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The Search For New Land – Part 3

First you should know this is a continuation of previous post: The Search For Land Part 1 and Part 2. As many of you know it can be tricky to find land and my experience was very similar.  After you’ve read those posts this post will make more sense.

So where I am at today.  The house is nearing the home stretch and I am frantically trying to finish it because the lease on apartment ends next week!  The trick to all of this has been getting a lease on the land.  Then land owner and I struck a deal where I pay $1.00 a month (yes a dollar) and I help him out with some website stuff every now and then.  The land owner also wanted to be sure his liability insurance would cover me being on the property and after them going back and forth for a long while, they had to tweak some things.  The land owner’s insurance went up about $300 and he asked that I pay that amount since it was an incurred cost on my behalf, which was totally fair.  He also asked that I have liability insurance, so I picked up a $2,000,000 policy for $425 a year.  So my insurance total was $725 a year, but my rent was only $12 a year.

Next up is was securing water, power and building a road.  This is where I am now.

Water

This has proven to be the most expensive part of the whole thing.  A lot of people want to collect rain water off their roofs for water, but I crunched the numbers on my tiny house.  A typical tiny house’s roof is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  That is 160 square feet; for every inch of rain on a square foot you’ll get .6 gallons of water.   So for my house that is 96 gallons of water per inch of rain, in my area after some googling I found that my area gets about 43 inches of rain per 1511479_762555291518_720276449591449371_oyear.  So the math works out to be that I would get 4,128 gallons of water a year off my roof.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t practical for me because even if I had a 1 gallon per minute shower head, assuming a 15 minute shower, that’s 5,475 a year, which doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, drinking, etc.  The math didn’t add up.

Since I was leasing the land, it didn’t make sense to put in a well (would cost me about $10,000) so I decided to tie in with the city water system.  The water main from the city also happened to be running right along the property line, so it couldn’t be more ideal.  So I went in and filled out the paperwork for the city and they gave me my total bill and I was shocked!  For them to install a meter, I had to pay the city, $2,231!!!  What’s worse was it was the city, so they set the price and you have to go to them.  So I had to pay over $2,200 just for them to install a meter, so they could use it to charge me for the water I used!  Once the meter is in, I still have to get it to my house, because for $2,200 they only bring it to the property line.

Then on top of that they told me it would take 2 months to install; this was a problem because I needed to move in a few weeks (at that time) and I couldn’t apply for the water until I had the lease, which I had only gotten the day before when I applied.  The end result is I’ll be living without water for a few weeks, I plan to get a gym membership and have a water jug service come during this time.

 

Power

Next up is electricity.  Where I am at, the property is densely wooded so solar isn’t an option as of now, but I am looking into it for the future.  I also talked with the power company and an electrician and to get the power setup on the lot was going to be about $800 plus 9 cents a KW which wasn’t too bad considering how little power I’ll be using.  Solar is something I do want to do, but I figured right now it isn’t possible and then I also wanted to track my power usage in the tiny house for a year or so in order to size my solar panel system in the future correctly.

The process has gone like this:  Contact power company, they came out and said where they could bring in a line.  I contacted an electrician to setup the box.  The box will be inspected.  The power company checks the inspection and connects the service.  A few other random details: Installation is a simple affair, takes an hour or so when they get scheduled.  Inspection in my area is between 24-72 hours barring any complications. The power company now only will do a 200 amp service (which isn’t an issue, actually a plus).  The power company said they’d do the first 200 feet for free if I had service for a year, after 200 feet it gets really really expensive.

Road Access

Roads are something that a lot of people don’t think about.  Also note that these price can vary in different areas and I don’t have anyone I know who has equipment or personal connections, so I’ll be paying for it all.  I have only got quotes at this point, but its looking like it will cost me about $500 for labor/bobcat and then about $300-$500 in materials (geo-textile fabric, gravel, etc.).  I thought about trying my hand with a rental bobcat, which honestly would be a lot of fun to drive, but when I got the price for the rental, deliver, fees, taxes etc. it was going to be about $800 to rent a bobcat in my area.  In my area you can hire a bobcat driver and his rig for about $60 an hour which includes him showing up with his machine, the gas, and him running it.  So it was actually cheaper for me to pay someone to do it, plus they’ll do a better job than I would since I’ve never used a bobcat before.

Sequencing of things

Another big thing I’ve run into was how things had to go down.  I couldn’t start anything until I had my lease, which took much longer than anticipated, but I got a formal lease and it worked out.  Once I had that I could put in for the power and water.  I wanted to have all those things done before I ever put in the road, because they are both underground lines, so I would have to dig up my road to install them.  I also wanted to have the water and power installed and inspected, then give myself at least a few weeks so that if an inspector was curious about what was going on and decided to swing by later on, he/she wouldn’t see anything because I built in a cooling off period.  At that point I’d install the road and then move the house out there.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray as they say.  I’m going to try to do this the best I can still, but its going to have to happen in a shorter time.

Total Costs

I think this should be a real wake up call for a lot of people who think that the cost of a tiny house stops at the tiny house.  Some lots will have these things already which is something you should try to get.  These are my real world numbers and while they will vary for you in your area and if you have connections that will save you money that will help, but at the end of the day you’ll have to deal with the city and the power company and they hold a monopoly, setting the prices that you can’t get around.

Insurance: $725 a year
Rent: $12 a year
Electricity connection: $800
Water connection: $2,231
Road: $1,000
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Total: $4,768

Tiny House Vacation

After the Tiny House Conference I decided to take a long overdue break for a few days.  It’s been almost a year since my last vacation and I know part of living tiny is me needing to take more time for me.  So I booked a place in the mountains on a whim and loaded up the car.  The place I stayed was a small house or even a tiny house.  It would be perfect for retirement because it was just big enough to be comfy, but not too big, and everything is on a single level.  The house was gorgeous!  Perched high on a small mountain, in the mountains of NC it was close enough to drive to easily, but far away from everything.

For the most part I did a whole lot of nothing, which was the whole point!  I took some short jaunts out around the area to enjoy the awesome weather I had.  Here is a few photos of the place and my trip.

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IMG_1668This awesome fire-pit area was in the middle of the three units.  Each of the little houses were pretty much the same.  At night I hung out by the fire and chatted with the other folks staying there.

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IMG_1637Small efficiency kitchen that was pretty workable.  Maybe add another 2-3 feet of counter space to make it fully functional.

IMG_1644Neat architectural detail.  this form mimicked the outside roof line, nice detail.

IMG_1646Friendly cats came to say hello!

IMG_1648The entrance to Joyce Kilmer Old Growth Forest was named after a poet here is one of his more famous poems:

Trees 

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

-  Joyce Kilmer

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After Joyce Kilmer, I headed to the NC / TN border where the famous route 129 is, better know as The Tail of the Dragon.  The stretch of road is notorious for its 318 hair pin turns in only 11 miles.  Popular with motoring clubs and motorcycles its a fun road to take a ride on and has some amazing views.

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IMG_1656A waterfall on my way to Tail of The Dragon

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IMG_1659Highest dam this side of the Mississippi.

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The rest of my weekend was made up of taking naps, reading some good books and enjoying the campfire.

 

What It Takes To Put On The Largest Tiny House Event Ever

Now that the first Tiny House Conference has come to a close and I’ve had some time to reflect on how it went, what I’d like to do differently next year etc.  I thought it would be good to share a little bit about what goes into one of these events.  I wanted to do a post like this in part to share how much effort goes into the Tiny House Conference and to answer some common questions such as: “why do I have to register?”, “why does it cost so much?”, “could you just send me a video link?”

When I first started with tiny houses back in 2008, I quickly realized that there was barley any information out there and I had a lot of questions so there must be others out there too that had questions.  Soon after I started a what I called a “mini-conference” so that tiny house folks could connect with each other, find support, get questions answered, and get excited about taking actionable steps to living tiny.  That was where the idea for this event all started, it was focused around bringing tiny house people together and fostering connections.

Today the conference has evolved to still focus on the core idea, but in a slightly different way.  I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create the largest, tiny house gathering ever.  It was a tall order, but I knew that people wanted to connect and learn, so I went all in.  Starting back in 2012 I started looking for a place to have the event and after a very long search of almost a year, I came upon a place that was perfect for the first ever Tiny House Conference.

It Takes A Team:

To put on event I tried to do everything myself to keep costs as low as possible so I could pass that savings on to the tickets resulting in a lower ticket price for you all.  Even though I did a lot of the work myself, I couldn’t do it all.  This entire event took over a year of work to organize and it included some other folks to make it all happen.  In total there was a team of 8 people who directly worked on this event; from a graphic designer, web designer, photographer, videographer, writers, and a few others.  All these folks came at a cost that was fair, but added up very quickly.

It Takes A Great Location:

The location was the first hurdle that I had to overcome and it was a big one.   Knowing that I was going to have so many people come and a whole bunch of tiny houses meant that I needed a place that could handle 60,000 lbs of tiny houses rolling in and a couple of hundred cars.  Looking around, the going rate for a venue that fit these needs in my area the cost was running about $10,000+ a day!  That wasn’t an option because ticket prices would be too high.  So I looked around at farms, parks, hotels, etc etc. and finally I found a venue that could keep the ticket price low-er, but was still very expensive.  I decided then and there that if this conference was ever going to happen, I’d have to make this work.

It Takes A Lot Of Great Speakers:

I had made the goal to have some of the best speakers I could find and also afford, while tiny housers are very reasonable in what it costs to have them speak, I had 13 speakers, so it added up very quickly. The logistics for all of this was staggering.  I need a place for them to stay, we had to feed them, cover travel costs in some cases, power points, how to get the from the air port to the conference,. materials, etc.

It Takes A Lot To Get Tiny Houses

I knew this going in, but I was still surprised at how difficult it is to move a tiny house.  We had tiny houses come from 4 different states and in the process no less than 4 transmissions where destroyed trying to get a tiny house here.  What I’ve discovered is that without a huge truck along the lines of a diesel or f350 Dually you really can’t tow tiny houses and even then, its a lot of work.

It Takes A Lot Of Money

It seems when you say you’re putting on an event, everyone just sees dollar signs; its crazy how expensive it to have an event.  The biggest hurdle for me personally was that to put on an event like this was that I had to front a lot of my personal money to reserve things and secure contracts.  Because this event was so big, because we charged for tickets, I knew I had to make this event the best I could.  As I mentioned I had to work over a year on this event to make it happen and that meant that I reserved the venue a year and a half ahead of time, which meant I had to pay for the venue before the website was even live.  The videographer, the photographer, the tent reservations, the chairs, projectors, screens, food truck deposits, microphones, laptops, speakers, etc etc etc. all of these things had to be bought, secured or contracted about 6 months or more before we even sold our first ticket so that when I could confidently say, “this is going to be an awesome event!”

Could I have Done If For Less?

Looking back at how the event went and trying to think if I could have done it for less and thus charged less for tickets, the answer is honestly “I don’t think so”.  Every step of the process I tried to balance having a great event with the costs involved.   This was very true because when I planned all of this and spent all of the money for the event, it wasn’t money from ticket sales, because tickets hadn’t sold yet, almost 100% of the money that initially was spent was from my own pocket on the hope that they’d come back to me once the event took off.  While that money did come back to me much later, spending those dollars was very real to me.  After all of that spending, I then determined the ticket price because I knew what it would cost to put on the event.

Anything Less Would Have Resulted In Less

Could I have done this in someone’s backyard?  Could I have had only local speakers? Could I just “winged it”?  Could I just do it all online?  The answer is yes.  If I wanted to I could make this event only $25 a ticket, but I could only have 50 people show up to listen to only me talk in my backyard with only a single tiny house.  The truth is that our ticket price meant that not only could I have a great event, but it meant I could host the biggest and the best tiny house event; to do anything less would mean I didn’t make it the best.  Since I’m not about doing “just okay” and instead I do “that was awesome” that is why the ticket prices are as such.

Tiny House Building Update

It has been a while since I updated you all on the tiny house, I’ve been spending all my free time building and getting the tiny house ready for the Tiny House Conference coming up very soon.  Right now I’m spending my time insulating the house, squaring away some of the plumbing and wiring.

Wiring:

I had the tiny house roughed in  (running wires, installing boxes, grounding) for electrical a while ago, but since then I decided I wanted a few more wire.  The two biggest additions I made was I wired for some outdoor speakers I wanted to add to my house and then I ran Ethernet cables for internet.

When I added these it was tricky because adding these wires you want to try to avoid your electrical lines the best you can.  Ideally you won’t have your Ethernet cable within 18 inches of your power lines and if you do have to cross them, you do so at a right angle.  The reason why is that the electromagnetic fields of the wires are essential to how the ethernet cables work to transmit the data for your internet connection.

When it comes to achieving this spacing it is pretty tricky because in a tiny house the walls there isn’t that much space to achieve this.  The other consideration when running wires is that the longer you run, the more the signal degrades.  In this case even if though I had to run the wires in a bit of a round about way, it wasn’t too far.  For Ethernet cables at about 1000′ the signal degrades and for speaker wire under 50′ you can use 16 gauge wire, over 50′ 14 gauge is recommended.

Insulating:

Initially I was going to use foam board, but after using in the floors I found that I wasn’t able to pack in enough of the foam board as I thought.  The floor framing cavity was 3.5″ deep, but I was only able to fit about 3″ of foam with the brackets, air pockets etc.  So for the walls I decided to go with standard fiberglass batts that were kraft paper backed.  This allowed me to use the full space because it could compress where there was things in the way.  It also meant that I could very quickly insulate the walls when compared to the rigid board insulation.

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Now I know many people are going to ask, so I’ll explain why I choose Fiberglass and Foam over other options.  My first choice was to get spray foam insulation, which has the highest R value of the common insulation for houses.  So I called around for quotes and for some reason to get this done in my area is more expensive than in other cities.  The lowest quote I got for my tiny house was $3400!  So that was out.

Next I considered sheeps wool, but at the time they didn’t have it in batts (combined into a thick sheet that fits in the wall framing) at the time I started building my house.  At the time it was just loose fill and everyone I spoke to it was a pain to fill into the wall cavities.  Wool is also about R-5 less than foam.  So while fiberglass isn’t great, I felt for me it was the right choice in terms of price, R value, and easy of installation.  The wool insulation was going to cost me close to $700 while the fiberglass insulation cost me $300.

Installing The Shower Drain:

When it came to putting a hole in the floor of my tiny house, I was pretty nervous about it.  One thing that I knew going into the build from day one was that I might go to put the hole for the drain, only to find that a metal support for the trailer was in the way; Talk about a potential nightmare!

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Well low and behold, the drain did in fact need to go where a 5″ metal beam was under the trailer.   It took some work to figure how the drain location on the inside, translated to the bottom of the trailer because you can’t really measure from the same point when you’re under the trailer.  Once I measured it out my nightmare became real life as I stared at the beam that stood in the way of the drain.  So off the the hardware store I went with some photos on my phone in order to find a solution.

After 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle I discovered something called an “off set drain”  which is pictured above.  This basically gave me the few inches I needed to miss the beam entirely and solved my problem.  With that set I picked up a hole saw to cut the correct size hole and I could move forward again.

Here are some photos of the house right now:

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Tiny Tack House

Science Friday did an awesome video about Christopher and Malissa Tack and their tiny house.  What I really like about this video is that they show a lot of the details of the power, water, and greywater.  It was a great to see some of the house, how they live and some of the things not often covered elsewhere.

Malissa and Christopher are coming to the Tiny House Conference.  Christopher will be our photographer and Malissa will be presenting about organizing small spaces in a tiny house.  Check out the video and see how amazing their tiny home is.  Meet them and many others at the Tiny House Conference; more info here

Photos courtesy of Christopher Tack tackphoto.com

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