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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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Tiny House Wood Panel Walls

I am beginning to move into the inside of my tiny house, to insulate and to put up the pine paneling.  A little bit ago I put up some of the pine paneling on the interior wall for what will become the back of the closet.  I had wanted to get back to the tiny house to keep putting up the walls, but some work pulled me away and then it rained, a lot.

The result was the wood paneling swelled up as it absorbed the moisture in the air.  Before anyone ask, yes I did have the wood sitting out in the space to normalize, but with so much rain and the house not being climate controlled yet, the moisture did its damage.  This also happened before I could seal the panels, so that didn’t help either.

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You can see the wood had swelled so much that it tore itself free from the nails and bowed out majorly.

I guess the value of my mistake is to prevent this from happening to others.  I just did a little wall when this happened.  Imagine if this were to happen when someone just finished the entire inside!  So how do I plan to prevent this from happening again?

  1. I’m going to make a concerted effort once I start to not stop until I’m mostly done with the main wall panelings.
  2. I’m going to choose a week where the weather should have a pretty even moisture level in the air
  3. As soon as I get the wall paneling up, I’m going to start sealing it right away.  I’ll be trying Tung Oil
  4. I built a insulated temporary door which has weather stripping on it

The temporary door I built is pretty overbuilt honestly, but I figured if I was going to have a temporary door, I might as well do it right and honestly it only took me an hour.  Now if I was building a tiny house inside or if the weather where I lived was even keeled, then this wouldn’t be an issue.  In the past week here in Charlotte it has been dry-ish and 73 degrees and then three days later we had snow where it was 20 degrees.  Its a nightmare for this type of stuff.

For the door I made a frame that fit inside my door frame and then attached a cheap piece of OSB board.  The 2×4′s were $2.30 each (3) the OSB was $7 (1)  Insulation was about $7 worth from a larger pack I’ll be using for the walls.   So $20.90 for the door total.

Now many of you might be asking why I don’t just put on my regular door right now.  The reason for this temporary door is that I decided to put the floor in near the very end of the build so I don’t scratch it.  Since I decided that, I’m still feeling out what the actual final height of floor will be, I don’t know exactly know how low the door must hang.  The door is made, but I want to put the floor in, add the threshold, then adjust the door height and hang it.

Here is the temporary door I made:

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photo 2In the above photo you’ll notice that the OSB actually extends beyond the frame, this was intentional.  I push this into the door frame and the extra OSB gives me a lip and something to mount the weather stripping to.

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On the bottom of the temporary door I had the OSB go flush so that when I move it around the brunt of the force is on the 2×4′s and not on the OSB.  This is  because OSB is pretty fragile and it can break down.

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Have A Tiny House Question?

Have a tiny house question that you’ve been dying to get answered?

I have setup a new page that lets you do just that, ask your questions!

You’ll need a microphone on your computer, because we are taking the audio of our readers asking their questions and then answering them in a videos to come!  It works almost like leaving me a voice-mail, but its through the computer.

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You can check it out and ask your questions here: http://thetinylife.com/ask-the-tiny-life

 

 

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