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It's the Little Things

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There are some common themes and head scratcher in these shows.  Lets chat about them here.  Thread inspired by:

I wish there were one big thread for the show because there are some overarching themes of bogosity that apply to all episodes.

 

Lets all find out what bogosity means..:)

Feel free to suggest a better title!

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Okay, the things I find bogus:

 

1.  Building a tiny house to be moved frequently.  Yeah, you CAN drag just about anything behind a big enough truck, but SHOULD you?  I thought the reason some tiny houses are built on a vehicle chassis is to get around zoning restrictions because some places dictate a minimum size of a fixed dwelling.  Or maybe it's to get around codes that require things like railings for stairs.  Whatever--if you want something to live in that can stand up to being moved down the highway every couple of months, suck it up and get an RV. 

 

2.  Talking in terms of square feet, when you have high enough ceilings to make two loft spaces for teenagers up there. 

 

3.  Talking in terms of square feet but not including in that a 600-square-foot deck with an outside kitchen (people in the one on the river in particular, but really, lots of them).  Be honest and count the outdoor living space.

 

4.  Not talking about the electrical systems and plumbing.  Well, the Colorado couple (hey, did you know their DREAM HOUSE BURNED DOWN??) mentioned the challenges of using only solar for electricity, but that was one impressive solar array and should handle their needs nicely.  And I'd bet my bottom dollar there's a generator there somewhere because 300 days of sunshine a year is nice, but if the cloudy days are all in a row, there can be problems.  I know a bit about solar, and when the batteries are full, you're actually "wasting" solar production--I wonder why he doesn't have a water tower like they have on New York apartment buildings, where you pump the water up and it gravity feeds down to the living units.  He could pump the water up from his 300' well when the batteries are full, and use that excess solar, instead of being crazy about not running the pump and other appliances at the same time.  And did he say they don't have a coffee maker or a toaster?  You definitely can run those on solar/batteries.  It seemed like another manufactured restriction.

 

5.  Skipping over details.  With the Colorado couple (I really did like their house), the guy kept talking about how he needed this big desk to run his company, and he didn't want to have to move everything in order to do the bed conversion.  And what did he have?  A laptop and one computer monitor.  And they cut away at an interesting moment because I really don't think there's enough clearance for him to leave his monitor standing up when the bed comes down.  It's no big deal to lay it down, but unless you're watching closely, they sure made it look like it fits.  And maybe it does.  But if it does, why did they cut at the exact moment they did?  Color me suspicious.  Same with that Wonder Wash I ranted about in another thread.  Just WHERE do they store that thing?  It's incredibly bulky, and you can't do the "everything has a dual purpose" thing with it. 

 

Possibly fortunately for me, I saw these episodes only because DirecTV had a free preview of the package that has the FYI channel.  It's probably for the best because I was in danger of having an aneurysm while yelling at the TV.

Edited by StatisticalOutlier
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Well if they're building tiny to evade zoning and building code, it makes more sense, but it sure doesn't fit in with their "live with less/etc." noble rhetoric.

When you mention towing them, and I'd hate to do that, I wondered about houses like the bachelor pad tonight, which looks to be tall enough to cause real problems with wind.

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OK, I watch too many of these shows, but...

I woke up this morning, thinking that aside from the dangerous stairs, I've never seen a fire extinguisher or smoke alarm.

And do all of the sleeping lofts we've seen have windows that allow exit in case of fire?

I'm wondering how RVs handle fire and stair safety issues.  Anyone know?

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Bogosity abounds - and yet I can't stop watching. I've always wanted to go tiny, never had the nerve. A friend who loves RVing but would never give up her stick built house watched some THN episodes, enjoyed the ingenuity but scoffed at the $200/sf costs and said an RV has everything most of the people on the show want -- and it's still USA-made.

Kinda took the bloom off the tiny rose, but I watch for Zack's ingenuity. And to admire folks who DO downsize dramatically!!!

Edited by Ipse Dixit

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3.  Talking in terms of square feet but not including in that a 600-square-foot deck with an outside kitchen (people in the one on the river in particular, but really, lots of them).  Be honest and count the outdoor living space.

 

I don't think you need to include the outdoor space. Unless you live in a temperate climate year-round, that space will be all but useless as lounging or hanging out space in the winter or on rainy days.

 

The trouble I've had with the show so far is that except for the hippie-dippie kid and the Colorado couple, I don't think any of the people shown have "embraced" the tiny house movement the way John (presumably) and Zack (definitely) have. The first couple, with the toddler, were basically squatting on either their land or a relatives only until the husband finished school. The young couple who wanted to travel just set up a shed in their backyard while they rented out their main house, so they didn't simplify really (besides, the guy wasn't in to it at all). The Vermont couple with the remaining daughter (who was so afraid of hearing her parents "do it" -- although they couldn't say that) came close; their commitment might be stronger once the daughter leaves home. Maybe the rafting family came close, but with two teenagers, how long do you think that's going to last? Especially since the newly married couple had to sleep, basically, in the living room. Yeah, a lot of privacy for sex they'll have. Did I miss anyone?

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I'm fine with the people who didn't "embrace" the movement, because they're doing because and when it's logical for them, not because they're true believers in some cause.
And you missed my favorites, the nurse/musician couple, who had it to travel for her job, although I've come around to the "buy an RV" view.

I hope none of them are trapped in a fire, or fall down the iffy stairs and can't summon help.

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I've lived in a 40-foot motorhome, traveling around, for over 10 years now. 

 

I'm wondering how RVs handle fire and stair safety issues.  Anyone know?

 

RVs come with fire extinguishers.  And you can install fire suppression systems in the engine compartment, for example.  That said, if one of them catches on fire, it's going to burn completely up in just a couple of minutes. 

 

Generally, motorhomes have stairs only at the entrance--outside step(s) that slide out under the door, and maybe 3 steps inside the door.  Fifth-wheel trailers have those, plus 2 or 3 that take you up into the bedroom in the front, which is in the part that hovers over the pickup bed when it's being towed.  So stairs aren't really an issue.

 

However, exit during a fire is an issue because most have only one door.  Ours has an emergency window in the bedroom, at the other end of the coach from the front door; you pull a lever and the window pops out or something.  I don't know for sure--I've never done it because I'm afraid I won't be able to get it back closed.  However, that window is big enough for either of us to fit through it if we just slide it open, but we're younger and smaller than the average RVers.  That window is probably 6 feet above the ground, which is a long drop, but I figure if I'm escaping a fire, I'll just go for it.

 

It's not that different from the second-floor condo I had that had only one door, and going out a window would mean a 1-storey drop.  Except it would take more than 30 seconds for that condo to burn up, and it doesn't have a 30-gallon propane tank attached to it.

 

 

I don't think you need to include the outdoor space. Unless you live in a temperate climate year-round, that space will be all but useless as lounging or hanging out space in the winter or on rainy days.

 

The rafting family was under some budgetary constraints, yet ponied up for an outside kitchen, so I assume they're going to be using it a lot.  But on that one, I'll never understand why they didn't put a LOT more storage under that deck.  I have a feeling that's not going to be their only home year-round.

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There are pros and cons to both RVs and Tiny Houses and as to which would be preferable is a matter of personal choice and need.

 

RVs are specifically designed to be moved around so if you travel a lot then an RV may be more suited to a person's needs. They are, however, intended for more temperate areas. There are specific problems with RVs if you intend to live in one where you will experience winters of sub-freezing temperatures and snow.

 

1) The roof already has substantial weight because of air conditioning units and other such appliances. Any accumulated snow needs to be cleared off to prevent cracking of the structure and potential collapse.

2) Water will find its way into cracks. Freezing water will enlarge the cracks and allow more water in when the next thaw occurs. The result is that after a couple years of living in such conditions, the seals on the roof will slowly lift and allow water in causing wood rot. It's common to cover an RV with tarps during the winter to avoid such problems.

3) The single pane windows allow a lot of heat to escape so a lot of energy is wasted in keeping the RV warm. At sub-freezing temperatures the windows will start to ice up and windows that open and close won't seal properly. A common solution is to tape plastic over the windows during the winter to reduce heat loss.

4) Roof-top air conditioning units allow a lot of heat to escape during the winter, so the vents need to be stuffed with insulation to prevent heat loss.

5) A typical RV wall is 1-1/2 inches thick which allows only minimal insulation on the inside. At sub-freezing temperatures, the walls will always be cold to the touch.

6) RV furnaces aren't all that efficient and a lot of heat is simply blown outdoors as exhaust. From personal experience, living in an RV at temperatures of 4 deg. F a 30lb tank of propane will last maybe 7 days if appropriate steps have been taken to cover windows, seal heat leaks, etc.

 

A Tiny House is much heavier and more problematic to move around. However, if you're looking at being in a specific location for several months at a time then it becomes less of a problem. For colder areas, you have some advantages over an RV.

 

1) The walls are standard 3-1/2 inch which allows for the same insulation as you would find in a traditional house.

2) The ability to use double-pane windows as one would find in a traditional house.

3) A pitched roof that doesn't need frequent snow removal.

4) Much more energy efficient, easy to heat, and very comfortable during those cold snowy months.

5) They just look darn cool when you're parked in the mountains like I am. :)

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Our motorhome was designed, as much as it can be, with cold weather in mind.  Considering that we have wheels on our house, it's ridiculous that we've spent as much time in snow as we have (Chicago, Denver, New York City, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Pacific northwest, Asheville--we've "enjoyed" snow in all these places, as well as others while just passing through). 

 

Some RVs do indeed have real problems in sub-freezing weather, but our motorhome has dual-pane windows.  From what I understand, that makes a huge difference.  It also has basement air, so the only things on the roof are a couple of satellite dishes and a slew of solar panels.  I have to go up to clear the snow off the dishes anyway, and generally do the rest of the roof as long as I'm up there.  I don't think it's a good idea to be driving with giant amounts of melting snow just waiting to be blown onto a car behind me.  (But as my screen name implies, I'm an outlier--I discovered while living in Denver over two different winters that I enjoy shoveling snow.)

 

We typically use little space heaters instead of the propane furnace.  I prefer the heat they provide to a forced air furnace.  Since we're heating only 400 square feet, it's do-able.

 

I do wonder, however, about the plumbing on a tiny house in freezing weather, like where it connects to the septic system.  That's out in the open, and since it doesn't have holding tanks, like an RV, it has to be hooked up.  Water trickling like that tends to freeze. 

 

 

A Tiny House is much heavier and more problematic to move around. However, if you're looking at being in a specific location for several months at a time then it becomes less of a problem.

 

I think a significant problem a tiny house presents for people who move around is where to put it once you get somewhere.  If I went to the trouble to have a tiny house, the last place I'd want to be is in a typical RV park, even assuming they allow tiny houses.  I don't have people scattered around the country who can accommodate a tiny house on their property.  Well, maybe the tiny house itself, but you have to have a big truck and a lot of maneuvering room to get it there, plus access to electricity and water and a sewage system.

 

But I find very appealing the idea of a tiny house in a permanent place--if only I could find a place I want to be permanently.

 

 

5) [Tiny houses] just look darn cool when you're parked in the mountains like I am. :)

 

Agree 100%.  I love the concept--that's one of the things that made me think it would be fun to live in a small space like an RV (albeit a big RV).  But the tiny houses shown just wouldn't cut it for me.  I need room for windsurfing equipment and ski stuff and bicycles (our two pairs of rollerblades and pads take up probably 3 cubic feet on their own), plus all the stuff for normal living.  And I have a lot less stuff than most people.

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I'm no expert, but composting toilets are different from chemical toilets.  The port-a-cans at concerts are chemical toilets, for example, while composting toilets are a chamber that you put sawdust in after use and the material eventually turns into fertilizer.

 

The thing about using a composting toilet in a tiny house (or any house, for that matter) is that even if you have that angle covered, you still have to deal with gray water (from sinks, shower, dishwashing, washing machine).  It can be used to water the lawn, but if you've ever left a sinkful of dishwater overnight, you know that it can have its own foul odor.

 

I have holding tanks on my RV that have to be emptied into a sewer system.  I put up with it because it makes my lifestyle possible.  Wastewater tanks take up a lot of room, which is why I suspect tiny houses, even the movable ones, don't have them.  Which means you can't live in the tiny house unless it's hooked up to a sewer or septic system--you can't necessarily just plop it down on a plot of land or in any old back yard.

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Which means you can't live in the tiny house unless it's hooked up to a sewer or septic system--you can't necessarily just plop it down on a plot of land or in any old back yard.

I'm pretty sure that in one of the episodes, they mentioned a composting toilet.

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Where I am in Colorado they are trying to set up self-sustaining farms (yes...farms) in the city with the "tiny house" concept in mind. small house, 200 sq feet or so, a year round greeenhouse, and moveable barn (storage container) for pigs, goats, etc... chicken coop and trying to keep costs to 30k. And land is taken care of but you do not own the land. I do not fully understand but it is supposed to be self-sustaining.

As I told my son, I am not eating some I raised. I can eat a bacon but not if I fed the pig before he became bacon. Already had experience as a child seeing my "pets" go off to slaughter. :-)

I hope it works out, it is a fabulous idea.

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Wastewater tanks take up a lot of room, which is why I suspect tiny houses, even the movable ones, don't have them.  Which means you can't live in the tiny house unless it's hooked up to a sewer or septic system--you can't necessarily just plop it down on a plot of land or in any old back yard.

 

That actually depends on the trailer used when building a tiny house.

 

The trailer I built mine on was originally a 24' travel trailer. I bought it cheap because of extensive water damage on a large section of the roof and walls. It provided adequate living conditions while I built new living quarters to put on the trailer. In my case at least, I do have the holding tanks.

 

The trailers used in the show are new and probably custom made, though I'm sure holding tanks could be added prior to purchase or even as an afterthought.

 

Also, what you're seeing in the show are all new materials; trailer, wood, roofing, etc. Part of the tiny house appeal for those who chose to build their own, is being able to use reclaimed materials such as wood from a previously existing house, barn, or other structure. In reality, you can  build a tiny house for under $10,000 if you select your materials carefully.

 

 

I do wonder, however, about the plumbing on a tiny house in freezing weather, like where it connects to the septic system.  That's out in the open, and since it doesn't have holding tanks, like an RV, it has to be hooked up.  Water trickling like that tends to freeze.

 

In northern climates it's common to use electrical heat tape to wrap around water pipes. It comes in lengths of 2' and longer, and is flexible. At freezing temperatures it heats the water line but not to a temperature hot enough to melt it. A typical configuration would be a water line with heat tape running alongside the line, then wrapped in fiberglass insulation and covered with plastic.  That same configuration is also commonly used with mobile homes.

 

Sewage pipes are less of a problem since the diameter is larger and the waste material usually drains away immediately. For most applications, simply wrapping it with fiberglass insulation and covering it all with plastic will suffice. If necessary, heat tape can be used as well.

Edited by Random Noise
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The trouble I've had with the show so far is that except for the hippie-dippie kid and the Colorado couple, I don't think any of the people shown have "embraced" the tiny house movement the way John (presumably) and Zack (definitely) have.

 

 

I think John Weisbarth "embraces" any concept/movement that will allow him to be paid to be on our TV screens.  Any concept.

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I lived in an RV at in Jersey, so snow, we got some, but the roof never collapsed and we got a lot of snow, multiple feet. . Personally, I lived in it from spring to fall and had it winterized November until April. The roof leaked after 10 years, so I had it repaired.  It was over 40 years old at that point, I owned it for 12 years. I never moved it and the previous owner had it connected to the sewer lines, so I never had to bother pumping, I did cover the air conditioning unit before I left, Climbing on the roof was not my favorite thing. the unit was insulated because the previous owner lived there year round. It had single pane windows, but I have no idea how he did it because the park shut off water in the winter. . MY neighbors in the mobile home next door lived there year around, but thy got a special insulated bladder installed in an out building for their water. 

 

If you are not going to move much, you can store a lot of stuff outside in a separate shed. Mine was plastic and you could break it down (which I never did) and store everything inside if you were going to move. 

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The trouble I've had with the show so far is that except for the hippie-dippie kid and the Colorado couple, I don't think any of the people shown have "embraced" the tiny house movement the way John (presumably) and Zack (definitely) have.

 

 

The Colorado couple whose house burned down and they wanted a tiny house to replace it, have moved out of the tiny home.  They gave an interview where it seems like there was some shoddy workmanship on the part of the show.  However, the main reason they moved out was there is no longer any internet service in the area.

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