Back in 2011, I started planning the first Tiny House Conference because I wanted to bring tiny housers together in a single place to connect, learn, and hang out with other folks who “get it.” Back then, we were a very, very small movement – it was easy to feel alone – so it was great to spend time with other tiny house people. Fast forward to today: we are already ramping up for the third annual Tiny House Conference and we are excited to make it happen again. We will be gathering in Asheville, NC on April 2-3, 2016 for the next conference, and we wanted to invite all of you to it. Right now we are offering $50 off if you register before November 1st!
We’ve already confirmed most of our speakers, our schedule is locked in, and we’ve already confirmed three amazing tiny houses for attendees to tour! For those of you who haven’t been to the Tiny House Conference yet, there is nothing like connecting with and learning from so many of the amazing people that make up our movement.
Over the course of a weekend, we will have many leaders within the movement come to present, answer questions, and meet you all. Saturday and Sunday are jam-packed with sessions on key tiny house topics designed to help you get the details on what it’s like to live tiny and build a tiny house.
This year we are adding three really exciting features to our event that people have been asking for:
While the Conference requires registration to attend, this portion is free and open to the public. You can grab a drink and meet other tiny house folks the night before the Conference. This will be a casual get-together on April 1st from 7pm-8pm in the main lobby/bar at the Crowne Plaza in Asheville (1 Resort Dr, Asheville, NC 28806). Come hang out with us and meet other tiny house folks!
One thing we are always trying to do is help people get the information they need. People have been asking for a hands-on portion to the Conference, and this year we doing just that. In an add-on session, Tool School is where you’ll get hands on with all the major power tools. You’ll be taught by professionals about which tools you’ll need to build your tiny house, what each tool is used for, and most importantly, how to use it safely. Participants then will get a chance to actually use each tool, guided by a professional to make sure you feel completely confident.
While a big part of the Tiny House Conference is learning, a huge part of it is also the connections. Meeting people at the Tiny House Conference has consistently been named as the number one thing people like about our event. So this year we wanted to take a good thing and strengthen it. Tiny House Masterminds are small groups of individuals that we match people into based on where you live and what stage you are in your tiny house journey. The idea here is we’ll introduce you to others who are close to you and at the same place in your tiny house build. You can as a group decide to meet during the conference to connect, and possibly form local groups back home where you can share your passion and support each other. To be part of the Tiny House Masterminds you will need to register for the Tiny House Conference and soon after we’ll email you to opt into a Mastermind. It’s free for attendees.
I’ve been back and forth on whether to post this for a while now, but recently Jenna and Guillaume of Tiny House Giant Journey did a post about how to break into your tiny house and it couldn’t have been a better push to share this rather hilarious and equally embarrassing tiny house story.
Here is Guillaume breaking into his tiny house while his partner, Jenna, encourages him while filming. My story does not come with a video for reasons soon to be revealed.
It all started like most mornings. My alarm went off and I made my way down the ladder and blearily began my morning routine. I grabbed my towel, put on my flip flops and headed to the shower. The thing is, during the summer months I always opt for my outdoor shower, which I think might be my favorite part of my morning routine. Being situated on a huge private lot of 26 acres, I don’t really worry about being seen, I just kick off my drawers in the house, walk outside and hop on the shower pad which I have yet build any walls around.
This is my morning every day, but then something strange happened…
I dried off and went to go inside, when the door handle didn’t seem to work. I have a key-less entry, so I thought to myself, “no problem, just enter the code and open sesame!” HOW WRONG I WAS. The door started doing all sorts of crazy beeps and refused to open. I tried again and again, nothing.
I was locked out of my house, butt-ass naked with only a small camping towel, no keys, no phone.
A million thoughts flew threw my mind: “How am I going to get inside?” “OMG I’m going to have to go to a neighbor and ask to use their phone with a towel so small I’m going to have to strategically prioritize what not to show,” and “This can’t be real! Seriously? This couldn’t be more ripped out of every sitcom that has ever existed.” At that point I just had to laugh and proclaim, “What the f$#k am I going to do now!”
After a good bit of laughing at my own predicament and a fair bit of cursing, I hunkered down for a game plan.
Step 1: Kick the sh!t out of the front door
At this point I had moved beyond all the options of finessing the door open, so we quickly moved on to plan B: kicking the living sh!t out of the front door. A dozen mule kicks to the door and I realized it wasn’t going to un-jam the lock and it wasn’t going to pop open without tearing out the door jamb. To tear out the door jamb, I was pretty sure I’d have to break something in my foot because I had purposefully reinforced that section of the door frame to prevent anyone from doing exactly this.
Step 2: Try to pry a window open
Next I moved onto the windows, trying to get my fingers to have enough purchase to pull them open. The problem was the windows were built so well, the gaps were very small, only large enough for a flat head screw driver to be inserted. I was able to access my tools, so I grabbed a flat head screwdriver and tried to force open the window, but no luck. The window locks were just too strong and I wasn’t able to get enough leverage. I also tried a crowbar, but the gaps were too small to fit.
Step 3: Shimming your door lock
Initially I had avoided this because I knew I was going to mess up my door frame, but I was pretty desperate. I tried inserting a thin flat piece of metal into the door jamb to push the door catch open, but the door frame I had built was so perfectly fit, the metal kept bending. I eventually got it worked into place, but since the door was so tight to the frame, there was too much friction to wiggle it into place.
Step 4: Smashing a damn window
So after all that, I had been trying to break into my tiny house, naked, for over an hour at this point. It was then I came to realize that I was either going to have to go meet the neighbors in a very naked state or smash a window. I wasn’t willing to destroy my very expensive windows until I realized something. My front window had been delivered damaged and I had a replacement already sitting at my tiny house, and I just hadn’t got around to putting it in. That meant I could smash the window, get in, then just swap the sashes. Bingo! I had a way in!
I figured if I was going to break a window I should do it right, so I went over to my tool box and picked up my claw hammer. I walked up to the window and took a swing…. I was expecting a crash, but all I heard was a hollow thunk noise. My hammer bounced off the window. I figured I just didn’t hit it hard enough, so I swung again. Nothing. I slammed it into the window. Nothing! I began to wail on that window over and over again, slamming it with all my might. Nothing!!!! My hammer just bounced back off the glass over and over again. Then I got really mad and just went straight up hulk on that window. After a while I was exhausted, out of breath, and I had to take a break. That’s when I realized something: I have tempered glass! It was made to withstand impacts like this!
Step 5: Giving up
It was at that point that I gave up on the house. I had resigned myself to taking the walk of shame, to say hello to the neighborhood in only a towel, and beg for a phone call to my family members to bring some clothes and a lock smith. I started to walk down the driveway towards the neighbors wondering which house I should impose upon when I saw my car, it was then I remembered something: I have a manual key that might still work, but it was locked in my car!
Step 6: Breaking into your car
I had no idea how I was going to get into my car. If I couldn’t get into my tiny house, surely I couldn’t get into my professionally made car! I figured it was worth a shot. I started by trying to shim the windows open. No luck. I slid a long flat piece of metal into the window crack to get at the door unlock button. No luck. I finally popped the door open by sliding a scrap piece of molding into the window gap, through the door handle and the pressing down against the floor, bowing out molding so it lifted the handle! I was in!
I’m not sure what to think about how I was able to MacGyver my Smart Car open with such ease. While it did take about 30 minutes, I would assume a car made by Mercedes would be harder to break into. At that point I didn’t care, I had the key!!!
Step 7: Unlock the door
I rushed over to the door with the key, slid it in the slot, and turned. I then turned the handle and… Nothing! It was still jammed! I repeated Step 1 a few times, kicking the door and wiggling the key. Then, finally! It popped open! I was in!
Step 8: Do a happy dance: clothing optional
It was true, I hadn’t felt so thankful for such a simple thing in a very long time. There might have been some happy dancing occurring, it only seemed like the right thing to do. I was in my tiny house! Once the celebration had subsided, I realized that I had worked up quite a sweat in my many attempts to break into my tiny house, so I went back outside, left the door ajar, and took yet another glorious shower. This one seemed to be just a little better than the last.
I couldn’t but help share this story. It is instructional, embarrassing and hilarious all rolled in one. People always ask about tiny house security and now I feel like I can adequately say that my tiny house is certified against any naked burglars that might come my way. My car, not so much. I have since hidden a key in a lock box outside my house and no longer keep a spare just in the car, because you never know when you’re going to be locked out of your house, butt-ass naked.
Having been involved with tiny houses for over 6 years now, having built my own tiny house, and now living in it, I’ve realized something: I got a few things really wrong. Some were assumptions I made about living in them, some of them were about the lifestyle, and some of them were about building them. So here are 5 things I got totally wrong.
1. I thought it was about the house, it’s not
When I first started with tiny houses, I was in love with the house, the design, the materials, and all the appointments. Now that I’m living in my house I realize that was so wrong; it has absolutely nothing to do with the house. It has everything to do with the lifestyle. The truth is, a tiny house is just another thing you buy, under the guise of breaking away from consumerism. But the break is not from the diminutive dwelling, it is in the mental separation from conspicuous consumption.
2. I thought I couldn’t buy things
Long before I found myself in the tiny house realm I was a big consumer. I loved gadgets and tech. Once I started going down the path of tiny houses I thought that portion of my life – and somewhat, my identity as a nerd – needed to come to a close, but I was all right with that because the benefits outweighed the “costs”. But then I realized it wasn’t that I couldn’t have the things I wanted, I just needed to be more intentional about them; in reality, I’m able have the things I want more readily because I have the cash to buy them.
3. I thought money worries would be a thing of the past
I crunched the numbers, made spreadsheets, and had a budget, all things pointed to me not really having to worry about money. The truth is that my tolerance for how close I was running to zero just changed. Before a tiny house if I had less than $2,000 in the bank I’d be nervous. Now that I live in a tiny house that anxiety hasn’t gone away, it’s just at a different level.
These days I freak out when my bank account drops below $20,000. I know what some of you are thinking, “$20,000! that’s a ton of money, you have nothing to worry about!” and 3 years ago I’d be in the same place, but it somehow is still just as real, just as scary; I can’t quite explain why, but the truth is that angst will never go away.
4. I thought my tiny house would be perpetually neat and tidy, just like all the tiny house photos
AHAHAHAHHAA! Boy was I wrong! There are many times my house is very tidy, but there are times it gets way out of control. I always keep a clean house, it just isn’t always neat. The truth is your tiny house will go from tidy to way out of control in about 5 seconds flat because it’s so small. It’s not that you’re a messy or dirty person, but if you put a single thing down, it starts to add up quickly due to the small space you’re living in. The other day I walked into my house, dropped my work bag, my gym bag and took of my shoes… it looked like a bomb had gone off and I had to move stuff out of the way just to open my closet to drop my keys and wallet.
5. I thought I’d be done building
When you build a tiny house, you’ll never be done. There will always be a few things that you want to improve, to try, to fix, etc. That is not to say that your house won’t be livable, you’ll most likely move in and keep doing things. There will always be a board to fix, some more trim to add, or a new shelf to build into a nook. Another part of this is you’ve suddenly acquired a new skill set – woodworking – and even though most of us are still newbies to it, you don’t go out and build a whole house if you aren’t one who likes building things. I’m really excited about the prospect of starting some smaller woodworking projects that I get to flex my fine woodworking skills with.
I wanted to do an updated post today on an older topic that I briefly touched on in this post, but have since had some lessons learned. A tiny house is a very heavy thing, and my tiny house is around 6,500 pounds. Having your tiny house mounted on jack stands is very important for a number of reasons:
You can more easily level your trailer to make building things square and plumb
You can avoid tire shock from your trailer resting on the wheels in one spot
Walking in your house will be more stable
You can remove your wheels from the hubs to dissuade theft
Initially, I had put my tiny house on jack stands that were seated on a gravel bed, with a paver on top which I leveled with sand. This didn’t go so well. The pavers kept cracking and I had to replace them several times. It was obvious that the pavers weren’t going to be a good option. I knew wood was an option, but I was worried that even with treated wood, they’d eventually degrade, mold and rot – not something that you want in your foundation.
This picture is of the cracking pavers and you can see the wood on top that I added as a stop gap as I came up with plan B; it was bad enough that even the board started cracking. I decided to upgrade the foundation and put in cement footings right next the current stands so I could quickly move the jack stands.
If I were to do it all over again, I would have installed a concrete slab with self leveling concrete, and built in some drain lines into the slab. It would be a simple affair to roll the house onto it, set all my jack stands to the same setting and it would be instantly level.
As I mentioned, I decided to put in the footing just in the spots I wanted to seat the jack stands. With just a quick hole in each corner plus some high PSI Quikrete, I had my footings. I let the footing sit for a while to cure and harden up, then carefully jacked up the house with a bottle jack. On the rear of the trailer I had to add these cement footings to gain more elevation because there is a slight slope to the ground. So the front of the trailer (the back of the house) is just on jack stands, but the rear is on blocks. The footings were about $7 and gave me an additional 8 inches of height.
Here is the new setup. It’s hard to tell in this photo, but under that footing block there is a hole filled with high PSI Quikrete. Getting your tiny house seated on the jack stands is really hard work; it takes some serious elbow grease and you have to be really careful.
My house weighs in at 6,500 lbs and if a stand tips, or if a support plate slips, there is nothing you can do other than get out of the way and watch it fall. I really don’t like lifting the house alone because I’m afraid that if something were to happen, my arm would be trapped and I would either pass out from shock or couldn’t reach my phone to call for help. It stresses me out.
So the lesson learned is to take the time to install serious footings that your jack stands can sit on. Make sure the stands are perfectly level and the base they are sitting on is level and sound.
It took me a while to figure this one out, because I’ve always lived in a house with standard Sheetrock walls, but a mystery came to light when I noticed something strange…more on that soon.
I have never been in a house will all wooden walls like in my tiny house. For the inside of my wall I opted for 1/4 inch Douglas fir tongue and groove siding. I’ve personally seen several tiny houses now that have used Sheetrock and it works beautifully, but I wanted the look of the fir. The fir was very easy to work with and the stuff is very light (only being 1/4 inch thick after all).
A few quick tips for working with 1/4 inch T&G interior siding:
Most commercial packs come pre-scored on the backs so you can snap them quickly with just your hands
Choose packs deeper in the pile and check for the grooves for damage
Use an oscillating saw (pictured above) to cut notches around openings such as windows, doors and outlets
Tung oil is a non toxic treatment for your interior
So now onto the mystery.
When I first hooked up my mini split, which does both my heating and cooling, I turned it on and cranked it up. Later that night I noticed as I climbed into bed and noticed that my sheets felt almost damp. I was perplexed by it and then started to worry that the dehumidifying part of the mini split wasn’t working. I checked the drain hose and a steady stream of water was coming out from it, so I knew it was working and not clogged. I decided I had just let a bunch of humid air into the house when I was going in and out and the mini split was just recovering.
Over the next week I kept finding the same thing and I began to worry that I was going to have a moisture problem. My sheets always seemed damp and I knew over time that could mean one thing: mold. I started thinking about how I could combat the problem, going over options in my mind for the better part of two weeks.
I was wondering if it was just so humid here in the South, was I in trouble? Was it that in such a small space, a human breathing put off too much moisture? These were the things swirling in my mind. Then I noticed something: my sheets were suddenly not damp any more. In fact they were perfectly dry.
This was very perplexing to me. Why was my house all of a sudden a very normal humidity, and suddenly the moisture in the air was so low?
I thought about this for a while, when all a sudden, it hit me!
It was the wooden walls! Unlike Sheetrock, Douglas fir has pores, which were used to transport water when it was a tree. Before I had installed my mini split, I left all my windows and door wide open to keep cooler, but with that came the moisture of humid NC summers and my walls drank it up.
Then I turned on the mini split and the dehumidifier started removing that moisture in the air. The wood naturally wants to equalize its open grains with the moisture in the air, so it released moisture back into the air. So essentially it took about 3 weeks for my house to breathe out all the moisture my wooden walls had taken in. My house breathes!
So the mystery is solved and my house is nice and dry. It’s interesting what you learn when you live tiny. In a larger home I’m not sure I would have noticed.