Friday, May 6, 2016

Living in a Tiny House during construction

Many of us that construct our own tiny houses are doing so on a very tight budget. I built my home paycheck to paycheck; with a very low paycheck because I am also a full-time PhD student making 10 per hour (roughly $200/week). After paying necessary living expenses (rent, food, electric, etc) there was seldom anything left for construction. If you are tough, adventurous, and good-natured; you can save a consider amount of living expenses by moving into your unfinished home during construction. 

I would not recommend anyone move-in till the house has reached the "semi-dried-in" stage. This is the stage with walls and roof. I moved in before installing all the windows and the door. I used my savings from my rent to invest in my tiny house. If you plan to move in during construction, I recommend you set priorities for the construction sequence.

My two primary priorities were a comfortable place to sleep and a toilet. The toilet was easy, I used a five gallon bucket and a toilet lid as a composting toilet with sawdust cover. For sleeping, I could have gone to the thrift store and obtained a cheap futon but I wanted a comfortable relaxing place to sleep. It was important to me to get a good night sleep and also feel good about my home. 

Therefore, the first place I began my interior construction was the sleeping loft. I installed the loft using 2x6 lumber with 3/4" pine tongue and groove boards on the floor of loft, walls, and ceiling. At first, I used plastic to cover my windows till I got the windows installed. 

I also installed two 12V lights and a 12V fan. I got a cheap battery at the junk yard for $10 so that I would have power to my lights and fan. Honestly, I looked forward to going to bed. I had a book I could read just before sleeping and my loft was inviting.

I used a step ladder to get to the loft; not a real convenient way to access the loft but functional. In the middle of the night, if I needed to "go", I would need to be careful to wake-up enough to safely navigate the ladder. As a man, I soon started using an empty detergent bottle to avoid those late night potty trips. 

After a week or so living in the loft, I found I was stopping at fast food places for meals. Building on a very strict budget, an $8 fast food meal was the loss of a couple 2x4's or a package of screws. I did not want to setup a formal kitchen but I wanted to be able to save money by preparing a simple meal. I did a simple stove and a make-shift counter of spare lumber.

Living in a construction zone was not ideal but it was cost effective. I began my build Jan. 1, 2015 with a trailer. I was building in the middle of winter. Each day after school (research and classes) I worked a couple hours and every weekend. I was able to move into my shell May 2015. It was still cold in Upper Peninsula, Michigan but I was able to stay warm with extra blankets on my bed. It was a success; I was able to complete my tiny house on my budget and began learning about my space during the construction process. This helped me better "feel" my home, decide on dimensions of the kitchen, stairs, work desk, living room area and many other factors. Drawing the plan was just not the same for me as "living the plan". Therefore, if your family situation permits living in your tiny during construction, I encourage you to give it a try during a long weekend. If it works for you, then you will save money that can be invested in your home.

All comments, questions and experiences welcome.

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