I wrote a book about Tiny House Mistakes while I was on Paternal Leave (Also, I've had a baby. :D).
I see a lot of Tiny House books full of pictures. They're inspirational, but not very informative. There are a lot of resources telling you how to build, and they're wonderful! But there's no book telling folks what goes wrong, and I've seen some doozies out there...
Tiny Houses tend to be a DIY adventure. I thought it would be useful to folks to have a big list of "Don't Do That!"s.
If you see a grievous error, please let me know. I want to save people time and money, not confuse them.
Yes, I do beg for money in the introduction. Hey, a fellow's got bills, yo.
Oh, the formatting on the Epub file miiiight be terrible. I'm still testing that.
This post was originally published on Lina's blog This Is The Little Life on Friday, April 8, 2016. It's been cross-posted here for your reading and commenting pleasure. Enjoy!
It’s always fun for me to ask people at a tiny house workshop (like our recent Tiny House 101 Workshop in DC) or events (like theTiny House Conference last weekend) whether they are interested in living in a Tiny House Community someday. Typically, about half of them enthusiastically agree. And when I ask those folks if they’re pretty sure they invented the concept of tiny house communities, most of them nod and laugh.
Yeah, me, too. For years I was certain I invented the idea of tiny house community. And I’ll admit I was downright proud of myself for this particular invention. I come up with wild ideas all day long, but this one was a brilliant idea.
For tiny house lovers, the only thing better than a tiny house is putting a bunch of them together!
Simply Home Community, the tiny cohousing community I live in, has been a twinkle in my eye for a decade. You can read all about my initial concept in Lina’s Vision for Tiny Cohousing and learn more about My Journey to Cohousing.
When Lee Pera and I spoke at the Tiny House Jamboree in 2015, we bantered about which one of us invented the concept of a tiny house community. In the end, we decided we both invented the idea independently. Although I may have come up with the idea before she did, Lee’s tiny house community, Boneyard Studios, was created first. The Boneyard folks became my heros the moment I realized they were actually doing it!
If we focus just on tiny houses on wheels, Boneyard Studios may have been the first tiny house community. And Simply Home Community is the only tiny cohousing community we know of. But we certainly weren’t the only ones to create tiny house community. If we include recreational vehicle parks, canal boat communities, liveaboards in the marina, wagon trains, tipis, yurts, and many other collections of small, portable dwellings, it becomes evident that community-minded nomads throughout time and all over the world have located their little homes close to each other so they can share food, time, energy, materials, and fun.
Still, I think it’s okay for all of us to be proud of inventing the idea. It is a great idea. And there are many more tiny house communities still to be created. So let’s not worry about who invented the tiny house community concept. Instead, let’s high-five about how great minds think alike and then get on with the important work of creating more fabulous communities!
I’ve now had the pleasure of Visiting Orlando Lakefront Tiny House and RV Park, where my pal James Taylor lives. They have begun welcoming tiny houses into a 1950s RV park. Earlier this week on my Tiny Tours near Asheville, I visited High Cove, an intentional community that intends to add tiny houses on wheels. And I keep hearing of others that are working on similar projects. You can find a list of tiny house communities atTinyHouseCommunity.com. If you know of anyone else who is inventing tiny house community, please tell us about it in the comments!
The electrical work on a Tiny build is something that a lot of people have the most fear over. I had no fear, so I thought I’d detail my electrical build in the hopes that it would help some folks.
I am NOT an electrician, so standard DIY “Don’t blame me!” rules apply here. :D
In general you can stick to some basic rules and you’ll be fine. Those rules are:
Ok, on to my setup.
I planned for only 120V service to my house and throughout my house.
I used a marine grade RV electrical inlet on the outside of my house.
I used 10g wire to run the connection from the outlet to a 2 breaker panel inside the house. I actually think I should have used 8g wire here, as this wire needs to be able to carry current for the whole house. On the other hand, most Tiny Houses have 30A or less service, so it’s probably fine anyway. See the table below.
I used two circuit breakers, a 15A for the “dry” side of my house (living room and loft) and a 20A for the “wet” side of my house.
It’s generally recommended to have higher amperage in kitchens because appliances take a bit of power. I was also running my 120V 4.5 gal hot water heater off that circuit.
From there, I ran 12 gauge wire throughout the house. In general it’s safe to use 12g wire on 20A circuits and 14g wire on 15A circuits. I just ran 12g through the whole thing… Which was mildly terrible, thicker wire is a pain to work with.
I ran my wire at hip height in the wall, because it was convenient to use my hip to push the drill through the studs. :D As far as I know there’s no specific height requirement.
The first outlet on the 20A circuit was a GFCI outlet. All the “downstream” outlets were attached to the “load” terminals of the GFCI outlet.
The living room and loft areas were on the 15A circuit and there were only two minor complications.
The first was running the wire over the door. I left enough room above the door in my framing plan, so that went smoothly.
The second was that I wanted to control the main light from two switches, one by the door and one up in the loft… I didn’t want to climb my ladder in the dark.
For that I simply wired a two way switch using NMB/3 14g wire. There are many online tutorials to explain a two way switch, so I won't do it here. :D This required a lot of junctions and was a Pain to squeeze everything back in the box.
That was really it.
When planning your house, look at your large appliances and see how much power you’re going to pull. The basic formula you’ll need is Power(in Watts, W) = Voltage (120V usually) * Current (in Amps, A).
For example, I had a heater at 1500W, and my electric water heater at 1500W. That’s 3000W, which will pull 25A. If I plugged this into a 15A regular outside house outlet on a regular house… I’m going to pop the breaker inside the house whenever I’m running my heater full bore on a cold day and I try to take a shower… But if I’m plugged into a 30A service (All of our Tiny Houses are on 30A here at SHC for just this reason.) I’ll be fine. I probably also shouldn’t plug my heater into the “wet” side of my house as 12g wire is really only rated for 20A.
Wire size Amperage Recommended Power load (not max)
10g 30 2880
12g 20 1920
14g 15 1440
Don't kill yourself! :D
We've been busy setting up our garden so that we can fuel our community dinners and tiny house get togethers.
Over the past few weeks we've made changes to our gardening plan that has really helped meet the needs of our community members. Instead of a large community garden plot that required tons of maintenance and delegating by Karin, our master garden Bashi, we've right-sized the usable space according to 'need', so that everyone has enough space to garden and grow what they are inspired to grow. Of course, we still have community space and will be sharing most of the bounty, but we've made a plan that works for all of us. One of the aspects of community I love is working together to manifest cool things, like lots of fruits and veggies!
Recent happenings in the garden:
Isha wants to grow an excess of tomatoes and cucumbers for pickling and canning in the far beds and Jake wants to try his hand growing yummy, but difficult to grow brussel sprouts in the foreground:
Lina wants tomato trees that grow tall in the big blue buckets. Lindsey also wants to grow a tomato plant or two in this general area.
Karin loves her squash and found a good home for them in this bed.
In November we celebrated Simply Home Community's One Year Anniversary. It was, as you might imagine, quite the party. There are sooo many things we've accomplished over the past year. And sooo many projects still on our Projects List.
But, we've got to say that after talking for most of the last year and a half about creating a website, it's pretty darn cool that as of today, we've finally done it!
Now you can explore our website to learn more about the very first tiny cohousing community in the universe (at least as far as we know!)
Check out Our Homes to see photos and videos of The Big House, The Lucky Penny, Serenity, and The Rustic.
We've made it easier than ever to come visit us on a Tour. Now you can sign up for a Tiny House Community Tour over the next few months. Or if those dates don't work you can sign up for a Personalized Serenity Tour, Personalized Lucky Penny Tour, or Personalized Infrastructure Tour.
And if you want to learn more about the invisible structures that make our community tick, please explore How We Live to learn about Good Eatin', Work & Play, and Meetin' Time.
If you have questions check out our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the answers. And if you still have a question, please be sure to Contact Us.
Simply Home Community