Don’t be afraid to attempt some of the electrical projects for your cozy home. Electricity should be properly respected, and when worked with safely and correctly it can be very rewarding. Adding accent and specific task lighting creates a unique and functional home that’s uniquely yours. Here are 8 steps for installing switch boxes and plugs in your tiny home:
1. To eliminate the possibility of shock, locate and shut off the correct breaker switches on the main electrical box. Granted, most of us guys think it’s no fun unless “It’s Alive”, and it’s going to be dark with no electricity, but it’s the safest thing to do.
2. When adding a remodel box to existing construction, having a torpedo level close by makes it perfect every time. Check your codes for proper heights or measure the distances of other outlets and switches close by to determine the proper height.
3. Use the correct tools. On the photo above you will see that the electrical outlet screws have a square tip rather than a Philips.
4. The best habit to get into is protecting the wires. Take a few extra seconds to tape around the sides of the outlet which secures and protects the wires. This is definitely the best thing to do when you working with metal boxes.
5. When attaching wires with a wirenut first make sure they are all the same length. Secondly, make sure that the exposed area of the wire is not too long, causing the exposed wire to be seen outside the wirenut. Thirdly, continue to twist the wirenut until it begins to twist the wire also. This guarantees a tight connection and protects the wire from pulling apart. You can also wrap the nut with some electrical tape to further guarantee a tight connection.
6. Leave plenty of wire coming out of the box. This might seem wasteful (especially with the cost of wire these days) but you will need the extra wire to work with. It’s much easier to take away wire than to add wire, and future repairs and modifications will require additional wire.
7. Use the right wire for the job. Typically 12/2 gauge wire “yellow” is for electrical outlets and 14/2 gauge wire “white” is for lighting. Make sure to check your local electrical code for breaker sizes and load limits per run. Yes, 12 gauge is more definitely more expensive and kind of a pain to mash into small boxes so be prepared for that.
8. Choose the proper wirenut for the job. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they are rated for the number of wires on the specific gauge being used.
Here’s a unique situation: sometimes hot and neutral are not always black and white. Note the black electrical tape on the orange wire in the above photo. This is to let the next person who works on the box know that it’s the hot wire. Test it anyway. I later discovered that the green grounds in this box were live, and that opened up a whole new set of challenges.
I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t take my own advice about turning off the breaker.
Cozy, Kevin B Harrington
Watching a drywall finisher has taught me a lot. The art of finishing drywall definitely takes some experience to do it quickly and efficiently, but just about anyone can sculpt a masterpiece with a little time and patience. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re playing with mud:
1. A 48 lb box of mud will last about as long as a quart of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. So if you think five is enough…buy 10.
2. Avoid the all-purpose kind of mud. It sets up harder than concrete and is very difficult to sand and finish. The Topping is my first choice for everything. Lightweight is okay but it seems to have more air mixed in. This lightens it up but makes it go really fast.
3. Building up the mud in multiple thin layers helps to eliminate some sanding but doing this takes more time because you have to allow for some drying in between layers. This is a perfect strategy for beginners to work on their skills though.
4. Quick set or “Hot Mud”, the fast drying powder that comes in the sacks is mainly for professionals. Beware of its magic properties and never add it to anything you don’t plan on using right away, it will set up even when still wet. Quick set comes in 5, 20, 45 and 90 minute drying times and works great for patching holes.
5. Fill your corners with plenty of mud, especially at the elevations that can easily be bumped while moving furniture. This will reinforce the area and prevent them from being damaged easily. This technique is especially important with bullnose corners due to the way drywall needs to be installed leaving a gaps and open areas.
6. Vinyl corners seem to be easier and more forgiving to work with than metal corners. It’s possible to install them without nails. The nails tend to distort the shape and make them more difficult to finish.
7. Buy a good stainless steel pan, not the plastic one. The steel pan has no little cracks and crevices that mud will stick to while you’re putting it on the wall or ceiling. Cheaper knifes will work but having a good metal pan is very important
8. Using paper dust bags in your wet/dry vac will help contain the drywall dust that will inevitably get everywhere.
9. Buy the largest sanding sponges and cut them in half.
10. Drywall mud can be utilized as cheap and simple wood filler. Try filling in holes and large gaps with mud first, then finish it off with more expensive caulking, etc. later on.
11. Drywall mud has great bonding powers. I once covered a brick plastered wall that was beyond my skills to repair with 1/2 drywall. Simply place several globs of mud on the wall and securely place the sheet against it. When the mud dries the new sheet will be stuck for good, giving you a new fresh surface to texture without losing too much floor space.
12. The boxes of mud are the cheapest way to go. This is how you get it into the bucket without wasting any of the mud: Open the box and fold the plastic over the sides. Place on the edge of the bucket and slowly bounce it causing the material to slide out.
Add one or two cups of water and then mix it up.
13. Consider this technique when making a surface flat again to re-texture.
14. Choose a texture that works best with a “not so” perfect subsurface. A light orange peel will require a near perfect surface before application. A hand finished “skip trowel” texture is much more forgiving with a less than perfect surface. It’s my personal favorite and easily provides a Tuscan hand finished look for the walls.
Anyone can take drywall, a few 2x4s, some screws, corners and some imagination to easily create something like this:
Cozy, Kevin B Harrington