Tiny House in Winhall, Vermont

by Bob Whitney

This month my tiny house was completed after a few years of preparation and three months of building. Josh Wengard, a terrific carpenter of Re-Design Construction in Londenderry, Vermont did most everything. I sealed the cedar siding, sanded the maple kitchen counter and generally got in the way. The house was built using the Epu plans from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, though some modifications were made. The final cost was just under $32,000 for building.

tiny house north side

I was able to find a 1.1 acre piece of land bordered by a brook that already had a well and septic installed. The land was $36,000

We encountered some unexpected problems that were not mentioned in Jay Shafer’s book or at his seminar. For instance, we needed a pressure tank for the water from the well and since there was not room in the house a shed had to be built and insulated so the water would not freeze which cost an additional $1,000. Then we needed to hooking up the house to a septic system. The State of Vermont does not have any building requirements, but does require septic, even for graywater. Grading the land and attaching septic was an additional $4,000.

tiny house south side

Overall, it was a good learning experience. Now that I am living in the house those past problems seem minor.

front of tiny house facing brook

great room

kitchen

looking out

Newport 9000

Shingled Bathroom

shower

sleeping loft

78 Comments Tiny House in Winhall, Vermont

  1. alice h

    Beautiful house in a great setting, I envy you! It’s a bit disconcerting to hear the cost was so high since I’m still costing out my hopeful project. Would you mind separating out the labour and material costs?

    Reply
  2. mike

    Really nice to see one of these with well and septic.

    So you are saying that it is legal in Vermont to buy land and live in an RV (which I believe is technically what a tiny house on wheels is classified as), as long as you have a septic system?

    Reply
    1. molly

      I too am interested in the no building requirements part. Does that mean what I think it does, that there is no minimum square foot requirements?

      Reply
    2. Bob

      Some towns in Vermont have minimum size requirements for buildings but the State
      only requires a septic system. Do as you want with the electric and other rgings but make sure you have a working septic.

      Reply
      1. Norm

        Last time I checked Vermont only requires a full septic system if water is piped INSIDE your dwelling.

        If you only have a spigot outside and use part of it inside (caught in a bucket) and part outside, you are going to use so little water that there is very little possibility of contaminating anything.

        This assumes a properly built, or an approved, compost toilet system

        Reply
  3. tinyhousetom

    An RV park for 1 RV.

    Do the Vermont regs allow for more than one on a lot that size? Could you start a tiny house pocket community?

    Reply
  4. Bob H

    The project looks great, land, building, septic and water.
    This is a great story. So refreshing to see someone do the entire package. Most people who do this live in a host’s backyard with a cord & hose.

    Great job !!!!!!!!

    Reply
  5. Pingback: New Tiny House in Winhall, Vermont | Tiny House Living

  6. Grant Wagner

    Is that a cedar sided shower? What did you do to make sure that area is properly waterproofed? I would think that the siding would be to porous even if it was well caulked.

    Reply
    1. Bob

      Cedar sding in the shower works well. The cedar is painted with Vermont Coatings sealant. A natural product that uses cheese byproducts.

      Reply
      1. Tiny

        Hi Bob,

        We’re thinking about doing a cedar shower in our tiny house, too. Do you have some kind of waterproof barrier under the cedar? We would love to hear any other thoughts on your experience installing / maintaining it. I think yours is the only tiny house I’ve seen with such a thing.

        Thanks,

        Tiny

        Reply
  7. Ethan Waldman

    Great job! I’m also building a tiny house in Northern VT and would love to chat about the building requirements you researched. If you would be willing to talk, please get in touch! My email is ethan [AT] thetinyhouse.net

    Reply
    1. Bob

      Ethan, The tiny house is based on the Epu model from Tumbleweed tiny houses. As the house is built on a slab and I wanted to preserve the possibility of moving the p-trap for greywater had to be on the outside of the building. So the trap is insulated inside a boxthat also includes
      a heat lamp that can be turned on during sub freezing temperature.

      Reply
  8. Abel Zyl Zimmerman

    Awesome work! I am always working on the planners in the county I live. If your house is ‘signed off’ by your planners, I’d love to tell that to mine! All we need are a few good examples like yours.

    So, thanks!

    Reply
    1. Bob

      The Winhall, Vermont zoning administrator did not have a problem with this tiny house. He said that he would not want to line in a house that small but thought it was a great idea.

      Reply
      1. J'me Hood

        Jamaica town has no zoning regs! The feds stick their noses in, especially since TS Irene devasted so much of Jamaica Village and other villages within Jamaica Town. Yes, the state says any residence must have septic. Camps do not yet, UNTIL you say it is your full time residence!! That is IF the ( army co. of engineers) Feds let you live in your own camp!

        Reply
    1. dewhit

      What would the neighbors have to do with it ?

      The land is zoned for a application and the owner met that and the requirements for septic.

      We have a saying on owned land…
      My Property, Heaven High and Hell Deep.

      Reply
  9. Joe

    Awesome tiny home!!! And finally someone besides a builder trying to sell lets everyone know its NOT as cheap as you think to build a tiny home the right way!

    Reply
  10. Deek

    Very nice- just curious as to why on a trailer?- in VT you could have saved quite a bit by simply building a cabin on piers, or blocks, even one as tiny as this. Do you plan on moving it, or is it here to stay? Either way, great job!

    Reply
    1. Bob

      If I had to do it again I would probably not use a trailer. Separating from electric and propane is simple, separating from the septic will require cutting pipes. So being mobile is not as easy as I thought it would be.

      Reply
  11. Kristi

    Love it! Love the big ol’ can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli best of all! Oh…wait…the Simplify sign was even better.

    Blessings….

    Reply
    1. Bob

      This tiny house is insulated with 5″ of blue board insulation. It retains heat well. So far the outside temperature has only been down to fifteen degrees. It remains to be seen how it handles colder temperatures.

      Reply
  12. Riel

    I gotta admit that I don’t really see the point. Apparently you want it to be mobile, so why not get a prefab trailer or RV, retrofit it the way you like, and save $20,000? That is a pretty steep price-tag for such a tiny shack.

    Reply
    1. Abel Zyl Zimmerman

      RV’s usually don’t hold up well as fulltime residences. Moisture problems, appliances designed for occasional use, leaky roof/windows, etc.

      I live in the Pacific NorthWET, and RV’s take it hard here.

      I’ll admit, there are exceptions, but they seem hard to find.

      Reply
        1. alice h

          And then there’s mobile as in moving around a lot and mobile as in being able to move your house every few years or so. Having a tiny house on wheels doesn’t necessarily mean you intend to be on the road regularly, it could just be that you like the flexibility of being able to take it with you at some point in the future.

          Reply
          1. dewhit

            The owner has what he wants and congrats.

            Forget the the cute and stylish and hip and small house look and for the same price, 44k, you could have bought ten (10) 26-32 foot trailers from the government that are in Mississippi now. They are Katrina remnants and are in fair condition. Check the GSA auction site.
            There is a big big difference in the small house movement between style and frugality. You cannot be in the frugal category and save your money and resources by buying these “Barbie trailers” prebuilt.
            There is nothing wrong with this small trailer, but it is a trailer and a expensive one at that.
            There needs to be Frugal Small House and Stylish Expenditure Small House. This is neither.

  13. tinyhousetom

    $32k is in the car loan or personal line of credit range. Spread out over 5 years, it’s roughly $600/month.

    Reply
  14. Mark

    LOVE these pics and stories of people that have actually made the move to ‘tiny’ living. So inspired. This is definitely in my future!!
    Many thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  15. MJ

    I never quite understand comments posted on tiny homes/small homes here in the manner of – ‘why not just buy a big tent/RV/trailer instead of spending what you did?’ as if the person posting didn’t think of that. What is constructive or helpful about such a comment?

    Personally, I live in a very small place, not the prettiest, though it works for me for the last decade. But would I do some big time changes if it were within my financial power? Oh yes, I would. Would I work a job that would enable those changes, even though it would totally compromise my lifestyle? Nope.

    Point being, let’s be less hasty to question judgement and even less inclined to print it, when we can instead choose to increase /expand /give our knowledge in more constructive ways.

    Reply
    1. jipsi

      MJ, I personally think comments such as those “Why not (something else) instead?” are valuable in that they encourage ANSWERS and more opinions, and, best, intelligent debate. Suggesting they not be ‘allowed’ or ‘printed’ because they might somehow cast tiny house living in a ‘questionable’ light is both premature and counter-productive. For every reason someone choose or likes a tiny house, there are those who will question something, and that does NOT empirically mean they are ‘anti-tiny house’, it merely means they might be in the research phase and want to head off similar questions THEY may receive, in the future, themselves, when THEY get around to moving into THEIR tiny house.
      I want to read about the good AND ‘bad’. I want to read questions and answers, pro’s and cons, as I research and plan MY dreams, because the balance of information helps me to arrive at a more well-informed decision, someday down that road.
      I personally did not take any of the particular post’s ‘questions’ as offensive or degrading to ‘the tiny house movement’. Posts like these PROVOKE discussion, and discussion is very important, after all is said and done. ;-)

      Reply
  16. Riel

    I assume, MJ, that your comment was directed at me. It was not a rhetorical question. I genuinely don’t understand, and I am genuinely curious as to what would make this choice superior.
    I currently have a 7 acre river-front piece of land, and have been working on my shipping container house for the past few months. Now, I am a scavenger, I do all my own building, and my work gets done pay-check to pay-check, and I am still under $28 000, all in.
    But I have been looking into going mobile, so that I can continue work and live cheaply and simply in the city, while finishing my home in the country.
    And when I do the math, the approach taken above, does not add up. So please, enlighten me, rather than being being derisive.

    Reply
      1. jipsi

        Adam, the particular, closing lines from MJ’s post:
        “let’s be less hasty to question judgement and even less inclined to print it, when we can instead choose to increase /expand /give our knowledge in more constructive ways” WAS somewhat derisive.

        This statement CLEARLY suggests the comment NOT EVEN BE PRINTED. This is censorship, and it was NOT a post that came even close to warranting such a drastic move…
        And using the words “more constructve ways” implies the original post was UNconstructive, which it clearly was NOT.
        It (Deek’s post) posed a very real, sincere question, one that many of us HAVE to consider, when researching the weigh-ins of cost vs. budget in building OUR tiny (or small) homes.
        It DOES beg the question, if the tiny is on wheels, but on a home-owner, property-owed lot, and at a cost of over $70,000, one doing simple math WILL, invariably, ask the question, “If a person wants to SIMPLIFY, DOWNSIZE, have their own tiny home on a plot of land someday, why would someone do so for the SAKE ALONE of owning a self-built tiny house, when living quarters could be acquired for the SAME PURPOSES but at a fraction of cost?
        I am all for tinies, and appreciate quality construction, but if another mode of ‘tiny space’ exists that would adequately serve the same purpose (if not better, with a little more square feet AND built-in original appliances, interior finishing, etc.) AND at a fraction of the final costs, *I* want to consider it!
        Just saying… ;-)

        Reply
    1. Victoria Whitcher

      I orginally was going to redo a camper and have it more my taste. Someone had given us a old camper that we planned to live in full time after a gut and redo. Then I saw the tiny house. Which ment I can built something that would last forever. You can keep the cost low if you build smart. My total cost was 7,000. The camper would have costed close to 10,000. To each its own.

      Reply
  17. alice h

    I’m facing a similar decision – tiny wooden house or second hand 5th wheel trailer. The trailer is cheaper, probably could get housed fairly quickly for half the price of a tiny house, but the tiny house has the advantage of being completely purpose built to your exact design, having a higher ceiling (important in a tiny living space),more windows and it’s also possible that most of the trailers in my price range will have some serious defects and possible rot. Building your own tiny house allows you to control the materials and workmanship so you know exactly what you have. Condensation is worse in a trailer in the winter and some people have problems with the synthetic materials offgassing. The whole aesthetic of a tiny house is much more appealing to me than a flashy white trailer with big swoopy swirls all over them that most seem to be. That said, if a person is going to be moving around a lot and maybe trying to slip into camping spots in a safely boring, non-attention-getting way, maybe a regular RV is a better choice. It all depends on what a person is looking for their home to provide.

    Reply
    1. jipsi

      EXCELLENT POST, ALice H.!
      The key point here is CHOICE. People will always make their decisions based on what THEY will choose over another, and based on personal and individual tastes, what options they can or cannot live with/without, and cost.
      This site would be a simple vehicle for tiny house design and sales propaganda were we never allowed to read about ALTERNATIVES, both in materials and design, or in the ‘construction-of’ itself (as in, maybe the ‘alternative’ is not even a ‘real’ tiny house…).

      Reply
      1. dewhit

        That is well put Jipsi.
        If it works for the individual…then it is good.
        One needs to view these various build thru jaded eye. I lean towards the cheaper structures being built better, but cheaper also and being accomplished thru sweat equity as a investment in the build also. You cannot buy frugality is what is reinforced in the price of many builds.
        You can buy downsizing and gain savings in years to come.

        Reply
  18. Newton

    Hi Bob-

    I live in VT too and have been in the wishing and researching stage for a few years. I am serious about building a tiny home but I’m not native here and my main concern is how a Tumbleweed house will handle the often extended sub-zero weather in winter. Perhaps you can re-visit this page and give us an update in February or March, or if you would be interested in e-mail I give Kent permission to pass mine along to you if you request it from him. (Not sure if that is allowed, but if so…)

    Your house and land look awesome. I pretty much understand about the construction challenges and issues but would *really* be interested in how you located went about finding your building site.

    Congratulations on your accomplishing the goal of so many who visit this blog.

    Regards

    Reply
    1. Bob

      The Dickinson P-9000 heater is terrific. It can heat the house from 60 degrees to 70 degrees in about 45 minutes. I do that before retiring for the night, turn it off, and the house just cools down to 65 degrees by the morning. As to financing, I saved and invested.

      Reply
      1. Bob

        I heard abouhe land for sale by word of mouth, it had not been in any real estate listings. I work part time in the local post office and hear gossip and other pieces of news. I had been looking for land for two years without coming across anything that was suitable so I feel fortunate to having heard of this land.

        Reply
  19. Marsha cowan

    I love this little house! It is very well done. I want to comment on the expense. The money shows in all the great detail and new materials, and if you add plumbing and electricity and propane runs to any house with one bedroom and one bath, it will cost about the same as adding it to a little house. However, if one decides to build oneself and uses mostly recycled materials, one can build a 7 X 10 tiny house with a 4′ deep front porch with built in benches for under $2700 because I did it. In all fairness, however, I chose not to add plumbing, but to use a water crock and fill it every day. I take basin baths and use a composting toilet. I also chose to use goal zero solar energy completely which I am purchasing this winter, so there is no wiring in the house, but the solar costs about $1200 more dollars and I use solar powered lanterns ($30 each)with LED lights for lighting. I have a propane 2 burner stovetop and small propane heater. So it can be done less expensively, but if I could go back, and if I had the money, I would certainly pay someone to at least dry in the whole little house for me (plumbing, wiring, and gas), then just finish the inside myself. So cudos to you, friend, for a great build well worth the money spent.

    Reply
    1. Marsha cowan

      PS- I put my tiny house on the tiny market for one day. The next day my husband asked me to take it off. Apparently, he has grown quite fond of the little house and wants to keep it for us. Lol!

      Reply
  20. Grace Iurilli

    Beautiful. I need one out here in the rainforest of Hawai’i. Open to negotiating trades. E.g., build it, live in it for x amt. of time!

    Reply
  21. Devon

    Hey Kent,
    Another Vermonter here. Great job on the house – I think I saw an ad for that piece of land when it was up for sale. I would hope you keep in touch with this page and update as has been already requested. Rather than side communications off-site, I would hope folks would continue to toss ideas back and forth here for the benefit of everyone.

    Reply
  22. John Daly

    Native Vermonter here too (Rutland) had to move out of Vermont to find a decent career. Upon retirement it will be a tiny house and back to Vermont! A great combination indeed.

    Reply
  23. kim smith

    i’m in montpelier and have helped with one tiny house project and gotten tours of a few others. can my son (8yo) and i come visit sometime? you can send an email to me at: tatonka_28@yahoo.com.

    so much to talk about… coolio!!!
    :) kim

    Reply
  24. Erik

    very cool and nice house. the interior being all wood looks great and seems like it is comfortable to be inside of. how many man hours did your carpenter put into the build?

    tumbleweed tiny houses look like really great designs, even the ones that are meant to be built on foundations. nice aesthetics.

    Reply
    1. Bob

      The house was built over a period three weeks with a carpenter, his helper and me. I did not slow them down too much and when something was needed I went to the local hardware store to purchase it.

      Reply
  25. volvosan

    I would have to second the notion that this is a questionable use of a large amount of capital. You could have done something small on 5-10 acres on a dirt road in VT (plenty of property cheap in VT & NW New Hampshire – you just need to do your due diligence and research it. Find an area you like, meet some of the locals and find out who might be willing to part with some land. You’d be surprised how many people are inclined to sell, but won’t formally list with a Realtor). All together, with land, well, septic, solar you could build a small, craftsman-style, one room cottage for such a large sum of money, & be totally off-grid in a mini-paradise.

    Reply
    1. Marica

      With all due respect, it is not so cheap to buy land in Vermont anymore. And building costs are much higher than they were even just a couple of years ago. To have an acre of land, and a handsome little house of your own, for under 80,000, PAID FOR, is not so bad.

      Reply
      1. J'me Hood

        You are so right on! As a VTer and land owner of two properties..one called and taxed as my residence on 2.3 acres and on called and taxed as my camp on 6.5 acres…if anyone plans coming to VT thinking cheap, do not make that huge error. There are lots of reg’s in place in VT now. Especially since Tropical Storm Irene devasted areas around what were tiny mnt streams etc. anyone can google and find the regs on septics, bldg regs in various communities. Some towns have no building regs, and yet you must have septic IF it is a fulltime residence! My camp has no running water except the river. Compost toilet, but cannot Live full time( by law) in my 12×20 cottage at campdue to the site, the Feds stuck those nose in. So just telling you there are lots of regs and nothing, nothing is cheap in VT! Check the stats! I live here, I love our VT and our people. Never will move away!

        Reply
  26. Em

    Hi – very nice job. I live across the river in Cow Hampsha and would love to see the home some day since I’ve been wanting to build one for a number of years now. I’ve seen very few in person though. I also recently installed a Dickinson Newport solid-fuel heater in a small camper… it puts out more heat than I thought it would. Although yours looks to be propane, they seem to make good products.
    Em

    Reply
  27. Tim Moran

    Hi Bob
    I like your home.Alot.
    I am new to the tiny house conversation.I am looking for a trailer… how far from the ground is the bed of the trailer?
    Thank you much
    Tim

    Reply
  28. Shajarataddurr

    I really like the cedar siding in the shower. It fits my idea of what a shower should look like. How is it holding up so far?

    Reply

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