Last night I stumbled upon the Tiny House Movement and instantly felt myself drawn in. The Tiny House movement values utility, pragmatism, and simple aesthetics over size; and the goal of most tiny house designs is to minimize the footprint and size of the structure by keeping only the bare minimums. Rather than using a 25 ft3 refrigerator, a tiny houser will often opt for the 6 ft3 mini fridge to save on space and attempt to simplify life to only the essentials. Lets hear from the experts at TheTinyLife.com about what the movement really is:
Simply put it is a social movement where people are downsizing the space that they live in. The typical American home is around 2600 square feet, while the typical small or tiny house is around 100-400 square feet. Tiny Houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms but they focus on smaller spaces and simplified living.
People are joining this movement for many reasons, but the most popular reasons are because of environmental concerns, financial concerns and seeking more time and freedom. For most Americans 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; This translates to 15 years of working over your life time just to pay for it and because of it 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
By now it should be clear why I was so smitten by the concept of building a tiny house. I have never been one to crave and relish large items for the sake of owning large things. While some will point to my jeep–considered by some to be large–as an object of excess, but I bought my jeep for its practicality. I have slept in, hiked from, and scratched up the jeep numerous times because I think of it as a tool, something to be used. I try my best to apply this philosophy to the other areas in my life as well, but none of us are perfect I suppose. So back to houses. The best part of the Tiny House movement is the reverence that many of these home-owners have for the aesthetic value of life. Many of these people would be the first to forsake a clothes drier in the name of simplicity, few would neglect the importance of art and beauty in their spaces. To illustrate this, take at look at some of these images from Tumblr. Within a few moments, the beauty and elegance of many of the projects will jump out at you. Clearly I have a huge soft spot in my heart for art (see this post) and value aesthetics immensely, a useful passion if you consider these tiny houses as works of art. Now let’s move onto what my ideas have manifested themselves as so far.
My imagination has been running through a range of ideas and options that I’ve seen proposed online, as well as trying my best to apply the hands-on skills, which my parents have instilled in me, for a creative end. Here is the sketch of what I have come up with so far.
The location of where I would build my house is a topic of discussion seldom addressed by the online community, purportedly since others often don’t have a variety of options to choose from. For my plans, location is critical to the functionality of the cabin since I plan to use a little, spring-feed stream on the property to provide water and possibility even the power. Here is an aerial picture of the property with some vague topological markers showing the elevation gain heading west to east within the property. Notice the depressed stream bed heading out from behind the farmhouse (horizontal blue line). I figure that the best spot for my house would be beside this little stream (red X). This location also offers some natural, if limited, access to the site from the existing farm roads and paths.
Foundation and Construction
Since I want the structure to be as natural and organic as possible, I am hoping that any trees that I clear might also double as posts for the foundation which will also help elevate the building off the moist ground. The trees themselves can then be used for structural elements, especially for primary girders or beams (once treated with a biocide). The rest of the construction would then be carried out with traditional materials 2”x4”s (18” to 24” OC). Luckily for me I have the experience necessary, and the tools required, for this sort of construction project. The flooring would be something cheap yet durable, and I found an interesting option recently. Oriented Strand Board, or OSB, offers a solid surface at a low price point. While not an aesthetic look that everyone would crave, it does look pretty good once its been sealed (for example) and could be either stained or painted. Insulation is still a bit of a mystery simply for the generally high cost of any option, except cardboard of course (if you disregard the cost of mold). This cabin will likely just be a three season retreat rather than anything extensively heated, but some sort of insulation would be worthwhile. If you have any ideas, definitely let me know!
For the current farm house I am strongly looking into the possibility of micro-hydro since we have some good, flowing water, and the low power demand that makes such a system ideal. I will certainly outline the details for this project in a stand-alone post, but for now lets just say that such a system might also be a good option for my cabin. Being directly adjacent the stream should simplify matters, and the ultra-low power needs that I’ll have lends itself well to a cheap, low wattage system. If for some reason the micro-hydro system doesn’t make economic sense, then solar would be another option. The amount of sunlight will vary dramatically from place to place and goes back to the location discussion above. I can’t wait to get the chance to walk out the area and look for an optimal spot. Heating is one area in the planning process that I think I’ve already solved. I want to design and fabricate my own wood stove that will serve both as the heating unit as well as the cooking unit for the cabin. The stove will be made out of recycled propane tanks in order to cut down cost while also reducing the environmental impact of my project. This stove will also be the perfect excuse to buy a MIG welder since until now all of my projects that would have benefited from one have yielded to other, weld-free solutions.
I hope this provides a fulfilling overview of my plans, and I would love to hear any ideas and suggestions that people have concerning any part. While this is clearly a very proto-formed project, rest assured that much of this planning will come to fruition at least in some regard. I’ll be sure to provide detailed accounts of each stage and part of the project moving forward.