In a world of slim finances and scarce resources, a tiny house makes a lot of sense. Much of the time big living spaces mostly just attract clutter anway. Many folks, us included, have about had it with clutter.
What really got us thinking about tiny houses was a portable building my son just purchased for a taxidermy and leather shop. I’ll give you some background about this particular building, and then share some thoughts about using this type building as a tiny house.
We live within about an hour’s drive of a large Amish community. One young Amish man builds what he calls “rustic portable buildings.” Several of his buildings are found in our neighborhood. These structures certainly don’t look much like portable buildings sold by the big building supply stores.
My son’s shop building is 10 feet by 16 feet. The building is framed and sided with sawmill cut poplar lumber. It sits on cedar beams which could serve as skids if one wanted to slide the building. The sub-floor is plywood and the roof is metal. A door is in one end and windows on the other three sides complete the basic package.
You might see this building as a rustic structure. But, it’s really built much like a building would have been constructed several decades ago. It contains much heavy wood and plenty of nails. As you probaly know, lumber from a sawmill is bigger in cross section and heavier than dressed lumber you normally buy from a lumber store. This building is carefully put together, well designed and built to last a long time.
Certainly this structure is just a portable shop or storage building. It isn’t really meant to be a house. But it seems to have some possibilities as a dwelling. Consider these ideas about a tiny house.
You might think about a tiny house project in at least three parts as follows.
The basic structure.
Inside the tiny house.
The Basic Building Structure
My son’s building is really a very solid wooden box. It might be overly heavy, but it’s built to last. Certainly we could have put something similar together, and I’m sure you could too. Why wouldn’t it be better to just construct a building yourself?
It might be, if you have the time and skills to pull off such a project. However, consider the advantages of just buying the basic structure ready to use and sitting on your spot.
The advantages of just buying a building are several. You don’t have to come up with a design. You don’t have to gather all the materials. You don’t have to put it all together. Building a building, even a small one, is no trivial task. It’s easy to get started, but it’s not so easy to follow through and finish the project in a reasonable time.
I’m sure you’ve seen construction projects that just sit unfinished until the whole project weathers and grows old without ever being really completed. You may have even been involved in such projects.
If you buy a building, you skip lots of trouble. The building just shows up.
In addition, you are likely dealing with a builder who has access to materials you’ll struggle to find. Plus, if he does this all the time, which Mr. Miller does, he’s buying lumber, windows, doors and hardware in volumes and at costs you likely can’t match.
What about building codes though? Aren’t building codes a show stopper?
Building a code-conforming building requires you to get closely involved. Likely a basic portable building won’t meet codes. There isn’t any particular reason it couldn’t though. It just all depends. Cods vary with locations. It might not take much in the way of modifications to make a building conforming to all codes. Maybe where this building is going codes don’t really matter. Only you can decide how to handle this part of the building process.
Many tiny houses are built onto trailers. If yours must be moved on the roads, then that move is worth some thought.
Can You Get The Building Moved?
It’s important to consider how you’ll get the building from where it’s built to where you are! The cost to move a building might be more than the building costs! So early on in your project look at what it takes to get the building on your spot.
Of course if your building is built where it will sit, moving isn’t really an issue, unless you decide to move it later.
In any case, it may be wise to look at regulations and laws about sizes of structures that can go down the road legally. You might check on the rules up front. Otherwise, you may get surprises.
Like I mentioned, our building is ten feet wide and it traveled down the roads of Tennessee and Alabama.
Did Tod, the rustic portable building mover, obtain all the required permits? Did his trailer with the building loaded on it conform to all laws and rules? Frankly I didn’t ask.
But, he moves these buildings all the time, and has for years. Without these buildings going down the road, the Amish builder is out of business. I expect nobody really wants that to happen. There are at least five other Amish builders like him in the same general area too.
Just realize that moving a building down the road may be easy to accomplish, and it might not be easy too. You might check about moving such buildings with the authorities, or then again, maybe just find somebody who moves these buildings and don’t ask.
In any case, sometimes getting the basic building in place on your spot is not the hard part of building a tiny house.
If you buy a proper structure, you’re well on your way, but in some cases even if the basic structure is on hand, the hard part remains.
Getting the inside of the house arranged as you want it might turn out to be the biggest problem.
The Inside Of A Tiny House
The hard parts of a really finished tiny house are often the design and build of the interior and the utilities features.
By skipping most of the basic construction, you can spend more time and energy getting the rest of the house just the way you want it.
Making best use of tiny spaces requires much more thought than does just spreading out in big spaces. Building in storage space in tiny area, for example, may take some clever ideas. Clever ideas are sometimes hard to come by.
In any case, as you can see, you can spend much time and money on the tiny house interior.
That’s to say nothing of heating and cooling, lights and water.
In a really tiny house you may want restroom and shower facilities detached. Kitchens present an added little project.
You might want a separate little building of the same construction with restroom facilities. You could add a detached kitchen in the same manner.
The buildings could be joined by a courtyard. The possibilities are endless.
Certainly you can build everything you require into one building if you want to do that. It could get tight.
The maximum size building Mr. Miller puts together is 12 feet by 32 feet. That’s a large portable building, but a very tiny house.
Of course a tiny house interior need not be complicated.
If you just move in a couch you could be set for sleeping and lounging. Similarly, adding a little table and a one burner propane stove might be all the kitchen and dining furnishings you need.
Somewhere between the simplest little set-up and a professionally designed interior is more in keeping with the backwoodsman philosophy.
If you buy a well-built building ready to go and just add some simple furnishings, the whole project is almost painless.
You might wonder why anyone would choose a wooden building over a used travel trailer or mobile home/trailer. Having spent time in this portable building and time in mobile homes, I assure you they are not the same.
The wood building has a clean smell and a solid feel not matched by mobile homes I’ve been around. The primitive portable building feels right in place in the great outdoors.
The right sawmill cut lumber portable building might just make the perfect structure for a low budget tiny house.
If you start with a well-built basic structure, you could get going with the bare essentials inside.
For a low cost spot to live, little simple buildings may be the answer. With our tiny budget, we’re giving it some serious thought.