Survival Skills for Real People
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Real Earth Solutions

Tiny Houses and Prepping-A Good Fit? – Part 2

The Fun Part Begins

This is what you'll start with. Much bigger than a pre-built tiny house on a trailer!

This is what you’ll start with. Much bigger than a pre-built tiny house on a trailer!

Your new wooden shed just got delivered and is ready for you to decide what you want to be inside your tiny house. You had it placed on that perfect spot on your land, sunny, high elevation, with some pretty views. Or you just put the finishing touches on that kit you got and you’re proudly showing off your new creation.

Now what?

I’m assuming that you, like me, have land in an unincorporated area with no zoning requirement. If that’s not the case, you need to have already done your homework and found out the zoning laws and if any permits are required before your shed was delivered or your kit-built shed is finished and put into place. A shed permit is probably the most that is needed, unless you’re building a home in the $100,000 range and I don’t think that’s us. To be super safe, just leave the exterior in an un/partially finished state. Go with weatherproofing and skip the aesthetics such as paneling, etc. If some sort of disaster (natural or manmade) does happen, I doubt that zoning and building codes will be an issue. That being said, I’m certainly not suggesting you should violate any codes or laws!

Separating Your Needs From Your Wants

Once that’s taken care of it’s time to tackle what you want inside your tiny house. The first step, as always, in any project is planning, planning, planning. No rushing in and starting until you’ve laid out details of what you want. Start by making a list of what the tiny house must contain. This will include space for cooking, eating, sleeping, and bathroom essentials. Try to see how you can make one space do double-duty such as using your table for your office.

Looks kinda cramped doesn't it?

Looks kinda cramped doesn’t it?

The second list will be your “wants”. Think about your lifestyle. Maybe you’re a voracious reader, like me. If so, you’ll need to put bookshelves on your list. An entertainment area for TV, music listening, and games will probably score high. How about space to relax, space for your hobbies, and your work? It’s nice to dream but the whole idea of a shed conversion is to create a small/tiny house for basic shelter needs. The ability to easily expand shed conversions is when the wants list comes into play. We’ll be talking more about expanding your home in the future.

The next step, in my opinion, is to read some books with plans for the inside of your tiny house. Just skip over the outside plans. Here are a list of some I like. All of these can be found on Amazon. If you own a kindle, some are free and many are free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription ($9.99 a month which pays for itself many times over if you read more than a few books a month.)

  • THE TINY HOUSE by Carol Marshall –
  • and also, TINY HOUSE LIVING by Kylie Young
  • another is TINY HOUSES by Nancy Rosa
  • TINY HOUSES, THE ULTIMATE BEGINNERS GUIDE by James Clark

These are only a few of the many that are offered. Your local library probably offers more options and there are even magazines with tiny house floor plans that you find at a local bookstore or newsstand.

Your purpose in looking at these books and magazines is to get ideas. Study them, make a note of good ideas and let your creativity improve on them. Make sure to visit sites like   http://www.homedepot.com/ or https://www.lowes.com/.   They have many pages of ideas, How-To’s, and can give you cost estimating tools.  There are many books on how to make a storage shed into a cabin as well. This is a fun stage.

Steps to Take

After your head is bursting with ideas, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. The first step is to put in place an electrical and a plumbing system. For the electrical, I recommend installing standard 110 volt wiring behind sheetrock and using a portable generator that you bring with you. While I highly recommend renewable energy items, such a solar, wind, hydro, and batteries when you are living full time in your tiny house, they are tempting items for thieves when you are not there. A better idea is to begin collecting the parts for installation later. My new book, Solar Power, which is in prepublication now will cover this extensively plus there will be future articles about it on this blog.

Install standard plumbing. Those words seem to terrify some people. It’s really quite simple but if you’re a novice you may want to hire someone to help you. You don’t need to go the route of an expensive plumbing establishment. Watch in the paper for people advertising plumbing. Interview a few until you get a feel for the one you can work with best and get a firm price in writing in advance before any work begins. I always ask for recommendations and ask around before I hire anyone. Make sure to explain your long term plans to the plumber such as using refillable holding tanks and R/V type pumps.

You can do it yourself!

You can do it yourself!

A good book I recommend if you want to learn some basic plumbing is the TimeLife Book, BASIC PLUMBING, COMPLETE BEGINNERS BOOK. Most public libraries carry these books but you may want to own a copy. While they are out of print, they are advertised on Amazon for one penny plus $3.99 for postage. Now how’s that for a bargain?

Install gas appliances such as a stove and an on-demand hot water heater. For short term stays use camping gear such as a good quality Coleman stove. (I used one five years in my Alaska bush house and it held up great.) Be sure to get a propane one. A 20-lb. propane tank can be used when there short-term and they are easily refilled. For long term living have a 300-500 gallon propane tank installed by a local propane company.

But what if the time comes when we have to be self sufficient and we can’t call the local propane company?  There are many other renewable options which I will be covering in future posts on this blog.

At first if you are only using your tiny houses occasionally you may supply the water to holding tanks for your house, depending on the water source on your land. I recommend a large freshwater holding tank combined with RV type pumping system. But if it’s your full time residence, of course you will want to pipe it in to the kitchen and bathroom. Two necessities are toilets and bathing facilities. While compost toilets are a good option and are described in some of the books I have recommended, a better option for cold climates are gas-fired toilets.

There are all types of showers and/or bathing facilities so you must find the one that best fits your space. Your heating and cooling needs will be determined by your climate but there are many low-cost options to consider.

Floors are another consideration. I recommend outdoor carpet because it’s easy to install and may be taken out and hosed down or taken to a car wash to keep it clean. For permanent flooring, use the foam-backed self-stick laminate tiles. It holds up well if you are using wood heat and/or get a lot of foot traffic in your tiny house.

As for the “rooms” themselves, each should have multiple functions. You can furnish them by using milk crates and big wooden spools or build-it-yourself furniture. Another option is to use camping tables and chairs in the beginning. A convertible sofa can either be your personal bed or a guest bed when needed but building a frame and using foam can be a comfortable substitute. Lofts are great space expanders which remove clutter from the floor.  Put  the stairs to them along one wall and enclose them to provide great storage space. Use mirrors to decorate to expand the space visually and I like skylights to bring in some natural light.

No longer a shed, but a small home!

No longer a shed, but a small home!

For privacy you may want to install curtains which can be pulled back when not needed.

Explore the world of YouTube to find ideas and help with all your building projects inside your tiny house. Their practical help is worth more than some college classes I’ve attended for a full semester.

Share Your Thoughts and Send Pictures

It’s time now for you to get busy. Please send me pictures of your tiny houses and suggestions that other readers can follow. Also, if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer those I can or I’ll try to refer you to someone who can.

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