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The Search For New Land – Part 3

First you should know this is a continuation of previous post: The Search For Land Part 1 and Part 2. As many of you know it can be tricky to find land and my experience was very similar.  After you’ve read those posts this post will make more sense.

So where I am at today.  The house is nearing the home stretch and I am frantically trying to finish it because the lease on apartment ends next week!  The trick to all of this has been getting a lease on the land.  Then land owner and I struck a deal where I pay $1.00 a month (yes a dollar) and I help him out with some website stuff every now and then.  The land owner also wanted to be sure his liability insurance would cover me being on the property and after them going back and forth for a long while, they had to tweak some things.  The land owner’s insurance went up about $300 and he asked that I pay that amount since it was an incurred cost on my behalf, which was totally fair.  He also asked that I have liability insurance, so I picked up a $2,000,000 policy for $425 a year.  So my insurance total was $725 a year, but my rent was only $12 a year.

Next up is was securing water, power and building a road.  This is where I am now.

Water

This has proven to be the most expensive part of the whole thing.  A lot of people want to collect rain water off their roofs for water, but I crunched the numbers on my tiny house.  A typical tiny house’s roof is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  That is 160 square feet; for every inch of rain on a square foot you’ll get .6 gallons of water.   So for my house that is 96 gallons of water per inch of rain, in my area after some googling I found that my area gets about 43 inches of rain per 1511479_762555291518_720276449591449371_oyear.  So the math works out to be that I would get 4,128 gallons of water a year off my roof.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t practical for me because even if I had a 1 gallon per minute shower head, assuming a 15 minute shower, that’s 5,475 a year, which doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, drinking, etc.  The math didn’t add up.

Since I was leasing the land, it didn’t make sense to put in a well (would cost me about $10,000) so I decided to tie in with the city water system.  The water main from the city also happened to be running right along the property line, so it couldn’t be more ideal.  So I went in and filled out the paperwork for the city and they gave me my total bill and I was shocked!  For them to install a meter, I had to pay the city, $2,231!!!  What’s worse was it was the city, so they set the price and you have to go to them.  So I had to pay over $2,200 just for them to install a meter, so they could use it to charge me for the water I used!  Once the meter is in, I still have to get it to my house, because for $2,200 they only bring it to the property line.

Then on top of that they told me it would take 2 months to install; this was a problem because I needed to move in a few weeks (at that time) and I couldn’t apply for the water until I had the lease, which I had only gotten the day before when I applied.  The end result is I’ll be living without water for a few weeks, I plan to get a gym membership and have a water jug service come during this time.

 

Power

Next up is electricity.  Where I am at, the property is densely wooded so solar isn’t an option as of now, but I am looking into it for the future.  I also talked with the power company and an electrician and to get the power setup on the lot was going to be about $800 plus 9 cents a KW which wasn’t too bad considering how little power I’ll be using.  Solar is something I do want to do, but I figured right now it isn’t possible and then I also wanted to track my power usage in the tiny house for a year or so in order to size my solar panel system in the future correctly.

The process has gone like this:  Contact power company, they came out and said where they could bring in a line.  I contacted an electrician to setup the box.  The box will be inspected.  The power company checks the inspection and connects the service.  A few other random details: Installation is a simple affair, takes an hour or so when they get scheduled.  Inspection in my area is between 24-72 hours barring any complications. The power company now only will do a 200 amp service (which isn’t an issue, actually a plus).  The power company said they’d do the first 200 feet for free if I had service for a year, after 200 feet it gets really really expensive.

Road Access

Roads are something that a lot of people don’t think about.  Also note that these price can vary in different areas and I don’t have anyone I know who has equipment or personal connections, so I’ll be paying for it all.  I have only got quotes at this point, but its looking like it will cost me about $500 for labor/bobcat and then about $300-$500 in materials (geo-textile fabric, gravel, etc.).  I thought about trying my hand with a rental bobcat, which honestly would be a lot of fun to drive, but when I got the price for the rental, deliver, fees, taxes etc. it was going to be about $800 to rent a bobcat in my area.  In my area you can hire a bobcat driver and his rig for about $60 an hour which includes him showing up with his machine, the gas, and him running it.  So it was actually cheaper for me to pay someone to do it, plus they’ll do a better job than I would since I’ve never used a bobcat before.

Sequencing of things

Another big thing I’ve run into was how things had to go down.  I couldn’t start anything until I had my lease, which took much longer than anticipated, but I got a formal lease and it worked out.  Once I had that I could put in for the power and water.  I wanted to have all those things done before I ever put in the road, because they are both underground lines, so I would have to dig up my road to install them.  I also wanted to have the water and power installed and inspected, then give myself at least a few weeks so that if an inspector was curious about what was going on and decided to swing by later on, he/she wouldn’t see anything because I built in a cooling off period.  At that point I’d install the road and then move the house out there.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray as they say.  I’m going to try to do this the best I can still, but its going to have to happen in a shorter time.

Total Costs

I think this should be a real wake up call for a lot of people who think that the cost of a tiny house stops at the tiny house.  Some lots will have these things already which is something you should try to get.  These are my real world numbers and while they will vary for you in your area and if you have connections that will save you money that will help, but at the end of the day you’ll have to deal with the city and the power company and they hold a monopoly, setting the prices that you can’t get around.

Insurance: $725 a year
Rent: $12 a year
Electricity connection: $800
Water connection: $2,231
Road: $1,000
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Total: $4,768

Tiny House Building Update

It has been a while since I updated you all on the tiny house, I’ve been spending all my free time building and getting the tiny house ready for the Tiny House Conference coming up very soon.  Right now I’m spending my time insulating the house, squaring away some of the plumbing and wiring.

Wiring:

I had the tiny house roughed in  (running wires, installing boxes, grounding) for electrical a while ago, but since then I decided I wanted a few more wire.  The two biggest additions I made was I wired for some outdoor speakers I wanted to add to my house and then I ran Ethernet cables for internet.

When I added these it was tricky because adding these wires you want to try to avoid your electrical lines the best you can.  Ideally you won’t have your Ethernet cable within 18 inches of your power lines and if you do have to cross them, you do so at a right angle.  The reason why is that the electromagnetic fields of the wires are essential to how the ethernet cables work to transmit the data for your internet connection.

When it comes to achieving this spacing it is pretty tricky because in a tiny house the walls there isn’t that much space to achieve this.  The other consideration when running wires is that the longer you run, the more the signal degrades.  In this case even if though I had to run the wires in a bit of a round about way, it wasn’t too far.  For Ethernet cables at about 1000′ the signal degrades and for speaker wire under 50′ you can use 16 gauge wire, over 50′ 14 gauge is recommended.

Insulating:

Initially I was going to use foam board, but after using in the floors I found that I wasn’t able to pack in enough of the foam board as I thought.  The floor framing cavity was 3.5″ deep, but I was only able to fit about 3″ of foam with the brackets, air pockets etc.  So for the walls I decided to go with standard fiberglass batts that were kraft paper backed.  This allowed me to use the full space because it could compress where there was things in the way.  It also meant that I could very quickly insulate the walls when compared to the rigid board insulation.

photo-11

Now I know many people are going to ask, so I’ll explain why I choose Fiberglass and Foam over other options.  My first choice was to get spray foam insulation, which has the highest R value of the common insulation for houses.  So I called around for quotes and for some reason to get this done in my area is more expensive than in other cities.  The lowest quote I got for my tiny house was $3400!  So that was out.

Next I considered sheeps wool, but at the time they didn’t have it in batts (combined into a thick sheet that fits in the wall framing) at the time I started building my house.  At the time it was just loose fill and everyone I spoke to it was a pain to fill into the wall cavities.  Wool is also about R-5 less than foam.  So while fiberglass isn’t great, I felt for me it was the right choice in terms of price, R value, and easy of installation.  The wool insulation was going to cost me close to $700 while the fiberglass insulation cost me $300.

Installing The Shower Drain:

When it came to putting a hole in the floor of my tiny house, I was pretty nervous about it.  One thing that I knew going into the build from day one was that I might go to put the hole for the drain, only to find that a metal support for the trailer was in the way; Talk about a potential nightmare!

offset drain

Well low and behold, the drain did in fact need to go where a 5″ metal beam was under the trailer.   It took some work to figure how the drain location on the inside, translated to the bottom of the trailer because you can’t really measure from the same point when you’re under the trailer.  Once I measured it out my nightmare became real life as I stared at the beam that stood in the way of the drain.  So off the the hardware store I went with some photos on my phone in order to find a solution.

After 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle I discovered something called an “off set drain”  which is pictured above.  This basically gave me the few inches I needed to miss the beam entirely and solved my problem.  With that set I picked up a hole saw to cut the correct size hole and I could move forward again.

Here are some photos of the house right now:

photo 4

photo 2

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Tiny House Wood Panel Walls

I am beginning to move into the inside of my tiny house, to insulate and to put up the pine paneling.  A little bit ago I put up some of the pine paneling on the interior wall for what will become the back of the closet.  I had wanted to get back to the tiny house to keep putting up the walls, but some work pulled me away and then it rained, a lot.

The result was the wood paneling swelled up as it absorbed the moisture in the air.  Before anyone ask, yes I did have the wood sitting out in the space to normalize, but with so much rain and the house not being climate controlled yet, the moisture did its damage.  This also happened before I could seal the panels, so that didn’t help either.

photo

You can see the wood had swelled so much that it tore itself free from the nails and bowed out majorly.

I guess the value of my mistake is to prevent this from happening to others.  I just did a little wall when this happened.  Imagine if this were to happen when someone just finished the entire inside!  So how do I plan to prevent this from happening again?

  1. I’m going to make a concerted effort once I start to not stop until I’m mostly done with the main wall panelings.
  2. I’m going to choose a week where the weather should have a pretty even moisture level in the air
  3. As soon as I get the wall paneling up, I’m going to start sealing it right away.  I’ll be trying Tung Oil
  4. I built a insulated temporary door which has weather stripping on it

The temporary door I built is pretty overbuilt honestly, but I figured if I was going to have a temporary door, I might as well do it right and honestly it only took me an hour.  Now if I was building a tiny house inside or if the weather where I lived was even keeled, then this wouldn’t be an issue.  In the past week here in Charlotte it has been dry-ish and 73 degrees and then three days later we had snow where it was 20 degrees.  Its a nightmare for this type of stuff.

For the door I made a frame that fit inside my door frame and then attached a cheap piece of OSB board.  The 2×4’s were $2.30 each (3) the OSB was $7 (1)  Insulation was about $7 worth from a larger pack I’ll be using for the walls.   So $20.90 for the door total.

Now many of you might be asking why I don’t just put on my regular door right now.  The reason for this temporary door is that I decided to put the floor in near the very end of the build so I don’t scratch it.  Since I decided that, I’m still feeling out what the actual final height of floor will be, I don’t know exactly know how low the door must hang.  The door is made, but I want to put the floor in, add the threshold, then adjust the door height and hang it.

Here is the temporary door I made:

photo 1

photo 2In the above photo you’ll notice that the OSB actually extends beyond the frame, this was intentional.  I push this into the door frame and the extra OSB gives me a lip and something to mount the weather stripping to.

photo 3

 

On the bottom of the temporary door I had the OSB go flush so that when I move it around the brunt of the force is on the 2×4’s and not on the OSB.  This is  because OSB is pretty fragile and it can break down.

photo 4

photo 2(1)

photo 3(1)

photo 4(1)

 

 

 

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

Raising The Roof

Ooohhh aaahhh!  Look that that fancy roof!  I just got the roof up and wanted to share this video with you all.

The roof has proven to be the most difficult thing with the tiny house so far mainly because I made the decision that the roof was best left to the professionals and now that I had it installed, I’m very glad I decided to hire someone.  I’m sure I could have pulled it off but the roof costs a lot and to be done wrong would spell disaster and cost a lot of money.

The roof is a standing seam roof, which means that the seams are in a vertical part that makes up the “ribs” of the roof.  I love the look of it and what is even better, the color (though hard to tell in photos and videos) matches my windows exactly.

There are a lot of parts to the roof that frankly were overwhelming to me when it came to purchase.  What makes it worse is that if you forget a part, you have to wait for it to come in (major delay) but if you order something extra, it costs a lot of money and can’t be returned.

All in all, I’m very happy with how the roof came out check out the video for more details.

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