Author Topic: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?  (Read 7248 times)

Mississippi Mudstache

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It seems that there are scads of online resources these days for tiny houses. If my wife and I didn't have two kids, it would probably be a lifestyle we would enjoy. However, our 800-square-foot duplex is about as small as I care to go with a family of four. I'm interested in going mortgage-free by buying a lot of land and building an 800-1000 square foot house on it. I've bought books on the topic, but they're always a disappointment, as they're generally nothing more that 'idea books' that assume that you're going to spend $200/sq. ft. and contract all the work out. Do any of you follow blogs or websites with a similar focus to what I'm suggesting? I'm having trouble finding resources that are helpful.

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2015, 02:55:16 PM »
You might have more luck looking for self built "get away" cabins, hunting cabins, chalets, farmhouses and the sort. 

Syonyk

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2015, 04:36:35 PM »
Look for some shipping container home resources.  They tend to be a little bit more "DIY."

Also, in the 800-1000 sq ft house range, you should seriously consider looking at manufactured homes.  My wife & I were looking at some stuff a while back that worked out to about $50k for a decent 1200sq ft place, installed.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2015, 08:41:02 PM »
I've seen some pretty amazing shipping container buildings, but I'm definitely a woodworker and not a metalworker. I will be going stick-built for sure. I may be interested in modular homes - those are gaining popularity around here, and its pretty amazing to see a home get dried-in in just a few days. I would plan on doing the finishing work myself. I'm not so interested in manufactured housing - not even sure I could get it permitted here.

I did luck into this site that has pretty much exactly what I want . They have beautiful, well-designed homes in the 750-1200 square foot range. Not much content at the moment, but what they do have is spot-on.

I'm mostly just looking for inspiration as much as anything. The MMM of small housebuilding, if you will :)

Rural

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2015, 05:51:45 AM »
Check the library, too. When we were planning our place (not small, and underground to boot), it seemed to me that most websites, etc are focused on very specific aspects of a build. For more general, cover-everything options, and definitely for house plans, books were the place to look.


We did our own plans, by the way, after lots of research. That needs careful consideration, especially if you don't have any background in structural engineering, but if you have the skills, it means you get a house designed for your needs.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2015, 06:11:28 AM »
Check the library, too. When we were planning our place (not small, and underground to boot), it seemed to me that most websites, etc are focused on very specific aspects of a build. For more general, cover-everything options, and definitely for house plans, books were the place to look.


We did our own plans, by the way, after lots of research. That needs careful consideration, especially if you don't have any background in structural engineering, but if you have the skills, it means you get a house designed for your needs.

Were there any books that you found particularly helpful? I checked out about 10 from the local library this winter, but none of them were terribly useful from the perspective of someone who is planning to design and build their own home. "The Not-so-Big House" was probably the best of the bunch, even though it comprised a bunch of overly expensive, architect-designed homes, where the plans accounted for 20-30% of the total cost. I could always request some books through the inter-library exchange, if I knew what to request.

I expect it will be at least a few years before I break ground on this project, so for right now, designing the house would be the biggest piece of the puzzle. I suppose it's a bit of a tradition in my family by now. My grandparents and my aunt and uncle both live in a house of their own design, and I grew up in a house that my father designed, though he and my mother have since moved. My sister and brother-in-law have 45 acres in Iowa where they are planning to build a home that my sister designed. Every one of them are engineers. I'm not, but I'll have plenty of brains to pick! And I'll be the first to attempt the build myself. (My dad did most of the electrical, flooring, and interior trim, but contracted out the rest)

Rural

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2015, 03:34:35 PM »
Let's see.
Do-it-Yourself Housebuilding by George Nash is a handy general reference, though it's more the build than the design
An old textbook of my husband's, Fundamentals of BuildingConstruction, Materials and Methods, was a help
The Complete Foudnataion and Floor Framing Book by Dan Ramsey probably wasn't neccessary, but he helped us be sure we weren't screwing up the fundamentals
Because of what we were building, we made pretty extensive use of a couple of Rob Roy's books on earth-sheltered housing, and another one that went into pretty exhaustive detail on calculating and designing around sun angles for passive solar heat gain. I can't find that one at the moment, but I'll add it when I do.


We also had a couple of old books of house designs, from maybe the 70s? The books were secondhand and inexpensive, and incidentally all the designs were "small" because of when they were done. I think we gave those away, unfortunately, or I'd offer them to you. But you might check Amazon  and Ebay or the like, or, longer term, keep an eye open at thrift stores and library sales. That's where ours came from.


I'll have a look around and poke through the shelves in the man cave to see if I can't find more titles for you.

capital

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2015, 05:23:44 PM »
It seems that there are scads of online resources these days for tiny houses. If my wife and I didn't have two kids, it would probably be a lifestyle we would enjoy. However, our 800-square-foot duplex is about as small as I care to go with a family of four. I'm interested in going mortgage-free by buying a lot of land and building an 800-1000 square foot house on it. I've bought books on the topic, but they're always a disappointment, as they're generally nothing more that 'idea books' that assume that you're going to spend $200/sq. ft. and contract all the work out. Do any of you follow blogs or websites with a similar focus to what I'm suggesting? I'm having trouble finding resources that are helpful.
You will probably find Rural Studio's $20K houses interesting:
http://20khouse.ruralstudioblogs.org/20K
http://20khouse.ruralstudioblogs.org/
http://www.ruralstudio.org/programs/20k-house-product-line
They're designed to cost $20k including labor.
This one looks to be around the size you need:
http://www.ruralstudio.org/projects/20k-v15-idellas-house
They're also designed for the southern climate.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2015, 05:26:21 PM by ehgee »

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2015, 10:06:10 AM »
Keep in mind, stick-built is just one option for wood construction. There's also post and beam (I think that's the term) which can result in some breathtaking designs if you like exposed architectural elements.

Not sure how much land you're looking at buying, but if it has quality wood on it, you can save $$$ by milling your own lumber. It can present headaches with inspectors because it's "ungraded" but with a portable sawmill (around $1,000) you can mill it to whatever spec you need, and the wood can be far higher quality than you could afford to buy.

I've read several books about folks who've done that, but there was very little explicit architectural detail in it. The one with the most details, and also some neat ideas about siting the home is Ben Falk's book "The Resilient Farm and Homestead".

forkneedlepen

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2015, 01:46:23 PM »
This site has some really nice plans for free and they seem like great people. They readily answer questions and can modify their plans (for a fee, obviously).

http://www.thesmallhousecatalog.com/freeshare/

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2015, 06:45:05 AM »
This site has some really nice plans for free and they seem like great people. They readily answer questions and can modify their plans (for a fee, obviously).

http://www.thesmallhousecatalog.com/freeshare/

This is actually the site that I linked to in my second post. I love their aesthetic. I showed pictures of the "Beekeeper's Bungalow" to my wife and she was enamored, too. I've already signed up for their newsletter.

Keep in mind, stick-built is just one option for wood construction. There's also post and beam (I think that's the term) which can result in some breathtaking designs if you like exposed architectural elements.

Not sure how much land you're looking at buying, but if it has quality wood on it, you can save $$$ by milling your own lumber. It can present headaches with inspectors because it's "ungraded" but with a portable sawmill (around $1,000) you can mill it to whatever spec you need, and the wood can be far higher quality than you could afford to buy.

I've read several books about folks who've done that, but there was very little explicit architectural detail in it. The one with the most details, and also some neat ideas about siting the home is Ben Falk's book "The Resilient Farm and Homestead".

Thanks for the book suggestion, I'll see if my library can get it. I'm definitely looking to mill some of the lumber myself - I've been sawmilling for over 10 years. A quality portable sawmill that won't make you pull your hair out will actually set you back closer to $7,000 than $1,000, but it's still a bargain if you're willing to put in the effort.

I'm familiar with all forms of wood building - dovetailed log cabins, round log cabins, timber framing, stick-built. The reason I lean towards stick-built is because it's fast, flexible, and inexpensive. I love the look of timber frames, but they take a lot of time, and you're going to be doing some funny things from an engineering perspective if you actually want the frame exposed. A lot of modern timber-framers cover their buildings in SIPs, which gives the exposed-frame look that people want these days, and also makes the timber frame itself redundant: the building would be perfectly sturdy with the SIPs alone, even if no timber frame were contained within. That seems like a lot of extra effort for cosmetics. I know there are other options besides SIPs, but a modern, energy-efficient timber frame home will necessarily take a disproportionate amount of either time or money (or both). I'm actually thinking of building a workshop in the timber frame style, since I won't have to worry about energy-efficiency or modern building codes.

EdwardMonroe

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2015, 09:17:37 PM »
I am actually relying on the updates of DiyNCrafts.com and DIYnetwork.com websites.  I don't have a link of the recent article, but as far as I could remember, the title is like the "58 Most Creative Home-Organizing Tips." I hope you'll find it! I'm using my son's laptop that is why I can't give you the full URL. I've bookmarked it because I also want to renovate our simple abode, too.

James!

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2015, 01:59:23 PM »
I built a little (700 sq ft) house myself. What do you want to know? I'd be happy to answer any and all q's I can.

It was my first, but my wife and I built it along with her parents. My father-in-law is the architect and he has building experience as well.

I guess we did ok because it was in the NY Times, and will soon be in a little book!

I lived there for a year, but now that we've started a family we've moved and it's on Airbnb for the summer.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4963976


Cheers,
James


Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2015, 02:05:21 PM »
Wow, that is phenomenal. Your father-in-law is a talented architect! I also love the Nakashima-inspired (I'm assuming it's not a real Nakashima) kitchen table in the last picture. And only $125/night? Makes me want to visit Portland :)

Really, want I want is inspiration. I want to live vicariously through others' exploits until I can finally begin my own adventure. When does your book come out?

« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 02:12:36 PM by Mississippi Mudstache »

James!

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2015, 02:10:24 PM »
Wow, that is phenomenal. Your father is a talented architect! I also love the Nakashima-inspired (I'm assuming it's not a real Nakashima) kitchen table in the last picture. And only $125/night? Makes me want to visit Portland :)

Really, want I want is inspiration. I want to live vicariously through others' exploits until I can finally begin my own adventure. When does your book come out?


Thank you! I am surrounded by talent. My younger brother built that table as a wedding gift for my wife and I.

Hopefully this is a bit of inspiration, but I'd also be glad to offer more specific support as needed.

As for the book, I believe it's coming out this fall. I don't know the title but it's from Taunton Press, who publishes a lot of architect written books. It's not solely about our house, it profiles 10-12 small homes.

Cheers,
James

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2015, 02:14:13 PM »
Okay, I do have a few questions:

What did you choose for the foundation, and why?
How much did you spend on the build?
How long it it take to build?

James!

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2015, 02:23:11 PM »
Okay, I do have a few questions:

What did you choose for the foundation, and why?
How much did you spend on the build?
How long it it take to build?


The foundation is just a stem wall and then a slab on grade. There is no sub-floor, basement or crawlspace. As for why... A basement wasn't feasible logistically to excavate or in the budget. As for slab vs. wood or something with a crawl space. It's beneficial as a "passive" solar aspect. The window wall is south facing so the thermal mass of the floor is functional. It also looks cool! The cost is probably a wash vs. a sub-floor and hardwood.

How much did I spend... The million dollar question! That's really hard to say because I was the GC, and we did almost all of the work ourselves. This really isn't practical for most people unless you have direct experience doing most of these things. I also didn't keep great records because I was lazy and it would've been discouraging. I'd estimate I spent about $80-$90k out of pocket. I've had a good local builder "quote" a similar project and it'd probably add about $100k, but we also chose a lot of labor intensive details that you wouldn't pay someone else to do. All the exposed board and batten started as rough construction lumber and took a lot of work to end up as is. Also the entire window wall is custom built from individual panes.

How long? At the time, my wife was in grad school and I was working a full time day job. Doing this most nights and 20 hours every weekend, it took us just under a year. I would NOT recommend this strategy. I almost didn't make it out alive.

Cheers,
James

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2015, 02:53:42 PM »
Yeah, I'm no novice when it comes to construction, but I've never built a habitable dwelling from the ground up before. The thing that causes me the most stress isn't the actual build, but settling on a single design from the unlimited options available. It will be hard for me to pare back my tendency to add too many labor-intensive details and just get the thing finished. I might attempt what you did (building while working full-time) if I didn't have two kids, but that ship has sailed, and I know I'll have to wait until I can afford to take a year off before I start. It's kind of killing me, because it's been my lifelong dream, and I always kind of imagined that I would have done it pre-kids.

NinetyFour

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2015, 03:34:32 PM »
I built a little (700 sq ft) house myself.

That is very cool!!  Thanks for sharing the pics!

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2015, 03:40:09 PM »
Neat house. We have 3 kids in a bit over 700 sqft, but having a basement helps. Not much living space down there, but lots of storage for food and seed starting.

James!

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #20 on: March 05, 2015, 03:56:33 PM »
Neat house. We have 3 kids in a bit over 700 sqft, but having a basement helps. Not much living space down there, but lots of storage for food and seed starting.

Totally agree. Our space was plenty for living, but what killed us and ultimately forced the move was the lack of sufficient storage space. A basement, or at least crawl space, or attic, or something... is key.


Syonyk

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #21 on: March 05, 2015, 04:27:11 PM »
Neat house. We have 3 kids in a bit over 700 sqft, but having a basement helps. Not much living space down there, but lots of storage for food and seed starting.

Storage and "non-counted space" is huge.  There's a radical difference between a 700sq ft apartment and a 700 sq ft house, with basement, and a long 2 car garage outside.

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2015, 01:26:21 PM »
If it's inspiration you're looking for, Fine Homebuilding has two books that are compilations of their small house articles--I believe they're called "Small Houses" and "More Small Houses".  They vary in terms of their simplicity, but they talk a lot about expenses and construction details, so it gives you a sense of what might be possible; mind you, they're a bit old at this point.  I also really liked A Place of Your Own Making, which is about building a one-room building--obviously smaller than you're looking for, but it's nicely written and walks you through things in a sort of narrative way. You might also check out the website for the Yestermorrow design school, which has some neat ideas.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Any Blog/Website Recommendations for DIY Small-but-not-Tiny Houses?
« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2015, 01:46:47 PM »
If it's inspiration you're looking for, Fine Homebuilding has two books that are compilations of their small house articles--I believe they're called "Small Houses" and "More Small Houses".  They vary in terms of their simplicity, but they talk a lot about expenses and construction details, so it gives you a sense of what might be possible; mind you, they're a bit old at this point.  I also really liked A Place of Your Own Making, which is about building a one-room building--obviously smaller than you're looking for, but it's nicely written and walks you through things in a sort of narrative way. You might also check out the website for the Yestermorrow design school, which has some neat ideas.

I actually bought "Small Houses" from Fine Homebuilding last year, but I wasn't terribly impressed with it. There were a few designs that I liked, but it wasn't quite what I expected. I just searched Yestermorrow, and it's awesome. Thanks for the link! I'll see if I can get A Place of Your Own Making from the library.

For anyone following along, HobbitatSpaces is another cool small home website. Mostly tiny homes, but they do have some larger ones as well. I like their focus on reclaimed and repurposed materials.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2015, 01:48:26 PM by Mississippi Mudstache »