Surprising as it may seem, a tiny house can be built to a higher standard than conventional houses on foundations. These are some of the “tiny” lessons I learned in designing and building our first Tiny House:
1. Size matters – For portable tiny houses, regulations for height and width are stipulated by the Department of Transport. Make sure that when planning the width you allow for the thickness of trims and hardware. As well, watch the house weight for limits on axle weight.
2. Small can still feel spacious – Plan your space to make it feel as large as possible. Bringing the outdoors in, through patio doors and vertical views such as skylights is one way to make it feel more open and spacious.
3. Small does not have to mean plain – Make your house a reflection of you. Allow for open storage and artwork that appeals to you. We put in three small stained glass windows in the bathroom to add a bit of “bling” and also privacy.
4. Storage can be found in unexpected places – We found a way to incorporate a good deal of storage in our hidden staircase. Open shelving works fine for some kitchen storage and is visually less obtrusive than cabinets. Maximize cabinet drawer depth for more storage. On the other hand, don’t add so much storage that you don’t have room to live. Sort through your belongings and set a balance between what have and how you want to live.
5. There are new and better ways of building – SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) are a quick and efficient way to build. Rather than taking days to stick frame a building, you can have everything framed and insulated in hours. In addition to the superior air tightness and insulation value, a tiny home built with SIPS also offers superior structural rigidity and is very resistant to wracking and flexing.
6. Glue is your friend – When your tiny home is hurtling down the highway during a storm, it will be subject to a lot of stresses that a stationary house isn’t. In our Dragonfly, the SIPS floor, wall and roof panels were glued together. The interior finish, exterior cedar siding, cedar decking and interior trims were glued a well as nailed or screwed.
7. Some people know more than I do – Make sure that key work is done by qualified tradespeople who can offer certification and warranties. The items that are better done by professionals include roofing membrane – see this example from DannyDeck.com, electrical, plumbing and gas fitting. It is worth the extra money to have the assurance of the warranties they provide.
8. Time is money – Rather than spending weeks sourcing out all the materials you need, consider purchasing a kit. There are many different size trailers with different wheel well locations. Wheel well location is crucial to each particular set of plans. If you purchase a kit, you know you will be receiving the right trailer, as well as the materials needed for that particular plan. Kits should include a detailed instruction manual indicating fasteners, nailing patters, flashing details and millwork drawings. Building from kits is definitely faster and will result in less destruction of materials due to weather or even theft of materials on site.
9. It is wise to budget – Set your budget before you start, so you can know what to expect. Add a 5-10 percent contingency to cover things that come up along the way. Purchasing a kit also helps you to remain with your budget, as a contingency overrun is less likely with a kit.
10. It pays to do your research – It is important to make sure you are committed to this housing form. Tour tiny houses, follow blogs online, and read anything you can about the latest designs, space saving built-in options, finishes and appliance, top contractors and roofing options to make sure you are fully aware of what you are getting in to. By taking time to make it your own, and customized to suit your style and spatial requirements, it will be perfect for you.