Calling for Your Stories!

You might have noticed more activity on our blog, lately. We're making it a priority to share more stories of tiny house builders all over the world, and we need your help! 

Share your experiences. 

Open your tiny door to the world. 

The best part about working at Tumbleweed is getting to celebrate each and every individual step in the planning, building and finishing processes. The stories we get to hear from you are inspiring- we talk about them all the time in our office. From young, family-loving builders like Jonathan Black to aspiring Danish builders like Lone Hansen, everyone has a different vision, a different method, and a different end result. 

We love hearing your stories, and more importantly, being able to share them with the tiny house community.

If you're building a Tumbleweed now, have plans to do so in the future, or know someone who has a tiny house, please let us know. We'd love to have one of our writers get in touch with you via e-mail, phone, or carrier pigeon. 

Happy story telling! 

Written by Nara Williams — December 16, 2012

Filed under: new builders   share   stories   tiny house community  

Going Metric: Lone's Plans for a Fencl in Denmark

Lone Hansen has some beautiful views about tiny houses. She lives in Denmark, and is a Buddhist, member of the Royal Danish Navy, and tiny house builder. She's shared the following details on her plans to build a Fencl in Denmark. 

I have a small plot of land on the island of Zealand in Denmark. This is where I would like to build a small house. Not just any normal house, but rather a house that does not impact the environment more than necessary.

Being a Buddhist, it is important for me to leave as small an imprint on the environment as possible. Since we are all interdependent, then there is no reason to bring any aggressiveness into our dealings with our environment.

I will build a small passive solar house with solar power and solar water heating. There will be a solar venting system on the roof. Off the grid. Small because it leaves the smallest footprint on the environment. It does not take much to heat it, since it will be well insulated with triple glazed windows (low energy windows) and thick layer of insulation under the floor, in the walls and roof. And easy and quick to clean ;-)

I've worked in the Royal Danish Navy for 3.5 years. So I got used to living in small spaces with one cupboard and one drawer. The interior design of boats is an inspiration for practical solutions to hold all the stuff that one can gather in a lifetime. The question is how much space one needs to be fully satisfied and content and how much stuff. If the space is well thought out, then it is possible to live in a shoebox.

Lone HansenLone Hansen 

However, I needed inspiration for my small build. I looked all around the internet and came across Tumbleweed, The Tiny House Company. These houses seems to fit my needs very well, and are filled with practical solutions and ideas. I fell in love with the Fencl and Whidbey house and bought the plans.

When I got the drawings, I realized that they were in feet and inches. It is however almost impossible to get any kind of ruler with feet and inches here in Denmark, since our entire industry is based on the meter system. Recalculating all the measurements seemed a little daunting and could possible lead to mistakes, since I am not that skilled in the imperial system.

I contacted Tumbleweed to ask if they happen to have a metric version of the two houses. Shortly after, I received a mail, that they would be so kind and make metric versions for me. I've just got those yesterday. And they look just fine and seems correct at the first glance. So I thank Tumbleweed very much for doing the recalculations of the drawings. It has been a time-consuming work. 

Now I just need to make some redrawing of the house plans, so they are according to the Danish building code. This means that the Fencl will become a bit wider with more insulation in the floor, walls and roof. The Whidbey will be lower (too tall for the area it would be build) and also a bit wider with more insulation in the floor, walls and roof. Both will have 200 mm. minimum of insulation in the floor, 300 mm in the walls and 400 mm in the roof area. This might need some recalculation of the strength of the structure. I will add some extra big windows on the south elevation and roof to get more passive solar heating compared to the original drawings.

I expect to start building the Fencl next spring when the frosty weather is over!

Written by Guest Blogger — December 14, 2012

Filed under: building codes   converting plans   denmark   Fencl   green building   metric   plans  

Writer, Builder, Preteen: Sicily and her "Petite Maison"

Sicily Kolbeck is 12 years old. She builds houses and plays travel softball south of the Mason-Dixon line. She is currently documenting her tiny house project, the Petite Maison. She hopes to live in her tiny house full-time when it is completed, and maybe even take it to college in Washington State (go, Huskies!). 

Why do people live tiny? Is it to simplify, or is it an economic decision? Whatever the reason, people have been downsizing their lives for many years. By simplifying their lives they have found inner happiness rather than external happiness in the form of the materialistic ideals. 

My decision to build a tiny house was partly economic, partly the desire to be free. Freedom is one of the main reasons I decided to build my tiny house. Everyone at some point in their life wishes to have freedom; my wish started at an early age, and it began with a simple desire to build a fort.

As long as I can remember I have loved tiny spaces. When I was younger my family and I lived in a house that had the most perfect spot for forts: a built-in seating area that was about 2 ½ feet tall; I would take three of my dad’s longest golf clubs, two chairs, blankets, and pillows and make a fort. I would watch movies in there, play games, and play with (or torture) my cat. It was just the right space for me; I never needed anything more. I loved the coziness of it, the fact that I could see all of my things, and that it was all mine. No one could take it away and no one but me was in charge of it. And it cost nothing!

Cut-out side for Sicily's bird house prototype  

Building forts was just the tip of the iceberg of frugality and simple living. I learned about money and sensibility at a young age. When I was five my mom and dad decided to give me an allowance. Those four quarters were dear to me every time I got them. My family thought I should learn to budget my money (plus they were tired of me asking for everything), and budget I did. If I wanted something I took hours to decide to buy it; many times I would walk away from a purchase because I thought, “Am I really going to use this?” At five! 

I learned to budget my money so well that my parents called me “The Bank of Sicily” because I would loan them money; when I started to joke that I would have to start charging interest, my customer satisfaction rate plummeted. This is just one form of my freedom that I talked about. I am very lucky that my parents trust me enough to give me freedom: financial. Having my own budget raises awareness about what I am buying and bringing into my life.

When I finally got my customers back with the promise of free hugs and kisses with every transaction I decided to tell them my idea for building a tiny house. My parents were accepting and willing to give me the support I needed; after I decided to take on this task, I told everyone. Trust me, when I say, “I told everyone,” I mean everyone. If someone was walking past me in the street I would tap them on the shoulder and say, “I’m building a house!” That was how excited I was. 

However, when I told my softball team I got less-than-enthusiastic replies: “Why?” “Oh, cool,” and my personal favorite, “Why don’t you just buy one from Home Depot?” I want to build one that can move and one that is my own. I was first introduced to tiny houses by Deek Diedricksen; his videos showed me that I could build a house with next to no money and still have it be comfortable and inviting and my own.

My biggest supporters have been my mom and dad. My mom is the teacher/principal/founder of HoneyFern.  She is the one that has encouraged me to do this as a school project; she has been my impromptu publicist; she has supported me on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media site that she can think of.  

My dad has taught me how to use the tools - such as a jigsaw, a table saw, nail gun, and belt sander - that I will need to build my house. To learn how to use the tools, I have already built a vegetable oil heater and a tiny teardrop trailer birdhouse, and now I am working on a composting toilet. I am so grateful for all of my supporters on and offline.

(For more information on supporting Sicily, please visit her website.)

Freedom to me means I can support myself in a sustainable way. Building a tiny house can give me stability, possibly for the rest of my life if I build the house well. Building a house would give me the life skills that really matter, such as using tools for construction. Building the house I can know what labors go into a home and truly appreciate what I am living in. 

Written by Guest Blogger — December 13, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   education   guest blogger   student builds   young builder  

Meet Our New Builders in Colorado

When Dave Fisher says he has a family business, he means it. The Fishers grew up Amish in Pennsylvania, and true to their roots, are very talented when it comes to carpentry: they just finished building their first Tumbleweed Fencl in about two weeks.

Dave and his brothers have been in the construction industry since 1993. Believe it or not, his favorite project from the Montana days was a subdivision. They got to build all of the houses in the development, ranging from about 1,500 to 3,000 square feet in size. Now the brothers have scaled down significantly. Their company, The Shed Yard, specializes in high quality storage sheds, garages, gazebos, and other outdoor buildings and accessories.

Outside the Fencl in snowy Colorado 

Only recently, however, did it occur to the brothers to try their hand at a tiny house. "Someone approached me at a home show in Denver and told me to look up Tumbleweed. I went to the website, and thought, I'd love to build one of these."

After attending the Santa Rosa workshop in October, the brothers met up with Tumbleweed's Steve Weissmann. They talked for hours, and made a decision: the brothers would build a Fencl, and thus be added to the growing network of Tumbleweed builders- great news for Colorado! Given the company's experience with building small structures, tiny houses made a lot of sense. "The great part about building the tiny house was that we could do it inside the warehouse. We could stay warm in the Colorado winter, and didn't have to have any building permits- we'd never experienced that with other kinds of house building."

This is the first time they have built anything on a trailer, but it didn't prove too much of a challenge for the intrepid brothers. They've got team work down to a science: Dave's brother Ben handled most of the wood cutting, while Dave preferred the assembly portion. Ben also handled the wiring, having experience wiring large houses. Alan, Dave and Ben's brother-in-law, managed the interior and put some of the finishing touches on. Dave's sister and his wife helped also a great deal, running errands and handling other business. The only person to work on the house who wasn't related to the Fishers was the plumber!

Keeping warm inside- look at that beautiful wood!

While the house is nearly identical to the Fencl plans, they did make a few modifications. The house is wired to easily accommodate solar panels, and the low-flush toilet can be replaced with a composting toilet. Dave wants customers to be able to customize the house with ease, and to encourage off-the-grid living. If he can convince his wife, he might even build a self-contained Fencl of his own. 

To see more images of their Fencl, Click Here

You can check out their beautiful Fencl this coming Saturday, December 15 2012 from 1 to 4 at the Shed Yard in Colorado Springs. It's for sale, and it won't last long. 

Written by Nara Williams — December 12, 2012

Filed under: builders   colorado   events   fencl   new   open house  

J.T. Answers Your Questions!

Recently, we posted an article about J.T.'s modified Walden. It started a great conversation- blog readers responded with over 160 comments! J.T. has done his best to answer some of the questions you asked. 

J.T. in Chair

Waste water:

Alexis asked: When the septic tank gets full, is there somewhere to empty it or does it go to one of those sewage processing plants?

J.T. says: Black water is collected in an 18 gallon waste water tank by Thetford. They make a lot of RV supplies. The tank is on wheels and sits directly below the toilet under the trailer. This can be dumped at any RV park that offers a sewer dump station. For the grey water  I use a separate waste-line which collects and drains daily onto topsoil/mulch pit and vegetation.

Rain Water:

Peatstack asked: Can the house harvest rainwater, does it have a tank/filter, does it generate electricity or use a battery system with solar/ propane generator? Can it accomodate a composting toilet that the house needs no septic system? I would like a house that can sit on open agricultural land without any systems connections, the occasional propane tank and grey water drain accepted.

J.T. says: The roof's surface area is quite small, but you could divert rainwater into a collection tank for irrigation: a standard rain barrel would be overkill, but a 10 gallon tank would work. I have a 25 gallon drinking water tank onboard with a water pump. I can also hook up to a 3/4 inch garden hose. Make sure you put an RV/Marine drinking water hose or your water supply will have an off plastic odor. Water heater and pump are powered by 12v batter. 120v comes from a 20 amp extension cord into a 30 amp circuit breaker box using around .5 to 1kw per day.

Solar Power:

Annette asked: This looks like it would be the PERFECT portable office for our mounted drill team. I do have a question regarding using solar power as an energy source. Has anyone installed a solar set up and if so, what did they use and how is it working to help out with their energy usage? 

J.T. says: A Solman Action Packer System could run this house easily. A plug and play system is the solution for a tiny house- something for sure in the near future. I am considering A. 2 fixed panels on the roof of the tiny house. Orientation to the sun could be limited when a new location is found. The Solman Action Packer could easily fit in the loft area above the front door or B. 2 fixed panels on the top of my truck with the Solman system in the back of my truck. It could be parked daily in different spots to optimize sunlight, then plugged into my house daily to charge on board batteries. 

Stove and Oven:

Erica Gott asked: In mine, I want a full stove, with range AND oven, even if it's small. I love cooking and need one. I can't wait to have my own tiny home.

J.T. says: I have a 2 burner propane stove by Suburban. No oven, though a typical RV oven would fit in nicely. I use a 20 gallon propane tank under the trailer, which runs about $6 a month.


Libertymen asked: Is the refrigerator too small? 

J.T. says: I have a 3.1 cubic foot fridge under standard counter height. A 9.9 cubic foot fridge takes up the same foot print and stands around 50 inches high. You would lose useable counter space, but gain storage space

Packing Up:

Bethany asked: How does he keep things from falling off the shelves when he is moving? As well as the furniture sliding around? 

J.T. says: It takes about 10 minutes to pack everything up, and it all goes in a box! 

Front Addition: 

Jan Dregalla asked: Love the customization, especially the up-lighting  towel window shades, kitchen shelving and Ikea shelving. I'm curious, does the 2' addition on the front affect towing?

J.T. says: The extra 2 ft and added weight is on the rear, actually distributing the weight more evenly. The standard design has a lot of the weight on the towing hitch

Thanks for your great questions! 

Written by Nara Williams — December 11, 2012

Filed under: appliances   floor plans   home design   plans   small house   structure   Tumbleweed   walden  

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