My husband and I had planned on moving into a 5th wheel trailer once our kids moved out, but due to some weather issues (-40 f ?!) have decided a tiny house would be better. We would want to ideally build it ourselves (with the help of knowledgeable friends) but are at a loss as to which way to go with it. There are so many different ideas out there that I find myself lost in a sea of half useful information. What books or other sources of reliable information should we be looking at in the planning phase? I can daydream all day about the perfect set of stairs, but with no solid plan what good is that? I guess I currently feel overwhelmed, but we have a history of pulling it together and getting it done. Just wanted some input.
One thing I know that has been helpful for people building their own tiny houses is purchasing a set of plans and using them as a base model. Plans are going to give you a lot of the solid construction information/design, and leave you free to think more about the specific things you want in your tiny house. I didn't build mine myself though \
Tumbleweed tiny houses has some good plans available for purchase. Also, Ethan Waldman's book "Tiny House Decisions" was pretty good at covering the different things you'll need to be thinking about.
"There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible." - Samuel Johnson
I would start by just making some basic floor plan sketches to see what you think would work best for you (borrowing from all the resources and images that are out there). Doing so will answer a few questions like how long you think you will want, where are you going to want the front door, etc. Then you can use this information to narrow down what plans might suit you best, even if they need to be customized.
Figuring out what you want is definitely one of the hardest steps.
another place to start is asking what you are wanting from a tiny home life? Are you wanting to downsize? How important is storage/stuff? Do you want to live simply or do you want all the mod cons? Where are you planning on living (big design differences between having your own land and not)? Do you have a lot of visitors? Pets?
Getting to spend time in one is also very helpful in terms of understanding why things are designed the way they are, what works, what doesn't. Can you rent one for a while? Or tiny housesit?
I started with writing down what I do at home. What do I cook? What is my morning routine? That sort of thing. I made a rough list of stuff I have and winnowed it down. That way I could design the house around my lifestyle.
Luckily instead of an 8x20 tiny house I was able to get a 12x24 cabin with a 10' loft bedroom and I spent my first Winter in it. I was more OK with wintering than I thought I'd be, even though this was the worst Winter here (NH) in a long time.
Creator of Shire Silver, a precious metals based currency. I work on a permaculture farm. Old nerd. Father.
Thank you everyone for your input - it has been most helpful! We are looking at land in the Flathead valley of western Montana. After a little research I found I can have my tiny house here, but I wont be able to build it where I currently live (eastern Montana) due to local regulations in my current location.
Very good idea to figure out what my current needs are and build around that... and I love the idea of tinyhouse sitting or even rental! I have started to make a couple of floorplan drawing and am looking to see what will really work the best. Thanks again guys!Anyone with more tips or book suggestions feel free to chime in!
Erika, having lived in a small house for many decades, occasionally in a tiny one, in a rural location where we are on our own, I've found it's really important not to fall in love with the outside of a tiny house. You can always make them attractive later. But it's inside where you will be bumping into each other as you pass, be tired, using a toilet with No Privacy from sound, only a shower or knees-up-to-your-chest bath container, be inside on overcast, grey, stormy days that don't add a lot of optimism, so it's the inside that counts.
One crucial thing that isn't a part of any tiny house I've seen is a mud room for muddy boots and shoes, dripping raincoats and umbrellas before you get inside. I've seen some with a small washing machine, but where are you going to hang and dry them when there is no sun? Hanging things in the shower or over the bathtub means you can't take a shower or a bath, and where do you put the wet stuff in the meantime?
Is there a hardware closet somewhere for the vacuum, broom, basic tool box, and all the screws, nails, cuphooks, etc, supplies for such things? Skimping on any of these leaves you tripping over the really ugly stuff of real life.
Very small counter spaces in the kitchen mean you won't be doing much cooking, because there just isn't room for the bowls, mixers, ingredients, dirty dishes and dish drainers. We've got 15 feet of countertop space, and it's difficult to do much cooking.
Remember, heat rises. All the heat will go up into that loft, and if you've got a woodstove or heater you are going to leave on all night, that is doing its job, that loft will be baking, so it needs ventilation, yet that lets out the heat. Maybe 20-somethings are happy climbing a ladder to sleep in a loft you have to crawl around on to change the sheets and get comfortable, but I'm done with those days. Where are you going to dress and undress if you can't stand in the bedroom?
Do you have indoor hobbies like sewing or crafting that needs storage for supplies, a sewing machine, an ironing board?
Have you ever in your life fit all your clothes, underwear, winter coats, scarves and warm socks in a closet you can barely stand in?
One thing to try, rent a fifth wheel trailer for a week or more, two of you in it doing everything you can think of, (no bringing in fast food) and see what matters to you, if the space is enough, if you both want to lie flat to watch a movie is there room? Is there room for two big comfy swivel chairs, if that's what you like. Use a tape measure, and be honest with yourself about only having one main space (I wouldn't call it a room) to be in 24/7.
Where is your company going to hang out? The smallest place we ever lived we thought was fun, it had a woodstove, barely enough room to get around a 6 foot table with chairs, had a great view and a porch, but friends were rarely comfortable in it. They tried to be nice, but you could tell. So company only came in the summer so meals could be outdoors.
I've found that 35 feet is the smallest length that feels spacious enough for 2 people, and even that needs a mud room/laundry room on the side.
An important distinction: Permaculture is not the same kind of gardening as organic gardening.
Mediterranean climate hugel trenches, fabuluous clay soil high in nutrients, self-watering containers with hugel layers, keyhole composting with low hugel raised beds, thick Back to Eden Wood chips mulch (distinguished from Bark chips), using as many native plants as possible....all drought tolerant.
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