Tiny House:Small Space Interview
November 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
Last week I got interviewed by the wonderful Poppy from http://tinyhousesmallspace.tumblr.com/. I had meant to repost the interview here but got side-tracked. Really I just wanted to share her Tumblr because it’s awesome! She’s on Facebook also HERE. Thanks Poppy!
1. What was your introduction to the Tiny House movement?
I didn’t really have an introduction per say where I saw a Tumbleweed or anything like that… I had a dream that I lived in a tiny house that had everything I needed and nothing that I didn’t. The more I thought on it the more possible it seemed. I started Googling boat appliances and designs thinking they must have some space savings secrets, that’s when I stumbled on the whole world of Tiny Houses. It was very apparent very quickly that it WAS in fact doable. I had to force myself to wait a week before I jumped off the cliff and started collecting materials and looking for a trailer. Since starting my house I have found countless amounts of supporters and other enthusiasts!
2. What inspired your house design?
My daily activities J. It’s been a really interesting project because architecture is my background, typically I am a design driven person but there were two other, more important, factors with this particular build, weight and price. I want it to look as ‘cool’ as possibly but my number one factor when choosing materials is picking lightweight materials since I was limited by the trailers capacity (I REALLY wanted a concrete solar hot water radiant floor system… that’s WAY too much weight though). The second biggest factor is cost. I have set a budget for this build and am determined not to let it get out of hand… that makes me choose more cost effective materials which definitely impacts my design. I am also a big advocate of sustainability so I have chosen to use a lot of recycled/reclaimed materials which works well into my design and budget. AFTER all that I get to consider the ‘pretty factor’. When it comes to that I like a real modern/utilitarian/functional space. With everything I need but none of the excess and none of the ornamentation. I think most parts of my house have at least two or three functions. Form follows function is a phrase I use a lot!
3. Do you have any building or construction background?
I went to college for design, architecture specifically. I got my Masters degree about five years ago and was studying to get my professional architects license when I realized just how much I don’t know about how a building goes together. There are typically two types of architecture degrees, art based and engineering based, I have the art kind. I definitely needed some work to help me understand how a house goes together, that has been another function of this project for me. Other than that I built a dog house about six years ago, it looked AWEFUL! The key has been precision… measuring to the 1/8 of an inch… with the doghouse I used a lot of ‘ish’ measurements and you could definitely tell! If I can build this though I am convinced anyone can!
4. You’ve chosen to us drywall in your tiny house. Tell us a little about why you made that decision.
I have chosen to drywall, there are a couple reasons… this isn’t the lightest weight option but it is the cleanest feeling in my opinion. I want to show the clean forms and clean lines in my design, I think wood paneling in my particular house would take away from that. I have helped to reduce the weight by going down to 3/8” drywall instead of the typical 1/2” or 5/8”. This also seems to go up a lot quicker than the paneling which I like. Mostly I want my house to feel more like a standard home and less like a cabin in the woods, not that that isn’t a great feeling for a tiny house… it’s just a difference in style. I DO expect to have more issues with the drywall because it isn’t as forgiving as the wood panels. If I jostle the trailer around moving it it’s pretty likely to crack but I am confident I can repair that.
5. I’ve also read that you’re installing a radiant floor heating system. Tell us about that.
I am using this house project to live in and test various technologies that I shamelessly promote in my day job… one of those being the efficiency of radiant floor heat systems. I really really wanted to use solar hot water for this system but it wouldn’t work out with the amount of thermal mass (weight) I would have to add. There are electric systems that do the same thing with a lot less mass… While I am tied to the grid this will be great for testing out the ‘feel’ of a radiant heat system (I will be sure to report back on my site about my findings!). When I am ready it go off the grid with things it simply gets turned off and a secondary heat source will be used.
6. Now that you’re into your build, is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known before you started?
There are so many things to know, you can’t possibly know them all. You just have to get into it to find the ‘problems’, once you know the problem points you can start problem solving. My biggest downfall to date has been expecting a particular process to be a lot more involved than it is… instead of just going I have waited until I have a longer block of time to work… there have been so many times where I think something will take, say four hours so I wait until I have a four hour block of time and it only ends up taking two hours… I wish I would stop doing that! As far as the technical’s, they are different for every situation, I don’t think I would have done anything too differently.
7. How much do you expect your Tiny Hose to Cost
My final budget is $9,600-$12,000, to date I am at $7,948.44. The only items I have left to purchase are the floor tile, my millwork and a washer/dryer unit; I expect to be well within the bottom level of my budget with any luck when complete. My initial goal was to take one year’s worth of rent payments, build this and live in it for at least two years, that way it pays itself back in a way. I went into it expecting to probably go over budget but have been very fortunate not to have to as of yet!
8. How long do you expect your build to take?
Initially I thought I was being on the safe side at guessing six months… that would have been over five months ago. I am not on schedule to say the least. I did have an injury in the process to work around but I am still hoping to get done close to the end of the year. That would make my build take right at one year to complete. The entire first two months were in prepping the trailer; that took WAY more time than I had expected.
9. In what ways have you try to cut cost?
I have been able to dramatically cut costs by simply talking about my project. I have spoken with companies who were then able to donate materials to me. I have estimated that I have saved close to $6,000 by product donations. By being able to be flexible and incorporate these items into my design I have been able to greatly reduce my costs. I received about $3,000 worth of windows for free in one instance, because it was early enough I was able to design around these key components. I think, just by being open people have been very willing to help me along. It doesn’t hurt at all that I work in an industry where I am around various helpful organizations most of the day either.
10. How are you planning to deal with City Codes and Zoning Laws? Do you already have a place to park your house?
I don’t yet have a place to park my house, once I get it more complete and am sure of the craftsmanship and that parts won’t be going out on me I will approach some people downtown to see if I can find a place. I hope at some level I can impact zoning laws in my area at least. I am trying to get involved with the tiny house community at a bigger level and try to use my expertise to help influence code issues, though that is a long drawn out process. I think the short answer is that I am not afraid to have some run-ins with code officials, I expect it. J
11. What’s your favorite feature that you’ve added to your tiny house?
My favorite feature has to be my roof/side wall. I have designed my house so that I can grow my garden up the side of the house. For now I am going to have ivy growing because it grows so fast. I will slowly replace this with crawling garden plants like peas and green beans (it should also be pretty decent at keeping the squirrels from stealing my peas and green beans!). This will act as a sustainable feature providing my house with constant shade and so much smaller cooling loads in the summer but also function for growing food! I really like the duel purpose there and am excited to see how well it turns out!
12. Is your house going to be on or off the grid? If off, what’s your power source?
My house will be grid tied while it is in a city center. Power is just too cheap, especially here, to justify an expensive solar system especially if I am not even sure of how long I will be able to park it in any particular place. If I were to have to move to a completely shade covered lot it would kill me if I was dependant on solar, for me being grid-tied is about flexibility of location. I have designed my house to be off grid compatible however, I have a closet to keep solar batteries out of the weather and the plan is, at the end of it’s lifecycle as my house it will become a family cabin and be able to tie to a solar or hydro source!