Tumbleweed Tiny Houses has received word that we're not quite the first house on wheels. Today we learned about Charles Miller, who built and parked his very own Model-T home in Odgen, UT. This 1929 cottage-to-go is a stunner!
Model T Motor Home built in Ogden, Utah (www.theoldmotor.com)
In this classic farm cottage, we appreciate the roof line, finished porch, well-proportioned front door and over-sized windows. This archetypal home resided right on Mr. Miller's lawn, parked close to his larger homestead.
While Miller's cottage looks terrific, it might not be ready to withstand the rigors of travel. The Model T trailer foundation seems too light for the load, and its engine horsepower would be severely tested. Once underway, imagine hitting a windy storm and losing this beauty!
Away from home, the lack of amenities would be noticed. Mr. Miller lived in the City of Ogden, and within a short drive to Utah's high deserts and mountains. Without plumbing, water, power or alternative sources, the cottage provided shelter without some of the comforts of home.
Yet we can overlook construction matters and appreciate this stylish house on wheels. Here's to Charles Miller, a man ahead of his time!
[Special thanks to David Greenlees and The Old Motor.]
Hi Tumbleweed Fans!
Next week on July 1 ends the first three months that I have been working for Tumbleweed Tiny House Company as the new in-house Architect. It’s been an exciting ride so far – I love getting to meet you at workshops (hello to my friends from the Sacramento, Nashville, and Berkeley workshops!) and diving into the details of how a tiny house is constructed differently from regular construction.
Working at Tumbleweed is a dream job for me. I wake up every morning excited to get to work and see what I can accomplish – and hopefully impact your lives for the better. In my most recent design, I listened to the feedback that I was getting from many of you about wanting a loft sleeping area but needing more space. A loft for two people is a different animal than a loft for one. I also had this concern for my own build, which my husband Dan and I recently began work on. I love reading in bed at night – my most recent book is “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss – and Dan likes to play games on his iPad before going to sleep, so we wanted a loft where we could both sit up comfortably. A regular loft with a 12/12 pitch is a little cramped for that.
When I set out to design a house for my own family, I thought about ways in which to incorporate a bigger, functional sleeping loft and still have a beautiful exterior. I have long admired the B-53 cottage plans, and I started there. I am pleased to share with you the newest design in the Tumbleweed House to Go family: The Linden!
Plans and details will be available on the Tumbleweed website in early July.
Why a compost toilet outhouse?
We live on 50 acres with a one bathroom house on it – we use walkie talkies to communicate with each other on our land. We conduct 75% of our lives 500 or more yards from the house in a series of huge outdoor rooms collectively referred to as ‘the pond’. As in “Honey, when I get home will you be at the pond or at the house?” It’s where we work, play, socialize, park our guests, and have campfires, barbecues, and parties.
The more people we share these activities with, the more we need a handy bathroom facility. It’s equally obvious that there’s no way we can afford or justify putting in a second septic system. The entire property is a watershed and we don’t want to take any chances polluting, so we wouldn’t even think about doing an old school outhouse, where you just dig a pit and add lime to the cesspool. A waterless compost toilet was the only way to go, allowing us to return the nutrients and organic materials from our waste safely to the soil.
The dirty details;
we were on a tight budget and had some materials left over from our tiny house builds, so we opted for an entirely DIY “glorified bucket” approach. I’ve watched quite a few compost toilet videos
over time, and referred back to a couple to help us plan our project. Urine diversion is the best approach because it prevents smelly anaerobic conditions and allows more of the nutritional value from our wastes to be used by plants, but to buy aurine diverter
costs about $70 – $100 and takes delivery time. I’ve ordered one now, so I’ll do an update at some point about how that works out. For now we’re removing the material to an aerobic microbe rich composting situation, and we always have a large supply of sawdust so we decided to just use larger amounts of it to soak up excess liquid and put everything in one container.
The plan; to make a small structure like an outhouse with a bench seat inside. The bench has a hole with a toilet seat and lid over it, and beneath it a bin with a contractor trash bag lining. When it’s 2/3 full of sawdust and deposited material, we’ll open up the exterior hatch to access the bin under the seat, bundle up the bag, and carry it away to our dedicated toilet compost area. We’ll make shallow holes far from the creek and pond so the bag contents will contact the earth and all its microbes, getting the composting process going quickly. Each bag will be emptied into its own hole and topped with rotted leaf litter so it can rest a full year and add nutrients and organic material to the soil.
after we outlined the plan we raided our stockpile for scrap lumber, plywood, and metal roofing. We decided to make it a square building exactly one half sheet of plywood on each side, roughly 4′ x 4′ x 8′. It seemed like a comfortable size and it minimized cutting. A shed roof was the obvious choice for simplicity, and we decided our left over birch interior ply was perfect for the bench. We gathered up extra paint samples and a door purchased for another job. It wasn’t used as intended because it had some flaws, but it’s certainly good enough for our little privy. We did have to buy two 4 x 6 x 8′ pressure treated beams to make skids for $55.
very little was planned before we started, which was great because it allowed for a lot of standing around debating pros and cons of each step with friends. Between four and six people were clustered around the project while it was built, although it was so small no more than two could actually be doing anything at any one time. Nobody got paid in anything but cold ones, and we all enjoyed every bit of it. Overall it probably took us about 20 hours of work over the course of two days to get the job done. One guy made a rustic toilet paper holder, a “sink” (a shelf holding hand wipes), and even a magazine rack. The one aesthetic touch we planned on was a traditional outhouse crescent moon cutout in the door, so I drew that so it could be traced later with a saw. After the framing was up, we decided to place the door to one side, allowing us to save an extra framing member and leaving a space for something. We all had a sense we should put some sort of window there, but we didn’t think we had anything that would work until I went poking around some old stuff and found a few square acrylic panels. We tried them out, and three of them filled the space nicely, overlapped slightly at the bottom of each for a look that reminds me of an oversize jalousie window.
Ventilation and insulation; we left the gables of the shack empty to allow for copious air flow. At the moment we still have the moon cutout in the door open too, but I might put some kind of translucent material in there pretty soon – still looking for the right scrap. Before the party, the guys decided to run a vent stack from under the bench through a hole in the wall and up to the roof. Dylan modified a Studor vent for the top of the stack so that it will keep rain out but always allow air to pass freely. We’re not insulating the room because our climate is pretty mild.
The inner workings;
after we built the shell we looked for the right container. It had to be strong, durable, and commonly available, so we could start with two containers and if needed get more that would fit. We ended up with a horizontal plastic tub rated for carrying over 350 pounds of material. It’s way overkill, since lightweight sawdust will always make up a large proportion of the bulk in our batches, but better a “too strong” container than one that doesn’t quite cut it, for obvious reasons. I would have preferred to use containers with lids, but these tough heavy duty ones didn’t have them, so we went with contractor grade plastic bag liners to contain the load while we move it to the comporting site, which in our case have already been used once or twice on the job site before they go to the outhouse.
Surfaces and finishes; Dylan painted the exterior a sage green I mixed from a bunch of our sample colors from recent projects, and my five year old son and I painted the inside a darker tone of the same color. We coated the floor and the door with brick red exterior paint, and one of the guys spray painted the inside of the “window” panels bright red. Last year we cut out a crescent moon from hot rolled steel during some crafty plasma cutter sessions, which now graces the inside back wall. Dylan installed an overhead light with a vintage style bulb and an automatic shut off light switch, plus a motion sensing porch light outside above the door. A bucket was transformed into a lidded trash container, another bucket became the sawdust bin, and we were ready for prime time. With the same Sierra green roof as my first two houses, and a birch bench with routed edges and a heavy coat of polyurethane on it, this convenience station has turned out prettier than I would have ever imagined.
our house is quite a walk up a steep hill from ‘the pond’, so the privy was a welcome addition. We were proud to show our guests to it when that first party started in the afternoon, and we got a lot of compliments. By nightfall everyone knew where it was and it was definitely viewed with gratitude and appreciation. Throughout the evening as I conducted my “inspections” the only things I could smell inside were sawdust and a hint of fresh paint. We topped off our bucket of sawdust halfway through the night, and my husband opened the back hatch to check on things and had to shake the container back and forth a few times to settle a growing pyramid. One of our guys has a brilliant plan for making a teeter totter platform for the bin with a handle projecting upwards. It will allow users to occasionally flip the handle back and forth to shake the bin and settle the contents without having to go outside or touch the bin.
The cost; if you have leftover materials to work with you may get away with spending as little as $70 on your toilet seat and containers. We spent about $55 for our skids, $35 on our seat, $15 each on two containers, $10 on a fancy lightbulb, and another $15 on drinks for the crew. The guys who helped us enjoy our parties, so were happy to help with a fun no pressure project to make them go more smoothly. Grand total, $200.I’ll try to make an estimate for what it would cost to buy all the materials when I can find the time.
The impression; the compost toilet has been an unqualified success. It’s sailed through a half dozen parties with up to 60 guests over the course of these weekends and it never smells of anything worse than damp sawdust. What experiences have you had with compost toilets? Would you try this in a remote situation like ours?
Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life website has been keeping us posted about his exciting plans for a modified Fencl. In addition for guest writing for Tumbleweed, Ryan has been blogging about simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible lifestyles on his website: we think he's awesome!
The devil is often said to be in the details, and this
couldn’t be any truer than in a tiny house.
Many times I have made the argument over at my blog that tiny houses are more complex and intricate to build than your standard
McMansions. This is because in a small
house, you have so little space to work with that the small facets seem to jump
out at you.
When it comes to traditional homes, mistakes are easily
covered through various tricks of the trade, but they have one major thing in
their favor, lots and lots of space.
With that space you can easily hide the mistakes. Compare that to a Tiny
House, and the tolerances are so small that sometimes being off by 1/8th
of an inch means re-doing hours of work.
It is here in the details that tiny houses have made a name
for themselves, because you have to be so intentional about how you use
space. Here are 5 tips to help you make
sure the details given the reverence they deserve.
Make a list of the most important activities
your home must be able to handle, form should follow that list
Tape out your floor plan to scale and act out a
day in it. Be sure to have extra tape because you’ll be changing it a lot!
Stop looking at other Tiny Houses, make your
house for you.
Consider storage for all your things, including
often forgotten things like trash, recycles, and dirty laundry.
Obsess over the look, feel and form of
everything in your house to make sure it fits in well.
A popular small space shower design is an “open shower”.
This design involves no shower walls or curtain – just the fixtures and a drain
on the floor. It is a great space saver! Having used showers like these before,
I feel it is important to note some serious drawbacks. Everything in the bathroom
can now potentially get wet – your towel, your clothes and, my least favorite,
the toilet seat. Safe, dry storage becomes nearly impossible. Successful open
shower designs are possible, but most that avoid the above mentioned issues are in
much larger spaces than those of our Cottage bathrooms.
If the goal is to keep the shower space from breaking up
your already small space there are other solutions. Glass shower walls or
curtains with ties that pull them back to the wall allow the eye to travel the
full length of the room.
A glass shower wall inside a Tarleton
See more images of Will's Tarleton
Read our tips on baths and toilets