5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Committing to a DIY-Tiny Home
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
1.) Get Real About The Cost
It's not easy to know all of the hiccups along the way that will require more funds. "Oh there are bats trying to make homes in our eves. We have to cover the whole underside of our eves with steel wool." $50 later...
However, that being said, it is important to talk to someone who can give you a better idea. First do as much research on your own as you can. Then, if at all possible, find someone with building experience (who you trust) that can sit down with you. Show them your plans. Walk through all of it with them and get their opinion/knowledge. Have them give you their best estimates on how much things might cost you. Pick their brain on where you could save and where you want to shell out more for quality sake. Also get a sense on if there is anywhere you can potentially save by buying used. For example, most contractors would tell you not to buy used tile, but to look into buying lightly used doors.
Ask around and you never know who would be willing to help you out.
2.) Take note of your projected time-line and then double it.
I was going to have this be at the top of the list. However, funds can often times be a more limiting factor than time. That being said, "Double your projected timeline. Double your projected timeline. Double your projected timeline." If not triple. This is one of the main things I wish someone had told us before we got started. "Its okay if it's taking longer than you expected. That is normal. That is building in a nutshell!"
Heading into our project, I projected the timeline to be a year. Again, with no prior building experience, this sounded like a LONG time. "It's just a tiny home! How long could it possibly take?"
Famous last words...
Some of the factors I never considered would get in the way of our timeline included:
Weather: Rain days, snow days or 115 degree days (Not worth building in because you get extremely tired, grumpy and usually end early anyways.) We were able to work in the rain, only when we had a full shell on (which wasn't until year two).
Weddings: We attended 3 weddings during our build. If it was just a weekend trip, it would have been fine. However two of the three weddings were my siblings' up in Alaska. We ended up staying longer to hang and help out, at each wedding. This took up about one month total.
Vacation/Holidays: Pure time off. It was almost impossible to get Edwin to take a vacation during our build. He couldn't "relax" when we knew the rest of the build was waiting for him. Something a lot of us go through. However, when we did take time off, it ate up a lot of build time. We also didn't want to miss out on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years festivities with the family.
Waiting for parts to be delivered: It is almost a full time job keeping track of building supplies and parts. The sheer volume of time spent running to Ace Hardware or waiting for parts to be delivered in the mail... Without the needed building supplies, you are held up. Sometimes for days.
Buying your own time: This is the biggest time obstacle we faced. We didn't have any savings to build this tiny home from the get-go. So a lot of time was spent trying to make money to buy our supplies and time to build. We still had to make rent, food and car payments as well. Working for money was definitely the biggest hold up. If you have savings, you will be much better off time-wise.
3.) Get used to the questions like:
"Why don't you just buy an RV?" // "How long till it's finished?" // "HOW small is it?! I could never live in something like that..." // "Have you seen Tiny House Nation?" // "Are you going to have to get rid of all of your stuff?" // "Where are you going to tow it?"
Nothing better to shatter your confidence, when you you constantly have to explain to family members, that the house is, in fact, not finished yet. Trying to explain to someone who has never build anything in their life, why something is taking you so long, is rough.
What you need to realize is that there is a fascination with Tiny Homes in this country currently. People will want to know all about it. Enjoy the process. People are curious.
4.) Get your Power Source straight
A couple of the big decisions surrounding our home, came down to whether we wanted to go off propane or electricity. For the heater, fridge, stove, oven, heater etc...This was a challenging decision to make because we did not know where we were going to end up. We did not have a destination in mind, for the longest time. We did not know how challenging it was going to be, to get a propane tank next to the house, we knew very little about solar etc.
We genuinely wanted to be clean about our energy. Because of this we bought a fridge that runs DC (direct current) from our solar panels. However, looking back, it would have been better for us to run our stove and oven off of propane. Our solar array does not allow for us to pull boundless amounts of electricity into the house. We are constantly monitoring our consumption and have to supplement with our generator OFTEN.
That being said, get a real sense about how committed you are going to be in going solar. If you have the funds and can set yourself up completely on solar, then all the better. You wont have to worry about filling up your propane and its better for the environment. (You may have to change your batteries out every 5 years or so..) But if you are on the fence, propane will get your foot into tiny life. If you are unsure, you can also find appliances that tie into both solar and propane. That way in the future you can switch power sources instead of changing out your appliances.
5.) You Are Going to Want An Outdoor Space
The beauty about living in a tiny home is that the indoor and outdoor space, become seamless. We have a set of French Doors, and a sliding glass door which makes us feel like we are always outside. However, that being said, you will want some kind of outdoor deck- the bigger the better. It is just as important to plan the outdoor living area, to make sure you are maximizing your outdoor space. To have extra "alone time" space is also crucial. The outdoors provides this for us. That's why having an extra deck with chairs has been proven to be awesome.
For those of you interested in a DIY Tiny Home, I hope this helped. There were many things that we learned along the w
ay, that I wished I knew prior. Adjusting expectations and excitement of the build is essential. Its all about doing your best every day and eventually you will see the results. Don't worry if your tiny home looks like a giant construction zone, with fine dust coating every surface. It will one day shine and be your sanctuary. There is nothing more magical than watching a build from start to finish.