Building a Sustainable Tiny House: Getting the Wood

It was our mission to live out a more sustainable lifestyle that made us decide to build a tiny house, but in our effort to really feel like Pa Ingalls, we decided to harvest our own wood. Generally, we spend a lot of time writing about the conservation efforts of others, but this time we decided to take matters into our own hands, and we were surprised with what you can do with a pair of log tongs, a truck, a portable sawmill and eight hours of daylight.

Pushing the lumber

Pushing the lumber to the sawmill

Step 1: Start with what you have

We had the land, but we also had our share of tall, beautiful, obstructions. Before building, we had to clear the land to make enough space for not only the construction of the tiny house, but also for a tiny road, a well, a septic system, and the tiny house itself, totaling to 1/2-3/4 an acre. Luckily, being situated in Nelson County Virginia, we’re blessed with a wealth of hard, building wood, including tulip popular, white oak, red oak, and cherry. Being slightly resourceful, and incredibly cheap, we decided to put these trees to work.

Step 2: Turn Those Trees into Lumber

Because the trees came from our property they weren’t pressure treated to support the weight of the house or even the furniture within it. For that reason, we could only use the wood for trim and furnishings and anything load-bearing would need to be factory stamped.

Making the lumber

Cutting the lumber

The process was simple, however the work was far from it. Log after log had to be dragged and positioned on the sawmill and once on had to be cut, rotated, stacked, 10-15 times. Repeat until the 11 logs are finished. The wood itself was heavy, and the load of one of the oak trees was too much for the winch to take. The cable broke, sending the far end of it flying and the 500lb+ log rolling down the ramps. We shouted and jumped out of the way as the quarter ton object mercifully spared breaking our legs.

Once the lumber is on the portable sawmill, the thickness is determined based on the type of wood. Generally speaking, we cut the oak and cherry into 2 inch pieces and made the popular 1-1.5 inches. We then performed 4 initial cuts on each side to straighten out the rounded edges of the log. Then, the wooden rectangle was cut two opposite sides to create planks of similar width.

Sitting on the lumber

Sitting on the day’s work

3: Finishing strong

Naturally, one gets a bit thirsty after a full work day (or even a half-day, lets be honest.) Fortunately, we’re just a few miles away from some of the finest watering holes that the Shenandoah valley has to offer. Step Renowned breweries Devil’s Backbone Brewery, Blue Ridge Mountain Brewery, and Wild Wolf Brewing are a short drive away and Cardinal Point Winery is literally down the street for the times we’re feeling like something other than a craft beer.

In total it was a huge money saver in addition to being sustainable. The sawmill labor was $50 for travel and $50 p/hr, totaling to $450 for the day to get 60+ planks. Clearing all the trees, removing the stumps, and grinding up the limbs cost $10,000.

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