I’m leaving Philadelphia, leaving my job, and building an 8’x12′ tiny house for me; my girlfriend, Kristin; and her tiny dog, Daisy. It’s going on my folks’ property out in the suburbs – tucked in beside the woods, in a shady little spot, and out of everyone’s face.
I’ve built several shelving units before – and a guitar case once, which I was proud of. Other than that, I don’t have carpentry experience. I can borrow almost all of the tools I will need from my brother-in-law, Karl, who is storing them at my parents’ house since he and my sister had a baby, and from my folks who watch HGTV and have a good selection of power tools themselves.
There are a lot of people building tiny houses on trailers. I thought that was a great idea, and maybe I would do that too. Then I found out that even a well-used tandem axle 7’x16′ trailer is about $1,500. Was I going to drive all over the USA with a house on a trailer? No. Hopefully I would never have to do that. Goodbye trailer, hello deck blocks.
I bought six deck blocks and widened the channels to fit 4″x6″x12′ pressure treated beams. Skids, as they call them. That was way cheaper, and if I ever need to move the house, I can hire someone. Or I can leave it right where it’s being built.
I don’t know what my budget is. Actually, sure I do. About $7,000. But I also just quit my job as a bicycle mechanic, and some of that money can’t get spent because I have to buy a couple thousand dollars worth of bicycle parts at a swap meet so I can sell them for more on eBay. Money is uncertain, but I do have some of it, and I’ll be getting more here and there.
So, a trailer is out. Anything fancy is out. If I can make something instead of buying it, then boom: I’ll do that. I’m learning all about “stick frame” building, professionally and specifically known as “platform framing.” I bought some books. I’m making a 3-D model of my plans using Google Sketchup, because I can’t draw for shit. I have time and books. I have a brother-in-law who has built a lot of houses, and my girlfriend’s father is also a D.I.Y. power player with the willingness to help. I’ll be doing mostly everything, because I want to learn all of these new skills, and that’s what I got all the books for.
My parents are being really good about this. I’m stringing them along by talking about how I’m thinking about going back to college. (And, in truth, I imagine I will – but I’m 30, and it’s a slow road.) The notion of permits and zoning and code has come up. I dismiss these queries and claim I’ll deal with whatever comes up, while enumerating the reasons why I expect smooth sailing: Nearly every other house on the street has a shed in the backyard that is larger than the house I will be building. We’ll be tucked right beside a private bit of wooded area, and out of view of all but one other house. (They’re nice people, our building site is far away from them, and we’re not even super visible.)
My parents have the last house in a cul-de-sac. My tiny house will not be visible from the road, and will be set back a good comfortable distance from the big house. In my mind, this will make us neighbors. We will visit often, but everybody gets their personal space. I’m living in the big house while the small one is being worked on, and even that has been a pleasant experience thus far.
I will be writing and posting pictures here about all aspects of the building process beginning with tacit approval and ending with… hopefully… a beautiful new home where I can live happily – at least for a time – and with the intention of working on projects and saving money.