Frequently Asked Questions
We will be adding questions to this list (and answering them) as necessary in order to create a comprehensive go -to resource for initial interest in our tiny house and tiny house living in general. You can also obtain a digital copy of our 145 PAGE E-BOOK where we share the entire process of designing and building our tiny house in depth if you wan to learn more about our project. Below is an initial list of questions we are currently writing responses to.
We wrote a comprehensive yet wandering response to this question HERE that is worth reading but we will summarize our feelings below.
We are here to openly admit that our tiny house journey is not forever; at least not from a full time living perspective. With that said, it is one of the best decisions of our lives and has already gifted us so much more in return than any sum of money could provide. It has been an incredibly fulfilling experience that is far from over.
Our tiny house has been and continues to be an incredible tool and experience for this stage in our lives. It has allowed us to own our home outright while refinancing student loan debt to a very aggressive five year repayment plan and simultaneously building a financial safety net that would allow us to live comfortably for a year even if our sources of income completely stopped. Most importantly we have been able to take extended parental leave to spend more time with our baby for her first six months of life and I now have the ability to stay-at / work-from-[tiny]home to continue raising Aubrin. None of this was possible for us three years ago but we took intentional steps (including the tiny house) to design the life we wanted.
We will utilize the tiny house as long as it works for us and then re-purpose it. The best part about this project is it has the ability to serve our family in a multitude of ways. Should we choose to design and build a small home on a foundation to raise a growing family, the tiny house can serve as a back yard studio, or guesthouse, or airBNB rental or even be turned into an off grid retreat in the mountains. Its value and positive contribution to our lives will far outlive its use as a full time residence.
We have nothing against recreational vehicles and travel trailers. We are all alternative and right-sized living advocates. With that said, there are some very real (and legal) differences that are worth talking about and factored into our decisions to do a d.i.y. (non RVIA certified) tiny house on wheels. We wrote a blog post on the subject HERE.
I think this response is best started by establishing the intended (marketed) use of each product. Of course there is cross over, but RVs and travel trailers are ‘recreational vehicles’ intended for temporary occupation while tiny houses are intended for full time living. This is not just a case of bickering over semantics; there are very real physical and legal factors that support these two intended uses, as well as some more ephemeral and emotional considerations, the likes of which those who have never built, owned or been inside a tiny house may not understand.
To start with, RV’s are lighter and oftentimes more aerodynamic. This makes them easier to tow on a frequent basis such as weekend outings, to which they are very well suited. This is achieved through a few factors, the most notable of which is the use of minimal and thinner ‘framing’ members. While this does not necessarily effect the RV’s structural integrity which is gained through other means (form + structural skin) it does result in very thin walls with minimal insulation. This is not an issue when the primary use is short term recreation, including the ability to decide when to use it (most people put away the RV for the winter).
But for a person interested in living in the structure full time, the idea of a tiny house with significantly higher insulation values is a big draw. Not only does it better protect the occupant from harsh temperatures, but it does so in a much more efficient manner. Less energy to heat and cool a home results in lower yearly costs and a smaller carbon footprint. One of the lesser known facts about our tiny house is that it is built with 2×3’s making it much lighter than other tiny houses of comparable size yet has better thermal resistance than 2×4 walls due to our implementation of continuous exterior insulation that we talk about in depth in THIS BLOG POST TITLED ‘NOT ALL [TINY HOUSE] WALLS ARE CREATED EQUAL.’
I think there is also a misconception about the wheels; an assumption that if you have them, you must plan to use them frequently. While there is a small handful of THoWs that travel full time year after year, a majority of them are moved much less frequently and often times only every couple of years, if that. While full time travel is not the goal of many THoW owners, the ability to move if needed (whether it be through desire or triggered by an unforeseen circumstance) offers peace of mind.
Then there are the legal differences. THoWs exist in a grey area. That is to say that they don’t fit into an existing category of homes; or vehicles for that matter. Because of that they tend to be lumped in with RV’s in the eyes of officials. But without the official RVIA certification, tiny houses are not an RV, can not be insured as an RV and sometimes are not allowed in RV parks.
Now there ARE new RVIA certified tiny house builders that can build THoW that are legally certified and under law, regulated as an RV. This option certainly muddies the clarity of this discussion a bit but may be a good option for some as it would be easier to insure and stay in RV parks if you’re traveling frequently. With that said, there are a couple very important repercussions that were integral in our personal decision to build our own THOW and not be RVIA certified.
First and foremost, choosing to willingly and legally define ones dwelling as an RV (through RVIA certification) now removes you from the ‘grey zone’ that is a ‘tiny house on wheels’ and places you into the category of ‘full time living in a recreational vehicle for more than 30 days in the same location’ which is explicitly illegal in a majority of the municipalities in the United States.
Further more, the ‘grey zone’ of tiny houses is becoming more black and white (meaning legally defined) with the adoption of a concrete legal definition of ‘tiny house’ though APPENDIX V for the upcoming 2018 code cycle. The next step is for jurisdictions to [preemptively] adopt the code on a voluntary vote basis, which has been done by the state of Idaho with four more states in the process of doing the same. What this means, is that if built to code, the option to legally live in Tiny Houses (not an RV) will become more and more prevalent moving forward.
Also, for those who can not afford to or are not willing to take on more debt to pay upfront for a half way decent RV, the idea of building your own tiny house paycheck to paycheck and owning it outright upon completion is a very attractive opportunity. It is not possible to do an RVIA certified d.i.y. Tiny house.
Finally there are the more ephemeral but equally important reasons that we choose a tiny house. The act of building something with our bare hands is irreplaceable and lends its self to an incredible appreciation for the project. Something to really be proud of and the experience and skills gained during the construction process are worth the cost alone in our opinion. RV’s use a limited pallet of mass produced, certified, light weight materials and miniaturized fixtures where as the options implemented in tiny houses are as diverse as their owners. The same can be said about the form (shape) of tiny houses and their propensity to prioritize interior spatial quality over the goals of aerodynamics and achieving lowest base weight possible. The quality of space and amount of customization in tiny houses is what makes them homes rather than just ‘recreational vehicles.’
Hopefully this brief over view helps provide context on why some people, including us choose a tiny house instead of an RV. For us, designing and building our tiny house on wheels has been an incredibly fulfilling and educational process. No it wasn’t the easiest route. No it wasn’t the cheapest option. But it sure as hell has been rewarding and ‘worth it’ many times over.
HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
It cost us $30,000.00 total to build. That also happens to be the cost of materials as we did all of the work ourselves.
We had enough saved up for the trailer which unfortunately is the biggest single cost right up front and then paid for the project as we built it, paycheck to paycheck.
If you are interested in reading more on the subject we wrote a blog post titled ‘Why do tiny houses cost so much?’
IS IT LEGAL TO TOW?
WHAT DO WE USE TO PULL IT?
WHAT IS THE COMPOSTING TOILET LIKE?
WHY DID WE USED CORRUGATED METAL SIDING?
WHY DO TINY HOMES COST SO MUCH?
WHERE DO YOU PUT ALL OF YOUR ‘STUFF’?
WHAT DID WE USE FOR INTERIOR WALL PANELING AND HOW DID WE HIDE THE SEAMS?
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A WORK-FROM-[TINY] HOME FATHER?