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Tiny House Building Codes

It’s been a while since I did a post about how tiny houses deal with building codes, so today I wanted to share the top 5 myths about building codes, zoning and tiny houses.

Building Code Myths(1)

Myth 1:  I don’t need a permit if it’s under ___ sq/ft.

This is true, typically if you are building something under a certain square footage than you don’t need a permit.  The catch is there is an exception to this is and it’s when you want to dwell/live in it.  The second you place any personal property in that house, it is classified as “dwelwing” and it doesn’t matter if its 10,000 square feet or 10 square feet, you need a permit.

Myth 2: It’s an RV, Mobile Home, Camper.

Again this true… If your home is being built by a certified RV or Mobile Home manufacturer; also important to note, to become a manufacturer it will cost you several thousand dollars, an LLC and an inspection process to ensure you meet all 500+ requirements.  So you can’t just build an tiny and and say “look!  it’s a RV or Mobile Home.”  To top it off once you do become classified as such, you often can only reside in certain zoning areas, which are fast disappearing.   There is an exception to this: if your state has a “home built RV” class, but these are few and far between and more and more campgrounds and trailer parks refuse entry on them.

Myth 3: I can just say I’m “camping”

Somewhat true.  Typically municipalities have limits of how long you can camp.  This is is often 2 days to 30 days in one spot or on one parcel of land.  In the city I live in, you are legally not allowed to camp at all unless FEMA has declared a state of emergency.   In some cases you can “camp” if you move every few days, but the city could also say “you’re not camping, you’re dwelling” and then its curtains.

Myth 4: They can’t stop me!  I’ll do what I want.

In some places you’re right.  It’s often the case that its not that they can’t stop you, but they won’t unless it becomes a big public issue.  In most places they can stop you.  They will come in and condemn you tiny house, which means if you enter it, they’ll arrest you for being in your own home!  They can also fine you, run a bulldozer through your house to destroy it, or deny you utilities like they did to me (read about it here).  All of which they legally can do, have done and you have no recourse for.

Myth 5: It’s on wheels codes/zoning don’t apply.

This is a big myth perpetrated by those who want to make a quick buck of tiny house people.  It is true that having a tiny house on wheels will help things generally because it confuses the bureaucrats, you can move it so easily, etc.  But the truth is that the second you dwell in it, all bets are off and the city can do what they want.

So what can I do?!?

There are two approaches to this:  1) you can beat them at their own game and know how to leverage the codes 2) you can fly under the radar.  Each of these have their pros and cons.  To get a better understanding of these things I have an ebook of how you can work within the system to gain legal status with your tiny house.  I show you the key barriers for tiny house folks, offer possible solutions and give you strategies to beat the system.  I also show you how to fly under the radar, how to live in your tiny house without getting caught.  Both are covered in Cracking The Code: A guide to building codes and zoning for tiny houses.

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Back in the World of the Big Houses

Tiny houses are hard, but so is everything that is worthwhile.” -Ryan Mitchell

Hello tiny life readers! It has been some time since I last wrote an article and I am so excited to be back writing articles for one of my favorite blogs! Last year I left The Tiny Life while trying to reconfigure my everyday life in what I refer to as the world of the big houses. It has been quite the journey!

reinvent businessI had to start this article with the title of a post Ryan made at the beginning of the year. It’s pretty much my motto at present. At an organized retreat I recently attended in Vermont we started the weekend by stepping in to a ring of river stones and visualizing ourselves leaving behind our daily realities. We called it the rabbit hole, a term borrowed from Alice in Wonderland. It is a psychological exercise, or ritual if you prefer, aimed at letting go. It allows an individual to fully immerse oneself in the present and provides temporary release from ones daily grind. I found this experience to be a symbolic reoccurrence in my existence, the most recent being my experience living the tiny life.

I can certainly compare my time living in a tiny house to jumping down a rabbit hole. Besides being of relatively small dimensions, the rabbit hole and a tiny house share traits that I find incredibly appealing including whimsy, excitement and a general disregard for the limiting options provided by our present day world. Living the tiny life requires an ability to accept a different reality than that currently proposed by society at large and an embracing of the alternatives that come with the lifestyle. These aspects make living in a tiny house wonderful but also extremely difficult.

futureWhen I moved in to my first tiny house I escaped many realities that I did not care to face, primarily a mortgage but that wasn’t all. There is a certain flexibility and unpredictability in mobility that a tiny house provides which I enjoyed. Most of all, living outside the norm was thrilling to me. There was less distraction from the present moment in such a small space! For me, smaller spaces are conducive to my own creative processes in terms of mental focus although physically they are limiting. It’s these contradictions, however, that keeps such a life interesting and allows for expansion in ways you may never have imagined (think biscuits that make you as big as a house or as small as a mouse a la Alice’s experience). Sometimes though, it reveals to you challenges you are not sure you can handle.

I bring this up because for nearly 2 years I lived in a tiny house and then about six months ago I had to leave due tonext-step an unsafe situation in my life. It was devastating to leave behind my home and try to figure out how I fit in to the world of big houses again. It didn’t take long for me to find a house, but a home I have yet to find. I am currently homeless and wandering, wondering and trying to figure out where the tiny life exists for me now. It’s disconcerting but there is excitement in the new and unknown. The tiny life continues to be an alluring alternative to me and even after all the turmoil I hope to again have a tiny house of my own.

Ultimately, the change means recreating my reality all over again. For awhile it was okay living back in the world of big houses. Who am I kidding? It was awesome! Having a regular bathroom and renting a house that held the most amazing tub I have ever had the pleasure of using was fantastic but after a few months the retreat started to get old. I miss my compact life and the feeling of safety small spaces provide me. I miss the independence and pursuit of sustainability within my home space. I miss talking to people about the merits of living such a life and having a beautiful example to invite them in to. I miss my cheap rent! After leaving La Casita, I felt completely disconnected from the movement and it took me a long time to feel as  though I still belonged. Just because I no longer live in a tiny house does not mean I’ve lost dedication to the movement and its ideals. I just had to figure that out for myself and reinstate a commitment to the tiny life. It has been a very vulnerable time for me and it has helped me realize that living the tiny life is still in my plans and I am excited to discover new opportunities within the movement.

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Your Turn!

  • Can you relate to jumping down the rabbit hole of the tiny life?
  • What keeps the tiny life alive and exciting  for you?

 

Tiny House Vacation

After the Tiny House Conference I decided to take a long overdue break for a few days.  It’s been almost a year since my last vacation and I know part of living tiny is me needing to take more time for me.  So I booked a place in the mountains on a whim and loaded up the car.  The place I stayed was a small house or even a tiny house.  It would be perfect for retirement because it was just big enough to be comfy, but not too big, and everything is on a single level.  The house was gorgeous!  Perched high on a small mountain, in the mountains of NC it was close enough to drive to easily, but far away from everything.

For the most part I did a whole lot of nothing, which was the whole point!  I took some short jaunts out around the area to enjoy the awesome weather I had.  Here is a few photos of the place and my trip.

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IMG_1668This awesome fire-pit area was in the middle of the three units.  Each of the little houses were pretty much the same.  At night I hung out by the fire and chatted with the other folks staying there.

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IMG_1637Small efficiency kitchen that was pretty workable.  Maybe add another 2-3 feet of counter space to make it fully functional.

IMG_1644Neat architectural detail.  this form mimicked the outside roof line, nice detail.

IMG_1646Friendly cats came to say hello!

IMG_1648The entrance to Joyce Kilmer Old Growth Forest was named after a poet here is one of his more famous poems:

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I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

-  Joyce Kilmer

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After Joyce Kilmer, I headed to the NC / TN border where the famous route 129 is, better know as The Tail of the Dragon.  The stretch of road is notorious for its 318 hair pin turns in only 11 miles.  Popular with motoring clubs and motorcycles its a fun road to take a ride on and has some amazing views.

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IMG_1656A waterfall on my way to Tail of The Dragon

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IMG_1659Highest dam this side of the Mississippi.

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The rest of my weekend was made up of taking naps, reading some good books and enjoying the campfire.

 

3 Tips To Finding Land For A Tiny House

The tiny house movement has made huge strides in the past few years by promoting efficient living spaces and minimalist lifestyles in 400 square feet or less. More homeowners are seeing the benefit in downsizing to lessen environmental impact, save money and eliminate home-related stressors.

Building a small home is generally less complicated than planning and constructing a large home. However, it is more difficult to find appropriately-sized and cost-effective land for micro homes than it is for average-sized homes. Most micro home builders aren’t looking to pay full price for open plots, since tiny homes are more economical to build.

Interested in joining the tiny house movement? Consider these three tips to find appropriate land.

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1. Location, Size and Price

Micro homes can be built anywhere as long as construction follows state building codes. Some states even allow homeowners to build micro homes in their backyards. However, a lot of tiny homeowners don’t have pre-owned properties to use for construction. Use Zillow to find land based on location; just search within a designated city under home type: lots/land.

Search for comparable properties online to determine typical ratios of home square footage to land size.  A home that is 100-400 square feet requires far less property than the average 2,500-square-foot home. Regardless of home size, land sizes vary in price based on location. Typical tiny house proponents stray from city centers, as the land is more expensive and prone to complicated code laws. Further, most tiny homeowners are advocates of eco-friendly lifestyles and therefore prefer more rural locales.

2. Consider Zoning Laws

Tiny home builders may be automatically looking for small plots, but states require a certain amount of land for people to live and build on legally. Review state zoning laws to determine the subdivisions and restrictions in a potential area. Tiny homeowners should examine city documents to understand potential long-term neighborhood development plans prior to purchasing land. Most people don’t want to live next to an interstate or strip mall, and knowing about those types of changes helps weed out bad investments.

3. Find an Experienced Agent

Search for a real estate professional who can aid in a tiny land search. There are agents who specialize in niche markets – tiny homes included. Make sure to check up on an agent’s qualifications before hiring them to ensure they are the best fits for tiny house searches. While these steps won’t guarantee the perfect plot for tiny home construction, they certainly help homeowners get started.

This is a guest post by Jennifer Riner of Zillow

 

Cozy Beach Cabin

Here in North Carolina we are starting to get little tastes of spring, last week we had a few inches of snow and then two days later it was 74 degrees outside!  With the warming of the seasons I can’t but help thinking about the beach, so I thought this would be a neat small house to show you all.  This is actually a rental that you can go stay at, located in the UK, Bembridge, Isle of Wright.

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Via

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