Saturday, November 29, 2014

My (future) tiny home

Last week I made a big step in the direction of tiny. I bought a fifth wheel travel trailer that will eventually become my tiny house. It is rat infested and extremely neglected but it has all the elements to make a great tiny house; a solid frame, propane appliances, and many materials I can recycle or reuse... and it was only $400 which didn't hurt.  Being a guy who has roamed throughout the West for the better part of my life and can hardly even keep house plants. This is a big (tiny) step for me.

Ugly and infested. I am secretly thinking "what did I get myself into"?

So what is a tiny house and why do I want to build one?

Tiny houses are typically houses 200 square feet or less, often built upon flat bed trailers. Though not always. Building them on a trailer allows you to avoid a lot of the building codes that apply to a home built on a foundation. Though this subject can be a little tenuous.

My first endeavor in building a mobile/tiny home.
The tiny house movement spawned in response to the exponential growth in size of the American home. The average American home has gotten larger and larger while the average size of the American family has gotten smaller. We accrue more and more debt in order to maintain this lifestyle. And then there are people like me who are seeking to experience the joy and stability of owning my own home and yet don't need more debt. I have the skill, able hands, a good mind and the desire to create a home that I built and own.

I have lived in small places several times in my life, one of which was a camper I built that went in the back of my truck. I love the challenge of building something creative from recycled materials and the ingenuity that is necessary to make use of every bit of space.

What I have in creativity and ingenuity I lack in geographic stability. Though my job puts me in some of the most stunning landscapes one can imagine I typically move every 5-6 months. While I expect to eventually land a position that keeps me in one place I anticipate bouncing back and forth between two parks for the next couple of years. My long-term goal is to purchase an investment property in the coming years and eventually a piece of property with some good fertile soil to start a small farm. Building my tiny home allows me to start building the home I'd roll up on that piece of ground. In the meantime having the ability to be mobile while having some stability is extremely enticing. It's also just a fact that my personality requires me to have projects like this in my life. Maybe I have a tinge of ADHD.

The start:

The first step is demo and salvage. The entire camper has been infested with pack rats for years so I needed to make it a safe place to work first. I am in the Southwest where Haunta virus and the plague are a real danger so last week I vacuumed out the entire interior, began pulling up all the carpet, and threw away anything not attached to the floor or walls. At first I was thinking I would renovate and add to the camper but after spending some time starring at it it dawned on me....this thing is fucking ugly. And so I decided I will strip the entire camper down to the frame while salvaging as much material as possible. I want to change the entire look. After all this is going to be a tiny house not a camper.

While I still have not settled on a floor plan I do know what I am going for. I have a thing for patinas. I love the way years of weather change old barn wood. I love the way an old trucks paint fades away to rust in the desert, or the way copper changes oxidizes over time. There is so much to be said about the way the rung on a wooden ladder is subtly worn and richens in deep color over a 100 years of use. It is a story.

Needless to say I very much like to re-purpose and salvage these old materials. Not only is it an earth conscious practice, to me, it is preserving a heritage and paying homage to that story. 

Sometime ago I wandered upon a builder online who builds tiny homes with these very same appreciations and principals in mind. His name is Brad Kittel. He is a builder and a tiny house revolutionist I have been following online for several years. Brad owns Tiny Texas Houses ( The innovations they have come up with to offset the many challenges of living in a tiny home are inspiring and will make even the best of you realize that you too can live in a tiny home. Not only that they are absolute works of art and are built from 99% salvaged materials. 

I want to build my tiny home utilizing these ideas, principals, and inspirations.


Later this week it is back to the trailer to continue demo and salvage. This will probably the last of the  work I will be able to do this winter before I leave for Texas.

Until next time my friends... 

-Free Range J        


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