Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

$50 That Will Make Your Tiny House Look Like A Million Bucks

Looking back on my build I realized that there were a few things that just made a huge difference in the quality of my finish work.  I am total novice when it comes to finish wood working and before my tiny house I had never built anything, so I learned some secrets along the way that I wanted to share.  What I realized was, there was a few things that cost only a few bucks that really took my finish work to the next level in terms of perceived quality.  Here are a few:

tear out

Blue Painters Tape – $3.50

When you’re making cuts on nicer plywood like birchply or appleply you run the risk of tear-out, which is small tears in the veneer.  Veneer is very thin and right where you cut it, you often get tear out on veneer.  This leave a messy looking edge and reduces the quality of your work.  It can look bad enough that you need to trim over it to hide the seam.  If you instead buy a roll of painters tape and line the blade path you can reduce the tear out a good bit.  Stick it to your board and then make your cut!

scribing

A Scribe Tool – $15

I think this is just something that most carpenters take for granted as just common sense, but to a lay-person we would never know of it.  I just happened upon this technique when someone off handily mentioned it in a post and I started googling it.  I didn’t know it at the time, but what I found was a solution to a problem I had been trying to figure out and the universe seemed to conspire to show me the solution.  I really like this particular scribe tool, which is $15, but any normal compass can work.

How scribing works is when you’re having a piece of wood that is butting up against another surface and that surface isn’t perfectly flat, you drag the scribe along the surface of the uneven plane and the pencil transfers the profile to wood your butting up with.  With the exact profile drawn out, you then cut it to make a perfect fit.

round over bit router

A 1/8″ Round Over Bit w/ Bushing – $25

There is something about rounding over edges that just makes things look higher end and it’s so easy to do.  I also find rounding the edges of wood makes it more comfortable if you are making something that you’ll touch often: a handle, a ladder rung, or edges of furniture.  This does assume you have a router, but I feel that a router is a necessary tool for finishing any tiny house.

A round over bit does exactly what it sounds like: it takes an edge and rounds it, making the edge curved.  I like the look of a 1/8″ because it softens it just enough, but doesn’t take a lot of material away, it’s a subtle detail that you can only appreciate up close.  The key here is having a bit with a bushing, which is a small metal wheel that is attached to the router bit and allows you to roll the bit along an edge.  It’s important to note that router and bits come in two sizes:  1/4 inch and 1/2 inch; pro wood workers use 1/2″ but I’ve found a 1/4″ worked great and was cheaper.  I like this particular round over bit; with a bushing you place the bushing on the outside edge and it perfectly spaces the cutting head (assuming you’ve properly aligned it vertically; make sure to do a test piece).  This is great because as long as you keep your router plate flat, you can’t mess it up!  It also lets you move fast, you just set the bit, and you can drag it along very quickly.

align a table saw blade tiny house

Align Your Table Saw – Free

I don’t know why, but this never occurred to me when I first started using tools, but then need to be aligned.  I think the biggest offenders tend to be your table saw and your miter saw.  Out of the box, saws are only so accurate, but with a few minutes of tweaking, you can get your blade to a high degree of accuracy.

I’d suggest getting a high quality blade right off the bat and tossing the stock blade.  If you can also spring for a higher end fence, that can help a good bit.

Even a tiny fraction of an inch can add up when you’re ripping a piece of plywood over an 8 foot distance and it will just make your frustrated later when you go to fit things together.  Check out these videos below on how to align your table saw:

 

So I hope you find this useful, let me know your tips of taking your finish work to the next level in the comments!

Your Tiny House… In a Book!

tiny house reclaimed book

Attention tiny house fans! Do you you have a friend who built or lives in a tiny house made with reclaimed materials? Do you have one yourself? Do you want see your house featured in a book? (Of course you do!) The Tiny Life wants to talk to you!

We’re looking to connect with people who have used reclaimed materials to build their tiny homes to be included in an upcoming book project. Maybe you used reclaimed pallet wood for your walls, or found all your kitchen cabinets at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Maybe you found windows by the side of the road on trash day, or the perfect farmhouse sink at the dump. However you used reclaimed materials in your tiny house build, we want to hear about it!

Imagine seeing your house in a printed book that you can pick up at any Barnes & Noble around the country! Pretty cool, right? If you think you and your house would be a great fit for our book project, please fill out our online form below.. We can’t wait to learn more about you and your house!

 

Welcome Amy Henion

Today I wanted to make a special post and share some good news.  The Tiny Life has been around for almost 6 years and looking forward, I knew I wanted to do more.

1780649_10155524629350104_4519050556008505929_nIt is with that in mind, that I want to introduce to you and welcome to the team, Amy Henion.  She will be joining The Tiny Life to help me continue and expand the work we do here.  Many of you know her from the TEDx talk she did (video below) or from her part in the Tiny House Conference.  Amy describes herself as “a tiny house advocate and enthusiast. Passionate about houses and design.”

 

Amy will be helping me share more about what it means to live tiny.  We are looking to bring new stories, teach more people and spread the word about tiny houses.  I have some exciting things planned and Amy will be there to help bring these dreams to reality.

Check out her great video below and join me in welcoming Amy in the comments section!

 

Tiny House Composting Toilet Blues

composting toilet

I’ve been living in my tiny house now for a good while and the big challenge of composting toilet has been going well.  Initially I had wanted to have a flush toilet and my house is setup so I could drop a toilet let in quickly, but the quotes for a sewer line alone started at $50,000 so I begrudgingly went with the composting toilet.

I haven’t really read too much online about people’s experiences with composting toilets, the few I’ve read were just over the moon, glowing reviews.  So I thought I’d share my experience so far.  It has mostly been positive and easier than I thought, but with this recent incident it goes to show it isn’t all great.

more-than-dietThe other thing I don’t think people talk about in their composting toilet posts is diet.  I have learned that a good diet beyond good health, impacts how easy it is to use a composting toilet.  Good healthy foods, meals with salads, and less processed foods makes composting toilets easier to manage.

With a good diet your body functions better, it can extract more moisture and nutrients out of the what you eat and keeps things with composting toilets easier.  I also know the better one eats, the more regular one is; for my body, I usually need to visit the restroom at 10:30 am almost without fail, which 9 times out of 10 means I’m out and about, where there are toilets for me to use.  So diet is worth noting and was something I felt was missing from the discussion.

Currently it is illegal in my city have a composting toilet, as it is in most municipalities; plus I’m renting my land, so I wouldn’t want to be composting on land I don’t own.  What seems like the happy medium and it is what I do, is bagging the waste every week into a biodegradable “plastic” bag and then sending it along with the city trash; at that point its essentially like a diaper, but the plastic will breakdown in a landfill quickly.  There are other options out there for this too and I considered them, but for me this works.

I am currently using pine bedding (from the pets section) which has a nice scent, but I don’t think it absorbs as well as other options.  I’m thinking I’m going to switch to a mix of half pine bedding and half mix of peat moss which is very absorbent.  Peat moss is a pretty good option, but it isn’t a sustainable material, it’s harvesting is actually quite destructive to wet lands.  I know for gardening that coconut coir (husks) is the sustainable version of peat, but I don’t know how it performs in composting toilets.  I’ve ordered an 11 lb block of coconut coir for $16 to try out, which I’ll report back on later.

It has been pretty straight forward, but I still opt to keep my bucket setup outdoors.  I do keep my liquids and solids separate, which at this point means I go peep in the woods and then use the bucket.  Later on I hope add a urine diverter later on, but it isn’t a must at this time.  I have a mini deck space that I keep it on.  The smell isn’t anything to be concerned over, but I’m not sure having it inside with no moving air would be a good idea at this point.

luggable looMy bucket has a pretty tight seal on the lid, so it is pretty hard for things to crawl in, but it is possible.  The other day I went to use my setup and when I opened the lid, I was greeted by a swarm of fly larva.  A hundred wriggling maggots.  It was gross!    What was interesting was they were on the seat between the seat and the lid.  What I don’t know is if that was because the flies couldn’t get into the toilet or if they just preferred that narrow space.

Luckily it was very simple to take care of.  I easily popped off the lid, then hosed it off in a very sunny spot.  I figured the intense sun would kill the larvae so I didn’t have a ton of flies.  I double bag the bucket so I closed the first bag, then tied up the second bag that was still clean.  Job done, took all of two minutes, but I realized something is flawed in my system.

I did some googling to discover that this is a semi-common issue when the heat of summer comes on.  You’ll be going along in the winter, it gets warmer and then all a sudden the flies come out.  I learned about a product called Mosquito Dunk, which you crumble into a spray bottle, mix up with water and then when you use the toilet, you give it a few mists on the surface.

mosquito dunkMosquito Dunk as described by the maker  is a “larvaecide that kills mosquito larvae only. It is deemed organic by the USEPA.  Dunks are harmless to beneficial insects, pets, birds, fish or wildlife.  Kills within hours and lasts for up to 30 days.”

So I’m going to give this option a try and see how things pan out.  I will report back in a few months as I learn more,

Wifi For Your Tiny House

One very common question I get about my tiny house is about internet.  For the most part its exactly the same as getting internet in any home, a tiny house is a house after all, it just happens to be small.

My original plan was to have normal cable internet brought to the tiny house.  This took me longer than I would have liked because it was dependent on power.  You obviously need to power the modem and to do that I needed to get my solar power squared away.

all-i-want-is-a-cabin-in-the-woods-with-wifi-af0b9With solar all setup, I called Time Warner which is the only internet provider that was available to me.  I checked all the big companies, local shops and even satellite, but they have things so monopolized you literally don’t have any other choice.  I loathe Time Warner, but I need internet, so I scheduled them to come out.

They came out and did a survey, they then let me know the cost to just install it: $2,500! Mainly because my tiny house sits so far back from the road.  It should also be noted that the same day I got that estimate, Google announced they were coming to Charlotte to bring Google Fiber, which is fiber optic gigabit internet.

So what I decided to do is wait for Google Fiber, because I expect the install cost will be very similar and I’d give almost anything to never deal with Time Warner again.  The other factor that weighed in on my decision was that come September, I will be opening a coworking space, where I will have an office and internet.

While I decided to wait, I still needed internet.  So I opted for a mobile hotspot which functions off cell phone signals to get 4G internet.  I considered two options:

  1. Verizon Jetpack 6620L
  2. Karma Go

These two options were pretty appealing to me for two very different reasons.  The Verizon Jetpack would work well, Verizon has very good 4G coverage, so I knew I could connect almost anywhere.  The Karma Go is a prepay setup with no fees, but it uses Sprint’s which has drastically less coverage, even in a city like mine.  The other thing is Karma Go is a startup and they haven’t actually released their newest version of hardware and have been pushing their delivery date back for months at this point.

In the end I bought both.

452150-verizon-mifi-jetpack-6620l-angle

I already have a contract with Verizon, so it was easy to add on.  I bought the unit out right for $200 so I could stop and start service as I saw fit.  When I have service it costs me $20 + data. As on this posting I get 15 gigs a month for $100.  My total internet bill right now is $120.  If you’re considering this, make sure you get the Jetpack 6620L, because the cheaper versions only do 4G, but not 3G, which you really need both.  The 6220L does both, plus international GSM, so you can hop on a plane, buy a sim card where ever you are and just drop it in.

Karma_device_2_white_smallFor the Karma Go, it cost me $100 + data with no contracts.  I should note that I pre-ordered it in December and still haven’t received it (delays in their manufacturing).  The Karma Go will let me load data credits on it and there aren’t fees, so I can drop a few gigs in it and just keep it in my bag just in case.  I can get 10 gigs for $100, no other fees.

So far I’ve only had a chance to put the Verizon Jetpack through its paces, but it has held up to it all.  I’ve had a few hiccups with it having ip address conflicts, but they are rare and easily fixed with a restart of my hotspot.

To give you an idea of data usage:

  • Sending an email (w/out attachment): 100,000 emails per gig
  • Surfing the web varies so widely I can’t put a number on it
  • Streaming music: 10 hours per gig
  • Youtube depends on the quality
    • 240p: 6 hours per gig
    • 360p: 4 hours per gig
    • 480p: 2 hours per gig
    • 720p: 1 hour per gig
    • 1080p: 30 minutes per gig
  • Nextflix/Hulu
    • low quality: 3 hours per gig
    • medium quality: 2 hours per gig
    • high quality: 30-45 minutes per gig

I’ve learned some tricks to save on data.  Your biggest user of data is videos.  If you can control that, you can cut your bill down pretty significantly.  First thing I did was turn off autoplaying videos on Facebook.  You need to do this in two places.

Your phone:

wpid5500-open-settings-in-ios-and-navigate-to-facebook

Your computer:

Facebook-Auto-play-Video-Settings

The next thing I did was set youtube to a lower quality.  This is somewhat of a pain because when on normal wifi I want full blown HD, but on mobile wifi I want low (240 or 360).  To do this you go into your youtube settings and select that you have a low connect:

 

How-to-Set-the-Default-Video-Playback-Quality-for-YouTube-VideosFor netflix:

ultimate-guide-smoother-netflix-streams-any-device-anywhere.w654

 

Those are you big wins with data usage.  If you stream tv shows or movies, I’d suggest actually download them in bulk when you are on normal wifi.  There are a variety of legal and illegal ways to do that, but I’m not going to go into that here.

 

Page 212345...Last »