Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

How To Get Started: A Practical Guide Part 2

So now that we have already established a system of ongoing motivation and made your psyche a bit more resilient to setbacks, we are ready to learn some things.  Like I have said in the past, we are starting small and simple.

When you start to build your home, it is probably going to require some new skills that you might not have yet.  Many people who endeavor to build a tiny house haven’t ever swung a hammer before, let alone installed a gas line.  So where to start?

First off I suggest going and grabbing the basics from your local hardware store (craigslist), even if you don’t build a Tiny House, these are really useful and pretty cheap.  Go out and pickup a

  • 16 oz claw hammer
  • tape measure
  • screw driver (Phillips and Flathead)
  • utility knife
  • small level
  • wire cutter
  • vise grip pliers
  • needle nose pliers
  • combination pliers.

If you have no idea what this stuff is, print this list and just hand it to a sales person at the store.

Tools are one of those things that can go from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars, while there are different levels of quality, you can do well by most any brand.  If you go to a Harbor Freight, Walmart, Northern Tool you could easily do this for under $50.  I typically go to a chain hardware store, spend a few extra bucks, but they are better quality and will last a long time;  Going the route of the chain store will run you about $75. Whatever you decide, make sure you have eye protection and ear protection, it is worth it, trust me.

From there I suggest you look up your local Habitat for Humanity and sign up on a work crew.  They specialize in taking people who don’t know anything and getting them up to speed, to eventually build a house!  The advantage to this route and why I promote it is first off its good to volunteer, second you gain real world house building experience for FREE.  The other things it affords you is that you can also get some insights to local building codes, meet people (who might be willing to come help you frame your house) and it is fun!  Now sometimes with Habitat’s program they only take groups, if this is the case see if you can start a group or push them to let you on a team or get the names of team leaders for you to call.

If this isn’t available in your area, there are other options.  First off many of the chain stores like Home Depot or Lowes have free DIY classes, call your local store.  You could also spend some time watching some of the DIY TV shows, but that is only so helpful, learning by doing is easier.  Finally you can look up a local community college / trade school, most all of them have classes on wood working or DIY home repair theme classes.  Here in Charlotte this would cost $115 for 8 weeks of classes.

The other option is to help out a friend who is doing some home repairs, remodel etc.   If none of this is available, you can learn some basics off of youtube and you’ll need to bring a friend or family member to help you out on your first few days building.

Once you have the basics down of how to hammer, screw a screw in, measure and level you can look to expand your skills.  I suggest you do this by going to the library and taking out a good do it yourself book, a book on framing (how to build the walls), plumbing, and electrical.  At this point don’t worry about remember too much of this stuff, you are just getting a general overview on this, later when it comes time to wire or plumb your home, you will take this book out again and do it step by step.  When it comes to wiring I’d suggest focusing on breakers, junction boxes, determining what system load you have.  For Plumbing focus on venting, draining, material types, also remember your house will be a different setup because it might be on wheels.   Now depending on your comfort level you might feel the need to hire a person to do this for you, which is up to you, but have a basic jist of these skills will still be valuable in repairs and – hate to say it – check the work of the professional.  Depending on the professional he/she might be willing to come in and just give a safety assessment where they review your work and tell you how to fix it, this can be cheaper, but not all professionals will be comfortable doing this.

Tomorrow we will talk about nailing down your finances.

2 Comments
  1. Good ideas here. I wouldn’t have thought of Habitat for Humanity. I have helped my husband with a lot of stuff but he’s always done the heavy work; I’m the gofer. Still, I know a lot of what the tools do and how to do stuff. I’ll have to get someone with some strength to help me though. I’d actually like someone to build mine for me but besides the cost, I really don’t trust it would come out like I would expect or want. You are right about hiring someone – the professionals aren’t always what you’d expect.

  2. I work as a volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in my town. It can be a good place to find cheaper building materials that are still good quality (we occasionally get donations of overstock from locally-owned hardware stores as well as contractors), and at the same time the proceeds go toward building not-so-tiny homes for families in the community. I’ve been considering joining the work crew on Saturdays, and this gave me the push I need!

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