Big Lake, Tiny House

 


Here's another couple on their way to a Tumbleweed life: Pete & Erin. Bookmark their blog so you can follow them on their Fencl build.

Written by Brett Torrey Haynes — June 06, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   See a tiny house   small house   Tumbleweed  

Have You Considered a Historic Neighborhood for Your Small House?

 

by Jo-Anne Peck, President of Historic Shed Custom Outbuildings

There comes a time when anyone who dreams of living in a small house has to ask the question, “Where will I put my tiny house?” When choosing to site build a little house, this becomes an ever bigger question since zoning codes and neighborhood association rules are often at odds with small house goals. As a result, many tiny house people look to rural areas where restrictions may be less stringent. However, not everyone prefers country living, and site development costs for utilities can be prohibitive on undeveloped land.

For those that would rather live within more established areas, close to walkable stores and with sociable neighbors, older and historic neighborhoods may be a good choice for building a new small home. The average size of an American single-family home has grown exponentially over the years, but most of our ancestors managed to live in much less square footage, often with much larger families. Therefore, there are many established neighborhoods with precedent for small homes. Historically laid out with small lots (for example, much of the historic core of Lake Worth, FL was platted with 25′ wide lots), local zoning in designated historic districts is often tailored so that new construction within the district remains in scale with the historically smaller homes in the neighborhood. In addition, many historic neighborhoods also allow accessory structures behind the main home that can be even tinier than the main home.


Some historic neighborhoods have few available empty lots, while others have many vacant lots available due to fires, demolitions, or never having been fully developed. It may take some diligence on your part to find the right spot, but with careful consideration you will likely find an affordable lot in an up-and-coming older neighborhood that suits you perfectly.

Benefits of building a small house within a historic district:

  • Site utilities are already in place, saving on development costs
  • Established neighborhoods have sidewalks and mature trees
  • Zoning laws are commonly adapted to lot sizes and the scale of surrounding properties, allowing for smaller footprints
  • Historic neighborhoods are often within walking distance to stores and restaurants reducing or eliminating the need for a car
  • Neighbors to look out for you and socialize with; many historic preservation proponents have similar mindsets to tiny house people
  • Historic District design standards direct the area’s future development which often helps to maintain economic stability
  • Many historic districts allow for accessory dwellings behind the main residence that can be even smaller than the main house, allowing for rental income or a co-op living arrangement
  • Property values are based on livability, aesthetics and historic character rather than a “bigger is better” mentality
  • When looking for a lot for your small house, you may find the perfect little house already in existence waiting for your loving touch – historic preservation is the ultimate recycling project

When looking for an appropriate historic neighborhood to build in consider the following:

  • Look for a neighborhood of predominantly smaller homes; neighborhoods with shotgun style or bungalows are generally suitable
  • Neighborhoods platted from the 1890s to 1930s developed for working class residents often have small lots suited for smaller homes
  • Irregular or previously subdivided lots, often called “non-conforming” by zoning standards, may be perfect for construction of a small house and very affordable
  • Look for an “up and coming” neighborhood, preferably with an activeneighborhood association for more affordable property
  • Avoid neighborhoods where the trend has been to demolish the older small homes and replace them with “McMansions”
  • Avoid neighborhoods where new additions to existing homes are equal to or bigger than the original historic home
  • Look at the architectural style of surrounding homes; you will likely be required to build a home with similar scale and shape (i.e. if most of the homes have gable roofs, yours will more likely meet design requirements if it also has a gable roof)
  • Talk to local Zoning officials to find out minimum and maximum lot coverage, setbacks, parking requirements and other site development regulations before you buy
  • Talk to the local Historic Preservation office to learn about design guidelines for infill construction within the neighborhood before you design your small home
  • Consider buying a lot with an existing home and build a tiny house behind to provide rental income if zoning allows

For those interested in living more economically in a smaller footprint without having to build from scratch, looking for a house in a historic district may be a great opportunity to both live in an attractive home and neighborhood and to recycle an entire house. If the perfect house doesn’t already exist, or is not within budget, building a new small house within a historic district may be just the right combination.

Visit Historic Shed’s website  http://historicshed.com/


Reposted with permission from Kent Griswald's Tiny House Blog. Kent has been blogging about tiny house living at TinyHouseBlog.com for 5 years and is an authorized Tumbleweed affiliate.

Written by Kent Griswold — June 05, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   general   small house  

Join Deek in Vermont


Deek Deidricksen is hosting a Tiny House Summer Camp in Orleans, Vermont on July 6-9, 2012. You can find out more here. Knowing Deek, this will be a blast!

Written by Brett Torrey Haynes — June 05, 2012

Filed under: green building   home design   small house   Workshop  

Powering Our Tiny House


One of the most common questions we are asked is how  did we set up the electricity in our tiny house. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not that familiar with all the technical aspects of our system so here is what we said about it on our blog:

“We designed the solar for our cabin by first minimizing our needs - energy hogs like electric stoves, fridges, washer / dryer, air conditioning, water heaters, microwaves and such were ruled out. Our system provides lights, small fans, and plugs for small appliances. When we need to run construction tools or other items with large power needs, we use a portable generator. The generator can also recharge the batteries if we need it to.”

We both work from our tiny house. I use a laptop computer which probably draws the most power. Matt is able to do most of his work from a tablet which uses a lot less energy to run.  


We don’t have a traditional refrigeration system. We did find a great invention called the Coleman Stirling Engine Cooler that was used by long haul truckers and boaters. Coleman doesn’t make them any more. Even at its coldest setting it draws very little power. We don’t use it as our primary cooling source, however. We set it on freeze and put ice packs inside which we then transfer to a regular cooler.  We also changed the way we buy and eat food. We bought into a CSA and we make frequent trips to the farmer’s market to get fresher ingredients that we use faster.  


We also didn’t install the recommended propane fueled boat heater in our tiny house. We live in the southern Appalachian Mountains and during the summer it will never get cold enough to need it. For now, we don’t plan to live in our tiny house over the winter months because we’ll take that time to travel and see family in other parts of the country. 

Next time, I’ll share our water systems and how we have a pressurized shower without any indoor plumbing.  


Written by Laura LaVoie — June 04, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   green building   green home   home design   home plans   Power Station   small house   solar home  

Building a Tiny House on a Mountain

 

The iconic image of the Tumbleweed Tiny House is a little home on a trailer. While most people go this route to build their tiny house, it is precisely the opposite of what we did.  Our tiny house is built in a little clearing about 200 vertical feet up a mountain with no road access.  You heard that right – no road access. We had two main motivations for this process. The first was, of course, to have a tiny mountain home nestled in the woods off the beaten path. The second was to prove to ourselves that we could build this thing without instant access to power or water.  We are not professional builders in any way so we had to learn how to do everything before we set out to build. The house is done now and we live there completely off the grid.

We started the project about three years ago. Because we lived in Atlanta and were building in North Carolina we could only work on weekends.  We drove up to our land about two weekends a month during those years.  Some friends occasionally came to help us and it was a lot of fun and a lot of exceptionally difficult and occasionally dirty work. 


We primarily used rechargeable battery powered tools that we would then take back to Atlanta with us to charge up before the next trip. We also have a very small and efficient generator we use for larger power tools like the table saw. There is also a semi-reliable ATV that we could occasionally load up with supplies and building materials. When the ATV failed, we carried things up to the build site by hand. 

The single most difficult part of this process was pouring the concrete foundation.  Because we were building the house into a mountain we decided to go with post and pier but that meant we had to dig holes, pour concrete and set the hardware. We had to transport a small cement mixer, 30 gallons of water, and 2400 pounds of unmixed concrete up to the site. The ATV struggled and could only haul three bags at a time. And without any access to electric power, we mixed and poured concrete until the sun went down. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but I figure if I can do that there really isn’t much else I can’t do. 

As I mentioned, we live in the tiny house now and everything is off the grid. I hope to share more about how we live this way in the weeks to come.  


Laura LaVoie and her husband live full-time in their Tumbleweed and blog about their experience at Life in 120 Square Feet. Get your own copy of a tiny house plan here.

Written by Laura LaVoie — May 30, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   Downsizing   small house  
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