Saturday, August 9, 2014

Continuation of tools discussion

When building your tiny home, you will need a workbench. This will be a place for mount your miter saw, table saw, or just to have a platform to work. Sure, you can try to mount your tools on the deck of the trailer; however, soon the trailer bed will be occupied with your home. You could try to work on the ground but your back will take a beating. I content that I am not lazy, I am a conservationist; I conserve my own personal energy.

You could also build a workbench but I prefer a mobile structure. This way I can move it inside the tiny house when I am working on the interior, up to the loft when working up there or outside for the siding and such. One of the best innovations to come out recently is the Keter worktable. Here is an image.
 Image copyright

It folds down for easy storage and transport and it is very easy to setup. It is pretty steady and a good work surface. At about $70, it is not to expensive and will save wear and tear on your back. There are a couple youtube videos online, they will explain its use better than I.

I would also purchase a set of sawhorses. You will need sawhorses to cut long sheets of plywood or to paint your siding boards.

Tools for construction of a tiny house

Image downloaded from the internet at

I have read somewhere that one can build a tiny house with only 14 tools; it may indeed be possible but life will be much better with a bit more conveniences. How would one complete electrical work without a screwdriver? The image above shows four power tools, a miter saw, jig saw, circular saw and a drill. In the construction of a tiny house, these four power tools will certainly get a workout. I would add a couple extras; an impact driver, a small table saw and maybe a router. Of course getting an air compressor and pneumatic nailers will greatly simplify your life and ease the burden on your arms. It is possible to rent these tools but for the duration of time needed for most of these tools, it would be better to purchase and then sell upon completion.

I would use the impact driver for the thousands of screws and bolts that will need to be driven; I would use the table saw for cutting long angles across grain or cutting drip edges into the bottom of window sills and I would use the router for rounding over edges of wood for the ladder, edge of the tongue-and-groove boards on the loft and other areas. Andrew Morrison showed how to use a router to cut out window and door openings in his video series "Building a Tiny House"; this is really quick and easy. Sure, you can round over with a file but a router does such a beautiful job. You can buy the tools used on craigslist, use them for the construction, then sell them for approximately the same price at the end of construction.

Personally, I set my tool budget at $1500 with plans to sell the un-needed tools upon completion. I figure I can sell the power tools upon completion to recover some of my investment. As stated above, if you purchase the tools used and sell used, you could spend much less. So, here is the list of power tools and their costs I have obtained for my tiny house. The power tools occupy over half of my tool budget.

Craftsman sliding compound miter saw ($190)
19.2 volt drill and impact drill combo set ($110)
Refurbished Skil router ($49)
Porter Cable jig saw ($60)
Craftsman circular saw ($70)
Porter Cable air compressor ($110)
Husky brad and finish nailer set ($70)
Table saw ($200)

You can get a compound miter saw and table saw for $100 each but I wanted the extra capacity of the sliding compound miter and I wanted the slightly better quality of the more expensive table saw. I plan to build my own cabinets and interior furnishings. My past experience with building showed me that an increase in quality helps my end product. You can drive all your nails with a hammer but install tongue-and-groove interior siding is much easier with a finish nailer.

In my next blog post, I will discuss the "non-power" tools we can add to this list to make life a bit more comfortable.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The foundation

Tiny houses can be built on foundations or trailers with wheels. For the purposes of this blog, I will define a tiny house as less than 250 square feet; that is about the maximum amount of square footage that can be contained on a road-legal (without special permits) mobile tiny home. Typically, for this size home on wheels, car hauler trailers are used as a foundation.

There are two options for obtaining a car hauler trailer; purchase used or new. I have read numerous accounts of builders that purchased a trailer used but then spent days or weeks sanding, painting and modifying the used trailer for their tiny home. That is certainly an option and you might be able to save a few thousand dollars going the used route.

If you purchase new, you have a couple other options. You can purchase a ready-made commercial trailer, a tiny house trailer or have a trailer custom made for you. Commercial trailers are marketed in nearly every large city because they are used for construction, hauling, farming and other applications. With a fist-full of money, you can go in and purchase a trailer from the lot. Most likely, modifications will need to made this this trailer to adapt it for a tiny house. You could purchase a trailer constructed for a tiny home, such as a tumbleweed trailer or a tiny house builder's trailer. Both are good options for a semi-custom trailer but typically, they are more expensive and they are constructed to what these builders consider "custom". Plan to spend at least $500-1000 more for one of these trailers than you would spend if you ordered your own custom trailer. The third choice is to have a custom trailer constructed specifically for your use.

I admit, having a custom trailer constructed is time consuming but you will obtain a trailer to the specifications you choose. I chose to have my trailer custom built by Kaufman Trailers in North Carolina. Kaufman was very good to work with, they are experienced with custom trailers for tiny homes and they had an established delivery contractor that was much cheaper than the other manufacturers.

I ordered a custom Kaufman trailer the first week of August 2014 with the following options: 20 foot deck, 10,000 capacity, no dovetail, no wood boards on deck, crossbeams welded even with top deck, no ramps, no tie downs or other attachments on the side, and front trailer jack near front of tongue. Ordering from Kaufman saved me over $1200 if I had purchased a "tiny home trailer"; delivery of my trailer is scheduled for mid-September 2015. One option I was unable to get from Kaufman is "side extensions" that extend the trailer bed from 82" width to 96" width. Kaufman was able to do side extensions of 102". I will have side extensions added once the trailer arrives.
 My custom trailer will be similar to this without the dovetail (sloped rear deck), wood decking, tie downs or the front rail. Overall price of this custom trailer; less than $3000 and delivery to upper Michigan was only $700.

The beginning and a continuation of past

I have lived in small apartments, tents and sailboats. I have also lived in MacMansions. Living in a small space is more comfortable for me. This starts the adventure and creation of MooseVilla, my tiny house on wheels that will be my home and research facility. 

I am currently a second year PhD student at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan studying Moose Ecology. Once I complete my degree, my home and I will be located somewhere in the frozen north working and studying moose. I invite you all to follow the journey as we construct my home and research platform. Prior to returning to school, I was a self-employed laboratory scientist and a professional wildlife photographer. It was my work with wildlife that encouraged me to return to school to pursue my passion for moose. I am not young like most students but my passion has not died with my advancing age. I am currently 58 years old. 

Come with me as we study moose and build my home.

 Bull moose in Jasper, Alberta Canada; photograph copyright Moose Henderson