You're Going To Build A What?

The saga of J building his tiny off-grid house

Archive for the ‘ebay’ tag

Two steps forward, one step back.

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It’s been a very busy couple of weeks here, but there’s less progress than I’d hoped there would be. Let’s start with the good news, my Ebay-fu is still rocking. The recent purchases are as follows:

Shower door: £10.50

I nipped up to oxford to collect this last week, only took 45 mins to get there and also allowed me to drop in on some friends who lived nearby for a quick cuppa and a chance to catch up. The door just needs a clean and the frame just needs the silicon sealant removing and it’ll be perfect.

Chimney Flue: £228

Now this comprises of 6 sections of double-walled, insulated, stainless-steel flue, plus the cap and a couple of 45degree bends. Each section is about a meter long and in the shops would cost around £100 each, so that’s £700-worth of flue. Found a courier company to pick them up from Kendal and bring them down to London for £30. Bargain. Just need a bit of a polish and they’ll be as good as new.


Kitchen Sink: £26

Another Ebay bargain, this is a Kohler sink, brand new, still in it’s box and which retails for £285. I was actually bidding on another, identical looking, sink but which in actual fact was smaller. That went beyond my set budget (£30) so I started bidding on, and ultimately won, this one. It wasn’t till I picked it up that I realised it was a chunk bigger, as the seller had used the same photo for both and just changed the size in the description. Still, although it’s a bit bigger than planned, it’s a really solid sink for an absolute steal and, in emergencies, I can use it as a bath.


Construction was planned for a bit of a boost this week as I took delivery of a mig welder to repair the trailer. Once again bought from Ebay for the bargain price of £136. It’s a bit rough around the edges and, when we plugged it in, it decided not to feed wire out. Opening it up and blasting away years of dust and assorted crud with the air blaster and winding off the first couple of layers of rusty wire soon had it running smoothly.



We spent a morning chasing around to find some gas for it, turns out you need an account with BOC to buy gas, as you have to rent the bottles from them and that’s about £60/year plus the cost of the gas. Found a place that does it’s own bottles and for £103 picked up a big bottle of Argoshield gas, got three years rental on the bottle included and can swap out for gas at £20 a fill for the next 3 years any time I want. Nice.

It’s a big beast of a welder and you can’t run it at full power off a 13A plug but it seemed to be fine at lower power so my brother Nicky sat me down and taught me the basics of welding. I had some offcuts of steel from the trailer sides that we’d removed so we cleaned a couple of those up and got stuck in. It’s fun, I’m going ot enjoy doing more of that and you can see my efforts below. Need some more practice, but I think they’ll hold things together.


The next morning we were up bright and early to go and collect the steel pieces we’d ordered and then set up to cut out the bad sections and weld in the new. That’s when we discovered that the power was out to the garage where I’m running my extension from. There was no-one home to ask if we could check the breakers so that was that for the day. Nick had to leave at lunchtime so we decided to leave everything as it was. I’ve got plenty to be getting along with in the meantime such as practicing my welding, fixing some other bits of the trailer etc.I’m considering picking up a small generator off ebay (wherelse) so that I can guarantee having power in future.

We did measure everything out properly so that now I know exactly how big the house is going to be, where I’m running the framing out to and how wide I’m going to extend the house out to (just a little bit less than the wheel widths. I can now sit down and properly plan the framing. I may even start building some of the framing as individual panels, getting them nice and square and cladding them in OSB, this means I can effectively pre-fab them, store them and then put them up once the trailer’s done, it also means they’ll be straight, true and, hopefully, will go together quickly and without gaps.

Meanwhile, Nick has managed to sort a new job out this week and will be moving to Sheffield in a couple of week’s time. This means that instead of being in Ireland, he’s a couple of hours up the motorway and can come back down soon to oversee the cutting out of the trailer parts and do the main structural welding for me, something that makes me a lot happier about the longevity of my tiny house being towed around the place.

In hindsight, I should have bought a better, more expensive trailer. This has set back the building several weeks and added to the cost, something I could well do without. That said, I’m learning new skills and collecting new tools. I may sell the welder when it’s all finished to recoup some cost, or I may keep it and add it to my workshop. I said originally that this wasn’t about the end product, it wasn’t about building with the absolute minimum cost, it was much more about the ethos of building small, about learning new skills and the journey of actually building my own house. Some of these things are priceless, such as sitting with my brother and learning a new skill from him. I wouldn’t change a thing about what I’ve done so far.

Peace, out.

Written by justin

May 16th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

That’s the hot water sorted then.

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I’ve been thinking about the best way to heat water for the tiny house this week, and have finally decided to go with gas. I had considered solar, which is in keeping with the green theme and off-grid nature of the house, but it would involve a lot of extra equipment and expense. To start with I’d need a water tank to store hot water in, and that takes up a fair amount of space, the panel would be large and, unless I built my own, quite expensive. I did think of building my own, that was my original way into green technology when I was about 14 and built solar water heaters that could provide hot water for washing up etc. But in such a small house it’s not really practical.

I then looked at a back boiler for the little woodburner I’ll be fitting for winter heating but again you need storage and additional plumbing. So I’m going to go with an instant gas water heater, which will be simple to install, cheap and efficient. Ideally I’d like one of the Bosch ones designed for off grid homes but you can’t buy them in this country and that makes it expensive to install.

Interestingly, there seems to be some confusion amongs manufacturers as to what you would need in a mobile environment and how to provide a suitable device. Ideally, you want a room sealed heater, ie one that takes it’s combustion air from outside and pipes it’s exhaust outside too. In fact, if you’re selling a device for motor homes, caravans etc, this is a requirement. It’s strange then, that the only one of these I can find requires mains electricity to run the igniter, whereas the heaters that aren’t room sealed (ie are for things like static caravans etc) are generally powered by a couple of batteries. Surely it should be the other way round.

In the end, I’ve decided that I’m going to go for a heater that isn’t room sealed, mainly because it will run for such a short time that there’s not going to need to be much air supply drawn from inside the house. It will only be one when I’m running hot water from the kitchen tap for washing up or when I’m in the shower, which won’t be for that long as I’ll be aiming to conserve water as much as I can. The heater I’ve found that looks a good buy is available direct from China on ebay

and details can found here

I’ve been working on designs for two water systems and the rainwater capture which I’ll post next time. Undecided on which one to go for right now, so more pondering to do.

Written by justin

April 27th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I shall be clean in the tiny house!

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One of the things  that I’ve been trying to figure out is how best to build the bathroom in my tiny house. In the US, it’s common in new houses or renovations to use a shower enclosure that’s made out of a single fiberglass moulding. This makes it seamless and ensures there is no gap for water to leak through. Unfortunately these aren’t common in the UK and, when you can find them, they’re several hundred pounds, which is outside my budget. So, I figured I’d put in a shower tray and find a way to waterproof the walls.

I had considered just using plywood and coating it in marine epoxy. Not the prettiest answer but wouldn’t be too expensive, and would be reasonably easy to do. I don’t want to use tile because it’s too heavy and I need to keep the weight down to the trailer limit. I’m also not looking for one of the heavy ‘stone’ shower trays which are most  common now. Then I discovered plastic wall panelling: It’s lightweight, warm to the touch so there’s very little condensation and available in nice designs. It’s still quite expensive though, and looking round suggested about £300 to make a 3 sided enclosure.

However, Ebay has, once again, helped me save money. I picked up a brand new shower tray for £12 from someone nearby. It’s white, 76cm on a side and will define the width of the bathroom. I also found some reduced wall board, probably and end of line, but enough to complete the shower, the ceiling above and possibly a splashback in the kitchen. It looks like blue tiles. With the edge seals and fittings it came to just over £100, and now all I need to do is keep my eye out for a suitably sized shower door,  mixer valve and waste trap. I already have a low flow shower head with an on/off button. Now, how shall I heat the water….

Written by justin

April 2nd, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Posted in planning/design

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