6 Month Update

Probably the top question people have: am I glad I did it? The answer is a definite YES! I don’t feel claustrophobic in my tiny house. I’m not going crazy from living with less space. I’m happy with the amount of space I have, and love waking up and coming home. It took some adjusting, but I’m at the point where feel settled in and have loved adding more personal touches to my home.

What I like best: Coming from frequent moves and sharing rooms, it’s amazing to have my own space and to know that moving means taking that space with me.  I also love the convenience of a small space. My bathroom, closet, pantry, kitchen, bed – all within 20 feet.  Turns out to be a plus instead of a drag.  Can I entertain more than 5 or 6 people inside? Not really. But I have plans to set up some furniture in front of my trailer where I have a small cement patio area.

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What’s difficult: Having a small closet and less storage space can be tough. To be fair, I’m pretty happy with the way I did my closet and wouldn’t change it – with the two rods and tiered clothing hangers it works pretty great. Storage takes work, meaning having self-control on not accumulating stuff (good for the bank) and reorganizing every now and then to keep things from getting cluttered.  I do love the perk of storing stuff under my trailer in plastic storage boxes to free up space. Also, in a small space, things get cluttered and dirty really quickly, but it’s also quicker to clean. I also occasionally miss having a regular toilet, but to be honest it’s really not that bad.  All of these are pretty minor; I rarely find myself frustrated with my living situation.

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Structural/Building Regrets: More studs! MDF, the paneling I used for my walls, warps easily. I wished I had built in more studs for the MDF to be attached to (to my cousin Jonathan, if you’re reading this, yes I wish I had listened to you). I also wish I more thoroughly tested for water leaks before the rainy season hit, because one of my ceiling panels has some pretty hefty warping from water damage now. Also, if I had built this from scratch on a trailer bed with a higher weight capacity, I definitely would have done higher ceilings and a loft bed. If I had had a bit more space, I also probably would have a done a bathtub like this, instead of a regular shower. BUT I’m overall very happy with my design – I have a full-sized shower, space for everything I need, don’t have to crawl up into a bed, and have plenty of room.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to remodel this trailer. I love my tiny house!

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Actual Costs

Trailer & Registration……………..$555

New Vinyl Window and Screens….$55

Building Materials……………..$3,000

Dry Flush Toilet…………………..$600

Vinyl Siding………………………$1,100

Solar Panel System……………….$1300

Furniture……………………………$350

Home Basics & Miscellany………$345

Total – About $7,500

 

Wrapping It Up

As with everything else, this step took longer than expected. It doesn’t help that I took off on a 2 week vacation in the middle of it all. We left off with the flooring and walls done, and from there we just started putting everything in.

Putting in a doorway between the main space and the bathroom was quite the task.  I built the framing for it, and was lucky to have my cousin figure out how to get the door hung correctly. Some paint and trim pieces, and we were in business.

I decided to purchase my kitchen cabinets, because I didn’t want to deal with doing my own drawers and cabinet doors, and I wanted them to have a nice finish. The cabinets were a few hundred, which is definitely on the cheap end, and I’m pretty happy with them. I got some help making own countertop out of plywood. I got the idea from here. It was pretty simple; just get 2 pieces of plywood (one cheap one and one sanded with a nicer finish), cut them the right size, and glue them together. We did this by putting a layer of glue, putting the sanded plywood on top, then sticking a bunch of heavy stuff like paint cans and tools on it overnight.  My cousin made me some awesome trim pieces and a back splash to give it a singular, finished look. Then it was stained, and coated with layers and layers of polyurethane to keep it waterproof.

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I went back and forth on what to do for storage opposite the cabinets, and ended up building my own pantry out of plywood. It was cheap, and with some spray paint it blended in great. I use this storage for so many things – my folding chairs, trash can, some of my solar panel system components, food, kitchen supplies, games, books, etc.

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In the main space, I have a bedroom/dining room/family room. I have a futon folded down as a bed most of the time. Then, when I’m having guests, I take off the bedding, store it underneath and have a couple options.  For a movie night, I fold the futon up into a couch, hang up a projection screen on a wire I installed across the ceiling, and put some blankets/pillows in front of the couch for some extra seating.  If we’re doing dinner, I bring out my 6 ft folding table which I keep under the trailer (along with some plastic storage boxes of other misc storage), put on a nice tablecloth, and put out my 4 folding chairs. Dinner for 8, believe it or not! Sure it’s a little tight, but it works. (pics of dining mode to come)

The bathroom/closet is pretty basic. I have my Dry Flush toilet opposite the shower, and my closet is along the back wall with the awkward curved ceiling.  To maximize space, I put 2 closet rods in the tight space next to the shower, which works out great with these waterfall hangers I got, and got some basic plastic storage drawers for the open space along the wall. I actually have a good amount of storage and drawer room I’m not even using. So far, no major problems!

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Down the road, I plan on gating the area in front of my tiny house so I can get a dog, string some lights up above, and get some cozy patio furniture and a hammock, for the warm California nights ahead.

If you are reading this for the purpose of building your own, please comment or message me with ANY  questions about the process, and I will share a blog post publicly to address everything I’ve missed so far 🙂

 

Pictures

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A Shell of a House

Walls and floors are done! It’s so exciting to see this place actually looking like a house! There were a few things I wish I would have done differently and a few lessons have been learned.  Like everything so far, this process took quite a bit longer than expected (mostly just installing the walls).

Prep

After we rebuilt the wheel casings (pretty simple just make a frame out of 2×2’s then cover it with plywood), we made sure to get rid of all nails/screws/staples/imperfections from the framing. Almost any little thing can cause a bump in the wall, so keep your base as smooth as possible. Then it was time to put in all the insulation (YUCK). It was awful to put in but so helpful with maintaining a good temperature inside. Just cut it to fit in between the framing. It can’t be overlapping on the wood at all, or your walls won’t be flat. Also, I suggest pants and long sleeves unless you want to deal with the itchy, uncomfortable rash you get when it gets on your skin.

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Walls and Ceiling

Putting the walls on took FOREVER! I ended up using MDF panels, which I’m happy with. It’s lightweight but sturdy enough.  There’s quite a few steps to follow for each piece.  For each piece, you have to measure how big to cut the panel, and you also have to make sure there is wood framing around the entire panel (top, bottom and both sides) for the panel to be attached to. We used a circular saw. Otherwise, you’ll have seams that don’t perfectly align, and bubbles. Most of the time that meant adding  more framing for the edge of piece panel to be attached to. We just filled most of the space with small pieces of 2×2 every foot or so, although looking back I wish I had just added a whole piece from edge to edge.

Remember to cut out any outlet or light boxes, and windows, too! It’s easiest to do these small shapes with a  jig saw.

When we were ready to install each piece, we first put liquid nails on all of the framing it would be attached to. Then we used a nail gun to secure it, putting a nail about every foot wherever there was wood behind it. Make sure to mark ahead of time where the wood is, instead of spending time feeling around for it afterward!

Walls were pretty easy to do even alone, but ceilings were quite a bit harder.  It’s nearly impossible alone or even with 2 people; I recommend 3-4. Some people can get the panel into place and hold it perfectly flush, while one person nails it into place.  It was especially hard for the curved parts of my ceiling! For pieces that needed to be cut in rounded or angled shapes because of the rounded ceiling, I made a template out of cardboard that I traced onto the panel, then cut with a jig saw.

Don’t expect to get it right the first time. Some panels we had to take off, remove all the nails, then re-install because the position was just a little bit off.  Some pieces needed extra staples a couple days later once they had settled and ended up beginning to warp.  I’d suggest taking a few days after installing all of the walls and ceiling before painting them to make sure there’s no issues!

When we were done, we kind of felt like we were inside of a basketball court, and we eager to paint! First, I attached some “beams” (thin strips of wood) across the ceilings to cover up the seams. I wish I had put these on after painting, because I ended up deciding I would stain them to match the floor, so I just had to cover them all with painter’s tape.

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Then, finally, it was time to paint! I read online that oil-based paint works best, so that’s what I used. This stuff is pretty intense, but two coats later it was well worth it!

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Even just a paint job made such a difference! A few days later after everything was dry and settled, it was time for flooring. I went with laminate planks that had a real wood texture. I’m so happy with the end result! So excited to actually get all of my cabinets and furniture in!

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Prepping for next steps

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It’s been a while since an update! What was just completed was getting everything ready for electrical, plumbing, walls and flooring. This step has taken a few weeks, which was much longer than expected…

What was definitely unexpected was having to re-do parts of the sub-floor, which really meant waiting on my dad to do it for me to make sure it was done right!  The waiting is really what took up a lot of time.

After that came a lot of tedious little steps: removing all nails/screws/staples (or pounding them in if needed), scraping off all pieces of old plywood/paneling, and repairing the pieces of framing that were rotted or damaged (make sure not to damage or lose any tapered pieces of framing for the ceiling in the process!).

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We also discovered that there had been a small fire at some point in the past, so we sprayed the burnt pieces of framing that were in decent enough shape  with Kilz to mask any potential odors.image9

After all of this was done, we got to an actually fun and exciting step! We installed the windows.  I bought 3 large vinyl windows from Craigslist for $45 bucks each, and 2 smaller ones from Home Depot for about the same price. Not too bad! Just had to re-do the framing, cut out the aluminum framing blocking the new opening, and screw the windows in with stainless steel screws.

Tools used: hammer, crowbar, power drill, miter saw, pliers, snips

I also started drawing out my floor plan (definitely a work in progress) directly on the floor of the trailer, which helped me make some important decisions.  For example, I marked out the size of the bathroom, used a piece of plywood as a makeshift door, and sat on a bucket to see if my potential bathroom was too small. Turns out, it was.

From here on out, my dad is currently doing the electrical (something I decided not to do myself considering how risky a bad job could be) and the plumbing. The wall panels and flooring are waiting to be installed as soon as that’s done, and the shower stall, kitchen cabinets, and sink are all on the way! Can’t wait to be updating all of that being installed.

Demo – Done!

Here’s a snapshot of the demo process. We ended up deciding it was best to strip it down to the frame and exterior siding, since the interior paneling and even parts of the floor were beat up.  Still glad I chose the travel trailer remodel route, because I have a mostly good frame and exterior siding (not to mention the trailer, which can be extremely expensive by themselves). All it took was 500 bucks, elbow grease, a couple blisters, a bit of blood and a lot of sweat.

Total work time: about 25 man hours (15 myself, plus help from some of my amazing friends and family)

Tools used: sledgehammer, hammer, power drill, screw drivers, sawzall, crowbar, wire cutters, towels, gloves, ear plugs (make sure to wear thick-soled shoes too…plenty of nails were stepped on)

STEP 1: Busting out all cabinets and removing top layer of flooring. The previous owners had added in a top layer of heavy wood flooring to cover old rotted floors, and installed additional cabinets. A few hours with a sledgehammer, hammer, drill and crowbar rewound a few years of cover-ups and a tight layout.

STEP 2: Removing all of the plumbing. Most of this was done with a sawzall to cut all the pipes, then the toilet, sinks, shower and piping was all removed.  This was pretty messy, especially because a lot of it still had water in it, and the drainage pipe smelled pretty foul. Have some towels/rags on hand.

STEP 3: Removing all of the interior paneling on the walls and ceilings. This was harder than it sounds. Some it practically fell off, while the original paneling which was plywood had become unplied. It came off in itty bitty pieces, and some of it was stronger than the wood framing so removing it caused a little damage.  

STEP 4: Cutting and removing all of the electrical. Pro tip: invest in (or borrow) some good snips. I used an old worn out pair because it was all I had and I just wanted to get done, but each tube of wiring was a pain to cut. 

STEP 5: Dumping. We had about 3 full truck loads of stuff to dump (way more than what’s pictured in the video). I’ll be honest, my dad and grandpa took care of this step for me (hallelujah) both physically and financially, but I hear it ain’t cheap. Keep this in mind when preparing for any sort of demo.

Final thoughts: Obviously, every demo project looks different. Ideally, the floor would have been in better shape, but we have to re-do it (even parts of the sub-floor). Even a couple pieces of the wood in the framing revealed a past fire in the trailer. Expect surprises, and have someone around who can make sure you’re doing things well and not just quickly. I’m definitely choosing the slightly slower route to make sure my tiny house will be in good shape. Still pretty much on schedule though! Next step is finishing the floors, then installing new interior paneling for the walls and ceiling. Updates to come!

 

 

Tentative Plans and Timetable

If there’s one thing I can count on in this process, it’s knowing that I can’t count on anything going to plan. Currently, I plan on getting the bulk of my tiny reno done within the next two months. I will be putting in pretty much all of my spare time into working on my trailer. I start tomorrow morning, bright and early, and will keep tabs on every step of the process. Here are my tentative floor plan and budget, keeping in mind I’m planning on doing everything myself (er..with my dad’s help).

This site gave me a lot of my inspiration! And Pinterest, of course, here’s my tiny house board.

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Estimated Budget:

  • Trailer: $500
  • Tires: $200
  • Cabinets: $300
  • Floors: $600
  • Fridge: $200
  • Bathtub: $200
  • Toilet: $650
  • Bathroom walls: $50
  • Solar: $3000
  • Water system: $300
  • Breakfast nook: $250
  • Table: $50
  • Projector: $400
  • Paint (interior and exterior): $150
  • Windows: $100
  • Curtains/Cushions: $50
  • Faux Wood (vinyl) Exterior Siding: $500
  • Misc: $250
  • TOTAL: $7,500

I’ll keep my blog up to date with each step including exact items I buy and from where!

With my hopes to really give people some know-how in the tiny house process by blogging my entire journey, I set up a GoFundMe for anyone who would be inclined to help me out as I navigate these mostly uncharted waters! gofund.me/22jt8djg  Any help would be amazing, THANK YOU!

Thanks so much for reading and sharing!

Tiny Title Owner

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GUESS WHO IS OFFICIALLY THE OWNER OF A TRAILER?! My future home, finally a little more tangible.  I found it on craigslist, luckily at a great price of $500 bucks and only 10 minutes from my house. I had been comparing travel trailers for a few weeks, hoping for one between 17 and 25 ft and no more than a thousand, so this was the dream.  Obviously, I decided to go the route of gutting and remodeling an existing unit, so if that’s what you’re planning on doing then this is a must-read for you!

Tip #1 – Remember when buying a trailer to clarify if the measurement is from tongue to tail (meaning it includes the actual metal part that sticks out in front of the actual trailer) or just the actual inside of the trailer. If you decided that your bare minimum space needed is 15′ inside and you buy a 15′ from tongue to tail, that’s a solid 2′ you’re losing!IMG_6358.JPG

Tip #2 – If you’re traveling a long distance to buy your trailer, clarify if it will be ready to
actually take home with you that day. It turned out that my trailer was in a trailer park and
was being actively lived in when we went to see it. Luckily, we lived so close that it wasn’t a big deal to give them a deposit and a few days to move out before we went and picked it up.

Tip #3 – Bring tools, work clothes, and some knowledgeable help!  When we (referring to my dad and I, who I am SO thankful for in this process) came to pick it up, we had a lot of work ahead of us to actually get it attached to our truck and rolling away. It was on about 8 cement stabilizers, so we had to jack up the trailer then dig out the bottom of each block and knock it out from underneath. They had it previously hooked up to the park so there were lots of loose wires and tubes hanging around that we had to either cut off or tie to something. The tires were completely flat so in order to get them at least rolling we pumped them up with a bike pump a bit (no joke). Luckily they actually held air and didn’t leak, but be prepared for tires in any condition! Then we had to jack up the trailer a little more, get it attached to our truck hitch, and have fun getting it out of the trailer park. All in all, it took a couple hours! Suggested tools: jack, hammer/mallet, hand shovel, snips, air pump.

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Tip #4 – Make sure you have the right truck and tools for towing. My dad’s old F150 was IMG_6371.JPGbarely beefy enough for my trailer. We maxed out at about 35 mph, after stopping at a gas station to fill the tires the rest of the way. We also had to pick up the right size ball for the hitch before picking up the trailer (in case you’re unfamiliar, having the exact right hitch is crucial). If you can’t get your hands on a truck, consider renting one. U-Haul rents out pick-up trucks for a pretty great price! Just make sure the engine will be big enough for the weight of your trailer and you have the right hitch. Also, we didn’t have the right connection or converter to connect to the trailer’s brake lights. Either make sure you have the right one, buy a set you can attach to the trailer, or risk it (which is what we did, and luckily didn’t get pulled over).

Tip #5 – Have some stabilizers (or cement blocks) for where you’re going to park it to keep it nice and stable. Be ready for hours of messy, hard work and eventually an amazing new home to call your own!

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After a few hours, we finally got it to my grandparents’ house. I’m incredibly lucky that they have a big enough backyard and are letting me keep it there temporarily while I remodel it, which I’m hoping to get most of done in the next couple months. Then hopefully I’ll find a more permanent residency for me and my tiny!

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The Adventure Begins

Hello tiny world! My name is Melissa and I’m a 23 year old grad student from Southern California. I’m doing this blog to document every step of my tiny living journey, in the hopes that others of you considering going tiny can see what this process looks like from the very start.  I started looking into tiny houses a couple months ago.  My lease was ending soon, and I happened to pass by the TV when someone was watching a show about tiny houses. That’s when it clicked. I’ve always been a thrifty person, I’m OK with living simply, and it has been my dream to own and not throw money away every month with paying rent. Enter the research phase…documents-for-russia.jpg

The first step is, of course, lots and lots of research (and Pinterest).  For about two months, all I did was research tiny houses. I watched hours of videos, read blogs, compared products, browsed pictures. There’s so many different options, and this gives you time to really evaluate if tiny living is right for you.

Here’s my big list of tiny things to consider:

  • budget (looking at anywhere from a few thousand to triple digits)
    • how much can/will you do yourself?
    • what luxuries can you do without (for example, I chose to go without a washer/dryer to save space and money – laundromat for me!)
  • approach
    • Buy pre-made or build from scratch?
    • Gut and remodel an RV, travel trailer or bus?
    • Most important thing to consider here is the WEIGHT a trailer is rated for. Pay close attention to this! If your house is too heavy, you can end up with a broken axle and whole mess of problems.
  • off-grid vs hook-ups
    • solar? generator? propane? electrical hook-up? or a mixture?
    • if you go with hook-ups, consider the monthly fees of utilities
  • type of toilet
    • traditional toilet that requires a separate black water tank (that you must dump consistently)
    • composting toilet (a popular choice)
    • incineration toilet
    • water-less electric (my personal favorite)
  • size (start toying with a tentative floor plan to determine your minimum length requirement, while figuring out your maximum based on where you’ll park it)
  • where you’re going to park it (post to come about this)
  • local laws on tiny houses (vary ambiguous in most places for now)
  • willingness to live simply
    • how much stuff do you have? are you willing to get rid of some? consider renting and living in an RV for a week or boxing up some of your stuff to get a taste of tiny living
    • what luxuries are you willing to live without?
    • I’m lucky to be solo for this journey, but consider tiny living with others (whether that be a roommate, partner, family or pet)

 

As you start your journey and share with others, be ready for both support/excitement and skepticism/negativity. I definitely got both. Most of my family got an A+ for doubting me as well as making homeless jokes. We’ll see who’s laughing in a few months!