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Adam and Karen’s Tiny Off-Grid House

Even though Adam and Karen don’t include themselves to be part of the tiny house “movement”, their 280 square foot cabin certainly qualifies it be featured here.

Their goal in building the home was finding the right balance between function, character and cost. Karen and Adam found the property on the way back from a friend’s wedding.

After hiking up the driveway (their car couldn’t make it), and discovering the breathtaking scenery and waterfalls, they made an offer on it 5 days later.

Adam and Karen’s Tiny Off-Grid House

Adam and Karen 2

Images © equinunkcabin.blogspot.com

Adam and Karen 1

Images © equinunkcabin.blogspot.com

The cabin is located on a 12-acre mountainside in Pennsylvania between the Catskills and Pocono Mountains. The couple is building the home themselves, learning as they go, with no prior construction experience. They researched and studied many resources in their quest for the right design and to help them in achieving it. They settled on a style that allowed them to do much of the work themselves.

You can follow the couple’s ongoing progress in building their tiny cabin on their blog.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Dean
    May 19, 2015, 2:58 pm

    Took a look at their blog. Its a nice house, from the outside. No finished interior shots….maybe they’re still building it.
    Apparently built from already existing plans.
    Not crazy about the lack of foundation.
    Not only does it support better than posts, it insulates too.
    Even with radiant heat in the floor, that must be a C-O-L-D walk around that house, on a winter’s morning (trust me, I’ve lived up here in the north for most of my life).
    Cathedral-like window placement reminds me of the classic Terhune home design that reigned in the 90’s.
    I’m sure it’ll be a nice house.
    Maybe you can post a follow-up, showing the whole house, when they get done with it, Alex.
    Anyway, thanks to Adam, Karen AND Alex, for sharing this with us.

    • Cahow
      May 19, 2015, 6:51 pm

      I echo everything that Dean said: nice house, went to their blog, things are slowing down, construction-wise, for them.

      I, too, truly question the lack of foundation. Our first cabin in Galena looked almost identical to the exterior of this little cabin, but we had it on a poured concrete foundation for both warmth and stability. And because the grade up the spiraling driveway was SO steep, we had to literally haul up the supplies with two all-terrain vehicles,one pulling the flat bed trailers and one pushing it. Living in the wild woods, I can imagine every woodchuck, coon and skunk wanting to seek shelter under the home and burrowing “in” for a nice Winter’s nap with babies on the way, each Spring.

      But, it’s not my heating bill, so other than that question, it’s a cute home. Good Luck, Adam and Karen!

  • Comet
    May 19, 2015, 9:54 pm

    @CAHOW LOL we have a house on a pured full basement foundation–and a woodchuck has been busily trying to EAT it’s way IN to the house–has EATEN the door casing. We set a live trap and caught–a—skunk; that then REFUSED to leave the trap!

    This is an olde-timey way of doing a cabin tho and some in the Appalachins have stood like this for two hundred years—but where this cabin IS does get some pretty cold weather; I grew up not far away from there. Maybe they are only going to use it in warm weather? And clear the livestock out–or put hard ware cloth or skirting on?

    • Cahow
      May 19, 2015, 11:26 pm

      I laughed SO hard at your “wood-SKUNK” story, Comet!!! ~snort-giggle-giggle~ Thanks for that image. 😀

  • Rich
    May 20, 2015, 9:22 pm

    Without getting too technical, Adam and Karen’s house has a “foundation” of concrete piers, just not a basement, crawlspace or slab on grade. Their foundation has allowed them to anchor their house firmly to the site (to below frost line) without hauling tons of unsustainable concrete up to their mountainside site. Much lighter and sustainable insulation materials in the floor should provide a comfortable floor even in winter and raised as it is and not enclosed, this system will not likely be a first choice as a winter home for bears, skunks, racoons or woodchucks. I expect that they will need to enclose any plumbing down to frostline if indeed they decide to have such systems.
    I applaud Adam and Karen for building according to their goals of “right-sizing”, sustainability (that’s generosity toward you, me and the earth) and finding a way within their means, not any easy balance.
    How many tiny houses do we drool over here because they are “cute” without thinking about their “foundations” or warm floors or co-habitating skunks?

    • May 21, 2015, 12:50 pm

      Thanks Rich (and all posters) for your encouragement. Right sizing was indeed a top priority for us in building this house.

      Re: insulation, here’s all the technical stuff — mostly driven by the local energy code and common sense.

      – We loved the idea of avoiding all the embodied energy and expense of the concrete required for a full foundation. The pre-cast concrete piers go down over 4 ft and are really affordable in our area.

      – We plan to insulate the drains and water supply lines but leave the underside of the house open to discourage animal visitors. The inspector wants to see insulated skirts all the way around (to trap heat from the ground and block wind). We’re going to try to negotiate a solution.

      – There are thermostatically controlled heat tapes on the water and drain pipes at risk of freezing. This is a pretty common but not ideal solution for trailer homes and really cold climates. Our solar energy system has enough muscle to handle the heat tapes, which are only 10w per foot.

      – There’s 11″ of fiberglass batt in the floors. We may add a couple inches of foam to the underside as well.

      – We have not put in the hardwood floors yet but will be using an insulated underlayment with a radiant barrier. This helps keep the floors feeling warm and picks up an extra R-3 or so.

      – We used the US DOE’s ResCheck program to model the overall insulation/heat loss on the house, including the insulated floor over open air. Our inspector required a ResCheck because 2×4 framing does not allow for enough “R” in the walls without adding substantial exterior insulation. Between the SIP panels in the roof and the tiny footprint, this place will be toasty no matter what.

      Probably more than you ever wanted to know about the “slab vs. pier” decision but there it is, in case it helps others on their journey!

      Adam and Karen

    • Dean
      May 21, 2015, 2:44 pm

      If they build a skirt down to the ground, that could help with insulating the house and keeping the plumbing from freezing over in the winter. I only hope they don’t find that the ground “moves” a lot, or there are “soft spots” within the spot where they built. Individual posts can move up and down, independent of the others and can really warp the structure. I’ve seen floors that look like ocean waves. I just hope that condition does not befall them.

  • Ski Guy
    May 21, 2015, 9:04 pm

    Very cool cabin (house) – lots of windows to enjoy the view. I love the covered deck for shade and rain, I suspect a railing will come at some point in the constuction. One thing that you might consider using that stream and waterfall is for hydroelectric power which would help supplement your solar system. Call me a romantic but what a great story to hear that you found this paradise after attending a wedding and 5 days later you made an offer. Cheers

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