Tiny House Photo

Tiny House Photo

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

RV or Tiny House?

I recently had a neighbor move in next to my cottage. They purchased a new 28' 5th wheel with 2 slides. The floor plan, finishes and storage make it a very comfortable living space for 2 with enough room to sleep 2 more overnight. The price they paid for their 5th wheel is the same as I paid for my tiny house and for an extra $7,000.00 they could have gone from a 28' to a 40'!

Here are some of the differences.

5th wheel:
More square footage & slides make it even larger
All interior furnishing supplied & built-in
Lots of storage spaces
All plumbing systems built-in (i.e. black & grey water tanks)
Propane & a/c built-in
Some options to upgrade or change finishes
Off-gasing from plastics & adhesives
Lightweight & aerodynamic
Need to buy a truck to pull it or pay to have it relocated
Street legal
No wait to purchase & financing is available
Exterior maintenance is minimal
Cottage cute factor "not-so-much"

Tiny House:

Less space but you can customize to your needs
Having minimal built-ins will allow for future changes
Customizing plumbing & energy use can be more efficient
Minimal storage (at least in mine)
Propane & a/c can be built-in if you choose
Every choice is custom
You can be as green as you want & therefore no off-gasing
House is heavy & not aerodynamic
Walls have more insulation so will save on heating & cooling
Standard house windows will do the same
Need to buy a truck to pull it or pay to have it relocated
Street legal
4 months or more to build & limited financing options
Exterior maintenance is wood & needs upkeep (mine to be re-stained this summer)
Cottage cute factor high!


So...the best bang for the buck is definitely the 5th wheel. You won't have any problems with campgrounds and you can travel all around the country. But if your dream is a cute little cottage that is going to stay relative stationary I highly recommend a tiny house.

What is your pick?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Money, money, money, monnneee, money (just like that song)

Money, money, money, monnneee....money. Just like the song says, "some people got to have it, some people really need it". Whether you are building or purchasing your tiny house, you can't do without it.

I found out that banks were not very open minded about financing tiny houses. I went to several banks and credit institutions but the loans they were willing to give me had a higher interest rate than if I used a credit card! So, I called my credit card peeps and asked about low interest rates or 0% rates. I ended up saving part of the money and putting the rest on credit cards. This was not ideal, but I had a deadline (I'll talk about that later). I knew that once I was in my new little cottage I could pay off the balances quickly.

Or so I thought! Just one month prior to moving in, my income was suddenly cut by 20% and my health insurance by another 50%. What was going to take 12 months to pay off, now became 24 months. At least I have a job. So many people are in such dire circumstances I consider myself very lucky. And just 10 months in my tiny house and I have paid off 60% of my debt! Living tiny definitely has its perks.

According to a recent study, 60% of people will never see their house paid off but mine should be paid off in another year! I think I will need to celebrate by doing something fun. Hmmm? Maybe you can give me some suggestions on this?

Whether you are in a financial crisis, an educational debt hole, scaling down for retirement or just want a new simpler life, tiny house living can be the answer. If you choose to "go tiny" for 2 years or 20 the benefits can be huge. You can payoff debt, finance travel or save for property, purchase a vacation home or large family home. Maybe you want to further your education or start a business. Your imagination is the limit. For me, I doubt that I will ever return to a more traditional sized home.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So many decisions

Now that you have lived with your house fort for a few weeks, how do you like it? At this point in the process I was a bit concerned for my mental well being. Just seeing how tiny my little house was caused my stomach to hurt! Have faith, it feels bigger once you are actually in it.

I had the whole tiny house taped out on my living room floor. With my blue tape and furniture in place I realized that even though several pieces if furniture would fit, it felt way too cramped. So I took out half and it felt a lot bigger. All the pieces I did decide to keep are multi functional and can be moved in or out as my needs change. Below is the setup I am using now that I need a space for writing this blog. Next to the green folding chair is a very small folding table and next to the front door is a wooden bench for extra seating.

FYI - I had my tiny house built without ever seeing an actual tiny house!

It's time to think about the floor plan. If you check online, there are a lot people who have published their plans. You can get some great ideas from them, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Consider your hobbies and day-to-day activities. Make sure the things you do daily are easy to accomplish in your space. Consider making the furniture in the living room not built-in, this way you will be able to change out the pieces as needed.

Remember to keep in mind your "Have To's". One of my "Have To's" was a view.

To build or not to build? If you chose to build, will you have the patience and skills to complete the job? The money to redo errors? The space to build? The tools and friends to help? Remember it will take longer and cost more than you think. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. You could have a builder take care of the shell, electric and plumbing. Then you could finish out the interior yourself. At least this way you will be assured that that your house won't fall off the trailer while moving down the road and take out some people along with it!

As you know, I chose to have mine built. I know enough about myself to hand over this type of work to someone who knows what they are doing. But I did want to be involved in the process and choosing the right builder is important.

While I continued to live in my house fort and purge my stuff, I begin to look for a builder. I started canvasing locally and checking with friends about contractors they knew. What I found was that I needed someone with "tiny house" experience. Someone who was passionate about them and as picky as I am about the details.

It took me about 6 months to find Todd Miller of the Oregon Cottage Company.  This is Todd. Check out his site. It features my Ynez cottage! Tell him I sent you. :)

We talked a few times, I emailed him my rough sketch and he sent me a quote. His schedule was booked for several months which gave me more time to save cash and continue my purging. I met with him prior to his ordering of the custom trailer. I gave him a deposit and signed the contract. While there I was also able to see the beautiful home that he built.

House designed & built by Todd Miller.

Take your time with this step. Make sure you are comfortable with your decision. Even if you are just buying plans from the builder you will want a relationship with him in case you have questions or concerns. You want this to be an enjoyable process, not a stressful one.

Next, what everyone wants to know - financing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"O" is for O-ring

Being a bit picky about the water I drink, I use 2 water filters on the water coming into my tiny house. One to remove larger particles and one to remove odors and bacteria etc. I had noticed in the recent weeks that the water wasn't looking as clear, so I purchased new filters and decided to install them over the weekend.

The weekend was here and my daughter came over to visit. Thinking I may need her muscles I asked for her help to change out the filters. I turned on the water faucet to release the pressure, grabbed the new filters and the "loosen the canister thing-a-ma-jig" and headed for the water hookup. My specially purchased "RV reinforced drinking water hose" had a large bulge in it! Yikes, this is a problem.

Here on the ranch the water is gravity fed down a mountain side to the campground area. The water pressure can often exceed 100 psi. Which to this city gal meant "wow, what great water pressure I have"!  ha ha.. What it really means is you will need to add a pressure regulator to decrease the water pressure to an acceptable amount like 40-45 psi. I had purchased one of these prior to receiving my tiny house but had been advised that it was not needed.

Back to changing out the filters. I turned off the water at the hookup. Then using the "loosen the canister thing-a-ma-jig" my daughter removed the outer canisters. By the way "righty tighty - lefty loosey" did not apply unless you were standing on your head! Then I dumped out the old icky filters, rinsed the canisters, placed new filters in and handed the canisters back to my daughter to screw into place. Simple, no problem...until I turned the water back on. One canister had a huge gusher of a leak. Try as we did, we just couldn't get it to stop. Finally, I asked one of my neighbors for a hand. He also tried unsucessfully to stop the flood. This went on for perhaps 20 minutes with my neighbor sweetly telling me SEVERAL TIMES that "usually there is a O-ring to provide a tight seal". By this time there were 6 of us and 1 dog gathered around scratching our heads trying to figure out why I had such a huge leak. Suddenly my neighbor noticed the O-ring lying in the dirt just inches from my feet! Life is so simple when you have an O-ring. For those that don't know, an O-ring is a black rubber gasket.

Now that the filters are in place and nothing is leaking I move on to the pressure regulator which I had stored in my shed. I screwed it in place and planned on replacing my bulging hose the next weekend when I could get to the RV store (about an 1 1/2 hours away). After all, I did have the reducer on so the pressure was a lot lower, right?

Not right. Two days later while at work I received a call from one of the rangers that my hose burst and water was flooding the street. They turned off the hose but I would need to get a new one. He informed me that the campground general store did carry a hose but the store closes at 4:00. He kindly offered to pick it up for me and I could pay him back when I got home. All the way home I was thinking about having to climb under the trailer in the mud to remove the old hose and replace with a new one. Initially I had a leak at that connection and had to borrow a large wrench to tighten it enough to stop the leak. I was hoping that this ranger had a large wrench I could borrow.

I got home to find that the ranger not only purchased the new hose but attached it! And no leaks! I was so happy. Life is good at the ranch.  :)

Lessons learned: O-rings and neighbors are important. And rangers save the day!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Organizing (it's not a 4-letter word) ...

Ok, so most people do not like to organize. It's much easier to just shove stuff in a drawer or closet. I happen to love organizing. Call me "disturbed" if you want, but I organize all my storage spaces every weekend. Mostly because I have people coming by to visit every weekend and I just like a tidy space. Below is a pre-weekend pic.

Every time I move to a new home, large or small, there is a transition period while I am sorting out just what goes where. It usually takes me about 6 months. It was no different in the Ynez. As much as I had my floor plan and knew what items were going to be stored in each drawer and closet, it wasn't until I was living in the space that I figured it all out.

For instance, originally I had some clothing in the loft but this wasn't efficient since I was getting dressed on the main floor. Then I had some tools in the clothes closet, this took up too much valuable real-estate. So, out they went to my car (until I had the shed built). There was a time when I had my shoes in neatly stacked plastic boxes. The boxes and several pair of shoes had to go as well. Now I have a shoe-hanger against the wall of the closet, it works much better. The dirty clothes were another issue. I finally found a narrow laundry basket that fits behind a curtain in the bathroom that works perfectly.

Even my parrot (Abby) needed to downsize her big 5' cage. First I tried just removing the legs and placing a small IKEA table with wheels under it. Then she was downsized to a travel cage which is still large enough considering she is able to get out and sit on the door for much of the day. Bird lovers please don't get upset, Abby only has one leg and doesn't really use much of the cage for playing and climbing around. She would rather sit with me or to rest on a comfy towel inside her cage. My little dog (Tilly) also has a crate that sits under Abby's cage. It's like they have bunk beds!  Neither animal seems to mind that they share the same area of the room and this configuration has freed up much needed floor space.

Organizing in my big house would have taken the whole weekend but in my tiny house it is a matter of minutes. With just a few drawers and closets, I am done in no time. Then I am on to the fun stuff.

My son-in-law & I at the Santa Barbara zoo.

Next, I will share my exciting water adventures!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lofty views

Initially I was concerned about climbing a ladder and sleeping in a loft. But it was the most efficient use of space so I forged ahead, confident I could make it work and after just a couple days I stopped banging my shins on the ladder. Soon the bruises healed and I am happy to say I am now a skilled climber and can go up and down the ladder, even in the dark! Do not be put off by the ladder. On the other hand if you have health issues you could always work in a stationary set of narrow steps or eleminate the loft all together. There are several companies that make "murphy style" bed/desk or bed/sofa furniture.

I find sleeping in the loft comfortable and cozy. In fact, the bed is the largest space for me to spread out in, so I often use it to work on projects. I am writing this blog while sitting on my bed. The dormers give me plenty of head room and a ton of light. With 4 windows I get a great cross breeze and in the winter when I don't want to open the windows I have a small 4" fan to push around the air. Many people close off their loft to gain some extra clothing storage or build little storage boxes next to the bed but I think this only makes it feel claustrophobic. And making a bed while lying in the middle is incredibly difficult! You can see from the picture below that I have extra space around my bed.

I am so glad I had the porch built! My deck is the width of my tiny house and 5' deep, which is large enough to set a small 30" table and 2 chairs on. Because I live in Southern California, the weather is good all year around and I will often sit outside to eat, read or visit with neighbors. The angle of my Ynez Cottage gives me afternoon shade (very nice in August when it can get over 100 degrees).

My utility room is another add on. Instead of giving up valuable storage space under the sink for the hot water tank I had the builder OregonCottageCompany.net place it in the utility room (which isn't really a room as much as a little bump out on the tongue of the trailer). The area is large enough to house the 20 gallon hot water tank, a small amount of storage and litter for the bucket style compost toilet.

The window above this area is a single hung window (not an awning style window like the rest) so that I can have a small a/c unit. The cool air is pushed in a straight line from the back of my tiny house to the front. In August when it gets very hot, an additional little fan is used to push the cool air up into the loft.

Next let's talk about the constant need to organize.