Frequently asked questions
Did you really build your Tiny House, or did you just project manage it?
I really built it. I outsourced the roof (and skylights), the electrical work and the gas plumbing. Everything else I did myself.
How much help did you have to build it?
Not that much. I think I did 90% of the work. I called in friends when there were jobs I simply could not do as one person. In the beginning I had a couple of days with a friend who was a builder, but he really just helped me put the frame up. More important than physical help was moral support and the encouragement that I could do this. My landowner for the build, Wayne, and his family was instrumental in this.
How did you learn to build?
I had no building skills before I started. I had been a Business Analyst (think office worker) all my life and hadn’t picked up any power tools before this project. My Dad offered to help to begin with (a handy DIY kinda guy) but I ended up building on land belonging to an ex-builder. Wayne taught me most of my skills but he wasn’t by my side every day. I was extremely lucky to find Wayne, but I spent many hours searching for things on YouTube, asking on forums, figuring stuff out myself. At that time there were no experts in building tiny houses so I worked most of it out myself. If you really want to learn something, you will find a way.
Wasn’t it hard to build as a woman?
If you mean how did I do it with less physical strength than a man - I just asked for help when I needed it. There are techniques to doing things more efficiently that builders will know (they need to be as efficient as possible too) so if you know a builder just ask them questions. As far as knowing what to do, I can assure you that a woman with no building experience is just as well equipped as a man with no building experience! If anything its a bit easier because whenever I asked for help, things were always over-explained rather than under-explained.
What prompted you to build your own Tiny House?
I was living in Sydney, paying an extortionate amount of rent and wasting about 10 hours a week commuting in Sydney traffic. The unit I was renting came up for sale and I realised that, despite LOVING the unit and its location, I could not sign myself up for a mortgage that would effectively chain myself to a 40+ hour week working for someone else for many years to come. I had recently moved from permanent full-time work to contracting and this suited me well. The freedom I found in dictating my own availability whilst juggling the balance of income vs personal time was exactly the path I wanted to follow. A trip to the US put me in touch with a wider tiny house community and, having met a few people who not only lived in tiny houses but built them, I decided this was the answer I was looking for.
Is living in a Tiny House all its hyped up to be?
This is not a simple question but if I have to answer it simply, the answer is yes. Living in a tiny house involves a lot of sacrifice - you need to let go of a lot of stuff you get used to moving around with you. But the reward is realising you don’t need most of that stuff. You can have the best versions of the things that are important and in the process of culling you get to understand what is important and what is not. The best part of tiny living is choosing where you want to be, and the luxury of time to explore all the things you want to try (because you don’t need to work full time thanks to the much lower cost of living).
Doesn’t it feel cramped at times?
No - I built my tiny just for me. My boyfriend stays over sometimes but mostly it’s just me. It fits me perfectly because I designed it that way. In the winter it does get smaller because I use my outside space so much in summer. The lifestyle living tiny affords me allows me to spend time travelling north in winter. Or else I just spend more time with friends. Currently I live near the Victorian Alps so I am lucky enough to be able to go snowboarding on the premium days, not just the weekends. All of this just 1 hour from my doorstep.
What is the hardest part of Tiny House living?
Not being able to accommodate friends when they visit me! I have had people camp in my large paddock but thats not for everyone. Its also hard to have people over for dinner in winter as my outdoor dining area is too cold. I do miss having a bath tub but then again I have rented many places without bath tubs too. More of a novelty when I get the chance now!
How did you get permission to live in your Tiny?
Tiny houses are a grey area right now and in a way I am taking advantage of that. I live responsibly in that I have a certified composting toilet and I manage my waste properly. I regularly test the pH levels of the soil that takes my greywater. I prioritise my relationships with my landowner and my neighbour. I give back to my community. I didn’t ask permission but instead I take responsibility. I know I might get asked to move on at some point, but that’s ok - I have wheels. Stepping outside of society’s norms requires you to see that one lifestyle doesn’t fit all. That realisation also makes you realise that just because something isn’t 100% legal, doesn’t mean it is wrong. Change requires pioneers!
How often do you move your Tiny?
So far, just the once! I moved to a town I had been wanting to live in for many years and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet. My back-up plan if I get asked to move on is to the next valley, at this point.
How heavy is your Tiny?
4.5 tonnes. Too heavy for me to move it so I hire a tow truck to move it. Hence it doesn’t move very often!
How much did your Tiny cost you?
I spent about $100,000 on my build and about 13 months working full time on it and 11 months part-time (on weekends whilst working a job). The opportunity cost of my time would make this project very expensive (I try not to think about that!) But I got more than just a cabin on wheels out of it. I learned to build and learned that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. Plus, its a very comfortable home. I could have built if for less if I’d gone for a lesser finish. I’ve lived in it for a year now and would change very little if I had my time again.
Why don’t you start a Tiny House building company?
Whilst I cherish the time I spent building, the toll on my not-so-young body was significant. I was 43 when I started this project and bending an office-worker’s body into a builder’s body was a challenge. I still love to build but I don’t think my body will allow me to build full-time. Plus, the tiny lifestyle has allowed me to explore a whole lot of other income-earning opportunities.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about moving to a Tiny House?
Firstly, I’d ask what attracts you to it. If you say the houses are sooo cute and that’s it, I’d probably tell you to think a bit harder about the realities of living tiny.
If its because you just want a cheap house, I’d say be warned about all the tiny house porn on social media claiming you can buy one for $20,000. I can assure you that the one you have saved or pinned to your fridge is probably not going to cost $20,000. Either its a scam or its “indicative”. Good finishes cost money, and so does solid engineering. Moving a tiny house is a big responsibility, not only do you not want it falling apart but you certainly don’t want anyone being hurt whilst its hauled.
If you say you want out of the rat-race, you want time to do the things you want to do, you want to free yourself of a whole lot of consumerist crap you have collected and you crave a different lifestyle, I’d say go for it. If you really want it, you will find a way to get it.
Is there anything you would change about your design?
Nothing significant! I wish I had installed double-glazed windows, or at least timber-framed windows. I didn't expect to be living in my Tiny in an alpine region in the winter and the aluminium frames create a thermal bridge causing condensation in winter. Double-glazing would be an awesome luxury too but weight was already an issue so that would have been a conundrum. I might consider retro-fitting this at some stage.
As per my blog post on moving the tiny, I would reconsider the weight distribution of the design on my trailer. I still love the layout, but the trailer was built for an even weight distrubution so massive learning for me there.
Everything else I still love!