SOLD! Our Sustainable, Off-Grid Tiny House is Up for Sale

UPDATE: We have received a deposit and will be selling the house to Wild and Radish- check out this awesome nonprofit HERE

 

While we hate to do this, we are selling the tiny house. Our loss will definitely be your gain. It was a very difficult decision, but we ended up deciding that it was best for us to live in a tiny apartment and bike to work and school rather than drive a half hour each way.

We are selling the house for $34,500. Please contact us through this blog (the Contact page) or at dce725@gmail.com if you are interested.

The price includes all of the basic utilities in the house, one 250 gallon water tank, two 10 gallon propane tanks, and the entire solar set-up (batteries only a year and a half old and have 8-10 year life expectancy), so the house is ready to go off-grid as we used it. Well tank and 24 volt pump also included. We have also made aesthetic improvements including tile on the bathroom window, frame around kitchen window, wood rounds framing lights in living room/kitchen, side table/shelving in living room, insulated battery boxes on deck, and much more.

Pictures available HERE

 

Finding a Place to Park Your Tiny Home

In the past year, my husband and I have lived in 6 different places and are about to move to the 7th. These moves were not choices so much as absolute necessities, and we never could have anticipated that we would have to move so much. Reasons for the moves included our water pipes bursting in the travel trailer we were living in, forcing us to live with a friend for a month, getting kicked out of a neighborhood because they had a HOA that did not allow people to live in a mobile structure, the person who owned the land putting the house up for sale, and a slew of other reasons that were not related to how we were as land renters so much as extenuating circumstances around us.

Each time we unfortunately find out we have to move, stressors include who we can find to transport the house on a low budget and, more importantly and more difficult, where to move the house with the best chance of getting to stay longer than a month or two. Moving day is always stressful because the house is like our newborn baby that we think will injure itself beyond repair at any moment, but finding somewhere to park has been a consistently difficult endeavor. I can understand why many people build on family members’ land, but since we did not have that option, here are the following types of places we have lived with the pros and cons of each:

  1. RV/Trailer Park
    1. Pros: We did not have to worry about needing to move the house sooner than we wished, we had one of the coolest houses on the block, and we had so many awesome opportunities to talk to others about why we were living Tiny
    2. Cons: It was difficult bringing friends and acquaintances to the house because there was very little parking, and it wasn’t the spiffiest location/area so we didn’t want people who didn’t know us very well stopping by on a whim.

  1. Private Home in Rural Area
    1. Pros: It was the only place we could build a tiny home without worrying about hardly anyone caring because we were closer to the countryside than any town or city.
    2. Cons: No restrictions on animals so, unfortunately, there were dogs barking every day for multiple hours, typically at each other. I’m not exaggerating. Much of the barking was coming from the woman’s dogs from whom we were renting the land. I love dogs, but I do not love hearing them bark day after day, call me crazy. Well, it did make me a little crazy in all honesty. The land was also about 25 minutes from my work and 35 minutes from the closest downtown area so we felt somewhat isolated at times.

  1. Private Home in Subdivision
    1. Pros: nice area with noise control and plenty of room
    2. Cons: many subdivisions have HOAs and this was no exception. We had to move because the HOA would not allow us to stay, so if you do want to live in a neighborhood, make sure you are very friendly with ALL of the neighbors who can see your house. We had talked to the neighbors on either side and the one in front of us, but there were still complaints from some people who did not like the fact that we were living in the tiny house. Also, if we had been trying to build in the subdivision, we could have received noise complaints.
      1. **I would just like to throw out an honest disclaimer that my husband and I are very quiet, respectful individuals. We had our lights out before 9pm, were never loud, don’t have pets or children, and generally look like friendly people (I think).**

How did we find the places?

  1. Craigslist: We found people who had listed their land as up for rent to RVs or Travel Trailers. We also posted our own ad, explaining what we were looking for.
  2. Flyers: We posted flyers at local coffee shops and natural or whole foods stores in hopes that some alternative people would take pity or be interested in what we were trying to do.
  3. Facebook/Social Media: I am going to graduate school so I posted on my university’s graduate school facebook page that we were looking for a place to stay. Posting on forums in the area or facebook pages for people in the area may also be helpful.

We are currently looking for somewhere to stay for the next year or two while I finish my graduate degree and using all of the knowledge we have gained so far, but I’m not going to lie. This is not my favorite part of Tiny Living. So find a place you feel confident you can stay at if you are looking for a more permanent life and try to avoid the mistakes we made. Happy Travels (or lack thereof) 

Wiring a Tiny House

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We were unable to make use of much in the way of recycled materials for the wiring. I did go to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in search of outlet and switches, but elected to use newer fixtures with safety features.

**Disclaimer** I am not an electrician and am giving no advice (no good advice) on the subject. You probably shouldn’t wire your house by yourself. But for your entertainment…

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I decided to go with 12 gauge wire to cut down on voltage loss and to allow for future upgrades. I was somewhat daunted by this aspect of building before starting, but as I watched a few DIY videos I became more at ease. After completing the electrical work I would say that it was one of the easier jobs thus far.

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I bought a small (6 slot) standard breaker box and drew a diagram of our outlet, switch, fan, smoke detector and light fixture arrangement based on our floor plan. I ended up using 3 circuits, 2 of which are GFCI protected. We have 3-way switches to allow us to control the kitchen lights from both levels, dimming LED recessed lights in the living room, tamper resistant outlets throughout and 2 outdoor outlets.

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A few tips:

I feel like the heavy duty plastic boxes are worth the extra money; the cheap ones just seem too flimsy.

The tamper resistant outlets are a good option if you have or plan to have kids.

The good wire strippers are worth the money. Klein makes a set that strips Romex as well as 12/14 AWG wire and cuts the wire with ease.

3-way switches aren’t all that difficult to wire and they will make your life easier in the long run.

GFCI outlets are cheaper than the GFCI breakers and do the same job. We put one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom

Siding a Tiny House with Up-cycled Fencing

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This may not be the easiest way to produce a pretty exterior for your home, but we were set on using recycled material and we’re happy with the results.

We happened to be in the city and with some time to spare we decided to look for lumber we could use for siding. We had not decided whether to use shingles, ship lap or board and batten as we began perusing Craigslist. We somehow came to the idea (I can’t claim that this was an original thought because I truly don’t remember) to find old cedar and/or redwood fencing – a cheap and weather-resilient material.20141028_16465120141103_174134

The fence panels were old and weathered. It was clear that planks and whole panels had been replaced over the years. As I started removing planks from the cross-members, it became evident that not all of the wood was usable. I cut off the splintered and knotty pieces and began screwing the mismatched lumber to the exterior. It all came together much nicer than expected as a mosaic of color unfurled.

What I expected to take 4-5 days took nearly 3 weeks to complete! I took my time ensuring the edges were flush and the trim fit nicely. We ran out of fencing material and settled on corrugated metal for much of the north and east sides of the house. I plan to use muriatic acid to remove the tin coating and let the steel find a nice patina, but that can wait. We will also be placing a clear coat over the siding to protect it from the elements.

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In summation for $180 in lumber, $20 in screws and $80 in corrugated metal we made the exterior nice to look at. We used only a skill saw and cordless drill for this phase of the project and a healthy dose of patience. Now it’s time for wiring…

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Roofing a Tiny House

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After doing some research when we first started building, we agreed on metal roofing. Metal is easily installed, completely recyclable, long lasting, and it can be used for rain water harvesting without concerns over carcinogens. We found a local company that would supply 26 gauge galvanized steel roofing for a reasonable price as well as a “drip edge” flashing that would serve our runoff, as well as our facia needs.

After placing the 1/2 ‘’ OSB over the roof framing, we installed 1-1/2’’ polyisocyanurate (Often called “polyiso” for short, or generically “foam board”.) insulation. Polyiso is commonly regarded as the most eco-friendly option amongst the foam choices. Installation is simple as the boards are the same dimensions as the sheathing and our roof dimensions (8.5×24) with no peaks or valleys made the entire roofing portion very simple.

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Over the polyiso, we placed a layer of water proofing superior to felt paper. The product we used is manufacture by Grace for prevention of ice dams in metal roofs near the toe of slopes. We elected to cover the entire roof in the product due to its reputation as a water barrier. The underside of the product is an asphalt-like layer that will adhere to anything and forms a strong bond to the polyiso.1017141340

Placing the drip edge and metal roofing panels proved very easy and was finished in only a few hours. As with everything else, the panels were screwed on, with considerations for wind and highway travel. The panels went together seamlessly and we have the added insurance of the weather barrier beneath.

Our roof is designed to be impermeable. We have no vents, chimneys or etc. and we designed it this way for simplicity and peace of mind. Houses must however be given opportunity to expel moisture that builds up at the roof interface. We will achieve this with soffits (vents) installed in the underside of our south, east, and west roof overhangs (the roof is tilted to the north).

Sheathing: The First Walls on Our Tiny House

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Sheathing provides lateral rigidity and a weather barrier to the exterior of a home. It also provides a clean surface over which to apply siding. We used ½’’ OSB (Oriented Strand Board, I had always just called it particle board) over the walls. We also had about 180 square feet of MDF siding that we used on the north face of the house as sheathing. We were given this siding as a bonus when we purchased our floor joist lumber from a gentleman on Craigslist and as it was stained and generally unattractive (albeit unused), we decided to use it as sheathing.

Sheathing is generally not a complex process. I was tipped that we should allot a 1/8’’ spacing between sheets as OSB can expand/contract with weather. Due to our ample window coverage, we were not able to use precisely 24’’ OC spacing for all studs and therefore were required to make many more cuts of our sheathing that is generally required. This still did not greatly increase the difficulty of a fairly simple process.

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Sheathing is also the time to find out just how square your framing job turned out. I walked around the house and checked myself with a framing square and carpenter’s level before I began sheathing. I did find a few minor adjustments to make while placing the OSB (OSB and plywood are made by machine and are near perfectly square. Assuming your framing is correct and there’s a problem with the sheathing is like blaming your calculator for errors).

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Framing for a Tiny House

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As with the floor, we decided to frame the walls with 2x6s for added rigidity and space for insulation. The 24-inch spacing allows less thermal bridging (conduction through the studs) than 16-inch spacing as is necessary with traditional 2×4 framing. The increased spacing also reduces the weight difference that might otherwise pose a problem for those building on a trailer.

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Framing is actually simpler than I expected. I decided early on that screwing the studs together would be necessitated by the torsion stresses the house would face in highway travel. We plan on being more sedentary than most tiny-housers, but we’re building with other future owners of the home in mind.

Before we began designing our framing diagrams we purchased all of our windows. Most of the windows came from the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. They have some great building materials far cheaper than even Craigslist usually offers. Our design is intended to utilize passive solar for chilly high elevation winters with our south-facing wall containing 4 windows (approximately 30% glass by surface area). The sliding glass door that we purchased, as well as one of our larger windows were both already jambed and we were able to simply use those dimensions for framing design. For the remaining 6 windows we added 1 inch on all sides to a lot for framing in our designs.

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The walls came together more quickly than I had anticipated. Using a cheap (I believe it cost me $100-$120) battery-powered saw and drill set, the walls were up in a week. I was continually waiting on my batteries to charge and I would strongly recommend a traditional corded circular saw or miter saw for this part of the project. I ended up buying one after framing and utilized it for sheathing.

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Our roof framing is quite simple and consists merely of 2x4s placed across the 8’ wall span at 24’’ OC. Upon sheathing the roof, this is more than enough capacity for me to wall on without any noticeable “give”. The roof overhangs the wall framing by 3’’ on both sides and 1’ at each end providing rain protection at the entry way and over our utility space.

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