http://www.tumbleweedhouses.comWith wheels, traditional proportioning and archetypal form, these little structures are designed to be portable and can, essentially, be sited anywhere you can park a travel trailer.* They range from about 50 to 130 sq ft. Purchase yours ready-made or buy the plans to build it yourself. These homes are stationary designs built as a main house or guest house. Most of the plans have an optional extra bedroom in back. The house sizes range from 261 sq ft up to 874 sq ft. We do not build the Cottages. They are designed to be built on site with a local contractor of your choosing.Tumbleweed Tiny Houses Companysupport@tumbleweedhouses.com
15 West MacArthur St95476SonomaCaliforniaUnited States
Hi, I’m Missy Schenck. In March, I attended the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Asheville North Carolina. After we talked at the workshop, the Tumbleweed folks invited me to introduce myself and share my tiny house story with you.
My husband, Sandy, and I own and operate a summer camp, Green River Preserve, located in the Blue Ridge mountains of Western North Carolina just south of Asheville, N.C. Our camp is very unique in that it is located on a 3,400 acre wildlife preserve and the focus of our camp is to connect children with nature. This extraordinary natural setting has inspired sustainability leadership since 1988. Our program offers quality, intentional, experiential learning opportunities that spark diversity of thought and creativity. Our hallmark is to teach children to be better stewards of the land.
In December of 2011, my husband and I went to visit our daughter and her husband in Silverton, Colorado. Our son-in-law, Stephen Mead, is an Ambassador for Outdoor Research. OR was in Silverton that Christmas to film him skiing in the back country. We met OR’s Alex who built a Tiny House to travel for OR in search of big snow and skiing ambassadors and his girlfriend Molly, the writer behind their adventures. They all spent Christmas with our family and we felt we had adopted a new set of children. We fell in love with all of the OR crew and their Tiny House. I knew the moment I set foot in their little house, I had to build one at camp.
When we returned from Silverton, I immediately searched the web for Tumbleweed and joined your blog. I also began a Pinterest board for our camp and have a board for Tiny Houses and have Tumbleweed as a like on our camp Facebook page. When they announced the workshop in Asheville, I decided to give it to myself for my 60th birthday which was the Tuesday following the workshop. It was a great present – thank you Tumbleweed! I posted a photo of me on the porch of the Lusby at the workshop and within 24 hours, we had over 7,000 people see it from our camp Facebook page. It was a hit.
This winter there was a big ice storm in our area. Many trees either fell or died from the storm. Yesterday, we began the tough task of the storm clean up on our 3,400 acres. Every building on our campus has been built from wood from the Preserve, so when we do harvest trees, we put aside the wood for future building. We began the harvest yesterday of the storm trees which include pine, oak, hemlock, and maple trees. We will be using some of them to build our Tiny House.
We also began our Tiny House Documentary. We are very fortunate to have both a professional photographer and a film maker on our staff, so we are in great hopes of making many small videos as well as a documentary of the entire Green River Preserve Tiny House. Posts on all of our social media networks will include the GRP Tiny House Journey or as we have nicknamed it at our office, “Camp to Go!” – a mobile Environmental Education Classroom. Having the campers participate in the building of it this summer is a key objective, but we also plan to use the project to connect kids with nature, teach sustainability, and inspire a sense of wonder and curiosity. Our goal is to have the trailer and framework completed by the opening of camp in June and to allow campers to help with some of the building this summer. We are going to have our artist in residence design and paint with the children an interior mural of the map of the Preserve and on the exterior of the house we will also have a mural.
I’m so glad I stumbled upon this amazing movement, and I hope sharing our story will spark something in others as well. We’ll be updating our story as it progresses and we look forward to sharing the magic that grows from this project with the enthusiasts out there, as well as people who haven’t yet heard of tiny houses.
I took drafting for a couple years in high school. Later I took printing classes at the same high school, and landscape drafting and a couple introductory AutoCAD classes in college. Just enough to get simple computer drafting basics down, and appreciate how deeply complex big architectural drawings can be. And let’s not forget how hard it is to get something printed properly!
Since I began designing houses as a kid I’ve sketched them on paper, but they get lost and tend to lay around unfinished. Sometimes I need to make changes but if I change anything it looks a mess and I can’t stand it so I just start over. Plus there’s the limitations on sharing and sending paper documents, and storing one of a kind originals safely. I needed to capture my ideas in finished form electronically, so I could tweak and refine endlessly and share the results. I needed something simple enough to get me through the process a lot faster than sketching, and affordable enough to make sense in my budget.
A floor plan for a simple food cart.
I shopped around, read reviews, and in the end I bought Punch! Home & Landscape Design Professional NexGen3. I had used an earlier version of their affordable architectural drafting program years ago and found it functional and a million miles easier than AutoCAD for quick projects. The only reason it wasn’t working for us anymore was because of incompatibility with our current Windows operating system, which caused it to run slowly. This newer version is quick, simple, and does most of what I want it to, and I’m happy I spent the money. Roof-lines are hard to get exactly right and I’m still having trouble with 3D; changing the color of objects, making built in cabinetry, and creating good 3D views that show interior details well. I also played around with exterior house trim but I couldn’t get it to go where I wanted and I couldn’t take it off once I put it on. I’m still tinkering and learning a little each day.
Here’s a mockup of a larger portable kitchen design.
The only major issue I’ve had since I began using this newer version is printing. In the old version, you could export your drawings as a bitmap. It wasn’t ideal, but I could open the bitmap with photo editing software, save it in a more compact and common file type and print and share it as needed. Now I can only export into .dfx or.dwg drawings, or VRML or 3D still images. As I understand it, .dfx is an open source CAD data file format developed by AutoDesk, and .dwg is the native file format in AutoCAD ( feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, my information is years old and may be out of date). To print those without sending them to my local architectural printing service to be run on their plotters, I’d have to run them through a converter, like AutoCAD DWG to Image Converter, one of many that can be gotten free from CNET and other download sites. Otherwise I’m reduced to taking screen shots of my drawings, which is how I produced my sample images.
This stumbling block is a little deeper than simply an issue of getting a print out or a useable file showing your design. In AutoCAD world, all lines have a default line weight (of .01 back in the day when I learned it). For working purposes, all lines display on the screen at readable thickness proportional to the screen you’re looking at. It’s only when you try to print your work that the near unreadable tiny lines become apparent. As an AutoCAD beginner, you go back and change all your line weights and from then on you start your drawings with a template that establishes weights for all the most common types of objects and lines used in your drawings. I didn’t have to deal with all this on the older simpler version, and now it appears I will have to go back to the work flow of creating templates and always opening them up to start a new drawing.
Ground Floor Sleeping Plans – Back View of Exterior Storage
There’s an animation export option as well, but the menu item is grayed out for me. I imagine that’s because I haven’t seen how to capture an animation, so there are no animation files to export. It implies that if I took the time to go through the tutorials and learn more about this program I could “record” three dimensional animated walk-through “videos”, which would be great.
Punch offers several price points you can buy into for home design software, one with just the basics, one with more of a landscape library, others with more 3D capability, and even a couple of Mac versions, Home Design Studio for $149.99 and Home Design Studio Pro for $249.99, which I have yet to try. I see they also have specialized software just for bathrooms, kitchens, landscapes, and interiors. I’m still not entirely sure I’m using all the features I paid for at the $179 version I bought, but I was seduced by the idea of the library of 3D objects, ability to edit and create my own 3D stuff, and somewhat realistic 3D rendering. I want to fully decorate and accessorize my designs in 3D because it’s an immensely powerful way to road test design ideas without making so many costly real world mistakes. Obviously the library of objects contains a lot of huge things, but it’s relatively easy to re-size them to tiny house proportions. I haven’t tried my hand at using the 3D object design tool to create a true scale trailer for a tiny house foundation yet. That will be an upcoming project as time allows. So far I just draft my houses 20″ or so off the ground.
To someone who has never had any computer drafting experience at all, this could be a workable solution for you, but expect to use the tutorials, be patient, and take your time. If you’ve used other drafting programs in the past I would say this package presents a nice balance of capability and simplicity. Ultimately, I haven’t yet tried to create a set of plans to apply for a building permit, much less actually build from, and therein lies the true test.
-Pepper Clark Workshop Presenter Designer
Don’t miss Pepper at one of our upcoming Tiny House Workshops!
So let’s say you’ve just built a wonderful Tumbleweed. Construction is over and you’re ready to move in, but where do you put it? Where can you live in your wee house on wheels?
Renting space on someone else’s property may not work for everyone, but it can be a great solution for those who don’t have the resources to purchase property of their own. I currently rent in my tiny house so I’d like to share some tips on how to find the perfect place for you.
Make a Picture Portfolio
Take good pictures of all aspects of your house and put them in a professional looking format so you can immediately show people what you’re talking about. Not only will the visual get them on the right page but having something organized to tell the story of your house makes you seem that much more credible. Carry it with you everywhere and show it off. Make sure to have pictures of everything you would tell prospective landlords about; water and electric connections, your propane tank, toilet etc. You may want to include some construction shots at the end. See more images of Ellas Fencl.
EVERYONE. You never know who knows who, so tell anyone that will listen what you’re up to.
Hand out Contact Cards
Give cards with your information to people you talk with. They may not be able to think of anything helpful in the moment, but if they do later you want them to be able to get back to you.
Follow Every Lead
If someone indicates that an acquaintance of theirs might be a possibility, see if they can get you in touch. It might not pan out, but then again it might so be proactive. My landlords are friends of friends of a family member.
Know What you Want
Think about what it is that you’re looking for and don’t leap for an opportunity if it doesn’t feel right. Even though I found a place in the first few days of my search that was happy to have me, it didn’t line up with what I was looking for and I found myself unenthused and nervous about it. My current spot is amazing and I knew as soon as I saw it that I couldn’t wait to live here.
Don’t Give Up
It might feel like you’re getting nowhere, but keep going and try not to let it get you down. I only spent 2 weeks actively searching for my new location but it seemed like ages and I was never going to find anything.
Renting in a tiny house can give you the best parts of the rental system. You own your house so you don’t have to worry about putting nails in the walls, you don’t have to be tied down by owning property, and if you should need to move, you can pick up your house and go. All that changes is what’s outside your window.
I did a lot of research when I started thinking about my first tiny house roof. Immediately I could see it would be one of my bigger expenses and a huge influence on the ultimate aesthetic of the house. Conventional affordable roofing options like asphalt shingles offered no advantages in appearance, durability, or wind resistance (for towing). It was clear that metal was the best option in meeting each of these priorities.
Metal panels are measured in gauges, and just like wire, the lower the gauge number, the thicker the metal. Galvanized corrugated 29 gauge steel roofing panels, like these at Cox Hardware and Lumber can be had for $7 or $8 per panel, but 26 gauge steelstanding seam panels from Metal Sales Manufacturingcoated in CoolRoof colorfast paint keep the house cooler in summer, reduce the heat island effect, and are more leak resistant, weather proof, wind proof, long lasting, and – to me – attractive.
There was a lot of information to digest. On the technical spectrum, I delved into coatings and their properties and how they can be engineered to offer better solar reflectance and heat emissivity. I learned a lot about the cool roof concept at the Energy Star Cool Roofs and Emissivity page.
I also read up on installation issues like oilcanning, explained here by Sheffield Metals International. Apparently the roof panels get torqued slightly as they’re installed or as they shift with wood shrinkage and swelling, causing a wavy appearance to the sheets. Oilcanning can come from manufacturing stresses or installation stresses like carrying panels unevenly so they bend and ripple, or overtightening fasteners so they strain and warp the panels. It also arises from inevitable physical realities; roof support structures are typically made by hand of wood and it’s not possible for all their surfaces to be 100% perfectly straight, level, and uniform. There are ways to reduce oilcanning, but because it’s caused by several factors, it’s almost always present to some degree under certain conditions in any metal roof. The metal reps don’t admit this, but from experience I can tell you that the roof components themselves have a measurable (and sometimes significant) amount of variance in their dimensions as well. Then there’s the wide variety of angles at which the sunlight and our sight lines can hit the metal, and the inevitable expansion and contraction in any material under extreme temperatures and weather conditions. All told, it’s impossible to install a metal roof with any flat surfaces in such a way that it will never have the tension on the fasteners that leads to oilcanning.
Blog entries, like this one from the Building Gypsy Rose Blog, offered me an experiential view of what it was like to be a metal roof consumer, and it seemed there were a lot of cautionary tales out there. Every roof story I read came from a screwball construction comedy; wrong parts being delivered, wrong angles or dimensions, metal being delivered in the wrong amounts, parts being delivered damaged, and promised delivery dates being exceeded beyond all reason. Therefore I was very cautious about where I would order my roof.
When I looked into sourcing the roof panels, I found out metal roof panels are generally produced on computerized rolling machines and all the companies offered a similar range of products. Differentiation between options is about selecting gauge, seam type, fastener preference, panel texture, and coating properties, then picking an equivalent product from the nearest reliable reseller. In my case, there are only a couple manufacturers close enough to be practical, and each of them supply the same product line to all the different stores all over town. After talking with about every reseller in the area – Home Depot, Lowe’s, Friedman’s, and Meade Clark – I settled on Metal Sales 12″ wide 26 gauge standing seam panels from Allied Building Products. All the quotes I got were expensive, but Allied’s price matched the lowest of them, and they were a specialist with an office where I could see the product on their demos roofs outside and then place my order at a desk with an experienced pro who knew the product line inside and out.
The process was a little complicated and it took about a half hour to place my order. I brought an experienced builder with me because he’s installed metal roofing before, he would be installing this roof, and he has a much better knack for remembering measurements and specs than I do. Although he and I had both tried to anticipate and research all the decisions involved, we still ran into choices we hadn’t thought about and information we didn’t have. For example, I originally picked a flat panel option for the expanses of metal between each standing seam. Later, in discussion with our sales guy John, I discovered that the lightly striated panel reduces the visibility of any potential oil canning. Functionality won out over my slight aesthetic preference for the “cleaner” looking flat panels, and I was convinced to choose striations. In the end the metal roofing order (including panels, edge and peak trim, and specialized fasteners) cost about $1200 and I spent another $200 on sealant, adhesive, and high temperature gooey underlayment film called StormGuard by GAF.
John at Allied promised us the roof would arrive in eight days, and on day eight I got a call. He inform me the order got damaged on the delivery truck and he had to refuse the whole thing. I told him after the stories I read about other people’s roofing experiences I would have been shocked if the first delivery went off without a hitch! Fortunately he got my order rushed through that week’s production line at Metal Sales. My complete and correct order arrived the following Wednesday without incident. No further hijinks! I absolutely love it. I’m glad I did all that research, because I feel confident that in the end all our care has resulted in a roof that will keep the house safe cool and comfortable, maintain a beautiful look for 50 years, remain weatherproof for 100 years, and can be easily recycled at the end of its lifespan.
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.
The structure; 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.
Freewheeling design; 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.
The reception; 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?