Archive for the Tiny House Category

Upgrading My Stairs To My Tiny House

I recently re-leveled my tiny house after some settling had occurred over the past few years.  I had noticed that my sink wasn’t draining all the way and it tipped me off that the house might be a little out of kilter.  So this time around I ended up changing from jack stands to cement blocks and adding more of them so I had a more stable foundation and in the end my entry way was a good bit further off the ground.

before and after stair build

I decided to have a permanent set of steps that was actually tied to the house, not something I could just pick up and go.  I discovered at my local big box hardware store that they had these stair kits.  Basically pre-cut stringers and milled treads that took all the guess work out of it.

When I found them I was surprised how inexpensive they were and for only $9 each, they took all the guess work out of me needing to figure out the complex angles, something I had been dreading.  The treads were around $8 each, but they were nicely milled and the best part, they were designed to fit the stringers perfectly.  So for $58 I had the full kit for my stairs without needing to figure out a single angle or make a single cut!  I was sold!

tools to build stairs

The Tools:

  • Impact Driver
  • Speed Square
  • Carpenter Pencil
  • Ext. self tapping screws
  • Tico hanger nails
  • Palm nailer
  • Shovel
  • Level

 

 

 

Next I dug down to solid dirt and placed two solid blocks, leveled them with sand and then laid the stringers.  After about 30 minutes of fiddling with it I was able to get the blocks, the stringer and the house to all be perfectly aligned.  A quick check with my level and I was off to attach the stringer to the house itself.

To do so I used these flexible angle hangers to firmly attach it to the house.  I was fortunate that behind my trim was 3 inches of solid wood to mount into.  So I got the hangers mounted and then attached the stringers to the brackets with “tico nails” which are galvanized beefy nails that are designed to be used with these metal brackets (very important that you use the right nail to prevent corrosion).

I used this palm nailer for this and shot a quick video showing you how it works because most people haven’t ever heard of this tool.

One I got the bracket nailed in, I nailed the stringers in place, you can see it here:

stair hangers

I rechecked my level, made sure the stringers were going straight out from the house with my speed square and then I started installing the bottom stair.  I did this because I knew the top of the stair was straight and level where I attached it, by doing the bottom stair, I could ensure it was straight and level too.

What this meant was if the bottom and top were all good, everything else would be good to go in between. If the set of stairs had been a longer run, I may have done a little more checking because the longer the board, the greater the warp comes into play.  On this short of a run I wasn’t going to worry about it.

It was here where I decided to add an extra brace in as a redundant support because I’ve never build any stairs before and I just didn’t want to have to worry about it.

stair supports

After I finished all the bracing, way over-engineering it, I dropped in the remaining treads.  Now before someone points it out, my treads aren’t even on purpose.  The left side I aligned the overhang so that it aligned with the outside edge of my house.  I could have cut the treads to match the offset on both sides, but I liked the look and it allowed me to have places to put potted plants on the side without obstructing the main walkway.

new stairs build

A little tidying up and a new welcome mat and I had a nice looking set of stairs!

Your Turn!

  • What projects are you looking forward to on your tiny house?

Winter is coming: How to winterize your tiny house

The one trick to tiny houses in the winter is keeping your water connection from freezing.  In past years I have been too lazy to actually get my pipes ready for winter, but this year I decided I’d take the time to do it up right.

I should start out by saying that I live in NC, where it doesn’t get crazy cold and we get very little snow.  On average I think we’ll have around fifty nights that drop to 32 degrees or below in a given year.  In many cases it just hits 32 degrees for a few hours in the early morning, which isn’t long enough for my water lines to freeze at all.

This year I decided to do a little more winter prep than normal and insulate my lines.  I haven’t taken the step of putting heat tape along the water line yet because I’m running on solar and a heating element such as that would drain my batteries in a heart beat.  IF I was on the grid, I’d be hooking that heat tape up too.

hook up water to tiny house

My tiny house is connect to city water which I ran to my house.  Since I had to run all the underground lines before the house ever was on the property I opted to use a traditional RV setup.  A frost proof hydrant connects to my tiny house via a drinking safe hose (really important to have a potable water hose!).  The inlet is a RV water inlet that installed on the side of my house.

insulate water lines tiny home

I thought about making something more elaborate, requiring wood working, etc. But when I started to price things out I realized that I was looking at spending $100-$200 which was more than I wanted to spend and honestly it would have taken a good bit of time.  I’ve not done this in the past because I was being lazy, so I knew I needed something that was quick and dirty.

That lead me to this method. I got a single roll of insulation for $13 and already had the trash bags and duct tape. This way I wouldn’t have to pull out any power tools and the entire job took about 20 minutes.

Price: Check.  Lazy factor: Check.

I wrapped the batts like this so that I could get the insulation to snug up against the ground nicely while keeping the backing outward for a bit of durability.  Some duct tape to hold it all together and I was done.

no freeze pipe

Next I wrapped the water hose in rubberized foam which was the highest r-value I could find.  I added some duct tape on the outside to make sure it held together nicely and then bagged the whole thing.

So it isn’t a perfect solution, but the black bag is nice way to keep the water out and the outside looking somewhat presentable.  We’ll see how it goes this winter!

 

Your Turn!

  • What seasonal preparations do you need to consider?

Announcing 2018 Tiny House Conference

We are officially launching the 2018 Tiny House Conference website!  I want to invite you to join us in Charlotte, NC to celebrate our 5th Conference!  The Conference will take place on March 17th-18th in south Charlotte for two full days of amazing speakers and connecting with others who are just as passionate about living tiny (or small).

This year I’ve decided to focus the conference on the core things people need to know in order to build and live in a tiny house so we can really dig deep into these topics.  As a result I’m limiting the number of seats to just 100 people so we can have better conversations in a focused format. This means we are definitely going to sell out early.

We have Early Bird special right now that will take $100 off your ticket, but the early bird special ends October 31st!

Find All The Details At
TinyHouseConference.com

Tiny House Stolen!

It’s a nightmare that you’d never want to have happen, but as tiny houses grow, so will the number of them that are stolen.  Watch this video below:

 

Luckily she was able to find the house, but I thought I’d share a few tips to keep your house safe.  There are a few steps to keeping things safe.  Obscurity, Security and Insurance.

Obscurity

Most of the people who have had their tiny houses stolen have one thing in common, they were in plain sight of a road.  Most criminals are crimes of opportunity. This isn’t some Ocean’s 11 heist; they see the house and they grab it.  It’s important to note that obscurity doesn’t equal security, but if someone isn’t able to see it from the road, if it’s existence isn’t known to many, the likelihood of someone stealing it is much lower.

My recommendation is to always have your house hidden from sight.  This causes less issues with neighbors, less issues with the city and less people poking around in general.  Practically speaking, if you house is visible from the road, you’re going to have people who literally stop their car and peer in your windows, not a great thing when you’re stepping out of the shower!

Don’t forget that while your house might not be seen in the summer months, but when the seasons change, all the leaves will drop.  I often suggest budgeting a few hundred dollars for some evergreen shrubs to plant as screens.

Security

Once you have your house hidden from prying eyes, it’s time to make things difficult for someone to waltz in and take your home.  The very sad truth is that if a thief really wants it, they’re going to get it.  All locks and security measures can be canceled out very quickly.  With the advent of battery grinder wheels, I’ve seen even hardened security locks be rendered useless in about 10 seconds.

Lock The Hitch

If a trailer has a hitch lock, it’s that much more difficult for someone to hook it up and go.  I recommend the hitch vault because it surrounds the entire hitch and the pin is difficult to get at.  I used to use a simple hitch pad lock, but one day I needed to get at the hitch and had lost the key.  I grabbed my bolt cutters and, in literally 2 seconds, had it off.

Get It Off The Wheels

This is one of the most effective options in my mind because it represents a huge obstacle for anyone trying to steal the house.  When you get your house in it’s final spot, you need to get it off the wheels anyway to avoid tire shock and tire rot.

What I do is get the house lifted off the ground until I can remove the tires.  I secure it with solid blocks, then I remove all the wheels.  I hide the lug nuts in another location and put the tires in a shed which is also locked.  What this means is if someone wanted to steal my tiny house, they’d have to jack the house up some, break into a shed, find the wheels, carry them over, put them on and then have the correct number and type of lug nuts to fasten them on.  It’s not that likely and if they could, it would take a fair bit of time, which is time they could be caught.

Have A Mean Sounding Dog

Many criminals often steer clear of dogs because they’re unpredictable.  A good sized dog with a mean bark can go a long way to keeping your house and property safe.

Insurance

This is a controversial topic, but I still think its worth mentioning.  I still maintain the stance that even if you are able to get a policy for your tiny house, if you ever had a claim, they’d never honor it.  I’ve written about how little faith I have in insurance companies for tiny houses here.  For standard things like cars, traditional houses, etc. I feel like it is a good practice for people to carry insurance.

If something goes wrong and your home is damaged, has a fire, flood, etc., insurance is how we mitigate risk.  For tiny houses, I feel it’s better to have a wad of cash in the bank, but each person need to make that decision for themselves.

Your Turn!

  • How are you going to protect your house?
  • What tips do you have to share?

Fall Video Intern

This fall I’m taking on an intern to help us with a video project I have going on.  This isn’t one of those “internships” where you get coffee and make copies, so get ready to roll up your sleeves.  We are a small team here at The Tiny Life, which means you’ll have the chance to actually do interesting work.

The main focus of this internship is video editing, creation of YouTube thumbnails and social media marketing.  You’ll need to be in the Charlotte, NC area and be able to come into Tiny Life HQ for around 10-20 hours a week.  This internship is unpaid.

You don’t have to be a wizard with Adobe Premiere or iMovie, but should have the basics.  Part of this will be training you to do new skills and techniques in video editing, social media and online publishing.

Please apply below!