Paul’s Tiny House in the Woods

Guest post by Paul Mittig

I built my 10 x 20 house in 2005 for about $10,000 in materials, including all furnishings. It is built on six poles set two feet into the ground, that support the floor and roof. There is no framing in the walls except at the door and the large window. The walls are rigid foam insulation, R21, covered with ยฝ inch sheetrock and all glued together. The ceiling has R38 fiberglass insulation, and the floor has R19 fiberglass insulation. I spend about $100 a year on propane for heating, cooking, and water heating.

The house is located in the hills of Northern California. I live in it full time. The house is set up for one person, but you could easily put a double bed by the door where the tall bookcase stands. If you did this you might want to move the window.

I have a three way RV under counter refrigerator, that I run on electricity. For hot water I have a heat before use RV water heater, turn on for 15 – 20 minutes then turn off, it generates enough hot water for a shower and runs on propane. The hot water heater is located under the bathroom sink.

I would have liked an on demand water heater, but I have no place for the flue as an oak tree entirely covers the roof. However, the tree shades the roof from the sun in the summer. The winter sun comes directly into the 4 x 7 window. If there is any sun at all I don’t need heating no matter how cold it is outside.

I had a composting toilet, but it didn’t compost well and was a gigantic hassle. I replaced it with a portable toilet that I empty into the septic system and clean out at my sisterโ€™s (who lives nearby) once a week.

There are two things I would change: First, I would install triple pane rather than double pane windows. When it gets below 40 degrees at night I put 1.5 inch rigid insulation panels over the window on the inside after dark. It helps. The second change would be to add rigid foam insulation to the roof, R38 is not enough.

Thank you Paul for sharing your unique little home with us.

66 thoughts on “Paul’s Tiny House in the Woods”

  1. Thanks for sharing your home with us, Paul. The pictures are beautiful. Never can have too many pictures to complete the story. People get so carried away with plans, they just must hire an architect. Well, you showed them how it can be done ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • mini split heat pump on top of bookcase. compressor is under deck. evaporator on bookcase. heats and cools. only use the heat to bring the house up to temp, then turn off and use the olympian catalytic propane heater to sustain temp.. costs only pennies a day to run.

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  2. Love your tiny house. Sadly, I have a spouse and six indoor cats so a home this small wouldn’t work for us (me, yes; but not us).

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  3. Very nice. I especially like how you have everything well organized. You have a high volume of stuff stored without the place looking cramped or disorderly. Minimalistic and simple… love it. I agree with what Beverly said above. I can get rid of many material things but my spouse and cat aren’t one of them. The cat would be fine. How about a discussion on strategies to talk a spouse into living in a tiny house? My spouse thinks such houses are cute and maybe she could withstand a weekend… but she just isn’t ready to take that final step. Has anyone else succeeded in converting a non-tiny house spouse? ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • As someone living in a small (not tiny) house of 865 sq ft with three adults, I can say the best advice I have is to live “as if” right now and see what happens.

      By this I mean, you, personally, downsize your personal possessions until you have only what you would take with you if you lived in a smaller space. Then, be happy with that, and see what happens.

      As I’ve downsized, my guy has gradually decided that he had an emotional attachment to fewer things, and he’s gradually realized that he doesn’t need even more. He’s still got a lot more than me (and I’ve still got a ways to go) but watching me evaluate my things he’s gradually changed the way he looks at stuff, too.

      It still might not work…but at the very least, you’ll be spending less on stuff, and maybe spending less on your spouse’s stuff, too.

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      • I agree. It will be many years probably before I am able to have a house of my own. I am doing everything I can now though to live the life I want. I have never had much but I have been downsizing. I have been paying very close attention to what I actually use and what I don’t. I look at this as my “research” stage to see how I live my life, and how I WANT to live my life. It has had a big impact on me already, and whenever I am able to create my own home it will be perfect for me.

        Remember, lots of people downsize in stages, over years. While your partner may not be ready to live tiny now, how about living smaller? See where that takes you. Even if the two of you never live “tiny” you can live as small as possible for the two of you, together. Most people would agree that having the people you love in your life is the most important thing.

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  4. I’m impressed at what good use of the space you make — you have quite a lot of stuff for such a tiny house, but everything has a place so the overall feel is not at all cluttered.

    I also really love all the windows, especially the big one across from the kitchen and the way it brings the outdoors in.

    Thanks also for including plans of the house; that makes it much easier to visualize what goes where, plus it’s always interesting to see how things are done.

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  5. Way to go, Paul! Very nice place. I’ve toyed with the idea of a composting toilet but keep hearing comments like yours. If you wouldn’t mind sharing it, I’d love to know what the hassle with the composting toilet was. Good luck to you and the little place! Very nice.

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    • whooo. just found this website, and its comments. the composting toilet never composted no matter how i fiddled with it. emptying uncomposted waste was very yucky.

      i very much appreciate everyone’s positive comments. what a lift.
      MERRY CHRISTMAS

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  6. Thank you for sharing your home, and including so many pictures. Stories like this help me believe that I could build my own tiny home.

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  7. Brilliantly simply, and I love the Insulation values. I’ve read about such Post & Beam Structures for Decades. I really like how they address the most daunting part of Home building to many: the Foundation. One of the most impressive Stories I’ve read here, and it’s a keen use of sloped Land w/o Tractor work.

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  8. I’m with Randy…I am in the middle of downsizing and am wrestling with the toilet issue. I would also like to know what you think the issue was/is with the composting toilet…

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    • composting toilet wouldn’t compost no matter how much i fiddled with it. emptying uncomposted waste is very yucky. probably my fault. but portable toilet is no hassle if you don’t have to empty it into another toilet.

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  9. Hi Paul,
    I really like the job you did on the micro home. I too like the fact that it is not on wheels. I am also a year away from 80 and really appreciate the fact that a person does not have to crawl up a ladder and into a loft to sleep.
    We are doing a great deal of research here and will be adding a more practical designed toilet system to our micro home here this spring.
    You did a great job!
    Walt Barrett

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  10. Nicely done. How have the rigid foam walls held up without exterior sheathing? I’m guessing you have electrical service or you would have mentioned a RE system. I’ll bet you don’t use a lot of juice!

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    • response to tiny house question last march. the rigid foam insulation walls have 1/2″ water resistant sheetrock glued to the outside. this is covered with ex. spackle in a stucco like appearance, then painted. been 7 years now no problems.

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  11. Great home! You should put a large mirror over your kitchen area so you can “see out the window” while doing dishes or cooking ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. Nice! Simple, lived in, minor site disturbance. It’s obviously a well loved little home and fits beautifully in the landscape.

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  13. Nice place! I’d suggest that instead of the 2 X 12 roof rafters that you split to two 2 X 6’s or 2 X 8’s with a space filled with insulation between to add in a thermal break. Where the 2 X 12’s are you have R-12 or 13 at the most. That’s a section of the roof at least 1 foot wide by 10’long with R-12 value.

    For folks that have propane, the incinerator type toilets are an alternative.

    Overall I like your choices.

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    • how about putting a low cost thin deck like 1/2″ osb on top of the 2×12 joists then laying down 1.5″ rigid insulation, then 3/4 ply. would that be enough thermal break?

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  14. Heat source? I don’t see a woodstove or heater in the plan.

    Wonderful little house. I particularly love the no wheels, no ladder approach.

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    • catalytic propane heater by OLYMPIAN. a marvel. needs no flue. will keep the place warm for pennies a day. does take hours to heat the place if you’ve been gone all day. have minisplit heat pump on top of the bookcase that i get the place up to temp with, then turn off and use the propane.

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  15. I really like the thoughtful location, with the tree shading in summer and the sun providing so much heat throughout the year.
    I also like the bookcases – that is one thing I would have trouble parting with, my books.
    I agree that a mirror would be perfect in the kitchen – but that also may be because I like mirrors anyway and a little more decoration than here, though this home doesn’t look bare and is beautifully light. Another thing I agree with is about no wheels and no loft – nice to see something less able, older folk could live with comfortably.
    Great to see the project so well photo-documented, it looks like a viable prospect for others, be it part- or full-time. Thanks for a great post!

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  16. Love the view, neat little house too.

    Issue with cold nights/large window. We go down to 14 degrees where I am and over 110 in summer. Quilted roman blinds really make a difference for both extremes.

    A bit more homey than insulation panels. Just an idea you may not have thought of. But you do need a sewing machine or know someone who has one. They are simple to make.

    Thanks for sharing you story i’m just slightly envious ๐Ÿ™‚

    Nerida

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  17. Great design. I love the big window. As for your hot water heater if you ever feel like upgrading to an on demand system, the RV-500 from precision temp is an excellent choice. It’s rated for an rv, propane, can handle showers, and it’s intake and exhaust air travel through a vent in the wall. It’s very compact. Mine sits under the kitchen sink.

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  18. I notice that there is wall space by the bed..
    There is nothing nicer than waking to the OUTSIDE
    unless it is going to sleep with the stars and auroras?????

    About the shades, curtains, sewing machines came after hand work. Got Needle? Got Thread? or do it the MAN way with a stapler!

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    • ok do it the man way, ๐Ÿ™‚ But generally I would not recommend a man use a needle and thread on a project like roman blinds especially a first timer :)… The thing with roman blinds, while they are simple, you need to be very accurate with your measuring and sewing.

      Did treadles come before staplers? Did Pual use hand tools to build his cabin? does a battery pack qualify as a hand tool? I’m just being a bit silly but it does seem that the simpler the structure the more it lends itself to being accomplished without power tools doesnt it.

      To be honest V. I do a lot with my machine, and it lends itself to a cottage industry. However I am retraining myself to do most of my work by hand now and I am not really losing time. If I really cant survive without a ‘machine’ I am seriously considering replacing my electric power machine with a woman powered treadle machine (which I grew up with (yes I am that old)) – but they are just so heavy and bulky, the elephant in the room in a tiny space.

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  19. Nice house Paul!

    Were you able to find a county in Northern California that permitted a composting toilet or did you forego that step? I’ve been trying to find counties that are amenable to composting toilets and grey water system but it seems like the thing to do is find something that is quite remote and not get a permit.

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  20. I might of put my bed on the shorter wall and 3 1/2ft high with some roll out storage under it. The higher you sleep the warmer you are. then with the desk on the taller wall you could have some higher shelves for extra blankets or the roman drape storage in summer. I love the use of space you have.

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    • i like the bed up storage under idea. have drawers under now but fabric in them tends to get musty. have enough storage for my needs now but may raise the bed for more in the future. thanks

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      • I part-time in a Boler trailer, know what you mean about fabrics. Some of the clothes I’ve kept in those large ziploc bags that you squash air out of do better than the loosely stored things. I add a natural, locally made anti-moth packet and store all in a rubbermaid tub and things seem to keep fairly fresh. I air all the cloth stuff out on the clothesline every few months on sunny days. The anti-moth stuff has lavendar and some other stuff that cuts the “girly” smell a bit, has a nice herbal smell.

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  21. Hey Paul,
    Just wondering how the external sheet rock is holding up? I know you sealed it, but have you seen any mold or damage with snow and rain blowing against it? Also since the whole thing is frameless and relies on insulation for its walls, have you had problems with hanging your cabinet? I haven’t seen a house built with only insulation before. Does anyone else have any experience with this (even if it is just storage sheds)?

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    • sheetrock not only sealed, but coated with ex. spackle and painted. been 7 years now no problems. the wall cabinet is hung from the roof joists.
      MERRY CHRISTMAS

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  22. it’s great how you have all the important stuff in an actual real tiny house. the bathroom seems comfortable, the kitchen looks spacious and the living/ sleepng area looks more than perfect for what it’s supposed to be. you did an amazing work here.

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  23. Paul’s Tiny House in the Woods is magnificient! How soon can my husband and I have one too! We love your website where this post appears. I discovered it this year and am always inspired about alternative living homes that are functional and in beautiful settings. When I just discovered Paul’s Tiny House in the Woods on this blog, I was delighted! It’s beautiful, and what a setting! Magnificent! And so well-thought-out; ingenious! Paul’s got everything anybody needs to be happy, especially with bringing the outside indoors! Love the window and wicker chair! What a view! Little houses intrigue me and my husband! I can’t wait to have my husband see this posting! Paul’s sharing of his magnificent tiny house and plans is so generous! Here’s to a happy day and happy life for this amazing man! Plus, the photos are fabulous!

    Reply
    • the house is not really large enough for a couple. you could make it larger using the same building techniques. make it 12 ft. wide instead of 10 ft. wide using 2×12 joists. and adding an extra 10×12 bedroom/sitting room with 2 more poles would allow
      people the privacy all relationships require at some time. could include an extra closet if needed.
      thanks for the kind words……….wpm

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  24. Hi Paul -thinking of you w/the Yosemite fire raging and hope you and Pandora and family are o.k. and not smoked out….actually had a dream last night we were in NYC!! fun and weird and……sending all my best wishes your way..
    Patsy Dale Allen (Lowe/Eddy)

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  25. I like the looks of your tiny place but as a builder I very much doubt the strength of the exterior walls. I think you are very lucky they held this long and you would never get a building permission for it because of lack of solidity thus safety. A simple frame of 2″x4″ would make a solid construction costing just 225 euro/300 usd more.

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    • wooden wall framing looses heat. a house with 2×6 framing and r 19 insulation is really rated about r 13. since the posts hold the floor and roof frame there is no structural need for wall framing. the 3 inches of rigid foam insulation plus 1 inch of sheetrock provide plenty of sheer strength. so far the house has lasted 9 years with no problems.

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  26. Paul, this is Annie Kook. I was looking at inspired tiny homes and found your sadhu tiny home! I built one in a oak forest 24×24 and the solitude is wonderful. Nice view! RS

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  27. Nice house Paul. Yesterday my wife asked me who I had named my son after. Of course, I told her ‘my old friends, Paul Mittig and Robert Hunter’. Out of curiosity I tried to find you on the internet and came up with this blog post. Hope you’re well and hope you’ll get in touch with me. I live in Slidell, La. these days and am on facebook.

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    • WELL WELL WELL. A VOICE FROM THE DISTANT PAST. I’M GREAT FOR NEARLY 78. I EARNED MY WAY AS A SELF EMPLOYED CARPENTER – DESIGNER – BUILDER, WHICH I ENJOYED VERY MUCH. NOW THAT I’M RETIRED I PLAY AROUND WITH IMAGES, TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS AND GO HIKING. CHECK OUT MY WEBSITES:

      wpmittig.wordpress.com

      willowcreekviews.wordpress.com

      STAY WELL………….ENJOY………………….PAUL

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  28. WOW! I didn’t realize you’d answered my message, Paul. Was just going through my bookmarked pages today and caught it. That’s beautiful photography on your websites. I didn’t know you were so much older than me. I’m 74. After moving to New Mexico in the 60’s I started making adobe bricks for a living, built an adobe house in Santa Fe and morphed into the construction biz, under the tutelage of the architect who designed the Santa Fe opera….He liked my house. After Carol and Scotty Norberg died I gradually cleaned up my act. It took years to kick drugs and alcohol. I moved back to Ca and got a contractors license, Built a couple of houses and did a lot of remodeling in the Bay Area. Eventually I just made cabinets for rich folks. I retired young. RV’d around the country for a couple of years. Since 2004 I’ve lived in an Acadian cottage just across the lake from New Orleans. Glad you’re still doing well.

    Karl

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  29. I love the idea of having a tiny house in the woods, and someday I’d like to replicate what you have shown on this website. Only I couldn’t find anything on how you get your water, how you dispose of garbage, and how you get electricity. Do you have a car on your site? If so, how do you drive out if it snows?

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