This is a blog to detail the building of my tiny house on wheels, which I began in November of 2013 (though the planning started waaaaaay before that). My house was loosely based on the fantastic McG Loft v.2 by Humble Homes; however, my contractor and I came up with a bunch of ideas to make the house more optimal for my specific, weird needs, and the design evolved from there. If you’re considering your own tiny house, however, go take a look at the McG v.2–I think it’s an amazingly livable, well-designed plan! You might also check out Michael Janzen’s book Tiny House Floor Plans: it details basically every possible configuration for a tiny house, and if it doesn’t get you all fired up to go build something, nothing will.
My house is actually pretty large by tiny house standards: I am building it on a 24 ft. utility trailer (technically a double car-hauler trailer), and it’s cantilevered off the back, front and sides to make it 27′ x 8.5′ x 13.5 ft. It’s got a pretty large sleeping loft, and as the roof isn’t steeply pitched, the loft is all useable floor space; as such, including the loft, the square footage is probably going to clock in right around 300 ft2. This is actually a little bigger than apartments I’ve lived in in New York and Los Angeles, so the tiny house does not seem so tiny to me (plus, it’ll be better laid out!)
Though I have always liked to make things and have a pretty good working knowledge of power tools, I started this build having built nothing more complicated than Ikea furniture and the odd woodworking project here and there. I am working with an awesome semi-retired contractor named Jeff, who hopefully will be getting his own website pretty soon: he is my mom’s neighbor, an absolute superstar and a former builder of modular houses and houseboats, making him the perfect person for the project. We’re both having a ton of fun making the house, and I am learning an awful lot. This blog is written from my perspective, which is to say that of a semi-competent newbie. I try to explain things as best I can, both for my own memory and for other people who are equally new to the whole building-a-house thing: to those of you who might be coming to the blog already knowing what you’re doing, I apologize for sounding awkward and credulous (especially re: things like electrical work). It’s because I am.
I don’t want to belabor this, because there are a ton of people online who can offer up incredibly eloquent rationales for their own tiny houses, but I did want to say a few words about why I wanted to build the houselet in the first place. A lot of people build tiny houses for lovely, altruistic, environmentalist reasons, and though I am sympathetic to all of those, my own reasons were mostly just pragmatic. I’m in my early 30s and have a career I really enjoy; that career has, however, involved quite a lot of moving, and those moves have been both big (mostly cross-country) and frequent (about once a year.) I have been a renter my whole adult life and am getting to the point where I really want to own something. I want to be able to paint a wall and hang a picture and plant a garden. I have pets, I really wanted something that would accommodate them well, and I am kind of over negotiating with landlords about them. Because I move a lot, there was no point in buying a house that I would just have to leave behind; in addition, like a lot of young professionals in a scary economy, my income fluctuates, and I wanted to avoid having a mortgage. Watching the housing crisis unfold and seeing people having their homes taken away and being displaced was/is pretty terrifying to me; it was important to me that my house be one of the stable things in my life, and that meant that I just had to work with what I could afford. And, as it happens, what I could afford was about the cost of a used Subaru.
Thus, I became very interested in the idea of making something that was both inexpensive and portable: the size of the house was the direct result of the need for it to be moved. Tininess qua tininess is not that important to me (though I’m uncomfortable in houses that feel too big for me to manage), and I like having stuff (though I have tried to only hang onto things that are really beautiful, really useful, or, optimally, both.) If I was going small, it was important to me that my house feel like a house, not like something temporary or something I was camping in, which is why I quickly ruled out campers and mobile homes. I wanted it to be made with materials I liked (i.e. limited plastic, limited weird chemical nonsense, stuff that wasn’t environmentally horrible, nothing that was going to leech gasses and chemicals into the air and slowly kill me.) I wanted it to be pretty and safe and to make me happy, just like anyone wants from their house. My house isn’t a movement or a statement or an art project; it’s the thing that makes the most sense for me right now, and the more I build it, the more I love it. I tell myself, “Oh, well, it’s not for everyone” while simultaneously feeling like everyone should do this: it is just so doable. I was prepared to argue with a lot of people who thought living in a little house was crazy, and shockingly, I have gotten almost none of that: when people look at pictures of the houselet or come visit it in person (a LOT of people drop by!), they get wistful, and they tell me how cool it all looks, and they tell me they wish they could do the same thing. They can. You can, if you want to. It turns out it’s not that hard.
Thanks, everyone, for stopping by. If you have questions, I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments.