You're Going To Build A What?

The saga of J building his tiny off-grid house

Archive for the ‘planning’ tag

One step forwards, two steps back.

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My tiny house is officially on hold for a while. While looking for brake shoes to replace the broken ones this morning I found that they’re an old, out of date design, and will cost £50 per wheel to replace. Worse than that though, the guy at the trailer place finally managed to uncover some information about the suspension hubs that are on my trailer and the news isn’t good.

When I bought the trailer I was told it was rated to 2700Kg which is quite a long way from the truth. The absolute max these hubs can take is apparently 2000kg, and they may not even be rated that highly. The hitch is rated to 1700 and the manufacturer won’t sell me an upgrade unit without having proof that the hubs can match it.

Replacing the hubs and suspension unit would cost in excess of £700, plus another £250 for the hitch. This is in addition to any welding work still to be done on the trailer. I’m looking at £1000 just to get the running gear sorted and the trailer still wouldn’t be ‘as good as new’.

I’m currently evaluating my options but I’m seriously considering what I should probably have done in the first place, which is increase the budget and instead of finding a trailer designed for another purpose and modify it to my needs, just have a trailer custom made to be exactly what I want. To this end I’ve sent out enquiries to some trailer manufacturers today to have one built to my design, with a full 3500kg load rating, an 18′ length (2′ longer than the current one), all new wheels/suspension/brakes/tires etc, a brand new chassis with the load bay built to take a flat floor and extended around the wheel area for the house which I can then get on with building straight away.

I’ve had one reply already with a price of £2500 + tax (15%) and I’m waiting to see if the others are significantly higher or lower. It would take 5-6 weeks to be built which would put me well into November before I could do any work on it, so I also have to decide whether to get started straight away or try and get whatever work I can find over the winter and start again in the spring.

As you can imagine, I’m incredibly fed up and somewhat despondent right now, but I’m trying to see this as a good thing in that I may end up having a really good foundation to build on and one that I know will last me many, many years to come, even if it does put me an entire year behind my original schedule and add 50% onto my budget. I’ll let you know my thoughts over the next few days, but I think this is probably the best way forward right now.

Peace, out.

Written by justin

September 15th, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Sometimes the old fashioned ways are easiest.

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You’d think I’d be using a computer for this, being a bit of a geek, but for planning layouts I’m old fashioned and still prefer to use graph paper and a pencil. I haven’t found a program that’s as easy to use as paper and pen for drawing up and playing with framing/floorplans, so today my desk was covered in sheets of paper while I figured out the best way to frame up the house.


I need to get the framing plan done so that I can work out how much lumber I need to actually order. Normally I just sit and figure it out as I go along but that won’t really work here, plus I’ll save money and hassle by getting it all in one go and having it delivered. So, I have the plan pretty much finished, I just need to futz with the roof framing a little and I’ll be ready to order.

This lot should be everything I need to get the walls and roof done, so it’ll make a big change to what’s been happening so far.

Cheers, J.

Written by justin

July 14th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

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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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