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Small Cabin Forum / Useful Links and Resources / Fine Homebuilding Tiny House Article
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# Posted: 11 May 2015 20:05
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# Posted: 12 May 2015 12:54

Good article. Thx for pointing it out. Lots of good "small/tiny house" articles lead off from that one too.

I like tiny buildings, heck, I've built 4 now; but I don't know about you, I dislike the "wheels" on tiny houses. It's nice to see your government moving to create a law that bans "minimum" house size for small population areas.

The reason I dislike the wheels. You see some of these tiny houses hitting 20,000 and up pounds (saw one at 28). That's kinda crazy. And most of the small / tiny house builds I've followed. They either never move. Or they move once. It's a lot of expensive steel on the frame for no real reason.

Not to mention 8' widths. I've built 8', 12' and the latest 10' wide and 10' is a real nice width for a small building. It gives you enough room for a walk around bed. And yet it doesn't leave a lot of wasted space in the middle of the floor.

Maybe we could have a discussion of tiny house techniques?

# Posted: 12 May 2015 16:58

good points creeky. I also think that being confined to such a small space actually drives up the cost per sqft. As owen and others have pointed out there is a sweet spot to maximizing lumber and minimizing waste. Some times people are so focused on tiny they forget practicality and that going so niche creates more cost.

As far as moving around and feeling comfortable I always refer back to Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. Just as a big house has rooms that don't get used because they don't meet human needs - small houses can have issues even though they would seem cozy in theory.

# Posted: 12 May 2015 20:21

The main problems I've found with the "tiny house" movement is that there is a tendency for people to get hung up on a number, especially where square footage is concerned. It becomes almost like a contest to see who can exist in the smallest possible space.

It also leads, I think, to a kind of "environmental snobbery", where one person is sort of saying "WHAT? You live in 90 square feet? I live in 89 square feet!" Well, la de da!

I recall reading an article a few days ago about one of those tiny houses that are built on wheels being offered by a company for $49,000, and every person who made a comment about it decried it for being cramped, ugly, and over-priced. It was actually kind of nice to read an article on tiny houses that didn't get an automatic rousing cheer from the crowd just because the house was small, and therefore supposedly more "worthwhile" to build.

I've recently found that just because the design is smaller doesn't mean that it's what you should build. Even in my own work I often get hung up on square footage when I design, and can fall into the trap of cutting out some size to naturally make the cabin better, but usually it just makes it cramped. Right now I'm on my 10th revision of my own cabin design, and the square footage has gone up from 492 sq' to 544 sq'. The addition of 52 sq' really isn't much, but it sure makes the interior space a lot more pleasant.

I guess the moral is: Don't fixate on an arbitrary number and think you're "saving the planet" by making something super small, but build just enough to enjoy your home completely and nothing more.

# Posted: 12 May 2015 20:40

I totally agree rockies. What makes me laugh is how many people add on to their tiny cabins.

# Posted: 13 May 2015 12:43 - Edited by: creeky

thx Cabincalls. both for the compliment and the reference.

Rocky I find it funny. My own buildings add up to 572 sq/ft. I consider this "done." Pretty close to your number, and while I think I need more storage, I'm determined to get my finishing done first and see if I can't declutter a bit. (Still two duvets for the bed means I have a spare duvet for guests. So decluttering gets tricky.)

Tiny house attributes I particularly enjoy:

* the outdoors becomes your living room. For this reason I have over 300 sq ft of porches and decks. A hammock area by the waterfront. A two acre living room. Etc.

* annual housing cost now is mostly taxes and propane. This allows me to spend almost as much money traveling as I have on building.

* freedom. From debt in particular. But also maintenance is reduced.

Tiny house techniques:

That "$800" tiny house takes 1,000 hours of gathering materials. On my winter bedroom, sure the cost was under $30 sq/ft. But that's because I spent 2 years gathering rigid insulation deals off of kijiji. Saving over 70% of the "new" cost.

So frugal and patient resource accumulation is part of reducing the cash cost of tiny house construction.

For me, part of the beauty of my tiny cabins is that I could build them up over time to meet my actual needs.

# Posted: 14 May 2015 20:15

For my design, I wound up with a fairly large space over the bathroom that can be used for extra storage. I know a lot of people would be tempted to squeeze a bedroom into the loft, but as I'm sailing into my 50's, I don't want to climb a ladder every day, plus I'd have to duck my head to crawl into it.

Managing your possessions is key to living small, and cutting costs means having to hunt around a bit more for building supplies.

Habitat for Humanity usually has a store that sells used building supplies, and there are lots of ads on craigslist for lumber and home fixtures that people are giving away for free.

I always think the best thing to do, though, is to design the cabin exactly as you want it right at the start. If you can't afford to build it all right now, you can at least build the basic main space and then include all the framing materials inside the walls so that when you put on an addition in a few years you don't have to rip apart the wall in order to make the necessary connections. The framing is already there, just remove the siding and start building.

# Posted: 15 May 2015 08:38

That's why the loft doesn't appeal to me. I'm sailing out of my 50s. And man that wind is blowin'.

Habitat for Humanity is pretty pricey in my area. I do get some bargains there. I watch kijiji (Craigslist for Canadians). And flea markets and garage sales have been big winners.

Wood is relatively inexpensive. I buy from the Amish when possible.

I agree a good plan would have been best.

But one thing about going a bit more, um, ad hoc, is you can bend the rules. My winter bedroom has walls two feet shorter than the original plan as, when I did my insulation sketch, I didn't have quite enough insulation. By lowering the soaring 14' roof line to 12, and bringing the walls down to 6' and 8' I fit my insulation acquired. And the chalet is still a wonderful space.

I have left an opening in the chalet wall of 36". Gee. Pretty good size for a door into ...

there's a nice small house build on line "penny lane" I think she calls it. She opted out of the loft idea and uses a bed that slides open over the counter. Neat trick.

at 100 sq ft. whew that's tiny. I wonder if tiny houses aren't better suited to urban life. She admits she showers in another building. I didn't see a loo. And in urban areas your cooking requirement is more easily outsourced.

# Posted: 15 May 2015 20:23

Oh, I know. Everyone forgets that these tiny cabins on wheels need a place to park, and hook up to the water and electricity, and dispose of sewage and garbage. Usually it's parked on a friend or relative's land, but if it's their own land I think they should build something a bit more permanent. It's not really a successful design to me if you have to shower somewhere else, or rely on the kindness of friends in order to live your dream.

If you can get by in 100 sq', that's great, but as soon as your circumstances change (marriage, birth, accident or infirmity) and you suddenly can't use your loft, or fit another person in without going insane, then it's a big failure in my mind. And what do you do if your friend suddenly wants you out? How many friends can you camp out with?

I think really tiny houses are an interesting space planning problem for architects and engineers to work on, and a few people have come up with some clever solutions for storing yourself and your stuff, but ultimately it's a solution for a particular moment in time, and as long as your life doesn't change in any way, it might work for you. Personally, I'd rather have a bit more space.

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