You're Going To Build A What?

The saga of J building his tiny off-grid house

I have foundations!

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So, after all the planning, how are things shaping up in the real world? Well, getting ready to start work on construction. The two most expensive things I expected to buy were the trailer and the windows.

Ebay has been pretty good to me so far: I have a trailer on which to base the house which I picked up for £560, it’s a second hand car transporter, 16′x8′. I’m going to strip the wood off and then all the paint, which will probably entail a couple of days with sanding wheels bolted to the angle grinder. I was after a 3500Kg max load trailer, but none were coming into my price range so in the end I went with a 2500kg model and I’ll build the house down to that weight. This will probably mean that at whatever time I move the house from place to place, I’ll drain off any water in the tank and put the batteries in a separate vehicle. More on those later.

Another reason for stripping all the paint off is to check the solidity of the welding all over and, if necessary, make any repairs. Fortunately my brother’s a qualified welder so I may get him over from Ireland for a weekend and borrow/rent a welder. I also have a great friend up in the midlands with a workshop and an industrial welder but without a regular tow vehicle it’s more difficult getting up there, though we’ll see just how it all works out. Once it’s been stripped, sorted and repainted I can get on with the building proper.

Trailer1 Trailer2

Windows are really expensive, I had no idea. I decided from the outset that I’d be looking for windows made of wood rather than upvc. I don’t particularly like upvc and have issues with the pollution caused by it’s production and disposal. Well managed and maintained forestry makes wood one of the most environmentally building materials, if you source locally. Problem is though, they’re not as common and are more labour intensive to build, which results in higher cost. I don’t mind occasional maintenance, treatment and upkeep on a house so longevity wasn’t an issue, although modern wooden windows are on a par with upvc for that nowadays. Cost though, wow they’re expensive. £350 and up, per window. All of a sudden my budget of £5k was looking seriously strained.

One of the interesting things about building is that much of the spare/surplus material can be reused elsewhere. Windows, though, are a different matter. If you want to replace a window you have to have an exact size match. If you’re building new you’ll want all your windows to be the same height and often same width. Any leftover windows are tougher to find a home for. This is good news for someone like me. I’m less worried about the sizes because I don’t have to start building until I’ve decided that. Bargains can be had if you’re prepared to wait and keep looking.

I knew what I wanted, which were windows similar to those that Jay Shafer uses on the factory built Tumbleweed houses, which are made by Jeld Wen. They just blend so nicely with the whole aesthetic of the tiny house. A daily ebay search started to come up trumps. I found a pair of Jeld Wen windows up in Stafford, unused, still in their wrapping. Starting bid of £100, I put them on my watch list and monitored progress. A couple of days went by and no-one had bid on them. A couple more days and still no bids. I couldn’t quite believe it, this was £700-worth of windows. I sat watching the last few hours of the auction convinced there’d be a flurry of last minute bids. There wasn’t. Mine for £100.

Did the happy dance.

Another week goes by and there’s two more windows, same style/make but slightly smaller. Another £100 and they’re mine. I need one last small window to complete the build, but that can wait. I needed these before I could start the framing plan for the walls, so that’s the next part of the project. I’m learning to use a home design program as so far my ideas and plans are all in my head. I’m not very artistic and drawing is something I only really do with graph paper, so this might be a useful piece of software to master as it also allows you to do 3D walkthroughs of the plans, which is quite handy for realising you’ve got heights wrong.

The budget is holding for now.

Written by justin

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Construction

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