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overwhelmed with tiny house building options  RSS feed

 
Hannah Inglish
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Id like to start with stating my complete lack of experience and knowledge in building
and that i appreciate everyones  input and advice!

My boyfriend and I purchased a 40 foot gooseneck trailer this spring.
We are now beginning to reseach building options.
There's a very experienced builder 3 hrs from here that will charge
20grand for a shell and 40 finished.

My question is concerning the fact that he uses primo Marvin windows.
I'm trying to cut costs where I can safely and use factory floor defect windows at
100 buck or less.
I don't want to cut costs and end up with moldy walls.
I'm also considering searching out an amish builder...
but are there a lot of concerns with that?

I need a confidence booster in my next steps forward!
I love and appreciate all you
wonderful Permies! Thank you <3
 
Andrea Redenbaugh
Posts: 49
Location: Blanca, CO
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My husband works for an Amish builder. I say get a quote. It can't hurt to have another idea on price.

I would be leery of defect windows. Have you looked for another brand of windows? Are there any local factory direct? That is sometimes cheaper.

Good luck with your build!!
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I replaced 9 windows in my house this summer and got 6 of them from Craigslist.  Most were new cuz the owner changed their mind on style.  $350 windows for $100.
 
Anne Miller
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This post might be of some interest to you:

Paint-frame-rewire lights

There is someone on these forums who builds for 10,000-15000, but I have not found his post.  If I find it I will post the link to it.  He had several picture of his work.

Does your boyfriend or other relatives have any building skills?  Three hours seems like a little far away.  There must be someone in your area.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Here is an idea:

How does the idea sit with you that this first one you build you might sell after you find out what you didn't know about what you wanted when building this one?  It is just possible that you'll discover some priorities you weren't aware of.  If this idea takes the pressure off you for having to make everything right on the first try, then you may find all the decision making less daunting.  Build it well, high quality and made to last, so that someone else would want it, and then you won't be locked in, and you will gain experience, and possibly make a small profit by selling to someone who likes the convenience of not having to go through the building process themselves.

Good luck!
 
Jerry McIntire
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Location: Oak savannah - Viroqua, Wisconsin - zone 4 - 34"/yr
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Hannah Inglish wrote:
...My question is concerning the fact that he uses primo Marvin windows.
I'm trying to cut costs where I can safely and use factory floor defect windows at
100 buck or less.
I don't want to cut costs and end up with moldy walls.
I'm also considering searching out an amish builder...
but are there a lot of concerns with that?

I need a confidence booster in my next steps forward!
I love and appreciate all you
wonderful Permies! Thank you <3


Just ask what the window defects are, have them pointed out and ask if they would affect performance. No? Buy 'em.

Moldy walls don't come from defective windows (usually), they come from poor design or installation of the walls and windows.

My experience with Amish builders are that they are not particularly green. They will however build to your specifications if you can source the materials for them.

The most important thing I have to say: design, design, design. Look at successful designs, learn lots of details, and redesign a couple times. A good example with lots of details and explanations is at tinyhousebuild.com Refine your design on paper so that you're happy with it before you start building! This is important for the structural/functional elements of your new home. The decorative details can be more spontaneous.
 
Mark Fairchild
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Location: Roswell, United States
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Hannah,

Saw your post and thought you could use some good advice.  First, and most important, stop right now and, for yourself, try to answer a few questions before spending another dime.  I am, in no way, trying to discourage you nor am I trying to frighten you away from a tiny house project but this isn't something you should go through with before you have a better road map as to how to proceed.  First, consider what your plans are once you have a completed tiny home.  Since you have a trailer, there's the possibility you plan to move about from time to time.  This is an option some people pursue but of course the obvious consideration is how to assemble your house so that's it's road worthy and pieces don't go flying off as you move.  There are highway requirements/restrictions that come in to play and you need to research them before you build.  Or perhaps you intend to park your home on your own piece of land somewhere, another great idea but also one you need to research before you move forward.  Many municipalities, even those quite rural, still require a septic field for your waste water.  While this may perhaps seem intrusive, it's not necessarily a bad thing.  The water supply for rural folks often comes from springs or wells and you won't be very popular for long if you pollute someone's water supply.  The thing about rural places is that everyone knows everyone else's business and what they're doing and there are plenty of instances where people have built homes, tiny and not so tiny, with the idea of using say, a composting system, only to attract the attention of the local authorities who rightly ask just where you're composting your waste.  If you're answer fails to impress the one asking, you could very quickly receive an order to remove your home from your own property or immediately install an approved waste management system.  Now, to respond more directly to your questions.  Others I'm sure will disagree but in my opinion, 20 grand for a shell is awfully pricey.  The skills required for a project like this aren't that hard to learn and there seem to be some decent workshops being held where you can learn them.  If you have the ambition and the will to do so, I'd encourage you to attend one of them to see what you're getting into.  One of the goals of living in a tiny house is to be able to have a home without going into debt up to your ears.  While 60 thousand is still a far cry from the average price of a traditional home today, it's still a lot of money and if you were really going to spend that kind of money, I'd tell you to save time and just go to your nearest RV dealer and have them show you some travel trailers.  You could do very well for 60 grand and be ready to hit the road within a week.  That, of course, is not what this is all about.  Regarding windows, Marvin is an excellent brand and would probably do quite well in a tiny home.  I say probably because they're designed to be installed into a traditional home, not a home that is designed to be moved.  The quality of the installation probably has more to do with window choices and I believe you could do just as well with a good quality vinyl or aluminum frame window, at far less cost.  Mold in your walls shouldn't be a huge concern if you build a water tight skin and avoid large and lengthy internal temperature/humidity swings once you move in.  Also, consider using insulation other than fiberglass, which tends to hang onto moisture once wet.  Rigid foam or spray-on might be good options but of course, there are trade-offs, as with anything.  Regarding the use of an Amish builder, I can't think of a single reason why you might rule that out.  I'm from PA and knew and worked with the Amish/Mennonite community over the years.  They're generally good, solid, hardworking folks.  I am curious why you mentioned the Amish though and would just caution you against thinking that somehow you're going to get a better product because they're Amish, well, that really doesn't apply to them any more than it applies to anyone else.  Skill sets, experience and trustworthiness vary from individual to individual, not matter what label we apply to them.  A prior response suggested you consider your first build as a learning opportunity with the idea of selling it once completed.  With due respect to the person posting that thought, it just doesn't make sense to make less than ideal construction decisions and perhaps do some substandard work (because your learning, right?) and then pass it on to someone else.  You're unlikely to recoup your costs and it's not really a very resource friendly thing to do.  In my opinion, you should learn what you need to know, source your materials carefully, build to the very best of your ability and then rightly take pride in and enjoy your new home.  Sorry for the long post.  I hope my thoughts have given you some things to think about.  I hate seeing people spend their money needlessly and poorly or worse, begin a project like this and finding themselves unable to complete it halfway through.  My opinions aren't simply random thoughts.  I'm a master carpenter with over thirty years in the trades.  Many of those years were spent building homes for others with a crew of men, myself included at the time, who would never earn enough money to own a home of their own.  So, while tiny homes in their many forms still have some kinks to be worked out, I think that for many people, they're a good option in a world that's changing in ways we may not yet fully understand.  I wish you much success in your endeavors and strongly suggest you seek out a workshop or two on building a tiny house.  Cash or credit, after all, is just another limited resource.  Knowledge lasts you a lifetime.  If you found any of this helpful and would like to know more, I'm happy to help. 
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Sunny Baba wrote:Hi All... I build Gypsy Wagons, that have solar power, lights , music, pressurized running water, (40 gallon water tank), propane stove, propane radiant heater and double bed, pull out table and small closet, with lots of storage under the bed.... They can be pulled by a 4 cylinder engine... light weight and easy to tow.  In fact I am building another one now..... they sell for $10K- $14K    sunnybabaspirit@yahoo.com   


Sunny Baba's Gypsy Wagon pictures
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Mark Fairchild wrote:Hannah,

Mold in your walls shouldn't be a huge concern if you build a water tight skin and avoid large and lengthy internal temperature/humidity swings once you move in.    A prior response suggested you consider your first build as a learning opportunity with the idea of selling it once completed. 


With due respect to the person posting that thought, it just doesn't make sense to make less than ideal construction decisions and perhaps do some substandard work (because your learning, right?) and then pass it on to someone else.  


Hi Mark,   I totally agree with you on "less than ideal construction decisions", and "substandard work". 

I'm glad you pointed that out.  Any number of people could have taken it the same way you did.

My idea is the floor plan thing, the prioritizations that a person might discover they had not realized they had.  A person with other plans for use, or different living group or activities might fit where the first group, the group that planned it does not.   maybe they thought they could do with out a washing machine, and find they must have one, ditto size of frige, TV or internet capability (thought they would be fine using the library computer once a week or once a month.... 

The other thing I am quoting, is about a water tight skin.  A civil engineer of my acquaintance spent years tutoring me on the idea that sealing water out also seals it in.  "There will always be water vapor inside the dwelling, and if you seal things up entirely, you leave no exit for the water" was his thinking.  I think the industry standard is currently wrapping the whole thing in vapor barrier in addition to, and ?outside of? the insulation, in hopes that no water vapor will reach that far.  (I base this on the number of houses under construction that I see wrapped in tyvek before the siding goes on.This leaves the insulation in the more humid inside environment, where human activities and presence create humidity.  (like breathing cooking and bathing, maybe even drying clothes on a clothes rack).   This civil engineer also said the vapor barrier is more effective if it is on the inside of the insulation, because the temperature on both sides is more likely to be the same, making no cold surface available for the vapor to condense on.

It is second hand information, and I don't insist that it is "right".  I think it is worth mentioning as a person goes into their first plan and build experience. 

 
Mark Fairchild
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Location: Roswell, United States
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I think it's important to remember that many of the issues being brought up about sealing a building apply to the traditional concept of building, that is, a structure built on a foundation. A tiny house however, operates somewhat differently, if you think about it, in that every time you open the door the structure essentially gets a significant air change, relative to its volume, thus eliminating much of the worry over moisture build-up inside. This is unlike a typical building, which remains closed for much of the time.  In my opinion a more significant threat to a tiny house would come from potential moisture infiltration through the building envelope. Beyond that, I think that installing a heat source that can quickly bring the tiny house back up to a comfortable temperature, in cold climates would be your next best line of defense against moisture in the walls.
 
Richard Kutscher
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I hope not to digress so first will recommend getting a few other estimates and go look around at other tiny homes for design ideas, as others suggested. There are more and more tiny homes that I see advertised. A general contractor might be a good first step. They should be able to help you out, good ones at least.

Something that I've always been enamored by are dome homes. They come in smaller sizes and are very versatile if decide to change room layout around, etc., plus they are freakishly insulated, and perfect for a rocket mass heater.  I forget which one I wanted to build when was looking around, but this is one of many manufacturers. http://www.naturalspacesdomes.com/

Another idea is to look at mike oehler's books for additional ideas to cut costs. I haven't read them but am sure can at least learn some terminology so builders you talk to won't snowball you. He did build a $50 house after all.

Searching out the local chamber of commerce could also be helpful in that you can get names of local builders, then interview them to see of your ideas line up with their ideas.

Best wishes!
 
allan tapp
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Location: Reynoldsburg, United States
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Hannah,

You never did say your reason for building a tiny home, is cost savings, mobility, because there is just two of you?

if you buy a plot of land and build a home from non traditional building materials you can save a huge amount of money over the life of the home.

https://www.thenaturalhome.com/passivesolar.html this waas the site that got me into sustainable living solutions.

Tire homes or straw bale homes are also very inexpensive, some basic framing in the case of a straw bale then fill in your walls by stacking up bales.

Any High Thermal Mass home should reduce your heating and cooling costs and if you add a rocket mass heater with pizza oven, not just for cooking pizza you know.
 
Jotham Bessey
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Sweat Equity.... Will the builder lower costs if you are helping him with the build?
 
Hans Quistorff
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I second the request for your reason for going for a tiny house on wheels although 40 feet is going to give you a substantial home.  What kind of weather will it be exposed to, makes a big difference in choice of materials.  How many moves do you anticipate?  What kind of land and orientation are you place it in?  Details about the trailer: is it built low between the wheels or high above the wheels like a semi truck trailer?

I have been contemplating building a 20 foot one and here are some of the options I have considered. (1) Structurally engineered panels; If you carefully plan your structure these can be ordered ready to assemble with wire and plumbing channels and window openings. (2) Tongue and grove car decking: This can make very strong solid wood walls and floors without having to use any toxic materials. (3) Standard house framing, insulation and sheeting. (4) alternate framing using 2 X 2 every 8 inches on 2 X 4 plate with foam insulation panels in the 16 inch opening from each side.

For siting I recommend digging a ramp trench to back the wheels into to bring it down close to the ground to avoid having a lot of skirting, steps and decks. I did this with a camp trailer and after I backed it in and jacked the front up until level the back was resting on pillars just above ground level but most of the weight was off the tires and they were out of the sun which protects their longevity.  Then you can build your outdoor storage under the goose neck portion.
 
mark tompkins
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I'm looking at using old grain bins for the starting point of my tiny house.  There are quite a few grain bin houses out there.  The structures are very strong because of their shape.  If you put a 2x6 wall or 2x4 wall on the inside adjacent to the steel, it makes it a lot stronger.
 
Steve Smitherson
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Just thought I should mention that with a T.H.O.W. a builder is completely correct to be concerned with making sure sufficient quality windows are used.  Reason is that with a house that is mobile and movable breaking/shattering windows can be an issue when moving the house.

Granted there are plenty of DIY T.H.O.W.s out there with windows that are not exactly the most desirable options that haven't yet shattered a window when moving the house but for a professional builder it's not going to be a liability they are going to want to take a risk on even if it is only a reputation liability.

For a T.H.O.W. most any halfway professional builder is going to insist on tempered glass windows in a vinyl frame because those are the ones that can be sure to not break/shatter when the house is moved.

Of you can find "good window but rejected by builder for cosmetic/style reasons" or "I goofed up and ordered the wrong size" windows for reduced prices that are tempered glass in a vinyl frame (not all vinyl frame windows look it some have wood/metal cladding over an inner vinyl frame) then beyond just stubbornness there would be no legitimate logical reason for a builder to reject using them in a T.H.O.W.

Alternately, if you want to take the risk of using non-tempered glass windows and/or non-vinyl framed windows and accept the potential risk of breaking/shattering a window when moving the house (admit-ably not a high probability risk if trailer and structure are sufficiently stiff and you avoid wayward tree branches and such but not a non-existent risk) then you may be able to sign a piece of paper for the builder stating that you have been warned that the windows could break/ shatter and you won't hold the builder liable or bad mouth his reputation if they do.
 
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