Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Archive for January 2014

Tiny House Construction Waste

In an effort to tell the whole story about tiny houses I felt it necessary to show the not so pretty side of tiny houses.  Namely, how much waste a tiny house generates in its construction.  The reality of how much waste I have created in building my home really shocked me when I saw all the scraps loaded up onto a single trailer, ready to be hauled away to the dump.

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This was a real reality check that even tiny houses have an impact, which of course I knew, but knowing something  and facing the reality in the face are two different things.

A parallel for me personally – which may seem odd and obviously a much greater moral implication – was the first time I personally participated in “processing” a chicken.  To be standing there, a knife in my hand with a live chicken before me, there was real coming to terms with what I was about to do.  As a meat eater, it was the first time I personally had to grapple with the reality of eating meat.

I had a very similar experience when I stood in front of that trailer and was processing the fact this trailer was going to be taken to a dump and I was the cause of it.  That I was creating a large amount of trash that later generations would have to contend with.  Do I have that right?  Am I okay with that?

So the above shot is pretty much all of the waste that my tiny house created.  In this trash there is all the scraps from the framing, sheathing, roofing, siding, etc.  Also here you’ll see the packaging that comes with some building products, along with some plastic sheeting that I used to cover materials that has since been torn or degraded to a point that I can’t use it any more.  In total it’s about 400 lbs, it looks like a lot more, but it isn’t stacked very efficiently.

I also wanted to provide another side of this story by comparing how much waste I created to that of a traditional home.  The typical home in America is about 2,600 square feet and in its construction generates about 2.5 tons  (5,000 lbs) of garbage.  It’s important to note that this is the onsite trash only, components like trusses and roof farmings are built elsewhere, but not accounted for.   You can read about these statistics in this study.

Now I think its also important to talk about how I could have done better, while I need to come to terms with this amount of waste, hopefully I can help others reduce their waste.

First off it is important to note that it honestly is impossible to not have waste.  We can also use reclaimed materials, which can help us reduce our waste and even offset the waste we create; the ultimate would be to have a net negative impact, but I think that would be tough.  There is also a strong argument for inhabiting houses that are already built or could be rehabbed with less impact.

Our writer here on The Tiny Life, Andrea, told me once that she thought it would be impossible to have a house built of more than 95% reclaimed materials.  Her house was about 80-90% reclaimed, but she had one huge advantage: She built her tiny house in a warehouse that was a building materials reclaiming company!  That’s all they did, was reclaim materials and even with that, she was not able to achieve more than 80%.

Other things that might help you reduce your impact is being more efficient with materials.  I think it would be tough to improve upon how I utilized my materials, but I figure I could have been better at it with enough practice.  I also think that if I had a good storage space, I could better save and organize the scraps so I can keep the quality up and utilize them better.  There were some pieces of wood that got damaged by rain after a tarp blew off in a storm, leaving the wood exposed to the elements and water pooling on it.

Finally, if I had chosen all my materials to be chemical free (no glues, resins, treatments) I could at the very least used the scraps to burn for heating or campfires.  But in some cases I opted for treated lumber (which I still feel like was the right choice), but it meant that I shouldn’t burn it.

Your Turn!

  • How would you go about reducing your waste?
  • What are some tips to reduce waste during construction?

 

Tiny Houses Are Hard, But So Is Everything That Is Worthwhile

The truth is that when it comes to tiny houses, there are many things that will be difficult.  No ShortcutWe all love to dream, we all love to imagine what could be, but when it comes time to actually pull the trigger you need to grapple with some of the realities.  This isn’t to say you can’t live tiny, it is to say that it comes with a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.

More and more I have come to realize that the things in life that are the hardest are the most worthwhile.  If you think about it, what I show you how to do on this blog or at the Conference is changing the trajectory of your life in such a radical way that it boggles my mind even today.  So when faced with having our lives change in such a dramatically positive way, it makes sense to put a lot of hard work to make it happen.  So here are three reasons why tiny houses are hard, but really worth it.

1. Its a lot of hard work

It takes a lot of really really hard work to build a tiny house.  It’s not scare anyone, but I think people don’t always grasp this fact.  While the process is easy, the scale is approachable and the learning cure made easier with the awesome resources we have now, it doesn’t make the work any easier.  So the process is easy, but the work is hard.

2.  Tiny House Bring An Inherent Risk

When you build and live in a tiny house, you’re taking a risk.  You will most likely need to do it under the radar.  In the ebook mentioned below, I show you how to mitigate the risk of flying under the radar.  In the end, when it comes to codes, people’s perceptions, dealing with neighbors, and much more: its messy.  There will be drama, sleepless nights of worry, having to move and convincing the guy from the power company that you need a panel setup in the middle of the woods, but “I promise I’m not building a meth lab” type of talks.

Our Writer Andrea had to move three times in a single year because of various things beyond her control.  I thought I found land only to have it pulled out from under me.  There is an inherent level of risk that comes with tiny houses and you need to be able to deal with that; if not, then tiny houses might not be for you.

3. Building Codes Are Sticking Point

No matter what anyone tells you, getting your tiny house legal with codes is rare and if it happens, it took a ton of legwork. I see it in the comments all the time “all you have to do is X” and while we want to to believe that its “just that easy”, it is not.  If you doubt this fact, give your code enforcement office a call and try out that person’s magic phrase or loop hole, make sure you mention you want to LIVE in a house that is 150 square feet, see how that works out.

That said if you put in the hard work, you can find solutions to building codes, but it will take a lot of time, piles of paperwork, getting variances, and maybe even go to court; only then you can get it done…. maybe.  I talk about this whole process in my ebook, so I’m not going to belabor this point much more.

 

So while these three things a very tough, they are very much worth the time, effort, and hard work that comes with it.  Tiny houses have the ability to change you life, isn’t that worth some toil?

 

Your Turn!

  • What are the tough points for you and how are you trying to overcome them?

Outdoor Kitchens For Tiny Houses

One of the things I like best about living in NC is that we get a lot of good weather to spend outdoors. This had led me to want an outdoor kitchen.  Several other tiny housers do this already and I think it will make my tiny living better, because while I’ll have a kitchen inside, I can extend my living space to the outdoors.

Once I finish my tiny house, I plan to build a small deck and want a have this kitchen, but there’s a hitch… The land that I am going to be living on is land that I’m leasing and that means that while I’ll be there for the foreseeable future, I’m not going to be there forever most likely. So this leaves me with having to figure out how to have a deck and a outdoor kitchen, but be mobile.  So I found this video of a mobile kitchen cart and fell in love!  I’m not one for diamond plating, but I figure I can tweak it as I’ll need to build it myself.  Now I just need to learn how to weld….

Outdoor mobile kitchen

Design Ideas for a Kid’s Room in a Tiny Apartment

When we imagine tiny living, our minds automatically conjure images of the traditional tiny house built on a trailer. However, for some, tiny living simply means choosing a smaller housing option, such as a small apartment. In this post, we’ve put together some really cool (and simple!) design ideas for a kid’s room in a tiny apartment – although these unique ideas can easily be applied to any small space, however you define tiny living!

It can be difficult to find apartments that are big enough for all of the stuff your child has and wants. Not only is there a constant stream of new clothes coming in and old clothes that no longer fit going out, children also typically have tons of toys, books and electronics. Of course, it’s even better if your child has a desk to do homework at and a comfy place to read or watch TV. Check out these design ideas for organizing everything your child wants and needs in a tiny apartment.

Find Space-Saving Furniture

You aren’t likely to find apartments with big bedrooms for your child. One of the first things to do when trying to design a child’s bedroom in a tiny apartment is to look at the furniture. There’s just no place for bulky, inefficient furniture. Check out places like Ikea and Target for functional, space-saving items – or check out the rest of this site for more unique ideas! Beds that have drawers built in underneath the mattress or at the foot of the bed can provide a lot of extra storage space without taking up any extra floor space.

2 Image Credit:  http://www.wetwillieblog.com/

Go Up

Bunk beds are a great idea if you have more than one child sharing a room, and loft beds are the perfect choice for single children. Under the loft bed you can find designs that have a desk, dresser or even a seating area. You can also maximize floor space by buying taller furniture, rather than wide, low-to-the-ground options. Tall dressers hold quite a bit of stuff, as do shelves and bins for storing toys, books and clothes. See the image above for a beautiful example of how to maximize tiny spaces by building up instead of out!

Use the Walls

While many apartments for rent lack floor space, there’s most likely going to be plenty of wall space. Once you’ve built up and maximized all of the space in the room, start looking at the walls. A hook near the bedroom door is perfect for backpacks and jackets. Hooks in the closet can store hats, belts and scarfs. You can even find storage containers that attach right to the wall! These are perfect for storing toys, art supplies, school stuff and even diapers or baby wipes. The image below is a beautiful example of how to open up space by utilizing effective storage ideas – from the wall-mounted storage shelves to the drawers underneath the bed!

1Image Credit:  http://themaisonette.net

 Customize

When you just can’t fit anything else in the room, it’s time to customize. This is a great idea, especially if your child can’t fit everything in his or her own room – or if they aren’t quite as excited as you are about living in a tiny apartment. Let your child personalize the room and have fun with it! It may be as simple as adding some pictures or painting the furniture. All that matters is your kid feels at home in your tiny apartment, and the best way to do that is by letting them help you decorate – they’ll love the idea of finding a funky chair or putting removable stars on the ceiling. Speaking of removable, you can also find large stickers that adhere to the wall and just peel off when it’s time to move out! This is a great option if your landlord does not allow you to paint the walls, or if you know your kid will want to redecorate again in a few months!

The most important thing to remember when you find a tiny apartment with even smaller rooms is not to throw out your dreams of living in a tiny home because you think your son or daughter won’t enjoy it. Remember, with a little bit of planning and organization, your child can still have a room that he or she will absolutely adore!

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Shockingly Simple Electrical For Tiny Houses

Book-Cover-FinalI have begun working on the inside of my tiny and one of the big tasks that we had to complete was the electrical for the tiny house.  I knew that many people had a lot of questions about this and I have noticed that almost every single set of plans on the tiny house market either barley mentioned electrical or ignored it all together.

It was with that in mind that we have developed this ebook because we got so many questions.  The book was written with a whole team of folks including tiny home builders, a Master Electrician, and myself.

We show you how to wire a tiny house from start to finish.  We made it so someone who doesn’t have any knowledge or experience can go from novice to wiring their whole house.


Topics covered:
  • Basic electrical concepts
  • how to size and plan your system
  • How to wire switches, panels, lights, & more
  • Key electrical codes and safety
  • Wiring for on the grid and off the grid setups
  • Custom diagrams for each step
  • How to choose wire, breakers, & boxes
  • Solar panels, inverters, etc
  • Wind turbines and micro hydro power
  • Much more!

 

This is an electronic book (not print) of 80 pages of core content including real life tiny house wiring examples, plus 55 pages of reference materials.

$20

Buy Now!

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