This journey all started with one thing: the tiny house. My tiny house has been my vehicle for downsizing, reorganizing, and reimagining my life for the better. I’ve learned a lot along the way, including some special considerations for mobility (which is not for everybody) and day-to-day living (which is not the same for everybody).
Every tiny house is different; an extension of the unique intentions and lifestyle of its builder. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve been doing with mine, and how I got there.
- Floor Plan
- The Gifford’s floor plan was attractive to me for a number of reasons. Initially I fell in love with the look of the exterior. It was simply the cutest thing I’d ever seen. I knew I had to have a porch. I loved the symmetry of the centered front door flanked by seating. I knew I wanted to sleep in a loft, and I wanted a lot of windows.
- I chose the 16-foot versus any longer trailer size because, well, if I’m going to go small, I may as well really go small. And because I plan on traveling with my house, I knew the 16 foot would be easier to tow and park than the longer models.
- Wheels or Fixed?
- This was an easy one for me because I know that initially I want to travel. Ultimately I want to start a tiny house community, or a pocket community. One of the big plusses to me of going tiny is not having a mortgage payment, and along with that goes not paying for a land purchase.
- I checked into custom doors and most frequently they are made from fiberglass. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the entrance to my humble home being a man-made material; I just had to have wood. Fortunately, the front door end is not the end that will face into the wind when I travel, so that’s in my favor. Daniel Bell hand-crafted my front door for me. It’s clear fir, 2″ tongue and groove – it’s so heavy I can’t lift it alone, and it’s spectacular. To his design I added a functional speakeasy, a vintage door knocker, some retro looking hardware and some hinge straps. It’s substantial. (Someone tried to kick my front door in once and failed. HA!)
- I have two 27.5 gallon tanks (one fresh water and one gray water) mounted under my trailer between the axles. I have a water pump to pressurize the system and an electric tankless water heater. My showerhead is a low-flow one to make my water last longer. I have a bamboo farm sink in my kitchen. I’m still looking for the perfect sink for my bathroom; I keep buying different vessels to make into a sink but so far I haven’t found the perfect thing that I love.
- I am doing the bucket with sawdust method for my toilet. I entertained the notion of an incinerating toilet and a composting toilet, and you can read about my research and decision-making process. Ultimately I went the smallest, easiest, least expensive route. I use a plastic liner inside the bucket because I am traveling too frequently to actually compost the waste.
- I want to go all solar, but right now I feel solar is too cumbersome to travel with, and I don’t have the money to buy the set up right now . I have the ability to plug in when electrical is available, and I have a generator for those in-between times.
- My heat will be provided by the wall mounted Envi panel heater, which is convection heat – totally silent! Love.
Special Considerations for Travel
Because I take my house on the road, I employed some special considerations for construction.
- Initially I wanted wool insulation in the walls. I’ve since learned that over time it will settle down into the lower part of the wall, leaving the top few feet uninsulated. Despite wanting every component of my house to be chemical free and natural, I used poly iso foam boards for the insulation in the floor and the walls. My R value is between 23 and 27.
- I did a combination of casement windows and awning windows. The travel consideration is tempered glass versus regular glass to reduce highway breakage. I also chose options that are high-altitude friendly and sea air friendly for travel through the mountains or spending a significant amount of time in a coastal area. I’ve done a bit of both already!
- Shingles will not hold up well with wind, so I went with a standing seam metal roof. I really wanted copper, until I priced it—it’s about $1,000 more than metal, and several folks mentioned to me that it might be stolen for salvage value. My roof! Stolen right off my house! It seemed far-fetched, but in the end I opted out. I also drove around and looked at several copper roofs in the area, and decided the developing patina was too dull of a finish for me. (Apparently you only get that beautiful greenish blue patina if your roof is near salt water – who knew? I read you can chemically force the patina but learned that it’s tricky to get it right, and, well, I am not a fan of chemicals.) My roof is UL rated with extra clips to combat the wind on the road.