“McMansion of Tiny Houses” Built by Woodshop Class

Eric John Jacobs is already living his dream job: as a river guide on the Rogue River near Ashland, Ore. He also has his dream home to take with him—built by him and a high school woodshop class. Eric had seen other river guides living out of vans or trailers, but he knew he wanted something a little more comfortable for his seasonal work.


“I like to balance myself between idealism and realism,” Eric said. “This is kind of a big tiny house, but I didn’t want to live in it for only two years or six months and realize it was not for me.”

Eric is building his new home (affectionately called the “McMansion of Tiny Homes”) with the help of two shop classes at Galena High School in Reno, NV. The students work on everything from framing to electrical and Eric has been learning along with them. Eric’s mother is a teacher at the school and when Eric was looking for a place to build his tiny house, Tom Larson, the shop teacher, opened up his classes for the challenge.                                                                             

Eric’s home on wheels (to be completed in May 2015) is 172 square feet with two large lofts and a five foot front deck. He used the plans from The Tiny Project by Alek Lisefski and tweaked them to fit his lifestyle. His goal was to have a private sleeping loft as well as a space for guests. The living area will have a custom made couch, a wood stove and the bathroom will have a shower and a composting toilet. The siding will be cedar bevel and Eric has attempted to eliminate any toxins from the house.


The trailer was custom made for the house by Iron Eagle Trailers and Eric will use the tongue of the trailer to store an insulated hot water container, the inverter and other electrical components. He also plans on using straw bales as insulation around the bottom of the trailer and he wants to utilize flexible water storage bladders (used by firefighters) to store water under his home and under the custom couch in the living area.


Eric is still deciding whether he wants to hook up to electricity at an RV park or install solar panels. He’s interested in the new battery technology being developed by Tesla which would save space in his new home. Before any kind of solar option, Eric is planning on spending about $25,000 to build the house. He is currently looking for a permanent space for his tiny house in the Medford/Ashland area of Oregon.

Decorating the tiny house is going to be more of a challenge.

“Everything I own fits in my truck,” Eric laughed. “I actually have to buy stuff to fill this tiny house.”


Photos by Christina Nellemann

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Julia Johnsen - March 16, 2015 Reply

Where can I get a “McMansion” built for me? I recently got an inheritance which is over the limit for section 8 housing so I will be booted off the program which is through the Housing Authority of San Mateo county in California. That means I have to move because I can’t pay the rent of $1950 a month from now on and expect to save any of this inheritance for my future when that amount will eat through my inheritance in no time. Also to buy a house in the San Francisco area I’m looking at a price of at least $500,000 minimum and that is if I can even get lucky finding a shack for that price and is way over what I received and with no income at the moment, (I’ll be receiving SSI disability soon) there’s no way I can afford that, so I’m forced to look to an alternative way to house myself and I love the tiny houses on wheels but feel that they are a tiny bit too little…I raised 5 kids so if they should ever visit I would need a slightly bigger tiny house to accommodate. If anyone can help me I’d appreciate it very much. Thanks…Julie

PS…Time is not on my side either so any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated…and in case there’s anyone that thinks that anyone on section 8 is a lowlife, I happen to be a 58 yr old educated white woman who’s husband was killed in an auto accident when my 5 kids were little and was lucky to have gotten the section 8 to help me throughout the years and am now facing another housing crisis and I don’t know where to turn to except this tiny house thing which I can afford. Thank you in advance for any help!… Julia

    Jax - March 16, 2015 Reply

    Check out tiny house listings website for ready mades. Tiny house builders can usually complete a custom home in 90 days or less, though they may have builds in front of you. If you buy a certified RV home you are then under the DMV. Best of luck to you!

    Beverly - March 16, 2015 Reply

    First, I’m sorry for you loss. Kudos for raising five kids. My best advice is to move to less expensive area to a small house or apartment and not a “tiny home.” Most tiny homes are on wheels and do not meet building codes. They come with a host of other issues: where to park and hookups for utilities. I would also like a “larger tiny house” but I want actual permanent housing so I will need to find some place where building codes will allow a house less than 1000 sq ft. Good luck to both of us. PS lived in California back in the 70’s. I currently live in Michigan which is a lot less expensive. Give the Midwest states a try.

    Christina - March 16, 2015 Reply

    Thank you for your story Julia. I’m sorry for your loss and the THB readers will have tons of information for you. Do you have to stay in the San Francisco area? If not, I know that Marin and Sonoma counties might be more accommodating when it comes to land and tiny homes.

    patricia - March 16, 2015 Reply

    Move to Washington State, the Olympic Peninsula, beautiful homes, for rent or purchase, in some cases land and a home under 100K. Good Luck

    Mark - March 16, 2015 Reply

    Julia.. Good story .. Gives strength to my Spirit.. I’m a builder in fl. .. Tell me what you want in your new tiny home.. The size ( square foot) & I will design a floor plan to your liking .. I recently lost my daughter to an addiction.. familiar with the pain of loss..May God bless you & yours ..Vio con Dios

    Jamie - March 17, 2015 Reply

    A mobile home starts at 20grand. I can’t for the life of me understand the stupidity of tiny houses. They’ve existed, cabin kits and trailers. Cheap and easy to heat. 200sq ft for 10-30 grand tiny house or 800 sq ft for 29k, delivered Prefab.
    Not rocket science. It’s like watching the TY craze..

      Robert - March 17, 2015 Reply

      True a manufactured home costs way less, just remember other than the wall studs and roofing trusses they are mostly particle board made to look nice, most cabinets are particle board with a polaroid film like coating which simulates wood. They’ll look good for a few yrs then start to curl up and come off the particle board.
      The floor are thick particle board with a plastic like liner glued onto the top to stop water damage, but if they do get wet they swell and lose their strength. They can sell them cheaper because they make them fast and use inferior materials. I’m not saying they won’t last, I’m just saying you’ll be doing way more maintanence on a manufactured home than a stick built. Tiny homes are usually built like stick built homes. If you want a MH do your research and eliminate as much particle board components as possible. Usually real wood kitchen cabinets run about 700 to 800 more $ than the polaroid film on particle board, and it’s well worth it to upgrade to real wood. Five yrs after you’re in you’ll be happy you did. Double wides require releveling when they settle, or the drywall will get crack lines in it. Double wides that are poorly set up can be a problem. Last make sure the water pressure is not too high or the compression seals on the Pex water lines will leak. Best to get a water pressure regulator and set it to the MH home’s specification.

    Joy - March 18, 2015 Reply

    I would encourage you to rethink the need to house your kids for visits. A nearby hotel will cost much less in the long run than the extra space, and will provide both of you a place to unwind and sleep well. You can always spend all your sleeping hours together, plus that hotel may come with added amenities you could never provide from your own home. A win-win situation.

    Dale - March 23, 2015 Reply

    Julia, do you wish to stay in the NorCal area? I live in the Sacramento area and may have a solution for you.

    JOHN VERNON - April 13, 2015 Reply

    The great American Architect once said “Limitations are the best friends of Architecture”. (Frank Lloyd Wright)

    We must not loose hope but pick up the challenge and look at life a little differently.

    I purchased a building block/property of under a quarter of an acre
    (Position to the sun was important).

    And built a 42 square metre beach house on it.

    It is double glazed and insulated.

    On a concrete insulated slab it is easy to
    keep warm even in the coldest winter.

    The build and consent from the local council and the draughtsmans plans were all achieved for $199,000.00

    I wish you hope and success with your “Tiny House” concept build and happiness in the future.

    John C Vernon

    Beaufort - June 23, 2015 Reply

    Hi: Try contacting Chris Saenz who builds tiny homes. Good luck to you. 🙂


Roxanne - March 16, 2015 Reply

Looks really cool. Just wondering what the height requirement is as this looks really tall?

Awesome getting the students involved in it too. It would be a great project for them to build smaller ones for the the homeless.

    Christina - March 16, 2015 Reply

    The height of Eric’s house is 13’6″. In order to be legal to tow in most states, mobile tiny houses cannot be taller than 13’6″.

Skip - March 16, 2015 Reply

Nice plan!

Re solar power: I’ve been living aboard a boat for the last year and found that a single battery and a 75-watt panel work well. This takes care of some nice LED lighting strips, a laptop, and phone….

When two friends visited for a week I had to be a little more careful about charging…. but a couple KW.hrs of battery and 400 watts of power should take care of most needs.

Jax - March 16, 2015 Reply

Fantastic idea involving the shop class! Ours is a similar model, with two lofts (no loft overhang though). It is 8.5′ x 24′ x 13.5′ and we tow with a 97 Dodge Ram 3500 dually diesel. The truck has a secondary fuel tank we hope to modify to run SVO in the near future.

We opted for BOTH solar and 50 amp RV hookup. The solar runs the composting toilet fan, lights and can run the fridge. 240 panel, 2 batteries and an inverter. Solar expandable up to 6 batteries with no growing pains in terms of space, RV batteries slide out from underneath the hitch. We, too, are eying those Tesla batteries!

We use propane for the stove more than electric. On demand propane water heater and both RV water hookup and 30 gal water tank onboard for offgrid rainwater catch, clean and store. We found a small in line filter system that does it all with minimal space. We live in a rain forest, just made sense for us.

We use a wood stove exclusively for heat. We wanted thevSardine but the backlog to build was huge so we opted for The Hobbit. Again, rain forest…made sense for us.

I would love to see shop programs nationwide doing this, perhaps as a gift to a low income resident in their community?

Great article, totally made my day.

Melissa Turner - March 16, 2015 Reply

I would love to see how much the new Tesla battery will be when it comes out in a couple of months. I bet that battery will be be a big chunk of that 25k.

Paul - March 16, 2015 Reply


You can do a hybrid solar system as Jax mentioned. Basically, you can setup a complete off-grid system. The current off-grid inverters will usually have a AC input and AC output. This allows you to connect to a generator or RV hookup. With this setup, you can maintain your system charge through the AC input and solar panels. Should you be in an area without RV hookups, you can go completely off grid. That gives you the best of all worlds.

Elisabeth in CT - March 16, 2015 Reply

Congratulations on getting a Shop Built Home! They are the absolute best win-win situations going. The students benefit from a realistic and coherent project, and you get a house built on a schedule that includes having every last screw, pipe and widget completed under strict supervision and to code. One of my older neighbors had had their home built by a high school shop class in the 60’s; he just sold it for a very good price because it was in beautiful shape. Everything had been done right the first time, so modernizations and the like were minimal for my new neighbors!

Nan - March 17, 2015 Reply

Visit each of your 5 kids and grandchildren for 2 months out of the year, you get to see them, and hopefully no rent! The other two months you can use your inheritance to travel; stay in hostels and have fun!

Chuck - March 17, 2015 Reply

Please note: Tesla is not developing new battery technology for solar installations, as has been reported. They are merely suggesting using the same battery packs they use now in their cars, but mounted to your wall. Anyone can do the same thing (only safer) using a bank of lithium iron phosphate cells from CALB. Want to save space? Put the cells inside your walls. This is actually better, since the cells will be protected from below-freezing temperatures, which no lithium ion cell can be charged at.

Lana @ The Joy Blog - March 17, 2015 Reply

I seriously hope you post an update when it’s finished. I want to see!

Jerry - March 22, 2015 Reply

Hope they do a follow up to see the finished tiny house . I like the design of this one .

    Christina - March 23, 2015 Reply

    Thanks Jerry…Yes, I hope to catch Eric before he heads up to Oregon.

Eric’s Tiny House on Shared, Traditional Property - Tiny House Blog - June 18, 2018 Reply

[…] House Blog readers may remember Eric Jacob’s tiny “McMansion” a few years ago. Eric built his house with the help of high school students at Galena High School […]

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