Growing up as a female, I don’t think I was encouraged to build things, get dirty, and learn how to wield tools as much as my two brothers were. As a kid I wasn’t particularly interested in building cars or chopping wood, and social gender norms are strong and ubiquitous. As an adult, I have begun to learn practical skills and have come to appreciate their importance, now adding to my ‘toolbox’, so to say.
I wanted to have a ladies’ work party so that I could invite my female friends to try something new. This is not to say that men shouldn’t have this opportunity as well, and I didn’t intend for it to be exclusive in any way, but I planned it as a ladies’ work party. More gender inclusive ones to come…
Many of my female friends had never built anything or participated in a building project like this one before. I was excited to organize an insulation installation party and know that my friends would all have a part in the build process. No, we didn’t hammer any nails or cut wood, but the insulation is what is going to keep me warm and cozy in my tiny house. I feel so blessed to have had my friends and family come out and build this important part of the house with me.
We used Roxul insulation, which is made out of basalt rock and steel wool. I sourced it through this green building company in town referred to me by Cody Farmer, a wealth of knowledge about passive house design. AE Building Systems were able to get me Roxul insulation with R-value (a measure of thermal resistance) of 15 that’s specifically designed for steel studs, meaning that it’s wider than regular 16″-off-center Roxul insulation and will fill the inside of each stud. It’s totally biodegradable and can be cut with a bread knife, so it’s really user friendly and quite fun to work with. You can definitely touch it with your hands, but I’ve noticed that it’s a little abrasive, so I prefer to wear long sleeves and gloves. I also provided masks during the work party because when that much cutting of insulation is happening in an enclosed space it’s easy to inhale particles.
The mineral wool insulation is so forgiving that it’s hardly necessary to measure before you cut. The design I created and brought to Volstrukt didn’t have every stud 16″-off-center, partly because I’m an amateur tiny house designer, and also because it’s necessary in some places to have studs closer together, such as under windows or next to the door. Mineral wool insulation is so user friendly that this wasn’t a problem, we were all able to cut the batt and squish it into every nook and cranny. This included insulating the headers above the windows and even inside my ridge beam. Volstrukt has designed their headers to be two horizontal studs with diagonal studs bracing the inside of the header. This strong design leaves triangle openings within the header that need to be filled with insulation, and with the Roxul it was easy to stuff them full. I was also really happy to have over twenty hands ranging from ages 5 to 60 years old stuffing all the cracks and holes full of insulation. It was definitely a satisfying process.
After approximately five full hours of having great conversations, listening to music, playing with Luna Mae (my puppy), and stuffing the walls full of mineral wool insulation, we were all ready to stop for the day and have a late lunch. As the familiar Colorado wind blew in carrying with it a snow storm, we went inside to eat homemade hearty vegetable soup made by my Mom. The conversations around the table were captivating and fun, and as I looked around at over 10 beaming faces, I was filled with so much gratitude for these friends of mine, some whom I knew well, and others who are newer additions to my community, who had just come out to spend their Saturday insulating my tiny house with me. Unexpectedly, they all connected over this collaborative project and bonded with each other. The positivity was tangible and unifying. As the temperature dropped and the winter wind blew in over the front range, my tiny house stood tall and warm. Ninety percent insulated with at least R-24 (minus studs) walls, and ready for the next step of the build.
Thank you to all who showed up and to Holly Hursley (www.hollymhursley.com) for taking these beautiful photos.