Construction Experience and a Place for My Tiny House

So you want to build a Tiny House… Great! Wonderful! Awesome!!! Until you get to the actually building part… I don’t know how to do that. Do you? I mean, I get the idea, but when it comes to reading building plans and using a nail gun and a table saw… um no. Not in my experience. Then, how do you get experience or even some level of comfort?

The first idea I had was classes. This is probably a great option, but they cost money, which I don’t have a lot of these days. There are some that are free, like the ones that they offer at Lowe’s. Most of them are about finishing touches like tile and flooring. What about the actual structure? There are several tiny house companies that offer workshops, but again, they cost money. Like $400 for 2 days. I’m sure that they are provide a lot of good information and that they are worth it, but I just can’t afford that at this point.

The next idea I had was working in construction. But that would require me to give up my current day job, which I love. I can’t trade race cars for… well.. anything. So that’s not an option either.

Today I found an awesome website with all kinds of information on it: http://www.tinyhousecommunity.com/

There was a listing on there looking for volunteers. I don’t know why this wasn’t my first thought. I swear I have gotten more jobs by volunteering than any other way. So, I reached out to them and set up a time to help them out. Of course, their first question was “Do you have experience?” But thankfully they followed with “It ok if you don’t. No worries!” So I am going to get some experience. I haven’t really met anyone who owns a tiny house, so I’m pretty excited about that as well.

The other cool thing about the website is that they have listings for land and for people who want to rent their land to people with tiny houses! This was one of my MAJOR concerns. I have no place to build and/or park my house. I had no idea where to even start looking. This is a huge resource. I have reached out to a few of the listings and am waiting to hear back.

You’re Never Going to Be Fully Ready

I read this great article today by a lady named 

It’s about waiting for things to be perfect to get started on something. Basically, she was teaching someone how to paddle board and the girl said, I can’t paddle until I feel stable standing up. But the thing is, you have to paddle in order to feel stable.

Of course I wouldn’t know this because I don’t paddle board. But it makes sense to me. In racing (where I work and live and love) we have a saying, if you’re not going forward you’re going backwards.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:

“Because it’s the paddling that keeps you on the board. It’s the forward motion that gives you the stability you need. Sometimes we just have to pick a direction and start pulling that paddle through the water, and along the way we’ll get the stability and confidence we’re looking for. But you’ll never find it at the beginning, standing there, waiting for the waves to stop shaking the board. The waves never stop shaking the board.”

“You’ll never feel totally ready. The plan will never be perfectly formed. You’ll never have the money you think you need or the support you wish you had. You’ll never feel as strong and prepared as everyone else seems. (Psst: they’re not that strong and prepared, either. No one is.)”

“No one has every last thing they need. But the people who change their lives, the people who make beautiful things, the people who make a difference in our world—they are the people who paddle, who are willing to do it badly, who give up perfect in favor of good.”

I’m always worried about making a mistake, about doing something badly. I think that if something is worth doing, it should be done well. But you don’t know how to do it until you do it! It may have to be badly for a while before it is right. You won’t learn if you don’t try.

In this process, especially where I am with no money or land or help or experience, you have to just keep moving forward. And when it seems like too much and too overwhelming, which it will, it’s life, you just have to take a step back and figure out what to do next.

For me, this step is finishing my presentation to send to the trailer companies. I am going to find a few companies to ask about a sponsorship and/or discount. I have found one trailer that is about $4k that I think will work. If, perhaps, it could be more like $2k that would be way better. I’m still $2k short, but working on a plan for that as well.

With my job, I work A LOT. I travel practically every weekend too. So having a second job is an option, but it may be rough. I would probably only have to work for about 4 to 6 months to be there. That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things. The more difficult thing will be saving that money for that particular purpose. I am not known for having that much self control when it comes to money.

I think, at the end of the day, there is only one question: how bad do you want it? My dad used to ask me this question when I was struggling to get a job I wanted. It’s great motivation for me and it helps me keep things in perspective.

So, those of you out there who are dying to built and/or buy a tiny house, like me, or who have started and haven’t finished yet, let’s keep paddling, keep digging (as we say in racing), keep moving forward. Do the next thing. That’s all we can do.

How bad do you want it??

Trailers

When you are ready to start actually planning building a tiny house the first thing to consider is where you are building it. Because of the building codes and minimum square footage rules, most people build them on trailers, which is what I plan on doing.

So, we are going to build on a trailer. Perfect!

What kind of trailer… um… there are different kinds??

Hours and hours of research later I think I have a plan, emphasis on think.

So, most people use this kind of trailer: Tumbleweed Trailers. One of the companies that makes tiny houses is even nice enough to make their own trailers with all of the proper attachments and things. You can buy them directly from them so you don’t have to modify anything. How nice of them!

The thing with those trailers, though, is the wheel wells. They are RIGHT in the way. The trailer actually 8.5 ft wide, but the “build” width is just under 7 ft. When you are talking about a tiny house, those a foot and a half is A LOT to give up.

So, my plan is to use a “deck over” trailer. That means that the wheels are under the trailer, rather than through it. That will give me the full 8.5 ft if width for my house.

The drawback to this kind of trailer is that it sits higher than the other kind.

The idea is to keep the house at or under 8.5 ft wide and about 13 ft tall. That way you can move it without a permit. This isn’t a make or break thing for me, but I’d like to keep it as small as possible, but still comfortable.

With the trailer being higher, about a foot higher, it limits the interior space. This would be a huge issue if you are planning to build a sleeping loft. I’m not, so it’s really not an issue for me. The only thing it will affect is getting into the house. I’ll need a staircase. I was planning on building a deck, eventually, so that won’t be a problem.

Another thing to consider about trailers is weight. A typical tiny house weights around 10,000 lbs. So, when you are looking for a trailer, you need to make sure that it is capable of handling that much weight. You also need to consider how much everything weighs when you are building the house. Granite countertops may be fun and trendy, but they might just be too heavy to include.

Something else… How are you going to move this thing?? This was one of the first questions that my parents asked me. The truth is… I have no idea! I am planning on consulting the experts when the time comes, as in people who have moved something like this before. In fact, I will probably hire someone to move it for me.

I have been watching the new shows on HGTV and FYI about tiny houses. On a couple of the episodes of Tiny House Nation they have had problems with the house moving or almost falling off of a jack or something. I can’t imagine handling that by myself. Nor can I imagine my house and all of my hard work and money falling over. That’s too much to risk for my DIY project.

So, where is the trailer coming from??

This is something that I have been back and forth about a lot. It’s the foundation of the house, so it needs to be a good one. It’s going to weight around 10,000 lbs, so it needs to have the right tires and wheels and brakes to handle that. It’s also the most expensive part of the build, and the part that has been the hardest for me so far. The best thing to do is to buy one brand new. For one that I need, 8.5 x 20 ft, it’s around $5,000. That’s over 7 months rent for me.

The other option is to buy a used one. Several problems here: finding one that fits what I want, that is close to where I live, and that doesn’t need a lot of work. The last one is huge, mainly because I don’t know enough about trailers to be able to see if it needs a lot of work, unless it’s like blatantly obvious. All of the listings that I have seen don’t seem to have a huge price difference between new and used. So, for me, the only thing that makes sense is to buy a new one.

The next step for me in my tiny house journey is to find $5k for the trailer. I’m certain that I can find a place to put the trailer and build the house when I get the trailer. That’s another post…

The plan is to put together a presentation about sponsorship – asking people to “sponsor” my build for advertising and mentions in return. I don’t know if I can get a whole trailer this way, but I think I may be able to get a discount on one at least. I’m going to try anyway.