The Scrap House

Gonna need some big wings!

June 25, 2010
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Now, in reading this blog, I’ve always emphasized one thing: while the materials are free, it does add to the labor. So there’s lots and lots of labor. That being said, this floor looks awesome!

You can sort of tell it’s scrap 2×4, but then again you can’t. If that makes any sense. If you were told what it is, you’d recognize it, but once it’s sanded and coated it will look pretty legit. It almost looks like bamboo; it’s really pretty if I do say so myself.

We did have a small issue: our table saw betrayed us. When we were ripping the 2×4’s, unbeknownst to us, the gate had been slipping ever so slightly. So by the end they’d gotten entirely too thick. So, we had to do essentially twice the work, but it wasn’t exactly arduous, and besides it turned out well so certainly worth it in the end.

We wanted to do the same treatment in the kitchen but with a different pattern to add visual interest and some separation between the spaces. Dad did anb “enclosing spiral.” When you’re measuring and also cutting you know exactly what “16 and a little bit” means in your mind. But he was measuring and laying the flooring and I was cutting, so we had to be precise. Scientific. Prudent. But it went together and looks great. The tolerances are for the most part very tight, so hopefully the floor won’t explode under more humidity. I think it was about 97% today so we should be fine. We’ll do the same pattern in the other square tomorrow.

The grey is some mudding Dad did to level the floor out. You can also see a bit of the door in that picture. We mocked it up today. We had a door we’d gotten, but it was an 18″. It was fine, but certainly on the small side. The other issue was that the hinges that were on that door were not correct for the door, so we would have had to find hinges and the entire effort became not work it. We had some nice bi-folds, so we decided to use that. It will still work fine in the dual-striker arrangement, and it has the added benefit of folding up to consume less space.

From the living room:

It will require further(or furthur if you’re Ken Kesey) framing, trimming, etc, but it’s the rough idea.

And finally… This doesn’t specifically have to do with the house, but more what you can find if you look. I was at the dump looking for paneling and found this. It looked ever so slightly rough, but not horrible by any means. All that was visually wrong was a small crack in the top. I figured there wasn’t a downside so I chucked it into the car. And whada ya know? It works perfectly! Gets really cold. I’m thinking about using it as a fridge in my dorm room when I start college.

Whenever I see a 1950’s “House of the Future” the fridge is always round and, commonly, rises up to reveal multiple levels. In practice this is similar as it has two levels. Which would actually be pretty solid as you could have food on the bottom and drinks on the top or something and don’t have the problem you get with small fridges where food gets trapped in the back and you have to take everything out to get to something. Take that, grammar.. the run-on sentence conquers!

Alright… all for now y’all. We’ll probably get some paneling done tomorrow and finish the flooring. We’ll see. Happy Friday!


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If it’s on the floor, then it’s flooring.

June 23, 2010
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Alright… progress continues despite it being 187 degrees Kevlin outside. Dad finished up the wiring and did some further trickery. All the lights now work.

Over the door:

Bathroom Sconce:

Now, we’d already installed the ceiling in the kitchen. While we’d run a wire down we hadn’t actually left anything to mount a light to. So I had to take the ceiling down, install a box, and then put it back up.

We then tacked the ceiling back up, cut the whole, wired and installed the light, and then called it a day.

Now… the trickery. The house is just in our front yard, so it doesn’t really need to be wired like a normal house. Rather than digging a trench and running a hard line, for the time being we just wanted it wiring to an extension cord. Thus, dad wired it into a plug and installed a weatherproof box we had laying around. That way you can pull the plug out, plug it into an extension cord, and then tuck it back into the box. Quite handy really, and basically how a motorhome is done.

Now, flooring. We have tile and were going to use it. However, there were two problems with it. First, this house might be moved again at some point and thus we were worried about tile flexing and cracking. Second, where’s the creativity in tile?!

Ahh… table saw; what can’t you do?

We had a bunch of scrap 2×4’s from a shelf we’d taken apart. We cut them into strips, and then glued and nailed them down.

Yeah, I know, not the right type of glue but it is what I could find.

Like a cereal, enlarged to show detail!

Afterward we’ll sand, put on a light stain(Most likely the ubiquitous honey oak), and then polyurethane, and polyurethane, and you’re noticing a pattern? I think it’ll look pretty good… we might do tile in the kitchen, we’ll see.

And finally, this:

Nothing to do with the house but it sure is nice having working outlets to plug a fan into!
I’m sure they’ll be another update tomorrow. Peace y’all. -Ted

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Infiniti times nothing.

June 20, 2010
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Today was a productive day. With the help of my dad we got the wiring almost done. The outlets are now done. Switches are done. So all that’s left to do is wiring in the lights.

It was slightly more difficult than you would think. The thing is, there’re two circuits in the house, one for the lights and another for the outlets. The wiring for the lights is pretty standard, but if you’ll notice the wiring for the outlets is really heavy guage. We did this because, well, it’s what we had. So getting all that attached and stuffed into the boxes took some doing but it’s all well and good.

Dad also got the sugar bugger circuit breaker box wired in. Yes, the infamous all-auxillary one. Everything is still auxillary and thus nothing still is. Trippy aye? Either way that’s done and ready to be screwed into the wall.

I also did some work of an insulatory nature. Blood sugar must sound tasty to a vampire. Hmm… random thought there. And moving on… So, I started cutting the foam. At first with a Japanese saw, which bent and broke. I then tried again with a hot-wire. It worked great but was impractically slow. So I just used a regular wood speed saw. It wasn’t as clean a cut but it got the job done quickly and in the end it doesn’t really matter.

It’s not incredibly tight, so it’s not incredibly efficient, but in the end you could probably heat 96 square feet with an overclocked Pentium 1, so I’m not terribly concerned.

Now… trees. Who doesn’t hate trees? You see, most people are simply mistaken… they’re not hugging trees, they’re trying to strangle them! I love vague pronouns. He does as well. When’s the last time a tree did something good? You ever be walkin’ around and be like “Hey Tree, thanks for that thing you did that was kind and considerate!” No! Where do you think the term uproot comes from? Clearly they are run of the mill beetle infested stool pidgeon nerdowells. Looks peaceful, no?

Well look again!

Arrgh! Those were new before they weren’t!

But ahh… don’t worry friend, I got back, ahh… yes I did indeed.

The Red Cross shirt was just for irony… silly blood-less trees.

So… now we get to the real matter. And frankly, it’s somewhat of an apology. If you recall, to this point the house hasn’t been truly free. It cost, I think $2.56. There was a plumbing fitting we simply couldn’t find and in desperation… bought one. Well, now as we work on the house time is more of a factor than ever before. And so out scavenging time and resources have been cut. We had some outlets and switches but none of the correct type; most of what we had were 3-way. Well friends, bare with me here…

Unfortunately, all of the switches and outlets with the exception of the one in the loft were bought new. We simply didn’t have any, didn’t foresee being able to find some, and moreso viewed it as somewhat of a safety-related purchase. Combining these factors we bit the bullet and pulled the trigger.

With that the total cost is still less than $10, so I’m not too devastated. There is another free house I know of being built. The thing is, by his logic, if he finds something for free and can then sell it that money can go towards the house and keep the net value free. But to me, that’s brokering, that’s work, and therefore a job. And we all know you can work, make money, and buy a house; so for me that’s against the spirit of the challenge. So while I could do something like that I think I can in good conscience be okay with having spent the money on it. Oh well. Here’s the link to that site: It’s a good read and a great project, simply a different approach and philosophy.

More updates tomorrow, including some potential panneling!

Happy Father’s Day Everyone!

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Under lock and key.

June 19, 2010
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Actually made some fairly significant progress today, thanks to my awesome dad. Happy Father’s Day, btw!

He worked on wiring some. We were limited in material but we’ll hopefully be getting more tomorrow. We now have… *drum roll please*… one switch wired! Specifically for the bathroom light. We already have all the lights but are a little short on switches and outlets. We’ll see what we can do.

It’s strange how happy that switch makes me. It’s somewhat symbolic of progress and also of it becoming a real house. I to this day am amazed at what has and can be accomplished and something as simple as a working light switch just cements that.

The other project of the day was the door. It had never closed right, as it wasn’t even close to square. In addition there wasn’t a doorknob so I’d just been nailing it shut which was annoying. To fix the squareness issue we cut the nails at the bottom of the stud(on the knob side) and hammered the edge over until it was more or less straight. After toe nailing that step was done.

Now the observant among you will notice a couple of things in that shot. First, the door actually closes. Gasp! Also, we got the stop-trim installed so the door is sealed.

I didn’t have quite enough for the last side so I had to piece some together. I’ll get another little piece somewhere to fill in the final gap.

Lastly, a true testament to modern invention. It used to be that there was little or no control over when a door was open. The cavemen always found this perplexing. If you wanted a door shut, you had to put a rock outside. But then you’d be inside the cave, and the rock would be out. Well, this posed a problem. Generally they’d gather around and draw stick(no straws then either, sad..). Whoever drew the short stick would be the one who placed the rock outside the cave door, and thus, by definition, slept outside. Many “dooranderthalls” as they were called froze to death. Some were trampled by hapless animals. It was a rough existence. But then one day in 1897 a caveman said “If knob had door then inside close be possible.” Admittedly his English left something to be desired, but it was difficult being a caveman in the late 19th century. Regardless, his resulting invention, the doorknob, was flawless. Today we inbrace his invention. Thanks Mr. D. Orville Nob!

And one more just in case you’ve never seen one…

I didn’t think I had a striker plate.  But I found one!  The strange feeling of exuberance I felt was shocking. I was recently reading a blog where a guy tried to eat for $1 a day for a month, so $31 for all his food for a month. I’ll post the link below, it’s a good read. Anyway, he described how excited he was when he was sent two free promo-samples of Wheat Thins in the mail. He says he jumped out of his chair. As thus, my striker plate. It’s the little things, y’all, the little things.

Well, that’s all for today. Hopefully there will be a stream of updates this week as we now have time to focus on it. At some point Hyatt might even make a guest appearance to finish the gable pallet siding. We’ll see.

So, I shall leave you with a quote that highlights the virtues of improvising.

“I went to the store to buy a candle holder. But they didn’t have any, they were sold out. So I bought a cake.”

-Mitch Hedberg

Link to food dude blog:

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Judging Panel

June 4, 2010


There, now that that is over with. I found some nice panelling at the dump; not sure where it came from but it’s mostly in good shape. I’d say it’s equivilent to about 6 full pieces. Not enough for the whole house, but seeing as how I’ve had a hard time finding drop clothes this will help fill in the gaps. I’m thinking of using it for the kitchen and bathroom.

Enlarged to show detail:

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A PSA: For the Birds

June 1, 2010




Stop getting in my house and dieing. You’ll die. And then you’ll be dead. And I’ll have to get you out with my scary homemade tongs, because you were under the shower and hard to get to.

That is all.

Any words for Mr Dead Bird the Second?

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Last row should be last straw.

May 27, 2010
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Small update… got the cedar shakes finished on the final side. I hate doing the top row…combination of cutting and having to nail under the roof overhang is horrifically annoying. Anyway, got that finished and also most of the little top trim boards. I finagled what 1×6’s I had to make 7 of the 8, but I needed a 15.25″ piece for the final one and only have 14.5. In the words of Charlie Brown…ARRGH!


I also took a further away photo because the sun was really nice this morning. Not sure the photo turned out so great. But there’s your “Tiny House in a Landscape” Mr. Kent Griswold…


That’s Kent, owner of, not Clark, national lampoon. Now that we’ve got that cleared up… uhh, bye.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. This post is dedicated to Mr. Dead Bird. Who is a bird. Who’s dead. He was in the kitchen of the house, I’m guessing he flew in the doorknob hole and got stuck. They tuck their wings in to fly through openings which are too small, so they need momentum. But once they get in they don’t have enough room to gather the speed to get back out. I nailed something temporarily over the hole to prevent futher casualties. Here’s to you Mr. Dead Bird, for your beautiful yellow plumage and your inability to plan for future logistics.


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5 Lines Of Progress

May 18, 2010
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Just a small update…

Someone was kind enough to leave me two bundles of cedar shakes… not sure who, but thanks! So I now have enough to finish. I worked on it some yesterday until I ran out of nails… I was still using the tar paper nails I have to take the plastic off of, but I ran out of those. So I’ll get some more somewhere and am really close to finishing up.

Hopefully next week I’m going to have a block of time to focus on the house. I need to finish the wiring, then start walls, then floors. If I go at it and stay focused I think I can get about 90% there in a week or so. So luckily we’ll see some progress.

I’ll drop by a coffee roaster this week to get some burlap for the ceiling and I’ll try to find some drop clothes for the walls.

Check back and we’ll see how it goes. Peace y’all.

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Pile, on.

March 6, 2010
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Yesterday in the wonderful cold and wind I got the pilings on. I was only in town for one day, and came specifically to do this, so I didn’t get anything else done. But some progress is better than none, aye?

It’s always interesting securing buildings on the island, as it’s all sand and after digging three feet you hit water. The correct way to do pilings is the dig a hole, stick a long piling in, and then put a garden hose into it. The water creates suction and it sucks the piling down. A lot. Quickly. It’s pretty cool to watch, actually. You’d then of course cut and notch the piling to length. However, because we had to put pilings under an existing structure, we couldn’t use this method. We just dug each corner till we hit water, measured, slid it up under, got it level, concreted, filled with dirt, and bolted.

As it stands the house is still resting on concrete blocks; we decided to give the concrete a week to set before removing them. Kudos to the guy who moved the house for us, as he got it pretty level. We had to jack up one corner about an inch, but that was it. That being said, now that the house is well and truly level, the door opens a lot better.

Last night my parents and I went up to the loft and talked for about an hour. Even with no insulation the house is pretty warm. It was really nice.

My dad is a professor at Wofford, and last week a speaker came and talked about efficient and sustainable ways to help the poor in third world countries. They build houses, but they’re actually pretty large. And to me, its about helping the most with the least. I’m going to contact her at some point and discuss this house. Even if it wasn’t built for free it would be cheap. And with the loft I could easily see a mother and 2-3 children being able to live in it comfortably. I’ll let y’all know any progress with that.

Alright; that’s all I have to report at the moment. For an ending quote I’m going to go with what has been Hyatt’s email signature for a while now.

“Extremism is evil, kids. Whether it comes from the left or right, Christian or Islam, extremism will be our undoing.”

Don’t even view it politically; get philisophical. Peace. -Ted

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When framed, split.

February 1, 2010

I don’t want to begin this post with the stereotypical “I haven’t posted in a while” speech. Yet by mentioning it at all, I have. So I won’t. Don’t read anything before this sentence.

I’m finally back at the location of the scrap house for the first time in a while. Said location is now my front yard; how convenient! The house is still up on the moving rig, waiting to be placed on pilings, but either way I figured I could get a little work done on it. I thought I had enough cedar shakes to finish. I don’t. In the famous words of Lassie, “Oh well.”

But I got about half of the final wall done. Here’s the thing… I didn’t have any more shake nails. I did have tar paper nails though, which are like shake nails but they have little plastic retainers on them. See where this is going? I did; for about an hour and a half!

Ahh; such a friend and such an enemy. Amazing the places one’s mind goes when sitting on the ground fixing individual nails. I’m pretty sure I invented perpetual motion in that time, but then I started thinking about peanut butter and forgot it. Ironically, the trash can I was using to throw the plastic pieces in was an old recycling bin. Go figure.

Eventually I got, uh… this much done.

The house survived the move wonderfully. All the windows and doors still open as they should, everything is as square as it ever was, and even though we’ve gotten a fair amount of rain and 50+ MPH winds over the past months, I’ve yet to find any leaks. It’s a pretty solid little hut. I need to give a long belated thanks to Leo Carmosky. He called me a while back as he wanted to donate some tile. He was from Pennsylvania and was down here on a fishing trip. We really appreciate his donation and hope he had a great stay on the island! Sorry I didn’t get to meet you in person; I certainly enjoyed our conversation on the phone. So thanks for everything you left us.

I’ve also done a little scrounging in my absence. Well, actually, I can’t say that in good faith as I’m always scavenging. Rather, I did some scrounging for the house. There; that’s better. While up in Richmond, VA I found some nice cabinet doors next to a dumpster. I think they used to be part of some sort of entertainment center. They seem relatively new and are quite nice. I’ll most likely cut them into individual panels and use them as cabinet doors.

They have a really nice red accent on the edges. Classy, aye?

I also thought I’d take a moment to point out this is not the smallest building in my town. In fact, just a quarter of a mile down the road is one quite a bit smaller. It’s the, or was the, Post Office. It hasn’t been active since the ’70s, but is still kept original for historical purposes. I believe it’s the smallest Post Office in the country, if it’s not it has to be close! I’d say it’s around 70-80% of the size of the scrap house.

Extreme lens flair! Adorable, isn’t it? Plus, how many post offices have you ever seen that have a mail box out front? It’s not owned by the government any more, it’s just on someone’s land.  Being a government building, though, I think we can assume this cost a tad more to build than mine.

Down the road in the other direction, there’s another building of almost as minuscule proportions. It’s an art studio behind the gorgeous Pea Island Art Gallery, owned by the awesome Kimmie. During the summer our island is a rather chaotic tourist destination. And as such, there are a myriad of generic, massive, ugly vinyl sided testaments to the evils of mass-produced architecture. Generally, only the older buildings deviate from this and provide any form of design. However, Pea Island Art gallery is the exception. Built to resemble the old life saving stations, it is only a few years old. Despite its age, the details and form are not only beautiful, they are in keeping with the history of the island. If you’re ever in Salvo, NC, make sure to stop in.

But behind this structure is the smaller cousin. It’s actually an art studio, but given its design and small size I thought I could throw it into this grouping.

And the reverse;

There’s also a really neat little bridge, but it’s not truly related to the gallery, as it goes back to another home in the woods.

Alright, that’s all I have for the time being. So I need to end this post somehow. I haven’t done this in a while, so I’m getting a little rusty. What about telephone poles? I like them a lot for some reason. For one thing, they’re mostly a lie. The majority of telephone wires are underground these days, so telephone poles are really for power. Oh Tesla, we hardly knew thee. But somehow they simultaneously interrupt a landscape and add to it. They’re like a flock of birds; one never sees only one, and each one is seemingly the same, yet their beauty is found in the harmonious repetition of their existence. Plus, how else would you ever find a lost dog?

This post was brought to you by River, who is more a reference than he is a dog. And one that few will get either way.

Peace for now. -Ted

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About author

This blog is dedicated to an experiment a group of three other fellow students and I are doing at our school in Buxton, NC. My Drafting III class and I set out to see if we could build a house for free. It's small, but functional. All the materials come out of dumpsters. And most of all, it's working.