This is a guest story by a Tiny House Talk reader and now a DIY builder who built her own debt-free tiny home
Why in the world would a female member of AARP who has never built a thing in her life attempt to teach herself the skills necessary to build a tiny house?
There are a great number of people talking about tiny houses these days. That was not really the case when I got the idea for my tiny home. My idea stemmed from a logical practical need.
It didn’t begin as some magnificent business plan. It began quietly and simply, a possible solution to a very big and very real need. I’m not an architect. I’m someone who has spent her life seeing problems solved with common sense and perseverance.
I grew up on fifteen acres and learned the successful creatures in nature are fighters, quick responders, and know how to resource the world around them. The women in my life have always had an incredible gift for taking what some might consider junk and repurposing long before it was trendy, resulting in beautiful, comfortable, budget friendly homes.
The men were equally inventive and resourceful. I don’t ever recall a workman coming to our home. If men in the family didn’t already possess the needed skill, they applied themselves and learned them. In short, I come from a family of doers.
We figure things out. We get things done. We solve problems. I raised two wonderful daughters in one of the most expensive parts of the country. The year my younger daughter graduated from high school I lost the house. Perhaps many of you struggling to make your mortgage payments can relate.
I spent the next several months living out of campsites. Fortunately for me I love to camp so it was actually a very pleasant way to spend the summer months. Like any other person, I made it to work every day and no one was aware that I was in between residences. Fall finally came around and it was time to go indoors again.
This is New England, after all! For the next six years everything I owned was in storage and I lived in a tiny shoebox of a room while I tried to regroup and regain control of my life. It took some time to formulate a game plan. It had to be something I could manage on limited funds.
Somewhere along the way I was reminded of the tiny house concept and the idea began to roll around in my head on a regular basis. During this time funds were extremely limited and so were my skills. Each week I bought a tool, or a book. On a really good week I bought both.
When build time finally rolled around I had a project plan, small pickup truck, trailer I found on Craigslist, enough tools to rival some men’s workshops, many worthwhile reads on construction, and every relevant read on tiny houses. Tiny houses are not for everyone. I could not imagine raising my children in 130 square feet.
But at other stages of life, for some of us, they are the perfect alternative. Thus was the case in my world. My family is scattered, my children independent, and I am single. There are probably as many ways to build a tiny house as there are people who build them, perhaps more.
I wanted mine to be versatile, aesthetically appealing, comfortable, inviting, and able to work off grid or plugged into a friend’s electric and water. Exploration yielded more fabulous photos, ideas, books, plans, and great connections with others than I could possibly do justice to in a whole host of lifetimes.
I didn’t need the perfect solutions. All I needed were the perfect options for me, my budget, my goals, and my skillset.
Some of you may be like me. Your skills in math may be severely lacking. I’m a visual person.
What I lack in calculation skills I make up for in reasoning and practical application. My tiny house was built by using defined dimensions. I knew the dimensions of the trailer, knew the legal size constraints, knew the size of my door and windows, knew the safety precautions I wanted to have in place, and knew framing measurement requirements.
What I didn’t know, I learned along the way. This process should have taken me six months but due to a layoff resulting in a drastic reduction in pay, just as I was about to begin work, it took two years, almost to the day.
What did I learn in this process? I learned that I have paid a whole lot more attention to the skills of others than I ever realized, and I’ve learned from watching. I learned it’s not important to know. It’s important to be willing to learn. I learned to go slow and wait until the answer arrives.
I was reminded to always think ahead and about the potential impact of a particular design or element choice. I was reminded of the ever important, measure twice and cut once. I was reminded of the value of small but steady consistent progress.
If it was a day I couldn’t work outdoors then I made sure I did something that would benefit my efforts when I again was able to do so. Safety was paramount, even when it cost me extra money and time. Being scared, insecure, uncertain, and getting made fun of have absolutely no bearing on the finished product. Suck it up and push forward. In the end the efforts speak for themselves.
Since completion, my tiny house has been through a blizzard, hurricane, and city traffic on the windiest day of the entire season. Factoring in everything it equated to approximately 85mph winds, and three hours of sustained highway speeds in pouring rain. She has held firm, tight, and dry.
More details of the build process can be viewed at www.coppertinwoodandwill.wordpress.com.
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