Our friend over at Resources For Life, Greg Johnson posted an interesting video recently about Tiny Houses and building codes, I thought it was pretty good, so here it is!
Many of you have heard me talk about Google Sketchup, it is a pretty easy drawing utility that allows you to draw floor plans, models, tiny houses etc all for free. I really like it and it can be downloaded here for free: sketchup.google.com/
I thought I would share some models I have found for you all to use to design your own Tiny House community, to see what it might look like! I want to see what your creativity can do! I want to see how you envision a Tiny House Community. Use the models I have here, add your own, add some landscape etc. When you are done tinkering send them to me and I will share them on the blog. My email is ryan112ryan [at] yahoo.com
Download Tiny House Models right click and save as here
As of late I have seen many new faces on at The Tiny Life, particularly with our recent coverage in the New York Times, so I wanted to say Hello! Over two years ago I started this blog and could never could have imagined that there would be so many folks interested in Tiny Houses! So today, I wanted to introduce myself to everyone and once you are done reading, please introduce yourself in the comments section. I will try to say hello back to everyone that intros themselves in the comments!
My name is Ryan Mitchell, I am 28 and run The Tiny Life. It has been an interesting journey to where we are today.
It all started by getting fired, yup, that’s right, fired. About 2 years ago I found myself facing layoffs at my job; I was a recruiter. That is when the economy took a turn for the worst.
I found myself with no job, no car, had to move home, newly single, was uninsured and didn’t qualify for unemployment. It happened so fast that I could barley believe it; That is when I found Tiny Houses.
After spending a few hours looking for jobs that day, I was surfing around the web and came upon a photo of a Tiny House. I thought they were kind of neat, I had always had this affinity for alternative housing, but there was something different about Tiny Houses. To be honest I didn’t think too much of it until later I found myself on Jay Schaffer’s site. That’s when I had my a-ha! moment.
Here I was realizing that the system I was taught to go by, had essentially failed me, I had done everything “right”. I went to High School, was awarded Boy Scout’s highest rank of Eagle, I had a impressive list of extracurricular activities, which got me into college. Four years later, I graduated with my bachelors. I was quickly accepted into a Masters program, which I did well in. I landed contract after contract, making way more than I should have right out the gate. But what did it really amount to?
I was looking at Tiny Houses not just as a downsized living space, but as a lifestyle which circumvented the pitfalls of the typical framework. I began to realize that it was not about material things. It was what mattered: Relationships, Time, Freedom, & Peace of mind. You must love the life you live. You must love those you live it with. You must have time to be in the moment. Finally, in the end, it’s the choices you make in life that allow you to realize all of this. I realized my initial approach was flawed, it did not support what truly mattered.
So that’s how it started.
I researched Tiny Houses, drew literally 100’s of floor plans, talked with builders, bloggers, dreamers and skeptics. I took a trip to Canada with a friend, timed it so I could meet Jay Schaffer and toured his Tiny House. While there I met Jay and many other Tiny House folks. We stood in this Tiny House for 3 hours talking about our passions and ideas. It was nothing short of inspiring. It was there that folks urged me to start a blog, a blog that talked not just about Tiny Houses, but Tiny Living.
Tiny Living Encompasses:
- Tiny Houses
- Life Simplification
- Environmental Consciousness
- Self Sufficiency
- Sound Fiscal Plans
- Social Consciousness
So today I speak to you, employed in a job I love, in a life I love, with a future that I love. I work for a local non-profit and follow my passions. I have come a long way, but have still have a bit to go, but now it is with purpose. So I invite you to join me in this journey and share in it.
Do I Live In A Tiny House?
Not quite yet, I made two key decisions from the get go: 1) I wanted to be debt free before I got into a Tiny House 2) I wanted to save up for my house and land to pay for it with cash, in full. This isn’t any small feat, but I have been able to make some huge steps. To date I have reduced my student loans by 50%, I found a job that I love, but it also tripled my income, and I moved into a home where I house sit long term and pay no rent. The money I would pay on rent goes to debt, then saving for the Tiny House. I am so close I can taste it!
How This Blog Works
So typically I post a few days a week. I am open to anything that is related to Tiny Houses, Tiny Living, or environmental concerns. If you ever come across an interesting article, video, house etc, email me at the below email address! Have a knack for writing? Passionate about Tiny Houses? Have a great story to share? What to talk about your Tiny House? Email me, you can be a guest poster on the blog! I have 100’s of thousands of people come to The Tiny Life, have your voice heard!
Help Me Out
I try my best to post a few times a week, what really helps me is if you all have interesting stories that you want to share. You might find a neat video or article, you might have a Tiny House of your own. I would love to hear from you. This along with comments make for a great blog. If you think of something that you would like to see on here, no matter how crazy, let me know. I am happy to have guest posters share their story and their passion! Regardless, I love hearing from my readers, because I want this to be a community.
If you haven’t already, join in the conversation at these places:
Where We Have Been Featured
Well that’s about it. Enjoy the blog and I thank you for checking it out.
Introduce Yourself In the Comments!
I came upon a collection of Tiny House photos today and thought I’d share them for design inspiration. I don’t however have any info on them at this point.
Image Collection from Nano House by Phillis Richardson
The legality of Tiny Houses is really the skeleton in the closet of Tiny Houses; in most instances, it isn’t legal, there is no other way of putting it. That said there are individuals who have successfully navigated the red tape or achieved an understanding with the code enforcement people where they just leave each other alone.
But what about putting it on a trailer? But what about minimum square footage requirements? These are two commonly cited “loop holes” from various people in the Tiny House world, but it really isn’t the magical solution make it seem like. Why? Simply put it often comes down to the fact that you are making these houses your primary residents. That term is key, primary residence. When that comes into play, it is a whole different ball game. So yes you can build something under X amount of square feet in your county, but most places have minimum codes defining what a habitable structure is. This often includes heat, cooling, running water, and a minimum square foot requirement often 300 square feet or larger. In some counties in NC who want to boost tax revenue, I have seen the minimum set as high as 3,000 square feet!
So the real answer is yes you can build without a permit or put it on a trailer, that part is legal, but no, legally you cannot live in it as your residence.
Some of us simply would respond to this with, well how can they stop me? The common ways municipalities formally discourage this is through fines, destruction/removal, and prevention of access to municipal services (water, sewer, electricity, trash, etc.)
Like I said, this is Tiny House’s dirty little secret. I have seen over the years websites adding disclaimers, removing and altering language about the legality of tiny houses etc.
But does that mean I can’t live in a Tiny House?
The answer: You can live in a Tiny House, but I am going to give to you straight about how you can do so. First off, a lovely disclaimer, it’s up to you to do your research, because each municipality is different and you take this endeavor upon yourself.
The first and easiest way is to appeal to your local code enforcement. They are really nice people, they just get crabby when people don’t take the time to understand the law and work with in it. I first recommend you do some research, spend a few hours looking around your cities building codes, laws, etc. If you are really serious I would go ahead and get a copy of the code book that your city often sells for about $35. Next check out a website called municode.com This has many cities actual codes posted, but not all. As you get into this you will quickly realize, building codes are a nightmare to learn, soon I hope to release an e-book on working with municipalities.
Once you have done your research I suggest contacting a contractor, you can use that person as a subject matter expert (you may need to pay them) but they can help you streamline the process. This isn’t required, but it is suggested. Talking with them will let you figure out exactly how you are going to present it to the code enforcement officer.
Finally contact your local code enforcement and share what you’d like to do and state you are looking to find a way to achieve your goal, while meeting all building code requirements. You will often have to get a special exception (which the term is called differently in different places) which includes plans, submittal of documents and applications, perhaps even lawyer fees. After a lengthy process you will get an approval or a denial, so be prepared for it. Keeping a positive attitude will go miles here.
So what about less than above board ways? I see this as an civil disobedience issue.
Well first off, breaking the law… is well… illegal… so you do this under your own decision and deal with the consequences, you are responsible for it, not me. The big thing with doing things not to code is first of to understand that some codes are designed to keep people safe. That is important to remember. For example 2 point of egress is a safety thing, while you lawn can’t be taller than 18” isn’t. So if you don’t go by the codes, look at its intention or research it. If there is a safety concern, think creatively how you could address it in another way.
The next big thing about doing things not on the up and up is frankly, don’t get caught. So let’s consider ways you could be brought to the attention of code enforcement. Your annoying neighbor could report you, a code enforcement agent could see your house from the road as they drive by, a tax assessors could come out and could report the house, or aerial tax assessment photos might peak some interest. Lets not make this easy for them by considering all the ways we could be reported and take active steps to mitigate these risks. It essentially is risk management. Depending on where you live and the community that is there, it is very likely people could learn about your home and not care or even embrace it. Ultimately it is best to keep a low profile, I personally am at odds with this because I want to use my house as a statement for advocacy. It is up to you where your comfort level is.
The next big thing to tackle is how you are going to get water, sewer and electricity to the property. Depending where you are and what you want to do this can be difficult. Since you don’t have a certificate of occupancy, you have to do research and get creative. This is where a contractor will be useful, because they will be able to educate you on the options and give you the right terms to use when applying for these.
So that’s all for today, this is a huge topic, I will be writing more on it in an e-book I hope to get out soon!