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What is sustainability? How does it affect me? What does it have to do with tiny living?
The Americans with Disabilities Act and its importance in design
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.
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.
If 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:
- Make sure zoning will allow you to live in your tiny house (if not, consider opting for a tiny or small house on a foundation). Rural towns will generally have less restrictive zoning laws than suburban or urban ones. Here’s an article on how to find out if your town will allow you to live in a tiny house on wheels as your permanent residence.
- Buying land that already has utilities (water and power) is generally less expensive than buying raw land and having utilities installed. Read this article on buying land for a tiny house for more information.
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.
- Most 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.
Have questions about pricing? Here is everything you need to know
This is a guest post by writer Ashley Lipman of Best Online Cabinets. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Small Spaces With Big Hearts
So you’ve got a tiny home: that doesn’t mean it needs to feel tiny. How big your home feels on the inside is to a certain extent a function of your imagination. The bigger your imagination, the greater the potential. We’ll explore simple yet effective ways of giving small rooms a “big room” feel.
Photo: The Lorraine Small House
Breaking Up Sight Lines: Mirrors, Pictures, Dividers, Paintings
Mirrors spread light, and make rooms seem more bright. Additionally, they double what’s visible, so a room feels a lot larger than it actually is. Sight lines are broken up in a minor way, because the corner of the eye sees movement and space, and the mind feels there’s more “over there”, if subconsciously.
Pictures additionally break up sight lines, and can give a tiny space a large “feel”; especially if the pictures themselves have many layers to them. It’s the same with paintings—the more robust or stark, the better.
Dividers also partition space. Think “cubicles”. You could turn a small room into four through partitions, and make each portion of the space dedicated to a given task. Hang pictures, paintings, and mirrors on the varying partitions, and a tiny room can feel like an endless maze of aesthetically comfortable décor. Think of a plus sign inside a square in three dimensions with mirrors everywhere. Suddenly four-hundred square feet feels like sixteen hundred square feet.
The mountain photo from HomeGoods creates the illusion of a long line of sight on an interior wall, serving the same purpose as a window.
Photo: The Arcadia Tiny House
Build Vertically To Maximize Space
Bunk beds and storage are the big considerations here. A bunk bed can also have a couch beneath, and storage under the couch, as well as drawers. Look into furniture of this kind. Put two together for a master bed with a comfortable tiny “theater” space beneath.
You can use the second couch elsewhere. With cabinets, go vertical and skinny. Do the same with drawers. If you’ve got the ability to design your own tiny home, building vertical can give the illusion of space with relatively humble square footage. Essentially, you can double the square footage of your tiny home with vertical design, if you’re clever.
Building the sleeping loft over the kitchen and bathroom area kept the house’s footprint small. Additional cabinets built into the interior wall, where there is no insulation needed, provide extra storage for pantry items.
Photo: The Green River Small House
Design Conforming To Available Space
Owing to the “tiny home” revolution, many people today are making do with less space. Accordingly, the interior design market has shifted to match this trend. Be creative and look into available options that can be conformed to your specific needs in terms of design.
For example, you might have cabinets designed to sit high and leave free space beneath, allowing you to put chairs or other furniture in this area.
There are storage cabinets under the stairs and behind that half-wall in the loft.
Photo: The Kinderhook Park Model Tiny House
Getting the Most Out Of Your Living Space
Whether you’re living in a tiny home, or you’ve got several tiny rooms that need a little “something” to help them feel livable, there are plenty of good ideas out there. Do a little searching. Surf the web for inspiration. Consider building vertically, and breaking sight lines expands the feel of a space.
Content marketing specialist
Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart – all things digital. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches touching the digital sphere.
Ready to schedule a design session for your tiny house? Here’s what to expect.
Before Your Design Session:
1. Choose your favorite tiny house from our catalogue.
Our catalogue has a variety of tiny houses to choose from for all types of lifestyles. Look through the photos and descriptions and choose your favorite. You can ask us any preliminary questions about our designs. We build all of our tiny houses for four-season use anywhere in the United States. Once you’ve chosen your tiny house design, you’re ready for the next step.
2. Send us the details of your property.
We can’t start customizing your tiny house until we know where the house is going and how it will be used.
Before scheduling a design session, please send us a topographical map or aerial view of your property so we can make sure we’ll be able to deliver your tiny house and place it correctly. We’ll also need to determine what site work may need to be done before we can deliver your tiny house. We need to know what utilities (power, water, and waste water) your property has so we will be able to build your tiny house systems accordingly.
If you don’t have land yet, here’s what to look for when buying property for your tiny house. You’ll need pre-approval from your town to have a tiny house on your property (let them know whether it’ll be used as a primary residence or a guest house) before starting your design process with us. We want to make sure you won’t have any issues with the building inspector or zoning board of your town after you’ve sunk your time and money into the design!
Or, if you plan to travel with your tiny house like an RV, let us know and we’ll build it slightly differently than a tiny house that’s meant to stay in one place. We’ll also advise you on the truck capacity you’ll need to tow your tiny house.
3. Get an idea of what materials and colors you’d like in your tiny house and how much you want to spend.
The pricing listed on our website generally reflects what you see in the photos. The final price of your customized design can change, either up or down, according to what materials you have chosen. To prepare for your design sessions, look through our photos and videos of our tiny houses and check out the customization options for colors and building materials, which are listed in each category from the least expensive to most expensive.
When you’re ready to schedule your design session, contact us.
Pictured: Floor Plan of the 8.5′ x 30′ Stony Ledge Tiny House
During Your Design Session:
We’ll start our design session by finding out how you plan to use your tiny house. Will you travel with it? Will it be used as a permanent residence, guest house or vacation home? Do you plan to host visitors? Do you love to cook? Is physical accessibility a priority? We’ll end up designing your house differently according to whether you need water tanks, whether you’ll move your house often, or whether you’ll use solar power, so we like to know up front what your plans are so we can design around them.
Next, we’ll go through all your choices for fixtures, materials, and colors.
After our design session, we’ll spend a week or two creating a quote for you.
Pictured: Interior rendering of the Stony Ledge Tiny House.
After Your Design Session:
We’ll have another short meeting to answer any questions you may have with your quote. If you’d like to alter it, we will go through the process with you until you’re happy with your quote.
When you’re ready to move forward with having your tiny house built, let us know we’ll send you a construction contract to sign. Once we’ve received your first payment (or, if you’re financing your build, when your financing comes through to us) we’ll be able to start ordering the materials for your house and building it. We’ll keep you updated about the status of your build and scheduling delivery, if needed.
Ready To Schedule Your Own Tiny House Design Session?
Image: Completed Kitchen in the Stony Ledge Tiny House.
The planning & zoning board of the town of Great Barrington, MA is considering allowing tiny houses on wheels, or movable tiny houses, as Accessory Dwelling Units in the back yards of existing houses.
The tiny house amendment has gone through all the previous stages of approval: registered voters in Great Barrington will vote on whether to allow them at the annual town meeting on May 6.
Katie Jackson of B&B Tiny Houses was asked to do a presentation at a planning board meeting on what tiny houses are, how they work, and how other cities have written them into their zoning code. Katie is also the Northeast Regional Director of the American Tiny House Association, which is hosting the open house on May 5.
- Who buys tiny houses?
- Why do people want tiny houses?
- Why don’t more people have tiny houses?
Backyard tiny houses will add density without having to change the infrastructure of the town; it’s the quickest, easiest solution (and one of many) that will address the housing crisis.
Here’s Great Barrington’s proposed zoning language pertaining to tiny houses:
MTH: Movable Tiny House
THOW: Tiny House on Wheels
ADU: Accessory Dwelling Unit
There will be two tiny house events in Great Barrington:
-Tiny House Open House in the backyard of 65 Anderson Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Sunday, May 5, 10am-4pm.
Sunday’s tiny house open house is in advance of Monday’s Great Barrington Annual Meeting, where a proposed zoning amendment allowing Movable Tiny Houses as accessory dwelling units will be voted upon, among other topics. The open house is hosted by Amy Turnbull who is on the leadership team of the American Tiny House Association, with a movable tiny house built by Tony Indino of East Granby, Connecticut (this house is shown in the event flyer). This open house will give a glimpse into what backyard tiny houses might look like in Great Barrington if the Movable Tiny House Amendment passes.
-Great Barrington Annual Meeting & Vote at Monument Mountain High School Auditorium, 600 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Monday, May 6, 6:00pm.
Please attend the Annual Meeting on Monday in support of allowing movable tiny houses in Great Barrington backyards. The proposed amendment language is posted in the comments. All those who are registered to vote in Great Barrington may vote on the amendments.
The Green River Small Home
Built by B&B Quality Construction, a division of B&B Micro Manufacturing, Inc.
Built on-site on a foundation (not on wheels)
Small footprint at 16′ x 20′ plus a porch
Kitchen, bathroom and living room downstairs
Stairs up to sleeping loft
B&B Quality Construction builds homes and other buildings on-site with traditional construction techniques. They are available for projects within reasonable distance of North Adams, Massachusetts.
The Green River Small Home is currently under construction. Click to enlarge the construction photos below.
EDIT: Construction is now finished! Click here to see the finished photos and a video tour of the Green River Small House.
Interested in a small, permanently-affixed house like this near North Adams, MA? Contact us!