How to Bamboo (Pro’s, Con’s, Sealing & Maintenance)

If you have me on snapchat (steequinn) or insta (sticksandspit) you’ve seen my raving about the current love of my life, my new bamboo countertops!


When I started looking into countertops, all I knew for sure was that I definitely didnt want your standard laminate kind.  In search of a unique and aesthetically pleasing alternative I learned 3 things:

1. My dream countertop is solid Calacatta Marble and costs more than my 2 year college education
2. Said education isn’t making me enough money to afford said countertop
3. Maybe tuition would have been better spent on dream countertop

After taking a long, hard look at my questionable post-secondary decisions, I pinterested across a “concrete countertop for less than $200” tutorial.  Concrete countertops look AMAZING! I love the look… but I don’t love the weight.  What the tutorial doesn’t tell you is that they are HEAVY!  I would’ve had to reinforce my brand new beautiful cabinets & further delay work and I was not down for that.

So it was purely by chance that one day whilst perusing my local Rona, I came across some gorgeous bamboo planks for non-specific use. Perfect! When I bough them all I knew was that they were going to look great.  I didn’t understand their true value until i did some research.

Eco-friendly:  bamboo is a natural resource that is renewable and sustainable.
Durable: harder than oak or maple. Like wood it can be sanded and resealed if it gets           damaged.
Moderately priced: definitely cheaper than marble, My bamboo cost me just over $400 (not including tung oil or extras)

Limited: not as many variations in colour or style
Expands & contracts: like wood, it responds to temp and humidity, so there are more factors to account for and extra care to be taken when installing
Glued structure: Bamboo is more like a plant than a wood.  Bamboo planks are strips of the plant’s “trunk” glued and compressed together.  The glue makes it more sensitive to water (even if sealed) and heat (like hot pots or pans) than your average countertop.  Also be sure to check that the glue used is food-safe.

Sealing Bamboo
Bamboo an be sealed with just Tung oil (this is what i did).  It can also be stained, finished with polyurethane, varnish, mineral oil or butcher’s block oil. As long as you use a couple coats of tung oil first to ensure even colour and absorption.
*Tung oil is derived from nuts, and may cause allergic reactions in people allergic to nuts*

You can pretty much use & clean this surface as you normally would, as long as you go easy on the ammonia based products (like Lysol and Windex).  If you didnt polyurethane seal it, you can re-oil it every few weeks, or when it looks dull or gets dry. Or don’t. It’s all good.

Can you see why I’m so in love with the darn things?

How to Bamboo (Pro’s, Con’s, Sealing & Maintenance)

How Much Does it Cost to Build Tiny?

The question I get asked most often about my tiny-house build is the obvious one, “What did it cost you to build?” So i’m about to save myself a lot of future DM’s and answer this for you publicly.  The answer is not so straight forward.


MY own house will have cost approx $50 000 when it is finished (one month!) But tiny houses in general can range enormously (from approx $10 000 and up), there are a ton of variables to consider.

What do you consider tiny?
Anything under 500 sq ft is considered a “tiny-house”.  My own house is about 600 sq ft.  Your’s could be whatever you like. Obviously the bigger the house the more expensive it will likely be to build.

How resourceful are you (or are you willing to be) when it comes to scavenging for materials?
When i started this project I had intended to be super resourceful and scavenge for (a la pinterest…) palettes, among other things.  What I learned was that it’s easier said than done.  Things you may save money on by recycling will often cost you more in time by having to fix them up nice enough for your house.  I ended up buying new much more than I intended but saving myself a tonne of time that wouldve been spent planing/sanding/staining palettes.  Thats up to you, the house builder, if spending some extra hours or days is worth not spending money you dont have to, then go for it!

Are you willing to buy secondhand appliances/furniture/building materials?
Secondhand things will save you lots of money, but you may have to be flexible with your interior decorating scheme. I found an older (7 years old) fridge & stove that are visibly not super hot but still work like a dream.  I had to compromise my dream kitchen a tiny little bit but I actually saved thousands. Worth it.

Are you hiring builders/contractors/tradespeople?
This will likely be your biggest expense if you are not lucky enough to know people that are handy.  I got lucky in that my family is full of handymen and tradespeople (to which I am now eternally indebted to).

How “off-grid” are you willing to go?
Solar power systems, for example, are extremely expensive to put in initially and will add thousands to your build price, but will save you money in the long run by not having a monthly bill.  Same goes for sewer and water.  Using a septic tank and hauling water requires more maintenance and dedication and may cost you more initially but will save you a monthly bill.

It’s hard to compare living costs in a regular house vs. a tiny house. You could break it down to cost per square foot but that’s not entirely accurate either.
If you break it down the cost per square foot will likely look much higher than the alternative.  If your tiny house is 200 sq ft and you spend $50 000 building it your cost would = $250/sq ft
If you bought a regular 1500 sq ft house for $300 000 your cost would = $200/ sq ft.
It doesn’t include if you mortgage (and therefor pay interest on) your regular size house.

So the easy answer to the question asked would be:

How Much Does it Cost to Build Tiny?

House Building: The most Expensive Full Body Workout Program Ever

I feel like I cheaped out on ya on yesterday for only posting a Build Update.  Truth is I was up until late sanding the living crap out of every surface in the house.  I hate sanding so much.
So so much.
A lot.
I can’t wait for the day that I am no longer covered in drywall dust. Anyone who has had the pleasure of putting up new walls knows what I mean.  It gets in everywhere and I mean everywhere.  Cleaning drywall dust out of my eyes, ears, nose has become just a normal part of my life.

This project has changed my life in many ways.  Some I anticipated, some I did not.  I knew it would require a huge financial commitment and take up a lot of my time, I didn’t have a problem giving up either of these things.  One thing I did not anticipate was having to do the most physical labour I’ve ever imagined.  Like I knew ya, there must be lifting and screwing things together and being on your hands and knees but I had never really put myself in those shoes.

It started out easy for me for the first while.  When we were framing out the containers all I really had to do was measure and cut things with a mitre saw.  I wasn’t really into it because I had no idea how to frame anything, I would just do what I was told.

Drywall season was the hardest hit.  After day 1 of drywalling ceilings I couldn’t lift my arms. We were also unknowingly doing it the hard way.  Where we would line it up, push one end of the sheet into the corner and one person would hold it up while the other moved a ladder into place and ran around looking for a drill.  Working harder, NOT smarter, if you will.  That week I lost 5 pounds.

After the drywall was up, naturally then comes mudding (not bad)… and therefor sanding (horrific).  The current bane of my existence. Nothing like a few 3 or 4 hour sanding sessions to sculpt your guns.


The worst part is that for some reason, I’m absolutely useless with the sanding thing that goes on the end of a broomstick (what is that thing called?). Just something about the pressure vs. motion thing that I can’t nail down.  I gave it an honest go for about a half hour before I wanted to launch that thing javelin-style into the corn field behind my house.  So Ive been using a hand sander the whole time, which requires moving a scaffolding bench around every 30 seconds so I can reach the ceiling. And my hands cramp up first thing in the morning like I have crippling arthritis.

Other than that things are GREAT. We plan to prime the walls next week!  I can’t wait to get into colors and furniture and the REAL exciting stuff!

House Building: The most Expensive Full Body Workout Program Ever

November 19/15 Build Update

November 19/15 Build Update

A History of Shipping Container Architecture

Although shipping container architecture and repurposing has exploded in recent years, the concept is not new.  Almost immediately after containers were first developed in North America in 1956 by Malcolm McLean, the value in their structure was utilized for much more than the efficiency of ocean freight transportation, for which they were developed.

The Europeans had been using variations of shipping containers long before the modern standard container we see today had been developed.  But the invention really took off when the military began using them during the Vietnam war.  Not only for  shipping supplies but also as emergency shelters for soldiers in the field, as well as offices and medical units.  They have been continually used by the military, more recently, in the Gulf War where they are used as makeshift shelters because it was found that combined with the stacking of sandbags against them, they are strong enough to withstand RPG strikes.

In 1962 Insbrandtsen Company filed a patent to use containers as exhibition booths for travelling businesses. Christopher Betjemann was the inventor of the patent which was granted in 1965.
In 1962 Insbrandtsen Company filed a patent to use containers as exhibition booths for travelling businesses. Christopher Betjemann was the inventor of the patent which was granted in 1965.

Nicholas Lacey of the UK wrote a university thesis on reusing containers to make habitable dwellings in 1970 and 17 years later in 1987 Philip Clark filed the first patent in the U.S. to make “one or more steel shipping containers into a habitable building”.  It appears Clark did not make use of this patent himself, however it did set off a chain of similar thinking in the U.S.

Perhaps influenced by military use as well, since 2002 medical clinics in shipping containers have been shipped out to help 3rd world countries such as Haiti and Sierra Leone in association with “Clinic in a Can” and other organizations.

Shipping container architecture is nothing new to the rest of the world, mainly Asia and Europe.  The biggest European shopping centre in Odessa, Ukraine is made out of shipping containers, as are many other major shopping centres around the world including the Cashel Mall in Christchurch, New Zealand (rebuilt with containers after being destroyed by earthquake in 2011) and the Dordoy Bazaar in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan.

Currently in North America, Tesla Motors Inc. is touring the U.S.A. in a mobile showroom built from containers and in Canada, a Days Inn comprised of 120 containers opened last year in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

Container structures and architectural masterpieces containing them are popping up everywhere.  The architectural world has turned a new page, coming into the age of repurposing materials and structures and tiny homes in particular, of which the features of shipping containers are perfect for.  Given their increasing accessibility, inexpensive cost and the excess of containers sitting in shipyards all over the world, I feel as though we have yet to see the best of this movement.


A History of Shipping Container Architecture

Warm for the Winter

It snowed today.  I mean, for Manitoba we’re doing better than most years (2013, the last winter I spent in Mb, we were 3 feet under by now) but the inevitability doesn’t make my heart break any less.  This year I have more to lose.  I’m an extremely novice house-builder at best, and nothing makes you second guess your abilities like an impending snowstorm.

2013 When I was living in Winnipeg. This was the winter that put Winnipeg on the map for record snowfall and temperatures colder than Mars!
2013 When I was living in Winnipeg. This was the winter that put Winnipeg on the map for record snowfall and temperatures colder than Mars!

As i’m going about my day today, I noticed the flurries floating around outside the window of my parents place and couldn’t help but wonder “Am I going to freeze my ass of this winter?”.  My plan as far as heating my container house relies solely on the big beautiful woodstove I bought off Kijiji (Don’t let the fact that I found it on Kijiji cheapen it, it really is a million pounds of HUGE BEAUTIFUL CAST IRON).

In my researching and brainstorming of ways to keep warm this winter, I was suddenly aware of how living in a small, moveable structure is a slightly more primitive way of life compared to the large, permanent houses that are the norm.  Thinking along those lines, I went back to basics & created this list of simple, overlooked ways to keep warm this upcoming cold season.  (That you don’t have to be Mike Holmes to understand.)

  • Wear layers & warm clothes made of heat-trapping materials (even indoors)
  • Make sure you’re windows are double or even triple pane…
  • … and seal them! Plastic and hair dryer style.
  • Fire = heat ( a wood stove or fireplace!)
  • Eat warm food and embrace soup season (the most wonderful time of the year if you ask me)
  • Actively look for and correct drafts
  • Sleep with more blankets and/or a hot water bottle
  • Use a variety of insulation solutions for different situations.  (My whole build used a combination of Roxul, spray foam and appropriate air spaces.)
  • Open your blinds and let the sun in during the day!
  • Stop shaving your legs?

Anything I missed?


Warm for the Winter

Used Shipping Containers: Things to Consider

Currently there is an excess amount of unused shipping containers sitting in harbours all around the world.  Couple that with the new trend of resourcefully building tiny homes using typically unconventional house-building materials and voila! Shipping container homes everywhere.  (Read “A History of Shipping Container Architecture” here.)FullSizeRender-2Obviously, if they’re good for building homes, they are good for building lots of other structures as well.  In the Netherlands they use them to build bus stations, people all over the world have converted them into shops and offices, Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park has adopted 2 containers as their new washroom facilities ( and obviously they can be used for storage.

If you have use for a shipping container, here are some things to consider before you buy:

    • Depending on your plans, the look of the container might be important to you.  One thing I was surprised to learn was that shipping containers have hardwood flooring.  If your intent is to build a summer/lake house or you live somewhere where you don’t need insulated floors, you could easily clean up the hardwood and it would look awesome! If this is the case you would need to carefully inspect the floor of the container before you buy to look for dings from cargo or forklifts. But like bonus! Free hardwood floor!


    • Don’t buy anything you haven’t seen in person. Always schedule time to go check out the container.  When viewing it make sure your salesperson can guarantee the unit is watertight and look for signs of water inside.  This might be scary but go inside the container and have someone fully close the doors so you can look for light, if you see light holes the container is not watertight and you don’t want it.


    • These containers are built to have a 20 year life aboard freight ships on the rolling sea, when stationary they are considered to have what is called an “infinite life span”.  My point is that they’re freaking tough and they don’t have to be shiny and new to be a good deal.  Rust, dings and dents on a container are perfectly okay as long as they don’t compromise the stability and structure of the unit.  However, deep corrosion, warped frames and extensive patchwork is not okay.


    • The other considerable thing about containers is that they’re heavy.  Very heavy.  Because of this and therefor the labour and machinery involved, depending on where you live, the delivery might be more expensive than the container itself.  (If the same company you bought from is doing your delivery, always try to haggle a deal, you will always do better than the initial rate.)


  • Most used containers you will see have loads of stickers and logos on them, as well as serial numbers. By doing some research you can find out what the container was used to ship.  This could also aid in your decision to buy or pass on the container.
    I found out that one of my containers used to be the property of Hyundai, I can deduce that it was probably used to move cars or car parts.  However, you probably wouldn’t want to buy one used to ship chemicals, for example. Remnants of the container’s past could pose a health hazard as they may not be cleaned before being put on the market.
    A friend of mine was all set up to buy a container she found online, but upon viewing it she had a sense (of the olfactic kind) the unit was very obviously used to move fish.  Needless to say she passed on the fishy container.

Now that container architecture is so popular, so are container sales businesses. And some, like the containers themselves, are better than others.  Like buying/selling anything you just have to use your common sense, do lots of research and know what to ask and look for.

Used Shipping Containers: Things to Consider

October 31/15 Build Update

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Ask questions by leaving comments or contacting us here.

October 31/15 Build Update

Re-entering the Nest

I thought this would be an appropriate opening post for S&S because this is how my tiny-home journey began.

The first container being dropped off.
The first container being dropped off.  July 2015

It started when I was living on the Canadian west coast.  I read a book by Dee Williams, called “The Big Tiny”, which follows the real life process of building a tiny garden shed sized house on a trailer.  Not long after finishing it I became more or less utterly obsessed with the concept of building my own tiny living quarters.  I’m talking book-buying, pinterest-boarding, floorplan-drawing, budget-drafting obsessed.  I loved the idea of building a home that would complement my life and not drain my bank account.  Small enough to be managable, highly functional and so damn cute.  I knew a tiny-home was for me.

My mother, who lives in Manitoba and who I talked to on the phone often, had noticed my new obsession and coincidentally had also been looking for a way to get me to move home since I had left, 2 years prior.  She saw the opportunity and capitalized by buying 2 40x8x9 seacans, generously providing me with land and challenging me to build a home.  A challenge I gladly accepted.  A bribe, some may say.

Along with all the bribery came the fact that I’d be moving back in with my parents for the duration of the build.  Which was less than ideal, but part of the package and more than anything, just my own psychological hurtle that I’d have to get over.

As a person who’s been single, independent, severely OCD and living on their own for a long time, the adjustment was rough and the living hasn’t always been easy… But the payoff has been extraordinary.  One of the best things being that I was able to put what would be rent money into the build.  Another, that I’m now living at the source of the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever met.  Not to mention the hard work and time my family has also donated to the project (possibly because they want me out of their house faster).

Check out the latest build update here.

Re-entering the Nest

September 30/15 Build Update

View all build updates here.
Ask questions by leaving comments or contacting us here.

September 30/15 Build Update