Tag Archives: Safety

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.”

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.


Tiny House Safety: Towing the Tiny House- Bill Kastrinos

“Most tiny houses are a, “white-knuckle,” towing experience.” -Bill Kastrinos I have been in communication with Bill Kastrinos, owner of Tortoise Shell Home LLC, and put to him the following questions: Tiny House Wisdom:  Do you believe that Tiny Houses … Continue reading


Safety: Towing the Tiny House- Interview with Andy Lee

This is the second installment of the series about Safety. It will be in two parts, The first is an interview with Andy Lee, (the second part is from Bill Kastrinos of Turtle Shell Home).  I thought it would be … Continue reading

Part Three of Tiny House Safety- Roll Offs…

Part Three: Roll Offs

Well, you can’t stay hooked up to the truck forever. Even if you could, someone could easily disconnect your tiny house and steal everything you own all at once. I know, because someone did that exact thing after hurricane Katrina. All of my stuff was in a pull behind trailer my Dad gave me for my birthday, and we were visiting friends in Diamond Head Mississippi. I got a weird feeling and could not get out of there fast enough. I left behind the trailer chained to a tree and the back-est seat of my Astro van under a huge oak. The trailer was stolen, and the oak split my seat in two when it came down. Because while we were visiting OTHER friends in Sheboygan,Wisconsin, (now THERE is nice town- full of cute loft tiny houses for reasonable prices, too), Katrina happened.

Two and a half weeks after we left, the Gulf Coast was robbed of all the astounding architectural history of the last two hundred years. My daughter and I used to drive up and down the main highway next to the water and say, “I want THAT one.” I kid you not, the day we left, I was in the Gulfport Walmart, and looked out over the road to the water on the other side and said to myself, “I wonder what would happen if a Hurricane came?”

Two and a half weeks later we found out.

Did I tell you I left two and a half months before Ivan destroyed Pensacola? But that is another story. If I tell you I am antsy and feel like I gotta get out of town- RUN!

But I digress. I been thinking about roll offs.  How to prevent them? I know there are devices you can lock the trailer hitch on the back of your vehicle while in tow to prevent it from being disconnected and hooked up to someone ELSE’S vehicle. But what if you want to drive into town and leave the tiny behind? I am sure there are some products on the market, and when I see them, I will publish them here for you to use.

What I thought of, was for the person who is parking their tiny on a spot where they could place a permanent hitch sunk into concrete. The tiny could be chained to the hitch with a padlock. Another thing that could be done to prevent these roll off situations from occurring, is to build a wooden or wire cage box that would fit upside down over the top. This could even be placed on hinges and it too could be locked into position in order to prevent unauthorized unhitching of the tiny house. These boxes would look like a sort of suitcase and would be designed to fit around the hitch area, (not the entire house), to make access impossible. The suitcase lockout device would be portable.

Well I had planned to publish this one after I wrote about the towing safety issue. But since I was scooped on the subject on another tiny house site, (they say great minds think alike), I figured I would go ahead and put my two cents in, for what it is worth…

Please feel free to comment about any products on the market designed to prevent roll offs from happening.

A list, (as they come in), of links to products that will help deter roll offs:

Here is a link for wheel locks that are affordable : http://www.etrailer.com/Locks/Valley/V75712.html?feed=npn

Here is a link for a locking device that prevents hostile hookups from the business end:


New Series: Tiny House Safety

Today I want to investigate an issue I have wondered about since I first found out about Tiny Houses, and that would be the issue of Safety. I plan to pose the question regarding safety to some of those who know first hand about the reality of towing the tiny. I plan to cover the following safety areas: Towing, Theft, Fire, Break-ins, Carbon Monoxide, Roll-offs and Storm damage, to name a few. This will most likely be done in installments, with this post as the first. There are some posts out there that are comprehensive and therefore I am including a section at the end, that will provide click throughs to links out side of my blog that already include adequate information regarding some aspect of safety. I try to never waste my time by re-inventing the wheel.

In my neighborhood, a tiny dwelling with all the windows might be a red light to attract break-ins. As a fifty year old single lady, this could be a big problem. So I got to thinking about how to handle this issue, and I hit on an idea I have not seen anywhere- shutters or bars. To me, shutters would be a low cost and attractive way to sleep at night with peace of mind. They would be aesthetically pleasing as well as a safety feature. I would have one next to the front door, as well as the first floor windows. These could be accessible from inside with an internal locking device that I could pull in from inside. I would want for the loft window, however, to be completely free to open, because if a fire broke out, the exit would need to be a quick one, (more about fire safety later in this article). So right off the bat, I want to recommend for those building a tiny, PLEASE include some type of protection against break-ins.

As far as fire is concerned, I want to see every tiny home equipped with fire alarms and extinguishers. This is not so far fetched as you may feel at first, as we recently read about a tiny home in Alaska catching fire from a malfunctioning stove. You can read about this at Tiny House Blog, by clicking here: http://tinyhouseblog.com/stick-built/christmas-fire-in-our-tiny-cabin/

Luckily, this lady was not home when the fire occurred but the house was destroyed and I had to think about what could have happened if she had been asleep.  Smoke inhalation occurs fairly fast, so let all use some common sense when we are living in these tiny structures. Other fire dangers are from any type of electrical wiring or tiny woodstoves. This can occur when cleaning and a “clinker” is dropped or other types of accidents. Of course if you smoke, (and I certainly HOPE you do NOT), there is always the danger of falling asleep while smoking and catching fire that way. This is a very common thing to happen to smokers, so maybe a strict, outdoor only, smoking policy would be a great way to stay safe.

As I mentioned above, I would want to see fully open-able windows for any tiny house with a loft. Also recommended would be to have a rope ladder if your regular loft ladder did not operate in such a way that you could lower it and escape from the window in case of a fire.

In addition to a fire alarm, would be a carbon monoxide alarm. These devices detect carbon monoxide, which cannot be detected by smell alone. When I lived in my tiny log cabin in the mountains of NC that I have written about elsewhere on this blog, I incorrectly installed a woodstove into the fireplace. Luckily, I went out of town that weekend, because me, my four year old, the cat and the dog all developed symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning! The symptoms are, a cherry red complexion caused by the fact that carbon monoxide molecules bind to your hemoglobin, thus preventing the binding of oxygen, and you are suffocated from the inside out. Also common effects are headaches, nausea, diarrhea confusion and flu like symptoms.  I am actually a respiratory therapist by training, and it can be difficult to treat carbon monoxide poisoning quickly with O2 therapies.

I consider this important because, not only is carbon monoxide a by product of ANY material combusted rapidly at high heat in an unventilated system, I understand that carbon monoxide output is possible from the use of an on demand hot water heater. I have seen them installed both inside and outside the tiny home, with various problems, (such as freezing if they are un-insulated). For this reason, I consider a “work box” a better solution. I have seen many examples of the tiny being outfitted on the “business end” with a door behind which all of the electrical boxes, propane tanks and other necessities would ideally be situated. Also, as we are discussing safety, I would take care to place these items behind a lock to prevent theft or sabotage. Don’t laugh. It happens, but that is another story for another day!

In the next installment: Towing- can it be done safely?

As promised, here are some links to issues that are adequately covered on other sites:

Drew Odom wrote a fantastic piece covering everything you need to know about securing the tiny during a wind storm or tornado. You can find it here: http://www.tinyrevolution.us/2011/05/21/how-to-anchor-down-your-tiny-house/

A good article about the safety of PEX that is used to replace PVC pipes in many tiny homes can be found here: http://www.small-house-building.com/plumbing/how-safe-is-pex

Tiny Green Cabin Homes has a built in safety feature found here: http://www.tinygreencabins.com/Blog/?m=201103

I also found an article at Tiny Home Builders here in Florida that echoes some of what I just said: http://tinyhomebuilders.com/Blog/category/safety/

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