Tiny House Safety - 20 tips from a safety expert
Even though your home may be smaller, it still needs to be safe. Safety precautions may help you save your property and maybe even your life!
Editor's Note: This post has been provided by our friend Gary Bute of Tiny House Systems. Gary has decades of building experience, and has personally lived in small dwellings on and off throughout his life. He's an expert at electrical design and offers all kinds of tiny house design services. Thank you, Gary!
I've added my own photos and captions to help illustrate some of Gary's important tips.
When considering how to build a tiny house, safety is never something to overlook. Those of you building a tiny house may wish to consider these safety features and preparations.
1. Smoke Detector
This is a basic item that has saved lives for decades -- one that must be installed in every home. Install a smoke detector in the location(s) according to the manufactures directions. Smoke detectors have a life span of 8 to 10 years according to the manufactures, so replace the entire unit accordingly.
2. Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector
With the tight construction of small dwellings to save energy, CO poisoning becomes an even bigger threat. Install a detector with alarm according to the manufactures directions. Combo smoke/CO detectors can be used to cover these two major requirements in one unit.
3. Propane Gas Detector
Propane is an explosive gas that is heavier than air. If leaking, it accumulates at the floor level and then fills the room. If a spark occurs the gas will explode, just like natural gas. A propane detector will alert you at the first sign of propane buildup. The detector should be installed near floor level, according the manufactures instructions.
4. Automatic Controls
A system could be installed to turn of the gas at the tank source if the smoke, CO and /or gas detectors are triggered. This same systems could also turn off the electrical power and send you a text notification of this situation.
5. Fire Extinguisher
Have a hand held bottle of sufficient size and rating to respond quickly to a fire. This is excellent low cost self-insurance. Keep the extinguisher in visible sight for others to use without looking to find the bottle. You may want another extinguisher outside for the campfire or vehicle fires.
6. Fire Resistant Wood Treatment
This is an organic fluid that may be applied to unfinished wood surfaces to reduce flame spread.
7. Fire Sprinkler System
This is a system that will emit an organic fluid to extinguish a fire after detecting the heat. It’s not just water and is used for computer server rooms.
8. Loft Egress
Provide a window to escape your tiny home if your door is not accessible. When sleeping in the loft, this means having a large enough window (or skylight) that you can escape from very quickly during a house fire. Consider an exterior ladder to get down from the loft window in the event of an emergency.
9. Indoor Air Quality
Monitoring the oxygen level in your tiny house is very important since most small home are very air tight. Open a window when any exhaust fan is operating to provide a fresh air source to be exhausted.
10. Exhaust Fan
An exhaust fan is an important component to maintaining good indoor air quality. It also helps alleviate moisture buildup, protecting your house from mold/mildew and rot. Always run an exhaust fan when cooking on a propane stove, or during the burning of any combustible gas.
11. Gas/Propane Venting
Do not vent a gas/propane water heater unit below an operating window. Vent your waist water piping and storage tanks, if any, to above the roof as these may be explosive gasses.
12. Exit Access
Provide the proper landing and stairs to depart your tiny home quickly even in the dark. Stairways should have uniform stair tread heights.
13. First Aid Kit
Have basic medical products available for quick emergency procedures.
14. Emergency Medical Center
Know where the closest emergency room services are located and the number to call if you need them to come to you. Know the location of your home to inform first responders in the event of any emergency. Have the location of your home clearly marked for emergency personal to find you quickly.
15. Trailer Brakes
If you are building a tiny house on a trailer, you are required to have electric brakes on the trailer. These brakes are activated if the trailer becomes detached from the tow vehicle. This is required in every state, however, the gross weight of the trailer requiring brakes varies. Test the brakes before moving the trailer.
16. Trailer Size
Select a trailer, including the tires, with the proper load rating. Make sure that the tow vehicle is also rated to tow the trailer weight.
17. Construction Procedures
Learn construction safety and instruct casual helpers to work with the proper personal protection. Watch your helpers to avoid disasters especially when operating power tools and on ladders.
18. Construction Products
Install framing, electrical, plumbing, gas distribution, heating, air cooling and ventilating products according to applicable codes. Just because there is not a government agency regulating your home building that doesn’t mean you should skip these code requirements.
19. Utility Supplies
Safety for power and water starts at the source so verify what you are connecting your home to before issues are discovered by accident.
20. Propane Storage Tank
Never store propane inside of any closed area. Exterior enclosures for tanks must be open on the bottom to allow propane gas to be vented down.
Safety in not an accident -- always make safety #1 during and after construction!
About the Author
Gary Bute with Tiny House Systems has over 40 years of experience in home construction. He has been professionally trained in building construction and safety operations. He provides design and construction consulting for alternative dwellings of any size and type in any location nationwide. Contact him at: TinyHouseSystems.biz