Tiny House Progress Update!

We came out roaring with tiny house plans and ideas and I feel like we’ve been a bit quiet on that front as we’ve settled into working life. Everyone is constantly asking about how it’s all going and what our plans are so I thought I’d write a quick update of where we’re at, where we’re heading and some of the challenges and decisions we’ve faced so far.

Our tiny house frame and trailer

We decided fairly early on to get a professional to build our frame as we are in no way professional builders and having a solid structure seemed pretty important. We were lucky enough to be recommended someone on the South Island with experience building tiny houses and we headed down to meet him over the summer. We liked Chris straight away and ended up staying at his place on Arthur’s Pass and discussing all our framing and trailer options. We’ve since made some big decisions and paid our deposit so Chris is starting our build in the next few weeks and we’ll have it delivered to us in late September. Our main decisions were:


A hybrid frame

I’ll go into this in a more detailed post but basically, you can get a full steel, full wood or hybrid frame. Steel is lighter, cheaper and stronger but can be a pain to attach cladding etc to. Wood is easier to work with and means we are able to do it ourselves. So we’re getting Chris to build the load bearing studs using steel and add the roof. When we get it we will add wooden framing to make the walls and window frames.

A loft overhang

We’ve decided to build our loft bedroom a metre longer than the rest of the house. This gives us a bit more space up there and also means our kitchen will be more open as there will be a metre less inside the house. The stairs can be moved back also creating extra space in the living room which we plan to use to keep a fold-out desk/table.


Single glazing

This was something we thought long and hard about and changed our minds on several times. Because our house will be essentially a caravan we won’t need it to be signed off against the building code (which requires new builds to be double glazed). After talking to other people who live in a tiny house we felt pretty sure that single glazing was sufficient for the small space and the added cost and weight of double glazing wasn’t worth it for us. We will install good curtains and blinds and will hopefully be located near Wellington which doesn’t get very cold in winter.

Since we decided to go with single glazed we realised we could use wooden windows which are nice looking and easier to source. So far we have bought out French doors and a couple of windows second hand as well as salvaging some from my parents’ house renovations and people online.


A removable trailer

Our tiny house will be able to be held up on stands/blocks and the trailer removed from underneath. This will make is way easier to get our trailer warranted and keep our tiny house road worthy. This is not only handy for moving it but means it can be counted as a caravan rather than a house (a very grey area in the law). This will cost us a little extra but we decided it might save us a lot of effort and potentially money trying to move the whole house when the warrant expires.

Wooden floors

Although this adds a little extra weight to our build we’ve been lucky enough to be given offcuts from my parents 120-year-old Matai flooring. This is simply too good to pass up, it’ll look beautiful and there’ll be a little bit of my childhood home in our new house. My cousin found us a great deal on some underfloor insulation that was being thrown away at his work and we have some old real estate signs to protect the floor and trailer underneath.

A Composting Toilet

This option just ticked all the boxes. Sustainable, no hassle to install, no water connection required and it doesn’t smell (really, we’ve checked). This will make all our plumbing and water supply easier in the future and also means we don’t need to be connected to sewage.


Decisions we still need to make

Cladding

We’re undecided about our best options for cladding. At the moment we’re thinking of using colour steel for most of the exterior as it is lightweight, cheap and reasonably aesthetically pleasing. However, we’d like to add some wooden detail to the front and are looking at cedar weatherboards, Shadowclad or simply ply with wooden batten details. 

Furniture

This is part I’m holding out for but we’re waiting until we have the frame at least so we can visualise what will fit. Essentially we only need a bed, a couch and a table but we haven’t decided whether to custom make them or repurpose old stuff to suit.

Where we’re going to put it

This is the biggest decision we need to make and we don’t really have a lot of control over it. Realistically we can’t afford to buy land in the next year or so. We’ll need to rent somewhere which sounds easier than it is. Council regulations mean Wellington is very difficult to find a suitable spot and the lack of flat land in general makes it unlikely we’ll be able to move into the central city and suburbs. But we’re hoping to find a spare bit of land somewhere in the outer regions of Wellington. So if anyone knows someone with a spare field, a patch of lawn or a back garden they’d be interested in renting within about an hour’s radius of Wellington please get in touch!


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