Ty Niehaus’ Tiny House

I have been following the tiny house movement since first reading about Jay Shafer over 10 years ago.  Of course, I loved the idea of saving on money and time and, thus, having more freedom.  In addition, I wanted to combine the benefits of a tiny house with the health benefits of building out of non-toxic materials.  Also, I felt it was important that it be beautiful and acceptable in (almost) any neighborhood. I decided to build an 8 X 12 design, but without porch or loft and with more windows and light.  This mobile house-room is meant to be an extra space or living area but without utilities except electricity.  In other words, toilet, kitchen, and shower are meant to be in a nearby building.
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The final result looks like a small cabin or shed reminiscent of a red barn.  Drawings and extensive, invaluable consulting on non-toxic building came from George Swanson (geoswan.com) in Texas.  Additional consulting came from Katharina Gustavs–especially, on EMF issues–from Canada (buildingbiology.ca); Leslie Lawrence fromsafespotcottages.com; and even once with Jay Shafer.  I hired the expert team from the Center for Green Building/Measure for Measure in Connecticut (centerforgreenbuilding.com) and asked them to build with the following non-toxic elements:
  1. The trailer is a customized aluminum trailer by Featherlite–thanks to Scott Boyner for engineering exactly what I wanted.  The frame is aluminum–won’t magnetize or corrode–but the bed of the trailer was constructed using Timbersil–wood that is infused with sodium silicate (glass) and won’t burn, rot, mold, or be eaten by insects.  The underside of the trailer also was covered over with a layer of Tyvek with chicken wire over that.
  2.  Conventional wood frame is all treated with three coats of potassium silicate by Romabio.
  3. All interior and exterior floors and walls are made of Magnesium Oxide panels–also won’t burn, rot, mold and gives off no harmful gasses (but do wear protection when cutting, there is fiberglass mesh inside).  These were purchased from Holdfast Technologies in Ohio.  All exterior trim that could not be sized in Magnesium Oxide is Hardieboard, another cement board.
  4. All walls, ceiling, and floor are insulated with Ultra Touch recycled cotton insulation.
  5. All interior and exterior paint is supplied by Romabio (romabio.com)–truly non-toxic mineral paint that allows water vapor to escape and, thus, avoids conditions for mold.  (It turns out that many popular no-VOC paints still contain harmful irritants).
  6.  The roof is covered with two layers of Vaproshield–a polypropylene membrane that is also vapor permeable.  Over that we used Davinci synethetic roof slates–they are made of recycled plastic and really do look like real slates.
  7. Windows are Jeld-wen, unfinished pine with aluminum cladding.  We painted the interior pine with the same paint we used on the walls.
  8. Electricity enters at only one point and there are four sockets on the interior side there.  This is intended to minimize EMF issues.
  9. The finished floor is Ecotimber bamboo.

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We Quit Our Jobs to Ride Our Bicycles

I heard about Jim and Shane while on a teardrop trailer gathering in northern California and just their simple Facebook name said it all: We Quit Our Jobs to Ride Our Bicycles. The bicycle tour is still going on, but once they hang up their helmets—the tiny house building will commence.

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The two men from Northern California had both been raised in mountain communities and wanted to return to the land after working for several years. The idea of quitting their jobs and riding around the U.S. on their bicycles coincided with their love of the outdoors, gardening and working with their hands.

“We were growing tired of living in the mundane and felt the need for a dramatic change,” Jim and Shane said. “The idea of traveling by bicycle was appealing to both of us from the stand point of its simplicity, its affordability and the exposure to possibilities. With traveling by bicycle, you see and experience so much more in the slow pace of pedaling than you ever could in the enclosure of a speeding car. We also were interested in exploring the country in search for new ideas and a new place to live, one that would accommodate our dream of building tiny homes.”

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Jim has an interest in small structures and Shane has a strong background in sustainable living. After stumbling across Lloyd Kahn’s book “Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter” in a small book store in San Francisco, they decided that they would build a tiny home for themselves after finishing their trip.

“Our experience with bicycle touring has solidified our interest in simple living and has taught us the virtues of getting by with just the basics,” they said. “We have a particular interest in the salvaged aspect of the Texas Tiny Homes and the ones that emphasize outdoor living and engagement with the surrounding environment.”

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Their tiny house idea has expanded further to become a tiny house community. They want to create a bicycle centered communal living space that includes several tiny homes, a common meal and meeting space, large garden and greenhouse, gray water system, bicycle powered laundry machine, and photovoltaic and water heater panels. They also want to build with salvaged materials. The men recently spent a few weeks building a greenhouse with recycled materials for a host family in Pahrump, Nev. After their pedaling tour, they will be on the lookout for a town to host their tiny house community.

“Finding a town that is willing to work with us on our idea of tiny home community has proven to be a challenge,” Jim and Shane said. “We want to find a place that is in need of affordable living and be able to provide it in the form of tiny homes.”

You can follow their tour and see their beautiful photos on their Facebook page and on TrackMyTour.com.

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Photos by Jim and Shane of We Quit Our Jobs to Ride Our Bicycles

 

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

 

Entering The Tiny House Real Estate Market

The Tiny r(E)volution History

In our initial manifesto for Tiny r(E)volution we talked about the motivating factors that caused us to even look at tiny houses. Surprisingly a primary motivator was that of the past and current (and by current I mean 2010) real estate market.

"The Bungalow" - just 176 sq.ft. - is the home the Odom's lived in while planning their tiny house.

“The Bungalow” – just 176 sq.ft. – is the home the Odom’s lived in while planning their tiny house.

In 2007 the nation entered a real estate crash fueled almost entirely by over-extended home buyers, inflated prices, and shaky mortgages. According to RealtyTrac by the close of 2010 some 3,825,637  foreclosure filings had been issued on American homes.  It was time for us to act and act quickly. We knew we couldn’t afford a traditional home and at that point we didn’t even know what a traditional home was to us. Was it three bedrooms and two bathrooms? Did it have a fenced in yard, a detached garage, and a tool shed? One thing was for sure. Nothing we looked at seemed to fit our desires. It was at that time that we initially came across Tumbleweed Tiny Homes and the idea to shed a standard mortgage, build cash-on-the-barrel, and create a home we could not just survive in but thrive in that focused on our needs rather than wants, took shape.

The Tiny r(E)volution tiny house under construction.

The Tiny r(E)volution tiny house under construction.

In January of 2013 we moved in to our 240 square foot, single level, beach cottage inspired, tiny house trailer. Using non-traditional building products, state-of-the-art hardware, and a good mix of reclaimed wood, we looked forward to the adventure we had just begun. By this time we had an infant to look after and our needs had already started to change. We had, of course, designed our tiny house to be transitional in so much as “secret” doorways and passages had been framed in for easy access should we decide to make the tiny house trailer the foundation of a larger home that changed with the needs of our family.

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But by Christmas of that year we had already started to notice that with a growing daughter and a very active lifestyle we wanted something different. for starters we wanted to travel more and the tiny house was a little too large (at 30′ long) to tote all over the country. Secondly we weren’t sure a single level, no interior wall, tiny house was going to be right for us beyond the next year. We needed to do something; something that promoted our ideals and ethos of simple living but that also gave us a bit more space for a growing family. Before anything though we had to deal with the bittersweet thought of selling our tiny house to recoup some of our investment and to give us seed money to move forward.

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For Sale

We knew we didn’t want to approach the sale of our tiny house in a traditional way. Because we had brought on sponsors to help build our home and because we only spent just at $16,000 out-of-pocket during the build AND because we didn’t feel we could put a price on our labor since it was initially done for our own benefit rather than to turn a profit, we knew that a standard MLS style listing would not cut it. So how did we choose to sell the house?

1.  Decide on a price. With $16k cash invested we decided that a 100% recoup was sufficient. We priced our house at $16,100 which we felt was sufficient and gave us an extra $100 for a celebratory dinner once it sold!
2.  Network. Before we officially announced the sale we spoke with other tiny house community members, wrote a telling blog post, and talked to family members. We want to first offer up the home to people who had a hand in creating it. We then let them know when the sale would be made public and when they could announce it.
3.  Take photos. This part was so important and we took extra care in how we presented our home online and in ads. We wanted to capture what we thought made our house so special. We were careful to leave signs of life though so potential buyers could picture their own lifestyle in the tiny house.

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4.  Create a listing. What made our house special? Why? In this step we focused just on those questions and answers and then wrote a listing around them.
5.  Go public. We started the morning of “sale day” by posting first to our blog. The post had several links that showed visuals, floorplans, included materials, budgets, etc. We then posted to Craigslist to allow the simply curious to have a shot. We then contacted Tiny House Listings and created a post. It made the most sense to do and the eventual buyer came from that source. We then networked the listing on Facebook, Google+, and other social networks. We were fortunate in that it was shared hundreds of times and seen by thousands.

Within 33 hours we had been contacted by a number of buyers and had scheduled several visits ultimately showing us the new couple that would call our tiny house their own. It was not a hard decision and even now we feel the key to our quick sale was being reasonable, sticking with our principles, and remembering why we joined the tiny house community so we could help others do the same.