Building a tiny house without having ever been inside a tiny house seems like a bad idea. The movement has been around long enough that there are tiny houses all over the place, so you can probably find a friendly owner or an AirBnB for rent somewhere near you (we did both).
We happened to have some friends-of-friends (Sarah and Todd) who live in a tiny house not too far from us. So, we introduced ourselves via the old Instagram and set up a hang-out-and-chat-over-curry-we-made at our place to talk about all things tiny. The following week Sarah and Todd invited us for brunch at theirs so we could see The Black Lodge in the flesh. The tofu scramble with avocado and pour over coffee was AMAZING - did we mention Sarah and Todd are also vegans?
This is an imaginary interview (a fun format) for what we learned from hanging out with Sarah and Todd over the last month.
Image credit: @tinyhometasmania
A&R: Hi Sarah and Todd, we're pretty excited to meet you guys, don't mind the tape on the living room floor, we are figuring out the layout of our tiny (friendly smile).
S&T: Glad to be here guys, lunch smells amazing by the way (inhalation with a little happy eye roll).
A&R: Can you tell us a bit about how you ended up living in a tiny house, and what your process was? (leaning forward, bated breath)
S&T: Sure A&R! We were living in Brisbane and had visited Tasmania then we fell in love with the place (A&R - knowing look and nodding). We also strive to live a minimalist lifestyle and building a tiny house on wheels was on our radar, so we decided to do it! We had the shell of our tiny house built by a builder near Brisbane, transported down to Tasmania via the Spirit and parked up on our Uncle's block. We mostly finished off the inside in Brisbane until it was liveable. We have kept working on it, refining it as we go based on what we need. We have moved around the Huon Valley a bit since then and survived floods, bushfires and COVID - it has certainly been an eventful couple of years! (relaxed and comfortable chuckle)
A&R: How did you go with moving the tiny house during the floods and bushfires?
S&T: It was eventful, that is for sure! During the floods our parking spot ended up under water, luckily not enough to damage our electrics but it was a close call. During the bushfires we were on 'watch and act alert' and our neighbour who was going to move the house for us made the call. During the move we had a minor disagreement with a tree and the chimney flue on the way out. If you are parked in a bushfire or flood risk area you really need to be mobile and able to move your tiny house quickly! The less unbolting, deconstruction and disassembly the better. We were very glad we hadn't built a wraparound deck or other attached structure.
A&R: So, why did you decide to have someone else build the shell of your tiny house? (inquiring gaze)
S&T: It made sense to get a professional tiny house builder (with a workshop and all the right tools) to build our trailer and shell. Even though T is a carpenter, it would be quicker this way than doing all the work ourselves. It meant we could keep working full time and pay for that service. The decision allowed us to move down to Tassie much sooner than trying to work on the tiny on weekends. It meant we avoided taking the financial hit of reducing work or quitting our jobs to work on the build (nodding in agreement).
If we had our time again, we would probably do the build ourselves. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the quality of workmanship by the builder. The builder owned it as their mistake and provided a partial refund for some of the faulty work. Most things are fixed up now by us, and we love the place.
A&R: That makes sense. We are certainly looking forward to the adventure of building our own shelter. We have seen through instagram stalking, that you did most of the internal fitout, and that you've made some changes to the space over time (non threatening, non stalkery smile).
S&T: The transition to tiny house living, coupled with the move to Tassie was a great opportunity to focus on our minimalist values. A bit of an experiment on what-do-you-actually-need. We have slowly added things to our house over time as we identified what we needed with the changing seasons and the reality of living tiny in Tasmania. Things like extra coat hanging space, additional kitchen storage and a range hood. You definitely definitely definitely want a range hood. We have a great 12V one that also has LED lighting.
A&R: Range hood, check. You mentioned 12V, how is your house wired?
S&T: We had the electrician run both 240V AC and 12V DC circuits through the entire house. Our chest fridge, chest freezer, range hood, lights and extractor fans run off the 12V battery circuit, the 240V AC is for the other stuff. We love the chest fridge and freezer. It's a bit more awkward storing things, but it's way more energy efficient as the cold air doesn't fall out like an upright fridge/freezer would when you open the door. We added the array of solar panels to the roof and our solar system keeps the batteries nicely topped up.
A&R: How do you regulate the temperature inside your tiny house?
S&T: We have the wood fire of course - it was the smallest one you could buy in Tassie at the time - unfortunately they don't make our model any more. The guy who helped install it was great and super excited about the tiny house. His workmanship on the roof penetration and efforts in ensuring our flue could still be removable for transport, was great. We have a couple of small 12V fans that help to circulate the warm air through the loft. The fire is nice and toasty in the winter. Our walls have an R2.5 batt in the 70 mm cavity. We only have single glazing 'smart glass' and get a little bit of condensation, but nothing major, and it stays toasty warm.
Image credit: @tinyhometasmania
A&R: We hear a lot of 'cleaning is so easy in a tiny house' as a reason for going tiny - what is your experience with cleaning and maintenance for your tiny house?
S&T: Well it's certainly a smaller space to clean... but that also means it gets messy much more quickly. You need to be extremely disciplined with putting things away after you use them. Also, surfaces wear faster and show dirt more often, so you end up cleaning more frequently. We have a cat too, so the fur builds up MUCH more quickly. We probably vacuum every three days or so. Having dark coloured soft furnishings like curtains/blinds is a good idea too - before we had the range hood, any airborne particles from cooking end up discolouring blinds and walls pretty quickly. I recommend using gloss or semi-gloss paint for your surfaces - in a tiny house, everywhere is a high traffic area! We have repainted the inside of our house already after only a couple of years. Out cat Vincent has also scratched up our cork flooring a bit - we would probably go with a hardwood floor next time.
A&R: How do you go with the sleeping loft?
S&T: It's great! The warm air rises so it is warm and comfortable all the time. It is important to think about the height of the mattress - we had a thin mattress to start with, but moved to a posturepedic inner spring which is thicker, but it cuts down on headroom. We might have changed the internal dimensions a little if we had of known our mattress would or could change. Cross flow ventilation is super important for comfort in a sleeping loft. We have sliding windows with pet mesh screens for Vincent, and while they are effective at ventilation, they don't keep the rain out. We'd recommend going with awning windows for the loft to allow them to be kept ajar without letting the rain in.
A&R: Your bathroom is quite different to other tiny houses we have seen, with the washing machine and storage/kitty litter nook behind and under the stairs. How well does it work for you?
S&T: For the most part it works great. We have a Natures Head composting toilet. Just like everyone else who has changed to a composting toilet, we were a little apprehensive at first, but it works as advertised and doesn't smell. Make sure you only get 1 ply toilet paper though, the thicker stuff can tangle in the agitator. You could probably make your own for much less than the cost of the Natures Head unit. We also ended up adding a second exhaust fan to the bathroom as one wasn't pulling out enough moist air. Vanity bench space is also something we would like a little more of - currently the shaving bowl floats in the sink, not ideal!
A&R: You're right - no smells! I like how the space has grown with you over time, as your needs have changed.
S&T: So true. At the moment we are adjusting the kitchen storage configuration and have recently done away with our sofa bed in favour of a seat with storage - for the few times a year someone stays the night, they can borrow our swag.
Image credit: @tinyhometasmania
Only one more thing to do before we bite the bullet and hand over money for a trailer: Stay a couple of nights in a Tiny House AirBnB. See you next week!
All our Love,
Adam and Ruth,
Foraging for Vegan Treats
Season 3 Statistics:
Mortgage purchase attempts: 2
Funds raised through selling stuff we were not using: $700
Tiny House University Units Completed: 37
Land Rover For Sale Gumtree Ads Bookmarked: 3
Working weight estimate: 3030 kg
Working cost estimate (spent/total): $0/$60 342
Tiny houses we have been inside: 1