Two steps forward, one step back

You learn something new every day…that’s what they say, right? Well these past two weeks we have learned A LOT, and I’d be lying if I said some of the lessons weren’t frustrating to learn. Our trailer was delivered nearly three weeks ago and our lumber followed a few days later. We went out to the site to level the trailer and get our tools organized and set up, but ended up mostly just organizing everything and sitting with the trailer not knowing how to start. That’s a lie, we knew what we needed to do but were lacking the confidence to do it and also felt like it was silly to start in on something just to leave town again for the Workshop in Portland a few days later. To bridge the “we need to do something but don’t know what to do yet” gap, we decided to be productive anyways and spent a few days doing more research on our first steps of the build and made another trip to Home Depot and Lowes to buy our floor insulation and a few other supplies we would need to get started.

You would think going to Home Depot/Lowes and buying a few supplies would be fairly easy to do, but you would be wrong. Did you know that self tapping and self drilling screws aren’t actually the same thing but everyone thinks they are and every store uses the names interchangeably making it SUPER confusing for two people who have never built a thing in their lives? We finally thought we found the correct screws, however they were too long (2 3/4″ instead of 2″). In our flabbergast and frustration that even buying SCREWS could be so difficult, we bought two boxes of the 2 3/4″ to ensure our efforts weren’t all for not and then promised each other to dedicate more time to researching screws when we got home (Tish had already spent a fews hours on this….and apparently it would take a few more until we got it right). In case any of you are wondering: self tapping means the screw creates its own thread when drilled in and self drilling does something else we didn’t care much about because we needed the self tapping kind. Also, screws are great for attaching lots of materials together, so be sure to pay attention to what you’ll be binding (in our case it was wood to metal). We finally found the screws in stock at the Home Depot in Portland and decided to buy them when we were in town for the workshop.

On to anchor bolts! Fun fact: when looking for lag bolts you are actually in search of hex bolts, at least at big box stores. Of course, as novices, we bought 5/8″ lag screws (which are huge…see picture below) thinking that the “lag” part of the name was more important than the job the hardware was supposed to accomplish. We bought 36 of these suckers only to get home and have my dad laugh at us because there was no way we would need such massive screws. This is when we learned the very important lesson that BOLTS are not screws and will never be called screws and that we would have to drive an hour back to Home Depot to return what we bought and find Hex BOLTS which have the same head as lag screws but are, in fact, bolts which is what we needed to attach our house to the trailer.

Hex bolt vs Lag screw (smh)

Next up: insulation! Ok, we knew exactly what we needed here and were super confident in what to buy. We had researched the hell out of this because we knew we wanted the most environmentally-friendly material we could get with the highest R value (the higher the R value the better the insulation) and only had 2″ of room to work with. We strolled into the installation aisle in full confidence, then we saw the 4’x8′ sheets of polyiso and just burst out laughing. We both hilariously thought the sheets of insulation would fit in our tiny Honda Fit. Looking at the insulation, for just a second I thought “wait, we have stuffed huge Ikea boxes in and on top of this car, surely we can do 7 sheets of insulation!” And boy was I wrong.  The insulation was too fragile to go on top of our car for the entire drive home, and our car is much too short to fit eight feet of anything in it. So, we ordered the insulation and had it delivered yesterday.


Thankfully, after a few humbling days of crushing any confidence we thought we had, it was time to head to the workshop in Portland (see pictures from our trip here). This was our second workshop with Andrew and Gabriella Morrison of, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We loved the first workshop we attended back in February, but at the time building was still in the “dream” state. Now that we have the trailer, have done a tone of our own research and are ready to start our build, everything Andrew covered in the workshop was relevant and we got so much more out of it. I talked to one of the girls attending who is still in the “dream” state like we once were and with that familiar daze in her eyes told me it was just so much information to take in. I knew exactly what she meant, but now that we are starting, it all made so much more sense! I hope I had conveyed to her well enough that the feeling she was having was exactly how she was supposed to feel and that once she starts doing more research on her own things would all click.

Build site fun!

We got home from Portland late this past Monday night, spent Tuesday cleaning the house and our camping gear, doing laundry and running errands. Finally, we woke up yesterday morning ready to START! Tish had a conference call for work before she joined me at the build, so I went down to the site with my dad who taught me a few very important lessons like how to use a skill saw (did you know they make them for right-handed people?! I guess Tish will have to do all the cutting….), how to figure out the size of extension cord we will need and confirmed that I did in fact know the difference between a drill and a driver (I no longer assume I know anything about building haha). I got the trailer ready to be leveled, unpacked our insulation and Tish and I picked up the scrap lumber we needed in order to actually level the trailer. So, by the end of today we should have: a level trailer and two nailers attached to the front and back of the trailer. Saying it like that does not sound like much….but it is far more than we have now!

It wouldn’t be right to just end it there and pretend like it’s all smooth sailing from here on out. Of course we ran into ANOTHER hiccup yesterday when I did a much more thorough inspection of the trailer and realized our fabricator did a crap job on welding the flashing to the bottom of the trailer frame. Instead of doing a seam weld, which would have ensured tight seals, the fabricator attached the flashing by stitch welding it — which means it is only attached in certain spots. So we have a bunch of gaps where the flashing and trailer frame do not meet. We paid a lot of extra money to have the flashing installed for us, since we’ve heard it is the worst part of the build and we wanted to make sure it was done right. Instead, I spent a few hours yesterday researching how to fix this problem so that we will have a fully weather-proof foundation for our home. We can’t install the insulation (or subfloor) until we figure this out. GAH!

In the meantime, we will make sure we focus on the two steps forward today and get our trailer leveled and nailers attached, and deal with the one step back tomorrow when we try to reconcile the gaps in flashing. Stay tuned for an update tonight on what we actually get done.

For now, I’m going to go for a run and hope it helps me decompress!

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