Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Any progress means one step closer!

Here is a pic of the frame jacked up and the tongue on the ground ready to be attached on the next time we get to work on it. 

Back to work on the trailer for my house! Any work being done on it is truly exciting. I am literally losing sleep thinking about what to do next and design ideas for later down the road. This adventure sure is going to be a fun one I just wish some of my good ideas would not enter mind at 3 AM! After 8 AM would be sufficient!

Although we only had one full day of work we really made some good and important steps towards finishing the trailer. We basically got the mobile home axles cut down so the tires would sit under the trailer rather than to the side. This way we can keep it street legal and I won't have to worry about getting a stupid permit for transporting. We also got the two extra supports for the axles welded on. This was the hardest thing to weld so far and very important because these supports will carry the weight of the house and I want to get it right! Can't have a tiny house crashing out on the road!

That is pretty much what got done. May not sound like a lot but it was an all day project which for the most part was spent in planning and then welding. The only other thing we did was get the frame jacked up off the ground so when I come home during Mardi Gras we will be ready to attach the axles, tongue, prime the frame, wheels, brake lines, lights, jack, floor frame,and floor.

Here is a pic of the axles that we cut and welded back together. This was surprisingly easier than I thought it was going to be.

                                                       The frame jacked up from the other side.
                             This is me about to strike up the torch to cut the axles supports.

The top picture is another angle of the jacked up frame. It almost looks like it's floating in mid air! At the bottom there is a picture of the two axles supports we welded on. The beam in the center is a main support for the frame and axle equalizer. The two beams on each side of that are the two we welded on that day that will hold the hangers for the ends of the axle springs.

That's all for now. I'll post again after the Mardi Gras holiday and we will hopefully be done with the trailer! Then I can move it to my house and work on finishing the house on a more consistent basis. My goal is to have four walls and a roof by the summer. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Basic Interior Plans

Main Floor

Sleeping Loft

I stumbled upon a design website today so I thought I would give it a try and draw the basic layout of my tiny house.The website is called Urban Barn-Online Room Planner. 

So the structure is 8x24 complete with a living area, kitchen, bathroom, front porch, and a sleeping loft. 
Let's start with the front porch and work our way in. The front porch is going to be very small with just enough room for a few chairs. The entrance is going to be either double glass french doors, a glass sliding door or I also had the cool idea today to make the whole front wall and entrance out of a garage door. That way I could open an entire wall on those nice fall or spring days. But I will have to decide what's best and what my wallet can handle. I also had the thought of putting in a single glass door that way on one side of the front wall there could be a double fireplace inserted in the wall so you could see the fireplace from the front porch and from the inside! Let me know what you think would be coolest!

When you walk through the entrance to the living area there will be spaces for sitting, a fireplace/cast iron stove of some sort, dining and entertaining type stuff (pico projector for TV and computer, music recording gear, instruments). The furniture that I put in this design is not necessarily what it will eventually look like but that is what was in the design template. I probably won't decide that until the house is near completion.  Those of you that know me also know that I am a musician and my tiny house will also function as a tiny recording studio. And for that reason, if I can afford it, the house will have cork floors. Which functions as a sound absorbing material plus cork is very sustainable and comfortable to walk on.

When you reach the middle of the house you will be able to see the ladder to climb up to the loft on the right, and a bookcase/storage system behind the ladder. Then you will be able to walk straight into the kitchen which will be stocked with a LP stove top, double sink, LP/electric fridge, and storage. Across from the kitchen will be a large 9' long sliding glass door that will go into the bathroom which also doubles as the shower door. The shower will be surround by corrugated aluminium panels and the shower floor will be wooden designed like a Japanese bathroom. Next to the shower will be the composting toilet. On the side behind the toilet will be a small but tall door which can access the closet/storage area that backs up to the bathroom. 

Now up the ladder to the sleeping loft. The loft will have a queen size bed with storage on both sides of the bed as well as at the foot of the bed. There will be enough headroom to sit up comfortably but not stand. A nice comfortable spot to sleep with a small window in the gable to look out of at night. 

The only part of the house that I have not mentioned is what I call the power closet. I didn't draw this into the design because the template I used didn't have the right tools to include it. The closet will actually be on the outside of the house (on the trailer tongue) at the rear behind the kitchen and bathroom. The power closet includes things like the electrical control panel, propane tanks, batteries, backup propane water heater, water and 30amp hookups, charge controller, inverter, etc. 

From the design blueprints up top you might not be able to see precisely what the inside of the house will look like, but hopefully I have painted enough of a picture in words for you to imagine what it will look like. And if not...then when I get closer to completion I will have lots of pictures and videos and then you will hopefully understand what is stirring around in my mind right now!

Please keep following my progress! Much more to come!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Started the trailer frame! It has begun!

 Most people, when building their tiny house on wheels purchase a flatbed trailer and build the house on top of that. Well, I can't afford a $3000 trailer right now but luckily and thankfully my dad has all this scrap metal, a cutting torch, a welding machine, and the space to tackle such a project. It's made from 9" c-channel steel and could weigh about 1200-1500 lbs. when complete. We also have the two 6000# mobile home axles, tires, hangers, and the tongue ready to be put on but we haven't gotten that far yet. The size is an 8x24 trailer, of what my dad would call, 'glorious independence!'
                 This is me splicing together some of those c-channel pieces. And relearning how to weld!
                                                                 Me grinding to prep for more welding.
                                                                                     More grinding.

Small home big life--The Beginning

Hello, my name is Ben, and I live in southeast Louisiana. In the past four years I have been on a journey to create an easier life for myself. From growing a garden, raising chickens, ducks, and rabbits, to aquaponics. I just wanted to find a better, easier, healthier way to live. I guess you could say it all started in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. After graduating college in 2005, I moved to New Orleans, to pursue a career in music and yes, for a woman. I moved in with her about two months prior to Katrina making her way through the gulf coast.  I don't have to explain what happened next. Everyone knows the tragedy the came following that storm and the hardships everyone, including myself had to go through. But I consider myself lucky that I got out in time and had safe shelter and family to turn to.

In the following months I moved a lot! From Baton Rouge to Tampa, back to NOLA. And even when back in New Orleans, we had to move from small studio apartments to FEMA hotel rooms to FEMA trailers. So pretty much during that time I lived very small. The only other time I lived smaller than that was I guess in a dorm room in college.

Growing up in central Louisiana, I lived in a middle class neighborhood in a big house. I'm not sure of the square footage of that house but it was probably over 2000 sq. ft. And don't get me wrong I loved every minute of it. We had a big back yard, a pool, you know, pretty nice stuff. I had a great place to grow up and I can't be appreciative enough to my parents for providing that place for me. In fact, at one time I know I wanted a house even bigger and better than that when I  grew up. I wanted it all! A giant house, a giant boat, multitudes of cars, motorcycles, a second home in the mountains(I still might like to have that ;) ), everything under the sun! Of course I would have to be RICH to have all of that so I was certain that one day I would be the CEO of some giant powerful corporation! Seems funny to think back to those lofty dreams but reality can hit you pretty hard sometimes.

But I also thought that maybe another way to have all of those THINGS was to become a 'rock star' to pay for all of those meaningless things. So in college I switched my major from accounting to music. Some of you are probably thinking...neither of those majors sounds like you are going to afford all of those things you want. Well, you are right, although it is possible to obtain those successes with those two backgrounds, it is highly unlikely that it will actually happen. But, alas, I marched forward. Now that you know a little about me and how I got here now, let's get to the part you are probably anxious to read about--The tiny house!

One day I was sitting in my small studio apartment on St. Charles Ave., and I was worried about money and gas was up to like $4 a gallon and I was trying to figure out a way to save as much money as possible. I was budgeting, hyper-miling on my commutes, conserving water use and electricity. I was trying to do everything I could to save money. After all I was just a poor music teacher that basically lived from paycheck to paycheck while at the same time trying to pay off debts like credit cards and student loans. I was just sitting there saying to myself, "Why is this(life) got to be so hard? It doesn't have to be this way."  I thought about how people used to live 200 years ago. Sure it was a difficult life compared to now but at least there was more individual liberty and the idea of manifest destiny was still in their hopes and dreams. Then it clicked! I should start growing my own food! So I immediately started looking for a different place to live so that I could have a small garden to grow vegetables.

Well, I found a nice little house with about a tenth acre backyard and started digging and planting. I was successful for some things and other times I failed miserably but it was a learning experience for me because I had never been taught how to garden. I had to learn everything from scratch, or as I like to call it youtube! So for the past few years I was content with gardening and I got chicken for eggs. It was very satisfying! But that introduction to a more sustainable life was all I needed to snowball me towards figuring out an even better way to live. More aware now of the way things use to be and how I knew in my heart that it was the way we needed to live now, I dove deeper into what I needed to do next to get me to a point where I felt more comfortable in life. And then I discovered the tiny house on wheels. Jay Shafer's tumbleweed house was the first one that I saw on youtube. I was in love with that house from that moment on and have been dreaming and planning for the time I could get started on my own project. I wanted so bad to reduce some of my bills, reduce more of my consumption, and be outside more to grow food and raise animals to live a more sustainable, happier, more free lifestyle.

So that pretty much catches you up to where I am now. I have just started my tiny house project with my dad. We began welding the frame for the trailer and acquired the axles over the 2011 Christmas holidays. It is going to be a long project but the end result will be so amazing I just can't wait. I have been researching extensively every single tiny house resource I can get my hands on and have almost narrowed down what the final design is going to look like. Most people that are building tiny houses struggle with a place to put it but I will have a spot to put mine and enough space to have my small farm. So one day I can live in my small home on my small farm living a very big, enjoyable, sustainable life!