Monthly Archives: October 2012

Questions About Tiny Houses

I have a lot of questions about the feasibility/logistics of building a tiny house and the legality of where I can put it. Some are specific to me, but others might be questions anyone researching tiny houses may have. I’ll update this post with answers and more questions as I go.

Question: How do I establish a permanent address (and receive mail) if I live in a tiny house? What does (possibly) moving as frequently as every few months mean for addresses?
Thoughts: ?
Answer: ?

Q: A tiny house on wheels can classify as an RV. What are the size restrictions to keep it classified as an RV? Does it need a permit from the DMV?
T: Answers may live in the Boulder Revised Code. Looks like fun reading!
A: ?

Q: What are the restrictions as to where I can park and live in the “RV?”
T: ?
A: ?

Q: How to bring water to the house?
T: 1) RV hose from a nearby structure. This will not work in winter.
2) Fill an internal water tank (50 gallons?) manually as needed. Pressure must come from gravity (preferably) or a pump.
3) Build a system that can be switched between #1 and #2.
A: ?

Q: Grey and black water?
T: 1) Storage tanks (like an RV). Pumped every so often. Freezing in winter is an issue.
2) Composting toilet – but what are the restrictions for disposing of composted human waste?
3) Collect grey water in an external tank, then filter it for reuse (landscape & garden). Is this legal? Keep the grey water tank inside during winter? But then it’ll be above the drains and filling it will work against gravity.
A: ?

Q: Hot water – water heater vs on-demand tankless heater? For sink faucet or only shower?
T: ?
A: ?

Q: Where can I store a mountain bike and road bike – ideally out of the elements?
T: 1) Build an enclosed rack on the front of the house.
2) Install a pulley system like this in the main room.
A: ?

Initial Tiny House Frame Drawings

I really like the Tiny Living design exterior from the Tiny Home Builders. Instead of having a gable roof from front to back, they replaced the center third with a shed dormer with a large windows. More light, more ventilation, and it really opens up the common room and half of the sleeping loft.

I’ve never been in a tiny house, but the 3’8″ (max) loft height seems tight. Especially with the roof dropping at 45 degrees from each side. I decided to design my potential tiny house with the same shed dormer in the center third surrounded by two gambrel roof sections. Think of a barn roof if you don’t know the term gambrel.

I haven’t seen any tiny houses constructed with a gambrel roof. It can’t be because I’m more clever than other builders. Is the weight and complication of the gambrel vs gable enough to offset the extra loft headroom and larger common room feel?

Here are some renderings of what I have so far. No windows or doors yet as I’m trying to figure out how the interior might be arranged.

Note: I’m not an architect and cannot guarantee this design follows building standards. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen apart inside my CAD program!

To Do
1) Extend the ridge board and top plates 6″ on either side. Add rafters for roof overhang.
2) Put in windows, a door, and the ceiling joists under loft.
3) Add wall and roof sheathing to make the form more apparent.

House vs Tiny House

Think about all the people you know. Everyone’s life is unique. No two people have followed the same path through the maze. Still, our lives are generally defined by a timeline:
1) Ages 5-20: education
2) 20 – 65: career
3) 20 – 25: get married & buy a house
4) 25 – 55: raise kids
5) 65+: retirement

The timeline is reinforced by people around us that have bought into it. Conforming takes no thought. Conformity is easy.

I graduated from college just over a year ago. I have a job (but no girlfriend), so the next milestone is homeownership. But is that right for me?

I’m living in Boulder, Colorado. A super-cool, super-laid back city with unparalleled access to the Rockies and all the outdoor activities that come with them. Along with all sorts of top rankings, Boulder is home to the University of Colorado at Boulder and its 50,000 students.

This superfecta has created a prohibitively expensive housing situation.

I’m renting an apartment now. It’s a nice place: less expensive than average for the area, small, clean, nice management, a few miles from work, close to mountain bike trails, and excellent road biking routes. My apartment is on the second of three floors, so it is insulated enough for me to never turn the heat on in winter. Nor A/C in summer. I have no complaints, except the $10,000 per year I throw away in rent. That is $10,000 that is not gaining interest. $10,000 that isn’t building equity. I complain about that often.

The conventional path is to buy a house, condo, or apartment. At least then I’d be building equity with every mortgage payment. But Boulder real estate is incredibly expensive. While I can live happily in a studio apartment, I’d opt to buy something a bit bigger – like two beds one bath. From what I’ve seen, prices generally increase 50% going from a studio to a 2 br/1 ba. I feel like that size is easier to rent out in the future. And right away I could choose to have a roommate to help cover costs. One downside is that the properties in my price range are condos with HOA fees. I’m not a fan of that nor paying off a debt over many years.

One non-conforming path is to live in a tiny house like the one below.

Tiny houses like this are 100 – 150 sq. ft. dwellings consisting of just the necessities: kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, and a common room. Zoning restrictions indicate that houses on a foundation must be a certain square footage to be considered “livable.” That limit is well above what I (and many others) have decided is right for ourselves. The loophole is to build a tiny house on a trailer for it to be classified as a “travel trailer” – like an RV.

I like the idea of living deliberately without cruft. Some people might say, “but there’s no room for all my stuff.” I say, “there’s no room for me to accumulate a bunch of stuff. Yahoo!” Think about the word “possession” – it goes both ways, but I digress. These quaint cabins on wheels can be bought for $50,000 or self-built for $25,000 in materials. For what a lot of people pay for a new car, you can have a complete (albeit…concise) house.

I’m exploring this avenue right now. Researching zoning laws in Boulder, home construction (to see if building it myself is wise), and even flexing my long dormant AutoCAD muscles as I draw up custom plans.

Tiny houses are at the forefront of my mind right now, so I’ll probably post more on this topic. I may even share progress on my design. I’ll admit, I’m very proud of the CAD work I’ve done.

Why to Write?

Thoughts are random.  Let your mind wander and you’ll end up far away rather quickly.  Even when trying to focus on a certain concept, especially those of abstract nature.

Writing makes us think about what we want to communicate AND how to say it properly. So writing takes not only thinking, but thinking about thinking (metathinking). Does that categorize this post as uber-metathinking?

That extra cognition adds structure to what we think.  Makes it less random.  Easier to weigh, analyse, nurture, etc. Physically writing makes it permanent.

Structure and permanence of thoughts. To me, that is the foundation of knowledge.

Maybe if I write my thoughts, I’ll learn something?