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Great Barrington, MA Will Vote On Backyard Tiny Houses May 6

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.

Background Info:

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.

Here’s our previous update on Great Barrington’s consideration of allowing tiny houses on wheels.

Here’s an article on Great Barrington’s Town Meeting from the Berkshire Edge. 

  • Who buys tiny houses?
Most of B&B Tiny Houses’ non-commercial customers have their tiny house in the backyard of a family member or friend, in a campground, or on rural land with permissible zoning.  Some people live in their tiny houses full time, while others use them as guest houses, vacation houses, housing for personal care givers, or as wheelchair-accessible additions so someone can live at home while recovering from a spinal cord injury or in-home hospice care.
  • Why do people want tiny houses?
Although tiny houses are on wheels, very few people travel with them like RVers.  Most people who want tiny houses are drawn to the very low cost of living and the low carbon footprint.  Others want tiny houses on wheels because they might move once every couple of years, like traveling nurses or those with academic professions.  Many who live in tiny houses find themselves spending less time at home and more time in their communities and the outdoors.
  • Why don’t more people have tiny houses?
The biggest barrier to those wanting to own a tiny house is the difficulty of finding a legal spot to live in their house.  Since tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon, most municipalities don’t already have laws allowing tiny houses on wheels as residences.

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: 

Acronym Key:

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.

Recap: Meeting on Backyard Tiny Houses in Great Barrington, MA

Last week’s public hearing in Great Barrington, MA addressed using tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages.  (If you haven’t already seen it or need a refresher, refer back to this blog post).

After the meeting, I spoke with Jonathan Hankin who is the president of the Planning Board.  Here’s his recap:

  • The meeting was 3 hours long and had lots of controversial items to cover!  The proposed tiny house ADUs weren’t discussed, negatively or positively.
  • Public comments remain open until next week’s meeting, which is on Thursday.  However, since there hasn’t been any negative feedback, Jonathan seems confident it should pass without issue.
  • Next week’s meeting is when all the proposed changes to Great Barrington’s Zoning Bylaws should be put on a warrant. Those changes will officially pass (or not) at the Town Meeting, which takes place the last week in May.
  • All the changes that pass in Town Meeting will go to the Attorney General for review.  Her report should come back in August or September.  All changes that she approves will be retroactively in effect back to next week’s meeting (get your Delorean ready).

As a side note, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year and said, in front of many members of the press, that she feels tiny houses are a good affordable housing option.  She has also signed the Nantucket, MA zoning bylaw allowing tiny houses, so we feel good about Atty. Gen. Healey signing Great Barrington’s as well.

-K. Jackson

Pictured from left: B&B Tiny Houses Owners Chris St. Cyr, Jason Koperniak, Mitch Bressett, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey outside the Arcadia Tiny House. Photo from iBerkshires.com.

Please Support Tiny House Zoning in Great Barrington, MA this Thursday, March 7

The town of Great Barrington, MA is considering adding Movable Tiny Houses, or Tiny Houses on Wheels, to their zoning regulations, allowable as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

As proposed, movable tiny houses will only be allowed as an ADU which means there has to be a primary dwelling.  A 2/3 majority at town meeting will allow them.

The Thursday meeting agenda includes a Citizen’s Speak Time, where those who live in Great Barrington can share their thoughts.  Those who don’t live in Great Barrington but would like to show up in support of legal tiny houses may also attend the meeting.

This meeting will address movable tiny houses.  Tiny houses that are on a foundation are already permitted as an ADU under the current bylaw and would need to meet the stretch code adopted by GB.  The planning board is also seeking to increase the allowable number of ADUs to two.

 

 

This is the proposed added language to the Great Barrington Zoning Bylaws:

To Section 11.0 Definitions add:

Movable Tiny Houses (MTH)

A structure intended for the separate, independent living quarters of one household for year-round residence that meets all of the following:

            (a) Is licensed and registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles;

(b) Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements, and certified by a qualified third party inspector for ANSI compliance;

            (c) Cannot move under its own power;

(d) Has not less than 150 and no more than 430 square feet of habitable living space, excluding lofts;

(e) Is designed and built using conventional residential building materials for windows, roofing and exterior siding.

ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT: a subordinate dwelling unit on the same lot as a primary single family or two-family residential use, with provisions for independent cooking, living, sanitation and sleeping. (Add) A Movable Tiny House (MTH) connected to electricity, water, and sewer or septic that has its chassis, wheels and hitch concealed shall be considered an accessory dwelling unit.

(This proposed language may have been updated by the time the meeting takes place).

 

Please attend:

GREAT BARRINGTON PLANNING BOARD MEETING

THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2019 6:00 PM

Great Barrington Fire Station

37 State Road, Great Barrington, MA

Read the Meeting Agenda here.

The 8 Steps To Buying A Tiny House: Everything You’ll Need To Do To Go Tiny

You’ve been dreaming about your very own tiny house for years.  Are you ready to take the leap?

Here are all the steps you’ll take in the tiny house buying process.


Choose a tiny house site.

For some this is easy: a backyard, a piece of property in a town that allows RVs, or an RV park.  For those who don’t yet know where to put their tiny house, finding a location to put their tiny house is a crucial step.  We’ll build your tiny house differently depending on whether you plan to travel often with your house or it’ll stay in one place.  There are many different customization options available for your tiny house, which often depend on what kind of utilities are available at your tiny house site.

You’ll need to make sure your site has an access road and enough room for a truck to deliver the tiny house.  If you send us the layout of your property we’ll help you determine the best spot to place your tiny house during your design session.

Here’s a blog post on where to put your tiny house, and what to know if you’re thinking of buying land for your tiny house.

One way to find a location is through networking.  Here’s a list of tiny house networking sites: most of these groups are through Facebook or Meetup.

If you’re finding it difficult to find a town that already allows tiny houses, you’re not alone.  In fact, most towns’ Planning/Zoning Boards haven’t even considered whether to allow tiny houses on wheels: all it’ll take to start the wheels turning (pun intended, sorry) is for someone to ask.  The American Tiny House Association (Website, Facebook) is a great resource for those who would like to ask for permission to live in their tiny houses.


Choose a tiny house model.

Know where you’ll put your tiny house?  Great!  Browse our tiny house catalogue online and decide which model is the best for you.  Each of our models is customizable: customizations like materials and paint colors are free, while having our designer change the blueprints is an extra fee.

Some of our tiny houses are the road-legal limit of 8 1/2′ wide.  If you’re looking for a tiny house you can tow with you, check out our Lightweight Models for Towing.  We also offer Park Model Tiny Houses at 10′ wide, the Taconic and the Kinderhook.  Park Models are great when you want a little extra elbow room and don’t plan to move your tiny house after it’s put in place.

Don’t want to climb up a ladder to go to bed?  Click here to see our models with a first-floor bed.


Get your finances ready.

B&B’s Tiny Houses on wheels are inspected by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, or the RVIA. Your tiny house will come with an individual seal showing it’s been certified.  Because they’re certified to RVIA standards, our tiny houses are legally considered RVs, and can get RV financing, insurance, and access to RV parks.  Having this certification also helps when explaining to your town’s Planning and Zoning Board exactly what a tiny house is and how it’s certified.

If you’ll use financing, down payments differ based on the financial institution, but they’re generally between 20 and 25%.  If you’ll pay cash, we generally charge 60% up front and 40% when the house is complete.  You’ll need to have this amount saved before you buy a tiny house.

To find out about how much the tiny house you want would cost, try our Instant Estimate Generator.  This will give you a ballpark estimate so you’ll know how much to save.  If you’re not comfortable with your first estimate, you can go back through the Estimator as many times as you’d like, choosing different options.  Here are some suggested financial institutions for getting RV financing for your tiny house.

Keep in mind that the cost of the tiny house itself isn’t the only expense you may have when placing a tiny house.  Depending on your site and what your municipality requires, you may need to have utilities connected, a gravel or concrete pad poured, and anchors installed.  If you’re not towing your tiny house yourself, you’ll need to pay  about $2 per mile for delivery (we’ll connect you with our trusted delivery company).  It’s important to factor in the all-in cost of buying a tiny house before paying a deposit.


Schedule a tiny house design session.

Whether you’d like to make changes to the blueprints of the tiny house or not, a design session is the next step. If the only design changes are your selections for colors, materials and fixtures, these choices are free to make; the cost of the materials you choose will be reflected in your final quote.  If you’ll make changes to the blueprints, we charge a Design Alteration fee before our design session (scroll down past the customization options to see the fee).

Contact us to set up a time for a design session, whether via Skype, phone, or in-person.  If your session is in person, we’ll walk you through any tiny house that we may have at our shop so you can get a feel for the space.  During our design session, we’ll go through, in detail, which options you’d like, and the pros and cons of each depending on your location and how you’ll be using your tiny house.  You’ll have a chance to get your tiny house questions answered as well as learn more about which options are realistic for your living situation.


We’ll create a quote for you and send you a contract.

After your design session, our team will create a quote for your tiny house.  If you need changes to the existing plans, we’ll create a new drawing: this can take a few weeks depending on our design pipeline.

We’ll review your quote and final customization plan (your choices for colors, materials, fixtures, etc.) with you.

When you’re ready to finalize your choices and move forward, we’ll send you a build contract.

When we receive your signed contract and first payment (if you’re paying with cash, 60%; if you’re financing, we’ll need the payment from your financial institution) we’ll start ordering materials for your tiny house.


We’ll build your tiny house.

shou sugi banOur build schedule varies throughout the year: sometimes we can start building a tiny house right away, and other times there will be other projects in the pipeline.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our build schedule.

Trailers take about five weeks to build; your tiny house, depending on its size and level of complexity, should take 6-12 weeks after that depending on our build schedule.  We’ll keep in touch with you during the build process.


Get your site ready.

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterThe needs of tiny house sites vary greatly.  If you’ll be traveling with your tiny house and parking it at RV Parks, there’s not much you’ll need to do other than reserve your spot.  If you’ll be keeping your tiny house in one place, you’ll need to make sure you can get water and power to your tiny house and waste water away from it.  Depending on the permanency of your tiny house, you may want to have a gravel or concrete pad poured, and lay water and electric lines.  If you’re going solar, you’ll need to contract with a solar company to have your panels installed on your site.


Pick up your tiny house at our shop or have it delivered to your site.

If you’ll be towing your tiny house, here’s a primer on what size vehicle you’ll need.

Those who do not plan to tow their own tiny house may have it professionally delivered to their site.  Contact us for a delivery estimate.  We’ll schedule a time with you to ensure you’re on-site when your house is delivered, and we’ll answer any questions you might have about setting it in place.


Ready to choose a tiny house model?  Check out our Tiny House Designs and then get an Instant Estimate.

Have Questions?  Contact us.

Are Composting Toilets Allowed in Massachusetts?

Composting toilets and greywater systems can be a great solution for how to deal with waste water.  But are you allowed to use them on your own land in MA?

Spoiler alert: Like pretty much every code, there’s not a single easy answer that applies everywhere.

According to mass.gov, for residential homes: “Title 5 (310 CMR 15.000) allows composting toilets for Remedial Use and also certifies them for General Use in new residential construction where a system in full compliance with Title 5 could otherwise be installed. The local approving authority (typically the Board of Health) must also approve installation of a composting toilet through a Disposal System Construction Permit and Certificate of Compliance. Check with your local Board of Health for its approval procedures.”

Read all the details here:

Source: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/qm/comptoi.pdf

Note that this doesn’t apply to tiny houses on wheels– only homes that are permanently affixed.

In summary, Title 5 allows for conforming composting toilets and a greywater system in new residential construction where there could otherwise be a septic system.  However, this doesn’t mean it’s allowed in every town.  The local Board of Health will also have to approve it. 

Here’s how to get in touch with your local Board of Health in Massachusetts.

But wait: a composting toilet isn’t the only option for your tiny house!

B&B offers five different toilets for tiny houses on wheels: the best solution for you depends on where you’re parking your tiny house, whether it’ll move, what utilities are available and how often you’ll use your tiny house.  Check out this blog post on the 5 Types Of Tiny House Toilets.

 

 

 

A Look Inside B&B’s Resideo Tiny Smart Home with Honeywell Home Tech

We’ve built a Tiny Smart Home using tech from ResideoHoneywell‘s new spinoff which goes public today.

The Tiny Smart Home is right outside the New York Stock Exchange where Resideo rang the bell this morning, showing off Resideo’s smart home technology.

“As Resideo rings in a new era as an independent company and begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the company is hosting a pop-up experience outside the iconic Financial District landmark to display its top-notch, easy-to-use solutions. The mobile technology showcase is the brain child of Resideo and news-outlet Cheddar, who are joining forces to highlight the intersection between smart home technology and simple living. The Resideo Tiny Home, built by B + B Tiny Houses, serves as the backdrop of a new Cheddar show, which will launch later in 2018 and highlight Honeywell Home’s end-to-end, integrated home solutions on the exterior, on the wall, in the wall and in the cloud.

The 125 square-foot home features Honeywell Home’s professionally installed options, which were slightly modified for the small space, and are available through professional HVAC contractors and home automation and security dealers (through Resideo’s ADI Global Distribution business). The home also includes DIY solutions found at major retailers and www.Honeywellhome.com. The solutions are controlled via simple voice commands or Honeywell Home apps, make the home smarter, cozier, safer, and more efficient.” –resideo.com

If you’re near Wall Street check out our Tiny Smart Home with Resideo technology!  If you’re not near Wall Street, this tiny house will soon be traveling the nation– keep up to date on its whereabouts on Residso’s Twitter or Facebook!

Click the images to enlarge:

Learn More about “The Tiny Home On Wall Street” in this article by Resideo. 

Watch the video of B&B co-founder Jason’s interview about Building The Smart Tiny Home on Cheddar TV.

4 Ways to Get Water Into Your Tiny Home

Figuring out which water system will fit your tiny home best may seem like a stressful task, but it’s actually more straightforward than you’d expect. Deciding on the best system for you depends on things like the location you’re planning to live, budget, and even level of sustainability that you wish to achieve.

water faucet source tiny home new england

Options for Water Sources in Your Tiny Home

water tank waste tiny home new englandNo Water Source

Having no plumbing may seem like the simplest option, but it can make everyday living cumbersome. If there is no plumbing, then the only way to get water into the house is by bringing it in. This would mean that you would have to transport water bottles, bubblers, or jugs often.

Showering can also be a difficult task. In addition, storing water may become a hassle. If there is no space inside your tiny home, then you will have to keep the water outside your home; however, a problem may arise during frigid winters if the water freezes.

Not having plumbing is a great solution if your house is used for camping or as a backyard studio or guest house, but for those living in tiny houses full-time, it’s not recommended.  One benefit from this option, though, is that it will keep the cost of your tiny home down.

Tank

You may choose to install a tank into your tiny home. In this system, you will fill the tank in your home manually, via a hose or other mechanism, and then the pump will circulate the water throughout your home. You will need an electric source in order to circulate the water. This is a great option for those that want their tiny home to be able to live off the grid. With an alternative energy source like solar panels, you would not need to connect to a traditional power source, which makes this option a highly sustainable choice. Read more about living off the grid.

Like having no plumbing, this option still requires you to seek out a water source and then store the water. Tanks can be hidden in tiny homes relatively well, but it will still take up valuable space, either under the floor in part of the house, requiring steps up into part of the house, or in a utility closet. In addition, the smaller the tank is then the more often you will have to refill the tank. Having a limited supply of water will force you to be cognizant of the amount of water that you’re using and you will most likely consume less water than the traditional household (the average American household consumes up to 100 gallons of water per day).

RV Hookup

If you know that your tiny home will be staying in one location, then you may choose to directly connect to a water source. This is done the same way as a RV hookup with a simple garden hose connected to a potable (drinkable) water source. This method is the least hassle.  Those who plan to move around frequently should plan ahead to travel to places with potable water sources.

In climates where it can get cold, use heat tape to prevent your hose from freezing.  You can also bury the hose if you live in a climate that doesn’t deep freeze.

Tank + Hookup

You may choose to get the best of both worlds by installing a tank and using the RV hookup method. In doing so, you will most likely use a smaller tank than you normally would, which would allow for more space in your tiny home. The great perk about this option is that it does not close any doors. You can live off grid when you need and also on the grid whenever you please. This combination is usually ideal for most tiny home owners.

How to Pick the Best Water Source for You

Now that you know all of your options, you probably have a better idea of which option will best fit your needs. When deciding the best option for you, it is best to keep in mind how often you’re wanting to travel, if you are going to be on or off the grid, budget, level of sustainability, and you’re willingness to spend extra time to get water into your tiny home.

 

 

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How Do I Get Power & Water To My Tiny House? All About Tiny House Hookups

Hooking up a tiny house to power, fresh water, and waste water is easy– just plug and play!

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterFrom left: the tiny house power source, an extension cord with an adapter to fit into any three-pronged outlet; the water hose inlet; and covered outdoor outlets for all your chili-pepper-string-light needs.  Not pictured: grey and black water outlets, under the house. 

Fresh Water

First, you’ll need a source for fresh water in your tiny house.  You can source water from a town water line, a well, or any other potable water source.

Tiny houses that stay in one location can hook up to water through an RV hookup, which includes an underground water source with a pedestal that feeds water into the sinks and other faucets as they are used.

If there are water tanks in your tiny house, they can be filled with potable water via a hose, whether the hose is permanently attached to a stationary house (in freezing temperatures, wrap heat tape along the hose), or, if you’re traveling with your house, intermittently.  You can also have a water truck come and fill up your water tank, although that’s a more expensive solution.

Waste Water

How will you get rid of your waste water?

Depending on what your town allows, you may separate your grey water from your black water if you can use your grey water, or you may put all waste water into black water.  Grey water may be used in irrigating gardens (again, as long as your town allows it) and you use eco-friendly soap products.  More on greywater use is here.

Either way, your waste water will need to go somewhere!  B&B Micro Manufacturing can build in grey and black water tanks to your tiny house, or you can permanently tie-in your tiny house to a septic or sewer system.

Power

The simplest, cheapest power source for your tiny house is running an extension cord a building that already has power.  Many people who live in their tiny houses full-time park their houses beside or behind the house of a friend, relative or landlord.  Others may lease or purchase a property that already has a power source.  If you need to have new power lines run to your property, check in with your town. Learn more about connecting undeveloped land to power and water sources here.

Solar powering tiny houses is another option, albeit the most expensive one.  Off-grid solar power systems for tiny houses, including solar panels and batteries, cost anywhere between $3,500 and $10,000, depending on your power needs.  If you’re choosing solar power for your tiny house, we will help you choose the most energy-efficient appliances for your power system.  You can read more about your solar options and our tiny house solar energy partner, AltEStore, here.

The TL;DR* for tiny house water and power is that tiny houses work just like RVs, and they can be quite simple and easy to plug in.

Have questions about your tiny house power and water?  Ready to buy your tiny house?  Contact us!

  • Where will your tiny house be located? Will it be used for travel or set in one location?
  • Will your tiny house be used as a year-round residence or as a vacation home? How many people will use it? Anything else we should know?
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*For all you newcomers to the internet (where have you been?), TL;DR means “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, or “In Summary” if you’re being polite.