In an effort to streamline my response time to the numerous inquiries I get each day, I’m posting some of the more common questions and answers about the Tiny Project house and the construction plans for sale.
Tiny House Living & Parking
What made you decide to build a tiny house?
For me, it was a combination of many factors, some being:
- My desire to stop renting and own my home
- My interest in alternative, human-sized dwellings and natural building techniques
- My need for flexibility and the ability to move around since I have yet found a place to settle down
- My desire to be as debt-free as possible, circumventing the traditional path to home ownership
The flexibility and mobility issue included the flexibility to follow my partner out to NorCal for her to attend grad school here. Moving to such an expensive place to live, I didn’t think I could afford to buy a house/land until I could save up for a while longer.
With these (factors) in my mind, once I saw the tiny house on wheels concept, I was hooked.
It was a way to build and own my own home (made with beautiful, comfortable materials), at a cost that was more affordable, creating a more sustainable way for me to live, and all of this without needing to tie myself to any particular place or piece of land.
Granted there are challenges to this way of living as well, but the benefits are many!
For more info about our house and our reasons for building it, please read our About Page.
Why not just buy an RV or travel trailer?
Simply put: Though it’s mobile so may seem similar, with this house I wanted the opposite of a travel trailer. The Tiny Project house was intended as my full-time home (and will be for some time), and for that reason, having something that felt like a nice home was my primary concern. I did not want to live in an ugly metal box, with little to no insulation and lots cheap plastic materials. I wanted a fully-insulated, 4-season house with real windows and doors; natural wood floors, walls, ceiling and storage (all custom made); and to be able to customize the space for me needs and to choose natural, sustainable materials to surround myself with.
This house is not meant for constant travel, like an RV. I can move it if I need to, but while it’s parked I want a natural, peaceful, comfortable home in which to live and work.
For more information about our choice to use quality materials to create comfort and peace, please read our 20 Ways to Create “Sacred Space” Inside a Tiny House.
Where do you park your house and how did you find a place to park?
We live in someone’s back yard in rural Sebastopol, CA. We pay a small amount of monthly rent (to cover our minimal electricity and water needs), and also do yard work as a form of payment. We were fortunate enough to find a place to park our house by advertising on craigslist and other, more local bulletin board websites. We were very detailed and clear about our needs for the house, what we had to offer in return, and took the time to introduce use as people to our potential hosts. We were looking to live in someone’s back yard, essentially to have a family or older couple “hosts” us, so we focused on how we could be of help to our host family.
Here is an example of the information that we posted, which seemed to be quite effective for us: https://tiny-project.com/parking-needed/
How does your dog get up to the loft?
Simply put: she doesn’t. For much more info, please read our article about living in a tiny house with a dog.
Doesn’t living with your partner in such a small space drive you crazy?
With 2 people and a small dog, it works, but we have to be smart about it. Any potential tiny house dwellers will have to gauge how well they are in tight proximity and how much time outside of the house is needed to maintain their sanity. My girlfriend and I also work from home, so to share the space effectively I try to work outside the house for half the day (I go to a coffee shop). I started doing this long before living in a tiny house, just because as someone who is self-emplyed it’s nice not to be home ALL DAY. I would definitely suggest finding ways to leave the house at certain times so both you and your partner are not living/working all day in the house together, and both feel satisfied in their need for privacy and alone time.
We’ve written much more on the topic here: Tiny House Roommates: Living with Your Partner
Where can I park my tiny house?
Zoning, codes, rules and regulations can vary a lot from place to place, so there is no simple answer to this question.
In most cases (regardless of where it’s parked) a tiny house (if built on wheels) will fall into the RV category. This usually means you’ll some have restrictions in attempt to prevent permanent living (having to move every so often or living at least part of the time elsewhere). Since most municipalities do not have update laws specifically addressing tiny house living, many tiny house dwellers fall into a legal gray area and rely on the goodwill of their neighbors to create a safe and stable living environment. Most any action taken against a tiny house dweller will be complaint based, so whatever your legal situation, having your neighbors on board should be priority number one! Luckily, many municipalities are working to create new laws specifically for tiny houses, and it’s beginning to be accepted (and even embraced) as a more sustainable and affordable housing solution. Legal parking and living should get easier in the coming months and years.
For more details on this topic, see Macy’s excellent blog post and our post titled “Locating land for Tiny Houses and other parking options”.
How did you get insurance for your house while towing and once parked?
We were able to get a commercial trucking policy to cover the house during our long towing trip from Iowa to California. We were also able to get a Homeowner’s policy, specifically designed for tiny houses. Much more on both kinds of insurance can be found here: Tiny House Insurance: Auto/Towing and Homeowner’s Protection
Are tiny houses safe in eathquakes?
We just experienced a 6.0 earthquake recently, with the epicenter only 40 miles from us. It was a bit frightening, but not a problem at all for our Tiny House. Luckily Tiny Houses are great in earthquakes, since they can bounce and move with the land. This is one way in which building a trailer instead of a foundation is an advantage.
Cost & Time
How long did it take you to build the house?
The construction process took me about 7 months. Most of that time was just me working alone evenings and weekends (nearly EVERY evening and weekend). I was handy and knew how to use tools when I began, but had no construction experience at all to begin with. Along the way I did a lot of internet research to learn building best practices to make sure I was doing things the right way, and I also consulted with a few friends and local builders when needed. Towards the end of the project I got significantly more help to get the interior finishing and woodwork done more quickly.
If you count the many hours of research, planning, design, etc. done before construction began, the whole process was a about a year in total.
How much did/does it cost to build the Tiny Project house?
I spent a total of about $30,000 on my house, including the trailer, tools, all the nice stainless appliances — everything that went into it except for my labor. This is a lot compared to what others have spent to create a similar sized house, but it was because I chose materials for their beauty, sustainability and durability, not just on price. (See 20 Ways to Create “Sacred Space” Inside a Tiny House for some ideas on how to make your space uplifting, comfortable, and uniquely you!)
I also did not have the time to hunt for salvaged materials as many do. It think it would be a reasonable estimate to say that a very similar house could be built from my plans for closer to $20k, but of course it depends on what materials you choose and on your local prices. Price is one of the things I try not to talk about too definitively, since there are so many options and it can vary so much depending on what your budget is. My house was built as more of my dream house (albeit tiny!), than it was out of economic hardship or the desire for the cheapest possible option. But I totally understand how others may have different motivations. I think in nearly every case there was a cheaper alternative to what I chose, so I know for sure that it can be done for a lot cheaper if that is your concern.
For more on tiny house costs, please read these posts by some of my tiny house colleagues:
Size & Weight
What is the square footage?
The footprint of the house is 8×20′, so that’s roughly 160 sq.ft. (not subtracting wall space, but let’s not get too technical). The loft is half again that big, so if you count that as additional square footage, you could say the whole thing is more like 240 sq.ft.
How tall is the house? How wide?
The house is about 13′ 4″ tall and 8′ 6″ wide. Our house has an 8×20′ basic footprint, with three feet added for the porch, for a total length of 23′. Including the tongue of the trailer, the entire thing is roughly 27 feet long.
In order to travel down the highway (or any road) safely, the height of a tiny house cannot exceed 13′ 6″ and the width cannot exceed 8′ 6″ — The Tiny Project house comes in just under these maximum dimensions. Length is less regulated, and could be extended to 24′ or even 30′ if desired (though 30′ would be very difficult to tow!).
What kind of truck do I need to tow the house?
You’ll need a full-size truck, at the very minimum, something like a Form F-250 or Chevy 2500 series. Better yet is a heavy duty truck like an F-250 Super Duty or F-350 (or Chevy 3500 or 3500HD). A diesel engine is much better for towing, but a large v8 or v10 gas engine will also work. Your truck should be rated to tow at least 15,00o lbs. Along with a standard bumper mounted tow hitch, it must be equipped with a brake controller to communicate with the trailer when to apply the electric trailer brakes.
For more information about tiny house towing, read Our Tiny House Towing Adventure.
How much does the finished house weigh?
Though I regret this decision now, I actually never weighed it so I am not sure (I was in a big rush to leave town just as soon as it was finished). I do know that it is safely under the 10k GVWR of my trailer. We towed the house 2300 miles half way across the country with absolutely no problems. My educated guess is based on the estimations of various contractors and people with building experience who came by to look at it during various phases of the construction. I got some weight estimates from them just based on the size and materials used up to that point to make sure I was staying at a relatively low weight. But I cannot say as absolute fact what the final weight is.
Plans & Construction
Do your plans offer step-by-step instructions for how to build a tiny house?
In short, no. Basic construction knowledge is required to use these plans. I could not possibly include all of the instructions needed for each aspect of construction. That would take an entire book — and I’m not out to reinvent the wheel. Please review this page carefully for a description of what is included.
To successfully use these plans, you will need to, at the very least, familiarize yourself with basic building principles, have a competency with various power and hand tools, and be willing to do some research or seek help to learn construction best practices for things like framing, window installation, sheathing, roofing, and finish wood work. It is recommended that you consult with a local electrician and plumber to make sure your electrical and plumbing is up to code.
I found the “Tiny House Design & Construction Guide” by Dan Louche to be a very helpful starting point to understand the basic components of constructing a tiny house, and for getting some good tips on how to go about each phase of construction.
Will the Tiny Project house adhere to the building or highway codes/regulations in my state/country?
This is something I cannot help with. I am not an expert in this area, and even if I was, no single person could possibly understand all the differing rules and regulations that exist around the world. Please do your own research to see what legal requirements you need to navigate in your own city, county, state or country. Before buying the construction plans, please make sure you have read and agree to the Terms & Conditions.
Will you build me a house like yours?
The construction of the Tiny Project was a personal labor of love for the sole purpose of creating my own house for my own personal use. Though I have become somewhat of a tiny house expert throughout this process, I am not an experienced builder and have never had the intention of building similar houses for others. At this time, I am simply offering the construction plans for anyone who wishes to build a similar house for themselves.
Those interested in having a tiny house built from these plans (especially if you live in Canada) should contact Dana Hummel of Tiny Mountain Homes. I’ve given Dana permission to sell the plans in Canada and also to build homes (to sell for profit) from the Tiny Project plans.
Materials & Appliances
What model is the cute little stove/range and where can I find it?
The small rage is a Seaward Princess 2-burner model. It’s a range designed primarily for marine use, but they also offer a “built-in” option (instead of gimballed). For more info on this particular model, please read our complete review here: Product Review: Seaward Princess 2-burner stainless steel range
The best price I found was from Sure Marine Service: https://www.suremarineservice.com/2374-2001.aspx – They say it is out of stock, but if you call them you can order it to be shipped directly from the manufacturer.
What kind of wood did you use on the ceiling and where did you get it?
The wood used on the interior of the house is blue stain beetle-kill pine. It comes from 100% sustainably harvested dead standing old-growth Ponderosa pine tress killed by the recent pine beetle outbreak. I used lumber cut as flooring because I preferred the flat appearance as opposed to a paneling that had beveled edges. The variation in color from tan to gray (with streaks of blue and even magenta!) is totally natural. I left the wood completely unfinished.
Source: the Sustainable Lumber Company
What kind of sinks did you use in the kitchen and bathroom?
What type of flooring did you use, and why?
I chose to use a carbonized strand bamboo flooring from a local sustainable building materials supplier.
I liked that it was a sustainable product (bamboo is fast growing and can be harvested sustainably), and that when compressed is harder than hardwood. It’s very durable, and I love the way the darker color of our floor contrasts the lighter white walls and unfinished wood in our house.
What kind of insulation do you use and would the house perform well even in very cold climates?
With 2×4 walls there is a limit to the amount of insulation that can be used. For this reason, we used closed-cell spray foam insulation, which offers pretty much the best R-value per inch you can get. With about 3 inches of spray foam, we get about R20 in floor and walls, and slightly more in the ceiling.
I think closed-cell spray foam is excellent for all climates, including very cold weather. It also serves a second purpose in that it acts as a vapor barrier, so no additional moisture barrier is needed if closed-cell foam is used. This foam fills all small cracks and gaps so is an excellent choice for a very tight envelope – which when used in conjunction with a good exhaust fan is helpful to maintain comfort in all climates.
Because the house is so small, if constructed well to create a very tight envelope, it house should perform quite well even in cold climates. I make no guarantee that it will work in your climate, but with such a small space, heating is generally less of an issue than cooling. We find that one efficient electric heater (plus our body heat) is enough even on very cold days. Our main source of heat in the winter is the sun – solar gain from our many, large windows is a free way to heat the house!
Does the house have water storage tanks? What about graywater and black water?
We do not have a fresh water storage tank and rely on pressurized city water. This greatly simplifies the plumbing process and removes the need for a pump. All RV parks and all “backyard” parking situations (like we have now) will have pressurized water, so we felt water storage was not necessary for our chosen living situation.
We do not create any sewage or black water because we compost all our waste through a simple home-made composting bucket toilet system (see The Humanue Handbook). We also do not have a graywater tank and currently just filter our graywater through a simple french drain and/or reuse it to water trees on the property.
Your locality may have particular laws for graywater management, so please check with your local authorities to make sure what you plan to do it legal in your area.
What type of toilet do you use? Do you have a septic hookup?
No, we are not connected to septic or sewage.
We’re currently in a massive drought here in NorCal, and we love that our house helps us do our part to conserve. A major recommendation of mine would be to use a composting toilet of some sort, not a flush toilet. It’s crazy to poop into the water cycle, flushing away gallon after gallon of fresh water each time.
We use a simple bucket system to compost our waste. We follow a protocol laid out in the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, and it works very well. This method is nearly free (most composting toilets are around $1,500), requires no water (very good during our current drought) and has virtually no smell associated with it. In fact, I just had a visitor yesterday that kept commenting on how surprised he was that there was no odor at all.
This method is not for everyone, but I think many could easily get used to the minimal maintenance it requires to empty and clean the bucket every few days.
Is your house off-grid? Can it be made off-grid?
Our house is built to be grid-tied, but we intend to make it completely off-grid in the future by adding a solar array and battery bank.
For the time being, the house is nearly net-zero when incorporating it into it’s current location. Our “hosts” generate most or all of their power needs using solar PV. We use so little power compared to a normal-sized house (size being it’s own form of greater sustainability), but what we do use comes from their grid-tied PV system.
Our water is from an existing residential well on their property, and is filtered via a simpler RV filter and then a second drinking water filter at the tap.
Our graywater is returned to the landscape to help water some nearby trees. For more on graywater options, see our post “What to do with Graywater From Your Tiny House”
Have other questions?
Author: Alek Lisefski