Issue 89 is out now
The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

13th March 2019

Michael Janzen of tinyhousedesign.com answers your questions about tiny house living

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

13th March 2019

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

13th March 2019

Q What is a tiny house?
This usually means a home built using conventional methods with under 300 square feet footprint. But small cabins, cottages, and other small residences can also be considered tiny houses. So the term is not so much an exclusive definition, but an inclusive category of extremely small residences.

Q Are tiny houses legal?
It depends where you are and how you use it. Some communities have few building restrictions and are very friendly to alternative housing solutions. Other places have rules.

People who are motivated to find solutions to their housing challenges will find the ingenuity in themselves to make it happen. The best advice I have on this is to research and learn as much as you can about the community you want to live in, and look for zoning loopholes and alternative housing friendly neighbours.

Q Where can I buy a tiny house?
There are many builders around the world. Check tinyhomebuilders.com. You might also consider looking at shed builders. Not all sheds are built in such a way that they can be finished-off as a tiny home, but with some clever tinkering many can. Another consideration is to simply find a good contractor near you that’s willing to build a tiny home for you. The disadvantage of this route is cost, the advantage is you get what you want.

Q Where can they be built?
Most people park their mobile tiny homes on their own property or at friend or relative’s place. Some folks travel and move around from place to place.

Q Do I need a permit?
In the US if a tiny house is built on a trailer it typically falls into the category of ‘travel trailer’ and building codes don’t normally apply. But it is best to build to standard building codes and make sure your house is strong enough to withstand highway speeds. If a tiny house fits the definition of a shed it may not need permits, although it also may not be legal to use as a dwelling.

Q What kind of toilets do tiny houses have?
Many people use a compost toilet. The most popular composting toilet seems to be the lovable loo, a sawdust toilet developed by Joseph Jenkins. Once you get over the idea of doing your business in a bucket and covering it with sawdust you’ll realize this simple solution is more sustainable than other choices. It’s virtually free too.

The main advantage of commercial composting toilets is that they break down the waste faster by adding air, movement, and heat. All of this extra help composts the material faster requiring less storage. A simple sawdust toilet also requires a compost bin/pile so it can cook for a couple years. After that time the compost is safe for the garden.

Q Can a family live in them?
There is no one-size-fits-all for housing. A family will need more space than an individual or couple. People that work from home will need more space. The whole idea of living simply in small spaces is that the true value of the home is realized, and the home doesn’t become a burden. In other words it’s about finding balance and the first step is reducing the number of possessions.

Q Are tiny houses off-the-grid?
Any tiny house can be powered by off-grid electricity, but like any off-grid house choosing to use less power will get you the lowest cost system. Giving up things like microwaves, electric heaters, blow dryers, and electric clothes dryers, will allow you to really scale down your electricity needs.

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