Dream of Mortgage Freedom?

Do you dream of mortgage freedom? I sure do. Luckily the Tiny House Family offers an e-course called The Plan: Your Pathway to Mortgage-freedom. It’s a five-week online course designed to lead you through the process of redesigning your life so that you can live on your terms and not the terms of a mortgage. You’ll develop a plan (and put it in action!) based on your unique dreams, style, and life-situation, and you’ll find a community of supportive folks all in the same place as you—ready to make a change. This round starts September 20, so you’ll need to sign up soon as space is limited.

Hari and Karl plus their children are a wonderful example of living sustainably (in all senses of the word) in a small space. Their website is a great resource for tiny house living, especially when it comes to having children living in the tiny house with you! I recommend taking their course because they are living mortgage free in a tiny house AND building their own larger home.  Can you imagine being able to custom build your home and avoid a loan to do so?  Duh.

They’re a hop and skip away from me and I got to tour their amazing space on the Floyd Tiny House Tour.  You can see more pictures of their homestead here.

Tiny House Family Mortgage Free Living
Tiny House Family Mortgage Free Living

Tiny House Chat Podcasts

Macy Miller of minimotives and Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life and The Tiny House Conference have started a podcast about tiny houses!  I’m especially excited because Tiny r(E)volution is on hiatus, so now I can get a tiny podcast fix.

Tiny House Chat

There are 2 podcasts on the site right now.  The first is an introduction and the second is about tiny house codes.  Check ’em out!

TINY: A Story About Living Small

Hello, hello, tiny people!

In the rare case you haven’t seen all the rage about the new tiny house movie, here is your information!  I had the privilege of viewing the movie a bit ago at Radford University and being on a tiny house panel of sorts for an evening.  This movie is awesome!  It is such a great way to see the journey that is building a tiny house.  I cannot recommend this movie enough, truly.  I believe I’ll be getting a hard copy soon and I cannot wait!  Here’s the trailer:

If you’re excited too, you can find it on iTunes (documentaries) and on Netflix.  Here is the website as well, in case you want more information: http://tiny-themovie.com/

 

Build Day 3 (4/19/12)

A lot happened over the last few days besides building.  I grabbed another heap of pallets to work on in case the weather didn’t allow for construction.  I’m considering making wood flooring out of the pieces…we’ll see where that idea goes. There’s a pile of about 10 pallets waiting for me to dismantle, which I will get to in a few days.

I also (finally) ordered my windows!  As a result of knowing the window sizes finally, we got some framing done!  We built the first wall down on the trailer and then stood it up in place.  So nice to see some vertical progress 🙂

 

 

It doesn’t look like much for a total of 2(ish) hours, but I insisted on doing most of it so I slowed us down a bit. Thankfully the rain held off!  The blue tape in the first pictures is left over from some space planning.  We mapped out everything to scale to make sure I had the windows where they needed to be (i.e. away from the closets and stove).

Build Day 2 (4/8/12)

Luckily day 2 was shorter than day 1, but we still got a ton done.  As I noted in the previous post, we bolted down the floor frame to the trailer itself.  After that was done, we finished up the foam board insulation by layering on a thinner sheet over the 2 3/4 inch sheets we installed the previous day.

More exciting was the plywood.  This involved a lot more measuring than I had prepared myself for, but it worked out.  Each sheet needed to be cut, glued, and nailed down to the studs.  Some sheets required two long cuts and the pieces around the wheel wells were, of course, the most complicated.  Thanks construction guru!  I am now proficient in using several kinds of saws, a staple gun, a nail gun, caulk (kind of…), and I think I have a good grip on the basics of framing.  We’ll see how much I can do on my own for the walls.

 

 

Speaking of walls, I also played around with window placement over the weekend.  Before the walls can go up, I have to figure out where my windows are going.  Admittedly I’ve been held up by the floor plan and where the stove is going.  Luckily there’s a floor plan guru in the family as well.  Thanks mom!  Just for fun, here are some of the options she came up with:

The front door will probably stay on the short wall instead of the long one, but it’s a viable option to move it if you’d like.  The closet that’s next to the kitchen will go all the way up to the ceiling, with access from the loft and it’ll create a little nook up there for more shelves and storage.  This closet, however, eliminates a dormer window.  I wasn’t all that worried until we realized that the stove pipe would likely go up through the roof right in front of the other planned dormer window on that side…I don’t want to remove both windows from one side.  Depending on heat clearances and such, we’ll continue playing with the stove placement for the next day or so until it’s figured out.  Since I’m going to start building the walls next week, I really need to get this window issue settled.  But while I’m talking windows, I’d like to mention that I am sadly going with white vinyl ones.  In my perfect eco world I would be able to buy used windows, refurb them a little, and slap them in.  Based on time, labor, skill, and energy efficiency considerations, I’m going with new vinyl ones.  At least I’m getting them from a local business though.  All but one of the windows are manufactured in Ohio (not great with the carbon footprint there) and the loft window is being custom made from a manufacturer in Rocky Mount, VA.  I’ll post the final design and windows specs once I have them figured out.

Build Day 1 (4/7/12)

It finally happened!  The first official build day began with leveling the trailer.  I attempted this by myself so it took considerably longer than if I had help, but we all know that I’m stubborn and determined.  The trailer has a jack on each corner and various sizes of wood underneath to help level it all out.  It’s not 100% level, but I’d say it ended up being pretty close to perfect.

 

Next was picking up roofing paper and lumber, which I got from Newport Hardware and Supply for a steal!  I grabbed some 2×4 studs that are shorter than typical ones and they had been sitting in an unsold pile at the store for a while.  It’s not reclaimed wood, but it was cheap and it won’t really increase demand/inventory for more of these studs since they weren’t selling anyway.  The plywood is awesome and came sealed so moisture won’t be an issues while it sits out waiting for me to puts walls and a roof up.

Most people say to remove every other board from the trailer deck, but we opted to leave them all on.  The trailer’s GVWR is 10,000 pounds so weight shouldn’t be an issue.  Plus, the whole structure should be more insulated and stable this way.   It also saved me about an hour of work!  So down went the roofing paper to keep critters out and provide a bit of insulation.  I rolled one length out, cut to size, and stapled.  Thank goodness dad had a staple gun instead of using a low-tech one.  I know, I know – it used some electricity.  If you take issue with that, I would be happy to have you come down to hand-staple next time 😉

  

After getting the paper down, I caulked around the wheel wells.  Thank goodness this will be covered up!  This was my least favorite job yet, mostly because my hands simply lacked the strength to keep squeezing the gun for so long.  But it’s sealed…maybe a little too sealed!

 

Next was measuring and cutting all the 2x4s for the floor frame, as well as laying them out to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes!  After double-checking lengths, I got a lesson on using the nail gun (again, you are welcome to come down to hand nail stuff if you take issue with that!) and we got to work nailing the floor frame together.

 

Once the frame is done, it has to be attached to the trailer itself.  You have to use lag bolts and screw them in from underneath…think about it – how do you figure out where your 2x4s are in order to screw them into place?  Well that’s one of the many reasons I have a construction genius sponsoring this operation.  My dad suggested pre-drilling small holes from the top down through the decking.  Then, you can see where the holes need to be from underneath!  Love it.

   

To be honest, the pre-drilling happened on day 1.  The lag bolts didn’t go in until day 2 but it seemed odd to stop the post in the middle of a topic.  Before we bolted the frame down on day 2, day 1 ended with installing foam board insulation.  We tried steak knives and electrical saws…knives wore our hands out, but the saw created such a mess that it would have clogged it.

   

On a different note entirely, I decided on a heating option!  I picked up the Jotul 602 from an ad on craigslist.  Apparently it was refurbished in Michigan somewhere, brought to Pennsylvania for remodeling an old house, but couldn’t be used on the project.  Despite the increased carbon footprint of me driving up to Maryland to pick it up, I still consider it to be the most environmentally sustainable option.  It’s used (3 times used at least!), EPA certified for emissions, and you can use fallen trees instead of chopping down live ones.  The up-front build cost will ultimately be a smidge more than the Newport P-9000 stove, but the wood stove is cheaper when considering entire lifecycle costs (free wood versus purchase propane, for example).  And it’s just plain cute!

 

Heating options for the tiny house

It may seem a little early to think about heating the wee house, but it’s actually pretty appropriate so I know how to alter the framing if needed.  Will a window be in the way, how will it vent, will it take forever to ship, etc.?  So I’m down to 3 options after a ton of research:

Tiny wood stove

Tiny wood stove: Jotul F602CB
Tiny wood stove: Jotul F602CB
  • Environment  (wood = renewable; used stove = awesome)
  • Society  (helping out someone who’s selling this on c’list; and it’s ADORABLE)
  • Economy (cheaper option for me; money in someone else’s pocket)
  • Logistics?  (nightmare to transport and install)

Tiny gas stove

Tiny gas stove: the Mini Franklin
Tiny gas stove: the Mini Franklin
  • Environment  (gas/propane = non-renewable; new stove = not awesome)
  • Society  (support a local business selling it; and it’s also ADORABLE)
  • Economy  (have you looked at the price??)
  • Logistics? (much easier to transport and install than the wood stove)

Electric stove

Tiny electric stove
Tiny electric stove
  • Environment  (electric = non-renewable unless it runs on power from solar panels; new stove = not awesome)
  • Society  (I’m saying no on this category since it’s from a big box store and shipped from who-knows-where)
  • Economy (super cheap)
  • Logistics? (easy transport and installation)

So far the Facebook poll I put up has the wood stove winning.  That’s the ideal choice in my head, but I’m not sure about reality.  If I can get the used one, I’m in!  But if it’s sold by the time I can make the 2 hour drive, then I’ll either have to buy a new one (ouch) or go with the gas one (also ouch).

The trailer is in and pallets have met their match…

Last weekend the trailer came in! This was quite a pleasant surprise, considering I was expecting it to take 4 weeks. For a trailer it looks like a decent size, but seems quite small when you imagine it being a house. Now that it’s in, titled and registered, dad and I are going to find a nice spot for it in the grass and level it this coming weekend. As this all happened so soon, I’m not prepared with lumber for framing! Time to scramble.

Tiny House Trailer
Freshly delivered tiny house trailer!

Other weekend happenings focused on deconstructing pallets.  In theory, it seems easy enough to just flip them over and take a hammer to the pieces you want to knock off.  Here’s what happens with this method:

Broken pallet after a failed attempt to dismantle with a hammer.
Broken pallet after a failed attempt to dismantle with a hammer.

😦

Plus, in order to hammer out the front pieces, you have remove the back ones.  It’s just a general mess that way and I didn’t want to waste time cracking perfectly usable wood.  After a few attempts, the best way was to saw through the nails.  Dad held the pallets at first, but it really needs to be a one-person job so we used clamps to secure the pallet to a work bench:

Tools for dismantling pallets.
Tools for dismantling pallets.
Clamps hold the pallet to a worktable so this can be a one-person job.
Clamps hold the pallet to a worktable so this can be a one-person job.
Me sawing through the nails on a pallet to get the usable boards off.
Me sawing through the nails on a pallet to get the usable boards off. Glamorous, right?
A stack of raw pallet boards.
A stack of raw pallet boards and the beginning of something exciting!

The first one took me about an hour to dismantle.  I managed to get the process down to a science by the fourth one which took only 20 minutes.  The sixth one took longer because my wimpy arms just gave out on me!  I’ll build up some endurance eventually.  I have a lot of pallets to go through…

Used pallets behind the hardware store.
Used pallets behind the hardware store.

A NOTE ON PALLETS: Only choose HT (heat-treated) pallets to use in, on, or around your home.  Chemically-treated pallets are covered in all kinds of nasty stuff that will off-gas or absorb into things and could cause some health damage.

Tiny House Plans

Although I’m building from plans, this house is going to require a bit of customizing.  The biggest issue at the moment is the overall height because the trailer we ordered seems a little higher off the ground than most, thus requiring some shortening of the walls and changing the pitch of the roof.  I need to keep this thing under 14 feet so I don’t need a special permit each time I want to move it.  My other concern is the windows because I’m going with cheaper options than what is called for in the plans so I’m sure I won’t find the specified sizes. In general, here are the basics of the mini abode:

  • Approximately 130 square feet (maybe 140?)
  • Wood siding exterior
  • Front door at the back of the trailer (not the tongue)…I considered putting the door on the side, but didn’t like it as much
  • Living room right as you walk in
  • Kitchen is galley style behind the living room
  • Bathroom includes a toilet and separate shower, behind the kitchen
  • No attached porch, however I do plan on constructing a folding wooden “porch” that can be placed outside when the house is stationary
  • RV hookups, but hopefully I can wire it for solar as well

It’s really a hybrid of Tumbleweed and Tiny Home Builders now that I think about it.  Tumbleweed has cute porches on most of their houses, but that reduces the interior living space.  I like the kitchen and bathroom layout of the THB design.  I’m also planning to install Tumbleweed-inspired storage options to make it easier to live in as a permanent home.

Let the tiny house fun begin!

Well it has officially begun!  I’ve ordered the tiny house trailer and it should be here in 3 – 4 weeks.  It’s a 7 x 20 Leonard brand trailer, wood deck, no dovetail, no ramps, no sides, 10,000 # GVWR tandem axle.

I was determined to find a trailer from a Virginia dealer and this fit the bill.  Although it’s actually made in North Carolina, that’s way better than all the others made in Georgia or Florida.  I spent a grand total of 29 hours researching tiny house trailers from dealer sites and craigslist.  The quotes I received ranged from about $3200 to over $4400.  Yikes!  The only suitable trailer on craigslist within a reasonable distance was $2000 and had a bunch of extras I’d have to cut off.  Plus, as dad mentioned, this is the foundation of the house and needs to be solid.

Here’s how I weighed the pros and cons of my options, relating to the 3 sustainability categories plus my additional category:

Craigslist or used trailer from a dealer

  • Environment 
  • Society 
  • Economy 
  • Time 

New trailer from a dealer

  • Environment 
  • Society 
  • Economy 
  • Time 

I still think a used trailer would be the best option overall, but I simply didn’t have time to wait for the perfect one to show up.