Tiny Home Builders Blog

Tiny House Design & Construction Guide – 2nd Edition Available Today!

4163a239-caf5-400e-a0cd-64c6f9bed67eI’m super excited to announce the 2nd edition of the Tiny House Design & Construction Guide!

I’ve been working on this for over a year and I’m really pleased with the way it has turned out. I’ve taken all the feedback from the 1st edition (which is already a Best Seller on Amazon) to really make this edition so much better. It now has over 50% more content and over 38 more images and illustrations to help you understand the various aspects of building.

Most of the new content can be found in the sections on the Framing, Electrical, and Plumbing. Definitely the areas that people have the most questions about. Having taught numerous workshops over the years and having been asked the same questions over and over, I have learned effective ways to explain some of these more complex concepts so that most people can understand them. I’ve applied that to this book and so I am certain you will find a lot of value in it.

With that said, here are some of the online review for the book BEFORE we made it better:

call out oneIf you’re considering building a tiny house, I highly recommend getting this book. It will save you a ton of time researching and learning. Even if you’re having someone else build for you, you will want to be informed so that you can ensure they are doing it right.

I really hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much for your support over the years. We are all working towards the same goal of having a simpler, more thoughtful and meaningful life.

Good luck on your tiny house adventure!

Dan Louche

P.S. If you have previously purchased the Tiny House Design and Construction Guide and don’t want to own two hard copies, drop us a review on Amazon, and we’ll send you the ebook of the new edition completely free of charge. Click here for details.

Moisture 101: How to Keep Your Tiny Home Dry

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Moisture is one of a builder’s biggest concerns. Water can damage wood, ruin structural integrity and even cause toxic mold which can lead to severe health problems. The good news is with the two barriers we are going to describe below, you can be well on your way to a safe, happy, dry environment. Although these two terms are sometimes confused and used in place of one another, here are the details on the differences and how they work.*

Weather Barrier  

d5ad193c-a474-49a1-9f62-b32f90f01f9aAlso known commonly as water barrier or house wrap, weather barrier provides two functions to the house. It keeps bulk water (such as the weather) out of your home and at the same time, the semi-permeable material allows water vapor to escape from the inside of your home. This barrier is always located on top of your sheathing and beneath your exterior siding/paneling. Back in the old days, tar paper was used to prevent water intrusion, but the paper does not act as an air barrier (which weather barrier is also sometimes referred to), is hard to manipulate, and because of the weight and the shortness of the rolls, takes considerably more labor to apply. The material that we recommend to use is called “Tyvek” and is available in at most big box stores. Please make sure that the type you buy is definitely labeled “Tyvek” because many people will try to pass off their generic or store brand as the same thing which it is clearly not.

Vapor Barrier
9cb2e566-b6ce-48ec-a9a7-0c8307d71e23 (2)You will occasionally hear vapor barrier referred to as vapor retarder, and although they are close to the same thing, their blocking abilities are different. Vapor barrier is normally a sheet of plastic that is placed between the interior sheathing (sheet rock, tongue and groove panels, etc.) and the studs. It’s job is to keep the moist air that is in your house away from the cold surface that is in your wall, because when that warm air hits the cold, the dew point drops and forms condensation. Condensation in your walls equals mold which is not good.
The more of a difference between the inside temperature and the outside temperature, the more important the vapor barrier becomes. In most places the plastic is the norm. But if you head to the South where the inside and outside temps are closer together, you will find that the craft paper backing of the insulation is actually enough of a barrier to hold back the moisture. This is called a vapor retarder and it acts in the same way, but obviously has less of an impact where the heavier guard is not as necessary.

These two barriers are your biggest protectors against the moisture. When coupled with your properly installed roof and flashing, you will be able to bring your dog in out of the rain and cozy up with him or her on your dry, comfy couch.

Dream Big, Live Tiny!

-Tom

*Climate conditions vary across the country and around the world. Vapor and weather barriers and their qualities vary along with them. Please seek out climate information for your area before beginning construction.

Great Grills for Your Tiny House

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Summer is right around the corner, and that means it is once again time to fire up the grill and get cooking with gas. Or charcoal. If you are living in a tiny house or are thinking about building one, you may find yourself outside grilling more often for a number of reasons. Here are some of the choices that you have when it comes to grilling tiny.

Charcoal or Propane

wood-firedThis is really a personal preference thing. Everyone knows a purist out there who would rather burn their house down before cooking with propane. What you need to keep in mind is how much tiny house space (or more importantly the lack thereof) that you have. If you are going to use charcoal, it is one more thing that you are going to have to store. If you already have propane run into the house for your stove, then you can simply tap into that line as well. But as we continue to say, space is the traded commodity.  You can have anything you want, you just have to pay for it by giving up space. There are other choices too, like the Cook-Air EP-3620BK Wood Fired Portable Grill. At roughly 150 bucks and with its small size, it would probably be a no brainier.

Full size or Portable

go-anywhereThere are a couple schools of thought on this. If you are going to be doing most of your cooking outside, you may want to consider going with a full size grill, this way allowing you to cook the whole meal at one time or entertain friends for a dinner party. Just remember you have to store it. There are plenty of tiny home designs that provide room to store a full size. Some folks stash it up on the tongue or even have it slide out from a hidden compartment along the side of the house. If you aren’t traveling much, you can just pop it in the middle of your kitchen for transport and put it outside when you get to your next destination.  If you are looking for something that you can easily breakout, has a nice cooking space, will cool down quickly and will take a minimal amount of room, check out the Weber 1141001 Go-Anywhere Gas Grill. This guy does everything you need it to and is tiny enough to not take up your whole floor plan of your tiny home.

What about my Kamado style cooker (Big Green Egg)?

King-KegYes, for those who don’t know, there is an actual name for the ceramic style grills that are particularly good at everything and weigh a ton. You can stop worrying, though.  They actually make lighter versions of the style such as Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Barbecue Grill. This is made with fiberglass covered in metal opposed to the heavy ceramic. Also sold separately is the trailer hitch for ease of carrying it when you leave the house, but still want to go tailgating.

As you can see, you will have as many choices of what kind of grill to buy as you do what to grill on it. Make sure you know what you are interested in doing cooking wise ahead of time and make choices that are applicable to your culinary style.

 

Loft or Loftless? The Pros and Cons of Multi-Level Tiny Living

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For many people, one of the most common questions about tiny living is, “Do I want to go with a loft or loftless?” This always follows with a steady stream of questions. “Do I want one? Do I need to have one? Do I want to be climbing up a ladder or steep staircase every night of the week? What if I need to get up in the middle of the night? How much space am I going to save by having one?”

Lofts: They’re not just for bedrooms anymore

Sure, one of the most common places to put a bed in a tiny house is in the loft. After all, you are spending the eight hours in bed laying down, so do you really need to be able to stand up? With a maximum height of 13’6″ for a tiny home, it is kind of a waste if you don’t go vertical. You can heartily increase your living area by putting in a storage and bedroom loft. Everyday there are new designs for multi use staircases and ladders for access. But there are some downsides to having a bed in the loft. First of all, you are going to have to get up and down every time you need to get out of bed.  For the elderly, handicapped, or even the insomniacs of the world, this may not be the best choice. Then there is the headroom deficiency that you have deal with. Most lofts are pretty spacious for sitting up, but if you are one of those people who needs to have a little more headroom, downstairs your bed must go.

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Even if you do decide to move your bed to the main level, don’t necessarily rule out having a loft. There are plenty of examples of people using lofts for office work spaces, children’s play rooms, guest bedrooms and most importantly storage. If going up and down often is a worry, use it as an attic. And to be honest here, most people need as much storage space as they can get their hands on.

On the Level: the first level, that is

If you decide to stick with one-level for your house, you will definitely lose storage space and if you decide to compensate for that loss by lengthening your home, remember that there will be that much more home to tow. The advantages are pretty straightforward: you can get out of bed more easily, don’t have to travel down a ladder or staircase to use the bathroom, and you can lower the overall height clearance of your home.

3cbea335-94c5-4d72-973c-bc89e0c8e4e6If you are physically unable to have a loft, don’t give up on your tiny house dreams yet, as there are still options that can help you optimize your space. Murphy beds and slide under beds are popular in many tiny houses, but keep in mind that you are going to have to clear the space each and every time you want to have access to your bed. Still, if you are getting home from a night out with the wife and a little tipsy, would you rather move furniture or climb a staircase to crash into bed?

Whether you are Team Loft or Team Flat, paring down your physical items is definitely a mandatory part of tiny living. Checkout our sister site Downsize, Organize, Simplify for great tips and tricks to help make your life easier. There are always choices. This is one of the biggest reasons for the tiny home movement: customization. You have the ability to go in unlimited number of directions! All you have to do is figure out the priority of your want list is, and the world is your oyster. Dream Big, Live Tiny!

-Tom

The Five Biggest Tiny Living Myths

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Going tiny is a big decision and certainly not an easy one. As this niche industry continues to build, so do its naysayers. Don’t give up on your big dream to live tiny! Most of what they say isn’t true anyway. Here are a few of the myths surrounding the tiny house community and the truths behind them.

I have to give up everything I want

First and foremost, let’s get this right out of the way. Downsizing does not mean you have to abandon all of your Earthly possessions. It does mean that you have to make some sacrifices and compromises. When you go tiny, you are trading in the cost of an item for the cost of space for an item. That being said, you are the one who makes the decisions as to what you need to have and what you don’t. On every tiny television show the people moving in are given one Rubbermaid container and told, “That’s all you can have.” You do have to get rid of a ton of stuff, but you do not have to get all crazy about it.

I have to give up my Privacy

Every time you see pictures or television shows about tiny homes, they are all bright and have as many windows as possible with as much open space inside as possible. The reason for this is to make the space look bigger. But you can have shades, curtains or blinds and even window treatments if you so desire. Also, don’t think that you can only have one big open room. There are plenty of designs where you can have walls, pocket doors and more. And if worse comes to worse, hitch up the home and drive to the middle of Montana.

I have to maintain a nomadic lifestyle

Just because you have a house on wheels doesn’t mean that you have to move it. There are plenty of people who find a nice comfortable spot to park their home and they just leave it there. People build decks on the front and sides of their home, plant gardens and even pour concrete walks up to the front door.

I can’t have guests

This is one of the biggest things for people to wrap their head around. You can still entertain. Sure, if you have 50 people over you will have to bring the party outside, but in most tiny homes there is enough room to comfortably hold a small party. People rarely move from one space when they have guests anyway and nowadays with the culinary world taking off, cooking while entertaining has become status quo. There is no better place to do that than in a tiny home.

I have to be young and childless

Just because you have children or you are over the age of 30 does not disqualify you from owning a tiny home. There are plenty of floor plans that have a room for the kids or have a guest bed in the loft, etc. As you get older and decide that tiny living is for you, there are plenty of single level homes out there to keep you from having to go up a ladder at night.

I can’t have full sized anything

When you decide to go into a tiny home, you need to make a priority list of what is the most important to you. Remember here, the commodity is space, not money that we are dealing with. For instance, if you like to cook, you might want to allocate more space to the kitchen. Are you a bigger guy? Maybe you want a shower that is actually big enough for you to move around in. The key word here is priority. If you want a king size bed, you can have a king size bed. Finding the way to compromise between function and form is the true challenge.

Those are just a few of the mental hurdles that people have to get over to get into living tiny. What concerns do you have? I will bet a good portion of them are just tiny home old wives’ tales. 

Dream Big, Live Tiny!

-Tom

A Tiny House Caboose

The Hobo Hilton

Home builders/owners: Bob & Lori Murrell

Everyone has a muse; a motivation or inspiration that changes our path. For tiny house enthusiasts, their muse is one of eco-friendliness or of financial freedom. Bob’s inspiration though was to remain single.  As fate and irony would have it, Bob met his real muse, Lori.

He still claims she would have lived in a cardboard box with him if she had to and at that point in time, you could very well say, she did.

In 2003,there were yet to be:

  • -interior walls
  • -Insulation
  • -electric with the exception of an alarm clock plugged into an extension cord from the garage.
  • -closets
  • -kitchen
  • -plumbing
  • -banks that would mortgage.

What there was,though, were:

  • -No zoning regulations
  • -A lot of drawings and plans
  • – Dreams
  •  -A County building code requiring 90 mph wind tolerance,a 5000.00 compliance for wind tie-downs in all for corners, and a yard of concrete in each hole in the ground.

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After complying, Bob, Dennis Smith, and Rudy Byler started building. The body was steel with bay windows which had been extended by 2.5 feet on either side making it 14’.

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The chassis of the Hobo Hilton was found in a Railroad magazine classified section and soon to be purchased from a private owner in Henry,Illinois. After sending the owner a disposable camera to take photos, the owner sent it back. The photos revealed it to be weathered and in need of a lot of love. It had been through a lot during its heyday along the Topeka, Peoria, and Western Railroad. 

Lori stuck around after all, helping Bob build and design the interior.

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The design inspiration came from LGB brand drovers’ Caboose called the Colorado and Southern. Fully completed, it is 390 sq ft.In addition,it’s heavily insulated, only requiring a 8” baseboard heater  (or candle!) to get through an Ohio winter.The Hemlock siding is from an Amish Mill in Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

In the photo, their granddaughter, Malia, reads her first book. Their favorite book to read together is “I Saw An Ant on the Railroad Track”. Who would’ve known!

Malia’s bedroom is in the most magical space: The Cupola.

With many warm visits from family and friends, it’s second roof, it’s withstanding of prevailing winds and winters for over a decade, the Hobo Hilton has proven to be the foundation of a happy life that Bob and Lori have made together.

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Tiny House Mistakes

For the past 6 years, I’ve been designing and building tiny homes. In that time, I’ve seen EVERYTHING there is when it comes to people making the decision to go tiny. And I’ve noticed a lot of people making the same few mistakes over and over again, even though they are easily avoidable if you know what to look for. I see these same mistakes in my clients, at my live workshops, and when I consult with people. I want to educate you so that you can avoid this mistakes and be as prepared for your tiny house build and tiny living as possible.

Mistake #1: They think that if they’re having their tiny house built for them, they don’t need to know how it all works behind the scenes.

This is a big one. Many people decide to have someone else (a professional builder like me) build their tiny home because they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves. If this is your situation, you may not have the time, the bandwidth, or the inclination to build your own home. And that’s fine! That’s why we’re here to build tiny homes for you!

But – the entire design and build process is much much smoother when the client knows what the foundations of building a tiny home are. It can save a lot of time and money, when the client comes into the process with a base knowledge of how the tiny house is put together. You don’t have to know exactly how to build your own house, but being INFORMED about how things are built in a basic way can really make your entire experience so much better.

The other thing we see, unfortunately, is people get taken advantage of by dishonest and unqualified builders because they themselves didn’t know what to look for in a quality tiny house build, and by the time they realize what’s happened it’s too late. In order to have the best experience with a tiny house builder, it’s really important to have a basic understanding of how the tiny house works and what goes into building it.

That’s why something like our Virtual Tiny House Workshop is so perfect for future tiny home dwellers, whether they are building it themselves or hiring a builder to work with. You’ll learn all of the building basics, what to look for in plumbing (so that you can make INFORMED decisions about what materials and systems you want to be used in your house), and how to spot any problems.

You don’t want to get into a situation where your builder is using materials or things in your house that aren’t the right solution, but you didn’t know any better so you couldn’t give them your input.

Mistake #2: You approach your builder or a project with no clear design or starting point, making the process more expensive and time consuming.

Here’s another big mistake we see people make when they ask us about building a tiny home. When you approach your builder with no clear design outline, it can make the process more time consuming, and thus more expensive.

People who start the tiny house process without their design mapped out end up getting stalled in the design process – they don’t have a good foundation, so we end up going back and forth about design decisions. On a custom design, this can really add up in both time and money.

Although I have seen people successfully “build without plans”, the most successful tiny house builds have a good design foundation. You don’t have to have a degree in design (like Mariah does) in order to understand the basics – and it can end up saving you down the line.

We teach all of the tiny house design fundamentals in the Virtual Tiny House Workshop, and many people say it’s their favorite part of the whole workshop!

One of the issues we see is someone doesn’t have a good understanding of design principles, so they lay out their tiny home based on “something they saw online”, but not something that fits THEIR lifestyle and THEIR unique habits. Then a few months later, after spending thousands of dollars and many months or years on their tiny house build, they move out after a month or two or try to sell it because they realize the designs that worked for “someone” weren’t going to work for them.

This mistake can be easily avoided. You just need a few lessons and examples about how to design a tiny house FOR YOUR NEEDS and the principles of design as they apply to tiny homes. Again, you don’t need to go to school for it like Mariah, but she can teach you all of the most important things you need to know so that you don’t end up in one of these situations!

Mistake #3: You think that by the time your tiny house is built, you’ll be magically ready to make the transition.

Some people approach tiny living in a backwards way, and I see this again and again. People are ready to get started on their tiny house, they feel excited and gung-ho and ready to go! But they put the cart before the horse and don’t properly prepare for how long it can take to downsize your stuff and make this transition. Of course, we have seen people in extreme situations get rid of all of their stuff in two weeks, but that’s usually out of necessity or timing, not by choice.

In reality, downsizing into a tiny home is a process that takes time. And I wish more people would start the process as soon as possible, so that when the time comes to move in to their tiny home, they are truly ready. If you don’t start this process now, you won’t magically be ready to go tiny when your house is built. If you’re ready to start thinking about your tiny house journey, it’s time to learn the foundations. You should have a basic understanding of building, design, and downsizing – even if your tiny house is in the future and not happening right away. So many of these mistakes can be avoided by a little fundamentals, and that’s why we put together the Virtual Tiny House Workshop.

Whether you’re a few years away, hiring a builder, or ready to get down to business and build your own off-grid home on your own, the Virtual Tiny House Workshop provides lessons and demos on everything from choosing a trailer, to plumbing and electric, to composting toilets and solar power. We also have in-depth lessons on design and downsizing – two really important first steps you need to take!

We hope to see you this weekend at the virtual tiny house workshop!
The workshop takes place December 12th and 13th from 12 pm Eastern to 4 pm Eastern both days, but you can watch it at your leisure as you will have lifetime access :)

Dan (and Mariah)

Fun Stuff!

A collection of a few fun things I’ve been working on:

The Tiny House Map

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I’ve been making some improvements to the Tiny House Map (THM) recently. For those who don’t know the THM is a great way to find and contact people, groups, and communities that are close by in your area. I’ve refocused the categories to better help individuals find other likeminded individuals. This included adding ‘groups’ and ‘communities’ (so there isn’t too much up there now for those items quite yet. If you are aware of any groups or communities out there I encourage you mention it to them so they can add themselves to help spread the word!) Right now there are over 800 people from all over the world that are on the map!

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/map

 

Inspiration

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Looking for inspiration to help get you motivated to downsize, simplify, and build tiny? I’ve put together a list of 31 things that you can do right now. Check it out at:

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/inspire

 

Savings Goal Calculator

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I’ve already mentioned this one in a previous post but I thought I would add it to the list anyways because I like it :) I put together a calculator to help you see how long it might take to achieve your financial goals (regardless of what they are). Including steps you can take to shorten that time:

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/home/savingscalculator

 

Tiny House Directory

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Lastly, I’ve made some improvements to the Tiny House Directory (THD). If you haven’t heard of the directory, it’s a collection of websites, books, and other resources specific to tiny houses. Do you have a favorite book or other resource that has helped you? Add it to the THD!

https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/tiny-house-directory

The Fallacy of the 5 Year Plan

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This is an email from my friend and Virtual Tiny House Workshop co-host Mariah, who wanted to share this with you today

As you probably know, I’ve taught at more than 25 tiny house workshops and events over the past 2 years.

My favorite part is talking with everyone at the workshops, hearing their stories, and helping them start their journey.

Every time we teach a workshop, I end up losing my voice answering so many questions! It’s always fun to stay up late with people who share your values.

(Psst – I’m hosting the first and only VIRTUAL Tiny House Workshop this weekend! You can register here and join us!)

One thing I’ve been noticing more and more while teaching and speaking at these workshops, is that people have long timelines for their tiny house journeys.

I definitely think everyone should follow their own path and work within a time frame that suits their unique situation and life story. I’m all about marching to the beat of your unique drum!

That being said, I heard a lot of the same thing at the most recent workshop we spoke and taught at. We asked the group, “When do you plan to move into a tiny home?” and went around the room hearing answers.

“Five years”

“Ten years”

“6 years – when my kids are moved out!”

People were at the workshop, getting all hyped up, learning awesome new skills, and gaining knowledge and momentum – but that wouldn’t be put into action for another five to ten years.

Hmm, I thought, that seems like a lot of planning.

But then I thought about me, a few years ago.

See, I had a five year plan. I was 18 and I was going to save up all my money for five years, I was going to purchase the “vintage trailer of my dreams” – which at the time was an Airfloat.

I wanted something in the 25 foot long range (OMG can you imagine? I’m so glad I didn’t go that big haha).

I don’t think I quite understood just how expensive those rare beauties really are! In my mind, I would have my own place to park it, my own land with my own garden, and everything would happen at exactly the right time just the way I’d planned it all out.

Then, my entire five year plan of saving/researching/designing and planning went out the window when the COMET Camper (originally just a scrappy little 1969 Avalon) landed in my proverbial lap.

At 3 AM on a Tuesday morning (I’m not kidding – it was really that early and crazy), my friend from NYC dropped off what would become the COMET Camper and told me to do whatever I wanted to with it. I figured I’d sell it and use the money to put towards my imaginary “dream camper” – you know, stick to the plan.

Turns out, that scrappy little trailer WAS my dream camper, I just had to let the opportunity take shape and realize it’s potential.

Here’s the thing:

I’m really glad that the camper I live in now ended up in my driveway at 3 AM on a Tuesday 5 years ago, instead of 5 years in the future.

I’m glad because even though at the time it wasn’t in my “life plan” and that really freaked me out, I probably would have waited and waited and postponed making my major life change into camper life much longer than I had even planned. And since taking the leap, you know I can tell you it’s the best freaking thing that’s ever happened!

There’s no perfect time, and the sooner you get started, the better. That’s why we’ve put together the Virtual Tiny House Workshop. So you can get started now, take some action steps, and stop waiting.

We made it super affordable so that you don’t have to save up for years  to attend, and you can start sooner rather than later.

Planning is good – trust me I believe in good planning. Planning can lead to a lot of good stuff! Planning is smart.

But don’t be afraid of opportunity. Remember that it will NEVER be “the right time”, and there will ALWAYS be reasons (excuses) not to dive head-first into a new lifestyle and new way of living.

Things will never be “perfect” – so roll with it and if something amazing comes your way, allow yourself to say yes and let it work itself out.

If you’re ready to start taking those steps now, Dan Louche and I are excited to be bringing you the first and only Virtual Tiny House Workshop, called “Design/Build/Downsize”. We’ve got 8 trainings and lessons, step by step tutorials, live discussions and Q & A sessions, and more.

You can see the entire curriculum and register here >>>

We hope to see you there!