Looks can be deceiving! Some tiny houses are built on wheels, and legally qualify as recreational vehicles. Towing them at nine miles per gallon isn’t the way to reduce carbon emissions, yet most tinies don’t travel much. Instead, they settle on properties where it’s otherwise illegal to construct small and permanent places.
These tinies offer attractive living opportunities. They may function as home offices, hobby locations, small businesses or vacation getaways. Others are used as part-time places for family members or (when permitted) full-time secondary dwelling units. Many people envision eco-travel villages, since they look like mini-cabins.
Tiny house RVs are getting their days in the sun. Mostly under 200 square feet, it takes 11 tinies to equal the square footage in an average American home! They naturally consume fewer resources to construct or live in.
Raising the walls
Typical tinies on wheels are stick-built, much like traditional cottages. They sit on trailer foundations, tied down to withstand forces of the road. Think about tornadoes and earthquakes, and you’ll understand why any tiny house is a construction marvel.
Art Cormier’s home (video tour) is different, as he used structural insulated panels (SIPs) to lighten the structure and to build/insulate in one step. Art also sheathed the home in reclaimed 100+ year old Cypress wood from an old building, which is naturally rot and insect repellent.
Insulation is a hot and cold topic. Professionals tend to use materials that off-gas but work well for the long term, and there are choices such as spray foam, fiberglass, rigid foam board, SIPs, sheep wool, stone wool, spray cellulose or even blue jeans. Your R-values, or insulation levels, may vary.
Enjoying the build
Making the place livable means answering questions: Live on-grid or off-grid? Seek a cook-top, oven, fridge or other appliance? Want longer showers? Prefer a flush or composting toilet? Heat with a stove, small electrical unit or ductless system? Install air conditioning? Sleep downstairs and/or in a loft? Crave stairs?
Tiny houses often reveal design choices which become affordable on a small scale. We have seen modern exteriors and huge windows, coupled with sleek urbane interiors. Stainless steel or butcher block looks even better in tiny counters. Hand-built Japanese or barn-type sliding doors become tiny house focal points. One old wine barrel transforms into a mini-tub with ease. It’s all been done.
Reaping the benefits
Anyone living in a tiny house will conserve energy. Tiny housers get thrilled about low utility costs, whether it’s from electricity, gas, water or sewage. In four-season temperate climates, heating could cost a dollar or two a day. It’s nearly a carbon-neutral proposition.
Perhaps the largest savings come after tiny houses settle down, near access to existing utilities. That happens when occupants reside on their own properties, park and pay rent to other homeowners, or get welcomed into trailer parks. We have heard of a couple hundred per month payments — an enormous savings versus home or apartment rental rates in more populated areas.
Another way to make money with tiny houses is to offer them to paying guests! Start by booking one of these eco-friendly tinies: Tumbleweeds in Olympia (WA) or Sonoma (CA); Wheelhaus cabins in Jackson Hole (WY); and Hobbitats, sans wheels, in Deep Creek Lake (MD).