Today I put a deposit on a trailer for my tiny house, making it the first significant expense I’ve made and one that I would have a hard time turning back on. In other words, “it’s on”. In this post, I want to share a little bit about what my goal for this project is, how I’m going to achieve that, and the challenges that I’m anticipating. I hope this will be useful to future tiny homers and also help generate some support for this project and the tiny house movement in Manhattan, KS!
My motivation is not unlike the many thousands of others who have or are looking to build a tiny house. I want freedom, simplicity, sustainability, and something to call my own. I am also in a position right now where I don’t want and can’t afford to buy a big, traditional house and don’t want to keep throwing my money away in the rental market. The tiny house option is, by far, the most sensible option.
I’m building a ‘hOMe‘: a 28ft x 8.5ft RV style home on a trailer (208 sq ft). The house was designed by Andrew and Gabriella Morrison at tinyhousebuild.com. I bought the plans for $300, which are basically an idiots guide to building a tiny house (i.e., perfect for me). With the help of my wonderful new friend Julia Day and my cousin Sean Martinelli, I will be making some modifications to make it more open and accommodating for hosting. A version of this is below and more pics can be found in the gallery at tinyhousebuild.com
My long term goal is to be off grid. For the short term, I plan to have the following features:
- Propane cooking and heating stoves
- Hybrid water system (i.e., on-board water tank and also hookups for city water)
- Composting toilet
- On-grid electric (with the intent on going solar in the next few years)
Savings and loans. I will be funding the house through some of my savings and also a tiny house loan through LightStream. With my excellent credit, I got a 4% interest rate on a 3 year loan to build a house. Pretty much the best you can get (the lowest from other online lenders was around 10%), unless you borrow from family or get a 0% credit card and put everything on that. I’m not about to do that, though, because the 0% interest rate would run out before I paid off the principal.
Sponsors. I am also looking for local businesses to sponsor this project. In return, I offer publicity and advertising through my blog and social media channels, on which I will document this project. I also have expertise in coaching football, health and fitness, writing (grants, scientific, research papers), and could probably give guitar lessons to a beginner. If interested in being a sponsor, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations. Lastly, I am seeking donations. The time and effort invested in documenting this project and advocating for tiny house-friendly zoning laws and codes is substantial. If you have a vested interest in seeing these projects be successful, I encourage you to make a donation to support this effort!
Land. The support I’ve received so far has been astonishing, and I haven’t even hammered in a single nail yet. First, Jess and Gabe Kerr, some friends in town, have offered to let me build a tiny house in their backyard. There’s a nice concrete patio upon which I will build, and is fairly well hidden from public view so as to avoid an unsightly construction site and keep noise at a minimum.
I still don’t know where I’m going to put it after I build it, but I have some things in the works (see challenges below). My first location was essentially shot down, as I wanted to live in a friend’s backyard in town and zoning laws do not permit living in an RV in this zone. If you have a place for me to put my house for a year, you should let me know.
Tools. I don’t own many tools, but I’ve had several friends offer to loan me some of theirs, including my great friend Brady Atkinson, who actually used to be a master carpenter and knows his stuff. I also told my students about the project and had several students indicate their interest in helping out, including Braden Schmidtt.
Expertise. I will be relying mostly on the tutorials provided by Andrew and Gabriella Morrison and tinyhousebuild.com, but also some friends who have much more experience that I do in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. I anticipate I will need significant help once I get to the plumbing and electrical phases, although many say that this is not as intimidating as it appears.
Housing. I am moving out of my rental at the end of May and, during this build, I will be living with my friends Peter and Yasmine Gavigan who have graciously offered me and my dog their finished basement for a few months.
Supplies. I will be sourcing as many materials as possible through craigslist and word of mouth. I hope to use as many reclaimed materials as possible without sacrificing quality. I especially want reclaimed boards for the interior flooring and walls.
I anticipate several challenges, the most significant ones being time and zoning…
Time. I am a professor at a university. I will be working on research projects all summer, which will cut into my build time. Also, classes begin in August and I have set a deadline for my tiny house project to be completed by the time classes start. I will be getting my trailer in early to mid May, which gives my roughly 3 months to build this house. This is an extremely tight window but, with the right help, I believe this is doable.
Zoning. I met with the city officials in Manhattan yesterday and had what I believe was an extremely productive meeting. They were extremely supportive of the project and solutions-oriented. Nonetheless, zoning laws in the city of Manhattan do not support living in an RV (not without taking significant risk of fines or simply being asked to move). The good news is that the city is about to begin a major update of the zoning and code laws and have invited me and anyone else interested in the tiny house movement to participate in that process to see that room is made for tiny living options. This, I think, will be an interesting process.
In the meantime, I am looking for land to put my house on once it’s built. Options right now are to live in a nice RV campground on the lake up the road, but would be expensive. Another, more likely option is to buy a small piece of land outside of town and live there to avoid city zoning laws.
In the next few weeks I’ll be gathering supplies, watching tutorials, and looking for a cheap pickup truck that I can use during the build.
If you’re interested in the project and want to be involved, have advice or ideas, feel free to contact me by entering your info below! Or follow me on this blog, Facebook (Brandon Irwin), YouTube (brandonirwin8), or Instagram (EarthToBrandon).
Lastly, the time and effort invested in documenting this project and advocating for tiny house-friendly zoning laws and codes is substantial. If you have a vested interest in seeing these projects be successful, I encourage you to make a donation to support this effort!