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I am working on a tiny house idea that includes a construction technique that I've modified somewhat from something else I saw. I wanted to run it by folks, to see about the wisdom of it.

The desire here is to build more simply, but the welcome byproducts include it being cheaper and quicker.

I think I'm talking about wood cladding, where I would simply stack 2 x 6 tongue and groove lumber on top of each other to form a big box. At the corners, in the design I'm borrowing from the planks are notched and fit together much like a log cabin. In my design, I'd rather not have the crossed wood for aesthetic reasons, so I simply butt the pieces but alternate the butt at each flight. I have to add a little lateral notch to the end of each board so that it grabs on to the tongue of the lower flight.

I've constructed a small box using this technique and it holds together somewhat without any fasteners, but the next step is to figure out how to fasten it well. As long as it maintains it's box shape, it will be strong.

My idea is to run a piece of angle iron, or perhaps aluminum up each corner to attach the boards to. Lag boots could go into every other board on each wall skipping the ones that present their end grain, since that wouldn't be a strong connection anyway. I'm wondering if a) this is a known construction technique, and I just don't know the right name. b) If you have any other ideas on how to fasten it. c) Ff the design seems structurally sufficient to you.

My idea originated from this EZ Cabin system that I found. My only modification is to change the way the corners join. Instead of the extra effort to notch the wood, I would do it like this...

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The tongue and groove boards would each be glued to one another and then I would lag bolt a piece of angle iron vertically to each corner attached to every plank. Obviously I am not under the impression that what works at this size will work at any size. Thanks for the opinions and intuition so far, but I wonder if seeing the existing cabins and pictures of my design convinces anyone that it will work.

  • Two concerns, structural integrity doesn't scale. What works small, will not always work big. If you are already having some issues, once you scale it those issues will become bigger. Another concern, this structure will have to support a roof. Roofs are heavy and put a lot of stress on the walls, I don't think stacked lumber will up for the challenge. Also typically the most expansive part of building a structure is the lumber costs. Standard 2x4 framing and siding will be easier to construct and most likely cheaper. – diceless Oct 5 '14 at 13:32
  • In general it's not a great idea to make up construction methods as you go unless your a really good architect. – user23534 Oct 5 '14 at 15:36
  • You can see pictures of the structures that inspired my idea here : i5rvs.com/custompage2.asp?pg=in-stock. I've talked with these guys and walked in the buildings. They make and sell them by the thousands. My design, like theirs would not include insulation. I live in a moderate climate. They say the buildings are very easy to heat with a small space heater. – Jeremy Foster Oct 5 '14 at 18:53
  • @iLikeDirt, I don't know the terms, but the boards would be the structure as well as the finished exterior (painted to protect the wood) and the finished interior. – Jeremy Foster Oct 5 '14 at 20:10
  • Yah, can't do that, then. You need a 2x4 structure to support the cladding and roof, for that matter. Furthermore, your plan will result in a wall with no insulation. I'd reconsider. – iLikeDirt Oct 5 '14 at 20:40
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I don't think this is a great idea. The cabin kits you've found have the following major drawbacks that I can see:

  1. No insulation. You'll have unnecessarily high heating and cooling bills unless you plan to build where it's 75 and cloudy year-round.

  2. No real protection from water. When those boards get wet, so will the interior side, eventually. As soon as that happens, everything will immediately suck.

  3. No racking resistance. I don't see anything but a hope and a prayer protecting a house built out of those from blowing down in high wind.

  4. No bowing resistance. The heavier your roof, the more those walls look likely to bow out.

  5. Not airtight. You can see the gaps in the corners in your picture. Hot or cold air is going to whistle through those joints. During a windstorm, it'll be very uncomfortable.

  6. Nowhere to hide wiring and plumbing.

  7. Awkward integration with windows and doors. Most of them have jambs or frames that are 3.5" thick; they'll protrude awkwardly from one of the two sides. You could trim wood frame door jambs, but you can't do the same for windows.

Those things really look more like storage sheds than anything I'd want to live in. In order to make it work, you'd be swimming upstream every step of the way. Why bother? Go with the flow. Conventional wood frame construction is super cheap and easy to do--that's why it's the dominant construction method in price-sensitive America. It's easy to learn, too. Almost all tiny house builders had no conventional construction expertise beforehand, but they picked up what they needed in a week or two of hands-on work. It's really not that hard.

Additionally, one of the advantages of building a tiny house is that you can utilize high-quality components due to the fact that you don't need a lot of them. I'm talking about things like mineral wool insulation batts and boards, standing seam roofing, wood shingle siding or stone veneer, deluxe high-performance windows, etc. Really nice stuff. All of these things will be barely more expensive than their crappier equivalents for a <200 sf house due to how little you'll need. But if you try to turn a glorified storage shed into a house, you'll lose the ability to easily do that, and spend all your time cutting door frames to fit your super thin wall and devising ways to make the roof not collapse once you realize you need more insulation. What's the point?

  • Marking as answer. Completely appreciate the time and thought. Would love to continue the conversation if you're willing. 1. not a big concern for me 2. Wouldn't a good paint layer protect? 4. How could they if the roof is holding them in? And as long as they're where they should be isn't it all compression strength? 5. Agreed. Those would be covered. All joints and seams would be glued/sealed. 6. Not a concern for me 7. I don't know much about this. Isn't a thin wall with trim on either side bringing it to 3.5" the same as a stud? Thanks again! – Jeremy Foster Oct 6 '14 at 5:29
  • Sure, though this isn't the best place. Maybe a mod could move the conversation to the community section or something. But my TL;DR answer is that you're fighting the tide. None of your proposals are impossible, but they're like trying to turn a bicycle into a motorcycle instead of simply buying a motorcycle in the first place... especially if a motorcycle would be barely any more expensive than a bicycle! – iLikeDirt Oct 6 '14 at 14:19
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This is a bad idea. If you span more than 6 feet the T&G boards will flex alot. It will not hold weight of roof.
You would need to use 4x4's to be strong enough to hold roof and to have shear strength
Wood will expand and contract and you will get gaps for water and cold air to get in.
T&G boards are expense and will cost more or very similar to conventional framing,siding and drywall.
What will you do for insulation? Foam sheets are very expensive. Then you still need to cover the foam.
Running wires and plumbing will be very difficult.
How will you frame in your doors and windows?

If you want the look of T&G boards you will need to frame a wall out of 2x4's or 2x3's first. You can build it 2'oc You could probably build it 4'oc safely if it was an interior wall.

  • Thank you for the info. I wonder if you can help me substantiate that point of view at all. I've gotten feedback that it won't work - won't be strong our warm enough, but the link I included above is a company that's actually doing this and they're apparently strong and warm. My only modification to their design is to interweave the corners to avoid the crossover look. – Jeremy Foster Oct 5 '14 at 18:55
  • No insulation, no running utilities (surface mount electric, water/sewer run under and come straight up through the floor to point of use), doors and windows could be trimmed to be the same size as a conventionally framed configuration. – Jeremy Foster Oct 5 '14 at 18:59
  • Think of a tiny house as, well, a tiny house. That means you build it like a house, The guys in your links are RV guys who appear to also sell cabin kits. Those things would not pass building codes. And they wouldn't be much fun to live in due the absence of any insulation. – iLikeDirt Oct 5 '14 at 20:49
  • I only seen one shed on that website with 3/4 inch walls and it was only 6'x'6 the rest of the structures where built using thicker pieces of wood 1 3/8" and 2 1/4" logs – justin j Oct 14 '14 at 0:49

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