Ben’s Tiny House

(Fall 2011 – Summer 2012)

My name is Ben Norton. This is my tiny house story. A neighbor of mine was all excited about your blog and showed me lots of really cool tiny houses that people have built. I was hooked. I just said, “That’s what I’m going to do,” and I just started; buying materials as I had money. I don’t think anyone really thought I was serious because I was eleven years old at the time.

ben1

Growing up, my parents gave my brother and me skills that many kids don’t have. We worked on lots of different projects with real hammers, nails and wood. From an early age I was like a sponge and absorbed all I could about power tools, building, tree cutting, engine repair, and even asking the right people for advice and help.

floor framing

One of the first things I did was sell some high tech toys and bought a couple of tools (thanks Justin). Then another friend gave me about $500 worth of Dewalt tools to encourage me (thanks Gabe). When I started framing the floor, another neighbor helped me get started and leveled the site (thanks Ed). That was right around my twelfth birthday. I showed my friend Lynne how to use a power drill properly and we put on the decking. (It’s a lot of fun when you get to tell an adult to start over when they don’t do things right!) Then school and life got busy and money ran out. The project was covered up with a tarp for a while.

Oh yeah, the size is 12 x 20 with 8 foot walls, so it’s not exactly tiny!

Spring came very early, so I was able to get back on the project and I bought a bunch of lumber. Tim, a seasoned builder and friend, brought the framing wood to me on his trailer and made a roof truss template for me to work from. Three good friends from up the road (Isaiah, Nathanael and William), came to help me build the roof trusses and frame the walls. They gave a lot of their time helping me and just being all around great friends. I decided on a gambrel style so I could get more space upstairs.

gambrel

boys and roof

framing

Word got out around my school that I was building a house. My teachers encouraged me. I’d get home from school and get to work on my house; sometimes with friends, and sometimes by myself. Once school was out for the summer, I helped Tim on his building crew for about 6 weeks. He taught me a ton and gave me a lot of experience. To catch Tim’s crew, I had to get up early and meet him just before 7 am. Not exactly the best way to “enjoy” your summer, but I wanted the knowledge he had and just went for it. The effort paid off and I still had several weeks to work on my own house. Since it was a hot summer, it really helped to have lots of places to go swimming and spear fishing each day.

boys on wall

boys on top of walls

rafters and walls

roof work

My goal was to get the house dried in as soon as possible because I was about to move to a new school and would not be able to work on it again for a while. It was a very busy last 4 weeks and so many great guys came to lend a hand getting up the bubble wrap, trusses, metal and trim. I had worked with Justin on a couple projects and he was the main guy when we did the metal siding.

Many thanks to Justin, John, Ethan, Brodin and most of all my parents for being the first ones to put tools into my hands.

boys at Ben's house

I’m happy to say that the place has been dry through rain, snow and high winds for the last seven months. I hope to get the second floor and windows in some time this year and will post more progress when it’s available.

Thanks for stopping by.

–Ben

52 Comments Ben’s Tiny House

  1. Felicity

    You are an amazing human and you give me hope for the future of our society. Great house, great writing, great attitude – just all around great!

    Reply
  2. steve

    Great job and so inspiring. As a kid I built a lot of forts and club houses and those experiences have been a foundation for a life of building things. None of my young projects were in your league.

    I also want to compliment you on your ability to write your story and communicate your gratitude to all those that have helped you. I think you have a great future in front of you.

    Reply
  3. Hunter

    Ben.
    I am in awe. You have done the job of men. I can hardly wait till you become a man. we expect Great things from you. If you can do this at 11-12 what can you do at 20-30-40 or more. Your parents should be so proud. You show the best of your generation now at this age. Keep up the good job. am looking forward to more of your progress and photos. My very best wishes to you.

    Reply
  4. Jamie

    And here I was thinking there was no hope for our youth. Ben, you’re really an inspiration. The fact that you get up that early on summer vacation so that you can learn new skills is the kind of attitude I wish more kids had. Best of luck finishing it up, and you have awesome parents for encouraging you to do this. If you can do this at age 12, there’s no telling what your future holds

    Reply
  5. alice h

    Great story and well told. Congratulations to you and your helpers. More inspiration for my granddaughter and a good lesson for her parents.

    Reply
  6. Minty

    Ben~
    What a smart move towards independence, you have made, and such great friends, and mentors. You have an amazing attitude, and you will go far with the very smart choices you have made. Congratulations.

    Reply
  7. Sarena

    Wow! Thanks for sharing. You are a pretty cool little dude. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more of your tiny house/houses in the future. Please come back often and share more of your adventures in building.

    Reply
  8. Brie

    Wonderful job! You are very fortunate to have been taught those skills and very smart to put them to use!! Keep it up, we’re all rooting for you :)

    Reply
  9. Laura

    Hey Ben!
    The place is looking awesome! You you have a great amount of space there. I look forward to seeing the next phase of your build.
    Keep up the great work!
    Laura
    tinyhouseontario.com

    Reply
  10. john

    Outstanding….just perfect. Nice job Ben, keep building and soon you’ll have people paying you to build their homes.

    Reply
  11. Vlad

    Awesome post, Ben. I wish I had your skills when I was your age. Or, even now, for that matter. Way to go. Keeping living life like you mean it.

    Reply
  12. elisabeth in CT

    Good job Ben…You and your friends have done a fair bit of work and it shows! Thanks for sharing your story so far – please be sure to keep us posted as to the next chapter. I’m looking forward to seeing how you place your windows and the interior finish! (by the way…of all the guys in the photos – which one is you?)

    Reply
  13. Molly

    Incredible! Not only is building your own house amazing, your writing is great. I would have guessed you were at least twice as old as you are! Both skills will take you far in life, and your determination and effort will ensure that your goals never go unmet!

    Reply
  14. Luis

    Great job Ben. You are such an inspiring young man, that I am happy to share this planet with you. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see you accomplishment later on life.

    Reply
  15. Marsha Cowan

    Wow! I can’t wait to show this story to my grandson. He is ten, but wants to build something so badly. Maybe we will do that this summer. We can build a small cmping trailer for he and his mom and sister to go camping. You are really a great inspiration, can’t wait to see some more of your cool house.

    Reply
  16. Sergio

    Great work Ben! Keep us posted about the future progress on your tiny house. I also loved the way you wrote, meaning you are not only a hard worker and thirsty for learning, but also a great student and have great friends. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  17. Claire

    Ben, this is absolutely fantastic! What a great story of determination and going after your dream. These are the qualities that will take you far in life…..plus you can always build yourself a house if you need one! Congratulations, and I can’t wait to see an update to your story :)

    Reply
  18. Megan

    Ben, your attitude and outlook will take you very far in life. I hope we get to see more of what you do later on, because I have a feeling it will be something quite special :)

    Reply
  19. Naomi

    I love that your parents encouraged you in this fear-of-anything-happening mindset we have. Way to put it to good use, I hope my children will be able to do similar work as they get bigger! You are an inspiration!

    Reply
  20. Tamara

    I think it is really a gift to find out what you love to do when you are young. Your parents are awesome for encouraging you to do something so productive. There is nothing better than making something with your own hands and standing back to feel that sense of accomplishment. Good for you!!!

    Reply
    1. gene landrum

      Ben, EtAl; I also, want to congratulates you but for a different reason(s)!

      First was ‘Tom Sawyer’ a up-line relative of you? The reason I ask is He like you got his Friends to help him paint a fence! Kinda, like your project! Most folks of this day and year, think Tweens, are just juveniles waiting for bad things to happen! You proved them wrong! Supervision, is a ‘borne’ with trite. Hard to learn to be in Management!

      One reason you are different; you gave credit where credit was due!

      Gene n Landrum, PhQ. Quantum Theory ” Where the Mind of Man-Kind can make the impossible, possible! Or other quote from my book titled; Quantum Theory subtitled; “Fiction today, Fact Tomorrow” “If the mind of Man can conceive, it can be achieved” not my quote, and may be paraphrased?

      Reply
  21. Lynn

    Ben, your post/story reads like a good novel. I am tearfully full of joy reading about you and what you are doing! You could publish in other places than the WWW. Keep following your dreams! COngratulations! God bless you, and your friends and family.

    Reply
  22. Kenise

    OMG Ben this is awesome. I’m embarassed to say that I’ve been dreaming and thinking of building a 12’X 20′ gambrel roof for YEARS. Mega kudos to you and kudos to your friends (real) and also to your parents for raising such an industrious kid. This is what American ingenuity use to look like. “And a child shall lead them”

    Reply
  23. Erik Markus

    Impressive !

    It’s true, when your age has the burden of two digits, anything becomes possible.

    Oh to be the B-I-G Eleven again.
    Experienced with the hectic and chaotic stress of getting through age Ten, your first double digit age, building a house is certainly do-able.

    Seeing young people wielding a heavy spiker/framing nailer (without ear or eye protection. Protect your hearing !) is both reassuring, kind of unnerving, but also refreshing.

    These young people clearly don’t know or appreciate the importance video game brain rot that so many of their peers are acquainted with.
    … and good for them.

    It looks WONDERFUL !

    Reply
  24. Shell

    Wow, very inspirational, Ben. I dream of having one, but doubt myself. You really show it’s possible. Thank you. : )

    Namaste

    Reply
  25. jipsi

    Ben, You are probably already reeling from all the well-deserved praise, but I am going to heap another on you!
    I’m a parent(my boy’s grown and serving our Country at the moment) and I am as proud of YOU as if you were one of mine. I wish this kind of pursuit was something state and city government would make available and accessible to ALL children grade 5 and over for summer vacation (or as a class project throughout the year), as it is an INVESTMENT in our greatest assets – the CHILDREN who will be our next generation of thinkers, builders, leaders and workers all. The skills you have VOLUNTARILY taken it upon yourself to learn will be your greatest resource as you mature, you will never grow tired of it or feel like it’s ‘work’ because it’s a passion you appear to have investigated and run with, at such an early age. I see good things happening, not just in YOUR future, but in the lives of those you will touch. Don’t forget to ‘pass it on’, son. By getting your friends involved (and SHARING, with us here), you create a RIPPLE of inspiration that will go far, and in so many good ways it will be impossible to gauge the breadth.

    I wish you good luck, strong heart and health, and that you NEVER lose the exuberance of your 11th and twelfth years.

    And I send congrats to your family, and parents, for having a hand in influencing you with a good work ethic (they must all be SO PROUD!!!)
    It is far more valuable than the purest GOLD, trust us. ;-)

    Reply
  26. Ruffslitch

    Wow! What a great story! And what a great way for you to learn lots of valuable life skills! You sound like a person who will succeed no matter what-good fortune to you!

    Reply
  27. Bruce Grecke

    Ben,

    What can I add, that has not already been said. Your Tiny House is a ‘Gigantic’ accomplishment. To you and your magnificent group of family and friends, you all should be proud of what you have achieved. I applaude each and every one. You took a dream took action, methodically learning what to do, and how to do it, first, then went for the gold. WOW! I am impressed, and have learned a lot from you, so thanks!

    Reply
  28. Kim

    Wow Ben

    It is so great when your parents teach you trades. My father was into pretty well into everything, from cabinet making, sculpturing, pottery, glasswork, refurnishing furniture, gardening, home repairs etc. the list goes on. From what I learned when I was young has carried on throughout my life. I love refinishing and furniture making, painting and many more things. Look forward to hearing more about your Tiny House Project. Looks great so far.

    Reply
  29. Don.

    There is really little that I can add to the kudos (well deserved) that have already been posted.
    I have children and grand-children who COULD (had they wished) do similar projects but chose sports instead. I love them all very much but would, like others have said, “adopt” you at any time.
    There are a few suggestioons/requests that I would like to make, if possible, and they are as follows:
    1. Please identify your friends and yourself in the pictures.
    2. You said the building remained “dry” during the late fall,winter and spring but did not mention any interior work that was/could have been done during that time.
    3. Please keep me updated on your project, I will anxiously follow your progress.

    Donald Costello
    (an admirer)

    Reply
  30. Judy

    It’s sad to see you putting all your hard work up for sale.I hope it’s to start another project with all that you have learned from this one! Good Luck,Ben!

    Reply
    1. Lynne H

      There should be an update posted soon about why it is up for sale. Stay tuned…LH for Ben Norton

      Reply
  31. Lynne H

    Hi, It’s Ben. Well I was blown away by all the nice things that people said about me building my first house! My principle called me into the office the day it went on your blog. When I heard the call over the school speaker, “Ben Norton please come to the office,” I thought that I was in trouble. Then there were a couple of people there who said, “Did you see this?” and they showed me my story on the Tiny House blog. What a shock. That’s really me! It’s like people knowing a different side of you instead of only what you do at school.

    Over spring break, I visited my house in TN. It’s still there, still dry inside and I got to start putting the decking in on the second floor with a leftover credit I had. My friends kept me way too busy to do much more than that! At least I got to camp out in the house with 2 of my builder friends. While I was awake thinking, I tried to figure out a way to move it to CT where I live now. I found out it was almost 1200 miles. Sheesh. The house was not made to be moved very far because it is about 14 feet high at the peak. My plan was to slowly finish the house until I had worked and saved enough money to buy a small piece of land to move it onto. So, now I have decided to sell it and start building a new one. It’s on the Nashville Craigslist if you are interested: http://nashville.craigslist.org/for/3801578188.html

    Not sure what kind of house I will build next, but I will put up pictures when I get them. Thanks again for all the nice things everyone said. -Ben

    Reply
  32. libertymen

    Ben good job.
    BUT
    You need a better foundation than a couple of concrete blocks here and there.
    Everything starts with a sound foundation.You will learn that because in a little while you will have to fix what you have done.Especially since U are on a slope.

    Reply

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