Today we have another for the tiny house family readers, a Japanese house that is 678 square feet for a small family on a very narrow lot. What I really like about this house is the central part of the house is flooded with natural light through all the floors, while at the same time almost becoming an architectural focal point itself with the natural wood shelves.
When it comes to living the tiny life which is better? The city life or the country life? With the ability to move your home the possibilities are endless. Having recently made the switch from urban to rural tiny lifestyle, we’re assessing the transition. Here are some advantages and disadvantages we’ve experienced in La Casita.
The majority of folks I’ve talked to who live in a tiny house do so for economic reasons as well as ecological ones. Those were the big motivating factors for Cedric and I. Living lighter on the earth is of great interest to us as is meeting our needs with less money so our recent move got me thinking: is living the tiny life in the country greener and more economically sound than living in the city? In the city we rode our bikes to work, the grocery store, the bowling alley, restaurants and most of our friends’ houses. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural area I find I’m driving a lot more. I definitely feel dependent on our vehicle rather than my bike. For me, living the tiny life isn’t just about houses, it’s my intention in everyday experiences. Being dependent on a car does not satisfy my need for a more intentional, regenerative existence.
There’s also the added expense of car dependency. Gas is more costly here than down south. Plus, with winter still in full swing we had had to buy a set of studded tires so we could get out of our driveway! We’re both feeling as though it takes a lot more stuff to live the country life in the north than it did the city life in the south.
When it comes to aesthetics living rural has living urban beat-even in the winter! Life out in the country is proving exceptionally beautiful and much more quiet than our life in Charleston. There’s also a lot more privacy. Walking out the door in the city often met with someone staring at the house and wanting to know more about it. I loved talking with passer-bys but when you’re getting stared at on the regular, it starts to feel invasive. Plus, being packed in next to other houses does not provide the most scenic view. Here in Vermont we look out to the woods and up to a mountain and at night the stars are stunning. I’m definitely sleeping better at night without my next door neighbors yelling and drinking in to the wee hours of the evening!
Unless you are building a round or organically shaped house made from cob or adobe (in which case, cool!), keeping the corners of your floor, walls and roof square is a critical task that lasts for the entire construction process. Constant re-evaluation of your squareness will make your life easier at each subsequent step of the building process.
Or so we’ve heard.
There are many good reasons to “square as you go,”and I think we can all agree it’s a best practice for building anything, but there are many forces working against square corners, including:
- Lumber is seldom straight,
- Fasteners (nails and screws) seldom go in level,
- Weight or pressure can shift boards,
- Existential chaos and entropy
Of course, understanding you need square floor joists is a completely different animal from having square floor joists. Here’s where I reiterate that Alan and I are far from experts and can only share our unique trial-and-error experiences. When we began our procrastiprepping, we agreed we’d need to check for squareness frequently. What we didn’t realize at the time was, this checking and rechecking would also require fixing and refixing: if something is out of square, you have to do something to correct it, something that may interrupt your building timeline. It can be incredibly frustrating, repetitive and disheartening, but also necessary. I don’t want to be on the roof six months from now, realizing I have to cut a weird miter to fit my non-square upper left corner 12 feet in the air. I mean, we’ll probably have to do that anyway, but at least if I make efforts now, I won’t be blaming my past self, just my present/future self. Talk about existential chaos.
Anyway, there are a number of references and established processes for checking the squareness of your floors and walls while building. As a hobby painter (one who has built her own canvases), I like the “measure your diagonals to see if they match” method:
And my high school friends thought we’d never need geometric theorem notation! Ha!
What this means is, if the length of both diagonals match, the square or rectangle has 90-degree, or square, corners. If one diagonal is shorter than the other, then the corners with the shorter length have an “obtuse” angle, or an angle wider than 90 degrees.
Another way of telling whether you are in or out of square is the Pythagorean Theorem:
This method is helpful when you can’t access all corners of your square or rectangle, like tall walls, or if you are working alone. The shorthand version (demonstrated at the bottom of my most excellent drawing), the 3-4-5 rule allows you to just measure off three feet on one side, mark it, four feet on the other side of the angle, mark it, then measure the diagonal between the two marks. If the diagonal is equal to five feet, you’ve got your 90-degree, square corner. The 3-4-5 rule works because Math.
Once you’ve determined you’re not square, which is most of the time, there are several ways to fix it, most of which involve propping, pushing, pulling or yanking. John Carroll’s book, “Working Alone: Tips and Techniques for Solo Building” and the This Old House website are good resources for time-tested methods. But our Fencl floor proved a special challenge, and not in the good-special way, because the wheel hubs got in the way and prevented us from squaring the whole floor at once. Plus, the steel rods that hold the house to the trailer frame also held everything pretty firmly in place, so we didn’t have much control.
Here’s the problem we faced with the floor’s left-hand corner, closest to the trailer tongue. You can see that the corner is about a quarter-inch out of square in comparison to our speed square. Oh Noes!
Incidentally, I heart speed squares. They’re invaluable. We have this big orange one and a smaller steel one. When we get to the roof rafters, we’ll probably get a big framing square too, the one that look like the letter L and has all the rafter dimensions printed on it.
Our problem was compounded by the fact that one of the steel rods held runs through the sill just a foot or two away from this corner. Therefore, we couldn’t just push the far corners closer together, because the rod was holding the outside of the sill in place. The wrong place, but in place all the same.
We adapted one of the classic squaring techniques (attaching a diagonal chain and tightening it to pull opposite corners closer together) to a smaller area. We attached the chain to the sill in two places with several nails, then attached a turnbuckle to the chain. You can see the welded steel rod under Alan’s right arm in the third photo.
Sorry for the changing POVs in these photos… it’s making me a bit motion sick.
Another aside: The guy at Lowes didn’t know what a turnbuckle (the hooked thing in the middle photo) was when we asked, so it took us 20 minutes longer to find them than necessary. If you need to know where to find turnbuckles in Lowes and probably Home Depot, they’re with the door and gate hinges, instead of the rope and chain.
By tightening the turnbuckle, we accomplished the bending of nails most efficiently. But we also managed to bring this corner into square, so the sacrifice of six nails was glorious indeed.
Success! Mostly! At least it’s noticeably better than it was! Beer for all!
Ok, so it’s not perfect, but it’s within our arbitrary tolerance of “less than 1/8th of an inch.” It’s also not perfect because we accept that, although the corner is close to square, the sill will bulge out around the steel rod a bit, meaning the wall won’t be perfectly straight, but I think we can work with that problem better than kerflunky corners. At least, I hope we can.
- What rules, such as “always check for square corners,” have you given yourself?
- What is your preferred method of squaring frames?
- How do you decide when good enough is good enough?
First off, I want to give a big shout-out and say thank you to the community of readers here at The Tiny Life for the wonderful advice many of you sent me on moving our home. When you’ve never done something like this it is so incredibly helpful to gain insight from those who’ve gone before you!
Thanks to suggestions from this blog, as well as the Facebook page and CharlestonTinyHouse.com, we decided to set up a profile page on U-Ship.com and give it a whirl. U-Ship is an online global shipping service connecting individuals and businesses with transportation providers. It works like this:
1. Create a username and password.
2. Fill out a profile.
3. Load a picture and description of what you want shipped.
4. Enter your price range and location.
5. Wait for bids.
After a couple of days we had 3 bids! I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it. I figured most service providers would be out of our price range, but lo and behold we found Roger Howell, or really he found us. With a great price, lots of positive reviews and an excellent, professional profile we thought he was the best bet for the job. He not only moved our home within our budget but without a scratch on it! It was such a relief to be without all the added stress and time of towing it ourselves, especially through a northeastern winter. Plus, it would have cost us as much, if not more, to move it ourselves after renting a truck, paying for gas and taking out insurance. Uship covered us up to $15,000 in damages and as the carrier, Roger also had insurance providing us with a sense of security that was well worth the investment.
The experience was not without hiccups. There were delays on our house due to the severe winter weather we had up here in early February but Roger was very communicative and sent e-mails and texts as soon as we had questions or something happened en route. We figured it gave us more time to find a place for the house so we weren’t upset at the delay. Nevertheless, it was great to work with a professional who was in the business of towing large shipments, provided quick, clear communication and was first and foremost concerned with getting us our shipment safely.
We were a bit skeptical of this site at first but in the end we were really happy with the experience. The website is very clear and informative and carriers have profiles and reviews by customers who’ve shipped with them. With very little time to prepare for our move it felt like a huge weight off our shoulders. It wasn’t without work on our part. We had to hook up lights, check our brakes, pack and board up the house and get a license plate for the trailer. It took about 2 weeks to get everything together and ready to go but it was well worth it. We left ahead of the house and were able to arrive in Vermont, place ads and find a home for La Casita in a couple of weeks. If you have a tiny house to move, I’d recommend the services the website provides. Doing it yourself is a rite of passage for some but for us it was going to be more hassle and expense than we wanted to deal with. Hopefully, we won’t have to move the house again. It ain’t cheap moving a tiny house, no matter how you do it. We figured it out to be about a $1/mile so at 1200 miles there was definite expense.
Living the tiny life has its perks but before this adventure I was foolish in thinking it would be a cheap and easy dwelling to move. It’s definitely a more flexible option in life but I’ve learned that more than anything, I want to stay put in La Casita and not have to uproot her too often. Hopefully, this is the last move we’ll be making for a long time and we can settle in to this new chapter of our tiny life.
- What alternatives do you know of for shipping a tiny house?
- Has anyone else used Uship? What was your experience?
- How has The Tiny Life readership helped you?
- If you’ve moved a tiny house, what did you find were the most cost effective options?
One of the things I have been trying to workout is in the future I plan to work remotely, which means a good bit of work will be done inside my tiny house. It is one thing to live in a tiny house, but it is another to also run a business out of it. Now working from home is fine if you have a job that is all done in the cloud, but with my work I need to have a good number of materials, resources, and tools on hand to do my job. So how do I balance this in a tiny home.
I guess the first the real first question I feel I should ask is SHOULD I work from home? There is a lot of research to suggest that you should have a dedicated space to work out of. I also feel like philosophically I should separate work and life to ensure a good work life balance. One thing that people know about me is that when it comes to work, I work hard at work, but at 5pm, the computer and the phone goes off and I leave work at work.
I think this is an important step in living in a tiny house, developing boundaries to things that would intrude upon the life you wish to live. While you should work hard, deliver results, work well with your co-workers: understand your responsibility to it, but realize that a career is a means to live the life you want to live. You do not live to work, you work to live.
So on this line of thinking I am beginning to think that I might be looking at building a tiny house office for when I do shift to full time work from home. It get’s the gears turning in my head about what it might look like. I want to be able to work in a place that is beatutiful, that is bathed in natural light, that is functional and inspires creativity.
- How do you keep a work life balance working at home?
- Do you have any links to amazing tiny offices?