A: I was working seasonal jobs both in Alaska in the summers and in Chile in the winter, and at the age of 25, I didn’t want to keep having to go back to my parent’s extra bedroom in between gigs. While living in Chile I began to seriously think about building my house in the few spare months I had between working seasons. From my bedroom in Chile, I purchased a set of Tumbleweed Fencl plans as well as a Dickinson boat stove. All it took was the bravery to purchase something like that, and the rest fell into place afterward.
A: 5 months of full-time work. I was between jobs and therefor working over 40 hours/week on the build, with most of the work done by myself. I have zero building experience, so it took me much longer simply because I also had to teach myself building while I was building. I had a few work parties: friends over to put up the Tyvek, paint, hold up big boards, cut out window holes, etc. Also, a wonder family friend volunteered to spearhead all of the electrical, plumbing & gas (propane) systems for a 6-pack of Alaskan Winter Ale every time he came over. But the bulk of the labor hours were done by me. In about 5 months time, I had a liveable house!
A: The house is built on an 18 foot flatbed trailer that was purchased second-hand. The house extends a little on either end, so the house is about 19 feet long by 8 feet wide (about 8.5 feet including the eaves). All and all, it’s about 160 square feet of living space if you include the loft.
A: Around 6,300 pounds.
A: The house is set up similar to an RV for freshwater & graywater. For incoming water, I use a heated potable hose that connects to a spigot in the yard. The toilet is a urine-diverting composting toilet that uses sawdust to cover up your business & aid in the composting process. The solid waste is emptied every few days (by me!) and put in a specialized composting barrel. I use a toilet insert made by Separett to divert the urine to the graywater system, which makes for great fertilizer. There is a small, 6-gallon RV-style hot water heater that supplies hot water to the sink and shower. For a shower, I used a 24” x 32” RV shower pan and a low-flow 1.5 GPM shower head with a pause button, which allows you to take about a 5-minute shower. Graywater is piped out of the house & use to irrigate the garden through a drip dispersion system.
A: A family friend who is skilled in electrical
work volunteered his time to do all the electrical, gas and plumbing, in return
for good beer. We installed an exterior
junction box/RV hook-up specifically for the Bungalow. It connects to the main house on the property
via buried conduit pipe, utilizing an otherwise-unused breaker. This is important so that the house’s
electrical draw is not competing with anything else (i.e. a dryer being on, TV,
speakers, etc. in the main house). It
runs on 110 volts/AC power, and I have a converter built into the house to
supply DC power to the boat stove’s fan and the water heater’s electric
ignition. I used 100% low-energy fluorescent
or LED lights, so with all the lights on it draws less than one 100W light
A: Around $17,000. I did 95% of the labor myself and with the
help of friends, so that includes very little labor cost – the only being an
experienced roofing contractor, who I paid to install the roofing material I
purchased. I bought many items used or
second hand on Craigslist (the trailer, front door, skylights, some lumber,
etc.) and tried to build nearly everything myself instead of paying a lot of
extra money for custom-fitting cabinetry or doors, etc.
Q: Did you have any prior building experience before building your tiny house? How did you learn how to do construction?
A: I took woodworking shop class in 8th grade, does that count? I had no prior building experience. I attended a Tumbleweed building workshop and purchased the book Building Construction Illustrated by Francis Ching, which soon became my bible. Additionally, I checked out many books at the library on specific installation and building techniques, watched lots of DIY YouTube videos, picked the brains of Home Depot employees (who soon became good friends!) and often phoned friends in the construction business when I got stumped. Sure, I made my share of mistakes – but there isn’t anything that can’t be fixed!
A: I found the sink at a flea market in Mexico and brought it home with me as my carry-on item on the plane.
A: Cabinetry is complicated (if trying to build it yourself), heavy and expensive. I saw a kitchen somewhere that used curtains to hide the shelves and loved it. The coffee sacks I purchased for $1 each from a local coffee roaster.
A: I used a vinyl plank material that looks like
wood. A friend at Don Frank Floors in Portland
recommended that I not use real wood, concerned that the changes in humidity
would cause wood flooring to buckle and that jostling in travel would create
problems. She checked her warehouse for
scrap vinyl and had just enough left over from a big job to give me, and gave
it to me for next to nothing. I think I
only needed about 90 square feet, and still had some material left over when I
A: I did most of the work myself, so the only expenses that I incurred were those for materials. I had saved up a small chunk of $$$, but did end up needing a small amount of credit near the end of the project. Home Depot, through its credit card, offers interest-free 6-month credit on purchases of $299 or more. That's a free loan! I used that offer to purchase my windows (about $2000) - and it gave me 6 months to work and make a bit of money to pay it off just as soon as I could. Just be sure you can pay it back within the window of "free" interest, or you will get dinged!A: I'm glad I purchased plans from Tumbleweed (for their Fencl Model), but I did make a few modifications so that the house would fit my needs, taste & size. I flip-flopped the positioning of the kitchen/bathroom in the house so that the kitchen window looked out in to the garden, and I extended the windows downward a little bit so that I could see out of the window while sitting at the table (I'm short!). Additionally, I modified the roof line to be A-frame the entire length of the house with no "hips" so that the roof would be easier for me to build & also allow for more storage space in the loft. I'm happy that I made all three modifications.