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History of Tiny Living

From 1000BCE to 2020. How has Tiny Living made an impact on our housing needs through the years?

Zoning

What is Zoning? Learn everything you will need to know!

Sustainability

What is sustainability? How does it affect me? What does it have to do with tiny living?

Disaster Relief Housing

Everything you need to know about Disaster Relief Housing & how Tiny Houses can help

Tips for Downsizing Your Home

Know your “why”

When downsizing, looking at your “why” is essential. Why is it important to you? What is the purpose of downsizing? No matter if it’s money, a desired lifestyle, family, or something more, the bigger your “why” the more drive you’ll have to get rid of excess and live in your downsized space. – Tiny House Community

Identify needs versus wants

While deciding what to keep when downsizing can be extremely challenging, it’s helpful to separate the items you need from the items you want. You may have a gorgeous TV stand and large DVD collection, but practical thinking might instead have you wall-mounting your flat-screen and streaming movies instead. Things that previously would’ve been owned by each member of the home, like a closet or other clothing storage, can instead be treated communally and shared by all. For those considering moving to a modular tiny home, many builders offer optional loft areas for storage. – Wolf Industries

As van travel aficionados, we’ve learned a thing or two about living with less over the years. Our shortlist for downsizing success includes a thoroughly organized list of needs versus wants, multi-purpose items (think Swiss Army knives for starters), and the mental realization that you don’t need a lot of material things to be happy. From working on-the-go to being in a small space with our partners for long trips, we’ve gotten better through trial and error. Not to mention, we’ve got storage down to a fine art. Never underestimate the power of under-bed drawers and collapsible furniture! –  Voyager Camper Vans

Start by gathering up all the things you think you need in one place. Chances are you’ll fill up the room! Then group similar things – put your clothes together, cookware, tools, equipment, etc. Now you can start reducing in a very visual way seeing your piles get smaller. Clear out any duplicates or multiples. Consider getting rid of any “single-use” item like a tea kettle. A cooking pot can do double duty by heating water and cooking. You can also evaluate each item in terms of how often you’d use it in a typical week or month. – Vanlife Outfitters

Downsizing is difficult, but once you have freed yourself of your nonessential ‘stuff’, you will find you have so much more freedom. A van is a tiny home on wheels, but if designed carefully, affords you the opportunity to be thoughtful about every inch. We are big fans of clothes cubes and IKEA style storage bins to throw into cabinets. We love the clever use of wall and ceilings space – we have fishing rod holders on the ceiling of one of our vans and hooks strategically placed all over. It’s tough in the beginning but as soon as you get a system in place, it’s second nature. – Aspen Custom Vans

Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule)

We are firm believers in Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule).  We use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time and vice versa.  Moving into an alternative living space (like a van) requires an honest inventory of how often you use the majority of your belongings.  Many people, that downsize and simplify, find that they are much happier, more focused, and balanced with fewer belongings.

To anyone considering moving into a van – get rid of almost everything you haven’t touched in the last 60 days.  In most cases, you can live without it.  Believe it or not, you can live without the toaster oven, blender, and panini maker (all of which typically get very minimal, to begin with). – Vancraft

Quality over quantity

Living in a camper van is the extreme end of tiny home living, therefore you should always ensure each item you own is something you’ll use regularly and won’t easily break – emphasize quality, not quantity on every item you choose to keep. The camper van community loves to share their unique ideas so use the people to your advantage! Reach out, ask questions, and offer to share your own ideas as the best advice comes from someone who is currently living successfully small. – Boho Camper Vans

Optimize your storage

Here are a few tips: Think small. You will find a smaller version of everything you ever owned: plates, utensils, cups, blankets, etc.

Think collapsible. Many outdoor brands are doing the work for you already: collapsible containers, sinks, foldable tools, compact ovens, etc. They’re usually fun to use as well!

Think optimized. When you think you’re done organizing, think again. Maybe you can fold your t-shirts more effectively, allowing you to have one more in your cabinets. Optimize. Optimize. Optimize. – Vanlife Customs

I always recommend finding a permanent home for everything. Use drawer dividers, spacers and packing cubes. It keeps everything nice and tidy. Keep a laundry bag to store dirty laundry away from your clean items. Have a dedicated space that holds your cleaning supplies including a broom! Keeping your new tiny home tidy is one of the most important pieces of advice! It’ll feel bigger and you’ll be happy to go to bed at night knowing your new home is clean. It also makes finding items and making food a lot more pleasant. – Roamerica

When our tiny house customers ask us to build in storage systems, I always encourage them to begin living in the space before permanently committing to the location of their storage. After you begin using your new space, you get a better feel for which areas can be used for short-term storage and long-term storage (and maybe even which items you no longer need). Once you’ve determined that, you may decide to have storage built-in, or often you can find great storage solutions at IKEA at a fraction of the cost of built-ins. – Carriage Houses NW

Organization and cleanliness are key, especially in a tiny home. When we first downsized, one of our biggest frustrations was tripping over muddy hiking shoes in the morning. Having a dedicated space for wet or smelly items made all the difference. Packing these items in an exterior compartment or a well-ventilated area will keep your home smelling fresh. – Parked in Paradise

Get creative with the space you have

Get creative! When one goes tiny there is very little room for excess.  In the case of a houseboat, van, and some tiny homes, you will encounter a much different bathroom experience.  Whether it is water limitations because of tank capacity or just general space in a bathroom, B&B has a lifehack for this.  Take advantage of facilities in your surrounding areas.  A gym membership will promote a healthy active lifestyle and give you access to a social atmosphere, showers, towels, hygiene products, and a general mental stimulus to occupy a portion of your day.  Getting comfortable using a gym or clubs’ facilities could make the transition from a multiple bathroom situation down to a tight one bathroom household much easier. The money saved from the downsizing can usually more than cover your membership to these facilities. – B&B Tiny Houses

Take advantage of multi-purpose items

Choose items that can be used for multiple purposes when deciding what to take with you. For example, when we are building a van, we use a couch that turns into a bed and also has storage available below. Why not think that way when you pack? – Sportsmobile

With downsizing, there are two major things that have helped me in my minimalism journey. The first is to keep and pursue belongings that are dual purpose. If something can’t serve me in more than 1 way, I try to donate it, or simply just don’t purchase new items that don’t have a dual purpose. The second most important thing is to consolidate my belongings into 1 quality item. For example, when I moved into a van I had 5 pairs of black leggings – some were old, some had holes in the knees, etc. I donated all 5 and invested in a single high-quality pair and that new pair has now lasted me for multiple years. I apply this same principle to many items: drinking cups, shoes, backpacks, hiking gear, and more. It’s really made a difference! For more inspiration, you can also check out our Instagram here. – So We Bought A Van

Focus on functional systems

Since Outside Van is a fully custom van conversion company, we encourage vanlifers to be unique when designing their one-off vehicles. Since a van has limited space, focus on functional systems like power, solar, heat, and water. Just because a van looks good in photos doesn’t mean it’s a high-performing, functional vehicle for full-time living. And you might reconsider needing a toilet. – Outside Van

When preparing to move into a small space don’t limit your planning to where you will store things you want to keep, but also consider how you will manage your waste. Trash, recycling, and food waste can build up faster than you expect. Your beautifully designed space can quickly become a nightmare when three-day-old cans of tuna are left overflowing from your trash. Consider what waste a product will create before you buy it. – Vanvaya

Go Digital

We all have boxes of records, stacks of magazines and catalogs, unwanted piles of old bills, envelopes, lists, notebooks, etc.  Every cubic inch of a tiny home is loaded with intention and care for how the space looks and feels; a couple of boxes worth of this stuff could be lifestyle defining.  It might mean you couldn’t have a chair for a friend when she visits, some sports equipment you’ve been wanting, or space for plants and animal friends.  Scan it, upload it onto a computer and throw it onto a hard drive. Instead of books, music CDs, and Movies on DVD, transition to eBooks, Netflix and Spotify to declutter your collections.

Additionally, you can always consider moving somewhere warm so that your clothes are smaller, and you need less of them. – TruForm Tiny Homes

No room for materialism

In an era when modern life is fast-paced, more demanding and stressful, slowing down and savoring life can be hard. Costs of living are increasing all over the world, from Hong Kong to San Diego, so communities of ambient folk living on residential boats, camper-vans, trailers and static homes are gaining popularity as people escape the urban squash. Downsizing will mean that personal space is at a premium. While it can be a hugely bonding experience, you will be asking your loved ones to kindly move so you can pass every time you walk from the kitchen to the bedroom It’s impossible to be materialistic, as there simply isn’t room to store anything surplus to absolute requirement. Cooking becomes simplified, clothing whittled down to necessities and trinkets a thing of the past. – Rightboat

Tips for moving into a smaller space with a partner, kids, or pets

One of the most valuable things we can suggest when preparing to move into a smaller space is to make sure you are on the same page with your partner/housemates. Though you might think it’s not a big deal to throw away that box of high school trophies your wife has been lugging around for four years, it might be something they don’t want to toss. Make sure you do a visual assessment of your current space and then figure out a plan to downsize together. Perhaps there’s a designated area where you can put things you want to toss that everyone can look over before they actually end up in the dumpster or at Goodwill. – Authentic Asheville

 

Choosing to live a smaller, simpler life with your partner is often a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience. My advice: don’t expect a tiny house to fix anything in your relationship; what it will likely do instead is to intensify everything. To be successful, it takes an increased focus on good, honest communication and kindness, moment to moment, to make sure each of your needs is met. This means designing your house (or lifestyle) to be sure both of you have the physical space (and time to yourselves) needed to thrive. If done with care, a shift to a smaller (even tiny house) lifestyle can bring you both more joy, intimacy and freedom. – The Tiny Project

Originally published on Redfin

Understanding Tiny House Systems: Toilets, Tanks, Power, and Water

How Do Utilities Work in Tiny Houses on Wheels?

You’ve seen beautiful tiny houses on wheels on TV, in magazines, and on the internet.  You could see yourself buying a tiny house one day.  You could use it for vacations, put it in your backyard to use as a studio or guest house, or you could live in your tiny house full-time.

Hoosic Tiny House Exterior

In this photo: The Hoosic Tiny House

But you may have asked yourself: if it’s on wheels, how does it really work?  How do you get power to a tiny house?  How do you get fresh water in and waste water out?  How are tiny houses climate controlled?  What expenses are you forgetting to include in your overall budget?  

There’s a lot more to buying a tiny house than just buying the tiny house.  You’ll need to have a good understanding of how it all works, and how you’ll deal with fresh water, waste water, power, and parking.  There are many options for different types of tiny house setups.  Before building, your builder will need to know how you plan to use your house so he or she can help you choose the best appliances and systems for your specific situation.  Read about tiny house design sessions.

Setting Up Your Tiny House

Because they’re on wheels, tiny houses can travel.  However, life on the road isn’t for everyone: most tiny house dwellers live in one place with permanent utility connections.

new tiny house constructionIf you’re traveling with your tiny house:

  • Buy a truck powerful enough to pull your tiny house.  Here’s an article on truck capacity for different tiny houses.
  • Make sure to let your builder know they’ll need to insulate for all climates.  When traditional houses are built, they are insulated according to what zone they’re in.  Houses in colder climates need a lot more insulation.  But when a movable house is built, it needs to withstand all kinds of weather.
  • Tiny houses that travel go through a lot of wear and tear.  The amount of wind and vibration a tiny house experiences when driving on the highway is the same as if the house were sitting still in a hurricane.  Secure your items well inside your tiny house, and prepare to perform more maintenance on your tiny house since it will be traveling often.
  • Make sure you know where you’ll be traveling to (RV parks? Friends’ houses?) and where you’ll store your tiny house when you’re not staying in it. It’s not always easy finding places to put your tiny house, so it pays to be prepared!
  • In the same vein, research the cost of renting space, what utility hookups are required, and include your transportation costs, like fuel and road food, in your budget.  Check out this article on the all-in cost of living in a tiny house.
  • If you plan to sell your tiny house when you’re done traveling, make your resale easier by buying a tiny house with a layout that’s as universally appealing as possible.

If your tiny house will stay in one place:

Most people place their tiny house on a gravel or concrete pad.  This keeps utility lines in place and systems working properly (for example, some mini splits can leak if they’re not level).

Anchors are a great idea: they’ll keep your house from shaking even in the worst weather.

Skirting, while not necessary, also reduces shaking in high winds, and, if insulated, helps keep your pipes from freezing.  Skirting creates a more permanent look to your tiny house.

If you don’t have a location for your tiny house yet, here are some things to consider when looking:

If you’ll be placing your tiny house in a backyard, here are some tips:

  • Tiny houses on wheels are generally legally considered RVs, so if you can park an RV in your yard, you can park a tiny house in your yard.  Whether it can legally be lived in full time is a different question.  You’ll have to find out from your town’s zoning board.  Here’s how.
  • Choose a spot in your yard for your tiny house wisely.  In addition to the space the tiny house will take up, you’ll need to ensure the delivery truck will have enough space to maneuver the house into place and then drive away.

Photos in this section: The Arcadia Tiny House and the Spectacle Tiny House (a custom-built park model that’s not in our catalogue).


Tiny House Water Systems

When people envision life on the road, they picture a life of freedom.  But if you’re a human, you’ll still need water for life’s basics: drinking, cooking, and bathing.

RV Hookups for Water

For water, RV hookups come standard on B&B Tiny Houses.  RV hookups have an inlet for a fresh water hose and an outlet for waste water.  You can connect the hoses to a hookup pedestal at an RV park or, if your tiny house is in a backyard, to the main house.

Tiny houses on wheels have four potential spaces where water is used: kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower or bath, and toilet.  Depending on whether you’ll be traveling or staying put, and what systems are available at your location, we’ll help you decide on the best type of toilet for your lifestyle.

If you’re traveling, here’s how to hook up your tiny house at a campground:

Some tiny houses have water tanks and some don’t. If you’ll always be hooked up to a water system when you’re using water, you won’t need water tanks.

If your tiny house has water tanks, the tanks can store fresh and waste water until your house gets to a pumping station.

If you have water tanks, here’s a video on how to empty waste water (black water) tanks at a dumping station.

Permanent Tiny House Hookups

If your tiny house is staying in one place, you’ll want a more maintenance-free water system.  Tiny houses on wheels can be hooked up permanently to the same systems traditional houses use: a well or city water for fresh water, and septic or sewer for waste water.

If your tiny house is in the back yard of a traditional house, you can hook your tiny house up to the existing water system, as long as it has the capacity to add another “bedroom”, which is code for “the water usage equivalent of one or two people being added to a house”. Generally, when houses are built, the water system permits the house to add at least one extra bathroom, in case the house gets an addition in the future.

  • If the main house is on city water, you’ll need to check town records to see if the house is permitted to add another hookup to the water system.  Check with town records to see if this is true in your situation.  Most often (but not always) when houses are on city water, waste water will go to a city sewer.
  • If the main house is on a well, check to see if the well will need to expand its capacity to provide enough water for the tiny house.  Most often (but not always) when houses are on a well, waste water will go to a septic system.

Generally, we advise our customers not to DIY sewer connections, as there’s too much that can go wrong.  However, we want you to have an understanding of how it’s done, so please watch the following video of how one DIYer connected his RV to the sewer.

  • Contrary to what this DIYer did, we advise having a trench dug by site work professionals to bury your water lines.  This is for aesthetic reasons as well as to prevent freezing.  If your water lines are above ground and you’re using your tiny house year-round in a climate that freezes, wrap your hoses in heat tape from an RV supply store.

Tiny House Power Sources

Power is the second most important utility your tiny house will require.  If it’s good weather outside, you can survive without using power, as if you’re going camping.  But if you want to take a hot shower, operate lights and other electronics, and generally live like a modern human, you’ll need a constant source of power going to your tiny house.

  • Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterMost tiny houses on wheels come with RV hookups where you plug an extension cord with an adapter into the side of your house.
    • These connections work best for those who plan to use electric appliances like ovens or washer/dryers in their tiny house.
    • If you’ll permanently anchor your tiny house, however, you can have your builder put a permanent power receptacle in.  It’ll go either underneath your house so the wires can be buried, or near the roof of your house so you can run overhead wires.
  • Solar power systems are another option.  Installing solar systems is much more expensive up front, but they can pay for themselves after 10 or so years.
    • If you want an off-grid solar system that powers your whole house, you’ll need to set aside outdoor space for solar panels and indoor space like a closet for batteries and the control center.  You’ll need to choose your appliances to work well with solar energy (for example, choose a gas fireplace instead of an electric heater) and use energy conservatively.
    • Most people use grid-tied solar, which supplements power from the power lines and sells energy back to the grid when you’re not using it all (your meter will run backwards!)  Another advantage to grid-tied solar is you won’t run out of energy on a cloudy day, because when your batteries are depleted your system will automatically switch to grid power.

Talk To Us About Designing The Best Power & Water System For Your Lifestyle

We hope this explanation of the many ways to set up your tiny house was helpful.  In your design session, we’ll ask you to describe what your living situation will be and we’ll go over the best options for your specific situation.

Here’s an article that walks you through the 8 steps of buying a tiny house.  When you’re ready to buy your tiny house, contact us to get started!


Thank you to YouTubersSean and Kristie Michael of Long Long Honeymoon, Mark Rowles, and BuckWSR for their instructional videos.

Tiny House Appendix Q Adopted in New York State, Considered in New Hampshire and Connecticut

Great news for Tiny Houses in the Northeast!

  • Appendix Q, also known as the Tiny House Appendix, has been adopted in New York State and will become law in early 2020.  
  • New Hampshire and Connecticut are both considering adopting the Appendix into their state building codes.  
  • Maine and Massachusetts have already adopted Appendix Q into their building codes, as well as at least five other states not in the northeast. 

How can you support the adoption of the Tiny House Appendix in New Hampshire and Connecticut?

If you live in New Hampshire, please email the chair of the Tiny House Study Committee, State Rep Dave Testerman at dave@sanbornhall.net to express your support for the adoption of Appendix Q for tiny houses on foundations.

The public comment period for Connecticut residents is not open yet.  When it opens up, this post will be updated with the contact info.

The following information on Appendix Q is adapted from our previous blog post, written when Massachusetts adopted the Tiny House Appendix.

What is Appendix Q: Tiny Houses?

Appendix Q: Tiny Houses provides building safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under.  The other building codes in existence for all other size dwellings still apply.  Appendix Q is was created to define safety standards for smaller spaces that wouldn’t necessarily fit into a tiny house, such as a full-size staircase.

The Appendix pertains to the following aspects of designing a small or tiny house:

  • Ceiling Height
  • Loft Minimum Area, Height and Dimensions
  • Loft Access:
    • Stairway width, headroom, treads and risers, landing platforms, handrails and guards
    • Ladder size, capacity, and incline
    • Alternating tread devices
    • Ship’s ladders
    • Loft guards
  • Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings

Read the entire text of Appendix Q: Tiny Houses here.

Does The Adoption of Appendix Q Mean I Can Build A Tiny House Wherever I Want In My State?

Not quite!  Every zone of every municipality in the state still has its own zoning bylaws.  Therefore, you’ll need to contact your municipality to see if they’ll allow your tiny-house-on-a-foundation project.  Here’s how.

Here’s what the Tiny House Appendix does mean for residents of states that have adopted Appendix Q: wherever a house that’s 400 sq. ft. or under is allowed, there are now rules in place for how to build it safely and effectively.  Before, small and tiny houses on foundations would have had to adhere to certain building codes that work well for large buildings but would have been impractical or impossible to follow in small spaces.

What’s the difference between zoning code and building code?

Building code provides a set of safety standards that new buildings must adhere to by law.  These standards ensure the safety of the people using the building.  There are separate building codes for residential buildings (like houses and apartment buildings) and all other buildings (like shops, factories, schools, and workplaces).  The Tiny House Appendix is set to become part of the state building code in NH and CT, which is based on the International Residential Code (IRC).  Most, but not all, states in the USA use the IRC as the basis for their state-wide building codes, and adapt each section as necessary.

Zoning code pertains to what types of buildings municipalities (cities and towns) allow, and where.  Often a city or town has several different zones, and each zone has different rules.  Zoning bylaws are decided by the zoning board of a city or town, and can be amended to better fit the needs of each city or town.  Zoning boards generally have regular meetings that are open to the public, where the public can share their concerns, get clarification on what is allowed to be built, and request a change to the zoning bylaws to improve their municipality.

How can the Tiny House Appendix influence local zoning officials? Appendix Q as part of a state’s building code serves to legitimize tiny and small dwelling spaces in the eyes of local building inspectors and zoning boards.  Municipalities that see there are ICC-approved codes to build tiny and small houses may be more inclined to adopt those types of homes into their zoning.

Green River Small House   kinderhook tiny house in snow park model

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Appendix Q applies to tiny houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. or under.

Right: Appendix Q does not apply to tiny houses on wheels. 

How Does The Tiny House Appendix Relate To Tiny Houses On Wheels?

Currently, the Tiny House Appendix, or Appendix Q, only regulates houses that are permanently-affixed.  It does not relate to tiny houses on wheels.  However, there is a movement to create a new version of Appendix Q for tiny houses on wheels as well.  Martin Hammer, Andrew Morrison, and Gabriella Morrison were instrumental in introducing Appendix Q to the International Building Code and then again to individual states.  See their website for more info on future plans for a tiny house on wheels appendix.

B&B Micro Manufacturing would like to give a shout-out to the Tiny Home Industry Association for its tireless research on tiny house laws across the nation and the American Tiny House Association for its influence on state policy! 

Here’s How To Find Out If Your City or Town Allows Tiny Houses in 3 Steps

Here’s how to find out if your city or town allows tiny houses.

1. Look up zoning codes.

Zoning codes for many municipalities can be found on your town’s website or on ecode360.com.

Here are some helpful search terms:

If you’re hoping to put a tiny house ON WHEELS either on its own property or on a property with other buildings:

  • Tiny House
  • RV, Recreational Vehicle, or Recreation Vehicle
  • Park Model (if your tiny house is greater than 8.5′ in width)

If you’re hoping to build a backyard cottage ON A FOUNDATION:

  • ADU or Accessory Dwelling Unit
  • Detached ADU
  • Accessory Apartment

If you’re hoping to build a small house ON A FOUNDATION on its own piece of land:

  • Minimum Square Footage, Minimum SF, Minimum Sq Ft, or Minimum Sq. Ft.
  • Frontage (some towns don’t have a minimum square footage but they have rules on how big the road-facing portion of the house is based on the percentage of road frontage the property has)

Appendix Q for tiny houses on foundations:

If you’re hoping for a tiny or small house ON A FOUNDATION, look into whether your state has adopted Appendix Q for tiny houses into its building code.  Appendix Q is a set of safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under, basically providing standards for how lofts and ladders are built.  More info on Appendix Q for Tiny Houses here.  If your state hasn’t adopted Appendix Q, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t build small: it just means you’ll have to follow your state’s existing building code for lofts and ladders, and the other details in the Tiny House Appendix.

On January 1, 2020, Massachusetts and California simultaneously will join Maine, Idaho, Oregon and Georgia as the first six states to adopt the Tiny House Appendix into their building code.  Many other states are in the process of adopting the Tiny House Appendix.  The Tiny Home Industry Association has updates on Appendix Q across the United States.

Please note: there may be more lenient rules depending on whether your tiny house will be used seasonally, as a “guest house”, “camper”, or “cabin” rather than as a full-time, permanent residence.  If you’ll only be using your tiny house sometimes, residential zoning laws and building codes may not apply.  Check in with your municipality if this is the case.

Photo: Arcadia Tiny House on Wheels.  This tiny house can travel, and it’s certified as an RV.  It’s currently being used as a guest house at Woodlife Ranch; it isn’t someone’s permanent home.

2. In the (likely) event there are no tiny-house-specific zoning codes, shoot your town zoning board an email.

If you can’t find any info on tiny houses in the town’s zoning but would like to know whether a tiny house on wheels or on a foundation would be legal to live in full-time, send a quick email to your town’s building inspector or zoning board (you can find their contact info on your town’s website).

Be sure to include the following information:

  • What kind of tiny house you’re inquiring about (on a foundation or on wheels?)
  • What code the house would be built to (if it’s on a foundation, does it comply with Massachusetts residential building code? If it’s a tiny house on wheels, is it certified by the RVIA or another third-party inspector?)
  • A description of where you’d like to put it (in a backyard, on its own lot, or in a community) and the address so your zone can be confirmed.  If you don’t have an address in the town but would like to move there, let them know that as well.

They’ll be able to tell you whether tiny houses are legal.

Photo: Green River Small House.  This house was built on-site, piece by piece, and it is compliant with local zoning bylaws and state building code.  It’s being used as a permanent, year-round home.

3.  If there aren’t any tiny house zoning bylaws yet, you can request your town changes their standards (and you don’t have to be an expert to ask!)

If tiny houses are not currently included in the zoning bylaws, your zoning board will be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change to the zoning bylaws.  Generally this process takes a while, and the zoning board will guide you through it.  You don’t have to be an expert to request a zoning change, just an interested citizen!  Be prepared with knowledge of how having tiny houses would help your town or city. Here are some examples, which you can tailor to the specific needs of your municipality:

  • If your town center has historic buildings but downtown housing prices are excluding a large chunk of the population from living there, adding tiny houses (either on wheels or on foundations) to backyards as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) can densify and diversify neighborhoods without destroying their architectural character.  Don’t tear down those beautiful old buildings to add more households: add backyard cottages instead!
  • Tiny houses on wheels can provide flexible temporary living spaces for those who may need a live-in caregiver for a few years.  This setup is great for those who are aging in place and need a caregiver close by, a disabled adult living in the ADU in the backyard of their family, or an ill person who cannot live on their own but needs the privacy of their own living space.  If necessary, tiny houses can be built wheelchair-friendly (check out the Wheel Pad).
  • Tiny houses on wheels are also great for people in traveling professions, like military personnel, travel nurses, or agricultural workers.  However, these people need places to stay.  Allowing landowners to rent out a space for travelers helps them earn extra income while adding spaces for traveling workers to live that cause a low impact on the environment.
  • A pocket community of tiny houses on wheels or small homes on foundations can add much-needed housing stock (let’s be honest, there’s a housing shortage almost everywhere in the US) that is more affordable than the large homes that most developers are building now.

It’s best to do this before you have your tiny house built.  This way, you can be flexible in your design, making sure it conforms with the standards the town creates.

kinderhook tiny house in snow park model

Photo: Kinderhook Park Model Tiny House.  It’s a park model because it’s on wheels, but at 10′ wide, it’s too wide to go on the roads without an oversize load permit.  For this reason, these houses usually stay put after delivery. 
Bonus for MA residents:
We’re creating a list of each town in Massachusetts and whether it allows tiny houses.  If you’ve done this in Massachusetts, please let us know so we can add it to the list!

What are Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and do I need them in my Tiny House?

What Do HRVs Do For The Air Quality In My Tiny House?

Do I need one in my tiny house?

The tiny houses built by B&B Tiny Houses are well insulated and sealed.  This works great for keeping the inside warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but it means the air inside can get stale.

HRVs, or Heat Recovery Ventilators, control a home’s humidity, reduce indoor mold and mildew, and exhaust stale, polluted air.  Unlike traditional vent fans, however, HRVs recover some of the warmth that’s being exhausted to the outside in the winter time, while removing the pollutants and moisture to ensure that the fresh air coming in is still warm.  Maintaining the temperature of the air while exchanging stale air for fresh air cuts down on the cost of heating a home.

The HRVs we use in our tiny houses come in pairs, where units are placed on opposite walls and air flow is transferred back and forth.  In a tiny house, only one pair is necessary, because it’s such a small space.   Each unit is installed directly on an exterior wall, so no ductwork is needed.  Even when the door to, say, the bathroom is closed, it’ll still work because we leave a 3/4″ space beneath the door in tiny houses with HRVs.  They are turned on and off by a switch.

From the 475 Lunos e² HRV website:

#6 in the photo is the part you’ll see on the interior wall of your tiny house.  #1 is what you’ll see on the outside of the tiny house.

Where should HRVs be used?

Heat Recovery Ventilators are for use in the USA’s northern states.  Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) are to be used in the southern states.

Does an HRV warm or cool the house?

No; it maintains the inside temperature, rather than sucking all the heat or cool out of house.

Is it loud?

The system contains a sound muffler.  It produces 0.12 sones at its lowest setting while a quiet refrigerator in a quiet kitchen produces about 1.0 sones.

Do I really need an HRV in my tiny house?

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to spring for an HRV.  The type of HRV we use costs around a few thousand dollars, so it’s worth spending the time to decide whether you really want one in your home.

Factors to consider include:

  • How many people will live in the tiny house?  The more people, the staler the air will be.
  • How often is the tiny house used?  Is this your primary residence or your vacation home?  If it’s just used as a weekend cottage, an HRV system is probably not necessary because new air pollutants will not be introduced every day; a simple bathroom exhaust fan, while less energy-efficient, should do the trick.
  • What is your sensitivity to mold?  HRVs prevent the buildup of mold and mildew: those with an allergy or sensitivity to mold or mildew will benefit from an HRV system.
  • Do you have breathing issues?  Those with asthma, dust mite allergies, and other breathing issues may benefit from this air exchange.
  • What is your cooking style?  Scents from cooking may linger in a home, even with propane stoves come with a range hood.  An HRV can help get rid of cooking odors.
  • How energy efficient do you want your house to be? HRVs introduce new fresh air, warmed by the old stale air, into the house.  Consider the cost of the HRV versus the cost of heat energy you’ll save by installing one.  If you aren’t heating your tiny house full-time in the winter, the HRV will take longer to pay for itself.

What if I don’t use an HRV?

It’s important to not let mold and mildew build up from the moisture created by your bathroom and kitchen.  But if you don’t have an HRV in your tiny house, there are other ways to get fresh air into your home.  Our tiny house bathrooms come with a vent fan that goes on whenever the bathroom light is switched on.  Vent fans will let the heat out of your house in the winter, but they are included with the basic model tiny houses and are much less expensive to install.  You can also just open your windows periodically to let the fresh air in. All of our houses with a propane stove/oven also come with a kitchen range hood.

How do HRVs work?

This video explains how a heat recovery ventilator works.  The example shown in the video is for a much larger house; the ones used in tiny houses look like white squares, CD case shaped attached to the wall at opposite ends of the house.

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