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.
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.
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.
- How would you go about reducing your waste?
- What are some tips to reduce waste during construction?
I 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.
- 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.
We have a new tiny house coming to the Tiny House Conference! Frank is a carpenter and cabinet maker who travels for work. He built this tiny house so he can take it with him while he is on longer jobs away from his home in NC.
Have you got your tickets yet for the Conference?
Our holiday sale ends soon! Use code: TINY2013 for $50
Recently I have been interviewing a lot of tiny house folks about their lives in their tiny house. While I knew the story of many of these tiny house folks, I had never had a discussion to the depth as these interviews. It was helpful that I knew a lot about these folks, their houses, and tiny houses in general because it meant we could skip the basics and get into nitty gritty.
Over the course of the interviews I realized that there were some things that were so similar it was uncanny; to the point where people started saying the exact same words. Now in some cases these people didn’t even know each other, so I realized weather it was tiny houses or the type of person that is attracted to them, they have a lot in common. It’s kinda eerie.
1. DIY Tiny House Builders Unusually Have The Worst Car For Hauling Materials
Almost without fail tiny house people couldn’t be less equipped to haul building materials than the car they have. Almost every single person I talked to didn’t have a truck, they often had smaller cars. This is the case with me. I drive a Smart Car, which if you didn’t know, it is the smallest road legal car in mass production today. I quickly realized when I needed to figure something out when my boards were the standard 8 feet long, but my car only was 6.5 feet long tip to tail.
Despite having the least suited cars, we make it work.
2. We Are Over Saying We Live In A Tiny House
After building and living in a tiny house, most people are tired of having to explain what a tiny house is, then having to explain why, then having to defend the choice. As Ella from Little Yellow Door puts it “its just a house, it just happens to be very small”. Luckily for me I have gotten through that process with most of my friends and family. I now just say I am building a house, never mentioning that its tiny or I’m building it with my own two hands. The only time I feel it really necessary to explain is when it comes up that my houses is tiny or on dates (I figure they should get the heads up).
3. Everything Has a Place And It Needs To Go Back There.
We don’t have a lot of stuff, but the stuff we do have has its rightful place in our homes. Every tiny house person I’ve talked to has said this to me, that they have a place for everything and they have to put it right back when they are done. They don’t have room for clutter and if something is out of place, you can tell because its such a small space.
4. Buy A New Trailer
I have now talked to about 40 people about this particular topic and almost every time, almost without fail, they say that if they bought a used trailer, they had wished they had took the leap for a new trailer. I already know there will be some people that disagree with this, I can see the comments now, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.
Most of the people who bought a used trailer ended up spending days cleaning up their trailer. They also spent money on fixing and replacing most of the trailer. About 80% of the people I spoke to ended up replacing tires and axles on their trailer, which meant a lot of those people spent the same or more than what they would have if they just bought new.
Macy Miller of Mini Motives also pointed out that in your first few months you have a lot of energy, excitement and drive, buying a used trailer sapped most of that energy as she toiled on getting her trailer to a point where she could then start building. I think this is a really good point, its better to use this energy getting building done, not days with an angle grinder trying to root out rust. The other aspect to this is that when you buy new, you know exactly what you are getting.
5. Tiny House People Are Grateful
Without exception tiny house people are very grateful for the lives that they live. They know the value of everything they have, whether it is a possession, a relationship or an opportunity. I recently was reading a study that one of the biggest factors in people who were happy was gratitude and expressing that gratitude. I think this comes into play in a major way with tiny houses, because they understand the value of what they have.