The Windy City’s Unseasonable Weather Brings out Tiny Home Warriors

Visiting Chicago’s Shaumburg Boomer Stadium for the first annual Chicago Tiny Home Show, presented by Titan Tiny Homes was something I’d been looking forward to since my invite months ago. I knew there would be super cool homes on display and speakers I’d want to hear present. I assumed there would be floor plans represented that’s I’d never seen before and really great people to meet.

What I didn’t anticipate was that it would feel like January instead of mid-May.

The crazy thing about the 2018 home show’s response to the freeing rain, arctic temps and sporadic storms rolling through was that the people still came. They came, they toured, they listened, they asked questions, and they just waited out the weather and joked about the cold.

Chicago, You. Are. Warriors.

I was impressed by the thousands who poured into the freshly mowed baseball stadium, still smiling and greeting me warmly with their coffee in hand. The show’s guests were glowing from their excitement from touring home after home with lofts and bump outs, slides and an array of toilet options. They were getting their questions answered and they had done their prep-work.

Presentations were given by Bob Clarizio of Titan Tiny Homes, Luke Thill “The Tiny House Kid”, and myself of The Mama On The Rocks. The guests at the show were able to hear about zoning, coding, land approval, DIY builds, material weights, downsizing and how to do it, and the possibilities of living tiny as a family. The weekend was packed and Saturday was full of energy.

Houses were on display from 18′ to 40′ and even virtual tours from Utopian Village. The monster 40′ tiny home from Texas showed up Friday night to prove that everything really is bigger in Texas! The slide out feature was a must-see and a definite fan favorite from Hill country Tiny Houses.

Everyone ooohhed and ahhhed over Titan’s display models, especially the sliding door entry of The Everest.

My husband came with me to the show for the first time and we barely spoke to each other because the folks stopping by our booth had such incredible questions. We were so impressed by their thorough research and well thought-out planning. People were so friendly and Titan were great hosts.

If you missed this year’s Chicago Tiny Home Show, be sure to check the website for more info on next year because it is a show you won’t want to miss!

How Big Is Too Big To Live Tiny In A How Big Is Too Big To Live Tiny In A Large Body?

Whether you are considering height (or lack thereof), weight, pregnancy, or the growth of children into teenagers, all changes in size should be considered when downsizing your living space. Many people wonder, and I get asked a lot, “How big is too big to live tiny in a large body?”

As a large female who is comfortable in my frame, I am happy to field this perfectly reasonable question.

In our experience with tiny house builders as well as our spending the better part of the last year living tiny, it all comes down to five things:

Bathrooms

No matter the height of the shower, the width of the bathtub, or the placement of the toilet, someone of size needs to consider the available space in a tiny house bathroom. Certain brands of toilets (like the Nature’s Head) sit up higher off of the ground, whereas a homemade composting variety can be build to suit. On the other hand, with low ceilings in most tiny house bathrooms, the shower height will be lower than most traditional home builds and the bathrooms, at their largest, are usually the size of an RV tub. This leaves little room for a relaxing bath for a new mom or for multiple kiddos.

Bedrooms

If you are of a large stature of any variety, the bedroom can be tricky business, but it can be done. Those who are tall should consider than many tinies, unless built into a custom design, won’t host a king sized bed or mattress. This leaves some of high stature with their feet dangling if it isn’t taken into consideration early on. Additionally, if a plus sized couple were to be in a full or queen bed, they may be less comfortable at night so keep that in might to allow more space during your build to walk around the bed or equip the room with a larger mattress.

Ceilings

Standard overall height for road capable THOWs (Tiny House On Wheels) is 13 feet. That is the maximum for being street legal (with up to an 8.5 ft width). This means you have to deduct the height of the roof, insulation, drywall and framework, etc.

Additionally, many tiny homes have one or more loft spaces for bedrooms or living areas. This can lower the overall interior height in some spaces down to under five feet (although, traditionally they stay at 6 ft.). This is an easy solve for taller home buyers/builders with the addition of the adjustable loft. These spaces can be raised and lowered by a variety of means such as pulleys or even removing the loft entirely. Many parents opt for this type of loft so they can enjoy the headroom in an upper bedroom until their lower level kiddos are tall enough to require the height adjustment.

Doorways

This concept follows along the lines of the ceiling heights. While many doorways are standard sized, some are shrunk for the purpose of space so front doors may have less width or a hallway might be more narrow. This includes the addition of galley kitchens or bar eating areas as space savers.

We have found the addition of pocket and/or sliding doors allows the privacy desired without the need to a non-adjusting or smaller sized door or hallway.

Seating

Many tiny homes use a bar style seating, foldable table or counter space, or stools for chairs. This can cause some struggle for short folks as well as those who are taller or weigh more than average. The simple solution is to adjust the height of seating or tables and to keep these in mind when building. We actually removed our original table, after finding it less than comfy and replaced it with a custom-built table that folds from a bar to a dining set with ease. It provides comfort and plenty of space and cost my husband less than $50 to make.

As with anything custom built, you can pretty much do whatever you want with your design. So this is a great way for people of all ages and sizes to experience the freedom tiny living has to offer!

5 Things to Watch Out For When Buying Used

From cars to houses, making a large purchase comes with big commitment. No matter what two people you ask, you will likely get different responses on the how to’s of making this financial decision.

Buying or building tiny does come with its own caveats that differ from the traditional home buying or building process. While they share some similarities, everything from price to the build itself can vary. So here are five things to watch out for if you plan to buy used and why we recommend building instead.

Trailer

When building a THOW (Tiny House On Wheels) you aren’t just building a trailer to haul wood or even farm animals. You are building a home that will carry for family and that must have the ability to be safely moved from one location to the next.

The quality of the trailer should be taken into consideration every bit as much as the house itself. Buyers should beware of rust, pre-used trailers, the length, the axles, the number of tires, as well as how the home is affixed to the trailer. This shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be thoroughly inspected by a professional.

Appliances

This is maybe the biggest area where THOW builders can cut corners to fit a house into a buyer’s budget. This doesn’t mean they outfit a home unsafely, it just means a buyer may choose to downgrade the brand name or the size of something in order to fit for space or financial restrictions on the build.

For instance, a popular THOW might come standard with an apartment refrigerator and an electric cooktop. An upgrade would be a residential fridge, a propane or electric full-sized stove, or the addition of a dishwasher or washer/dryer. These are easy things to cut out when wedding the list of wants into needs for a budget-friendly build.

Plumbing & Electrical

For these to be installed safely, just as in a traditional house, they must be done correctly and [usually] by a professional. Cutting corners and DIY-ing this step could be disastrous. If you are buying used, you can never be sure of what is behind the walls. While we love to be trusting of our beloved tiny community, there are still dishonest people out there. Please have anything used professionally inspected before buying.

Insulation

Another area of great debate in the tiny house community is how to keep their house warm. Buyers can choose everything from recycled denim to organic wool, spray foam or the traditional pink panther rolls of your average Joe construction supply store. The cost on some of these materials can skyrocket the overall price tag on a new or used tiny. Be sure you are getting what you want and researching the longevity and R-value of your product.

Materials

Consider everything from siding to windows, counter tops to storage. All of these variables will weigh in on the overall hauling rate (weight) of your THOW, the safety when traveling, and the overall durability. If you plan to move a lot with your home, you might consider tempered windows to withstand whatever the highway might throw at them. If you will be in below freezing temps, you need to upgrade to double paned. cedar vs vinyl siding is also a consideration.

Do your research or employ a professional inspector who is familiar with THOWs if you plan on buying used.

So Why Do We Recommend Building New?

Like anything else, you can’t know if you are getting a lemon until you’re stuck with it. You can’t simply return a house because you found things you didn’t like. As any home buyer knows, a month into the purchase, you will still be discovering things you were blind to when you were just excited to make the purchase.

This is a house. For many, this is forever. Building tiny homes can range from $10,000 (DIY, kit build, and basics) to upwards of $140,000 (for top-of-the-line and customized all inclusives). However, if you compare this to just single family, entry level stick-built homes, you are still saving tens of thousands of dollars. So do this the right way so you won’t end up regretting your purchase. Find a reliable builder, and plan for your dream home.

So You Wanna Go Tiny? Let’s Talk Toilets!

When catching up with tiny house builders across the country, they all agree on one thing: They talk about toilets…a lot!

Why Are Toilets Such A Big Deal?

When building a traditional home, toilets are pretty much basic outside of fancy upgrades like a dual flushing. When you are talking about a build that allows your house to move around, you have to consider all of the options for plumbing since many aren’t connected to traditional water and sewer/septic. This can also come with a hefty price tag so, in the tiny house world, toilets are actually considered a luxury item for many interested in saving space and saving money.

Things to Consider

-Cost: Handmade composting toilets can be built for under $50, while some other types can cost up to $3500. Your budget can be seriously impacted by your choice of commode, so choose wisely.

-Odor: Many people worry hard about how their toilet might smell, depending on what type they choose. Do your research. Composting toilets, if maintained correctly, shouldn’t smell. Incinerating toilets have their own smell. You have to choose how important this is to your quality of life.

-Emptying Options: Make sure you have someone living in your tiny who is comfortable emptying the waste, whether it is being drained outside or taken to the compost pile. If not, choose traditional flushing and have plans for plumbing and sewer hook ups.

-Space: Depending on your choice and brand, some toilets can be large since they hold the waste in a self-contained tank. Other options can be built to suit or can be moveable within your bathroom space. This should be a priority consideration when building a home under 400 square feet.

What Are Your Options?

  1. Homemade Composting- This is the least expensive option and the easiest to maintain, however it is the one that freaks people out the most. For this, you can use anything from a bucket with a foam seat to building a box set up with a traditional toilet seat and use pine shavings to cover odor. A urine diverter will help with smell and when you empty the waste.
  2. Working/Active Composting- This is a more pricey choice, but it has minimal upkeep and thus is a very popular choice among most tiny home builders. You can get one that is self-contained, or remote. Self contained are larger because they contain the waste in the bottom of the toilet, while remotes hold the waste in a separate location-typically outside or underneath the THOW.
  3. Incinerator- Another pricey investment, but with no worries of emptying compost, this toilet type burns the waste into an ash deposit. That being said, this does come with its own odor and can require a significant amount of energy to run.
  4. Traditional Flushing- This is just like what anyone is used to but it does require a full time hook up to sewage or septic. So, for THOWs, it really isn’t an option.
  5. RV Toilet- It is what it sounds like. For this option, you will need a holding tank and a place to brain it when it fills up. It does use minimal water per flush but you will need to consider special toilet paper so it breaks down fast in your holding tank.
  6. Dry Toilet- Another option to allow you to live off grid and without the requirement of plumbing, this type of toilet uses cartridges filled with silver liners that, when flushed, wraps the waste SUPER tight to prevent odor from escaping. Once the liners are full, you simply empty them out and replace the cartridge. These toilets are cheaper to install, but the liners are a maintenance cost to consider.

What Do We Use?

Since we are currently living in a 36 foot fifth wheel while saving to build, we use a traditional RV toilet. We really appreciate the water conservation aspect and we use a draining service for a separate large holding tank (500 gallons) when parked. This allows us to drain our tanks while we are on the road but also have a constant system when we are parked for longer periods of time.

What Do We Recommend?

Nature’s Head Active Composting Toilet This is one of the most popularly installed toilets for tiny home builders across the U.S. because they are more affordable than other brands/types and easy to maintain. While some models can rung in closer to $1200, this one won’t break the bank during your build at $975.

Founder and CEO of Titan Tiny Homes says, “The main reason we have decided to use natures head toilets as our go to composting toilet is because it is the only toilet officially recognized by the RVIA.”