josh holmes

5 Tiny House Design Tips

Are you already planning roadtrips for your future tiny house? Well, listen up kids, because I have a few tiny house design ideas for you! Read on for 5 tips on how to design your tiny home for travel.

1). Think about your overall weight

Seriously, think about it. My tiny house weighs 10,100 pounds when fully loaded with fresh water and my belongings. That’s 4.5 tons! The average tiny house of my size weighs about 8,000 pounds, so my girl is a bit chunky. I won’t go into why she weighs so much (a girl has her reasons), but it’s impossible to put her on a diet now. My trailer axels are rated for 10,400 pounds, so I am cutting it close. That being said, 10-15% my tiny house weight rests on the hitch of my tow vehicle.

If you are building off of a set of reputable plans, be sure to follow the materials list. Or, if you like to live dangerously, at least consider the weight difference between your chosen materials and the materials typically used in tiny house construction. The lighter and smaller the tiny house, the easier and cheaper it will be to tow.

2). Think about your weight distribution

The overall weight of your tiny house design is important, but don’t ignore your weight distribution. Tiny houses tend to be tongue heavy. This is due to the fact that many designs have the loft and kitchen over the tongue. Make sure your tow vehicle can support the overall weight AND tongue weight of your trailer. This is very important. I purchased a weight distribution system, which I suggest doing regardless of your tongue weight. It has helped immensely with towing.

The sweet spot for tongue weight is between 10-15% of your total weight. My tiny house tongue weight is 1500 pounds. Again, cutting it close. For more towing gear, check out the “towing” section of our materials list.

3). Create a space that is easy to secure for travel

Who wants to spend more than 30 minutes setting up every time they park? Not me! I designed my interior to have shelves with ledges, hook & eyes, or bungie cords. All of my belongings can be secured in 30 minutes or less. Consider your light fixtures carefully – will they swing? Hanging plants, sports gear and musical instruments should have clamps or bumpers to prevent damage or spills.

It’s also a good idea to design your tiny house to be both off-grid and on-grid. This will increase your flexibility when finding parking options. For example, because my tiny house design can be off-grid, I parked on Crown Land in Canada and at BLM campsites in the USA.

4). Build within highway restrictions

Make sure your tiny house design does not exceed 13’6″ tall and 8’6″ wide, including fenders, solar panels and chimney pipes. As far as I know, there is no restriction for length. If you build wider or taller you will be forced to get a special permit to tow in many states. Also, you may end up with a convertible tiny house.

Even if you build within the parameters, you still need to keep an eye out for low bridges, wires and branches. I’ve also seen many tiny houses built on very low trailers to increase living space. While this is a great idea, it will make towing more difficult.

5). Attach outdoor lights for night driving

Aside from the standard lights required for towing, I suggest attaching a few mounted solar lights to your tiny house. Not only will this make your home look super cool on the road, it’s a safety factor.

Tiny House Gear

As part of a new series of videos, I will be reviewing “Tiny House Gear and Gadgets.” All of the products featured in this series will be gadgets that I use to enhance my lifestyle.

For my first review, I wanted to share my Tentsile tree tent, which I use as an extra bedroom and as a hammock for my yard. I get so many questions and compliments on this piece of gear. I adore this multi-use product!

Multi-purpose Tree Tent for a Tiny House spare bedroom

Outdoor space is very important when it comes to tiny house living. I use my tree tent as a hammock for relaxing, and as a spare bedroom for visitors. I also take it on camping trips. That means this piece of gear has tree seperate purposes in my life! Don’t you love multi-purpose gear?

Set up and other features

Setting it up is relatively easy, once you get the hang of it. Tentsile has a several videos on their YouTube channel explaining set up, balancing, insulating and other hacks. I actually think setting it up is half the fun. As long as you have trees, you can hang it anywhere! Go high, over water, or on a hillside. It doesn’t matter!

The Tree Tent version that I have is called the “Connect,” and it sleeps two comfortably. I’ve used it in rain storms, and it handled the weather just fine. The Connect packs relatively small, but it wouldn’t be a good choice for backpacking trips. Use the smaller tree tent by Tentsile, called the “Flite,” if you are looking for a lightweight alternative. Tentsile also makes larger tree tents for family camping.

On of my favorite feature is that the tree tent completely unzips, creating an open air hammock. It’s really nice to sleep under the stars when the weather is perfect!

I have to give this product a great review. I absolutely love it. In fact, my tree tent may actually get more compliments than my tiny house!

 

Tiny House Insurance

Here’s the deal: insuring a self-built tiny house is challenging. I’ve struggled. Others have struggled. Insurance companies don’t know how to categorize our strange, rolling homes, let alone insure them for damage and theft.

Luckily, with the popularity of the movement growing, it is becoming easier to find tiny house insurance.

Insuring a Tiny House as an RV

When it comes to tiny house insurance, classification is important. In the past few years, RVIA (or Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) has started classifying tiny homes built by approved manufacturers as “certified RVs.” In the tiny house world, only a few companies are licensed to build RVIA certified tiny homes. The easiest way to determine if a company is certified is to look them up on the RVIA website. If your tiny house is going to be built by a RVIA company, it will be legally categorized as a Recreational Vehicle. Insurance companies understand this classification and it will be easy to secure RV insurance.

But what if you’re not an RVIA approved manufacturer? Well, your tiny home will not be RVIA certified. You can not get an RVIA certification after the fact. The DMV will categorize your tiny house however they please upon registration. For example my tiny house was registered as a “Recreational Trailer” in Illinois and as a “Coach Trailer” in California. These classifications are more difficult to insure.

nsuring a Tiny House as something other than an RV

I have heard of tiny housers finding insurance by categorizing their tiny homes as additional dwelling units, pieces of art, or something else altogether. If you do not intend on traveling with you tiny house, this is a real option because these types of policies are state by state. They will not include travel. 

My Tiny House Insurance

Back in 2014, when I finished my tiny house, I searched for insurance. It was important for me to get a RV policy since I was using my tiny dwelling for travel. I also needed multi-state coverage, which further complicated my search. Every company would either refuse to insure me or quote some absurd number. Eventually I gave up.

For two years, I put my faith in the liability coverage offered through my truck’s policy. My tiny house was insured as a “tow load” when traveling down the road. Once I disconnected my tiny house from my truck, I had no insurance at all.

This summer I decided to take another look. I visited insuremytinyhome.com and applied for coverage. After multiple discussions with Darrell Grenz, my insurance rep, I was able to secure a policy that includes travel. I was thrilled!

Do you want details on my policy? I bet you do! My annual premium is $903, which I pay up front to reduce costs. This might seem expensive, but I do have a beefy insurance policy that includes multi-state travel. Also, I can adjust my policy at any time for a lower rate. I believe the average premium for Tiny Houses through this company is $600.

As with my Tiny House Costs, I’m sharing this personal information because: 1) I think the data should be available and, 2) I want everything to be easier for you than it was for me. Since I just secured this policy, I can’t say whether I’m happy with it or not. I do feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. Check back later for a breakdown of my policy

 

Tiny House In Transition

I wanted to address something a lot of you have already guessed: Guillaume and I parted ways earlier this year. We remain close friends, and we are supporting each other through this transition.

Did the confined space of the tiny house break us up? No. This is just life. It doesn’t always go the way you plan.

So what’s next for Tiny House Giant Journey?

I will be living in the Tiny House, and I’m setting up a little homestead at Mt. Hood Tiny House Village in Oregon. Salies (my dog) is keeping me company. This blog will continue to be updated by me.

2016 has been a year of transition. 2017 holds new adventures.

Travel writing and minimalism are still my passions. They continue to drive me, even when life turns me in another direction. From now on I will NOT be traveling with my Tiny House in tow. Instead, I’m saving more money by parking in one location. I’ve already booked two trips for early 2017: Taiwan and Peru! Expect more travel posts and photos.

Guillaume also has big plans for the future. I won’t spill the beans. When he’s ready, I’ll update you on his projects.

There has definitely been a transition period now that I live alone in my tiny home. I have twice as many chores, and twice as much closet space. For the first time in two years, I can purchase a new pair of shoes without getting rid of something else. There are certain high shelves that sit empty and out of my reach, and that makes me sad and drives me insane at the same time. In an effort to make the space more “me,” I’ve purchased a few girlie, fluffy pillows for the couch, changed a few decorative knobs, and planted a garden.

A Simple DIY Option

This winter, I’m parking in northern Oregon, where the temperatures range between 20°-40°F. When it came time for me to create a Tiny House skirt, I considered several options, including: straw, snow, canvas and foam.

Straw bales are bulky, expensive and weather terribly. Snow is only a temporary skirting option; I used this method last year in Colorado. Canvas skirts are custom made, so they are expensive. Finally I decided the most best choice for my situation was to create a Tiny House skirt using rigid foam.

My Rigid Foam Tiny House Skirt

I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap and easy it was for me to make a rigid foam skirt for my Tiny House. The cost was $72, and total labor time was 6 hours. Below I’ve listed my materials and step by step process.

Materials List

My Tiny House is on a 20 foot trailer with about 16-22 inches of space between the trailer and the ground. A longer trailer, or one higher off the ground, will require more material.

  • 5: Sheets of 1/2″ x 4′ x 8′  Rigid Foam
  • 2: Cans of black spray paint
  • 1: 60 yard roll of black duct tape

Rigid foam is readily available at hardware stores and online. I was able to save money by purchasing some of my foam sheets at Habitat for Humanity. Sheets at Habitat were $1.50 compared to $12.95 at Home Depot. That’s big savings!

Make sure you purchase the rigid insulation. Floppy insulation cannot withstand a windstorm.

How to create this skirt: Step by Step

Step 1: Spray paint your foam boards. This is a personal preference, but I didn’t like the look of silver foam boards. I painted my boards black to match my trailer. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this before attaching them to my trailer. Do as I say, not as I do!

Step 2: Measure the space between your trailer and the ground. The measurements will vary, so continue to check before every cut. Cutting around the wheels is tricky work, so I decided to skip skirting my wheels because my climate isn’t that cold.

tep 3: Cut the board to size. It was easy to cut my 1/2″ boards using a utility knife and a straight edge. I made sure to cut around vents that need to be exposed.

Step 4: Attach the board to your trailer. Using black duct tape, I attached my boards to my trailer and to each other. I buried the bottom of the boards into the ground, or placed rocks in front of them to secure them in place. Sometimes I put a few nails through the foam into the wood trim around my trailer. Use your best judgement to attach the boards as sturdily as you can.

Optional: Add cedar lattice and trim

In order to improve the look, I added cedar lattice and trim in front of my foam skirt. Aside from aesthetics, the lattice does a great job of holding my foam boards in place. Similar to creating the foam skirt, this process entailed measuring and cutting the lattice to size. I used a hand saw and a finish nail gun to attach the lattice and trim around my trailer. As with the foam, I cut around vents and my wheel wells. This additional step cost another $64.

 

Winter In A Tiny House

This is my second winter living in a Tiny House. Last year, I learned a lot, including what NOT to do. Below I’ve listed ten seasonal items that have really saved my butt – and kept it from freezing. If you ask me, that’s a worthwhile investment for future winter Tiny House living!

1). Camco Heated Hose

Last year I didn’t purchase a heated hose because I wasn’t sure my electrical load could handle it. Guillaume and I survived off of our fresh water tank, filling it every two days. I became obsessed with conserving water. Most of the time I showered at the gym, and I used very little water to wash dishes. This year I was happy to receive a sponsored heated hose from Camco. I’m still water conscience, but I love that I no longer have to fill a tank! My 25′ Camco Heated Hose retails for $104.25. I love this hose because it has a built in thermostat, it’s durable and easy to install.

2). Kimberly Wood Stove

Last week I lost power due to a winter storm, but I was lucky enough to have an off-grid heat source. This is why it’s important to have two options for heating in extreme weather: one may fail! To read more about my heating techniques,

3). Self-starting propane water heater

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the main benefits of my water heater is that it will self-start to protect itself from freezing. This is very important, especially if I leave the house unattended for a few days. To read more about my water heater,

4). Propane heat blanket

Last winter my propane tanks became too cold and my water heater was not able to turn on. The pipes inside my water heater froze and it was an expensive fix. Now I don’t have to worry about propane pressure because this heat blanket keeps my tank cozy in cold weather! At $350, it is a pricey gadget but also necessary.

5). Water filter INSIDE my house

I can’t use my RV hose water filter during winter because it will freeze. Instead, I filter my drinking water after it comes in through the faucet with a Britta.

6). Dehumidifier

Humidity is high in the pacific northwest, and moisture control is very important in a tiny space. Usually I leave a few windows cracked to help with ventilation. In winter, I run my dehumidifier for a few hours every day. My wood stove also works as a dehumidifier.

7). Insulated p-traps

The p-traps for my sink and shower are located in the insulated part of my Tiny House. I don’t have to worry about them freezing. To read more about my Tiny House plumbing, click here.

8). RV sewer hose support

This hose support helps my grey water flow downhill to the sewer drain. As long as I run hot water every few days, my sewer hose shouldn’t freeze.

9). Small electric space heater with thermostat

It’s nice to have a heat source running when I’m out of the house all day long. It doesn’t take much to heat the Tiny House in this climate, so any small space heater will do. I’d love to upgrade to one that will sync to my smart phone someday.

Tiny House Relationships

Many of you have followed my journey since the beginning, back when this blog was about achieving a dream: to live tiny with someone else.

Has the dream changed now that I live alone? Do I have regrets about building the tiny house? Is this still the life I want? As I bring in the New Year, I reflect on tiny house relationships and independence.

Let me tell you a story. It’s about wish fulfillment.

When I was a young girl, about 6 or 7 years old, I was asked to make a wish on my birthday. As I leaned over my cake, adorn with lit candles, I thought long and hard about my wish. Most young girls would wish for a pony, a doll or a puppy, but every tangible item that floated into my mind seemed insignificant. I wanted something bigger; something that couldn’t fade or die. I hovered, frozen over my candles, and suddenly a wish came to me.

I exhaled with all my might.

The candles extinguished, but the room was bright.

I’ve made that exact same wish a hundred times since that day. Whenever I toss a penny into a well, see a shooting star, and every year on my birthday. Always the same wish. Never another. Do you want me to reveal my wish? I’ll tell you…

Simple, yes. Yet this wish is everything. Material items and relationships may change. Even tiny house relationships are not exempt. Change is constant, but the choice to be happy will always be mine. 

I spent the majority of 2016 worried I could not live alone in my tiny house. Physically, I didn’t know if I could maintain it. Economically, I wondered if I could afford it. Mentally, I was afraid of associating it with broken dreams. It is especially challenging when I read old articles, such as last year’s New Years post. A lot can happen in a year. 

I’m learning to live tiny all over again.

There are moments when I am frustrated with living alone in this space. These instances happen when something breaks, a loud noise frightens me, or when I’m lonely. But then I remind myself of my wish and I work towards making it come true.

Every day the atmosphere inside my tiny house replaces itself. Today it’s stuffy, but tomorrow it may feel like a hug. I find comfort in that. The more I live alone in this space, the more I find it hard to believe I ever shared it with someone else. I continue to be impressed with my ability to adapt. 

The reason I’m sharing this with all of you is because I get a lot of questions about tiny house relationships. I believe it takes a special kind of person to live tiny with someone else, but it is possible. There are no guarantees, but living tiny and love have one thing in common: they both require you to throw caution to the wind. 

Top 5 Secrets Of Tiny House Living

There is no easy way to put this. Are you sitting down? No? Have a seat then. You may find the residue of your own romantic notions spraying your direction as I carefully, yet accurately burst a bubble.

What bubble you ask? The bubble that suggests living in a tiny house is a painless, simple, carefree, existence. It simply is not. Living in a tiny house (no matter how subtly you think you are making the transition) is and adjustment. It requires a little finesse and a lot of bourbon tolerance. Below are the top 5 secrets to tiny living that may help a bit with perspective so you can move into your diminutive dreams more successfully!

SHOWER STALLS ARE SMALL  I am not a big man. At just 6′ tall and weighing about *garble garble garble* or so, I don’t need to take a shower in a Scandanavian bath chamber. In fact, several years back I remember thinking how ingenious tiny houses bathrooms were and how beautiful the showers could be with their massage heads and stainless steel accents. We would go to an RV show and I would marvel at how I could pretend to wash my hair without hitting my elbows. Truth is, I wanted the shower stalls to work, so I would tuck my wings a bit more and I never practiced dropping the loofah or having to stand at the back while waiting for the water to get warm!

WINDOWS ARE TO THE WORLD…AND BACK  Those very same oversized windows that allow in natural light and give you a picturesque view during the daytime, are also the ones that stare back at you at night while you gaze cautiously out into the world. Your neighbors (or lurkers) peer into your life as if watching their favorite soap opera on a large screen TV. No matter if you have shades or blinds as the shadows of your silhouette framed by the task light LEDs gives an even more curious picture show! And never-your-mind the rainy days. Oh to stand in front of those windows and look out at the saturation and seemingly un-passable deluge happening just feet away.

NOT ALL SINKS DO DOUBLE DUTY AS DOG BOWLS  I have long been skeptical of those miniature sinks that adorn tiny houses. How does one do anything in them? To wash a plate do you have to understand advanced geometry and topology? What about a mixing bowl? Does a mixing bowl require a trip to the outside spigot or the shower stall? Images from the past 5 years would lead one to believe that a tiny house must have a less than standard size sink so as to keep tiny in proportion.