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Tiny House Building and Living: Living Large in a Small Space

Samantha BiggersThis summer I am going to work on this blog a lot more. I haven't posted in awhile because my camera conked out on me, and it is hard to do a very interesting blog without a few photos. It is also time to get everything planted on the farm.

Recently I discovered that there are a lot more folks than just us building and living in small houses. There is a website called tinyhouseblog.com. This site is for anyone interested in the tiny house movement. When people say tiny house that generally means anything under 800 sq ft.

I feel the need to write a blog explaining what we have learned on our journey building our own house. One thing I noticed is that it pays to build the darn thing yourself. Some companies are taking advantage of the tiny house movement. I have seen some prebuilt tiny houses on wheels that cost more than my 600 sq. ft. house will by the time it is finished. By the time it is finished and furnished we anticipate having about $45,000 in it maximum. For this price we able to have the following features when the house is done: 

Compare that to $50,000 for 89 square feet for a Tanglewood tiny home. To be fair the price is roughly $20,000 if you buy the kit from them. To me this seems outrageous and discourages people from joining the tiny house movement. If you have that kind of money and still want a tiny house but don't want to do it yourself. I am sure that there are carpenters in this economy that will do it for for a lot less and you will be giving a local person a job.

So how did we do it?

We lived in a 1978 Holiday Rambler for almost 2 years while we got our house to the point it is at now. If I had it to do over again we would have built a nice 12' x 12' building to live in while we built the house. The RV thing can be a bit rough if you are like us and buy one that nothing works in except the gas oven. Oh well, live and learn. We made it through it and are well on our way to completing our house. We wore a lot of clothes in the winter and dealt with a lot of dampness in the winter. At the time we had no truck so I got to carry laundry about ½ mile round trip. We carried our water about 300 feet in Jerry cans. At the same time we began to get more livestock and got married during all this. For my wedding present I got Linda Lou, our first Dexter cow.

Plans for a mini cabin were purchased online and changed them slightly to suit our tastes. We only spent $30 for the plans.

The house site got changed once when we realized that our road was too bad to get a concrete truck up here without putting out a lot of money. So we did not get a full basement like we wanted. The footers for the house were dug with an auger but we had to shovel all the dirt out of them by hand.

After that we had to mix and pour all the concrete using a concrete mixer bought at Northern Tool. We mixed 20 bags of Portland. For awhile we were lifting the 94 lb bags but we found a Lowes that carried Portland in 47 lb bags so that made things just a little bit more comfortable. In all we mixed 10,000 lbs of dry materials. It was one of the many times I wished we had an ox. Instead I got to move all the gravel to the concrete mixer by garden wagon. Building your own house has the plus side of getting you into shape!

When we were ready to start putting together the main floor joists the road was so terrible that the delivery truck could not bring our 20' treated 2x8s that we had to special order, up to our construction site. So we got to carry 20 ft boards ½ mile up the mountain until my cousin figured out how to attach them to his truck so we only wound up carrying about half of them by hand. Our road is an ongoing problem. It is hard to get everyone to come together on maintenance.

It sounds rough but looking back it was well worth it. I won't go into the whole tale of the house construction here though. I have a previous blog post on GRIT that tells a bit more and contains pictures. I would like to highlight a few things to think about when building your own house. 

We have a bunch of fencing to take care of this week and then we are going to start working on the house again. When we have worked on it, things progressed pretty fast. We have been getting the farm into good shape and starting the farm business so our progress has been a bit slower than if we had just worked on the house and nothing else. At the same time we now have a small herd of cows, lots of fencing, and produce our own meat as well as grow a garden.

Currently we have to get the septic system installed and finish the inside. The electric and plumbing, and insulation is in. It took awhile to figure out the plumbing and electric but we did it with the help of books and hiring some help. Some places will not let you do your own electric so make sure you check before doing it yourself.

My hope is that this blog post will encourage others to live large in a small house. It is amazing how large 600 sq ft can feel if the floor plan and layout are well planned. We don't plan on building on to this house until we have a second child and we haven't even had the first one yet. You really don't need a huge space and you especially don't need to take on a huge debt load for 30 years for space you don't use or constantly have to clean. My husband grew up in a small house his parents build and he said he never really noticed it when he was small because he was running around outside playing all the time. Years ago in these mountains, our little cabin might have had 6 people living in it.

I will post more pictures soon. We just purchased a good Nikon camera so the quality should be better than in previous posts. Well I am going to post this and check on my ducks. We have baby ducks hatching today!