's about 10 minutes from us! Woohoo! Dan is going to be stopping by and grabbing a load of pallets pretty much every other day or so until we have enough. It's going to take A LOT of pallets to create our siding, but we are excited. 

The only thing about pallets is that they are made to haul things, and as a result, made to withstand serious abuse. Those babies are some well put-together units. They also use special fasteners that are a cross between a nail and a screw. The little barbs make it near impossible to pull apart a pallet and have any usable wood left.  

I was able to learn some pretty nifty tricks for taking apart pallets- thanks to Macy at minimotives. She has been one of my leading and longest standing inspirations and resources for our tiny house adventure. I also had visions of reclaimed siding, and to see her make it happen was great. We plan to use the same methods for disassembling our pallets. 

Typically a pallet has three "spines" if you will, and boards are nailed across them. We plan to cut inside the spine of either end with a circular saw, leaving just the middle set of nails to deal with. For those, simply use a drill bit that will eat right down through the heads of the nails, making it very easy to pop the boards off after. Next we would fill the holes with putty, plane the boards for smooth and consistent thickness, and then run them all through a table saw so they are the same widths as well. 

It's definitely going to take a fair amount of time and effort, but I think it will look great on The Pod, it will be re-claimed, and it will be FREE!

On Sunday we also whipped up the utility closet. We kept it a simple box like the rest of The Pod. We've seen so many people build them to fit the semi-triangular shape of the trailer tungue, but we like to keep it simple. Plus, it will provide ample room for solar power system storage. We plan to keep the batteries, charge control, and inverter in the utility closet. 

Pre-utility closet

We saved scraps of house wrap from all the way back in May. At times, I wanted to just toss them because they were in the way, looking messy- but we stuck it out. We were determined not to buy another 100 ft roll of house wrap just for a dinky box. When Sunday came around, we sure were pleased that we had kept those scraps all this time...and thanks to the mondo-clean-and-organize-garage over haul, it didn't take that long to locate them either!

We used some scrap treated plywood from
our original "foundation" build. We drilled
holes in the steel lip of the trailer, bolting
the base down.

When it came time to cover the "roof" of the utility closet, we pulled out yet another material we had saved. Leftover ice and rain protective barrier. This was the same stuff we used as a kind of flashing for our trailer bed. It worked out nicely for our mini roof cover. We then used door and window tape to seal all the seams and keep water out. 

We plan to get a piece of corrugated steel to give it a more finished look once the siding is on. Even though the weather was still in the mid-thirties, we worked as if it were April of 2013 again. We were excited to be handling rough building materials, familiar ground by now, and seeing substantial progress within just a few hours. 

We finished the utility shed in about 2.5 hours time. It's quite a relief to have that off our backs. Now the only major lingering pieces are the pallet siding, the kitchen drawers, and getting a solar power system in place. Then we are officially ready to move!!

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Ample air flow for the batteries.


  1. Hi Dan and Jess! I'm a reporter with Yahoo and we're interested in featuring your tiny home project in a story. Could you send me an e-mail if interested? mandiw[at]yahoo-inc[dot]com.

  2. I understand you are using a propane heater for warmth in the winter. Do you have a carbon monoxide detector, as propane heaters can kill you if you live in a air tight enclosure ?Using it externally and heating some type of heat exchanger through the wall might be a safer solution.

    1. Hello,

      Thanks for your concern. We do have precautions in place. We have a combo smoke, o2, monoxide detector, and the heater we use is actually safe for indoors. The heater itself has a o2 safety shut off valve as well. We also crack windows when using the heater. We plan to upgrade, hopefully before next fall to a direct vent wall mounted unit.

    2. Here is the link to the heater we use:

  3. Dan and Jess,,,,Not sure where in RI you guys are located at, but I know of a couple of sources for free pallets and wood. If there is a way I can contact you via email, I would be more than willing to share the info with you. I too have used pallets for the wood pieces, and I disassemble them with a sawzall using a metal cutting blade. If you stand the pallet on end, you can run the blade right down the seam between where the boards are nailed onto the stringers, and cut all the nails off. This will leave you with a little short section of the nail and its head remaining in the board.The nails holding the boards on the very middle of the pallet are a little trickier to cut, but still, not a big deal. Sometimes if I don't have enough room to slide the sawzall blade in, I pry the board up with a flat bar just a little bit, and it will give you the clearance you need. Once all the nails are cut, the boards fall right off with no damage. Then the remaining nails can be pulled out pretty easy with a cats paw, or you can drive them out from the backside with a metal punch. Pallet manufacturers use special nails coated with a glue that is activated by the heat created by the friction of the nail being shot into the wood. That is why it is hard to pry them apart without doing allot of damage to them. Obviously, your intent is to be able to disassemble the pallets with the minimum damage to the parts of them. I hope my suggestion helps you accomplish this.

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thanks so much for all the tips! GENIUS! We will have to try your method! That will allow us to keep even more of the wood intact! We'd love to chat and hear about the sources for pallets. We are going to need quite a few over the next couple weeks and it would be a good idea to have more than one source available to us for that reason. Thanks again for reading! You can email me at looloobirdphoto (at) gmail (dot) com

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