Want to be mortgage free, have minimal energy and maintenance costs but still be a home owner? Building a tiny house may be the answer.
A current minimalist trend receiving increased media coverage is the small house movement. Tiny houses are under 1000 sq feet and some are as tiny as 80 sq feet complete with bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and living quarters. Using traditional building techniques and materials, tiny houses are made to last as long as traditional houses and are aesthetically similar to larger homes.
Manitoba couple, Veda Koncan and David Bryan, are currently building a 168 sq ft off grid tiny wheeled house which is to be used as a secondary residence. Building the house themselves, Bryan, a carpenter by trade, and Koncan were helped out by 25 friends and community volunteers.
The couple connected with other local communities where people live in small, off grid houses such as the tight knit community of Northern Sun Farms where Bryan’s parents met. The couple also spent time ‘woofing’ in the UK, staying at neat tiny houses.
“We definitely took inspiration from these places when designing our tiny home”, says Koncan. Not skimping on items such as a $2000 Swedish wood stove, the couple expect to spend $10 to $15,000 in total.
When asked about the smaller space the couple will be required to live in, Koncan said, “We already live in a pretty small apartment in the city so we’re not terribly concerned about the tight quarters.”
Their anticipated challenge: the worry of having to move their ambulant house too many times. The anticipated benefit: the joy to rusticate away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Although, Lloyd Kahn, author of Shelter (1973) is an earlier pioneer, the English born, American based architect and author, Sarah Susanka, has often been credited with popularizing the small house movement after publishing The Not So Big House (1997). The acclaimed author has a rapt audience these days making appearances on Oprah, Better Homes and Gardens and Newsweek.
In regards to the minimalist house concept Susanka promoted in her book, the author says, “As soon as The Not So Big House was released, I realized that what I’d written had struck a chord.”
Small homes make the most of the space they have, incorporating technological advances of space saving equipment and appliances, while discarding the inutile. It’s design over space.
Susanka says, “It’s seen as the only sensible thing to do, and there’s a perception of increased value with a smaller, better designed, more sustainably-made house. People are building for the way they really live. They’re eliminating the rooms they rarely, if ever, use.”
Oft cited barriers to tiny house living are access to land, obtaining loans from banks, current local zoning and coding laws which do not recognize or favour tiny houses, social pressures and cultural norms to maintain ‘the more is better’ status quo and the fear of undergoing a radical lifestyle change.
Solutions to these common barriers are cited on The Tiny Life.com website. Statistics, according to the website, report more women own tiny houses than men, 68% of tiny American homeowners do not have a mortgage and 89% of Americans owning tiny houses have less credit card debt and 65% have zero credit card debt.
The average cost of a standard house is $250,000; add a 30 year loan at 4.25% interest and that total is closer to over $400,000. Compare that to a cost of between $20,000 and $50,000 for an owner built tiny house. Now that’s a high efficiency home!
About two years ago, Jenna Spesard and Guillaume Dutilh quit their jobs to work as travel journalists, pulling their wheeled 400 sq ft home with them on their journeys. The couple moved out of their normal size house, into their tiny house, and left their old lives behind forever.
“The people we meet who live in tiny houses tend to be much more free-spirited than the people we met in our jobs,” says Dutilh. They travel to wherever they can park their tiny house or where they can hold tiny house building workshops for the tiny house company, Tumbleweed, founded in 1999 by Jay Shafer.
Another reason Spesard and Dutilh decided to live the tiny house lifestyle was concern for the environment and their impact. “We’ve done calculations and our imprint is now half of that of the average American couple,” says Dutilh.
You can check out their Tiny House Giant Journey posts and videos at: http://tinyhousegiantjourney.com/
For more on tiny house floor plans or builders, check out the following links: