Category Archives: tiny house

All The Windows Are Done!

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Yesterday was a banner day at our little house on the prairie. We got the last of the old windows ripped out and we now have all new ones. When we moved into the house it had all the old original windows from when the house was built circa 1960. We had to change one window right away.

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There was only one spot in the house where we could get a halfway decent cellphone signal. That was near the west window.  You can see why my daughter soon felt her allergies kick into overdrive. This old window on the west side was rotting and full of black mould. We hired a local fellow to come in, rip the old window out and tear out all the crud and rot and install a nice new window.

We wanted to do all the old windows but there was no way we could afford to do it all at once unless we were willing to go into debt. One issue was that the windows could not be replaced by any standard window because the house’s window space was 5 3/4″ not 6″ wide and of nonstandard lengths and widths. So each replacement window had to be custom made.Our provincial power utility has a mechanism whereby you can borrow from them and pay back on your power bill. The problem is they only allow triple pane super high efficency windows and they charge 8% interest which at today’s rates seemed very high. We debated the double pane versus triple pane question. We have lived with both types in our house in our past. Triple pane is the most energy efficient but it comes at a much higher cost than double pane with only a small gain in efficiency. To recover that extra gain in energy savings going from double to triple pane, we would have to live to be about 200 in this small house. Double pane is just as draft free and comfortable feeling when the north wind blows, which is what is really important. Plus there are inspections required before and after with the utility plan and it all just seemed like too much hassle. When we bought the house we promised ourselves we would not create debt fixing it. And so each month I put aside a bit of money into a “window fund” instead and that fund slowly grew.

That first summer we bought some old fashioned screen things that would expand to fit the space and we forced the windows in the bedrooms open and closed with a rubber hammer and many cuss words. The front was just beyond movement even with all of hubby dearest’s strength so we gave up. When I repainted the exterior, I simply sealed in the old window’s storm fronts with calking and painted over everything. We added that thin shrinkable film stuff on the inside to improve the very marginal protection those old sash style single pane windows offered. Since we were away in winter we didn’t have to suffer but we did have to pay the cost of heating the a house with leaky old windows.

By the following spring our window fund had grown enough money to purchase three more windows and have them installed. Fortunately none of these had any rot so we could wait without endangering our health. Three new windows went in and life was instantly much easier in our old house.

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We still had the two biggest windows left. One was in the front room and one was over the kitchen sink. Both windows were impossibly dirty and scratched up and just plain awful. And so we continued our window fund and I increased the monthly deposits after getting an estimate on what two double windows would cost. After much debate we decided to simply get a nice solid picture style window in the front living room space. It had to have a centre post though because of the structural needs of the house so it would be two larger windows in one frame with a post. With the door on one side and another window on the west wall, this north facing window was not required for circulation. Hubby dearest likes to have an open window with lots of natural light where he works. He already had air circulating past him from door to small window and installing a window that could open and close would reduce the light because the window would have to be smaller. The light aspect was more important to him. By going with the double windows that don’t open we saved almost 1/3 on the cost. I did insist on having a window that could opened in the kitchen and who cares about the cost of that!

Today, the last two windows went in! Oh joy, I have a nice kitchen window that opens over the sink. We have a big beautiful picture window in our living area behind Hubby Dearest’s desk.

We have two steps left. When we first moved into this old house I knew we would changing all our windows and repainting eventually but we needed window covering now. I went into the Sear’s clearance catalogue and mail ordered clearance mini blinds and pretty but light very cheap clearance valances for all the windows. After the new window went into our bedroom last year I replaced that mini blind and valance with a proper thermal, light darkening curtain set. This means in June when the sun rises at 4:00am, the room stays dark until I actually get up. I now had to choose proper new curtains for our new windows in the front room. I wanted them to be thermal room darkening as well. This should help compensate for the fact that our new windows are double pane not triple over night and during winter when we are not here. They are on order.

My last step is to convert the window fund to new doors fund. Our screen doors are hanging on by lots of calking and bolts and fussing, along with a few prayers. The old wood doors are almost as bad as those old fashioned windows for energy loss. In the meantime, they have been sanded and repainted while I sanded and painted the interior doors and they look quite good now.

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I can’t begin to say how pleased I am to have all the old single pane sash windows almost out of my life. I did keep the old glass frames to use in my garden as spring cold frames so they will still be around but I won’t have to swing a rubber hammer to get some fresh air. I couldn’t help but do a little happy dance while admiring the new look in front. Our puppy Misty was happy to join me and turn it into a cuddle/wrestle session. Life is good!

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Little House on the Prairie Update = More New Windows!

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Does anything update a refresh an old house the way brand new windows do? I couldn’t be more excited about this bit of updating and refreshing. We left the job to the pros because some things are too much for us as do it yourselfers. Last year when we moved in one window was rotted and in terrible shape and needed immediate replacing. The others were in poor shape but we had so many expenses getting into the house that we decided to wait. One thing we are trying not to do is create any debt as we fix up this old house. This year’s new windows were a bear partly due to the need to remove and replace more rotting wood under the sill and do a lot of resealing where old calking dried up, split and fell out, but we still got three more high quality, locally made, window upgrades for under $2000. (That no doubt seems like a lot to folks from the south but we have learned from bitter cold experience not to put southern windows on a northern house!) We paid extra to get really nice windows that are designed to be unhooked and swung in so they can be cleaned from the inside, with high quality easy pop in, pop out, type screens and above all the high insulation value required for our very very cold winters. These windows will be able to handle a ferocious wind blowing in when it’s -40F/-40C without even a cool spot or frosting the even the corner of a pane. We have two windows to go, the front living room and kitchen one but we already had Mr. Terreck do the measurements and that will be next spring’s major expense.

Interior of our New Stick House

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The bedrooms are small, I know. That is our mattress on the floor. We have a bed frame picked out and waiting for us at Ikea.

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This space here is the other room. Eventually it will be workspace. Bookshelves also on order at Ikea. Trusty, being her usual self is quite happy wherever she is as long as she can sleep. Fred is equally unbothered new accommodation.

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One disadvantage is that we don’t really have a dining area. The big room is living room, dining room kitchen combined and ever though it is a big room compared to the other two rooms, it’s tiny overall. So my RV life tricks for making do with less space have come in handy. We raided our cabin for the futon and beds. Eventually we’ll replace them and put them back in the cabin but they work for now. The cat has not adjusted well but cats hate any change so I am ignoring his complaints.

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Oh the joys of taking long showers! RV living means short showers as we had only 6 galloons of hot water. Now my only concern is not over filling the septic tank. We have a septic tank and a septic field behind the house. Water is well water from a community well. The cover to the septic tank is behind the house and an easy reach from the trailer for emptying the black and gray water. In essence, we have out own one trailer, RV park. Still waiting on the RV plug parts.

SAM_5547 SAM_5548The basement to the little house is a full basement, unfinished. We have an oversized 200 amp panel which means I can fix the problem of only one plug per room at relatively low cost. Also plenty of room for the RV plug.

If one defines a “tiny house” as less than 1000 square feet, then ours qualifies. The square footage is 480ft on the main floor and even if you count the basement, it is still under 1000ft. The house is also independent of “the grid” except that we have electricity and internet. We share our well water with six other families. Some people define a tiny house as having wheels and in that sense we are a stick house. In any case we seem to have found the perfect solution to multiple small dilemmas associated with tiny house/RV full time life.