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Top 5 Tiny House Commonalities

Recently I have been interviewing a lot of tiny house folks about their lives in their tiny house.  While I knew the story of many of these tiny house folks, I had never had a discussion to the depth as these interviews.  It was helpful that I knew a lot about these folks, their houses, and tiny houses in general because it meant we could skip the basics and get into nitty gritty.

Over the course of the interviews I realized that there were some things that were so similar it was uncanny; to the point where people started saying the exact same words.  Now in some cases these people didn’t even know each other, so I realized weather it was tiny houses or the type of person that is attracted to them, they have a lot in common.  It’s kinda eerie.

1. DIY Tiny House Builders Unusually Have The Worst Car For Hauling Materials

No this isn't me.

No this isn’t me.

Almost without fail tiny house people couldn’t be less equipped to haul building materials than the car they have.  Almost every single person I talked to didn’t have a truck, they often had smaller cars.  This is the case with me.  I drive a Smart Car, which if you didn’t know, it is the smallest road legal car in mass production today.  I quickly realized when I needed to figure something out when my boards were the standard 8 feet long, but my car only was 6.5 feet long tip to tail.

Despite having the least suited cars, we make it work.

2. We Are Over Saying We Live In A Tiny House

After building and living in a tiny house, most people are tired of having to explain what a tiny house is, then having to explain why, then having to defend the choice.  As Ella from Little Yellow Door puts it “its just a house, it just happens to be very small”.  Luckily for me I have gotten through that process with most of my friends and family.  I now just say I am building a house, never mentioning that its tiny or I’m building it with my own two hands.  The only time I feel it really necessary to explain is when it comes up that my houses is tiny or on dates (I figure they should get the heads up).

3. Everything Has a Place And It Needs To Go Back There.

il_570xN_184465424We don’t have a lot of stuff, but the stuff we do have has its rightful place in our homes.  Every tiny house person I’ve talked to has said this to me, that they have a place for everything and they have to put it right back when they are done.  They don’t have room for clutter and if something is out of place, you can tell because its such a small space.

4.  Buy A New Trailer

I have now talked to about 40 people about this particular topic and almost every time, almost without fail, they say that if they bought a used trailer, they had wished they had took the leap for a new trailer.  I already know there will be some people that disagree with this, I can see the comments now, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.

Most of the people who bought a used trailer ended up spending days cleaning up their trailer.  They also spent money on fixing and replacing most of the trailer.  About 80% of the people I spoke to ended up replacing tires and axles on their trailer, which meant a lot of those people spent the same or more than what they would have if they just bought new.

Macy Miller of Mini Motives also pointed out that in your first few months you have a lot of energy, excitement and drive, buying a used trailer sapped most of that energy as she toiled on getting her trailer to a point where she could then start building.  I think this is a really good point, its better to use this energy getting building done, not days with an angle grinder trying to root out rust.  The other aspect to this is that when you buy new, you know exactly what you are getting.

5. Tiny House People Are Grateful

Without exception tiny house people are very grateful for the lives that they live.  They know the value of everything they have, whether it is a possession, a relationship or an opportunity.  I recently was reading a study that one of the biggest factors in people who were happy was gratitude and expressing that gratitude.  I think this comes into play in a major way with tiny houses, because they understand the value of what they have.

How I Would Improve A Tumbleweed

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We all know and love Jay’s amazing design that truly sparked the imagination of thousands.  When most people say Tiny House, we see in our minds an image of a Fencl or a Lusby, but it is important to remember that Tiny House come in all shapes and sizes.  This is important because by choosing a Tiny House we are breaking out of a mold, but sometimes we find ourselves in a new mold.  The out-of-the-box thinking that started Tiny Houses must be continued to improve an already great idea.   I submit these five improvements of the Tumbleweed Houses, but the face of Tiny Houses isn’t limited to Tumbleweed by any means.

Radiant Heat Floors

radiant floors

The Tiny House is typically heated by a small boat fireplace, which can run close to $1000, must be vented (which means cutting a hole in the roof) and I don’t like the look of the chimney.  Now radiant floors for those of you who don’t know, are wires inlaid into the subfloor to heat from the bottom up.  This gives a nice cozy feeling for your feet and since heat rises, you are heating the space as a whole.  It has been successfully done in the PAD (portlandalternativedwellings.com)

The best part about this option is that it adds about ½ inch rise on your floor level, which is unnoticeable, while the boat fireplace takes up a lot more space.  The downside to this is you will need electricity.  At 50 square feet (remember you don’t heat areas you don’t walk on) running an hour will need around 6 amps at 120 volts for a total use of ~750 watts.  Most folks are going to have power, so this is pretty reasonable when combined with a programmable thermostat.

Lockers

lockers

I came upon this idea over at Jonathan’s blog (http://gungy.livejournal.com) and it just made sense.  Upstairs in the loft he has created small “lockers” that line the side of his bed.  This frames the mattress, adds storage and keeps things looking neat while still having access to it.  He did an excellent job at taking the existing structure and integrating the storage to match.  The added bonus of this is that your mattress will have less room to shift as you climb in and out of bed.  I would take this option one step further by adapting one of the “lockers” near the head end to have a power outlet inside of it with holes to run cables to the top, this would create a way to charge your cell phone and ipod etc. neatly.

On Demand Water Heater

on demand water heater

This one will certainly take a bit more expertise and planning, but there is one thing I would miss after a long day in the garden is not having a hot shower.  These water heaters are really small, can fit just about anywhere and mean that you only expend energy when you are in need of hot water.  Take all that and top it off with tax credits and it sounds like a great idea.  What is the catch?  You will need electricity (albeit a small amount and propane), which I feel is something that most Tiny House people have, either solar or grid.  You certainly can design it so you can bypass this when you are running off the grid.

Integrated Jacks

jack

One thing many people don’t realize is that if you are going to be setting up in one spot with a Tiny House on a trailer is that just letting it sit there can lead to tire shock, which will put flat spots on your tires or break down the walls faster.  It is probably a good idea to jack the trailer up and remove the tires, this way people can’t steal your house. With jacks you also have a more stable floor, it could be argued that it is safer too.

Integrated jacks aren’t anything new, look at trailers and popup campers, but for $100-200 you can get some nice looking jacks that can be integrated into the trailer so you are never without them.  Be sure to take into account what weight they will be holding, 4 tons per jack will be overkill, but you will never have to worry about it.  The added benefit of these are if you ever get a flat tire on the road, these are already in place and are safer because they are welded to the frame.

Flexible Shelves

flexable shelves

This one is a bit of a stretch, but I decided to add it anyway.  Jay’s craftsmanship is nothing short of beauty, the quality is superb, which is why he is a premium brand.  I felt the need to have my storage in these to be a bit more flexible.  With moveable shelves, rolling shelves, etcetera you are able to accommodate a wider range of items and have them tucked away out of sight.  See my photo here and take a look around my blog for lots of ideas.