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How big should a tiny house be?  RSS feed

 
Felicia Daniels
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For 2 people (my mother & myself), 3 cats & 1 dachshund? It needs to be on wheels because we're going to be moving within 1 to 2 years to either California or New Jersey--if we can find cheap enough land within a 1 to 1 1/2 hr drive to Los Angeles or Manhattan (depending on the state). The land would need to be only a couple thousand dollars for at least a couple of acres. So, not sure if this is possible yet. But if so, we want to build a tiny house on wheels. We're thinking 300 sq ft should be fine as long as it has a loft for extra space. What do you guys think? We currently live in AL. Also, how do you find a cheap utility trailer to build the house on?
 
R Scott
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I can't answer what is big enough--YOU need to decide that.

You can do some stuff like tape out a space in you current house and see if you can make it work, sort of.

As for cheap trailers--Craigslist.
 
Tom OHern
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300 sqft is huge for a tiny house on a trailer. The largest of the Tumbleweed Homes is 172 + 53 for the loft. With that said, there are plenty of examples of two people living in spaces with less than 200 sqft of space. But it all comes down to whether you can life in that little of a space. You should minimize your lifestyle now, and see if you can manage in a smaller footprint. Can you get rid of 90% of your possessions with out cramping your lifestyle?

The question becomes why do you want to live in a tiny house? And do the benefits to you doing so outweigh the costs to you? Only you can answer those questions.
 
Felicia Daniels
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Tom OHern wrote:300 sqft is huge for a tiny house on a trailer. The largest of the Tumbleweed Homes is 172 + 53 for the loft. With that said, there are plenty of examples of two people living in spaces with less than 200 sqft of space. But it all comes down to whether you can life in that little of a space. You should minimize your lifestyle now, and see if you can manage in a smaller footprint. Can you get rid of 90% of your possessions with out cramping your lifestyle?

The question becomes why do you want to live in a tiny house? And do the benefits to you doing so outweigh the costs to you? Only you can answer those questions.


Well we live in a 16x80 mobile home right now but it's so old & falling apart that we're only able to use about 1/2 of it. We don't live frilly because we can't afford it. All we use is a fridge, washer/dryer, double burner & toaster oven, a tv, laptops & cell phones--all of which would easily fit into our new little house. We mainly stay in our living room right now which is about 240 sq ft. So 300 would be the size of our living room plus about 1/2 of our kitchen which is basically all we use anyway. We do have ALOT of junk/personal mementos in our house so I think the biggest thing would to figure out where to store all of this stuff or what to toss away.

We want to live in a smaller house so that we can cut out utility bills--if we can figure out how afford a cheap solar system & rain harvesting system. If we could find a bigger home--like another mobile home that it's in better shape & won't cost an arm & a leg to buy & figure out an affordable way to move it that won't cost us our other limbs then that would be great but as of right now we see a smaller house being the answer. We thought about buying an RV to live in full time but we weren't sure if we would be allowed to permanently use it as a residence where we move to. We're trying to find some cheap land in either New Jersey or California so we don't know the rules about living in an RV outside of an RV park. Can we do this secretly without it being a problem?
 
Andrew Parker
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I knew a retired couple who tried to live out of a 14 foot travel trailer, so less than 100 sq.ft.. It was doable, but they ended up in counseling. I think it is a factor of how many possessions you have and how much time you will be spending inside. When you look at homes from 100 years ago, they were raising large families in less than 300 sq.ft. Unless your mother is nimble, you might want to avoid a sleeping loft.

Perhaps rather than building a rustic travel trailer, a home that can be broken down and moved in a trailer would be better?
 
Felicia Daniels
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Andrew Parker wrote:I knew a retired couple who tried to live out of a 14 foot travel trailer, so less than 100 sq.ft.. It was doable, but they ended up in counseling. I think it is a factor of how many possessions you have and how much time you will be spending inside. When you look at homes from 100 years ago, they were raising large families in less than 300 sq.ft. Unless your mother is nimble, you might want to avoid a sleeping loft.

Perhaps rather than building a rustic travel trailer, a home that can be broken down and moved in a trailer would be better?


What kind of houses can be broken down? I've never heard of that.
 
Andrew Parker
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Any design whose pre-fabricated components can be loaded into a standard container or onto a standard trailer would work. Yurts, military structures and disaster relief shelters are designed that way as are many storage sheds. You usually need to build a foundation for each site. You may also want to sacrifice siding and roofing with each move, if you don't like seams.
 
Felicia Daniels
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Andrew Parker wrote:Any design whose pre-fabricated components can be loaded into a standard container or onto a standard trailer would work. Yurts, military structures and disaster relief shelters are designed that way as are many storage sheds. You usually need to build a foundation for each site. You may also want to sacrifice siding and roofing with each move, if you don't like seams.


I'll have to check those out. Are they usually affordable?
 
Andrew Parker
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I suppose you could look for something as surplus but I mentioned it primarily as an example of how you could build in such a way as to be able to disassemble all or some of the components and take them to a different location for reassembly. At the very least, you could build a core with plumbing, electrical and HVAC (conventional or otherwise), kitchen, bathroom, etc.. Come to think of it, a 14 foot travel trailer might do the job. Make sure you build enough breathing room around it to stay out of therapy.
 
Felicia Daniels
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Andrew Parker wrote:I suppose you could look for something as surplus but I mentioned it primarily as an example of how you could build in such a way as to be able to disassemble all or some of the components and take them to a different location for reassembly. At the very least, you could build a core with plumbing, electrical and HVAC (conventional or otherwise), kitchen, bathroom, etc.. Come to think of it, a 14 foot travel trailer might do the job. Make sure you build enough breathing room around it to stay out of therapy.


Thanks so much! I really appreciate all your help!
 
Allen Winston
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I am going to speak on this topic from a practical perspective as an architect/design professional. First you need to decide is this a mobile home, trailer or permanent home. As a permanent structure I would not recommend anything less 350 to 400 SF due light and vent for health reason. There were tons of studies done in the early part of the twentieth century that came from tenement housing by public health agencies and US Coast Guard. The essential information found was that for an occupancy of 4 you would need:
1 room of 150 SF which is about a (10 x 15 feet) for sitting, eating, cooking, sleeping berth for 1
1 room of 100 SF for two adults
1 bathroom compact 25 SF with toilet, Lav, Compact shower/tub and combo washer/dryer
1 Sleeping berth for 1 at 75 SF with closet and MEP storage
Which brings you to 350 SF

For a mobile home your weight is your enemy. You will need to calculate the weight of everything. To pull the entire house you should not exceed about 8000 pounds. In your case with two people in a mobile setup
you would need:

Common space 150 SF
1 Bathroom 25SF
Sleeping Berth 75 SF

Which would put you a 250 SF
With a base trailer foot print of 175 to 190 SF with the balance of SF lofted.
 
Angelika Maier
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This is around 28 m2 for the metric here. I am all for tiny houses but this is clearly too small.
I would work out if you can drop the movable part. Or I would make two tiny houses or three. One for each of you and
one for kitchen and bathroom, this creates heating problems though.
I found as soon as you garden or farm you will need a bigger house at least the kitchen.
If you have a good uni library near you borrow a book which is called Neufert it is full of measurements.
If the house is smaller it does not cost that much less. You still need plumbing electricity etc.
I would say on double the size you have a really comfortable house for both of you. You might be able to get down to 1 1/2 the size.
 
Tom OHern
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Angelika Maier wrote:This is around 28 m2 for the metric here. I am all for tiny houses but this is clearly too small.


Angelika, it might be too small for you, but there are lot s of people who are living in houses that size and it works for them.

I would work out if you can drop the movable part. Or I would make two tiny houses or three. One for each of you and
one for kitchen and bathroom, this creates heating problems though.
I found as soon as you garden or farm you will need a bigger house at least the kitchen.
If you have a good uni library near you borrow a book which is called Neufert it is full of measurements.
If the house is smaller it does not cost that much less. You still need plumbing electricity etc.
I would say on double the size you have a really comfortable house for both of you. You might be able to get down to 1 1/2 the size.


Having two or three buildings would not only be problematic, it also defeats the purpose of tiny house living. I have not found that having a decent sized garden requires much more space nor have I had any problems dealing with the harvest in a small kitchen. It might not be ideal for everyone, but I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it is unworkable. A small portable shed can handle most of the overflow of tools and implements needed for anything larger than a small kitchen garden.
 
Angelika Maier
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I never lived in big spaces. But I cannot imagine battling through a tomato harvest or bottling plums in a tiny caravan kitchen. Then you must store the stuff.
Our old house was about less than 70 m2 for four of us, but the garden was small. Now the house is a bit bigger and the garden four times the size and I realize how much space you need. For example the pumpkins need to be stored. The seeds organized. There is the need for tools. We had to dry corn cobs and amaranth and it was next to impossible in our house. You need to raise tomato seedlings.
I think a tiny house is OK for a single person who works outside or has outbuildings. If you want anything like a more self reliant lifestyle you simply need space.
 
Andrew Parker
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I can appreciate the intellectual and philosophical challenge of living in a tiny home, but outside of the that, I would tend to agree with Allen and Angelika. Raw square footage is not particularly expensive, especially going from tiny to small.

When I was younger, I was impressed with one of Buckminster Fuller's ideas, a travel trailer sized infrastructure core that contained a full kitchen, bath, water heater and HVAC The intention was to use the trailerable core to use for emergency or seasonal housing, or as a low cost, prefab core for tract housing. A trailer mounted tiny home could be designed in the same way, to easily build a larger structure next to or around it.

As I mentioned before, if you want to be able to relocate and live more than tiny, design your house around prefabricated modules that can be loaded on a trailer or in a container.
 
Angelika Maier
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What I could imagine to have a tiny structure as a core which can be added later.
 
Burra Maluca
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My house isn't on wheels, but it is pretty small - 17ft x 17ft, which is 289 square feet, or nearly 27 square meters.

I think the secret is to make the best possible use of the space, and to avoid dividing walls so everything can be accessed from both sides.

This is the 'basic' kitchen, taken while we were still building it.



Then we added shelves under the work-surface, a cooker at the far end, a wood-stove next to the cooker and various wall-racks for plates, knives, pans and spices. There's a slab of marble making up the window-sill, which doubles as extra worksurface. Then we put a fridge opposite the sink and a table next to the fridge. These two act as a divider from the living area and make the kitchen into a sort of long, walk-in corridor with surfaces available on each side and at the end. When we are sitting at the table, it takes up a bit of room out of the living area, but that's OK as we're not using that bit of the house then. And it also makes the kitchen rather unusable as the bench is pulled out and gets in the way of anyone wanting to walk up and down the kitchen area, but that's OK too as we're all eating by that point.

Excuse the mess, but this is the best photo I have of the kitchen table 'in use'...



It's plenty big enough for three of us to eat off. And when the boys have finished scarfing all the carrot cake and cleared off somewhere, there's plenty of room for making chutney. Especially if I get round to doing the washing up and clearing the worktop down before I begin...



 
Ann Torrence
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Tom OHern wrote:
Angelika Maier wrote:This is around 28 m2 for the metric here. I am all for tiny houses but this is clearly too small.

Angelika, it might be too small for you, but there are lot s of people who are living in houses that size and it works for them.

I think it mostly comes down to kitchens. Figuring out what's needed depends on 1) climate, and 2) goals for your homestead. There's an appeal to the minimalist lifestyle, but it doesn't seem compatible with a self-sufficient deep pantry. Instead I try to reduce my footprint by not going to the grocery store very often. I am now appreciating the space requirement, in a harsh winter climate, for trying to store harvest to last until the next spring. In a gentler climate, we would have an expended harvest and need to store less. Here, it's a mad rush in about 60-90 days to bring it all in.

I have an upright freezer and probably double that much floor space in shelves for bulk and home-preserved goods. The freezer was purchased specifically because it can stay in the garage, but a lot of the other stuff needs to be kept above freezing and below food-damaging garage heat that we get in the summer. Then there's equipment I use annually, like the tomato press and the pressure cooker. Not to mention canning jars, empty and full. My larder just wouldn't fit in the typical tiny house. Yes, squash can be a decorative element in the home. No I am not making a bed by setting the box springs on 5 gallon buckets of wheat like the doomsday preppers. My 5 gallon buckets hold bulk goods I need to access regularly. Breakfast that begins with "Honey can you get the oatmeal out from under the mattress" just isn't functional.

And I am an expansive cook. As in, expand to fill all available surfaces in the heat of battle. So I appreciate a few more linear feet of counter space. I might be able to make toast and tea in Burra's kitchen, but canning salsa while cooking dinner? It would descend to chaos rather quickly, I'm afraid.
 
Angelika Maier
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Kitchen, sowing, knitting, guests.....
 
Ann Torrence
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Angelika Maier wrote:Kitchen, sowing, knitting, guests.....

both sewing clothes and sowing seeds take up a ridiculous amount of space in their season. Guests, as I have remarked elsewhere, belong in Zone 2 of the permaculture system. Knitting!-Angelika, we should have a fiber workshop at Paul's place. I would dearly love to get into spinning (no floor space for a wheel...).
 
Leila Rich
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Ann Torrence wrote:I think it mostly comes down to kitchens

I agree, although I'd say "I think it mostly comes down to storage", which is pretty much what you're saying anyway
I can do a lot in a very small, basic kitchen, but if there's nowhere to put the results...
I really need a big pantry and a dry shed though!
Ann Torrence wrote:other stuff needs to be kept above freezing and below food-damaging garage heat that we get in the summer
When I read things like this, I really count my climatic blessings.
A temperate climate makes life sooo easy!

Burra's kitchen reminds me of the one I grew up grew up with-it was very tight but totally workable.
Serious amounts of shelving, making the most of space with things like this and multipurpose work surfaces...
A lot of the messier/stinkier food activities happened outside on a big table near a tap and a fire
Ann Torrence wrote: I might be able to make toast and tea, but canning salsa while cooking dinner? It would descend to chaos rather quickly, I'm afraid.

You can and cook at the same time?! That would be instant chaos for me
 
Meryt Helmer
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one thing that will effect how the space works is how much space your pets need and if they are able to spend time outside as well. My husband and I spent a few years living in a 500 sq ft apartment that was plenty large enough for us. we would have been fine in half the space but it was in an area where our cats had to be indoor cats and we also had a pet bird and it was not enough space for them. had the layout been better then it would have worked for all of us. the layout there was terrible.

we now live in about 800 sq feet and have 2 kids 2 cats a dog a bird and I am rehabilitating 2 other cats at the moment. my husband works from home my kids are homeschooled and I am a stay at home mom. this house would feel too small if we did not have a climate that is good for being outside. our kitchen is very small. we have one electric pressure cooker and 1 burner in the kitchen and that is plenty for us. in a few weeks we will have a solar oven as well. we have 5.5 acres which is huge for us and so far only a small back yard area is fenced in and used as a garden the rest of the land is just wild forest which we love.

I think 200 sq ft could be plenty of space for you and your mom. you could have a bed up in the loft and if she is older maybe she can have a bed in the living area, maybe a love seat that turns into a bed? to me 2 burners and a toaster oven sound like they would take up too much space at least in my kitchen but that would depend on how your kitchen ends up being set up. really what I see that could be problematic is if your pets have enough space to be happy and comfortable and also that you and your mom have a very healthy relationship and get along really well.

 
Angelika Maier
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I agree if you have a good outside space for the messy kitchen activities that is great, but it needs a roof that you can do the things when the sun is blazing or when it;s raining, otherwise you want to work in the garden. Kitchen is not only storage a good sized kitchen table is important, you can bottle, sew , do school work and feed guestes.
 
Kat Green
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I have lived in California for 50 some years and the building codes are very restrictive. There is no place in California that you will be legally permitted to live in anything on wheels other than an RV park. Look for a place with no building codes. If you can remove the wheels and axels, such as is done with mobile homes, it might be doable in CA but many places have minimum size requirements. Permits are very expensive here also. I am moving to Arizona where land is cheap and building codes are almost non existent and permit costs are low. The only cheap land in CA is remote desert and even that is not very cheap. Some sellers are willing to take payments if you have the means which is what I did.
 
Meryt Helmer
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sonoma county is changing codes to allow tiny houses and a LOT of people live in tiny houses in coastal marin, Mendocino county has owner builder permit laws that are the most flexile and many many people live in rural parts of Mendocino county in trailers and tiny houses and all sorts of amazing owner built homes.
 
Kat Green
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Meryl. thank you for the new info. Are you sure that the rural trailers are legal? And are they trailers or mobile homes? Some mobile homes are only 8-12 ft wide and as little as 35 ft long. In the rural areas of Kern county, some of the mobiles are so old and have been there so long that they are "grandfathered" so that restrictions cant be enforced but new installs are subject to current restrictions. Los Angeles county, where these people are thinking of moving to, is especially strict and looking to oust anything other than contemporary housing to live up to an image. (i.e. Boring tract homes, stucco and tan colored. It actually scares me to see them. Too much government control.) If trailers and RV.'s are on the coast, are they on owned lots or perhaps RV lots that are purchased but subject to more restrictions imposed by the mobile home community? Some of these communities allow only newer homes and RVs and limited stays. Some of the older travel trailers are now classics like old cars and really nice but not allowed in most parks which is a shame. I hope you are correct and the laws are changing and soon.
 
Kat Green
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Regarding size. 300 sq ft is possible. I think for road trips, it would have to be only 8 ft wide so that would make it 37 1/2 ft long so it would be cumbersome. I have pulled trailers and I would be afraid. I have lived in a 20 ft travel trailer and had room for 2 overnight guests. (In beds, not on the floor!) It had a bathroom w/ shower and big enough kitchen and lots of storage. It even had a front and back door. You could attach an awning type room to the outside for more space. I have paid $600 to $1400 for travel trailers at different times in my life that were very livable. Purchasing the land in a place that will allow what you are looking to do for a low price is the biggest problem. Keep searching the internet and perhaps look for land being sold for tax liens.
 
Michael Bush
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A casual check of Zillow doesn't show much land in Sonoma for much under $100k an acre...the back side of LA on the Nevada side is CHEAP but there is little water and ugly as, well, its ugly

As for the house, I lived on a small sailboat for a year and as a single guy it was great, smaller in some ways than your average tiny house. Frankly, if you needed a covert living space a boat on a trailer would escape notice depending on the situation and being wired for DC would hook up to solar rather well. Boats are cheap in LA.
 
Meryt Helmer
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I don't know what the exact laws are for Mendocino county as far as legality of them but I do know that many people live in them. you have to look at laws for unicorporated areas because that is where they are going to have fewer restrictions.
 
Paul Bonneau
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Has anyone seen the book "Rancho Costa Nada"?

What's always bugged me about tiny homes on wheels is the shape more than the size. Long and skinny doesn't get it for me. I've always wondered about buying two trailers, each of which has half of a tiny house, that could be pulled up parallel to each other and joined. Of course moving would be more difficult but how often is that done? You would need temporary bracing to move half a house though.
 
Deb Rebel
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Found this thread. You can do a trailer. Mobile homes used to be just that, and family friends in the mid 1960's had a 6' wide by 35' pull behind trailer house, not an RV. They moved it four times in three years and vintage was early 1960's for it. They had their first child in it. On a very rural farm in a zone 2b climate/area. (they insulated the north side and around the skirting with small 'square' straw bales to deal with -45f plus windchill). He was able to get an 8' x 42' and  it was a mansion compared to the first one (eventually it was a 12x65, then they added a 16x16' room onto it and lived there until they retired.

The key to lack of kitchen is to set up an outdoor kitchen during seasonal food processing. She canned outside, processed chickens, everything, outside on a propane fired set of burners. They put up a shed to store that stuff in, and act as a 'central courtyard' windbreak as well.

Here at our prairie museum, they have moved/recreated a dugout that was built in the early 1920's, sod roof, that isn't much bigger than 120 sq ft. They raised three children in there. You can tour it when the museum is open... the small wood stove that was cooked on, a table that had enough chairs and the spice cabinet sat on it, a set of shelves to hold some cooking stuff, the washstand and chamber pot with lid, and a wooden chest. Then there was a bed that folded up. Everyone shared the same bed.  It unfolds to about a full size and everything else in there has to be stowed. Looking at those walls, no windows, and a dim lantern, um yeah, that would be a REAL case of cabin fever. However it was shelter from the elements and I'm sure weather permitting everything that could be done outside WAS done outside. So that may work for situations like this. A real mobile home that's towable or homebuilt RV that could also be removed from chassis and put on piers/foundation, with storage shed or sheds, and a plan to set up and use an outdoor kitchen as needed.

I see this thread is a few years old. Hope the land has been bought, and living is underway.
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Folded bed
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Table and other
 
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