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Why Are We Building a Tiny House...?

Why Are We Building a Tiny House...?

5/6/14 (7 years ago)

Why Are We Building a Tiny House...?

Because we're crazy. But seriously... 

We've never desired the "normal" life: full-time jobs, commutes, kids, mortgage, etc. We do a lot of volunteer work, so we've always limited our employment to part-time and have a very simple lifestyle. That has meant apartment living for many years... too many. Sharing walls with chain-smoking alcoholic cat ladies, exhausted single moms with screaming babies, pot-smoking teenagers, and the fat man upstairs has taken its toll. We would just pack up and move to a new apartment, but since we're getting older, that's getting old, too. We are ready for a change.

But what should we do? We did a bunch of research, crunched the numbers, searched through our pocketbooks and our hearts. Here were the options we considered and what we decided:

  1. Buy or build a small house: We don't want to be in debt, held captive to housing marketings, pay property taxes, and most of all be stuck in one location. No.
  2. Mobile home: Even though they're called "mobile" homes, once you buy one you can't just pick up and move. And, although you own the home, you rent the property it sits on from the mobile home park. If they decide to increase the rent, sell the park, or just kick you out, you have to either move it ($5,000 to hire a professional mover) or sell it at a big loss. So that means, for all practical purposes, you are stuck in that trailer park. No.
  3. Motorized RV: RV's are intended for "camping" or short-term living. They aren't constructed with quality fixtures. They don't have good insulation for colder climates. Since they have an engine, transmission, etc., there is more possibility for things to break down, leaving you stuck with expensive repairs, or just stuck. They have poor resale value. And all of the RV's we have seen appear to be decorated by grandmas using leftover fabric and oak paneling from 1982. In order to make one livable, at minumum, we would have to completely gut it. No.
  4. Travel trailer: Trailers have fewer moving parts to break, but they have the same design problems as RV's (described above). The thought of "boondocking", or living "off the grid", appeals to us. But after researching the joys and complications of fresh water holding tanks, grey water holding tanks, black water holding tanks, flexible sewer discharge pipes, composting toilets, incinerating toilets, 12V electrical systems, solar panels, and propane gas systems, we came to the conclusion that it's not for us. We want to have a portable home, but we don't need to be that portable. We just need electricity, water, and sewer. Like civilized people. No.
  5. Park model trailer: Park model trailers are basically big boxy travel trailers designed to be parked on a more permanent basis. Some are designed to look like houses, log cabins, etc. They're bigger, which appealed to us. Trailers with tall ceilings and slideouts actually feel huge. But they still have the same design problems as RV's and travel trailers (see above). We would still have to remove all the dated furnishings, insulate it better, and remodel it to our specs. No.
  6. Tiny house: Tiny houses combine all the comforts of a (very small) home with the mobility of a trailer. And there are some really cool designs out there. But the tiny houses that can be towed without a special permit are pretty small, and we're pretty tall (we don't like the idea of stuffing ourselves into a cramped loft bedroom every night!) Most DIY tiny houses are less than 20' long, so that's less than 200 square feet. The larger models are more spacious, but they are more difficult to move and way beyond our budget. No (sigh).
  7. Custom-made big tiny house: The ideal home for us would be portable (tow it ourselves), comfortably sized (needs a slideout), solidly constructed and well-insulated, furnished with quality fixtures and appliances, equipped with standard utility hookups, and within our budget. Since we can't find one that meets all those criteria, we would have to build one ourselves. Yes!

One tiny problem: We do not have any construction skills whatsoever! In order to build our tiny house, we would require the help of someone with experience in a variety of diverse fields, including woodworking, metal fabrication, mechanical engineering, electrical, and plumbing. We would need a shop and large open area to work in. We would need someone willing to volunteer an unlimited amount of time to be at our beck and call. And we would require every tool known to man.

There is only one man in the known universe who would accept such a challenge. Meet my Pop. He's retired, is a mechanical genius, and over the years has accumulated a collection of tools that would make a grown man weep with envy. We realized that the only way we could get the big tiny house we want would be to build it ourselves, this year, with his help.

And so the adventure begins...

  • In the shop In the shop
  • We'll be using most of these We'll be using most of these
  • Pop with custom muffler Pop with custom muffler