Books & Resources

Books and e-Books and YouTube videos have taught me everything I’ve learned so far about building. For reference and inspiration, I turn to this small library again and again. I compare methods and find creative solutions and ideas. There are millions of ways to crack an egg, and when I feel overwhelmed by choices I find it easiest to just copy what has already worked for someone else. While I am not typically an advocate for painting inside the lines, I do see the wisdom in learning the typical methods first.

Nothing can outline prescribed and trusted methods like a textbook.

carpentry and building book I found this book at an antique store. You can also find it used for about $4 on Amazon. This is the most detailed resource I am using. The chapters on framing are overly detailed for my needs and provide plenty of context and explanation for why everything is done a certain way. Getting a broader sense of all that is involved in building a house gives me a sense of confidence that my goals are – in comparison – extremely reasonable and reachable.

humble homes bookThis book is in the style of handmade punk zines. The hand-drawn structures overflow with inspiring ideas. And it’s fun to look at. Derek Diedricksen or “Deek,” strikes me as the kind of guy I would be great friends with if time and location were differently aligned. Deek advocates using recycled materials whenever possible – and when I say “recycled” I mean items pulled directly from the trash. I mean the best and most direct version of recycling. This book has provided me with new ideas and entertaining pictures. Deek’s voice is an important one to hear – to paraphrase the gist of the message that I got: “quit worrying and put some screws into some wood.”

book tiny homes simpleThis book is worth the price for the pictures. If you are planning to become an owner-builder, then these photos and stories will go far to assuage your fears and assure you that you are in good company. This is another book in the “inspiration & ideas” category. It is also yet more assurance that my current plans are doable – plain and simple. After reading this book, it seems clear to me that somewhere in my future is a portable chainsaw mill.

book_lamar_alexanderI bought this e-book for $7. If you want to build a 14’x14′ cabin in the simplest way possible, then you will not be disappointed. LaMar Alexander spent $2,000 on lumber to build his cabin, and others who have purchased his book have used it to make their own homes. His building method is not typical “platform framing,” like I am using, and also what most “stick built” homes in the USA are using. LaMar uses deck blocks for the foundation, and installs pressure treated 4×4 wooden posts vertically in the cutouts on the blocks. He attaches 2″x6″x14′ joists to the band boards at either end, and makes this raised subfloor level by attaching it to the vertical posts in a level position. It’s probably much easier than what I’m doing. File this under “inspiration.” LaMar built the entire cabin without any assistance – even installing the rafters by himself.

dan_loucheDan Louche, author of this book, built his first tiny house in 2009. His houses aren’t wacky, and there isn’t any perceived need to save money. This book is a straightforward overview of the step-by-step how-to’s for building a house – which happens to be tiny and on a trailer. There are many ways to build a house on a trailer, and this book focuses on one: his. This is an excellent quick reference, but it will leave the total novice with plenty of questions. But the book isn’t meant to be a thick all-encompassing single resource. This was one of the first guides that I purchased, and it gave me enough information to get a feel for what I was getting into and some expanded language so I could phrase my questions correctly for more in-depth research. If you know nothing about building a tiny house – and you want to build one – this book will make you feel much more comfortable, and it will do so quickly.

harwood_podcastI spent many hours watching this young man, Cameron Harris, from the “Harwood Podcast Network” explain how to design houses in Google Sketchup. This excellent video series is free on YouTube, and is a great way to become familiar with the tools inside the program and understand how the program “thinks.” These videos answer all of the basic questions and allow you to communicate better with the models that your are making. Learning by example and following these videos made creating 3D models much easier. Highly recommended.

shaferThis is the book that I read when I decided “this is it… I’m going to do this.” The author, Jay Shafer, is widely credited with starting the “tiny house movement.” He built that little house on the trailer on the cover of his book, and he started the Tumbleweed tiny house company to sell plans and complete houses.

Jay is an articulate advocate for reasonable living, and in this book he explores the “how” and “why” of living in a tiny house. He also examines zoning regulations, building codes, and ordinances – and why history has tended to make tiny house living such a legal challenge. Jay also shows examples of where tiny houses are working well and why. He explains some strategies for getting over the hurdles – mental and legal – preventing reasonable people from making reasonable choices.

My own tiny house design began as a kind of knockoff of Jay’s “Epu” house model. Other than the footprint size – 8’x12′ – my design has strayed from his in several major ways (no trailer, open loft, much taller…). But the Epu is the house that generated so much widespread interest in tiny houses, and if not for Jay Shafer and his Epu, I’d probably be improving the inside of my van for better living, and Kristin would have left me. Living in a van is awesome and affordable, but doing anything without Kristin is the abysmal loser of all options.

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