Tiny House – One month in: What it’s really like living in less than 300 square feet and taking care of your own poop.

Welp, it has officially been a little over a month (1 month and 8 days) and I have to say, I don’t love it.

Oh wait, I ABSOLUTELY love it!

With all the things about living in this space that I expected and even the things I didn’t really see coming, I love it more than I thought I would.

There are definitely things I expected…

Like I can’t leave crap laying around….at all. Two things quickly become a mountain that blocks a window making it necessary to put clothes, shoes, groceries, mail, etc., away immediately when I get home. I mean, I already did that before I moved in…

I expected that my toilet would be a 5 gallon Lowe’s bucket.

I expected that I would really like having my closet in the bathroom so when I get out of the shower (which is like standing under a searing firehose of awesomeness), I’d have my clothes ready to go.

I expected that I’d be so thrilled at having a gas stove, the kitchen designed with all the things I need right at hand, miles of counterspace, and a ridiculously cool sink, that just reheating leftovers would inspire tears of joy.

And then what I didn’t see coming…

I didn’t expect that a 5 minute shower would overflow the drain bucket outside making the ground muddy around the bucket. Emptying it is a tricky endeavor in your clean clothes and newly-scrubbed self.

I didn’t expect that I’d be nervous using my toilet for…..big jobs. At one point I really had to go but I chickened out and went to Target instead. I have since mustered up the courage to just do it and it wasn’t the crisis situation I thought it would be.

I didn’t expect that propane would be $4.54/gallon, but my 5 gallon tank has lasted 1 month and 8 days and still going strong. I’d say that was $23 well spent.

I didn’t expect that my downsizing efforts wouldn’t be sufficient. I still have several boxes I haven’t brought in to the house and I’m thinking they’ll end up donated.

Here are some pictures of “real life” I took yesterday:

Countertops. Good for washing dishes, prepping food…..and the turkey is brining in that bucket on the floor…

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Bathroom vanity still doesn’t have the front piece.  I’ll get around to it eventually…

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One of my favorite places to sit…read cooking magazines and do crossword puzzles…

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It was sunny yesterday so it was a good time to do laundry…

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The drain bucket for the shower…

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that gets emptied on the garden…

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…and the compost bin

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The only books I can keep for now…

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and the shoe storage! which turned out SUPER cool and totally works!

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And the couch, post-straightening. It cleans up pretty well, right?

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AND the ACTUAL retail price IS…..

…. $30,206.38.

Earlier on in this process I posted my budget for this tiny house construction project. As I’ve gone along I keep updating what I actually spend and monitor where I thought I’d be to where I actually landed.

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Here is a high-level breakdown:

Totals Budget Actual % +/-
Total House  $  27,996.07  $    30,206.38 -8%
Structure  $  17,411.17  $    20,873.08 -20%
Kitchen  $    2,688.57  $          582.62 78%
Bathroom  $    2,792.50  $          668.01 76%
Fixtures  $    1,773.78  $      1,018.45 43%
Deck  $        330.05  $          287.99 13%
Contingency  $    3,000.00  $      6,776.23 -126%

I’m actually pretty pleased with only being 8% over and never having done this before! Don’t let what looks like a lot of savings in the Kitchen and Bathroom fool you…a lot of those costs are in the Contingency.

So. What have I learned?

My mentor was right: construction projects always take more time and cost more than you plan. It’s annoying, but true.

 Total construction time = 14 months (planned for 12 months)

Total cost = about $30K (planned about $28K)

If this was a project that I had for work and you were sitting with me at my desk, you might hear my boss ask, “Why is this project overbudget?”

Let’s look at the list…

Mostly this is due to things I didn’t budget for. It’s probably a function of never doing this before and not having any idea what to expect, but in all, there are about $7,200 of costs that weren’t in the original budget.

Things like:

Tools  $          807.00
Electric install  $       1,600.00
Plumbing install  $          800.00
Water Line  $             75.00
Tool rentals  $          245.00
Food for helpers  $          100.00
Trailer pickup  $          421.00
Misc Building supplies  $       3,161.00
TOTAL  $       7,209.00

If I had put all those things in the original budget, I’d be 14% under budget. UNDER! I like that concept…it feels like winning. But anyway.

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A few items I purchased because I thought they looked awesome (like a shower drain or sink drain) and neither one I could use…they were the wrong thing. There is apparently a difference in stuff like that and you have to be specific. This is stuff you learn when you hire someone who knows what they’re doing to install technical things. In my defense, they still look awesome.

Some things I could have gone cheaper (like closet rods or shelves), but I liked the look of the galvanized pipe so much I just went with it. It’s quite a bit more expensive to go that route.

More expensive than plan:

Spray-in Insulation

Cabinet hardware

All things having to do with solar power

LESS expensive than plan:

Homemade light fixtures

Vinyl flooring

Reselling tools I won’t use again

Reselling left over materials

In looking at this budget, I’d estimate there are probably $500 or so of costs that aren’t represented. Random trips to Lowe’s, trim board, building furniture, etc… it adds up!

 

Tiny House – Finishing all the things

Oh boy… the last few weeks have been crazy, stressful…and I’m at a loss to describe it. I just need a nap for a few days.

Why all the crazy? Because I needed to be moved in to the tiny house by last Saturday. So yes, technically I’m moved in and sleeping in my awesome loft! Unfortunately, the finish plumbing isn’t done, I’m surrounded by piles and piles of boxes, and the solar doesn’t want to work. Basically, I’m camping in a box with windows and candles.

So that’s why I haven’t been updating the blog and the next pictures will be a mishmash of unrelated things.

You’re welcome.

Lights…

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Bathroom door…

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Water line…

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Cabinets WITH doors…

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Shoe storage…

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Bathroom vanity….that I decided to paint blue…

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Shower rod…and the only fixtures that are in…

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Kitchen…

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Closet Drawers…

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And the tiny house move-in process…

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So, so crazy.

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Make-It-Your-Dang-Self Light Fixtures

Saturday morning I spent 4 hours making light fixtures. This didn’t include all the time spent beforehand researching design blogs, how-to websites, Pinterest, and Youtube.

I came to the conclusion I needed to make these things when I initially priced light fixtures. Goodness. It is possible to buy them for about $7 a piece at Lowes. But they look weird. As in, circa 1982 weird. Those that are marginally cool will run anywhere between $35-$50 and depending on how trendy or elaborate, the sky is the limit.

So. What do I do about my 10 light fixtures? Yes, 10. Eight wall sconces, one main room ceiling light fixture, and one porch light. What can I say, I didn’t want to live in a dungeon.

Seeing as how I was looking at a $500 price tag (at least) for just light fixtures, I decided it was a good idea to look in to alternatives. I found a bevy of blogs on how to make them…there were all kinds of clever ideas using galvanized pipe and found parts.

Since galvanized pipe is a theme in my house, I decided that will definitely make an appearance.

So here is a breakdown of what I needed:

  • twisted wire (vintage look and just cool)
  • sockets
  • strain reliefs (apparently this is a thing)
  • mason jars (12oz Kerr jars…already had these on hand; spray painted the lids bronze)
  • light cages (spray painted with bronze)
  • scrap wood (for the back piece of the homemade sconces)
  • bulbs (edison bulbs, of course. what is the point of seeing the bulbs if they aren’t cool)
  • Main Room ceiling light (I wanted something amazing, so I decided to turn an antique tin ceiling tile into a light fixture…got that on the Electronic Bay for $25!)
  • Wall Lights that were waterproof for Bathroom (not that I’ll be hosing them off, but I needed something that is good for wet environments)
  • Porch Light that was ok if it got rained on

For the Porch Light and Bathroom Lights, I decided to buy them. They absolutely have to be rated for wet environments and I can’t make anything like that, so off to Lowe’s I went. I went with a semi-nautical theme for those (they are also the :

 

For the other fixtures, I went online to Vintage Wire and Supply for the sockets, strain reliefs, and twisted wire: http://www.vintagewireandsupply.com.

The process of cutting wire, stripping wire, and attaching all the things took a while….

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I had to google “How to wire a light socket”….

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Strain relief…

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Oliver helping…

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Cages with pipe…those will be attached to blocks of wood for support.

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It’s tough being a supervisor.

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Tiny House – Cabinets and Doors

Saturday. 7am. Prime working hours, especially when the forecast is up near 100 degrees.

Per my electrician, I needed to get a cabinet built around all the solar equipment ASAP. For a few months now I’ve had the inverter, batteries, and switch things all sitting on a platform and covered with a tarp. It’s waterproof and out of direct sunlight so it’s not high on the priority list.

But it’s been long enough. Time to put the sides on…

 

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Thankfully, I had quite a bit of left over plywood so I cut up scraps to make the walls.

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Then finished with leftover siding…the roof isn’t totally done yet, but it’s vented (important when you have batteries involved) and sturdy! AND this only took me 1.5 hours. I think because it’s so small, but I’ll take it 🙂

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The solar panels were next. They’ve been hiding in a shed for a while…

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I designed the frame to tilt up and allow for the panels to be bolted to it. Unfortunately my pre-drilled holes didn’t really match up, so I had to re-drill them. Also, spiders love to hide in the pre-drilled holes and it’s gross when they squish.

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Eventually, I’ll have supports that bolt to the frame as opposed to an extra piece of trim I had laying around…

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Then the barn door. Because I decided to bolt a pipe ladder to it, I thought maybe I needed more than one-board thickness. So I attached another layer of boards to the back of what you see. The result is this thing is stinking heavy. The track took a little finagling to get it level and then it was a workout getting the thing bolted in all the way. BUT IT’S LEVEL!

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And it opens! Although the planks are a tad off-square so I’m still deciding if it bugs me enough to take it down and fix it.

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Oh yeah, and the front door hardware is finished. AND it closes. At first it didn’t and I had to chisel the opening for the dead bolt and the latch.

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Then it was on to finishing out the bathroom vanity. So far the day had gone great so I had no reason to believe this would be any different. I put the sides in. I even trimmed it out. It looked pretty neat if I do say so myself.

But.

When I went to put in the drawer (that took me almost an hour to make), the opening was 1/4″ too small.

At this point I’d worked for 9 hours, it was 99 degrees, and I was over it.

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The next day I came back to try to fix the 1/4″ nonsense. When I moved the boards, this happened…

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If you ever think that painting wood with drywall primer will give you a super smooth finish once you paint over the top with latex, tell yourself to go get a snack and rethink your life.

It doesn’t. The result will be a flaking, dented mess that you will have to touch up before your project is even done.

Once the opening was the right size (super helpful), I had to install the drawer slides.

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I don’t know a fancy way of doing this…I just measured up from the bottom of the vanity to the height where I wanted the runner to be. And I’m happy to report, it worked!

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Both drawers open nicely and are level!

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Now I just need to attach the front panels, the pulls, the top, and the sink 🙂

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And I’m not convinced on the purple, so that might change too…

Tiny house – building furniture

Last weekend was full of furniture…the desks, the kitchen sink stand, and the bathroom vanity. And I think random cabinet doors and the last of the pipes…

For the desks, I used the plans from Ana White: http://www.ana-white.com/2016/05/free_plans/flip-desks-convert-table-our-tiny-house

She and her husband are carpenters and have all kinds of useful information on their website. Also FREE PLANS! WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?!!!

For the desks, I had to modify her plans a little so I could fit them over the wheel well. But it started by learning how to make pocket holes with a Kreg jig. This nifty tool makes hidden holes so you can screw furniture pieces together. The only thing is, you HAVE to pay attention or you’ll make the hole too deep and it will go all the way through the wood and your screw will slip out the other end. I’m guessing.

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Pocket holes in action… Getting the pieces started is squirrley especially if you have glue on one end it wants to slide around. Quite a bit of time was spent correcting crooked pieces.

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The carcass of the desk. See that short back leg? That’s the part that will eventually sit on top of the wheel well.

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Then the bathroom vanity was next. Again, I used Ana’s idea from here: http://www.ana-white.com/2013/09/plans/48-turned-leg-vanity

Her plan calls for a 48″ wide vanity and NO WAY do I have that kind space in the bathroom…so I had to modify the size. I kept the basic design the same and doodled out what I thought I wanted it to look like.

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Then I started putting it together.

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The end product turned out a little different…I decided to put 1×2’s on the bottom shelf as opposed to a solid shelf.  And as much as I wanted turned legs, I wasn’t about to pay $69 a piece! Forget that. I’ll just use 2×2’s. I did find these finial things at the Lowe’s and they make cool feet (shown further down)!

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And lastly, the kitchen sink stand….

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This one did NOT want to cooperate. I got the front assembled, but the wood was warped or something dumb so I had to pull the back legs in to “square”. There was some cracking, but I’m pleased to report, nothing broke! At least not yet.

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Wash-tub sink…

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Then I had to schlep all the things in the house to check the fit. I’m not going to go to all the trouble of finishing the thing if it doesn’t fit!

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Everything fit perfectly 🙂 So now it was on to painting… you’ll see below when the two desks are pushed together along the long edge, they almost form a square that will be for the dining table!

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Bathroom…you can kind of see the cute little feet here… there is still quite a bit of work to do on this one, but at least the guts are done.

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Desks DONE! The top I found at Lowe’s…I think it’s called a craft board? It looks kind of like a butcher block. I asked Lowe’s to cut it for me, then I stained it….

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…and attached hinges to the back for some more storage. This space is countertop, office, storage, and dining…

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I also finished the railing for the lofts…galvanized pipe painted Oil-Rubbed Bronze…

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And the cabinet doors are done, but not attached. Details, details…

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The stairs are cabinets… or are the cabinets stairs?

There’s no need to decide!

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As with most designing aspects of this project, I started with a blank Excel sheet. You heard me: an Excel sheet. Why? Because I’m in finance and spreadsheets are my JAM!

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Once I decided on the WHAT, I had to figure out the HOW… that part started with the color. I may have picked it for the name…

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Then I drew the placement of the rise and run on the wall per this guy – https://tinyhousebuild.com/gain-sf-under-stairs/.

He is a professional builder so clearly he knows what he is doing…

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I took my newly-cut 3/4″ thick mdf board and stood it in place to check the fit… also, as a side note, I had Lowe’s pre cut the mdf board in to 18″ strips. That made it MUCH easier for me to transport (mdf board is stupid heavy) and made sure the cuts were straight. Which seems to be a challenge for me.

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Stuff like this bugs me, but I have to keep repeating:  It’s not perfect, it’s precious…  Thanks to my awesome sister for that reminder!

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Once the fit was right, I prepainted all the pieces. It saved a lot of time taping off the edges!

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I have to be careful where I set the pieces to dry…not having an enclosed workshop means I have to be mindful of dust, leaves, and bird poop.

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I screwed the supports in to the wall and then screwed the risers (tall pieces) to the supports…

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Following the marks on the wall, of course. Although you can see where I XX’d out a mistake…thankfully I saved my leftover wall paint, so I went back afterward and fixed that lapse in judgement…

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Done…kind of. I still need to put hinges on the cabinet doors for it to be official, but you can walk up to the loft now! WOO!!! I’m noticing the pics are slightly blurry…they were taken on my phone, so maybe that had something to do with it…oh well.

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Then I finished out the closets…

That started with a box of pipe. I bought this months ago and then somewhere along the line I threw away the plan. So it took me a while to remember how I had designed it.

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The basic idea is that I’d use galvanized pipe as the rods in the closets. But I wanted to paint them oil-rubbed bronze.

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Turns out this brand works like a champ…

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Bathroom…

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It’s hard to get a full picture because of the small space, but the right side will be for longer items, the left for short items, and the middle will be a mix of drawers and something else that I haven’t figured out yet.

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Kitchen coat closet

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Shelves next to the closets and opposite the stove/sink area…

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That business took me about 2 days. It’s a pain getting all that pipe and board level, straight, blah, blah, blah. But at least it looks cool 🙂

And to think it all started with a spreadsheet.

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