Step 4: The Finishes

Here is how things have come together in the days since the Bungalow in a Box house raising. We are taking our time with the finishes in order to incorporate ideas and inspiration that can't be rushed. Plus, we have to learn as we go. Prior to this project we had no experience building stairs, railings, walls, kitchens, bathrooms or any of the other mini projects required to complete the home.

A trench from the well to the house for fresh water lines. 

The septic system is installed and the drain field is seeded with grass. Even for a tiny house there is no such thing as a "tiny septic system." Code requires a system sized for a three bedroom home. 

We frame out this tiny utility closet which will contain most of the mechanical and plumbing connections for the house. 

We frame out the bathroom and test fit the shower pan. There are minimum sizes and clearances for bathroom plumbing fixtures that we must follow. At 31 x 31 inches this shower is one of the smallest allowed by code. A curved sliding shower door creates extra elbow room near the sink and entry door.

Adding some supports for the drop ceiling in the bathroom. We decide to drop the bathroom ceiling in order to prevent steam or moisture from contacting the floor above. It is important to manage moisture in a tiny home. The ceiling will be pieced in between the heavy timber beams so that a few inches of beam remains visible inside the bathroom. A vent fan will pull moisture out of the home and draw in fresh air. 
Our local plumbing contractor designs a lot of equipment and piping into a tiny utility closet. The high-efficiency condensing boiler provides unlimited hot water and also provides heat to the house through a hot water baseboard loop. 

We line up our hickory sink base cabinet. The thing hanging from the ceiling is a Gravity Light (a thoughtful gift from a good friend). 

The shower and doors are installed. Hard to get a full picture in this tight space. 

We secure cement board and tape the seams in preparation for tiling. At this point we are not sure if the whole bathroom is getting tile or just the floor.

Insulating the kitchen. Our tank mounted propane heater is there in case we need a boost of warmth during the interior buildout. The fire extinguisher is there in case we get anything or anyone too close to the heater. Thinking ahead. 

We lay out stones for our hearth. These giant flat rocks came from the property. The big one is over three feet wide. It was in the creek several hundred paces from the house. Lots of flipping, rolling and wheelbarrowing got it here in one piece. 

The hearth stones get secured in a bed of thinset mortar atop cement board to protect the subfloor from heat. We wait for the mortar to dry before grouting between all of the stones. 

Drywall goes up behind the hearth. When installing a wood stove, follow all of the rear, side and front clearances required by the stove manufacturer. Our stove will have a heat guard on the back. It requires only about a foot of spacing to an unprotected wall (including drywall). We built this hearth bigger than necessary on all sides. It is a focal point in the room. The thermal mass keeps the room warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Wiring from the main electrical panel on its way around the home.

Rough in for the bathroom ventilation fan in the ceiling. Keeping moisture under control will help all of the wood in our house stay happy. 

Main electrical panel that will be fed by the solar panels, inverter and battery system. Looks like a traditional panel but it's 100% powered by the sun. The 21st century tiny house has a lot of circuits. 

Drywall and insulation continue. Spray foam around the windows gets into all the hard to reach places. 
The grass is growing in nicely atop the drain field. Cleanout hatches for the three compartment septic tank are on the left.

Six 250 watt photovoltaic panels generate 1.5 kW (peak) solar energy in a prime south-facing location. This clearing gets very little shading and is ideal for solar. Underground conduits bring the power to a battery and inverter system that powers all of the systems in our house. Even in the winter and on cloudy days, this system will provide enough energy for all of our needs.

Equipment for the solar power system. For the technically disadvantaged: it takes the power produced by the sun, uses it to charge batteries and then turns the power from the batteries into normal household power. For the technically curious: the "brain" is a Schneider Electric Conext SW 2024 off-grid inverter with a few pieces of related equipment attached. Specs: 4000 watt inverter, maximum power point tracking solar battery charger, DC breakers, control panel, and AC switchgear panel.
When you're off the grid, energy from the sun needs to be stored somewhere. These twelve batteries weigh in at 113 pounds apiece. The batteries store 12+ usable kilowatt hours of energy -- enough to provide for all of our needs even with consecutive cloudy days. In tech speak, that's twelve 370 amp hour 6v sealed flooded lead acid batteries in 3 parallel strings of 4 batteries per string, storing 1,110 amp hours at 24v DC = 26,640 watt hours DC = about 24 kWh of AC power. To maximize the life of the batteries and account for cold weather losses/freeze protection, we ballpark the usable storage at 12 kWh -- half the total capacity. 
We use leftover insulation scraps to give the Amish-made shed some interior comfort as a workshop in the winter months.

Drywall work continues. Not many full sheet sections in a tiny house...lots of seams, lots of taping comes next.
Drywall in the loft. Why cover up a cool beam? We leave the heavy timber header over the window exposed to add character and show off the interior structure.

The kitchen takes shape. Hickory cabinets, American Walnut butcher block countertop, enameled cast iron sink.

First fire in the Jotul cast iron wood stove. 

Chaos gives way to order with some homemade shed shelving.

Bathroom plumbing and cedar tongue and groove is in! Just some wood trim, towel racks and cosmetic stuff to finish in here. 

Kitchen's Done! Featuring: DIY shelves made from locally milled wood planks with natural bark edging, DIY mason jar lights with dimmable LED edison-style filament bulbs, new top performing EnergyStar fridge, vented stove hood with lights, natural stone tile backsplash.  

Ceiling planks start going up. These are rough sawn pine planks from a local mill. More on the how-to in this post

Alternating tread spiral staircase installed. More info in our how-to post.

The stair curves around 165 degrees 

Railings for safety

Loft railings -- Stocky 4x4 "post and beam" construction with lap joints and mortise & tenon joints to complement the structural timber framing. The balusters are standard 1/2" steel rebar. 


  1. Love the solar panels! We plan to be off-grid too, depending on the property we find. How is it working out? Would love to read more!


  2. Nice work. Why did you mount the solar panels away from the house? I have only seen them on roofs. Hope all is well.

    B. Smith

    1. Dear B --

      The house is situated on the northeast side of a mountain and is really shaded by trees. We wanted it to feel like you're in a treehouse so we avoided taking down a lot of trees like you would normally do to clear a lot for a house.

      Putting the panels 150 ft. from the house ensures they get as much sun as possible in this location. A device called a "solar pathfinder" helps find the ideal spot by pointing out shading issues at various times of year. You literally hold this gadget (or put it on a tripod) and walk around to find the best spot.

      If the panels were on the roof of the house, they'd get decent morning sun but we really need them cranking out power all the time between 10am and 3pm. The grassy clearing was the best spot because there are no trees in the south-facing direction for almost 200 feet! Gives a good angle for the sun to hit the panels several hours per day regardless of the season.

      Winter is tough on solar in the northeastern U.S. The sun tracks really low in the sky. Being on a mountain just makes this issue worse. In the heart of the winter, the sun goes behind the mountain by 2pm!

      We considered putting the panels on the house but we would've had to nearly double the number of panels to get the same output. It was more economical to build the ground mounting system away from the house.

      Thanks for your question!

  3. Is this going to be your only home? Do you put hot cookie sheets directly on your walnut countertop? Is would covering adequate over OSB to meet fire safety code? Thanks very much for your help.

  4. Great Job ..Saw your episode as was curious as to how it came out ..

  5. so great! I am currently looking into the bungalow in a many bedrooms is your bungalow in a box and what was your budget for this project?