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Thread: "Small" house - Impressions, opinions, thoughts - all welcome

  1. #1
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    "Small" house - Impressions, opinions, thoughts - all welcome

    The LOML has been watching a lot of TV regarding tiny houses (defined as under 500 sf) for the past year or so. We even stayed in one last week as a trial run just to see if it felt too claustrophobic.
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    We both agree that the current home of 1200 sf is only about 50% utilized by the two of us and the yard and pool maintenance is breaking the bank. For instance, when you amortize the cost of winter covers (every 10 years), summer covers (every 3 years), liners (every 10 years), chemicals, and electricity it costs close to $125 per month every month just to have the pool. Electric and gas here run me $250 per month combined.In addition, the shop is the garage so we can never park our cars out of the elements.

    We're looking, just looking at this point, at a severe downsizing - to about 500 sf with a 200 sf loft area. The bedroom and bath would be main floor, just storage and a place for my computer in the loft (Jan's knees would never allow for a loft sleeping space). There would be enough open floor area in the loft for an air mattress should we have to entertain an occasional overnight guest. I've seen a few plans that have an attached 3 car garage (yes, I know, the garage would be larger than the house) with side entry meaning it can be extended to about 32' allowing 1 bay 12 x 32 for shop area and a place along the back wall for benches and storage. One bedroom, one bath, kitchen, and a great room. Vaulted ceilings in the great room are a must so it does not feel small. This is one of the plans that caught my eye though it would need to be modified to include a loft.
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    There are many manufacturers of tiny homes. Almost all are either modular or park model trailers, hence all are built under HUD standards and inspections. This drives the cost way up, to about $150 per sf. That is nearly double the going new construction rate around here of $80 -$90 per sf. So, our plan is to purchase a lot outside of the city limit (easily done around here) where building restrictions are less, well, restricting and build over a crawlspace. We anticipate a reduction in property tax, insurance and utilities as well as a 40% reduction in monthly mortgage payments. That translate to a lot of freedom and ability to travel more.

    So, anyone out there have any experience with tiny houses? Anyone care to offer guidance? Tell me I'm crazy? Brilliant? You won't hurt my feelings, promise. I welcome all comments!
    Last edited by Rennie Heuer; 05-15-2015 at 01:53 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Some additional thoughts based on points raised by a friend here who sent me a PM on this:

    All good points!
    We have three hospitals right here in Nampa, eight in the entire valley. Moving out of the city limits would still be only 15 minutes to the nearest hospital or Walmart! Well and septic might be a consideration if we buy an unimproved lot, but they are not prohibitively expensive, about $15,000 complete. We would definitely build with an eye to zero maintenance on the exterior - cement shakes for siding, standing seam steel roof, vinyl clad windows and door frames. Resale is a concern, but not a big one. We do not expect to ever move again unless it is to the nursing home. As for the lot, remember we are surrounded by mountains. There are a lot of places where a nice mountain view is still available.

    Lastly, we don't get many visitors. I've been out here now for 21 years and only twice have I been visited by family from back east. Not really worth maintaining a guest room for that. An easier route would be to have a parking spot for an RV and a list of nice motels in the area.
    Host of the 2017 Family Woodworking Gathering - Sunken Wood

    “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk
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  3. #3
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    I have a solution; fill the pool in and plant a garden. Partition off the unused rooms in the house and setup a finishing area and additional lumber storage.

    Problem solved.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by glenn bradley View Post
    I have a solution; fill the pool in and plant a garden. Partition off the unused rooms in the house and setup a finishing area and additional lumber storage.

    Problem solved.
    Amen to that! At this stage in my life and after almost 30 years in my house, I'd rather take a beating than move!
    Jesus was a Woodworker

  5. #5
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    We considered filling in the pool, but only to make the house more attractive to buyers. There is only a single 48" gate for access to the yard. No place where we could take out a section of fence or any other method to allow access to a bobcat or front loader. Therefore, it would take about 280 full wheelbarrows of fill to fill in the hole, plus dozens of wheelbarrows of debris gong the other way. Labor, labor, labor. Cost prohibitive at best. I'm afraid we are stuck with the pool and, if we do not sell next year, we will have to spring for $3500-$4000 for a new liner a year or two later.

    Moving scares me a little, though I've done it more times than I would like to admit. However, building a new shop - well that excites me!
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  6. #6
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    Your taste for living tiny may not be extensive enough. Do a whole month. Stay for laundry cycles, grocery shopping for more than a week and where do you store the stuff. I agree that 12 sqft and a pool are over the top. Less than 500 sqft may be moving the pendulum too far in the other direction. I had an 800 square foot house with a loft in Strawberry. Perfect. A 3 car garage on the property would have been even better. Now I live in a 100 sqft motorhome. Not enough for a single person. When the weather is crappy, even I get claustrophobic.

    I am building a house that is maybe ~800 sqft living area over an equally sized lower level than will house the shop, a bathroom, and a small office. There will be separation for dirty tools (mechanical) and woodworking tools. There will also be enough room for undisturbed finishing. I am also considering a root cellar and rain water storage. I will still need an outdoor shed for yard tools and such. I have been doodling this plan for a year now.

    I hope I finally have the entire list of what the county requires. You might stop by your county's planning/building department and the health department and collect all you will need to know about wells, septic systems (beyond what it will cost) outbuildings, minimum requirements. Example: I need two car parking outside of the set-backs even though I only wanted a one car garage for the car. Since the house will take nearly every square foot of the building envelope, I lost 400 square feet to parking issues. I wanted a one bedroom house and the county requires two. And the septic system is sized for a 3 bdrm 2 bath house whether that's what I am building or not. The septic and leach fields have its own set backs and easements.

    Now my lot is small by any standards around here so it is a puzzle and you likely will not have the same kind if issues. I am suggesting you find out exactly what kind of issues you WILL have. There will be some. Assume nothing. Get it in writing. My county has an awesome website for this sort of thing. I now have a book! And an awesome civil engineer. This county is interested in making smaller lots and houses work. In spite of water shortages, the rumbling earth, and lack of space, people keep coming. Fortunately my lot is an aberration in terms of size in a neighborhood of acre plus lots. I won't feel so claustrophobic. But I do have to fit it without looking a fat sausage in a small pan.

    I'm with you, Rennie, in principle. Take your plan and walk through living in it. Take yourselves through all the scenarios. You come home from shopping. Where does everything go? Storage is usually the first thing that is inadequate. Its why rental storage spaces and backyard sheds are so popular. You take down the Christmas decorations. Where are they to be stored until next year? Where do you put the outdoor things (BBQ, lawn furniture, etc.) during the winter? Think through a whole year, month by month, and ask those kind of questions. Think about house and yard maintenance. Driveway & parking.

    The building process begins with a plot map. Where is everything to go on your lot? House, garage, septic, storage, out buildings, etc. If the lot has a grade, then there are cuts to deal with and drainage. Right now it is paper and pencil or computer. easy enough to change things and decide which are deal breakers. BTW, cost per foot goes up when building smaller because there are so many things that have a flat cost (water meters, as an example), that are not dependent on size. The basic permit fee with is various and sundry taxes is not lowered much around here based on house/lot size. Nor or the resulting property taxes when everything is done.

    Get answers now. Besides, its kind of fun! And live in the tiny home for a month. You will learn tons. Maybe something between 500-900 sqft will work much better and be the economical place you are hoping for.
    ++++++

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  7. #7
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    this will sound a bit odd, but that's just me. instead of filling in the pool, drain it, use it for a foundation, and build a new shop over it. you can use the space below for a finishing area, and you have a handy drain, just in case....
    benedictione omnes bene

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rennie Heuer View Post
    Moving scares me a little, though I've done it more times than I would like to admit. However, building a new shop - well that excites me!
    Now hold on a minute . . . you never said move into a 500 sq ft house and build a 1200 sq ft shop. That's a different story ;-) Around here, for the cost of that liner I could find someone to fill in that pool. LOML tried to get me to buy a house with a pool when I first moved into the area. Fortunately I had lived with a pool in the past and found the only way to enjoy one was to have a pool service which was only part of the cost of taking a dip now and then. As I get older a spa and a sauna are much higher on the list than a pool ;-)
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  9. #9
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    More, but I am about to run out the door. If Jan's knees don t like stairs now they won't like them in the future any better. Cleaning upstairs and cleaning a loft is a hassle. Just saying.

    I plan on no or very few steps. And the bathroom will be sized for the future jacuzzi. Think what you will need when mobility becomes an issue, since you plan to live there until the nursing home. Often people have to move to the nursing home because their home cannot accommodate wheels chairs, walkers, ramps, etc. Plan space for them now and you can delay the expensive move to the nursing home. Nothing less than 3-0 doors. Anywhere. Landscaped grades to the front door instead of steps. Of off the back deck.

    Gotta run, but you have me thinking.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  10. #10
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    Got to go with Carol on this one. I would look more at a XL Tiny, say 750 sq ft.
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