Getting the Internet in your Tiny House

Getting the

If you are anything like me, having access to the internet is right around as important as having access to water (not really, but you get the idea). So how do you get access to the internet in your tiny house? The answer depends on where you are located/parked.

Since a tiny house isn’t on a foundation, it’s hard to request services that are otherwise easy for a conventional homeowner to get. Installing the service wires cost money, but the providers expect to make it up (plus a lot) over the lifetime of you paying for service. On the other hand, they aren’t so keen to running service to an RV or tiny house. Since it’s not a permanent structure, they have less assurances that you will be a long term subscriber, and thus not as sure you will make it worth their while. So you will likely need to get your service from another source.

Get it from your nearby host

If you are parked in someone’s backyard or in their driveway, there’s a good chance that you can just connect to their wireless router just as you would at your local Starbucks or cafe. The big difference is that they will likely have a password set that you will need to get from them in order to connect. At one time most routers came unsecured so that they were easier to set up. But in the last few years there has been more of a shift to security with many routers coming with security features turned on by default and even some routers NOT performing as well or as fast unless they are secured. As a result, you can’t find nearly as many unsecured routers as you used to. So whichever router you want to connect too, you will likely need to ask its owner for their password. Offering to chip in on the monthly bill might make that conversation a little less awkward. If your host is nearby, the only equipment you will need is your computer/tablet/phone. Do be aware that when you connect to someone else’s router, unless you are connecting through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or are on a secured site (HTTPS), it is possible, although probably unlikely, that someone else on that network can see your traffic (what you are looking at).

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Get it from your not so nearby host

If you house is parked on land that is a little more rural, and perhaps your host is not as close, then you may find that your computer isn’t within range to connect to their router. In this case, assuming you don’t want to run a cable all the way from their house, you’re going to need some additional equipment.

One option is to add a longer range antenna to your computer. While this option works well, it’s not very convenient. First, the antenna takes up a lot of room unless you mount it somewhere. Second, since laptops don’t often come with antenna connectors you will also need an adapter to hook it up. This results in more wires which makes your computer a little more difficult to move. Finally, the biggest downside is that this only provides internet to the computer with the antenna, and you still won’t have internet on any of your other devices. While there are ways to share this internet connection, it can be a pain.

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The image above is an example of an external antenna attached to a network adapter that would then get plugged into a computer with a USB cable.

A better option is a setup that includes a device called a bridge. An example of a device that can act as a bridge is the Engenius Enstation 5. This bridge includes a high gain antenna that allows it to pick up your hosts internet signal from much farther away than your other devices can receive. It can also be mounted outside and pointed at your host to extend its range even farther. You then hook up your router to the bridge to create your own network within your house for all of your devices to connect to. The bridge can also act as a firewall keeping people from your host network from connecting to your computers.

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enstation5

Above is an example of a external bridge/antenna

Finally, if you are so far away that even the bridge can’t connect to your host, you can add another Enstation 5 on their end to extend the internet signal so that you can be as far away as 5 miles!

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Get it from your phone

If you simply don’t have a host you can get internet from, consider using your phone. Many smart phones can be set up so that they can be used as a hotspot. What this means is that your phone shares its internet connection via WiFi, allowing your computer and other devices to connect. Depending on your signal, the speeds can be great or absolutely make you want to poke your eyes out slow. Be aware that your phones service plan likely has a data cap, meaning that they will only let you transfer a limited amount of data per month. So don’t plan on watching too many movies on Netflix or streaming Pandora. Even if your phones service provider says that you don’t have a data cap and are on an ‘unlimited plan’, they will still probably throttle your speed to painful levels once you exceed some threshold.

Get it from a Satellite

The final option I would consider is getting internet from a satellite service provider. There are two companies that offer this service that I know of, Dish and Hughesnet. I have a somewhat remote piece of land that I needed internet at and so I am a subscriber to Hughesnet. While it is good in that you can use it to get internet where you have no other options, it’s not great in pretty much every other aspect. It’s a little expensive at around $90/month. The speeds and lag are unimpressive. It has a monthly data cap, although not nearly as restrictive as the phone option. And finally, the dish hardware is pretty large. It’s definitely not something you would mount to your house and it can be a little bit of an eyesore. So all in all, if you have another option I would pursue it.

Do you have a unique or different way of connecting to the internet? Share it in the comments!

Happy connecting!

Where’s the Planking?

One of the questions I’m frequently asked when someone is building a tiny house and they make it to the interior is “where do I find the interior pine tongue and groove planking (siding)?” I had the same question when I built my first house. I remember wandering the lumber isles of Home Depot clueless. Even describing it to an associate didn’t help as they didn’t know what I was talking about. The problem is that it’s not a hot seller outside the tiny house crowd. There aren’t too many people covering their basement walls with this stuff like there once was. However, it’s great for tiny houses since it’s lightweight, durable against the vibrations encountered in a tiny house on the road, and installs easily.

So anyways, the last time I was in Lowes (I usually shop at Home Depot since they are pretty consistently less expensive) I took a picture of it in its native environment so that you would have a better feel for what you might be looking for.

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It’s wrapped in plastic usually near the individual trim pieces (sometimes hidden on a back end-cap). If you still need to ask an associate, ask for ‘wainscoting’.

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The hardest part of building a tiny house

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I’m frequently asked what the hardest part of building a tiny house is. People expect that I’ll respond that it’s the electrical or the plumbing (the two tasks that seem to scare people the most), or perhaps attaching the house to the trailer. But really the hardest part is just getting started, and taking that first real step. By real step I’m not referring to the planning phase, while technically that is where you start when building a tiny house, it isn’t a commitment (it’s easy to walk away from an unstarted plan).

It’s human nature after all to resist change and to avoid the unknown. And for most who are building a tiny house, since many have no construction experience, that means a tremendous amount of firsts. Then, beyond the construction, you’ve got the actual living in a tiny house. Something that isn’t exactly common quite yet and thus not ‘normal’ as viewed by society.

Those can be really scary. Some people consider living in a tiny house and then immediately abandon the idea thinking that they just can’t do it (and for some, they are right since it isn’t a fit for everyone). I’ve seen others that have been in the planning phase for 5 years and that have attended 5 workshops who can’t seem to move past the planning stage. That doesn’t count as getting started :).

While building and living in a tiny house can seem insurmountable when looking at everything that goes into it at once, you can do it. Just look around on the internet and see the countless individuals and couples who you wouldn’t think could do it, doing it. The difference is they picked up a hammer and got started.

Awesome Tiny House Model

I wanted to quickly share a picture of a tiny house framing model that someone sent me. tiny house model

It’s the Tiny Living design and I think he did an awesome job. He built this to prepare for the real thing since the weather is too cold right now up where he lives, near Boston. Once it warms up a little he plans to start construction of the actual house. If the attention to detail of this model is any indication, I expect it will be a good one!

Helpful Building Tip

I came across this tip and thought it was super useful. When going up on a ladder, put a magnet in your shirt pocket to keep some screws handy.

Magnet in a pocket

I can’t tell you how many times I climb up a ladder with a bunch of nails or screws held between my lips. I’m always afraid I’m going to fall and choke on one. With this I wouldn’t have to worry about that, although, now I have to worry about falling and having a screw piece my chest ;)

Now I just need to find a magnet and make sure I wear a shirt with a pocket

via Lifehacker

All Roughed In

I’ve completed the electrical and plumbing ‘rough in’ as well as another hour of video.

Electrical and plumbing roughed in

Next is the insulation. I’ve decided to do the insulation myself on this house due to the expense of the closed cell spray foam. The insulation companies often have a minimum charge to make it worth it for them to bring out and set up the foam truck. So even though this house is really small the cost of having it sprayed is the same as a much larger house. One quote I got was for $1200 while I expect I can do it myself (using the preformed sheets) for closer to $400.

After the insulation I will start on the interior siding, which will start to make it look more like a house on the inside.

How Do 3-way Switches Work

Have you ever wondered how it is that the same light can be controlled from 2 different switches? No? What’s wrong with you ;) Well, if you happen to be one of the .5 percent that said yes, I have a video for you!

This is an excerpt from the videos I’m wrapping up concerning the electrical rough-in. I only expected there to be 1 or 2 videos (I try to make the videos around 10-15 minutes or less), but it has turned out to be 4!

This is a rare case were I use props to demonstrate a concept, Mr. Wizard style.

As for my current house, the electrical rough-in is done and I’m moving on to the plumbing rough in next.

On to the Interior

I finally finished the roof last week as well as three more videos!

Tiny House metal roof

So I celebrated with a beer (or two, or…). I have a way of finding reasons to celebrate the smallest of achievements :)

Celebrating the completion of the roof

I personally like the look of the metal roof, but I know it’s not for everyone. The problem is that there aren’t many alternatives that are as strong (for the high winds that are experienced while moving a house) and as lightweight as metal. The last time I was at my roofing supplier they had a brochure for a shake style metal roof that I thought looked pretty great. It has all the great qualities of a metal roof while also having a more natural appearance. I think I might use it on a house real soon. Below is a random image I found online so that you know what I’m talking about.

Weathered Wood Metal Roof

 

As I’ve said before, I still have a few miscellaneous items to finish on the exterior, but I think I am going to come back to those later and do some work on the interior now.

I picked up the remainder of the supplies I need to finish the interior. I do most of my shopping at Home Depot because I have found them to be cheaper overall than Lowes (which is actually closer to me). Lately though I have seen that Lowes is offering 5% off when you get one of their “membership rewards” card (like the cards at grocery stores). So when I was at Home Depot I asked the (really helpful) guy at the pro desk if they had something equivalent and low and behold they match the discount when asked. Pretty sweet! It’s like free money (that unfortunately you have to ask for). But now you know :)

So Close

Tiny House Exterior Siding Completed

The roof is almost done with just the ridge cap remaining. I was hoping to get that done today since I won’t work on the house again until next week but it didn’t happen.

 

Once the ridge cap is done I can stop covering the house with a tarp which is pretty exciting. I will still have a few odds and ends to do on the exterior (storage doors, wood under the overhang, etc.), but that will be the last of the truly labor intensive work. I’m not saying the interior doesn’t take effort and time, it’s just in a whole different category than framing, siding, and roofing.

Exterior siding is going up

I was finally able to work on the house last week. I put in a full weeks work and will do the same this coming week, weather permitting. The siding is going up and I am starting to see what it’s going to look like. I hope to have all of the exterior siding done as well as the roof by the end of the week, but I’m thinking that might be just a bit much, especially since we have rain predicted. I have a tendency to set lofty goals which often leads to disappointment, but when I aim low it’s easy not to overshoot.

Exterior Siding Being Installed

Here is my homemade tool (wood platform on an extendable paint pole) for installing siding by myself. It’s not very sophisticated but works like a charm. When you’re by yourself you sometimes have to get creative :)

Custom Siding Installation Tool

As I have said before I’ve been recording this entire build so I’m going a lot slower than I would like. But I think I’ve got between 4 to 6 weeks left. Then I’ll put out an updated version of the plans and list the house for sale.

I’ll have an update at the end of the week with a lot more pictures and maybe even a video.