A Tiny House, A Bit Of Cash, And An Awful Realization

Charles: I understand, cash on the barrel, and that’s the way I like to deal and wheel, just as soon as I get that first crop to sale.

No. That isn’t a very lame line to a highly ridiculous rap song. Rather, it is a line that is echoed regularly on the long-running TV show Little House On The Prairie. For those that don’t know the Michael Landon vehicle, LHOTP is a show about a salt-of-the-Earth, farming family who want little more than to live, contribute to the world around them, and be happy. The show itself seems awkward now with its morals and ethics but for some it brings about some ideas that resonate louder than ever. One of them is the idea that Charles and the family held closely. Even when credit was available to them they chose cash-on-the-barrel. Charles did not want to owe anyone anything. How convenient then that that is a major tenet of the tiny house ethos. So many involved in the tiny house movement believe in paying cash as you go so no debt is accrued and only freedom is attained.

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I can sometimes get on my soap box when talking about paying cash-on-the-barrel. There is good reason though.

When Tiny r(E)volution first came about in 2009 we were little more than a “standard” American newlywed couple who had dreams of this Norman Rockwell-esque future complete with house, picket fence, couple of youngins, and a dog or something. Truth is we were only “standard” in that we owed about $46,000 in consumer debt and were employed in dead-end jobs working just for the privilege of getting up each morning to work another day! Something had to change. We knew we had to take control and when we fell in love with the idea of a tiny house it was more about the size and the design than anything. The idea of it being a way to free ourselves financially came second (or was it third?) How did we do it though? How did we build a whole house cash-on-the-barrel? Continue reading

Basic Trailer Maintenance

When living in a tiny house on wheels it is very easy to overlook what should be the most carefully maintained part: the actual trailer. Despite the simple engineering of a couple of axles, some wheels, and maybe some brakes, the role of the trailer in the tiny house world is so crucial. These frames of steel are our foundations. They are the very things we rest our homes, our families, and our lives on. They allow us to sit still without motion and with comfort and also allow us to travel at whim. But how do we keep up with the maintenance? Perhaps these steps will help keep your trailer safe and lasting long-term.


Check tire pressure

Before each trip on the road you should be sure to check your tire pressure in all tires. You want to always inflate the trailer tires to the maximum inflation indicated on the sidewall. This number varies with each trailer so be sure to observe what your inflation psi is. You also want to check inflation when the tires are cool and have not been exposed to the sun or run down the highway. And while it may seem okay to underinflate, underinflation is actually the number one cause of tire failure. Tire pressure is essential to performance. Continue reading

When Mold And Mildew Attack The Tiny

I’d not given much thought to mold and/or mildew when we first began our tiny house adventure. Truth is I am not sure I even knew the difference between the two. But I know I had certainly not thought about how mold and mildew could attack our tiny house. I did realize the obvious. Leave standing water on a surface long enough and mold spores would take root. Leave food out or hidden in the house and mold would eventually begat freebase penicillin. But what can you do to prevent mold and mildew and what do you do if it has taken root?

ATTACKMy first mold realization came in late 2011 when Logan Smith wrote the following on Mobile Cabin Works:

Much to my surprise, if you lay a futon mattress directly on top of a loft floor it will breed mold. Who’d a thunk it? The science behind this is obvious once you realize what’s going on. The heat generated by your body and the coolness of the floor, especially a non-insulated interior ceiling/loft floor, combine to produce condensation. This moisture is then held in the fabric of the mattress as it has no way to be evaporated due to the lack of ventilation. So I will provide you with this scientific formula. The NW + moisture = green stuff. If you live here, you understand.

Now I don’t live in the Pacific NW so I never thought much about mold in so much as it wasn’t something we had had before or that I had seen in my folks house. Yes, there was the mold that grew around the tub if you didn’t clean regularly. There was mold on bread that had been sitting in the roll top too long. But mold running up a wall or appearing on sheetrock or even over head, just never worked out for me. I realize now though it is possible and is something that needs consideration.

Mold – a large and taxonomically diverse number of fungal species where the growth of hyphae results in discoloration and a fuzzy appearance, especially on food.

Mildew – a thin, superficial, usually whitish growth consisting of minute hyphae (fungal filaments) produced especially on living plants or organic matter such as wood, paper or leather.

What’s wrong with a little mold or mildew though? So long as the pores remain out of sight and stay put behind the laundry tub, under the basement carpet, or only peek around the edge of the bathroom wallpaper, who cares? We all should actually because they are eating us of house and home and are effecting our health, too.


    • When washing machines in a room without a floor drain overflow or hose connections burst, water with no point of exit will soak into adjacent carpet, drywall and insulation. SOLUTION: Provide a floor drain near the washing machine. Install an overflow pan directly under the machine or install a lip at the doorway to contain overflows.
    • Water-resistant drywall used as a tile backer quickly degrades once subjected to moisture. SOLUTION:
      Install cement backer board, which will remain structurally sound even if repeatedly subjected to moisture.
    • Poorly ventilated bathrooms row. SOLUTION: Install a bathroom fan (or at least, open a window) to exhaust moisture. Remove surface mildew by scrubbing the area with a 1/2 percent bleach solution. When the area is dry, prime it with an alcohol-based, white pigmented shellac, such as Zinsser Bullseye, and use a paint containing mildewcide.
    • Humidifiers (especially reservoir-type central units and portable units) provide both a growth medium and a distribution system for mold and mildew. SOLUTION: Clean and treat the reservoir often with an antimicrobial solution which can be bought at most convenient store.
    • Improperly flashed or caulked windows (and those with large amounts of surface condensation) let moisture seep into the surrounding wood, drywall and insulation. SOLUTION: Properly flash and caulk windows during installation; minimize condensation with good ventilation and airflow.

Ceiling MoldGET RID OF IT

Remember. Some types of molds are toxic so do not attempt to use this post as an EPA-certified guide. Remove and treat mold at your own risk!

You can easily remove minor mold with ordinary household cleaning products. I prefer Mold Armor. Mold and mildew can also cause breathing disturbance if you suffer from allergies or have a weakened immune system so it is important to isolate the spores and remove them as quickly as possible. To do so, you can also create your own anti-mold mix by mixing 1/2 cup bleach, 1 qt. water and a little detergent. The bleach in the cleaning mixture kills the mold, and the detergent helps lift it off the surface so you can rinse it away. You may also want to protect yourself from contact with mold and the bleach solution by wearing a long-sleeve shirt and long pants as well as plastic or rubber gloves and goggles. If the mold doesn’t disappear after a light yet abrasive scrubbing, reapply the cleaning mix and let it sit for a minute or two. Then lightly scrub again. I use either an old toothbrush or a small, palm-sized dish scrubber.Once the mold and mildew spot is treated you will want to change conditions so it is not as easy to set in again. This way you can be sure your tiny house is as healthy as possible.

NOTE: Top hiding spots courtesy of: The Family Handyman 

Ross Lukeman’s Cargo Van Conversion Course

  • Anyone interested in alternative home building projects may know Ross Lukeman of Alternative Homes Today. Ross worked for years as an architect, but recently quit his job to run his online business. His home is new as well. Ross recently converted and will be moving into a Chevy cargo van and is offering a course on how to convert your own van for full-time living.


“Converting and living in a cargo van was my way of finally making some big changes in my life,” Ross said. “I wanted to pursue more meaningful work on a full-time basis and I wanted more than two weeks of vacation a year. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life, and after finally paying off all of my school loans and credit cards, I realized I was at a fork in the road.”


Ross realized that the van dwelling life was a viable option for him with its lower expenses. He took a few months to convert a 2014 Chevy Express 2500 Extended van into a tiny house with a twin bed, an office with a wall-mounted computer, water tanks, a sink and a cooktop. The roof has 200 watts of flexible solar panels connected to a 300 watt inverter. He plans to shower with his nationally accepted pass for 24-Hour Fitness, at National and state parks and truck stops. He has an emergency camping toilet stored under the bed.


The van, originally used by a rental company in Colorado, cost $22,500. So far, Ross has spent another $3,600 converting the van into his tiny home. Larger expenses included the electrical components, a backup camera and window tinting.


“I spared no expense, but don’t want people feeling like they have to put “everything” into their own conversion,” Ross said. “The videos will be there though, and they can omit what they’re not interested in adding. I would say a range to convert a van should be $1,500 to $5,000, depending on their budget.”

Ross’s Cargo Van Conversion Course ($197) will be available September 15, 2015 and will include 12+ chapters of high-definition, professionally shot videos showing his complete step-by-step conversion. Once a week, a new video chapter will be released along with guides and material lists. Everything will be available online so registered students can go at their own pace. There will also be live calls with Ross and a Facebook group so students can get their specific questions answered. Anyone interested in the course can sign up before the launch to be added to the email list.

Photos courtesy of Ross Lukeman


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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