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.
The lineup at the Portland Tumbleweed Workshop June 14-15 is going to be amazing! Portland is big on community spirit and we will bring it to this workshop with a panel of guest speakers, a tiny house tour and an after-hours round-table discussion of tiny house life. Dee Williams, our first Tumbleweed client and workshop host extraordinaire will lead the workshop. Check out her TEDx talk about her life in a tiny house then read on to learn more about our speakers:
Joan Grimm has designed and delivered local and international environmental education and sustainability programs for both public and private entities including Oregon Departmental of Environmental Quality, OMSI, and Association of Oregon Recyclers. Over the past 25 years she has educated thousands of people about simple and smart ways to lighten their impact on the planet. She is the founding board chair of SCRAP (the School and Community Reuse Action Project) and the Oregon Green Schools Association. She and her partner have a little house in their backyard.
Brittany Yunker: Brittany works for the WA State Legislature as a staff to the Senate committees. Brittany built a Fencl in 2009 with the help of a few friends (including Dee!). She taught herself carpentry from library books, YouTube videos and chatting with Dee and another friend with building experience. She lived in her tiny house for 2 years before meeting her current partner and deciding to up-size slightly to a small, 2 bedroom bungalow. Brittany is currently in the process of obtaining a business license to open her house up for daily rental to people interested in seeing if a tiny house could work for them.
Lina Menard: Graduate Student in Urban Planning, Little House
Enthusiast, New Carpenter, and recently helped her friend build a new
tiny house and has plans to build her own tiny house. She's
written a blog about her project at This Is The Little Life.
Michelle Jones: Professor at Concordia University, Portland; teaching
organizational management, ethical leadership, and other courses. For
the last two years, she's worked with students and the community to
host a TEDx event in Portland. She's lived in her tiny house with cat, dog
and boyfriend for about year and a half.
Tammy and Logan: Tammy blogs at RowdyKittens.com as a simple living
advocate. Her story has been chronicled in the New York Times, USA
Today (as part of a cover story), Yahoo, MSN News, United Daily News
(one of the top three newspapers in Taiwan), and The China Times, as
well as a few Hong Kong newspapers. She and her husband have also
appeared on The Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, and dozens of local television
programs and NPR affiliates. Tammy is currently launching a book, “You
Can Buy Happiness (And its Cheap)”.
The Portland workshop takes place June 14-15 and we expect this one to sell out. If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, you can still enjoy the 40% early bird discount until May 31st. Click here.
They're hoping to find a client who would like to offer their little house as the subject of the class -- significantly jump-starting the construction process! Essentially, the client would dictate the design and offer the materials, including the trailer, and the folks at Yestermorrow would begin the construction process as part of the class.
If anyone is interested in getting more information about the class or how their project could be used in the class, please contact John Hanke of Yestermorrow. He can provide information about how the class went last year. I've attached a photo of the little house they started last year. The porch and other aspects of the house weren't complete,but the walls and roof were on and the project well underway by the end of the class. John's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lee Pera and a group of tiny house builders attended a Tumbleweed workshop last year. This year, they broke ground on their tiny house community in Washington, D.C. Below is an update from Lee who will be guest blogging her tiny house community adventure with us regularly. If you're interested in starting a group build in your community, drop us an email and we'll work with you to connect with other tiny house enthusiasts, builders, and suppliers in your area.
We’ve been doing preparatory work this week meeting with other tiny house builders, scoping out materials and prices, looking at designs we like, and helping Brian out on the lot and garden beds. Making decisions usually stresses me out, and all the decisions that go into a tiny house have been overwhelming me, so it felt good to already decide on a couple things while looking at materials. For instance, I love the look of the interior of the Protohaus and have decided to go with bead board rather than the knotty pine that the Fencl tiny house plans call for (saving a significant amount of money as well). I have also decided I really like the look of cork flooring and many of its benefits and will most likely go with that for my flooring – whew…two decisions made effortlessly!
The biggest news this week is that I may end up downsizing even more. Originally I planned on building on a 22 ft-long x 8 ft-wide trailer, extending the Fencl out by 4 feet in length and one foot in width. But this week we were out for beers with our new tiny house friends Margaret and Zach – who are building an amazing tiny house in South Carolina – and Zach told us about an ad he had seen for a tiny house shell. It’s a fabulous deal, but the main issue I had with it is that, while built on an 18-ft trailer, the shell is just 16 feet long and 7 feet 10 inches wide. Could I really lose 6 feet of interior space? That’s a lot of room in a tiny house. Still, the price is less than what my trailer itself will cost, and the seller was excited that we even knew about tiny houses. Tony talked with the builder/seller and he seems to have done solid work, and Zach checked it out in person for us. It looks like I’ll be buying the shell all built out! We will finish the roofing, siding and interior starting in June.
Next, Tony and I went to spend some time hanging out in the Fencl (18 ft long x 7 ft wide). After spending about an hour, moving about in the rooms, hanging out in the loft, scoping out storage, I think I can make a smaller unit work. It will require getting creative about storing my stuff (or getting rid of more), but I’m excited about the challenge. I like to think I adapt easily to wherever I live and the size will be fine, but if it’s too small I can design and build a larger one over time. It will be useful to spend some time in one first to get an idea for what I really want and need in size and design. I’ll post more photos of the shell soon.
Living in a tiny house is often thought of as a lifestyle that appeals to the alternative types such as hippies, gypsies and everyone else who falls into the "eccentric" crowd. After all, who in their right mind would willingly live a life with fewer square feet and fewer possessions when both are so readily available? Or are they? Supply and demand is the most fundamental element of any economy and the short supply of money most people have has lowered the demand for square feet and all of the expenses associated with them.
The feedback I receive from the people I speak with daily is that they are no longer interested in exchanging their time working for a large house and filling it up with costly things. Another basic and fundamental economic term is scarcity, and the most precious and limited resource we all have is time. The growing number of converts buying into the tiny house philosophy are regular folks willing to look at their housing choices with a clear and open mind.
The Tiny House Listing website is geared specifically to the purchasing and selling of tiny homes which means it's not only visited by people curious about tiny houses, but actively seeking to purchase one for themselves. Here is a quick rundown of the demographics of people tha visit the Tiny House Listings site. This paints a clear picture of who is interested in living in tiny homes. You can click the image for a larger view.
As you can see, the tiny house crowd is a very diverse group of people. While the majority are educated with above-average incomes, all ages, races, male, female, with kids, no kids and so on are represented. So what is the message? The majority are educated with above-average incomes. That make the tiny house movement less centered around the eccentric and more mainstream. If you don't consider yourself an "alternative" type but are interested in tiny homes and the benefits of living in one, you're not alone.