ECOURSE DAY 7:
TINY HOUSE SIDING AND ROOFING
TINY HOUSE SIDING AND ROOFING
There are many options to choose from when it comes to both siding and roofing materials. If you build your house on a trailer, and have intentions of moving it, then your choices will become more restricted. If, on the other hand, you build a tiny house on a solid foundation, then your choices are the same as they would be for a conventional house. There are some specific steps that must be taken in preparation for your siding and roofing materials, so make sure to get your details set up properly from the start. If you don’t prepare your walls and roof properly, no matter what siding or roofing you choose, you will have problems creating a quality installation that reaches the expected lifespan of the product.
Let’s start with the framing process as this is where your decisions about siding first impact the overall construction of your tiny home. Regardless of whether you build a tiny house on a trailer or on a solid foundation, you will have to provide proper backing for whatever siding choice you make. This need for any additional framing to support your siding details needs to be balanced with a need for minimizing excessive framing in your design. As you can see, it can be quite a catch twenty-two. The most common place where the need for backing is missed is around trim details. During the framing of a house, it’s easy to assume that the siding will have everything it needs for support. After all, there is a lot of wood that goes into building a home.
Consider a window frame, for example. It has a trimmer stud and a king stud, totaling 3” of wood on either side of the window opening. There is typically a 1/4” gap all the way around the window once it is in place as well, so that leaves a total of 3 1/4” of space from the edge of the window to the edge of the framing. That’s plenty of room to attach your siding, as long as you don’t have a large piece of window trim in your design that is installed prior to the siding’s installation. The typical order of operations is to install the trim and then siding, so this could have a big impact on your need for properly sized backing material. In this scenario, you would have to either limit your trim size to no more than 2 1/2” or include additional blocking to act as an attachment point for the siding once the larger trim is in place. This is just one example of the need to think ahead to siding when planning and building your frame.
Let’s take a look at the installation process for siding. Some of the steps may not apply to the siding you choose; however, this will give you a general sense of what to expect in the process.
1. Prepare the wall for the siding and trim details you have chosen. As mentioned above, much of this happens in the framing process. Once framed, install any sheathing that is required per the design and siding specifications.
2. Install the appropriate house wrap material. For most siding applications, I recommend that you install a “drain wrap” house wrap material as it is ridged to allow water to drain behind the siding. This will greatly minimize the risk of water damage to the back face of the siding. It will also minimize the risk of your paint delaminating over time.
3. Snap chalk lines to identify all of your framing member locations. Whenever possible, your fasteners should be anchored directly into wall framing, not just the sheathing.
4. Determine the starting point for your siding. If you plan to hang your siding down past your foundation or trailer, I recommend no more than 1” of overhang. Once the starting point is identified, snap a line to mark the top of the first piece of siding.
5. Transfer the starting course chalk line to all sides of the building. Adjust as necessary for the tongue of the trailer, if applicable.
6. Paint the back side of the material before you get started if you plan to paint your trim and siding. This evens out the rate at which the material will absorb moisture from the ambient climate and will reduce swelling, buckling, and surface finish delamination.
7. Install your trim now, before installing any siding, if your siding has any relief to it, in other words, it has a three dimensional profile (i.e. lap siding, V-groove siding, etc.). Start with your corners and top of the walls and move next to your windows and doors. If you are planning a flat profile, i.e. board and batten siding, then install your siding panels now and add your trim once the siding is complete.
8. Create a story pole. This is an invaluable tool for making your siding look the best it can. Mark all of the elevations of window trim, door trim, and wall heights on a straight piece of lumber. Use a different side for each wall of your home. Mark the locations of your siding on the story pole and see how things line up. If you are left with a sliver of siding in any location, adjust the exposure of your siding (if applicable) to eliminate the sliver. Try not to end up with any strip of siding less than half of your typical exposure. If you plan on using a siding that does not allow for exposure adjustment (T&G for example) then make adjustments to your starting point as necessary to help minimize siding slivers.
9. Install the siding from the bottom up, making sure to create a positive drain pathway for any water. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for fastener location and type. Paint all end cuts (if applicable) as you make them to maintain the seal created in step #6.
10. Install flashing at all butt joints of lap siding. Flashing should hang over the piece of siding below and be installed behind the current piece of siding to insure proper drainage.
11. Caulk and finish the siding. Do not caulk the horizontal intersections of the siding as they need to be allowed to drain. Caulk only vertical joints and the very top intersection between siding and the wall trim.
When siding a tiny house on a trailer, be sure to consider the potential wind loads that the home may be exposed to either in situ or on the highway. I would recommend tongue and groove (T&G), wood lap siding, board and batten, metal, or panel specific systems for best results. I would stay away from vinyl siding for two main reasons. 1) It is a very toxic material to create and/or dispose of. 2) It may not function as well under highway wind loads. I would not recommend fiber cement siding because it is extremely heavy and may add too much weight to your allowable trailer load. Stucco, although beautiful, is not a good option for a tiny house on a trailer because it is heavy and would be prone to cracking due to the movement of the trailer.
All of the above siding options and more are available to you if you build your home on a solid foundation. If they fit your architectural choices then stucco, metal, and fiber cement sidings will give you the most longevity for your home, assuming proper installation techniques. The options are many, so you will need to consider price, value, required skill set, material availability, architectural design factors, and installation time as major factors in your decision.
As is the case with siding, your choice of roofing material will be dependent in part on the type of tiny house you intend to build: on a trailer or on a solid foundation. The reasons for this are the same: weight and wind resistance. There are a lot of options available; however, some of them are very heavy (slate and tile for example) and others are not a great idea for a home that will be driven down the road (wood shake or composition shingles for example). In some cases a material that might seem to be a fine choice based on the manufacturer’s specifications for wind resistance, such as composition shingles, may in fact not be strong enough. This is because wind loads applied on a highway vehicle are different than those typically rated for homes. If you have ever felt the sideways gust on your car from a tractor trailer passing you at 70 mph, then you know what I’m talking about.
My personal preference for roofing is called snap lock, standing seam metal. It has a high resistance to wind, a long lifespan (typically over 50 years), an assortment of available colors, is easy to install on simple roof designs, and provides excellent protection from the elements. The snap lock and standing seam are very important details to this roofing system. They provide hidden fastening which is a great asset on a roof. This means that all of the points of attachment of the roofing itself are hidden underneath the standing seam of the next panel. The risk of roof leaks is greatly reduced with this system. Finally, all of the edge flashing materials are custom bent to fit the slope of the roof and to provide complete protection from water penetration at all points of potential entry. It is truly a well thought out and executed roofing system.
Metal is just one option when it comes to a house built on a solid foundation. You can also consider wood shake or shingle roofs if your climate allows it. Some jurisdictions won’t approve a wood shake/shingle roof because of the potential fire risks. The same is true for my all time favorite roofing material: thatch. Most jurisdictions here in the US won’t approve it. What’s more, most locations cannot actually build a thatch roof because the specific reeds that are needed for the roof do not grow here in the States. They would need to be imported and that may be not only cost prohibitive, but also environmentally impactful.
Some more realistic options include composition shingles, slate, flat tile, spanish tile, recycled rubber, corrugated metal, tin, copper, and on and on. There are so many options to consider and your personal choice will likely be based heavily on the architectural design you are working with along with the cost and availability of the material. Like siding, you may also be limited by the required skill set for installation.
No matter what material you choose, be sure to start with a solid roof deck preparation.
1. I personally do not like to use anything less than 5/8” sheathing on my roofs even though code says I can use 1/2”. That extra thickness makes the roof more stable when I walk on it and it provides extra shear strength to the structure. Even when a plan calls out 1/2” material, I tend to upgrade to 5/8”.
2. Once the sheathing is in place, you will need to provide drip edge protection to the bottom of your roof slope. If you live in a cold climate which gets a lot of snow, you should consider using an ice and water shield membrane in lieu of roofing felt as your underlayment. Place a thin strip of underlayment at the bottom of the roof line. This piece need be no more than 6” wide. If using roofing felt, staple it to the roof deck or use underlayment nails with washers to attach it. Ice and water shield membranes are self adhesive.
3. Use roofing nails sparingly to attach 10’ sections of metal drip edge flashing over underlayment at the bottom edge of the sheathing. Overlap butt joints by at least 1”.
4. Install ice and water shield underlayment in all valleys and extend it over the metal drip edge.
5. Install underlayment over the drip edge flashing in a full width roll over the length of the roof. At valleys, lap the underlayment up the far side of the valley by at least 6” and then start a new piece moving the opposite direction, again lapping it 6” up the far side.
6. Overlap the next piece of underlayment by at least 4” over the piece below it. On low slope roofs (3/12 or lower), I recommend overlapping your underlayment by 18” for added protection. This is because water can run uphill with ease if there is an ice damn or high winds. the added protection of underlayment layering is worth the money, especially on a tiny house (i.e. the roof is tiny too!).
7. Cover any hip or ridge lines with a full sheet of material so that the overlap is at least 1’ on either side of the ridge or hip.
8. Cut any vent holes that are required per plan to vent the roof sheathing and prevent rot from condensation.
9. Install metal drip edge flashing along the eave lines (the sides of a gable roof, for example) and overlap the drip edge flashing previously applied at the bottom of the roof.
10. Snap chalk lines to represent the layout of the roofing material and install the roofing to manufacturer’s specifications. Be sure to include any roof venting as required.
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