Category Archives: What Tinyers Will Want to Consider….

The Most Important Stage of Building a Tiny Home

An Idea in Blogging- Tiny House Interactive

As I consider my own tiny house, dreaming, (and waiting for the funds), I have many questions.  I think likely these questions are what OTHER tiny house dreamers are wanting to know, too.

I wrote about 20 or so of the leading Tiny House Builders, (as well as other knowledgeable people), and I have a few more in mind to contact. Rather than wait until each one responds, lets have an ongoing compendium, just for fun. I will update this as the comments come in, in order, with the most recent at the top. Readers can comment at the end in the appropriate section, as well.  The info coming in is astounding! So without further ado:  I posed this question:

“What to you is the most important stage of Tiny House construction?”

20. Steven Harrell:  “The most important part of a tiny house’s construction is before it starts in the planning stage. Selecting the layout, determining where materials will come from, how many reclaimed materials, (if any), will be used, determining the location for building the tiny house and lining up the people that will be assisting in the tiny house’s construction.”                                                                 -www.tinyhouselistings.com

19. Laura M. LaVoie:  “For me, the most important stage of tiny house construction was actually starting it! It was a little terrifying, but we couldn’t plan it forever – eventually we just had to break ground and start.”                              –http://120squarefeet.blogspot.com/

18. Macy Miller:  “I would say ‘ACTION’ is the most important part. Mistakes will be made at all phases, don’t be discouraged, keep going forward and keep ‘doing’.”      -www.minimotives.com

17. Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller:  “I would say that the most crucial part of building a Tiny House is choosing a design and sourcing materials that reflect your values and style.”
www.tiny-themovie.com

16. Kent Griswold:  “I think it is a decision to simplify your life. You need to be able to get rid of the things that clutter your life and figure out what you really need to live and be happy. You also need to see if you can live in that small of a space, so it is necessary to try it out.  Create a space in your current home and try living in that space for a while.  Or go on a vacation and stay in a cabin or something of similar size.  Anticipate changes that may come to your life and work through them.  If possible, get rid of debt and only pay cash up front so you are not tied down to a mortgage or loan.”                                                                         -www.tinyhouseblog.com

15.  Dan Louche: “Planning is definitely the most critical step.  Without proper planning you can waste a lot of money, time and then perhaps not even end up with what you had envisioned.  Anyone considering building a tiny house should spend the time up front to plan everything out to save themselves a lot of trouble.      -www.tinyhomebuilders.com

14.  Michael Veil:  “The most important thing in building a tiny home, is preparing it for your climate zone. I am in New England and the temps can be brutal. I heavily insulated the roof and walls with R13 insulation, and used expensive foam for the floor. Its easy to change some things once you’ve built, but insulation is not one of them. You must take the time to silicone and caulk all cracks and voids if you want to keep it warm-or cool with little effort.  An opening window is the best way to clear cooking odors or to just get some fresh air.”                                 -michigan-mike

13.  Jim Wilkins: “The most crucial piece is the process; communication, known expectations, documented specifications and build plans. A good, well drawn set of plans goes a long way towards getting what someone wanted, and yet leaves a lot of room for,  unexpected “surprizes.” The carefully thought out plans connect specifications with the process of building which become a living document that communicates the spirit of the “build.””                                                       -www.tinygreencabins.com

12. Bill Kastrinos: “(Whether stationary or trailer), the foundation is the most important aspect, including how the house will be attached. The trailer IS the foundation, and how it is attached is critical. Best to involve an engineer in either case. Tiny houses weigh more than RVs, so the simple bolt through is not enough. The design of the floor, the rodent shield, and the attachment to the trailer is very important. A house going down the road at highway speeds, into heavy winds, hitting a large pothole, you can quickly get 2 or 3  gs force applied to the hold downs. So that means a 7000# house now weighs 21000#(7000x3g)! Get at least ( 4) 10,000# simpson mst straps welded to the trailer, AND attached to the studs or corners of the house.”                                                              -www.tortoiseshellhomes.com

11. Ethan Waldman: “I’d have to say: Design,” (Ethan’s Fireman rescue window is pretty vital too).  -www.thetinyhouse.net

10. Jay Schafer: “A tiny house would be particularly vulnerable to condensation problems if you didn’t use the right insulation, venting and/or vapor barrier. ”     -www.tumbleweedhouses.com

9. Stephen Marshal: “Deciding if you want your house to be primarily nomadic or stationary is a crucial consideration. If it is to be roadworthy it needs to be trim and not too tall. If it is to stay in one place for a year or more, you have the freedom to design a wide load that will require a permit to travel. Stationary houses that will be moved occasionally, can be taller, heavier, and designed with comfort over speed in mind. Give thought to what level of mobility you need.”     -www.littlehouseonthetrailer.com

8. Andy Lee:  “The most important thing is for you to have the right attitude. Can you really live in one of these things? Knowing what you want to accomplish is the first step. Do the research, talk to the people who have built them and are living in them and see what worked for them and what didn’t. There are maybe a hundred questions you will want to answer before you begin. Adopting the right frame of mind and doing that initial planning are two of the most important things to begin.” -www.myandylee.com

7. Abel Zyl Zimmerman: “For any tiny house that is meant for fulltime living– determining its relationship, (impact), to zoning and utilities where you site it! For some this is easy, but for others it is a deal-breaker.”    -www.zylvardos.com

6. Alex Pino: “The most important step if you are just starting is to shed as much of your stuff as possible. Pare down to what you really love because that’s all that will fit and you don’t want to worry about owning and storing the rest.”           -www.tinyhousetalk.com

5. Lloyd Kahn: “I don’t think you can designate any one step as more important than all the others. I’d say a number of things are critical, like a good plan, sensible design, solid foundation, good craftsmanship, roof leak-tight, etc.”             – Author of “Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter” http://www.Shelterpub.com

4. Tammy Strobel: “We didn’t build our tiny house, we hired someone to do the construction for us. So I would say the most important part in the process was designing our little home. It’s a crucial step because the space is so small.”                   – http://www.rowdykittens.com

3. Andrew Odom:  “The most important step – the most crucial, if you will –  to building a tiny house is preparing yourself mentally for the process of downsizing and maintaining a minimal lifestyle. Most anyone can construct a house. But preparing oneself for the psychological, emotional, and physical transitions is what is truly the most crucial step.” – http://www.tinyrevolution.us

2. Kevin Coy:  “Commitment. Commit to your project and  take “no” or “I can’t” out of your vocabulary. Failure does not exist unless you quit. Be a solution minded person. There are no problems only opportunities.”  -K                                                                            -http://kevinsmicrohomestead.wordpress.com/

1. Derek “Deek” Diedrickson:  “The most crucial step? Having the materials! No, while that is imperative, and assuming that one has the money or materials for said project, its really the planning phases, before, and often during (when confronted with a problem or when caught in a carpentry bind that you need to work around) a build, that are the most important. Poor planning will result in wasted, time, energy, materials, and often makes for a lousier end product. Planning, and even just thinking things out in your head before you make a move, might be a pain, but its truly important. ” – Author:
“Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts: And Whatever  the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here”   Available on Amazon.                               – http://www.relaxshacks.com

Thanks to everyone for participating! These are excellent responses. Every bit of it is useful and will help those of us as we think about building our tiny houses.

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Inwhich I Beseech Dear Readers to Comment and a Midnight Bathroom Solution

No question about it- ACCESSIBILITY for loft dwellers is an issue! We who sleep in lofts have all been there- three a.m. and you need to pee. No problem if you are on the ground floor, but in a loft it can be tiresome, (perhaps dangerous), to climb back DOWN the ladder and back up it, in a groggy state in the dark. And on days when I have consumed an entire two liter bottle of Dr.Pepper at 12 a.m.? Eye yie yie! Don’t even get me started! I know my bed shakes and scrapes and I just imagine what types of injuries a person would sustain falling out of a loft… No thanks! And of course, people with limited mobility may not be safe going up and down repeatedly, either…

So I had an idea….. And a couple of days ago the subject was alluded to on another blog. What to do about the 3 a.m. run? So I figured it was high time I shared this idea that has been brewing on the back burner of my brain for awhile now.

It would seem to me that a loft urinal would be a great idea. I imagined this collection system as a passive type of system that would involve installing pipes from the loft to feed into whatever type of method of disposal you use below. I do not mean that the  urinal should have a regular flush system pumping water UP into the loft, only that the pipes would take the fluid DOWN and feed into the regular means of egress downstairs.  This loft urinal would ideally have a lid to prevent smells, and also a spray bottle or bucket of water to “chase” with would also keep it from becoming odoriferous.

There would be a few considerations, of course when installing this system, such as the angle of the eave and which side of the tiny your downstairs waste receptacle was located. I would think that if care was taken when installing the “throne” downstairs, one could make sure the upstairs one was positioned in such a way that there would be adequate room to avail oneself of it. For example, place both potties so that there is a vertical wall for use in the loft.  And too, there would also be the aesthetic issue of not wanting everyone who enters your domicile to actually be able to SEE that there is a potty in the loft. For that reason, (as well as the aforementioned odor issue), I would recommend using a device that would camouflage the matter, like an upside down wooden box when not in use.

I would hope, Dear Reader, that no one would be entering your domicile at 3 a.m. to make it necessary to conceal the actual USE of said potty, however, for the faint of heart, or at least the terribly shy, a curtain or movable partition would obscure the act.  I am assuming that those who live in such a tiny structure have made certain to install some way to close up for the night anyway, so that no one could see ANY activity at 3 a.m.

Having said all that, and as delicately as I could muster, with all of my Victorian ways, I come to my second motive for writing this blog today- comments. Only my new friend Drew, (and maybe not even he after this article),  has commented on this blog as of yet, and I do so want to hear from my readers! I have them according to the hits recorded in my Site Stats, so I am making the plea, if you like my blog, let me know! I am an obsessed blogging Momma and I crave interaction between myself and my readers.  If I have not thoroughly offended you by the topic and overuse of paregmenon- I would love to know that I am not blindly sending my words into a cyber-abyss when I press the SAVE button….

Thanks!

© Annie Blair and Tiny House Wisdom. WordPress.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Compost, Incinerating and Flush Toilets: A Compendium

After reading recent comments in the Walmart RVing Yahoo Group I told you of a few days ago, (you can find the link on this blog if want to join), today I am thinking about what kind of toilet I want in my tiny house. The topic was originally a general comment about some presumed RVer who opened up the black water tank in a residential neighborhood. This was apparently NOT done at the Walmart, (thank goodness), but in front of people’s homes who had to walk through the stuff on the street. The offender was not observed, so it may have been an accidental dumping by an unwilling party. Malfunctions of this type do occur, and I had the thought that it may even be more likely with tiny houses as they may handle a bit rougher on the road than an RV. I do not know that for a fact, as I have never driven an RV or a tiny house, (but want to)!

So for your consideration, dear reader I have compiled the following:

There are several choices that are commonly found in tiny houses, RV, compost and incinerating type that are commonly used on boats.

RV flush toilets use water and flush into a holding tank which is usually carried on the underside of the craft. This must be dumped in specific places only. Apparently there are private, public, RV park, non-park, municipal, state, provincial, truck stop, rest stop, campground, camping, resort, commercial, pay, donation, and free, and so on, according to http://www.sanidumps.com/, which see if you need to know this information. This site directory includes sites in the US, Canada, Mexico and even over seas locations. This site claims that there are dump sites most likely that are even in your own city now that you are unaware of. This is for sure in my case as, one, I live in a popular vacation spot near water that attracts thousands each year by RV and boat, and two, I have never had need for one. The drawback to this system, as we have seen, is that the latches can malfunction or accidentally be left in an open position, causing an unexpected ejection at inopportune times. Also, there could be other types of accidents which could be nasty, to say the least. Although, I like the RV toilet upon first flush, for its lower price, (RV toilets and holding tanks can be repurposed from defunct vehicles for little money making them by far the most economical), I find myself leaning away from this system. I think that this one would serve best in a situation where the tiny house was at least semi-permanent in location and not moved frequently. There could be the ongoing cost associated with this type toilet if your dump site charges for dumping as some do. There is also a need for water, obviously, and those interested in water conservation would want to avoid this type for that reason.

Composting toilets are boxes that collect excreta and turn it into compost for safe disposal. A Wikipedia article about this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet . They range from several hundred dollars to right around $2000 in price, making them the second less expensive option for tiny-ers.
The proponents of this type toilet claim that there is no smell associated with the system, and that the materials they use with it are low cost. Some people use ashes and others use sawdust or a variety of materials commercially available. I think that charcoal used for speeding up regular garden compost bins and available in garden centers may also work and cause the process to complete more quickly. This type toilet appears to me to be the most popular with tiny house owners because it is easy to install, and can be disposed of safely with little or no cost. I personally would not want to see anyone use this for your vegetable garden, (please don’t), but a flower garden would be appropriate. For those who are trying to reduce the carbon footprint, this is THE method as it uses none or little water, and no other type of fuels are necessary. There are types that also use/treat the grey water from the shower, as well.

A few links for purchase:
http://www.envirolet.com/
https://www.thenaturalhome.com/compost.html They have a variety of brands.
http://www.enviroalternatives.com/toilets.html

The third type of system that is available for tiny houses is the incinerating toilet. This toilet is by far the most expensive type to install and to use- ranging from just under two thousand dollars to a whopping 5K for the toilet alone, in addition to installation and operating costs. The toilet is found mainly on marine vessels and there is even a learning curve to the safe operation of it. Wikipedia has an article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incinerating_toilet
An informative article by the board of health in Barnstable county can be found here: http://www.barnstablecountyhealth.org/ia-systems/information-center/compendium-of-information-on-alternative-onsite-septic-system-technology/incinerating-toilets. These toilets are useful where there is no other option available for various reasons. They can be used in units that are unheated, and some require additional materials or catalysts and additives. They are not for those seeking to avoid pollutants and fuels. They may produce some pollutants and they need electricity or gas to operate. For that reason they require venting. The resultant ash is benign and can be safely disposed of without harm. Some types cannot be used during incineration, and some may incinerate with every use, and still other types collect wastes to be incinerated later.

Some links for purchase:
http://incinolet.com/aboutus_2.htm
http://www.propaneproducts.com/catalog/propane-toilets/ecojohn-sr.-propane-electric-incinerating-toilet-12v-110v-380.html

A short film is available from Amazon on the subject here:
http://www.amazon.com/ReInventors-Episode-6-Incinerating-Toilet/dp/B003HNNEQ4
More info on incinerating toilets by the EPA is here:
http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/upload/2002_06_28_mtb_incinera.pdf

So to recap, if you are seeking low cost of toilet and maintenance, the RV flush is the one to chose. If you seek low environmental impact and ease of installation, choose the composting toilet, and for those with money who are not trying to avoid fuel use, but do not want to tote your waste with you, the incinerating toilet is the one for you.