While talking about and designing our tiny house was a great experience, we couldn’t wait to actually make our first purchase. In mid-June we decided to make a trek to the two Habitat for Humanity ReStores near our apartment in Portland, as well as the Rebuilding Center. We had decided we were just going to see what kind of offerings these places had. We didn’t expect to find anything, but we were definitely hoping. I actually felt giddy at the prospect. You know you’re hooked when the idea of going to look through piles of old doors and windows feels like Christmas. I was absolutely not prepared for this mission, however.
We walked into the first store and headed straight for the windows. In our research we had learned that windows are an important part of making the framing plan. You need to know how many and where they will be located so you can order the correct amount of lumber, which makes total sense. We weren’t sure if we could expect to find many at the ReStores, or if we’d be finding most of them on Craigslist. Well, they certainly had plenty of windows, however, most of them were huge! As we looked at the different sizes and types, I realized I didn’t know anything about windows. We moved on to the doors. I realized I didn’t know anything about doors either. Or flooring, or kitchen sinks, or lumber, or tools…
My own ignorance hit me like a tidal wave. I left that first store feeling like we may be getting in WAY over our heads. My vision of waltzing into a store and finding the perfect first window for our house was definitely shattered. When we got to the next store, I resolved to observe and learn. This was a strictly information gathering mission: no more lofty purchasing goals. This was a helpful mindset to have. I was still overwhelmed with the sheer amount of materials and how much I didn’t know about most of it, but the pressure to find the exact right item was gone. We left feeling pretty good, ready to hit the final store.
At the third ReStore, which we actually visited a couple days later, we unexpectedly found some brand new windows. They were exactly the size we were thinking for the loft, and they were only $25 each! We found a third, a used window, for $10, which would complete the upper level window layout. While in the store, Travis noticed that they were actually meant to be oriented vertically. Since we still didn’t know much about windows, we asked one of the volunteers, who said he had building experience, if a vertically oriented window could be installed horizontally. He said sure, as long as it was installed with proper flashing. We impulsively bought them, because we couldn’t believe our luck, and you never know when deals like that will come along. Our giddiness returned and we grinned the whole way home. Little did we know, our ignorance had struck again.
Travis looked at the windows more closely at home and did some research online. According to all the resources he was able to find, we definitely did NOT want to install the windows in the incorrect orientation. The mechanism that aids the window in opening is designed much differently in a window you lift to open versus a window you slide to open. The functionality of the window would likely deteriorate more quickly over time. Most modern windows are also designed to drain water from any surfaces that may collect standing water. If you change the orientation, the drainage won’t be in the correct place.
We felt silly and a bit sheepish, but it was a good lesson, and we actually incorporated the windows into our design in the correct orientation, just to see how they would look, and are quite happy with them. Plus we still had that exhilarating experience of coming home with our first tiny house purchase, giving our dream its first tangible element.