While there are many reasons to be interested in tiny houses, a large portion of the people that I talk to are motivated for financial reasons. And while some of those are just interested in saving some money for travel or to work less, there are also those that are in need. Not a week goes by that I don’t get an email from someone who is looking for an option to avoid becoming homeless.
Here are a couple of pictures of the Simple Living house being built. They were taken with a crappy cell phone camera but I figured something is better than nothing.
This is the progress after only about 5 days of work by a single person. The simplifications to the design have really sped things up.
I’ve got the windows on order and they should be arriving in Atlanta (where I live) around the end of the month. I’m planning on driving them down to Florida (where the house is being built) and finishing up the exterior sometime around the middle of March. By then I should also be putting the finishing touches on the Tinier Living house (I’ve said that before though) and so I’m thinking of taking it on a little road trip. There have been quite a few people who have expressed interest in seeing it down there.
Is there reading anyone in Florida reading this who wants to see a tiny house or two?
We’ve made some progress on our latest design, which for now I’m calling ‘Simple Living’.
The subfloor is complete and we’re now ready to stand up the walls. We’ve actually been at this point for some time while I work out which windows we are going to use. You don’t want to do any framing until you are certain of the brand, type and size of all your windows.
While most manufacturers can make you windows to any size, if you pick from their ‘standard’ sizes it is a lot cheaper. I put the word ‘standard’ in quotes since these sizes aren’t standard across manufacturers. They’re not even standard across different lines or types (wood, premium vinyl, standard vinyl, etc) within the same manufacturer. So if you want to control cost, you have to have the brand, line, and size of every one of your windows picked before you start your framing.
For this house, since I am trying to keep cost down, my original idea was to try to use exclusively off-the-shelf windows. These are the windows that you can just walk into a home improvement stores and buy, and are generally cheaper than special order windows. One of the problems with this idea is that the sizes that are available are pretty limited. They are the most popular sizes used in conventional houses and are thus usually a lot bigger than what is needed in a tiny house. You can forget about finding a loft window. To get around this we could have bought just some off-the-self windows and special ordered the others, if size was the only problem. The other problem is that we always order our windows with tempered glass since the houses will be driven down the road. Tempered glass, for those who don’t know, is glass that has been heat treated to make it stronger. It also breaks into much smaller pieces when it shatters making it much less likely to injure anyone if it breaks. It’s the only type of glass used in cars and RV’s. None of the off-the-shelf windows have tempered glass. So all of our windows will need to be special ordered.
In our tiny Living Design, the windows are the largest single cost of all the materials. So I knew if I was going to make a less expensive house, I was going to have to bring that cost down. There are two ways to do that; first, use fewer windows, and second, use less expensive windows.
To use less windows, I’ve eliminated the dormers. This is one of the most loved features of the Tiny Living design, but it adds a lot to the cost of the house, not only in the price of the windows but also in other materials and labor. I’ve also eliminated the two windows that flank the front door. While I really like the look of those, they don’t provide that much light since they are so narrow. By getting rid of these 6 windows, we drop the total cost of the windows (not counting the other saving from getting rid of the dormers that I will talk about later) by $1500. That’s almost 10% of the total materials cost of the Tiny Living house.
Next, we’re using less expensive windows. Instead of the aluminum clad wood windows used in the Tiny Living design, I am opting for vinyl windows. One of the biggest issues I have with vinyl windows is their color selection. They usually only come in white or almond and can’t be easily painted (don’t even try). I personally don’t like the white up against the stained wood siding that’s found on Tiny Living, but since I am using a different, less expensive siding that will be painted and not stained, that’s less of a concern. Vinyl windows end up being about 30% less than the aluminum clad windows.
With these two changes I expect to shave about $2000 off the materials cost. My hope is to get the total cost to build this house down to under $10,000. This is a good start.
We’ve started construction of our 4th house design (I’ll post mock ups and images soon)! We don’t have a name for it yet and I’m hoping to get some ideas from all of you later on.
The idea behind this design is to create a house that is a better fit for someone who is primarily financially motivated in their decision to live in a tiny house. Tiny houses can appeal to people for many different reasons but they are usually either for conservation and environment considerations or for financial reasons (or a combination of the two).
Up until now we have built houses that consist of some of the best materials that you can buy. For instance the windows that we use are double pane aluminum clad wood windows that require 2 months to construct and cost as much as $5000 for a complete set (13 windows in our Tiny Living model). The siding we use is stain quality cedar, and the interior has solid pine siding and hardwood floors. These materials combined with our detail oriented craftsmanship result in an amazing house.
This quality comes at a price though. For someone who may be looking for the most economical housing solution it simply may not be worth it to them. Often when I am asked if there is any possibility in reducing the price of our houses (which for a 20 ft. house starts at $34,000) I often suggest removing the dormers, selecting a different quality of window, or even using a different interior siding. All of which can save money on either or both labor and material costs. But since we have never constructed a house with any of these changes we don’t know what the exact savings would be (for changes like the windows, a fairly precise amount can be determined, but for changes in labor, like not having the dormers, it can be harder)
So a couple of months ago we decided to try an experiment. We wanted to build a house to the same level of quality in craftsmanship that you have come to expect from Tiny Home Builders, while also making very conscious decisions about the cost of the materials we use and the labor time involved in its construction. So what does that mean? We are not going to simply select the least expensive product. Each product will still need to meet our expectation in durability, weight, and aesthetic appeal (e.g. no vinyl siding). Nor will shortcuts be made at the expense of the livability or functionality of the house. Our goal is to produce an attractive, durable house that is attainable to more people. We also want to illustrate some of the tradeoffs that are made when balancing quality and price so that you can be more educated when making these decisions for yourself.
This house will be constructed in Deland and we expect to make it available for viewing (for all those who have asked about seeing a model).