Posts Tagged Construction

How Much Does A 2×4 Weigh?

How Much Does A 2x4 Weigh?

how much does a 2x4 weigh
How Much Does A 2×4 Weigh?

How Much Does A 2×4 WeighWhen tackling your next building project, calculating the weight of your material might be the last thing on your mind … until it comes time to fit everything in your truck. When transporting lumber, your job becomes much easier if you understand how much a 2×4 weighs, and why.

On average, a 2×4 weighs 9 lbs. for an 8-foot board. However, 2×4 weight varies depending on a number of factors, so understanding those variables is key to fitting the right amount of lumber in your truck.

Why Does 2×4 Weight Vary?

Why Does 2x4 Weight VaryThere are a few different elements that determine the weight of a 2×4. Different types of lumber are good for different projects, so the weight of your 2x4s will depend on the type of wood you want for your task. Tree species, lumber treatment, moisture content, and length will all affect how much your 2x4s weigh.

Weight Difference Based On Tree Species

Weight Difference Based On Tree Species

One of the variables that determines the weight of a 2×4 is tree species. Trees vary in density, so the lumber they produce has different weights. For example, Southern Yellow Pine is hard and dense, making these 2x4s heavier per foot than spruce or fir.

weight of treated and untreated lumber

Weight Of 2x4s: Treated Vs Untreated

Treated and untreated lumber are significantly different when it comes to weight. Treated lumber has been soaked in liquid preservatives to prevent water damage and pests.

The moisture content of treated lumber can be up to 75%. Freshly treated lumber is heavier than treated wood that has been drying for a few months, but both weigh more than untreated 2x4s.

2x4s Weight Based On Moisture Content

2x4s Weight Based On Moisture Content

Moisture content is relevant to the weight of all lumber, not just treated wood. Porous cells in the lumber take in moisture from the air.

The two types of untreated lumber: green and kiln-dried. Green lumber is wood that hasn’t gone through any drying process. Kiln-dried wood has been heated, evaporating the moisture in the lumber, making a kiln-dried 2×4 lighter than a green one.

Weight Difference Of 2x4s Based on Length

Weight Difference Of 2x4s By Length

The length of a 2×4 affects its weight. This may seem like an obvious fact, but with all the other variables to keep in mind, it can be an easy one to overlook.

Since a 2x4s weight is impacted by so many factors, weight by foot is the most reliable way to calculate the lumber’s total weight. Once you know the weight by foot based on the factors above, you can then multiply it by the total length to determine the weight of a single 2×4.

tiny house tools

Weight Of A 2x4x8

weight fo 2x4x8 lumberThe species, treatment, and moisture content all affect the weight by foot of a 2×4. Once you have this information, length is the last variable to consider when calculating the total weight. Below, I’ve calculated the untreated weight of 2x4x8s for a few common tree species.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x8

Since the untreated weight by foot of a Ponderosa Pine is 1.02 lbs., a 2x4x8 will weigh approximately 8.2lbs. This is the lightest of the common species listed here.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x8

With an untreated weight by foot of 1.24 lbs., a Douglas Fir 2x4x8 weighs about 9.9lbs. This wood is great for construction because it is stiff and strong despite being relatively lightweight.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x8

An untreated Western Hemlock 2x4x8 weighs around 8.5 lbs., with a weight by foot of 1.06 lbs. One of two commercial species of hemlock, this is often sold under the generic label HEM-FIR.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x8

Southern Yellow Pine is the heaviest species here, with a 2x4x8 untreated board weighing 11.9 lbs, or 1.49 lbs. per foot. It is one of the densest available softwoods and is therefore often used in building construction.

Weight Of A 2x4x10

Weight Of A 2x4x10 lumberThe challenging of weighing 2x4s comes from acquiring the necessary information. Once you know the weight by foot, calculating a 2×4’s weight is as simple as multiplying by the length of the board.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x10

The Ponderosa Pine is a relatively lightweight wood and is widely available for distribution throughout western North America. An untreated 2x4x10 weighs approximately 10.2 lbs.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x10

An untreated Douglas Fir 2x4x10 typically weighs about 12.4 lbs. While this wood is generally available for a modest price, reclaimed or old growth boards can be an expensive construction option.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x10

Classified as a domestic softwood, an untreated Western Hemlock 2x4x10 weighs about 10.6 lbs. It is moderately priced and is commonly used for framing and other construction purposes.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x10

Southern Yellow Pine is dense with a very uneven grain and an abrupt transition from earlywood to latewood. An untreated 2x4x10 board weighs approximately 14.9 lbs.

Weight Of A 2x4x12

Weight Of A 2x4x12 lumberFind below the approximate weight calculations for 2x4x12 boards of several different tree species. These varieties are some of the most commonly used for commercial wood and are widely distributed.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x12

While Ponderosa Pine is technically classified as a yellow (hard) pine, it is significantly less dense than Southern Yellow Pine. An untreated 2x4x12 is only about 12.2 lbs.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x12

Since Douglas Fir trees grow to be very large, they yield a lot of lumber making them very valuable commercial timber. An untreated 2x4x12 board weighs around 14.9 lbs.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x12

An untreated Western Hemlock 2x4x12 weighs about 12.7 lbs. While generally workable, the disparity between soft earlywood and late hardwood can make uneven surfaces in boards.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x12

While there are four species of Southern Yellow Pine, they are indistinguishable from each other, even under microscopic examination. A typical untreated 2x4x12 board weighs 17.9 lbs.

Weight Of A 2x4x16

Weight Of A 2x4x16 lumberWhen calculating the weight of a 2x4x16 board, it is important to know if you’re dealing with treated or untreated wood. I’ve used the untreated weight by foot to calculate below, but some species (like Douglas Fir and Southern Yellow Pine) might be more common or useful as treated 2x4s.

Weight Of A Ponderosa Pine 2x4x16

The IUCN reports Ponderosa Pine as a species of least concern, making these 2x4s a sustainable option for construction use. An untreated 2x4x16 board weighs approximately 16.3 lbs.

Weight Of A Douglas Fir 2x4x16

An untreated Douglas Fir board measuring 2x4x16 will weigh around 19.8 lbs. It is useful to note that this wood typically machines well, but has a moderate tendency to blunt blades.

Weight Of A Western Hemlock 2x4x16

An untreated 2x4x16 weighs approximately 17.0 lbs. However, it is worth noting that this wood is susceptible to insect attacks which can be prevented by pressure treatment.

Weight Of A Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x16

An untreated Southern Yellow Pine 2x4x16 weighs around 23.8 lbs. However, this wood is a preferred species for pressure treatment, and comprises 85% of the treated wood in the United States.

How Many 2x4s Will Fit In My Pickup Truck?

How Many 2x4s Will Fit In My Pickup TruckIf you’re transporting 2x4s, it’s crucial to know the total weight so you can determine the right size cargo for your truck bed. A load that’s too heavy could damage your vehicle, while a load that’s too light will cause unnecessary trips back and forth. Below are the lumber calculations for a few common pickup truck models.

Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

A standard model Ford F-150 can hold up to 1,300 lbs. of cargo in the bed. The total amount of lumber you can transport will depend on the length of your 2x4s, but if we calculate an average board weighing 9 lbs., your truck can handle 144 boards.

Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup

The Dodge Ram 1500 pickup bed can handle 1,240 lbs. The length of board you need may vary depending on your project, but with a typical 2x4x8 at 9 lbs. each, you can carry 137 boards in the bed.

Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup

Chevy Silverado 1500 Pickup Truck

The Chevy Silverado 1500 has the heaviest weight bearing capacity of the three standard trucks I’ve calculated here. The bed can handle 1,650 lbs. of cargo, so this is your best model for projects requiring a large amount of lumber. Using the average of 9 lbs. per 2×4, the Silverado can handle 183 boards.

Chevy Silverado 1500 Pickup Truck

towing a tiny house

Buy or Build A Tiny Home: Cost And Considerations

Buy or Build A Tiny Home: Cost And Considerations

Buy or Build A Tiny Home

NAVIGATION

Making the decision to live in a tiny house is only the beginning of your journey! Once you decide to adopt the tiny life, you’ll need to figure out whether you want to build or buy your tiny home.

There is a lot to consider when making the decision to buy or build, but there are really only a few basic things worth considering most heavily.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I made the decision to build my own tiny house 10 years ago, I had to learn as I went. Since then, I’ve helped over 3,000 people build tiny homes of their own; here is what I’ve learned when it comes to making this critical decision.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Should I Build Or Buy My Tiny House?

Should I Build Or Buy My Tiny House

There are many important questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to build or buy a tiny house. At the end of the day, whichever way you go, you’re going to be investing time, money, and resources into the project. You want to make a decision that will help the outcome be worth your while.

is it better to build or buy a tiny homeWhen I started looking into living tiny, things were totally different than they are today. The tiny house community was a small movement still finding its way. There were fewer tiny home owners and online resources, and there weren’t even any builders until much later in the game.

Keep in mind that I was working for corporate America in the middle of the recession, I had never built anything myself before in my life, and money was tight! For me, the decision was simple, and cost was the major driver.

I was 23, drowning in student loans, and I had always been attracted to the idea of building my own home and learning skills I could use down the line. I knew building my tiny home was the way to go.

Today, the tiny house community has grown so much. There are builders in every state who offer prefabricated, turn-key tiny home models shipped straight to your town. You can also partner with building companies to create custom designs. The opportunities out there are abundant.

How Much Can You Afford To Spend On Your Tiny House?

How Much Can You Afford To Spend On Your Tiny House

The amount of money you have to invest in your tiny house is the most important thing to consider. Money is pretty black and white with things like this; you either have $10,000 or $50,000 to spend on the project, or whatever amount you have. It kind of makes the decision for you.

tiny house kitchenIt’s always going to be more expensive to buy a house through a builder because you’re paying for materials, labor, and their overhead, whereas if you build the home yourself, you’re handling those hoops on your own.

Whether you choose to buy or build, don’t let the size or idea of a tiny house trick you into believing it’s not a huge financial investment. The average tiny home costs about $27,000. However, the price of tiny homes has a huge range because of how many elements are considered.

It really comes down to how much you’re able to spend. Be honest about where you’re at financially and act according to the numbers, not according to your desires.

how much does a tiny house cost

Can You Put In The Time And Effort Required To Build A Tiny House?

Can You Put In The Time And Effort Required To Build A Tiny House

If you choose to build your home yourself, you’re looking at a year of time dedicated to the project at the very minimum. When I say a year, I don’t mean like when you commit to a book club for a year and have a couple meetings a month. I’m talking dedicating the bulk of your weekends and weekday leisure time to your tiny home.

getting a grip on a busy scheduleWhen I was building my tiny house, I was going to work during the day, and when I wasn’t working, I was either planning, buying materials, researching, building, or sleeping. There wasn’t much time to do anything else.

I’ve had friends who think they want to build their own tiny home, but when I tell them how much time and effort it actually takes, they realize they can’t afford a commitment like that at this time in your life.

I’m not saying this to discourage the building option. Like I said before, I built my own tiny home and would definitely choose that route again! However, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of what goes into building a tiny home so you can decide if you’re able to actually do it. The worst feeling is getting halfway through a project you’ve invested so much time and money in only to have to abandon it halfway through.

Maybe you’re raising four kids right now, you have a really demanding full-time job, or you just don’t feel like you’re in the place to invest all your time and energy into this. However, just because you don’t feel like you can go all in right now, doesn’t mean the dream of building your own tiny house cannot become a reality down the road.

Do You Have Building Experience?

Do You Have Building Experience

If you want to go the building route, having previous building experience is a big advantage. But it’s not an absolute necessity.
I went from being a corporate businessman to a skilled builder through the process of building my tiny home. The whole experience was a huge learning process for me and gave me confidence and lifelong skills I still use today. Trust me — if I can do it, anyone can.

Just because everyone can learn, though, doesn’t mean that everyone is ready to. It’s not easy, and it takes hard work, being a corporate desk worker meant I wasn’t used to long days of heavy physical work. If you aren’t feeling ready to do it all on your own, consider asking friends, family, or neighbors who have the skills to come over and grab a hammer.

Even if you have lots of people to help, realize that you’re going to still be doing a ton of work and, sometimes, having people help you can actually slow you down.

One of my last and most important pieces of advice: make sure you have health insurance if you’re building your own tiny home.

Not only can building be challenging, but just like with any construction project, you can get hurt. I’ve had two friends put a nail through their hand with a nail gun and one friend fall off a ladder and break her back. Of course, injuries won’t happen to everyone, but you want to stay safe above all else.

tiny house design and build collection

How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Design?

How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Design

Another thing to consider when deciding to buy or build is how personal you want your home to be. There are so many options out there when it comes to partnering with a builder and creating a custom design, but it’s still someone else’s work at the end of the day.
Even with the closest builder-to-buyer relationship, there may still be elements of your home that don’t turn out exactly the way you had wanted. If you’re building the house yourself, you’ll have full control over every decision and detail!

how to design a tiny house

How Quickly Do You Want To Start Living In Your Tiny House?

How Quickly Do You Want To Start Living In Your Tiny House

Time is another important factor to keep in mind. Like I mentioned before, if you’re building your own tiny house, it will likely take you a year at the very least. Probably closer to two years, realistically.

With a building company, a custom design will take some time, but not as much time as building your own home. The fastest option is to buy a prefabricated model and get it shipped to you. The route you choose will depend on how quickly you want to unlock your door and say, “home sweet home.”

Buying Verses Building A Tiny Home: Cost Comparison

Buying Verses Building A Tiny Home Cost Comparison

Cost is ultimately the biggest consideration when deciding to buy or build your tiny house. Whatever way you cut it, building yourself is the cheapest option. However, there are many specifics ways you can buy verses build, and they’re all going to vary in price.

The Cost To Build A Tiny House

When it comes to building, the price is going to vary depending on several factors. A tiny house is not one lump sum, but is instead made up of many individual parts that add up to the total cost.

The Cost To Buy A Tiny House

The cost of buying a tiny house is much more cut-and-dry. Since the tiny house has already been built, you’re paying for materials and labor that are no longer malleable. The price for a tiny house you buy is what it is. For some people, that makes the entire process easier. Others would rather have more of a say over each detail of their home.

What Are You Paying For In A Tiny House?

What Are You Paying For When You Buy Or Build A Tiny House

There are lots of things to consider that affects where those dollars go, whether you buy or build. Either way, you’re investing in materials, labor, and other elements of the home. I want to spell those things that cost you in order to help you make the most informed decision possible.

The Bulk Of Your Cost Is Materials

The Bulk Of Your Cost Is Materials

Whether you buy or build your tiny house, a large portion of the cost will be materials. This includes buying the actual lumber, screws, wiring, plumbing, doors, windows — anything that goes into a home.

You’re paying for these materials whether you assemble the house yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. This means that you want to invest in high-quality materials where it makes the most sense, while cutting costs where you can to mitigate the price.

tiny house plumbing
tiny house tools
tiny house electrical

Paying For Labor Can Add Up Quickly

Paying For Labor Can Add Up Quickly

The next thing to consider when breaking down the cost of a tiny house is the price you pay for labor. This is the differentiating factor when we’re talking buying or building.

A general rule of thumb is that labor is usually proportional to the material costs. Take the cost of the house you want to build, and if you’re going to have someone build it for you, double the price.

While it is ultimately more expensive to hire a builder and invest in the labor, you know it will be done right (hopefully). If you build the home yourself, you don’t have to pay for labor, but you run the risk of making mistakes that could end up being costly down the line.

tiny house building checklist cta

Ways To Save Money On Your Tiny Home

Ways To Save Money On Your Tiny Home

Whether or not you decide to buy or build, there are ways to specifically mitigate cost. However, there are also some elements where going cheaper may reduce the quality of your home. Staying informed on where to cut corners and where not to is key, whether you’re buying or building.

Money-Saving Measures In Your Tiny House

Money-Saving Measures In Your Tiny House

There are several areas where you can save money without reducing the quality of your home. This isn’t the case with every element, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know what works.

Things To Spend Less On: Floors, Cabinets and Fixtures

tiny house floors

Floors

The nice thing about flooring is that, square footage wise, tiny houses are small. It doesn’t actually take a lot of flooring to cover your home. If you’re looking for a place to cut costs in your budget, flooring is the first place I’d start. The best thing about saving on flooring is if you decide down the line that you want to make a change, it’s not set in stone.

tiny house cabinets

Cabinets

Cabinets are another feature you can spend a ton of money on unnecessarily. I would suggest going with Ikea cabinets or a pre-built, project cabinet kit from Lowes or Home Depot. You can stain them or paint them yourself, and they have tons of styles and sizes. This is the most affordable option.

tiny house fixtures

Fixtures

You can also save big on fixtures. With lighting fixtures, you can find some good deals or go secondhand. With plumbing fixtures, I’d stick to standard, off-the-shelf models.

Overall, whether you choose to buy or build your tiny house, you can make decisions that cut costs without sacrificing quality. At the end of the day, both options have pros and cons, but it really comes down to what works for you, your partner, or your family.

Tiny House Elements You Should Not Cut Corners On

Tiny House Elements You Should Not Cut Corners On

The last thing you want to do is spend less money on things you should really be investing in, compromising the quality of your home. There are some elements of your tiny home, whether buying or building, that it’s worth spending more on the front end to save yourself from spending a lot on repairs down the road.

Things To Spend More On: Trailer, Roof, Windows & Doors

tiny house trailers

Trailers

My recommendation has always been to buy a brand-new trailer from a reputable source. That’s your foundation, and you don’t want to cheap out on your foundation because your whole house is built on it.

I’ve seen people try to buy used trailers or build their own, and it’s just not the way to go. Every single person I’ve talked to who has pursued a used trailer has regretted it. Unless you’re a metal fabricator, don’t even go down that road.

tiny house roofing materials

Roof

Second, invest in your roof. Your roof protects everything, because everything in your home sits below it. Your overhead protection is not worth skimping out on. I personally like standing C metal roofs because they are wind resistant and hold up for a long time. It’s much easier for shingles to fly off when driving down the road, so I’d avoid that route.

tiny house windows and doors

Windows and Doors

When it comes to windows and doors, go with stock sizes. Custom designs can triple or quadruple your cost, and there’s no need to go this route when you can get stock sizes for the same quality.

Just be sure to invest in quality products. These are the parts of your home that lead to the outside world, so refraining from cutting corners here will keep your house protected from things like bugs or the elements.

Your Turn!

  • Are you planning to build or buy your tiny home and why?
  • How will you strategically save money when you buy or build?

How To Build An Underground Home

How To Build An Underground Home

how to build an underground house

NAVIGATION

When you hear underground house, you may picture a bunker, a cave, or your local prepper’s stuffed basement. But what if I told you many people live in underground homes by choice, just for the perks?

It may sound bizarre to envision someone living underground by choice and not due to an apocalypse or another crazy circumstance. However, underground homes are not actually the dark, humid, cave-like dwellings you may be picturing. These homes can be avant-garde, energy efficient, and designed in a classy, aesthetically appealing way, which is why they’re loved by people all over the world.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

While I truly enjoy my life in my tiny home above ground, the sustainability and energy efficiency of underground homes have definitely caused me to consider life underground!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Are Underground Houses?

What Are Underground Houses

Underground homes are defined by the fact that they are partially, or sometimes entirely, built into the earth. There are many types of underground houses. For example, earth shelters are houses that are entirely underground, while earth berm homes are only partially built into the earth.

The way a builder combines the earth and home varies depending on the needs or vision of the homeowner, which can give you the opportunity to be creative.

Oftentimes, these homes are built into the sides of a large hill with one side left open to the elements. There are also models that are built above ground, but are strategically covered in thick layers of ground material.

underground house entrance

What Are Earth Shelters Made Of?

What Are Earth Shelters Made Of

The materials used in an earth-sheltered structure will vary depending on characteristics and typography of the site as well as the design you have in mind for your earth shelter home.

An elevation-style home is going to be built into the earth or hill, causing its layering to be primarily dirt and ground with clay and concrete support. A berm, or penetrational-style home, is built above ground, but buried or bermed on all sides of the home. These houses will be packed in by a specific covering that is commonly layered with the following materials.

Layering Materials

  • Dirt & Grass
  • Wicking Fabric
  • Dirt Layer
  • Rubber membrane
  • Sand
  • Concrete
underground house construction diagram

Building An Underground House: The Advantages

Advantages of Building An Underground House

Living in an underground home may seem interesting, but is building one yourself truly worth it? Sure, it’s a pretty out-of-the-box way to live. However, in my own life, I’ve found that taking the path less traveled is often one of the most rewarding lifestyles to choose.

I had the opportunity to talk with Jon D’Aleo, who spends his time designing and building earth-sheltered homes at Formworks. Jon had a lot to say about the core advantages of living in an earth-sheltered home.

Underground Houses Are Energy Efficient

Underground Houses Are Energy Efficient

One of the biggest pulls for living in an underground house is that they are energy efficient, which is becoming a more and more popular way to live. Due to the air tight design of these structures, underground houses use far less energy than traditional homes.

Not only is this good for mother nature, it’s also good for your wallet! With an intelligent build, underground homes can actually reduce your HVAC bill by 40–70%. We can all agree that cutting costs wherever you can is a great feeling!

Jon DAleo

“The blanket of earth material over your structure keeps the temperature constant. You’re taking advantage of the heating and cooling of the earth itself, increasing energy efficiency.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Underground Houses Protect You From Severe Weather

Underground Houses Protect You From Severe Weather

A home that is specifically built to protect you from harsh weather is always a wise move when you have a family and assets to protect. Earth-sheltered houses are protected by thick, heavy layers of earthy material that sit on top of the structure, protecting your home from most natural disasters.

No house is invincible. However, it’s much harder for a berm home nestled into the ground to be uprooted by a tornado, earthquake, or storm than it is for a traditional house.

Jon DAleo

“You’re in a lot better shape in a green roof home when it comes to natural disasters because the foundation is embedded into the earth. Your home moves with the ground.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Underground Homes Have Less Upkeep

Underground Homes Have Less Upkeep

I often feel like I spend all of the time I’m not working maintaining and repairing my house. No one likes to spend all of their free time on chores!

The idea behind earth-sheltered homes is that they are entirely air tight. This means, if constructed correctly, these houses should not require half as much upkeep as a traditional home. There is less room for things to go awry, allowing you to spend more time living in your home and less time repairing it.

Underground Houses Help With Noise Control

Underground Houses Help With Noise Control

There is nothing more irritating than a home with really bad noise control where you can hear everything: neighbors yelling, construction equipment being used, and car horns blaring. Underground homes provide an entirely natural noise barrier due to its air-tight covering and natural insulation. This can bring your family peace and quiet without having to break the bank to soundproof your whole home.

Underground Homes Have Low Visibility

Underground Homes Have Low Visibility

Earth-sheltered houses blend into the landscape more naturally than traditional houses. This low visibility is attractive to homeowners who want to live independent lives, out of the way of the general public. Owners of underground homes love the way their earth berm homes blend into the beauty of the natural scenery around them.

Underground Houses Are Aesthetically Pleasing

Underground Houses Are Aesthetically Pleasing

When you picture living underground full time, you might picture a dark and dreary environment. Yet underground houses often provide the exact opposite of that. Earth-shelter homes are actually known for their aesthetically pleasing interior full of satisfying architectural details and natural light.

Jon DAleo

“These homes allow you to get away from the conventional, 90-degree, room-to-room relationships. You’re able to create open space, cathedral-like ceilings, arch openings, and other creative architectural details.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Building An Underground House: Problems And Solutions

Building An Underground House Problems And Solutions

There are a myriad of reasons why living in an underground home is a worthwhile move, but living full-time in one of these structures will also bring about its own unique set of problems. If you’re aware of the common obstacles of life underground, it will be easier to solve them as they come up!

Are Underground Homes Safe?

Are Underground Homes Safe

People always want to know whether or not underground homes are safe to live in. Legally, they have to be. Earth-sheltered houses have to meet the exact same building codes, residential codes, and safety standards as any other traditional home within its respective jurisdiction.

It makes sense that the idea of a cliffside home built into a hill might spark fear, but these homes have to meet the same safety standards as the two-story models in the middle of suburbia. For me, knowing this eases my mind when I think about alternative housing options.

Will My Earth Shelter House Have Mold?

Will My Earth Shelter House Have Mold

Heat is easily trapped underground, especially with the highly insulated, air-tight builds of underground homes. The high-humidity levels can bring about an increase in condensation which, unfortunately, can breed mold. You can attack festering mold with Clorox wipes and copper sulfate, but you don’t really want to be scrubbing up mold on your hands and knees all the time. It’s much better to get ahead of the problem.

One way to do this is to invest in a humidistat. The device connects to a dehumidifier and kick on when it reads the humidity as being higher than a certain level. The dehumidifier will become your best friend. These suckers will suck a surprising amount of humidity right out of the air — a lot more than you’d think!

underground house design pro tip

“Use a whole house-ventilation system when it comes to condensation. It works off a supply and return, intake and exhaust system, which helps get good quality, fresh air into the living space and reduce humidity.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Will My Underground House Have Enough Airflow?

Will My Underground House Have Enough Airflow

Being underground can get stuffy, and you may worry that your underground house won’t have enough air flow. With poor planning, that can sometimes be the case. It’s important that you plan an earth-sheltered house with extreme care to ensure adequate ventilation is achieved in your house.

Elements of ensuring proper ventilation is twofold. You want to make sure your earth-shelter house is built to support a fast air exchange rate, or the speed with which your home replaces polluted air with fresh air. This will, in turn, provide higher overall air quality.

Ways To Improve Air Quality Inside Your Home

  • Using combustion appliances
  • Avoiding indoor pollutants
  • Using energy recovery ventilators
  • Buying air purifiers
  • Changing your AC filter
  • Cleaning your air ducts
  • Buying house plants
houseplants improve air quality
berm house pro tip

“To improve air flow, design your exterior like a dome instead of a box. The open, rounded space gives the air the ability to move extremely well.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

How Do I Ensure My Earth Shelter House Has Enough Light?

How Do I Ensure My Earth Shelter House Has Enough Light

You might imagine an underground home would be dark and gloomy, but that’s actually a common misconception about earth shelter homes. Underground houses have to meet standard building regulations in the same manner as traditional homes, despite all the differences in structure. This is especially true when it comes to light.

Earth-shelter homes tend to be strategically designed to incorporate copious amounts of natural light — large windows, high ceilings, and glass or reflective surfaces are often used in underground homes. This brings in as much natural light as possible and keeps the space feeling open.

Contractors will often build light tubes into the roofs of the structure to pull in sunlight and distribute it throughout the interior of the underground home. These light tubes use reflective materials to transmit light through any sized space.

What If My Underground Home Has Leaks?

What If My Underground Home Has Leaks

Leaks and flooding can be a big concern when it comes to underground life. Water flows downward, and it’s fairly common for moving groundwater to weasel its way into your earth-shelter home. So what do you do if you start to notice sagging wet spots on your ceiling and walls?

You want to catch the problem before it gets to that point by triple checking your initial design and effectively leak proofing it in the building stages.

Leakproof your earth shelter

  • Using plastic / vulcanized sheets
  • Filling in panels with bentonite
  • Using rubberized asphalt on roof
  • Sealing windows and doors with caulk
  • Installing weatherstripping
Seal windows and doors with caulk

However, if you do find yourself wading through puddles, you can use liquid epoxy to fill in holes and cracks where there is water coming in. This will hopefully divert some of the groundwater away from your house.

underground house construction pro tip

“Limit the amount of flat areas on your home. Lay out the exterior shell with valleys and intersections that allow water to move off of the shelter.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Will My Underground House Attract More Pests?

Will My Underground House Attract More Pests

Ideally, your earth shelter should be designed in such an air-tight manner that pests and critters don’t have space to make a home. However, when you’re living underground, you’re technically in mother nature’s territory.

I have heard several friends who live in earth-shelter homes talk extensively about ants, centipedes, and termites getting into their walls and rooms. Others say it isn’t a problem in the slightest! If you do find yourself meeting your match with pests, fill in wall gaps and seal off doors and windows just like you would in a traditional home.

how to build an undergraound house pro tip

“Pests and critters are often attracted to crawl spaces. Build your home with a slab on grade foundation to keep it tight to the earth and prevent pests.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

Design Inspiration For An Underground Home

Design Inspiration For An Underground Home

I’m a simple guy, so if I were to move my tiny life underground, I would probably build as small and minimal of a house as possible. However, I know some people prefer more spacious, elaborate homes with big rooms and intricate designs. Whatever your style, there is a design out there for your underground home.

Oval-Shaped Underground House

Oval-Shaped Underground House

This modern earth shelter is perfect for families who live in the countryside, surrounded by rolling hills. The design is set up with low visibility and the house can only be seen from one side of the structure. The underground house layout includes a gorgeous patio and stone-walled kitchen, bedroom, and living room for your family to inhabit.

Oval Underground House
Round Shaped Underground House
round shaped underground house interior
oval underground house interior

Modern Earth Berm Home

Modern Earth Berm Home

This earth berm model is partially built into a hill, while part of the home extends out of the hill and into the woods. The front-facing side of the design is covered in glass to increase natural light, while the walls are lined with stone. The house has an underground and ground level with several gorgeous balconies.

Modern Earth Berm House
Modern Earth Berm House Facade
Modern Earth Berm Balcony
Modern Earth Berm House Roof
Modern Earth Berm House Kitchen
Modern Earth Berm House Plans

Underground Hobbit House

Underground Hobbit House

This whimsical hobbit house is perfect for The Lord of The Rings fans, or anyone looking to add a splash of fantasy to their reality. The home is entirely underground and covered in grass and earth. The interior walls are lined with stone and brick, and surround a bedroom, living room, and pool room.

Underground Dome-Shaped Earthen Shelter

Underground Dome-Shaped Earthen Shelter

This model has extremely low visibility. In fact, you could walk right on top of the roof and never know there was someone living underneath the ground! The rounded dome shape allows for air to move as freely as possible throughout this fully underground earth shelter.

Hobbit House Built Into The Hillside

Hobbit House Built Into The Hillside

Another whimsical choice, this hobbit house is built entirely into its surrounding hill. The home design includes a kitchen, bedroom, and living room that embody the rustic, woodsy feeling of Middle Earth. The standout feature of this design is the doorway — a perfect circular doorway framed in dark wood.

Green Roof Homes For Rent On Airbnb

Green Roof Homes For Rent On Airbnb

If you’re searching for a way to live with many relatives or extended family in your underground house, a design like this one may work will for you. These half dome, green roof tiny houses are connected by an outdoor patio and yard area. The exterior of the homes are covered in glass to allow natural light.

Cozy Underground House For A Family

Cozy Underground House For A Family

These earth shelters are unique in the way that they incorporate natural elements into the inside of the home as well as the outside. The house is fully submerged in the earth, with interior walls lined with beige and white stone. It offers low visibility and uses trees, bark, and plants throughout the inside of the house.

Natural Limestone Plaster Home Built Into Hill

Natural Limestone Plaster Home Built Into Hill

Personally, this design is one of my favorites due to the way the floorplan is woven into the natural shape of the earth. This house is almost entirely hidden to the outside world, but the high ceilings allow for tons of room underground. The uniformity of the white stone throughout the exterior and interior is also a nice touch.

Half Dome Earth Shelters For Multiple Families

Half Dome Earth Shelters For Multiple Families

These designs are also a great option if you want to live close to relatives or other families. These earth shelters are built into surrounding hills but still have one outside facing wall. While this model has a smaller interior, it’s great for minimalists who want to try living with less.

How To Build An Underground House

How To Build An Underground House

You don’t need an expert build and design team to create an earth shelter home! But it does take strategic planning, time, effort, and safe execution to maintain such an innovative living space. You definitely can be your own general contractor for a project like this if you stay educated and willing to get help where it makes sense.

1Step One: Do Your Own Research

Before you break ground for something this major, do your research. This step is vital. Every element of a project — cost, design, materials, insulation, wall framing, land, upkeep, and more is going to vary from the process you go through with a traditional house.

Don’t assume you know the answers. Look up the things you have questions about to pave the way for yourself before you even begin building your underground home.

2Step Two: Find Your Own Land

You can’t build your dream earth shelter without the right land. Typography is a huge part of what makes or breaks an underground house. Consider whether you want your earth shelter built into a hill, on top of your land covered in ground, or entirely underground. The type of land you select will determine the type of home you’re able to build and how easy the process will be.

A more horizontal slope will require more excavation than a vertical one, meaning the flatter the land the more strenuous it will be to dig out your shelter. You can build earth shelters into any kind of land, but most experts agree that land with gentle rolling hills and south facing slopes is most desirable.

finding land for your house

3Step Three: Plan Your Design

Planning your underground home wisely is key. Every detail matters when you’re attempting to work your design into the caricature of preexisting land. You’ll want to strategically place your largest room in spaces where the hill opens up, integrate light tubes in darker areas, and account for dips or bends in the earth when drawing out your floorplan.

You’ll also want to make sure your initial design sets you up for success in all ways. This includes combatting common obstacles earth shelter homes can bring about.

how to design a tiny house

4Step Four: Submit For A Building Permit

The building permit process for an underground home and a traditional house is likely the same, even if the outcome is different. Your underground home will need to be designed and built to the safety, residential, and building codes in your jurisdiction, the same way a traditional home would. It’s likely, though, that you may have to get a little more creative to make it happen.

5Step Five: Begin The Building Process

Now it’s time to break ground and begin building your earth shelter. Before you break ground, you’ll need to pre-mark the area on your property that you want to excavate with stakes and white paint. It’s also likely that you’ll need to hire an excavator. You can search for professional excavators online.

Make sure to pay close attention to your landscape and the type of soil you have on your land. Let that inform the tools and equipment you’ll need for your build.

Are Utilities Managed Differently In An Underground House?

Are Utilities Managed Differently In An Underground House

For the most part, yes! Since underground homes have to meet all of the same building codes as a traditional house, you treat utilities the same way you would for any house. However, there are a few tricks you can employ to make sure you set your utilities up in the best way you can underground.

For one, you want to design your house with an open floorplan and structural shell to keep your HVAC supported. As mentioned before, a whole house ventilation system can help improve your air quality while reducing humidity.

Another thing you should do is plan your electricity earlier than you might for a traditional house. With an earth shelter, you can run certain elements through a conduit on the actual shell of your house. Most other utilities like hot water access, sewage, internet, and plumbing is all fairly standard.

tiny house utilities

Cost To Build An Underground House

Cost To Build An Underground House

Underground houses may have a higher upfront price tag where building and design is concerned, but there are other costs that can be cut to make the playing field more even when compared to traditional housing.

With HVAC, strategic planning can cut up to 90% of the cost out of a home over time because the energy efficiency continues to grow with the life of the home.

Jon DAleo

“Your rough end cost will be more than a traditional home, but when you consider the lifetime and the longevity of this style of house, you end up saving money.”

– Jon D’Aleo, Formworks Building

It will likely cost somewhere between $130 to $150 per square foot to build a house like this. While that’s higher than a traditional house, the alternative values that the berm homes come with can be worth the higher investment on the front end if you play your cards right.

The smartest way to make back what you invest in a property like this is to register it with green building insurance coverage. This is a specific type of insurance for energy-efficient properties that can protect properties that may incur damage for being eco-friendly. This is the best way to protect your green roof home, and your wallet.

Is The Value Of An Underground Home Worth My Investment?

Is The Value Of An Underground Home Worth My Investment

Deciding whether an underground house is genuinely worth the investment in the long run is a big decision. Do you want to invest now so you can save later? The longevity of houses like this can last for up to 100 years, which can easily turn into properties passed down generationally.

You can also make money off of alternative properties like this through long-term renters or Airbnb. However, at the end of the day it will come down to whether or not the expensive investment is the right financial move for you and your family.

Using Underground Homes As Airbnb Rentals

Using Underground Homes As Airbnb Rentals

In today’s renter market, quirkier stays are in high demand. Airbnb has an entire “offbeat” section of properties for its most abnormal living experiences. What better way to join the fun than by turning your berm home into an Airbnb? You can become a host at Airbnb by clicking “add listing” at the top of their homepage.

Underground homes may not be very traditional, but neither are tiny homes. To me, earth shelters embody what simple living is about by encouraging an off-grid, eco-friendly, private life.

underground-home-as-air-bnb-rental

Your Turn!

  • How will you design your underground house?
  • Where will you choose to live in your earth shelter?

What To Know About Building A Tiny House Using SIPs

What To Know About Building A Tiny House Using SIPs

 What To Know About Building A Tiny House Using SIPs

Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more about tiny houses built using structural insulated panels (SIPs). In fact, I’d say tiny houses built with SIP panels have become a bit of a cult hit in the tiny house world.

SIPs are nothing new, and they have yet to make any major strides. While I’ve seen a few houses built with them and even participated in building one myself, the building process hasn’t been fully refined. That said, I wanted to share what I know and some intriguing research on using these highly insulated materials to make a SIP tiny house.

Here’s what you should know if you’re considering building a tiny house using SIPs.

NAVIGATION

What Are SIPs?

what are sips

I must admit that researching SIPs left me craving an ice cream sandwich. Why? Because that’s exactly what these structural insulated panels look like. The “cookie” layer is comprised of OSB (oriented strand board) and the inner “ice cream” layer is made of expanded polystyrene foam. These layers are bonded together to create rigid four to 12-inch thick prefabricated panels that make excellent building materials for tiny homes.

Now, not all SIPs are made from OSB and polystyrene. Some use other insulators like polyurethane. Others may use outer layers of plywood, fiber cement, gypsum, or even metal. SIP panels are highly engineered products that are almost always created in a factory setting using machines to apply glue and pressure to bond the SIP together and cure just right.

Prefab SIPs come in various sizes, but most are between 4×8 feet and 8×24 feet. They can be challenging to modify after they leave the factory, so designers and builders usually work within the parameters of the standard sizes — like constructing with blocks.

sip panel design
sip panel construction
For those who are interested in engineering, SIPs are a fascinating option — a material created by modern technology. Building with SIPs eliminates the need for studs and framing, which results in more efficient walls. Wood is a pretty poor insulator, and when you construct a traditional wall, you usually have studs spaced every 16 to 24 inches. You then roll the insulation between the studs, but the studs themselves act as a thermal bridge that allows cold and heat to seep into your home.

tiny house insulation

Building a tiny house using SIPs, on the other hand, means you’ve got a super-efficient, airtight construction. The polystyrene foam is closed cell, making it an excellent insulator that is both high in R Value and rigid in strength.

As tiny house wall panels, they provide plenty of protection. The R-values are around 7 per inch, and with SIP panels that are 4 inches thick, that’s an R-rating of 28 — more than double the rating of a traditional wall with studs. You can go even thicker with SIPs as well, should you desire, just keep in mind that your window sills will be deeper and your interior space will be smaller because of it. Either way, they’re very energy efficient.

Another benefit is that because prefab SIP panels are bonded in a factory, there are no air gaps. You don’t have to worry about insulation slumping over time because it’s one solid, rigid piece. The polystyrene acts as a vapor barrier and an air barrier as well as a thermal layer.

The Pros And Cons Of Building A Tiny House Using SIPs

Pros And Cons Of Building A Tiny House Using SIPs

SIP Tiny House Pros

  • High insulation rating
  • Simple to use
  • Cuts down on construction time
  • Quality controlled by manufacturer

SIP Tiny House Cons

  • Requires a high level of planning
  • Difficult to adapt and change
  • Requires significant lead time
  • May bother people with chemical sensitivities

Aside from the incredible efficiency and insulation properties of these tiny house wall panels, SIPs have many other pros as well. Let’s expand a little on the pros and cons of SIPs mentioned above.

Pro: SIPs Have A High Insulation Rating

SIPs Have A High Insulation Rating Tiny House Propane Cook Tops And Stoves

First, as I mentioned before, SIPs have an excellent insulation rating. They’re often used by tiny house builders who are looking for something more efficient that traditional framing. Wooden SIPs are very strong. Metal SIPs have drawbacks and can be challenging to work with, but they are used in light commercial construction and home construction in places like Florida because of hurricane resistance.

Pro: SIPs Are Simple To Use

SIPs Are Simple To Use

SIPs can simplify your build. But one thing to keep in mind is that you will have to use an AutoCAD computer program when designing your home. Many homeowners build from a sketch or rough plans, but when working with SIPs, you need a technical 3D rendering to have it thoroughly planned out beforehand as the SIPs are built and cut to fit the plan. Once your house is planned out technically, though, the construction process is simple and requires little more than an Allen key wrench and a second pair of hands.

Pro: A SIP Tiny House Requires Less Construction Time

A SIP Tiny House Requires Less Construction Time

You can construct a SIP tiny home in about six hours with the help of two to three people. That means you’ll have walls up, a roof on, and a floor laid in a day. If you’re paying for a builder to construct your tiny home using SIP panels, you’re going to save money on build time and labor. Yes, the up-front cost is slightly higher, but you’ll break even when you figure in the savings on construction time.

Pro: SIPs Are Quality Controlled

SIPs Are Quality Controlled

Because SIPs are manufactured in a controlled factory setting, they’re uniform, quality controlled, and ready to go when you buy. In addition, most SIP manufacturers are highly familiar with the product and materials. They oversee every step — from construction to gluing and drying — so when you purchase SIPs, you can feel comfortable that you’re getting a good product.

Con: Lots of Planning Is Required For Building A SIP Tiny House

Lots of Planning Is Required For Building A SIP Tiny House

As mentioned above, when you build a tiny house using SIPs, you will likely need to work with a professional designer or architect. Everything must be 3D rendered and carefully planned before you build. The panels are pre-cut for electrical and other utilities. Yes, you can modify them slightly as you go, but the material isn’t easy to change because the walls are solid, dense, and hard to cut.

Con: Tiny House Wall Panels Are Difficult To Adapt Or Change

Tiny House Wall Panels Are Difficult To Adapt Or Change

When you start building your tiny house using SIPs, you WILL find something that you need to change — it’s practically inevitable. But even changing wire placement in your tiny house wall panels can be an ordeal. To run a wire, you’d take a large ball bearing, heat it with a blow torch, drop it into the foam and let it burn through to fish your wire through the wall. As you can imagine, this is a tricky and difficult process (not to mention a bit dangerous). Utility re-routing is nearly impossible, so plan upfront very carefully.

Con: Getting SIPs Can Mean Long Lead Times

Getting SIPs Can Mean Long Lead Times

Because SIPs require so much lead time and planning, they can take several months to arrive. First, you need to work with a designer or architect to map out your plans. Then, you’ll send your plans to a SIP manufacturer for production and wait for them to create the SIPs. You’ll also need to figure in shipping time if you don’t plan to pick up the SIPs yourself. If you’re in a rush to get into your tiny house, SIPs may not be the way to go.

Con: Chemicals Are Used In SIP Construction

Chemicals Are Used In SIP Construction

A tiny house made from SIPs may not be an ideal option for someone sensitive to chemicals. OSB board, polystyrene, and the glue for bonding the panels can all let off some low-level chemicals during the initial curing process, but are largely inert after the first 48 hours. So while most of us wouldn’t need to worry about off-gassing as an issue after a few weeks, those with chemical sensitivities and allergies may want to reconsider working with SIPs.

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Tiny House Using SIPs?

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Tiny House Using SIPs

Of course, one of the biggest questions any tiny house builder has to ask is how much will it cost? How much is it to build a tiny house using SIPs versus traditional construction?

The short answer is that it costs about $5,000 for the SIPs to build a tiny home. That’s just for the materials themselves and doesn’t include the plan engineering, design, or architecture. That price also doesn’t include paying builders to construct your home. But honestly, once you get the SIPs, you can usually build it yourself with the help of a friend. The construction is quite simple.

The price of the panels doesn’t include the costs for setting up the electric, utilities, or finishing, either. The SIPs only cover your framing, sheathing, vapor barrier, and insulation.

Another cost factor to consider is the transportation of the SIPs. Since the panels are constructed in a factory, you’ll need to get them to your location one way or another, and shipping can really add up.

sip panels pro tipSave money on shipping by picking up your SIPs yourself! Take your tiny house trailer to the factory and have them load it up. Driving the SIPs to the construction site on your own will save you a bundle on shipping costs.

So how does building a tiny house with SIPs compare to the cost of building a traditional tiny house?

It’s really quite similar. Insulation for a tiny house costs up to $3,000 in spray foam, depending on the type you use. Lumber and sheathing would be around $1,000, possibly higher depending on the market, and your vapor barrier is about $150 to $250.

While traditional materials may add up to be slightly cheaper (but still comparable), you should also consider the construction costs. With SIPs, you’re building in a day, whereas a traditional tiny house can take a few weeks to build.

how much does a tiny house cost

Your R-value will also be better for your roof when you build a tiny house using SIPs, thanks to the excellent insulation qualities. You may even be able to get away with a smaller HVAC system. The cost savings could be around $500 to $700, depending on your system.

On the other hand, you will need to consider additional ventilation when you construct with SIPs. Traditional houses “breathe,” letting in air from the outside, heating or cooling it, and circulating it through the home because it’s not perfectly sealed. The airtight aspect of SIP construction needs the assistance of a ventilation system to exchange the air, dehumidify it, and keep it from getting stuffy or even toxic.

All of this can be accomplished with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator). Fortunately, these can be added to your HVAC system without a high cost and will give you the added benefit of control over your air quality. As a result, you can enjoy precisely filtered and safe air in your tiny home.

After all is said and done, building a tiny house with SIPs is nearly the same as a traditional home when it comes to cost. You may enjoy a home that’s more energy efficient and comfortable, however, should you choose to build using SIPs.

How to Build A Tiny House Using SIPs

How to Build A Tiny House Using SIPs

Now to get into the technical aspects of building a tiny house with SIPs. As I mentioned before, wooden OSB SIPs are pretty easy to work with once you have done some careful planning. For a novice builder, SIPs are fun to use and come together really quickly. The biggest drawback is that you’ll need to be completely sure of all the planning before you even start.

I highly recommend paying someone to design your home using an AutoCAD program. Yes, it’s an investment, but it will pay off in the long run, especially if you plan to construct your SIP tiny house on your own.

How To Make Your Own SIP Panels

How To Make Your Own SIP Panels

Can you make your own SIPs? How do you make your own SIP panels? Is it even possible to DIY SIPs?

The short answer is you could, in theory, build your own SIP panels, but I would strongly recommend against it. Tiny house building codes are already a little challenging to navigate and seem to be an area where tiny home builders have many questions. Building these panels requires several certifications, quality testing, and more. To get the proper certifications, you’ll need to invest serious money upfront.

SIPs require pressure, adhesive, and careful construction. It’s not a matter of simply gluing layers of polystyrene or polyurethane (which can react to certain adhesives) in between panels of wood. Not all insulation bonds well to wood and the process requires careful engineering and precision.

Some DIY SIP builders work with alternatives like galvalume sheets or use a steel hat channel with Expanded polystyrene Styrofoam sheets. Unfortunately, these methods can create several problems ranging from thermal bridging and conduction to being plain difficult to work with.

If you want a long-lasting, sturdy tiny house, invest in pre-constructed SIPs. Making your own just isn’t worth the time, cost, effort, or headache.

How To Install SIP Panels

Jump To Section

sip panel connection points

SIP Roof Connections

SIP Wall Connections

sip interior wall connections

Sip Wall-to-Sill Plate Connection

Once you have your design finalized and you’ve ordered your tiny house wall panels, you’ll want to follow the SIP manufacturer’s instructions on putting together your tiny house. Each manufacturer will have their own way to assemble a SIP house, but below are some common ways to give you an idea of how it works.

SIP Roof Connections

SIP Roof Connections

There are two main places where your roof system will interact with other systems: at the peak where one SIP meets another SIP and where the roof SIPs slope down and meet the top of your walls. These areas are critical to get right for both proper air sealing and water sealing.

These connections are complicated and should be installed per the manufacturer’s directions, but generally this is what you’re going to be looking at.

SIP Roof-To-Wall Connection

Where your roof comes down from the ridge and meets the top of your wall is the most complicated connection of all because of the angles involved. To make this as easy as possible, most manufacturers will design the top of their SIP wall panels to be cut at an angle from the factory, but if not, you’ll have to make that cut yourself.

sip panel roof to wall connectionThe top of the wall should be angled to match the pitch of your roof. Be sure to trim out the end of the SIP with a piece of lumber inset into the top of the SIP wall. This allows for a more durable edge as you place your roof SIP and also provides a better surface to apply sealant and nail into.

The roof SIP, which usually needs to be put into place by a few people lifting or by a small crane, should be laid into place so that it rests squarely with the top edge of your wall. After laying your roof panels in place, you’ll make your roof-to-roof connection up top, which I’ll get into next. Then you’ll fasten through the roof SIP into the top plate of your wall with a very long screw. You can typically purchase these fasteners through your SIP manufacturer. Two popular options are FastenMaster and Spax.

You’ll trim out the end of the roof SIP (before you lift it up into place) with a nailer board and then finally all your fascia details. This roof system is an unvented roof system, so no need for soffit vents or the like.

SIP Roof-To-Roof Connection

Out of all your connections, the roof-to-roof connection is where most future problems can stem from. Not getting this connection right will be critical to the health of your entire home. This joint will be different between manufacturers, but the below is a common method and will give you a good idea of the process.

sip panel roof to roof connectionYour roof-to-roof connection for SIPs is almost like taking a wall-to-wall corner connection and tipping it over. You’ll start by installing a ridge beam squared up to the house. Then, before lifting your roof panels into place, you’ll need to figure out how you want to approach the taping of the seam because it needs to be sealed on the inside, between the ridge beam and the SIP.

One option is to lay the tape sticky side up with the peel paper still on it, then once a panel is in place, lift it up slightly and peel the paper off. You might also consider applying half of it to one panel on the ground and then leaving the paper on the other half until you lay in those panels.

One you’ve got both roof panels in place, the exposed end of the upper SIP should be trimmed out with a solid wood piece to reinforce the ridge peak. Use long structural screws to fasten the SIPs to the ridge beam.

I’d also suggest going above and beyond the manufacturer directions when it comes to sealing. Lay a single piece of peel-and-stick roofing membrane along the entire length of your ridge line so that the middle of the membrane sits at the top, with half draping down one side and the other half draping down the other side.

SIP Wall Connections

SIP Wall Connections

The type of joint between walls will depend on your SIP manufacturer. Once you’ve put the panels of each wall together, you’ll use caulk or spray foam, per the manufacturer’s instructions, to create a weather-tight seal. Once the panels are sealed together, the entire construction is extremely solid — virtually impenetrable.

Depending on how your panels are manufactured, there are three ways of joining the pieces together — all variations on tongue-and-groove-style construction.

If we go back to the ice cream sandwich analogy, you can think of lining up the different sandwiches side by side to form a wall. To connect each wall piece, manufacturers will likely offer one of three options: foam joints, splines, or inserts.

SIP Wall-To-Wall Connections

Cam Joints

Cam lock joints are an excellent method of joining sip panels. Each panel has a protrusion on one side that interlocks like a puzzle piece with the next SIP panel.

Instead of nails or screws, the panels are held together with a clever cam locking system that includes a removable locking handle.

This is a popular option for connecting two SIP panels together side by side and requires the use of a wrench to twist the cam within the wall in order to extend a small cam arm which grabs a pin in the wall next to it and pulls it snug.

sip panel cam joints

Spline Joints

Splines are usually made of wood. The spline extends beyond the edge of the SIP and then fits into a foam channel on the adjacent SIP. The pieces interlock together to form a tight seal.

This is good because it adds more rigidity to the wall to wall connection, but it does reduce your R value at the joints.  While this isn’t a huge issue, because you’ll still have an R value of about 15, it is still less than the rest of the wall. The other downside is I see the potential for these fingers of foam to get beat up in the installation process, leading to issues.

You do want to make sure you properly seal this because moisture in the air here could condense or allow for air to leak in this seam.

sip panel spline joint

SIP Inserts

The third connection option is using inserts. The insert is constructed of foam and wood and similarly fits into the center notches of two SIPs to connect them. The panels are nailed together or reinforced as needed from the outside.

This is my favorite of the wall to wall connections because it brings good rigidity to the connection, but because the connection is essentially a mini sip, the edges of the foam are more protected.  This means on the job site that it will be a bit more durable than the above spline method, avoiding possible issues.

sip panel inserts

SIP Interior Wall Connections

Building interior walls off of a SIP wall is pretty straight forward — because it doesn’t need to perform thermally, you can frame it traditionally. You might decide to insulate it for a sound barrier, but the building envelope exists with the exterior SIP walls.

Because SIPs are structural, most of your interior walls don’t need to be load bearing, which makes it pretty easy to frame out interior walls.  Because your envelope is so tight, you don’t have to worry about insulation if you apply the wall frame to the inside of the SIP panel.  Then you can leave empty for easy wiring or pluming, or apply sound treatments like Roxul safe n sound in areas you want to deaden sounds.

sip panel interior wall connection

SIP Wall Corner Connections

When SIP walls meet at a corner, you’ll use wood to cover or cap the exposed side of the SIP. As you can see from the diagram below, connecting the corners, roof, and floor are straightforward. You’ll place beams in the corners as needed to ensure a nice strong connection.

Finally, fasteners hold it all together. You can typically purchase the fasteners through the SIP manufacturer. Two popular options are FastenMaster and Spax. This approach is similar to a California corner, which minimizes thermal bridging from the inside out. Corners are susceptible to air leakage, though, so using a sealant or gasket here is advisable for sealing.

sip panel wall corner connection

Sip Wall-to-Sill Plate Connection (SIP To Floor)

Sip Wall-to-Sill Plate Connection

SIP sill plate attachment is pretty straight forward. You’ll start by installing what amounts to a double-layer sill plate. The lower sill plate sitting on your subflooring is going to run the entire perimeter of your house. This piece should be a treated board, sealed with a continuous bead of sealant and flush with the outside of your foundation/floor.

sip wall to sill plate connectionYour upper sill plate will be designed so it can slide within the bottom of the SIP panel. The upper sill plate will be narrower than the lower sill plate to account for the thickness of the OSB on both sides. That means that when you mount it to the bottom sill plate (before it’s attached to the SIP) it should be inset from both edges the same thickness of the SIP’s OSB.

Fasten both plates with 16D nails and then use code-approved anchors at appropriate intervals. Then, when you tip up your wall, the upper sill plate will slide inside the bottom of the SIP. In total, the width of the upper sill plate plus the thickness of both OSB sheets of the SIP will be the thickness of the bottom sill plate. The SIP’s OSB should be sitting on top of the bottom sill plate and be flush with it, inside and out.

Once your SIP wall is up and seated over the top sill plate so that it’s resting on the bottom sill plate, you’ll drive in manufacturer recommended fasteners from the outside and inside through the OSB of the SIP into the top sill plate.

How Long Does A Tiny House Made With SIPs Last?

How Long Does A Tiny House Made With SIPs Last

As we’ve discussed, SIPs are an excellent choice for beginners, but they require some significant planning because they’re hard to alter once the build progresses. If you do decide to build a tiny house using SIPs, you can expect your home to be solid, warm, and safe.

Once you’ve completed building your tiny home out of SIPs, you can expect it to last for 50 years or more — the same length of time as a traditionally built tiny house. Polystyrene is long-lasting and unlikely to break down. When it comes to fire, SIPs are flammable, but no more so than other traditional construction materials. Plus, polystyrene eliminates the chimney effect that can cause fire to creep between walls, so SIPs may be slightly slower to burn. The wooden OSB, however, is still combustible.

Final Thoughts On SIPs

Final Thoughts On SIPs

Building your home from SIPs can be a fun (yet somewhat challenging) endeavor. The great thing about building a tiny house using these panels is that, as long as you’ve done plenty of quality planning, the entire construction can be erected more quickly than a traditional build. You can use similar finish materials (roofing, trim, etc.) to complete your SIP tiny house, and you don’t need to worry about insulation, framing, and some of the other challenges that come with traditional construction.

With proper sealing and construction, SIPs are also weather tight, keeping air infiltration out and your home at a consistent temperature. Ventilation is an important consideration, of course, but you can include that in your HVAC plan, especially since SIPs tend to be more energy efficient than traditional construction.

If you find the idea of building a tiny house using SIPs intriguing, I urge you to explore it as an option. It’s undoubtedly a convenient material that has piqued my attention. I would definitely consider using SIPs for tiny house construction in the future.

Your Turn!

    • Would you use SIPs to build a tiny house?
    • Do you know how to use AutoCAD, or would you need to outsource design?

How Does A Tiny House Get Water?

How Does A Tiny House Get Water?

how does a tiny house get waterA tiny house without water is really just fancy camping, so it’s no surprise people want to know how to get water in a tiny house. If you’ve never had to go long without running tap water, trust me, it gets old quick!

How To Get Water In A Tiny House

how to get water in a tiny house

Assuming you have a water source, which we will get to in a minute, there are two main ways to connect water into your tiny home. I’ve used both over the years and which you should go with depends on how often you’re going to move your tiny house.

RV Water Supply Connection For A Tiny House

RV Water Supply Connection For A Tiny House

This is where I started with my tiny house because it was very easy, used parts you can buy right off the shelf for cheap, and didn’t require a lot of technical plumbing. It’s also what I suggest if you move your tiny home often.

PROS

  • Simple to hook up
  • Works at most campgrounds
  • Quick to connect and disconnect
  • Good on mobile tiny houses

CONS

  • More prone to freezing
  • Slightly more expensive
  • Leaky hose connections common
  • Can snag hose and damage inlet

Parts:

With this approach, you’re going to want to plumb your house like you would normally. The main water inlet entry point will terminate to the outside of your tiny house with a Shurflo RV water inlet. This will let you connect any water hose to your house easily.

Water Connection For A Tiny House

One very important thing to consider is the hose you make this connection with. In the house, you’re going to want to use all PEX tubing, but from the house to your water source, you want to use a drink-safe garden hose that’s designed for RVs. This is because regular hoses have nasty chemicals which can lead to serious health issues, plus drink-safe hoses are only a few dollars more, so it’s well worth the money.

If you’re setting up land for your own tiny home, you most likely will need to install the other side of that drink-safe water hose, too. A frost-proof water hydrant will let you shut the water off when you’re not connected, and this style hose bib has a valve at the bottom of the pipe that goes into the ground. Since that valve shuts water off at the bottom, it’s below the frost line, meaning you don’t have to worry about it freezing.

how to set up a rainwater catchment

Make A Permanent Water Connection With Your Tiny House

Make A Permanent Water Connection With Your Tiny House

This is currently what I do with my tiny house water connection and have been very happy with it. Since I haven’t moved my home in over eight years, it’s worked out really well, but it’s not practical for people frequently on the move.

PROS

  • Less prone to freezing
  • Looks neater on outside
  • Cheapest method
  • Lasts long term

CONS

  • Not meant to be moved
  • Needs to be cut if you do move
  • Requires you to bury water line
  • More technical skill required

I decided to go with this over the above method because a couple of times a year, my drink-safe water hose would freeze, leaving me without water. While that Camco hose never split from freezing which is a big testament to its quality, it was still pretty rough on the components involved.

Also, the frost-proof hydrant ended up rusting over time despite it being galvanized. I think they’re made to be used temporarily instead of constantly left on That’s why I recommend the in line water filter.

With this method, you’ll make a hard line PEX connection from your house to the ground and down to the main water line. Try to keep the gap between the house and the ground where the PEX spans as short as possible and insulate it heavily. I’d also suggest installing a 1/4 turn shut off valve there to cut water off to your tiny house should you ever need to.

Pex Water Supply Connection For A Tiny House

simple greywater systems

Living In A Tiny House Without Water

Living In A Tiny House Without Water

When I built my tiny house years ago, a water connection was a must have for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. Having a readily available source of water that you can tap into and bring into your tiny home is essential. I’ve had a few friends who live in tiny houses that attempted living by only trucking in water and not one of them lasted a year.

“I didn’t put plumbing in my house because my land didn’t have running water, and so I knew I would be hauling water. Had I known what I know now, I would have put in running water—it would’ve made my life so much easier. That’s the one thing I don’t like about [my tiny house], and it has nothing to do with the size. I have drinking water in the bathroom, but if I needed to take a shower I would have to go to the gym and that was always kind of a pain.”

— Merete Mueller & Christopher Smith

tiny house plumbing

How Much Water Does A Tiny House Use?

How Much Water Does A Tiny House Use

I was surprised at how well low-flow shower heads and sink faucets work for me. At first, I was worried about the water stream being too weak, but after using them for years now, I find it to be more than adequate and never leaves me wanting more.

The average American uses around 100 gallons of water per day. After living in my tiny house for years, I’ve averaged out to around 11 gallons per day. That’s for one guy who hand washes his dishes and takes a shower every day.

Your Turn!

  • How do you plan to connect your tiny house to water?