I thought about a prefab shed with patio pavers instead of slab for the foundation. I also thought about a yurt but I think it would be too expensive to buy one. Maybe a cheap camper?
I'd love to hear your stories -- what did you live in while you built your off-grid house?
You'll want a dwelling that isn't going to take up your time maintaining it, fixing it, because you will have a real deadline on a tiny house.
When things take longer than you think, when things go wrong, when a trip to the hardware/propane store takes several hours out of your daylight time, you'll want a self-contained, protected dwelling. I am really tired of maintaining engines, so I would suggest a used travel trailer that has a kitchen, has a bathroom, a shower, heat, and you can sell it afterwards. Something that can stand up to high/cold winds, where you can just get something to eat, take a shower and crash.
Ideally I would build a small barn (10x20) and live in the loft of it, because where are you going to put all of your crucial and expensive tools? Where are you going to work out of the rain and wind? Where are you going to store lumber so it won't get wet? Where are you going to store food so it won't get raided by big and little animals? Where are you going to keep a generator dry, yet keep the fumes and noise away from living space? Where are you going to put muddy boots and wet clothing? Where are you going to wash and dry clothing? Propane is a life saver, even if you don't intend to use it later (I always have a couple of 5 gallon tanks on hand, even if it's just for the BBQ). hot water and a warm place to plan and rethink things can really keep your spirits up. The occasional BBQ can feel like a real event.
Property within 1 hour or less of a hardware/DIY/propane store is ideal. Making trips into town can take up more time than you can imagine. The sun will be going down, you'll be putting miles on your vehicle, using gas. Most farm accidents happen at dawn and dusk when the light is iffy, so be careful. One of my favorite gizmos is a lightweight headlamp that goes on with a stretchy strap, keeps your hands free.
Even if yours isn't going to be mobile, I would highly recommend watching the video of this young fella building his own tiny home. He thought he could do it over the summer, and it turned into a year-long project. He ran out of money several times. His final figure was somewhere in the $26,000 range for a very small one. The property he bought for it was too remote. Then he had to find someone who would store it for him. He doesn't live in it. I don't know how these folks get these vehicles to qualify at the DMV.
I found the DVD at the library. Maybe a library computer could stream it for you if you aren't able to stream it on your own.
My neighbors build a huge house that was engineered from start to finish, the foundation tied to bedrock, and they are still having ground water issues 10 years later. They just had to put in a big piping system to try to detour it away from where it naturally flows. A couple extra wet winters and their pride and joy of a house gets into a real trouble.
My budget is 43k so I think I'll be able to pull it off financially.
Alternately, I like Christo's idea of building your future garage/workspace and living in the attic. That should be a good summer build. Having a place out of the weather and bugs to build stuff for the future house would be nice.
About the barn idea, if you are in a place where you need to keep your vehicle inside in the winter, or leave it turned on in the winter, then one half of a barn/double garage could be for it. But I don't imagine anybody leaves a car running where the fumes can get into a living space, so no living over where a vehicle is running for a long time, or a generator.
If you are actually developing a piece of property, there's the financial expense of getting power to it, which can be very, very expensive. The cost of a well can be expensive. Getting power to a remote well to run a pump is very expensive. Long driveways can be expensive, and continue to be expensive in maintenance, especially if they are going up or down a hill/mountain. You might be required to have a septic tank.
Once the power company puts a line to a piece of property you will be on the County radar for how you improve it. If you want to put at least a 100-gallon propane tank there and have a company fill it, they will notify the fire department and the county, because they all let each other know about properties they come in contact with, and require all the proper details about placing a tank, i.e., clearance around it for fire, room for a large truck and fire truck to turn around near it, underground lines to code between the tank and building, etc. Most gas appliances must have a 100-gallon tank at a minimum to get enough pressure to run.
One thing most people forget where I am, codes now require an engineered bridge over a creek because of the fire department, the weight of a propane truck, and washouts every 5-10 years. Those are made with essentially railroad tressles and are very expensive. So if you can find a site you like that has access over dry land, you won't have to worry about that.
So while you've got a chunk of change to build a house, the infrastructure is often just as expensive.
Cristo Balete wrote:I've never known the Super R insulator boards to be waterproof, or make any kind of waterproof connections, or hold any kind of snow load, so those probably work in the desert where there's no rain, no heavy snow, and are extremely temporary. Rats love to chew through foam board, too.
Good point. The first I skimmed over the first post, I thought Jesse was saying "early Spring" referring to just staying in it over the summer time. Then I just re-read the OP & it does seem like he wants to overwinter in it. Yeah, I have no idea how a Hexayurt would fair with heavy snow pack. That said, $450 for something that can be lived in for half the year & taken down & stored in the winter time & re-assembled when the snow melts is still pretty reasonable, IMO. "That fin - that vertical ridge - is then folded over in half, forming a 2" fin - and pop-riveted in that position. This connects the two panels, and and produces a structural reinforcing fin which is also watertight because there is no route for water to enter the building's roof, except by going up the fin, through the tight folds, and into the building." details. Do rats chew through plywood? http://www.appropedia.org/Hexayurt_Plywood & more various non-R-board Hexayurt building block options: http://www.appropedia.org/Hexayurt_materials And here's a link with another idea for waterproofing a Hexayurt.
Cristo Balete wrote:Most gas appliances must have a 100-gallon tank at a minimum to get enough pressure to run.
Every gas unit in my house runs on a 20-gallon tank: my cook top, my oven, my furnace heater. My gas regulator controls the pressure.
Or maybe a shed from home depo/lowes/costco.
You can even get some foam insulation in the same dimensions as plywood.
1. A level working surface inside the working shed, like tamped gravel, or a wooden floor, to lay out 12-20 feet of lumber. Putting stuff on uneven ground just trashes measurements.
2. Metal sheds get condensation on the inside and drip all over the contents. I also have not been able to keep mice out of a metal shed, mostly because they can squeeze through a tiny space in those sliding doors. Wooden sheds and structures stay drier, and can be repaired if there's any termite damage or wood mold.
3. A woodstove is a really satisfying piece of equipment. There's a sense of primal safety being able to watch it burn, feel the heat, and even cook on the top of it, heat water. It can take an hour to get heat when starting from scratch, keeping it going all night requires getting up, but I always liked having one. The floor might need extra support under it to support a 600-lb stove. Storing firewood can be tricky, mice/rats love to get in between those logs, so do hornets and wasps. There's a special piece in the pipe that goes through the wall, it's not just straight pipe, otherwise it could start your wall on fire.
Without insulation it won't be warm in the winter, but a 4 season sleeping bag can solve that, or even a pile of blankets. Add a bucket type composting toilet for extra convenience.
As a bonus, living in a shed will be a lot like living in a tiny home (without insulation) so you can get an idea of what you really want, maybe even change your home design a bit before starting your build.
Don't try to heat an uninsulated shed. Waste of energy and potentially deadly if you are using a propane heater, etc.
If it get's unbearably cold, well you can always head into town and stay at a longterm hotel for a month or so until it warms up again.
FWIW it's doubtful that any cheap RV will be suitable for cold winters. The majority of RVs aren't intended for winter use, and four season RVs tend to be expensive, even used.
Hmm, it just occurred to me, depending on what type of insulation you plan on using in the Tiny home, you might be able to use it temporarily in the shed. For example, fiberglass batts or foam board could be used temporarily in the shed and then later moved to the Tiny home.
Third possibility, probably the best option. You don't actually have to FINISH the tiny home before you move in. As long as the outside walls and roof are done, it will work as well as a shed. You can finish the inside (walls, plumbing, electrical, counters/cabinets etc.) while you're living in it. I would think that even if you only work on it on the weekends, you could get a tiny home to a weather tight stage in one or two months. Probably a week or two if you're not doing anything else.
Jesse Meader wrote:
My budget is 43k so I think I'll be able to pull it off financially.
Is this for land and buildings or just buildings?
Go with the shed idea initially, it will be something that can be repurposed as suggested, but will serve you will initially.
On another hand, a shed that you can use for tools and workspace, with living loft, would make working on components much easier and extend the season past warm dry weather. If you plan to have a permanent tiny house, you will need a space for tools, wood, etc. forever.
In the mean time, we had a 20' container insulated and finished inside, to stay in until the home is completed. We also added a metal roof / rainwater collection surface to the container. Total cost was roughly $3,600 USD, all in.
I realize costs will be much different stateside. But, it still may be something to consider.
I myself need a big, cheap waterproof space to work in,so here are my plans.
I plan to build a high tunnel.
I will actually frame it in wood.
Framing with dimensional wood is easy,and lumber can often be had for free.
The posts will be anchored in gravel and fieldstone, contained in free draining buckets to keep the soil out and treated with borox.
Inside I will tamp the soil, lay down pallets, cardboard, 6mil plastic,more cardboard,then a hardboard floor,taped at the seams.
I will bait in the space inside pallets,with peanut butter/Portland cement.
The plastic sheeting of the roof will be protected from sun and wind by used carpet,though rolls of used carpet are increasingly hard to come by.
I got this idea from some here on permies(Alder Burns: https://permies.com/t/83958/Tiny-House-Advice-Requested#695157), and it has worked great on my chicken coop.
I never did as he did, further protecting the carpet with mud-n-stucco type stuff, but fallen leaves do form soil on the surface, and things are starting to grow.
If I was going to stay there, I would build a
foam structure like a hexayurt in one corner.
The insulation plus body heat might remove the need for space heating.
Cooling on the other hand...
If I needed active heating/cooling I might:
-build a RMH
-Keep an uninsulated tank of heated water in the insulated hut.
-Run an RV air-conditioner off of ground mounted solar
- Run an air to water heater exchanger to/from a shaded water supply.
-Run a trickle of water over the roof for evaportive cooling.
No indoor flames without constant supervision.
Bed might be a hammock or a zero gravity chair.
Cheap, portable and anecdotally comfortable. Off the ground for air circulation.
Phones and lights on solar, heavier loads on propane powered generator.
I think running now generator on propane
could help avoid many mantainence issues.
Pee diverted to the landscape, poop diverted to vermicomposting.
If I did live like this, I'm sure it would affect how my actual house was built,having experienced a different way of living.
I can imagine adopting the hightunnel as my home, or running back to the city...
Fast-forward a few years, and some new people now own the land. They're still working on getting permits for a house. BUT, I'm pretty sure they're living in the wellhouse. The chinked up the gaps in the logs, and added a hot water heater. I have no idea what else they have in there .
Anyway, if you're going to have a well and a wellhouse on your property, why not make the wellhouse larger and live in it?
Also, & I say this from fairly recent experience in northern MN, beware the DNR because they have a tendency to claim they saw some endangered bird 1/2 mile away on your property as they happened to be driving by in the middle of nowhere. They just want to have a friendly look around. And then prevent you from using
However, the guy who discussed building a foam structure inside a weather proof greenhouse-style shell could be on to something. I'd look into roundwood shelter construction, conventional sheds, and double-wall fan-blown greenhouses. BTW, I lived in a van quite comfortably through two CO winters with just 2-4 inches of poly-iso insulation, some vents, and a radiant propane heater.
Or, check these out: https://www.ziptiedomes.com/geodesic-dome-greenhouse/index.htm I don't have one, but I've contacted the owner; they seem helpful and ready to assist if you want custom work. I might try to build a small "sweat lodge"/longhouse style building at some point, possibly combining bamboo/carbon fiber epoxy tech, the carpet/cement stucco thing someone was talking about, straw-bales, and moderate amounts of earth-sheltering.
BTW, Yurts are not the best-insulated structures and they aren't cheap. Tiny houses are even more expensive, and IMO are only really designed to be mobile and "instagrammable," not necessarily energy efficient.