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Temporary inexpensive housing while I build my house?  RSS feed

 
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I live in northern MN and I am going to build a tiny house for myself out in the sticks. I plan on buying land and getting started early spring/summer. What are some ideas for temporary prefab housing (assuming I can finish before winter comes...).

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?

 
pollinator
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Location: Southern Arizona. Zone 8b
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A tent or old camping trailer would probably be the cheapest way to go, especially if you don't plan on living in it through the winter.

 
Posts: 576
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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If I'm guessing right, MN has short summers.  That means in order to actually get a tiny house done you will probably have to deal with a cold spring and a cold fall/beginning of winter.   Where I am rats and mice eat right through fabric, so tents and yurts are very vulnerable and hard to heat...no insulation.   And if you hope to have people helping you, they won't stay long if you don't have decent accommodations for them.  And do you know what mouse pee does to a computer keyboard?  Not to mention all the places you don't know they are peeing.

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.

http://tiny-themovie.com/
 
Cristo Balete
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It's also a good idea to live on a piece of property for a year and see what happens to it in all seasons, find out where the ground water flows, where the wind is worst, where the sun hits early in the morning so you can have the option of solar.  Building on top of where ground water flows can destroy all your hard work when the ground gets saturated.

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.
 
Jesse Meader
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Totally. You guys have me thinking I just rent an apartment or buy a camper and give myself a year's deadline instead. You're so right, it's probably going to take longer than I'm thinking, especially because I've never done this before!

My budget is 43k so I think I'll be able to pull it off financially.
 
Jesse Meader
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And yeah, I was planning on just throwing up a ridiculously small house just to get by while I study the land and save up to build a slightly bigger house or add on.
 
pollinator
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"A hexayurt is a shelter designed for refugees and other people with a small housing budget. Vinay Gupta invented the basic shape for classic hexayurts and a number of variations, and placed it in the Public Domain. This allows others to develop the original idea further. This wiki page, and associated pages, are the repository for hexayurt do-it-yourself building data, and primarily reference building techniques. Other developments are here, also in the Public Domain. The Hexayurt can be made from about $300 of materials from [the hardware store], plus about $100-150 of mail-ordered tape (or a new method using vinyl, discussed later). Depending on the construction technique, it takes about 8 hours to prepare at home and 0.5-4 hours of assembly at your destination. The Hexayurt is design is completely free, public domain. Anybody can use it, improvements are welcomed! This means you."
SOURCES:
http://www.appropedia.org/Category:Hexayurt_project
http://hexayurt.com/
http://www.appropedia.org/Hexayurt_schematics
HEXAYURT_at_BurningMan_2010-_(CC0_appropedia.org).jpg
[Thumbnail for HEXAYURT_at_BurningMan_2010-_(CC0_appropedia.org).jpg]
Hexayurt at BurningMan 2010, appropedia.org
HEXAYURT-Hexayurts_family_appropedia.org.jpg
[Thumbnail for HEXAYURT-Hexayurts_family_appropedia.org.jpg]
Hexayurts family, appropedia.org
HEXAYURT_cutting_plans_page_1_(CC0_appropedia.org).png
[Thumbnail for HEXAYURT_cutting_plans_page_1_(CC0_appropedia.org).png]
Hexayurt cutting plans page 1, appropedia.org
 
pioneer
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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When I built a cabin in the sticks on the weekends, I bought a $600 pop up camper and parked it there.  I collapsed it most weeks between visits.  We used it for two years and then sold it for $700 when we were done.  The little propane furnace could handle down to about 20 degrees.

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.
 
Cristo Balete
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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. 

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.

 
Loxley Clovis
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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.
 
Posts: 1882
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Marine plywood, and some 2 by 4 lumber.
Or maybe a shed from home depo/lowes/costco.
You can even get some foam insulation in the same dimensions as plywood.
 
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hello, i am living rural but not as far out as you seem to want but what i went through might be of help , my small cottage and land needed lots of work --the sheds had fallen and the haybarn was in such a bad way as to be unusable---battled and struggled for a few years --working outdoors sounds manly/womanly/rugged and hi ho its off to work i go--i dont mind the ditch clearing and chopping and digging   outdoors when the weather allows or the odd emergency outdoor repair work in even the bad stuff---theres a sense of satisfaction in completion and achieving a goal or project ---although i doubt our coldest winter or rains could match yours maybe. Came a point in these early years  were the novelty of outdoor construction had long since worn away and the external and internals of the house were just not progressing it seemed---it was move out sell up or major re think. If you want to build and live in a small house--first build the BIGGEST  shed you dont think you can afford , i rebuilt and iron  sheeted my old hay barn and suddenly i had not only learnt about roofing and sheeting working with materials that i was not familar with at first  but had now created a workspace out of the rain to make rafters and beams for the house and a place to store building material . The luxury of being able to layout stuff-- work away at my own pace and leave it set up with tools at the ready for next time meant slowly but surely i got things done and it turned my attitude right around --it was back to enjoying the life at my pace and getting things done. , if you are not bound to a lot of planning regulations and can be independent of as few services as possible try as much to do so. I could go on here with more of what i would do and fill a page , my other advice is learn to weld and lots of other hands skills trades --getting anything done by other people when you are far out costs a lot of money ,time , and lots of mis-understandings usually happen in between, its not easy --thankfully --otherwise everyone would do it and we would have no where to live --except to move back to the city.
 
Cristo Balete
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A couple other points....

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.
 
Peter VanDerWal
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If you are planning to eventually build a shed/workshop/barn, then I agree with the others that might be a viable option for short term living.  You can build a water proof 10x12 shed in a weekend for not much money, two days is how long it took me to build my first shed. 

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.
 
pollinator
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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?
 
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A lot of people waste time and money building a
'temporary house.
Go with the shed idea initially, it will be something that can be repurposed as suggested, but will serve you will initially.
 
gardener
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I bought an old camping trailer when starting to build my house (30+ years ago). Having immediate cooking, washing and heating facilities relieves a lot of temporary setup and lets you relax and feel civilized. Depending on how much you enjoy primitive living and how long you will be waiting to use your real house, that can be very important. My trailer was decrepit enough when I bought it that ripping into places to winterize water systems was no loss.

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.
 
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Here in Cambodia, we are going to build a home on an area we filled in with 120 truck loads of dirt. We want to give the land ample time to settle, prior to starting a foundation, though.

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.
 
pollinator
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I've no homestead experience, but lots of diy building experience.

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...
 
pioneer
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A few years back, my neighbor build a 12x12 log well house. He didn't need permits for it, since it was that size. He kept an extra chest freezer in there for storing meat.

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?

 
pollinator
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I went to college in MN. Brrrrrrrr. Two things immediately come to mind. Use the very best insulation you can find. Then design & build everything else around a kick a## rocket mass heater.

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 their your land.
 
John C Daley
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What is the DNR?
Another AFA?
 
Mike Jay
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DNR is a TLA (three letter acronym) for Department of Natural Resources.  Game wardens.
 
Mike Barkley
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I was trying to be nice & not get political here. It's really an ugly story.

 
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To me a prefab barn or a yurt seem like tiny houses in and of themselves, not temporary shelters. If you really want to minimize money and time spent on the temporary shelter and don't need it super comfy you could always chop a small tree down, lean it against it's stump (with some long nails hammered in at the sides or a notched indent to keep it from falling over), knock all the branches off, stick a tarp over it (stake it into the ground at the corners obviously), pile the branches back on top and presto, a shelter with $20, an axe and an afternoon. A ground pad or some pine needles under you for insulation, a decent sleeping bag and a fire built in front with a a curved clay-mud reflector wall built behind it and you'll be toasty.
 
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I would not recommend a Hexayurt for anything other than a one-week high desert camping trip.  They're designed to be portable, not function as semi-permanent structures in wet climates.

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.
 
I just had the craziest dream. This tiny ad was in it.
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
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