Building a tiny house/sleep shed for the backyard of our cooperative

April 10 | Guest post by dwoloz

This year I decided I wanted to build my own tiny house after being inspired by many other examples such as Tumbleweed.

I knew very little about construction before embarking on this project but have learned along the way thanks to the library and the internet. I designed the building in SketchUp and intended for it to be relatively simple, oriented south to take advantage of passive solar heating in the winter, and be well-insulated.

The process has (unsurprisingly) taken a lot longer than I anticipated since it's been a one man crew and I have another job. But, I've made good progress and below I've shared some of it. Cost total so far is $1,727.42.

Digging the foundation

Frequently asked questions

Why?!?
I like the simplicity and efficieny of small living. A small space requires little energy and forces you to pare down your belongings. I also wanted to build my own house but liked where I lived so I used the small space that was available.

The freshly-poured base

Where is this?
It's being built on an urban lot in the Bay Area next to an existing home I own. I live cooperatively with five other people and the tiny house will be an addition to the small community.

Is this legal?
Yes and no. It's a bit under 120 sq ft so in most counties it doesn't require a building permit. However, our plans to live in it and our compost toilet would not be sanctioned. But our neighbors don't mind, and it fits the neighborhood since most homes have a 150 sq ft garage on the rear property line.

1.5
Earthen floor being poured. Clay came from on site; 1/15th cement was mixed in.

2
EPDM membrane (sold as pond liner) laid out for green roof. Velux skylight installed.
Soil mix of 1/3 compost, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 coconut coir. A wet four-inch layer weighs in at 6.3 lb/sq ft.
Luckily the door was a quick installation with a level and plumb. Picked this monster up at a salvage yard for $125.
Added more foam insulation, fiber cement siding, and also planted the green roof with some carex grasses and sowed native wildflower seeds. Not sure if the wildflowers will thrive in such shallow soil.
Finally built the loft, which makes the space much more usable.

And then I took a three month break from the project while I was out of town. Happily, I came back to see that my seeds had taken root and everything was still standing!

We're living in the space and it feels great. It's pleasantly warm inside using only the passive heat of the sun on its southern-facing wall. My next order of business is finalizing the electrical plan and running a new circuit!

  1. Love, love, love, love, love! It is my dream to one day build and live in my own tiny house. Kudos to you for doing it! :)

    1 agrees
  2. This is AMAZING! It makes me want to build one on the back of our little property and give it to my little brother to live in when he graduates from high school. He pretty much lives in his room, after all. :P

    5 agree
    • One of the suggestions in A Pattern Language is that teenagers should have their own separate little houses in the back yard of the family home. You're right — this would be perfect.

      1 agrees
  3. This looks fantastic! I would totally live in that given the chance. Plus, that roof is awesome.

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  4. I've always wanted to have a tiny little nook of a house but now that I have 2 cats, a dog and a boyfriend who has more music equipment than I can even comprehend, it's no longer an option. But maybe I can build something similar to this when we get our own property and I'll use it as my studio…

    3 agree

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