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Upgrading My Stairs To My Tiny House

I recently re-leveled my tiny house after some settling had occurred over the past few years.  I had noticed that my sink wasn’t draining all the way and it tipped me off that the house might be a little out of kilter.  So this time around I ended up changing from jack stands to cement blocks and adding more of them so I had a more stable foundation and in the end my entry way was a good bit further off the ground.

before and after stair build

I decided to have a permanent set of steps that was actually tied to the house, not something I could just pick up and go.  I discovered at my local big box hardware store that they had these stair kits.  Basically pre-cut stringers and milled treads that took all the guess work out of it.

When I found them I was surprised how inexpensive they were and for only $9 each, they took all the guess work out of me needing to figure out the complex angles, something I had been dreading.  The treads were around $8 each, but they were nicely milled and the best part, they were designed to fit the stringers perfectly.  So for $58 I had the full kit for my stairs without needing to figure out a single angle or make a single cut!  I was sold!

tools to build stairs

The Tools:

  • Impact Driver
  • Speed Square
  • Carpenter Pencil
  • Ext. self tapping screws
  • Tico hanger nails
  • Palm nailer
  • Shovel
  • Level

 

 

 

Next I dug down to solid dirt and placed two solid blocks, leveled them with sand and then laid the stringers.  After about 30 minutes of fiddling with it I was able to get the blocks, the stringer and the house to all be perfectly aligned.  A quick check with my level and I was off to attach the stringer to the house itself.

To do so I used these flexible angle hangers to firmly attach it to the house.  I was fortunate that behind my trim was 3 inches of solid wood to mount into.  So I got the hangers mounted and then attached the stringers to the brackets with “tico nails” which are galvanized beefy nails that are designed to be used with these metal brackets (very important that you use the right nail to prevent corrosion).

I used this palm nailer for this and shot a quick video showing you how it works because most people haven’t ever heard of this tool.

One I got the bracket nailed in, I nailed the stringers in place, you can see it here:

stair hangers

I rechecked my level, made sure the stringers were going straight out from the house with my speed square and then I started installing the bottom stair.  I did this because I knew the top of the stair was straight and level where I attached it, by doing the bottom stair, I could ensure it was straight and level too.

What this meant was if the bottom and top were all good, everything else would be good to go in between. If the set of stairs had been a longer run, I may have done a little more checking because the longer the board, the greater the warp comes into play.  On this short of a run I wasn’t going to worry about it.

It was here where I decided to add an extra brace in as a redundant support because I’ve never build any stairs before and I just didn’t want to have to worry about it.

stair supports

After I finished all the bracing, way over-engineering it, I dropped in the remaining treads.  Now before someone points it out, my treads aren’t even on purpose.  The left side I aligned the overhang so that it aligned with the outside edge of my house.  I could have cut the treads to match the offset on both sides, but I liked the look and it allowed me to have places to put potted plants on the side without obstructing the main walkway.

new stairs build

A little tidying up and a new welcome mat and I had a nice looking set of stairs!

Your Turn!

  • What projects are you looking forward to on your tiny house?

If I Had $1M To Further The Movement

what if questionI was sitting on the porch of my tiny house the other night thinking about tiny houses and the movement when the question floated into my mind: “If I somehow became the steward of $1,000,000 to further the tiny house movement, what would I do?”  It’s an interesting question and I really like thought experiments like this.  So, here is what I’d do:

I think an important first step would be to establish a tiny house proof of concept with a city and create a model that other cities could follow.  I would most likely start in my hometown of Charlotte, mainly because I know the codes better and have some good connections with folks that I’d need to leverage in order to make my plan successful.

I’ve had some preliminary conversations with some community development leaders, developers, lawyers and a few political figures at the point, but have yet to take it much further because the later phases of execution would require funds that I simply don’t have.  So I’d start a dialogue with some key people and then also contract the services of a few people, primarily lawyers that have experience doing community development.  I don’t think things would need to get pushed into the court room, but a few of the lawyers I have in mind know the landscape better than I do, they have the personal connections, they know what meetings you need to show up for, they know who other follow on votes and they know the process.  These things are valuable to the execution of the plan.  I figure it will take about $50,000 in contractor fees, mainly because most of the people would be lawyers ($200-$300 an hr).

Running Total: $50,000

From there I’d work with these people to start conversations with the city about getting a program started where we would essential do a trial run on a particular piece of land for a tiny house community.  I figure about $5,000 in fees, filings, paperwork, etc.

Running Total: $55,000

land_for_sale_29cConcurrently I would be shopping for land, somewhere in the 10-20 acre range of which I have about 5 locations that would be ideally suited for this project.  The key here would be land that could be rezone for a cluster housing setup and located within a 30 minute drive of downtown Charlotte.  The location would be key.  Most people today want the amenities of a city and Charlotte is a decent sized city to meet that need, plus land is relatively cheap and still available.  For the land I’d be looking to spend up to $250,000 which would be the home of the community and a common house that would also later be used to run training events, meetings, etc.

Running Total: $305,000

Next once we had the land and the city’s support, I would work the land (grading, access, roads, parking), install infrastructure (water, sewer, solar, internet, gas), then begin construction.  For this I’m assuming $75,000 to meet city requirements.  I’m also assuming they’ll require us to install storm drains, side walks, and a retention pond because of the number of people, it would be similar to an apartment complex in their eyes.

Running Total: $380,000

How-To-Build-a-Great-Team

Once I had the land secured, I’d put out a call for residents.  There would be an application, interview, and selection process.  The goal would be selecting people who would be good stewards of the first location, would have the ability to interface with the public and the media very well, and people who could help us put a good foot forward in the community.  The group would also have to function well as a team, because I would want a community, not disparate individuals that just want a place to put a tiny house or live cheap.  I envision the people selected would go through a lengthy interview process, jump through a lot of hoops and prove that they are the right people for the mission.

With that group I’d want to do some team building, some communications training and community building.  There will also be some media interface training, so that they can keep calm when a reporter tries to pull a “gotcha”, when a detractor speaks out, or when something goes wrong and they need to operate under pressure.  For that I’d budget about $5,000 for various activities and facilitators.

Running Total: $385,000

 From that point I’d design the houses with each of the people using some tiny house designers I know.  The plans would be used to build the house and then either given away or sold as a revenue generator for the non-profit mission of this incubator.

Established Revenue: $1,000 / month

Each house would be designed, built and paid for by this project, but each person would enter into a 2 or 3 year lease on that house.  I’d guess between $200-$400 for rent and utilities a month.

It might be possible that some of the paid work needed to be done by this project could be paid to these members if they had the required skill sets for the job.  This could also aid in keeping the project accessible for low income individuals.

I would want 10 houses to on the property, half to be people bringing their own house, half built onsite built with about half the labor done by the people themselves.  I figure total cost per built house would be $40,000 for the five built on site for a total of $200,000.

I would also have a common house built (about 2,500 square feet).  I figure about $200,000 for that building.  That building would have a large room, community kitchen, a guest bedroom, laundry and toilets.

In this space I’d tried to save a lot of costs here by doing workshops where people come for the week and get hands on with building a tiny house.  Tickets would be pricey because of the time, meals, organizing etc.  I figure $1500 a person.  This would help offset the costs of the houses.  For the common house I’d try to do that with straw bale or ob and again, make that an event that we would sell tickets to.

Worst Case Running Total: $785,000
Target Running Total: $600,000
Established Revenue: $3,500-$5,000 / month

 This would close the initial phase of the first location.  From here the idea would be to document the entire process and produce some high quality materials, media, and website.  These could be used by tiny house people and by municipalities.  I figure there will be some coding, design and material fees with this $5,000.

Running Total: $605,000
Established Revenue: $3,500-$5,000 / month

The next phase would be taking the revenue generated and building that revenue to become a self sustaining non profit.  The hope here is that with the initial $1M we could build an engine that could pump out tiny house havens and develop training for DIYers, Builders and cities to elevate the community.

The remaining funds to kick off the next location and essentially do lobbying on behalf of tiny houses.  I would also look into tiny house financing, developer partnerships and tiny house insurance.  We would develop tiny house codes that municipalities could plug and play for cities and we would help them in that process.

I’m also playing it safe with the budget because things will inevitably be more expensive, unexpected costs will come up and there will be some staffing costs.

Final Total: $850,000
Revenue: $13,500-$15,000 / month

So that is how I’d move the movement forward with an infusion of $1M.

Your Turn!

  • How would you use the $1M differently for the movement?

Sketchup Coming The 2015 Tiny House Conference

I am really excited to share some big news, the makers of Sketchup are going to be sending a team of folks to the Tiny House Conference to help run training sessions at the conference!  The 2015 Conference will be in Portland, OR April 18-19th 2015 (details here). For those of you who don’t know, Sketchup is a free 3D design program that is perfect for designing your tiny house.  Many people already know about it, but for those of you who don’t, it’s a tool you need to learn.  It will be your go to tool in designing your tiny house.

sketup logo

So at the conference we are having two sessions on Sketchup.  The first will be run in conjunction with one of our speakers, James, he is a master with Sketchup having helped draw up Macy Miller’s very popular tiny house and plans.

The next session is going to be a bonus session that I haven’t had a chance to announce, it just got put on the calendar.  This will be with the experts from Sketchup, showing you how to do things, answering questions and getting hands on with the software to design a tiny house.

For those who are new, check out Michael’s video from Tiny House Design

 

Come Join Us in Portland, OR April 18-19th 2015

register-gg

Being Sick In A Tiny House

Being SickSo I’ve been living in my tiny house full time now for a little while and I still have a lot to get done before its totally finished, but recently I experienced one of thing that I had some concerns over when it comes to tiny houses: Getting sick.  Obviously being sick is never fun, but I had a few extra concerns when it came to my tiny house.

The biggest one was getting up and down from the loft when I was sick.  When I’m sick, I try to drink a lot of fluids and having to climb up and down to pee several times didn’t thrill me.  I’m not a person that gets sick often, but this time whatever I caught, really threw me for a loop.  To complicate going up and down my ladder, I had a pretty high fever, was very achy, and at times my coordination was kinda thrown off because of those things.  There was one time I almost toppled off the ladder because I got pretty dizzy mid way down.  But I’ve survived!

Warning: composting toilet talk up next

The next thing I’ve been worried about was using a composting toilet during my sickness.  I’ve learned that if you eat pretty healthy and make sure you have some good fiber in the mix, it makes the composting toilet much easier.  When you’re sick, you often don’t eat as well and/or your body isn’t working like it normally does.  All in all, it was fine, I worked it up to be much worse in my mind.  I did realize during this time that while I didn’t have a stomach bug this time, in the future, I’m going to want to have an additional bucket in case “all systems are a go”.

And Now...I'll Do What's Best For Me(1)

The final thing of note that I’d like to make on this topic is how the tiny house was a benefit in being sick.  Being that I now live in a tiny house and the tiny house enabled me to go out on my own to be self employed, I was able to take the time to just be sick.  Usually I’m a pretty busy guy, but I can schedule everything to my liking and that includes when I need time off.  So when I get sick, I don’t have to ask a boss for time off, I can just shoot off a few quick emails if need be saying I’m sick, then crawl into bed and sleep.  When I get sick, I just let my body do its thing and follow my body’s lead. Which means drinking a lot of fluid and sleeping a lot to give my body the energy it needs to fight the infection.

I brought a few bottles of water up with me to the loft and my laptop with a bunch of movies on it.  Most of the time I just was asleep, but when I was awake, I’d just open my laptop to watch a movie or listen to a “book on tape” on my phone.  In my old life, this would have been hard to do; I didn’t get any sick days, just my normal vacation.  Now I can disconnect and just heal.  It’s a great thing.

 

 

2015 Tiny House Survey

Every few years many of us in the tiny house movement rally to take the pulse of our community.  Who are tiny house folks, what kind of houses do they live in, and how many tiny houses are out there.  This survey is for people live in tiny houses now and those who hope to live in one some day.  The survey asks a bunch of questions on demographics, about your house, your life and what you’d like to see in the movement.

fb group photo2

The survey is of course optional, but we really hope you make your voice heard.  All the responses are kept 100% anonymous, (in fact no identifying information is collected) they aren’t used for commercial use and participating helps us get a better picture of the movement.  The raw data is used to run statistical analysis and the results are shared back with the community.  We also provide data to academic institutions who are doing studies on tiny houses.

Here is the survey, we hope you’ll make your voice heard in this:

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