Perfect Home from Imperfect Materials

Learn how one tiny home owner builds using salvaged supplies without sacrificing his house’s comfort or beauty in the process.

Tiny home

“You really have to be able to see things for what they will be eventually.”

Photo by Mark Miller

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Tiny homes are a growing trend because they are environmentally friendly, less expensive than a regular home, and often mobile. In Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials (F+W Media, 2016), Ryan Mitchell presents the myriad of ways that these small structures can be built with salvaged and reclaimed resources, further lessening their impact on the environment as well as making a home that’s completely unique. Featuring profiles on tiny home owners, ideas on where to find supplies, and what to avoid when choosing construction materials, this book is a perfect, do-it-yourself guide for anyone looking to build a one-of-a-kind household!

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials.

Mark Miller: Tiny House on a Foundation

• Grantsburg, Wisconsin
• 204 square feet

• 1920’s summer kitchen remodeled in 2015


• Electricity: 110-amp service
• Heating/Cooling: Wood- burning fireplace, electric baseboard, ceiling fan
• Water: Water cooler
• Water Heating: Microwave
• Stove: Microwave
• Refrigeration: Mini-fridge
• Toilet: Outdoor porta-potty
• Internet: Yes

Mark Miller has been collecting and using reclaimed materials all his life. In his words, “Taking things that most people call junk and turning them into something neat looking is something I enjoy doing.” As a contractor he is an experienced builder who loves to work the materials he finds into his build.

Looking toward retirement Mark knew that he would need to be creative, so he started looking for other sources of income. He decided to build a small cabin to move into so he could rent out his larger home, a home that was now too big since his children had grown.

Through his entire build on the cabin he had to be very creative when it came to using what he found. He says, “You really have to be able to see things for what they will be eventually.” Much of the wood came from scraps he found while he was driving around the area. He’d stop and put them in his truck and then store them for later. More often than not he’d collect things without knowing what he’d use them for.

The flooring of his cabin came from an old office space. The floors had been installed in 1895. The fireplace was from a dumpster. Much of the dimensional lumber came from trees that had fallen over in his grandmother’s yard. He cut them to length and milled them into boards.

Mark shared that he is always on the lookout for materials to use in various projects.

He is fortunate to have a large outbuilding in which he can store everything until a need arises. When it comes to working on a project, Mark can look through what he has on hand and most often can find what he needs.

Whenever Mark finds wood, he always asks permission to take it. He never assumes that it’s okay to take scrap pieces even if they’re in the trash. When he gets permission,

Mark says, “I always make sure to leave the site neater than it was when I got there.” This good will has landed Mark a lot of great finds, some of which made it into his cabin.

“It’s important,” says Mark, “to have a good storage space out of the elements.” There had been times that he stored wood reclaimed from old buildings and barns under tarps, but he found that even with a good tarp, moisture proves to be a challenge. A solid structure where you can keep materials off the ground is important to prevent lumber from rotting.

Today his cabin sits next to a stream on Mark’s property. He loves the small space and the view from the large reclaimed windows overlooking the water. What started out as odds and ends collected over the years came together to build his little cabin.

More from Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials:

Tiny Homes: Green and Cost-Efficient

Excerpted from Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials: Inspiration for Constructing Tiny Homes Using Salvaged and Reclaimed Supplies Copyright © 2016 by Ryan Mitchell and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Cover photographs by Christian Parsons, Tiny House Expedition; Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses; Alicia Fox Photography; Wendy Barrington; Mark Miller; A. Hall; Hummingbird Micro Homes. Buy this book from our store: Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials.