Posts Tagged Tiny House

Spotlight on Design: Wishbone Tiny Homes

From_storage_landscape_up[1]This month my spotlight on design features Asheville, North Carolina’s father and son design team, Gerry and Teal Brown, at Wishbone Tiny Homes. They were recently spotted at the Tiny House Conference this past spring. With their new location in the up and coming west side of Asheville, they are creating homes that offer “a return to some natural truth…a universal and natural connection to small” as Teal described when I spoke to him last month.

How did you discover the tiny house movement and what drew your interest?Walk_thru_front_door_see_all[1]

Although we site Sarah Susanka, Jay Shafer, and Dee Williams as some of the trailblazers of the tiny house movement, we have been inspired by dwellings throughout world history that would be considered “tiny” by current standards. Indigenous cultures have always lived in spaces that accommodate necessary daily activities but do not demand excessive resources to build and maintain. You can see these principles in action in the modern, urban context as well. Looking even further into the subject, wild animals tend to build with locally sourced, sustainable resources, and usually take only what they need for their nests. The way we see it, tiny houses represent a return to some natural truth that we have somehow collectively forgotten as we have enabled our technologies to distance us from co-existing with the land around us. The urge to build tiny comes from a deep, innate place in our human existence, and we seek to explore that.

What is your ideal vision in building and sustaining tiny house construction and what life Ext_nw[1]experiences brought your developing such housing?

My dad has been building houses and doing fine woodworking for 40 years +. I learned a tremendous amount growing up under his lead. I also took and loved furniture and cabinetmaking classes in high school. Additionally, I have several building science-related certifications that provide a firm understanding of energy efficiency, sustainability, and renewable energy as they relate to residential construction. Tiny house design provides the ultimate platform to reflect these concepts in the highest form. My dad and I have always enjoyed working together. We share the same mind but also manage to compliment each other’s skills. The mere fact that we can do something as a team that we find meaningful to society keeps us motivated to push forward. We like to help people achieve their dreams too. This means that we might consult on one tiny house and build another. In whatever capacity we can be involved in making a tiny home come true, we are eager to do that.

What influences stylistically are you basing your designs off of?

_DSC7337_HDR[1]Rustic Modern, Craftsman, Japanese architecture, Greene and Greene, an architecture firm of the early 20th century which greatly influenced the American Arts and Crafts movement as well as aspects of Contemporary in regards to functionality, space saving techniques and energy efficiency.

What demographic are you attempting to reach?

Honestly, there isn’t a demographic we aren’t trying to reach. We believe that the inherent versatility of tiny structures (especially those on wheels), makes them relevant to all walks of life. A tiny home can represent a dignified solution to affordable housing for one group and a unique camping experience for another. In this burgeoning share economy, tiny homes can provide a legitimate investment opportunity as a rental as well.

Are you going to have workshops this summer geared towards building tiny houses?

We will hold workshops in the near future. In a previous career I worked for a company that specialized in job-skillPurlins_front_with_filter[1] training. During my time there I learned the cradle to grave process of curriculum development and delivery. Solar was my particular program and I was charged with creating a classroom and hands-on learning experience for our students. We created a 1KW roof-mounted array that simulated both grid-tied and off-grid applications. We are working on developing a similar program for Wishbone Tiny Homes that combines a classroom portion with an innovative hands-on training module to teach students the whole process of building tiny. More on that soon!

Keep up with the latest from Wishbone on their website and through their blog.

Thanks Teal for taking the time to talk to The Tiny Life. We look forward to seeing Wishbone flourish and expand that tiny life love.

Your Turn!

  • What design elements inspired your tiny house build?
  • Do you agree that tiny living is a natural inclination?

 

The Search For New Land – Part 3

First you should know this is a continuation of previous post: The Search For Land Part 1 and Part 2. As many of you know it can be tricky to find land and my experience was very similar.  After you’ve read those posts this post will make more sense.

So where I am at today.  The house is nearing the home stretch and I am frantically trying to finish it because the lease on apartment ends next week!  The trick to all of this has been getting a lease on the land.  Then land owner and I struck a deal where I pay $1.00 a month (yes a dollar) and I help him out with some website stuff every now and then.  The land owner also wanted to be sure his liability insurance would cover me being on the property and after them going back and forth for a long while, they had to tweak some things.  The land owner’s insurance went up about $300 and he asked that I pay that amount since it was an incurred cost on my behalf, which was totally fair.  He also asked that I have liability insurance, so I picked up a $2,000,000 policy for $425 a year.  So my insurance total was $725 a year, but my rent was only $12 a year.

Next up is was securing water, power and building a road.  This is where I am now.

Water

This has proven to be the most expensive part of the whole thing.  A lot of people want to collect rain water off their roofs for water, but I crunched the numbers on my tiny house.  A typical tiny house’s roof is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  That is 160 square feet; for every inch of rain on a square foot you’ll get .6 gallons of water.   So for my house that is 96 gallons of water per inch of rain, in my area after some googling I found that my area gets about 43 inches of rain per 1511479_762555291518_720276449591449371_oyear.  So the math works out to be that I would get 4,128 gallons of water a year off my roof.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t practical for me because even if I had a 1 gallon per minute shower head, assuming a 15 minute shower, that’s 5,475 a year, which doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, drinking, etc.  The math didn’t add up.

Since I was leasing the land, it didn’t make sense to put in a well (would cost me about $10,000) so I decided to tie in with the city water system.  The water main from the city also happened to be running right along the property line, so it couldn’t be more ideal.  So I went in and filled out the paperwork for the city and they gave me my total bill and I was shocked!  For them to install a meter, I had to pay the city, $2,231!!!  What’s worse was it was the city, so they set the price and you have to go to them.  So I had to pay over $2,200 just for them to install a meter, so they could use it to charge me for the water I used!  Once the meter is in, I still have to get it to my house, because for $2,200 they only bring it to the property line.

Then on top of that they told me it would take 2 months to install; this was a problem because I needed to move in a few weeks (at that time) and I couldn’t apply for the water until I had the lease, which I had only gotten the day before when I applied.  The end result is I’ll be living without water for a few weeks, I plan to get a gym membership and have a water jug service come during this time.

 

Power

Next up is electricity.  Where I am at, the property is densely wooded so solar isn’t an option as of now, but I am looking into it for the future.  I also talked with the power company and an electrician and to get the power setup on the lot was going to be about $800 plus 9 cents a KW which wasn’t too bad considering how little power I’ll be using.  Solar is something I do want to do, but I figured right now it isn’t possible and then I also wanted to track my power usage in the tiny house for a year or so in order to size my solar panel system in the future correctly.

The process has gone like this:  Contact power company, they came out and said where they could bring in a line.  I contacted an electrician to setup the box.  The box will be inspected.  The power company checks the inspection and connects the service.  A few other random details: Installation is a simple affair, takes an hour or so when they get scheduled.  Inspection in my area is between 24-72 hours barring any complications. The power company now only will do a 200 amp service (which isn’t an issue, actually a plus).  The power company said they’d do the first 200 feet for free if I had service for a year, after 200 feet it gets really really expensive.

Road Access

Roads are something that a lot of people don’t think about.  Also note that these price can vary in different areas and I don’t have anyone I know who has equipment or personal connections, so I’ll be paying for it all.  I have only got quotes at this point, but its looking like it will cost me about $500 for labor/bobcat and then about $300-$500 in materials (geo-textile fabric, gravel, etc.).  I thought about trying my hand with a rental bobcat, which honestly would be a lot of fun to drive, but when I got the price for the rental, deliver, fees, taxes etc. it was going to be about $800 to rent a bobcat in my area.  In my area you can hire a bobcat driver and his rig for about $60 an hour which includes him showing up with his machine, the gas, and him running it.  So it was actually cheaper for me to pay someone to do it, plus they’ll do a better job than I would since I’ve never used a bobcat before.

Sequencing of things

Another big thing I’ve run into was how things had to go down.  I couldn’t start anything until I had my lease, which took much longer than anticipated, but I got a formal lease and it worked out.  Once I had that I could put in for the power and water.  I wanted to have all those things done before I ever put in the road, because they are both underground lines, so I would have to dig up my road to install them.  I also wanted to have the water and power installed and inspected, then give myself at least a few weeks so that if an inspector was curious about what was going on and decided to swing by later on, he/she wouldn’t see anything because I built in a cooling off period.  At that point I’d install the road and then move the house out there.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray as they say.  I’m going to try to do this the best I can still, but its going to have to happen in a shorter time.

Total Costs

I think this should be a real wake up call for a lot of people who think that the cost of a tiny house stops at the tiny house.  Some lots will have these things already which is something you should try to get.  These are my real world numbers and while they will vary for you in your area and if you have connections that will save you money that will help, but at the end of the day you’ll have to deal with the city and the power company and they hold a monopoly, setting the prices that you can’t get around.

Insurance: $725 a year
Rent: $12 a year
Electricity connection: $800
Water connection: $2,231
Road: $1,000
____________________________
Total: $4,768

Tiny House Building Update

It has been a while since I updated you all on the tiny house, I’ve been spending all my free time building and getting the tiny house ready for the Tiny House Conference coming up very soon.  Right now I’m spending my time insulating the house, squaring away some of the plumbing and wiring.

Wiring:

I had the tiny house roughed in  (running wires, installing boxes, grounding) for electrical a while ago, but since then I decided I wanted a few more wire.  The two biggest additions I made was I wired for some outdoor speakers I wanted to add to my house and then I ran Ethernet cables for internet.

When I added these it was tricky because adding these wires you want to try to avoid your electrical lines the best you can.  Ideally you won’t have your Ethernet cable within 18 inches of your power lines and if you do have to cross them, you do so at a right angle.  The reason why is that the electromagnetic fields of the wires are essential to how the ethernet cables work to transmit the data for your internet connection.

When it comes to achieving this spacing it is pretty tricky because in a tiny house the walls there isn’t that much space to achieve this.  The other consideration when running wires is that the longer you run, the more the signal degrades.  In this case even if though I had to run the wires in a bit of a round about way, it wasn’t too far.  For Ethernet cables at about 1000′ the signal degrades and for speaker wire under 50′ you can use 16 gauge wire, over 50′ 14 gauge is recommended.

Insulating:

Initially I was going to use foam board, but after using in the floors I found that I wasn’t able to pack in enough of the foam board as I thought.  The floor framing cavity was 3.5″ deep, but I was only able to fit about 3″ of foam with the brackets, air pockets etc.  So for the walls I decided to go with standard fiberglass batts that were kraft paper backed.  This allowed me to use the full space because it could compress where there was things in the way.  It also meant that I could very quickly insulate the walls when compared to the rigid board insulation.

photo-11

Now I know many people are going to ask, so I’ll explain why I choose Fiberglass and Foam over other options.  My first choice was to get spray foam insulation, which has the highest R value of the common insulation for houses.  So I called around for quotes and for some reason to get this done in my area is more expensive than in other cities.  The lowest quote I got for my tiny house was $3400!  So that was out.

Next I considered sheeps wool, but at the time they didn’t have it in batts (combined into a thick sheet that fits in the wall framing) at the time I started building my house.  At the time it was just loose fill and everyone I spoke to it was a pain to fill into the wall cavities.  Wool is also about R-5 less than foam.  So while fiberglass isn’t great, I felt for me it was the right choice in terms of price, R value, and easy of installation.  The wool insulation was going to cost me close to $700 while the fiberglass insulation cost me $300.

Installing The Shower Drain:

When it came to putting a hole in the floor of my tiny house, I was pretty nervous about it.  One thing that I knew going into the build from day one was that I might go to put the hole for the drain, only to find that a metal support for the trailer was in the way; Talk about a potential nightmare!

offset drain

Well low and behold, the drain did in fact need to go where a 5″ metal beam was under the trailer.   It took some work to figure how the drain location on the inside, translated to the bottom of the trailer because you can’t really measure from the same point when you’re under the trailer.  Once I measured it out my nightmare became real life as I stared at the beam that stood in the way of the drain.  So off the the hardware store I went with some photos on my phone in order to find a solution.

After 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle I discovered something called an “off set drain”  which is pictured above.  This basically gave me the few inches I needed to miss the beam entirely and solved my problem.  With that set I picked up a hole saw to cut the correct size hole and I could move forward again.

Here are some photos of the house right now:

photo 4

photo 2

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Tiny House Wood Panel Walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the temporary door I made:

photo 1

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

photo 3

 

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

photo 4

photo 2(1)

photo 3(1)

photo 4(1)

 

 

 

Tiny Houses In Cities

One questions that comes up a fair bit about tiny houses is what about tiny houses in cities?  Its a good question because currently over half of the world’s population lives in a city and we only expect that number to grow.  For the most part, tiny houses have existed in smaller towns, on the edge of a city or in rural locations.  But the truth is there are a lot of city dwellers that want to live tiny.

My go to response to the question about tiny houses in citiesimgpreview-2 is that we can still have tiny houses in the city, but most likely what we will do is take the design principals of tiny houses and then apply the to the design of apartments.  Essentially taking tiny houses and stacking them.  It is important to make sure that we don’t loose sight of our focus on design, make sure there is a strong connection with the outside, and to develop green spaces and public places for us to enjoy.

I think the biggest challenge of adapting tiny houses to a city is ensuring there is enough  natural light.  And I don’t mean window that only opens to a light shaft in the center of a building, at worst it would open to a open space within a building that is build around a large courtyard.  Having visited NYC several times, I couldn’t imagine living in a place where your only window was a mere few feet from a solid brick wall.  Honestly, I feel like humans should live like that; I feel like there should be at least one large window that allows your sight to extend a few thousand feet.

lifeedited-apartmentWhile I do technically live in a city – Charlotte, NC – its a very different kind of city.  You can easily pickup an acre lot here, go 20 minutes outside the city and you can get 10 acre lots.  There is a lot of woods still here and nature isn’t too far.  For me personally I just need to see lots of greens and browns, to have that connection with nature.  Something just clicks with me when I’m outside in the woods.

I say all this to point out that however we meet the needs of urban density and however we implement tiny houses in a city, we need to make sure there is  good connection with green spaces.  It is very important in tiny living because you really do need to extend your living space to the outdoor world, which means we need quality places to go to.

What got me thinking about all of this is an interesting project out of the school of Savannah College of Art and Design.  They posed an interesting question: as we transition to more public transportation, walkable cities and biking, what do we do with the vestiges of parking decks?scadpad-rendering

There response was to create modular units that could create housing out of parking decks.  At first it seems odd, but I realized the potential and some of the drawings are pretty neat!

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