My daughter’s Tiny House

Or sometimes we call it our cabin. My daughter’s classes are all online due to the pandemic. So she had a choice. She could either stay in Vermont or go to Dalhausie where she’d have to stay in a dorm without the social benefits of of a college or university. She said she’d be more incline to stay if she could build a tiny house—something we had discussed before. Unfortunately, once the pandemic got underway, Tiny House trailers went the way of yeast. They were hard to find and new trailers weren’t expected until well into September or October. We decided to build a Tiny House on skids so that we could start in July. Building the Tiny House on skids has the added advantage that it can’t be taxed like a fixed structure and I didn’t need a building permit.

I prefer a shed roof to a gable roof mostly because it’s simpler to build, simpler to insulate, and has the advantage of only dumping water and snow on one side of a structure. The eve in back extends two vertical feet so that splash is minimized for example. There’s even room for a bicycle in back.

The pile of field stones comes from having buried electrical conduit out to the cabin—#2 gauge aluminum direct burial.

We tried to build the cabin as inexpensively as possible. The corrugated steel siding is probably one of the least expensive sidings possible while the clapboards were all left over from other jobs I had done. The cabin is insulated entirely with foam board. I had enough foam board cutoffs from other jobs to insulate the entirety of the framing. Two inches of expanded polystyrene literally encloses the framing so that there’s no thermal bridging.

The cabin has the best view of any window on our property and we set it in front of our wildflower garden, the patch of yard I let grow up in wildflowers in the summer. You can see a path I mow through the garden. Insects, butterflies, crickets, and grasshoppers are especially appreciate of the garden.

On the inside, at 77 square feet, there’s room for a desk, a mini-fridge, a wall of shelves, and a fold up bed. The fold up bed is my piece of resistance. Took me a while to figure out how I was going to build it. At first I thought I’d simply attach it via hinges to a board fastened to the wall. I was never in love with that. It’s inelegant and the hinges would have had to have been strong enough to hold at least 200 pounds. I briefly considered murphy bed kits but they all struck me as overpriced and too expensive. The hardware also seemed inelegant to me, usually requiring that the bed be folded into a box meant to hide the hardware. The only advantage was in the hardware being spring loaded so that the bed would be easier to lift. For a twin bed, that didn’t seem worth it. At the eleventh hour, it occurred to me to use iron pipe fittings to create both the bracket and hinge. You can see the results below. The iron pipe brackets are held in place with two timber lock screws that bolt through cherry blocks. Since the brackets are in sheer, there was really no need for more than that. Two timber locks screws in sheer can hold well over a ton of weight.

I fussed over all the ways I was going to keep it fastened upright, then settled on the simplest of all possible solutions—a wrought iron latch. I also sweat how the bed would sit against the wall, but the simple solution to that was to make sure the mattress was proud of the bed frame—that way when the bed is folded up, the mattress acts as a cushion. The rope is nautical rope I had left over from a log cabin I had built. What to tie the rope off to was another detail I briefly sweat, then bought some stainless steel nautical cleats. My daughter wanted to be able to look through windows while in bed, so we installed two windows length wise and one in the shelf system. The windows were from another job where the wall had rotted out but the windows were still intact.

The shelf system serves two purposes, one is in providing shelves and the other is to provide the depth necessary to install a Lunos eGo Air Exchange system (because the cabin is so tight). Look closely at the shelves and you will see that the switches are reachable from bed and the eGo is installed to the upper right. Unfortunately, I’m very disappointed in the Lunos eGo and wouldn’t recommend their product. It doesn’t bother my daughter, but the two “computer fans” whine, even on low settings, like they were in a Dell Desktop from 1992. Given the price of the unit and that it’s the year 2020—there is just no excuse for a unit like this without quiet fans. At some point, I may try to replace the fans with some easily obtainable quiet ones. Internet is provided by a Netgear Powerline Extender that carries the signal over nearly 300 feet of cable and two subpanels. That’s #2 gauge aluminum, so that’s a 12 lane highway as far as this unit is concerned, but I’m impressed and highly recommend it. Speeds are excellent and my daughter has had no trouble attending online courses. Lastly, you’ll notice the heaters in the lower middle of each end wall. They’re each 2000 Watt, 240 volt Stiebel Eltron heaters. The reality is that the cabin is so tight that only one heater will be needed except for those occasional nights when the temperatures dip to 20 or 30 below zero—which does happen a few nights every year.

The desk is some very knotty pine. My daughter liked the heavily figured wood. It folds down on the right had side when a larger desk isn’t needed or for access to the two corner windows. I had initially thought of buying a bracket, then simply made it out of fir 4×4. These are fastened to the wall with two timberlock screws. The windows, by the way, are all boneyard windows, meaning that they were windows other customers had returned to the dealer, for whatever reason. They usually sell for a steep discount. All these windows were “replacement” windows rather than “new construction”, which meant that I had to build a box for them. The box is made of treated 1x stock, trimmed on the inside so you can’t see the treated.

So. That’s what I was mostly doing in July and September. The cabin took us, part time, eight weeks to build. The only thing left to do is to stain the door. I enjoyed it so much I wouldn’t mind building another one, maybe to sell in front of our house.