Liam O’Brien

PV & Electrical Design Engineer

Engineering a µHouse

A blog following my progress designing and fabricating a modern ~200sqft tiny home

Siding in cypress

To paraphrase an interesting trait that a carpenter friend recently told me about:

“The rich folks try to make their real wood siding to look like smooth painted plastic, and the poor people always try to make their smooth painted plastic look like real wood”.

Modified shiplap or Pilgrim siding

The engineers solution is to just to use the right material for the job at hand, but when aesthetics and money come into play all reason goes out the window. For my tiny house I decided choose cypress 1×8’s, with a modified shiplap profile (basically providing a drainage detail since straight cut shiplap is mostly used for vertical siding). See the photo to the left for a graphic. Cypress is great because it is naturally rot and bug resistant, meaning that you can theoretically get away without painting or staining for it’s working life (proper drainage and installation will determine how long that is). You can read all sorts of interesting facts/benefits about it over on this site and see lots of nice building porn (including the Jackson Hole airport entry). It also has the advantage of being relatively knot free (even for No2 grade) and unlike its companion, cedar, you don’t have to mortgage the house, business, and sell an organ to pay for it, I got mine for roughly $1.35 per board foot, for contrast a clear western cedar 1×8 would be almost $5/bd-ft, ouch.

thumb_img_1891_1024Getting to the brass tacks  (or stainless ones) of attaching it. I used a a 5d stainless steel ring-shank siding nail from Simpson, yes stainless steel costs more, but galvanized isn’t worth a hoot these days and once the treatment starts to wear off the steel rusts and drips down your rather expensive wooden siding. So like most things in life you either pay now or later, but you will always pay (physics makes sure there are no free lunches).

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A little perspective

I also decided to hand nail the siding, something that I just sort of fell into, since I didn’t have access to a coil gun, plus the coiled stainless nails were a bit more expensive than I thought reasonable. This might have been a good thing (though hand pounding over 2,000 nails get old fast) because it’s harder to just slap up the siding quickly and therefore make mistakes, with hand nailing you get a chance to check and triple check each piece as it goes up and if things don’t fit right you have to tweak it, rather than just pop it off with a bunch of nails.

One of the lessons learned (which seems blindingly obvious now) is to measure out where your studs are before you start nailing, I didn’t do this in the beginning and had to fold in the nails from inside the house afterwards. Because of the ring shank, the grip is more than enough for siding but going into the studs would be better, plus you don’t have the equivalent of the iron maiden inside your stud bay, not so fun when trying to route wires.

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The hitch end, which went pretty fast until I got to the roof angles.

Another thing that you learn is how good your stud layout was, after trying midway through to correct my mistake of nailing into just the sheathing I found it exceptionally difficult to actually hit studs consistently 16″OC, maybe this was my measuring ability but I think layout had a lot to do with it. Openings deviated  rather badly compared to the rest of the wall, meaning that nails that were sinking through just fine 2 feet over, were way off just a little ways into the window. The take away, stop calling it rough framing, no one will see it, but if you are sloppy it will bite you in the rear later on.


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