THE TINY HOUSE
We are going tiny with this one…
I’m your host Marc. I’m your architect with the goal of giving you the knowledge so you can advance your dream of creating the ideal home for you and your family.
What if I told you your house was too big? You would say I’m crazy right. Today I wanted to talk about somewhat of a passion project for me, it’s the Tiny house. I briefly mentioned these in a past episode probably episode one.
These are houses that I have been curious about for some time. Simple, unique, highly efficient housing on a small footprint. The average tiny house, to be considered a tiny house is under 400 sf.
400 sf that is 10’x 30’ with a 100 sf loft above. Can you imagine living in such a small space? Well it’s taking off and becoming very popular. Not just in other countries but here in the states.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that living in a larger house is bad or wrong. I’m not saying that you personally have too much square feet. So don’t take offense to this episode on the Tiny house. I want to take you through the thought of someone that is living this simple lifestyle.
Maybe this is not your main home. Maybe this is your vacation spot. A vacation home that allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of wherever you are right now. There might be some way that this fits into your lifestyle, so keep that in mind.
Why would someone do it?
Our world has become one of increasing stuff. We have products pushed in our direction at every turn and all our extra money or even lots of times our debt is collected on purchasing all this extra stuff.
Some people just don’t want it. They want to be able to live a life that is mortgage or debt free. This is where the tiny house comes into play. A tiny house can be built relatively quickly and can be built by the average person. Meaning that you don’t have to be an experienced carpenter of 20 years to piece together something small.
With home prices rising now at a very rapid rate. You know we saw the prices drop for a while during the recession, but if you were looking around during that time, the prices were still relatively high. Especially compared to a tiny home.
The tiny house doesn’t have a mortgage. Actually imagine a bank giving you a loan to build a 400 sf home. Never going to happen right. This is something you are going to have to save for. It will have to be purchased outright with cash. No payments.
Imagine the life you would live if you didn’t have a mortgage payment or rent. Would you be able to explore your interest more?
Now don’t get me wrong. These houses are not cheap by any means. Per square foot they far exceed the typical house, but because of their size you can splurge a little on the details.
The tiny house really boils down life to the basics. Sleep, eating, working, relaxing, and sanitation.
These are the activities that we need to accommodate with any house no matter how large or small. The key to designing small is to design efficiently. A lot of these area’s get combined in a tiny house. Things become more versatile and universal. A table might flip up off the wall to create a small dining area. A chair might be used to lounge in the living area then serve as the dining chair later.
The well designed tiny houses I have seen all have very interesting materials being used. The styles range from the quaint artsy cottage look to the sleek modern walls of glass and steel. The range is all over the board.
The consistent theme is to have a double or one and a half height living room combined with a kitchen/dining area. Then you pass under the loft bedroom to the bathroom. The emphasis on the bathroom is always the most disappointing to me. People create these tiny bathrooms that you can barely move in.
In order for a bathroom to be useful it needs to give you some amount of room to shower etc… Imagine living with someone else in this tiny space. Very difficult. Why can’t we bump up the bathroom to more full size and go from there?
Above the bathroom and kitchen is typically the loft area. A steep ladder would take you up and down each day to the shallow sleeping quarters. I think I have a problem with this loft idea as well. Why do we need to always build a loft. Imagine getting changed up there, or coming down that ladder in the middle of the night. I think there might be a better way.
Another thing I find difficult with the tiny house is the storage. I feel like I would need a lot of storage. Where do people keep all their food. I don’t want to replace going to the store once a week, or once every other week to going every day. That is not how I want to spend my time.
What makes this different than a mobile home?
You might be thinking. Hmm. Tiny house. 400 sf. Contains all the necessary spaces in life. Sounds like a mobile home. Why not just buy a mobile home?
These are not quite the same thing actually they are nothing like a trailer, although a lot of them do get built on trailers. If I was building one of these tiny homes, I can tell you it would not be built on a trailer.
The reason a lot of them are build on trailers is typically for building code reasons, or perhaps the person does not have their ideal piece of land yet and plans on acquiring land once they save up, then move their home to that land. Many properties across the US are zoned to have a particular size house on the property. We have been legislated into building larger houses.
And I understand why. We want our neighborhoods to have some consistency. They say its to protect the surrounding home owners and keep all the values consistent. The only reason the values need to stay consistent or increase is because of mortgages. If you did not have a mortgage on the property you would not need it to increase in value, or inflate in value, but that would be a side rant.
One way the tiny house owners have found to avoid this is to have a house that doesn’t have the typical foundation. Remove the foundation and the house is no longer a house. It is a temporary trailer. Now there are rules for this as well, but far less and someone is more likely able to skirt some of the legislation.
You will need to carefully pick your location.
Location is one of the key reasons people are building tiny homes to begin with. They are able to invest in the land that is right for them and bring a house that is less expensive to that property. A large percentage of tiny house people have very beautiful settings.
The porches and window usually spill out to beautiful landscapes. Part of it might be that living in a tiny house has you screaming to get out of it. You need the outside to break up the smaller interior spaces. Imagine those rainy days. Cooped up inside the small den with nothing to do but immerse yourself into a good book.
Now obviously this lifestyle is not for everyone. I mean I have hobbies. What would I do with all my hobbies? That is the question. And the answer might be do I really need all these hobbies? What am I doing them for, what is the reason for my hobbies? Could we have more financial freedom If we saved more and lived in a less expensive house, explored life, pursued less hobbies.
I do really enjoy listening to podcasts and reading a good book. I also enjoy making things and exploring my passion to create. I don’t know. It’s a trade off. Something to consider. Something that I would like to explore some day.
With everything comes some challenges and you would think that the largest challege of a tiny house would be the actual size. Unfortunately it is something that is even harder to overcome.
People are made up of 50 to 60 percent water. As we breath in and out we are exhaling a little moisture with each breath. As we cook, Shower etc. All of these add moisture to our homes. Typically in a more traditional modern home we have air conditioning units that are conditioning the air and removing the humidity in the air.
In order for the house to maintain a certain temperature level the system will run for a period of time. And over that course of time the unit is able to draw out the moisture.
In a tiny house you either do not have a unit to remove that moisture or you have a unit that simply because of the tiny house size it does not run for long enough to remove the moisture. So you end up with the interior of your home sweating on the walls and ceilings.
They will sweat when air of one temperature colides with air of another temperature. Lets say you are inside your home. It’s all warm and cozy. Outside it’s cold. So you are in a reverse glass. So the outside is the drink with the ice floating around. You are the dry, warm outside air surrounding the glass. As your warm air which holds more moisture than cold air. once your warm air with 80–90% humidity hits that cold wall the temperature starts to drop, the moisture is released from the air and it starts to form on your walls.
The worst part is it is actually forming in your walls. Literally raining in your walls, simply by changing temperature. So how do you keep this from happening. The best way to stop this from happening is to limit the drop in temperature as well as stopping the vapor before it transfers into the wall. If you keep the warm air from reaching the cool air it will maintain its humidity level and you can remove the humidity through other means such as a dehumidifyer or maybe hvac unit with a variable speed fan. Something that could run at a lower more consistant rate to increase the amount of moisture removed from the air.
To stop the flow of air into and through the walls we use a vapor barrier. This barrier is used on the exterior in cooling dominated environments and on interior in heating dominated environments. It is just inside the gypsum board. If you put it on both sides you will create the problem of trapping moisture in the wall cavity. You don’t want that either.
As you tack this barrier up and attach your gypsum board or interior finish, each time you nail through your wall you are creating a hole for that moisture to enter. There is another way and that is with closed cell foam insulation. This might be the best way to add the needed insulation while at the same time stopping any vapor from transfering through the wall.
This method when used on your roof. The underside of the roof deck. It allows you to construct a roof that can be unvented. Now keep in mind that you are still breathing, cooking and showering. You will need to get the moisture out. If you don’t the most likely place you will see it show is on the glass of all your windows. This will quickly turn to mold all around your windows, so keep an eye out for that. A dehumidifyer would be your best bet in combination with the closed cell foam insulation.
I just wanted to throw this out there. Do not ever drink the water that comes out of a dehumidifyer. You could get very sick because of the bacteria that forms in the machine itself. They have been known to form what is called lysteria on the coils that the air passes over. You can use it to water plants and stuff but don’t cook with it or drink it. You might be tempted in your tiny house because everything is so efficient.
You might say, “Wow, I’m even recycling my own water. This is awesome.” But please don’t drink it.
Imagine the limited amount of cleaning you would have to do. Ha. One bathroom. One living room/bedroom/kitchen combo. You could probably just have a swiffer sweeper. Not even a real vacuum.
That might be nice. You would be forced to limit the items you purchase. If you don’t have room for something how can you get it? Where would you keep it? You would have to get rid of something else to allow this new thing into your life.
The Simple life. And I don’t mean that if you live in a tiny house your life is simple or easy. I just mean that you are living on limited or with limited means, or below your means rather. Not living above your means. Might be nice to explore.
So I wanted to do something a little different with this episode. If this tiny house idea interest you and you would like to see more, head over to whitewashstudio.com. I have put together a design of a tiny home for you.
Sign up for the newsletter to get notified of all the new episodes and any other information from me and you will be sent the drawings of this tiny house design in pdf format. It is a complete set of drawings, so you can go out and build your own house on your land if you so desire.
If you do build the home, I would love it if you would send me a photo. That would be awesome to see!
I plan to eventually build one of these structures as a vacation home for our family.
“Moisture is the number one challenge to a tiny house. Solve the moisture challenge and the rest will be simple.”
I hope that you are having great success with the planning and construction of your home. If you want to get in touch with me please reach out to me on twitter or google plus.