Home-making 101

Hello friends, family, tiny-house-enthusiasts, and folk who are generally keen to explore an post-capitalist lifestyle, like myself.

Welcome to my blog, where I’ll be sharing my very own tiny house story — the highs and the lows, to-dos and to-dont’s. I’m excited to share this process with those who are interested, curious, or perhaps even a little skeptical, to stir up conversation and stimulate knowledge-sharing, and while I’m at it, to inspire some critical consideration of what we consider “normal” in our everyday lives.

Here goes. My name’s Sam and I’m building a tiny house on the wild wet coast of British Columbia. I grew up just outside of Vancouver, tucked in-between the mountains and the ocean, and am deeply grateful and privileged to call this unceded Coast Salish territory my home.

While the wet coast is truly a stunning place to live — for its people, its landscape, and its (moderately) progressive policies — unfortunately it is also very, very expensive. Cue tiny house.

It all started a couple years ago, when I saw the documentary We the Tiny House People. I had been researching Earth Ships and cob houses, but this was my first introduction to the “tiny house movement” and I was smitten. It seemed like an ideal solution — at this stage in my life I’m not yet ready (or able) to buy land, but am also yearning to take root in my own home (as true Cancerians do). I’m also unwilling to conform to the typical 9-5 job, and since my post-grad school projects I plan to pursue may not provide a regular or lucrative salary, building a tiny house provides me with economic freedom (along with ethical congruence) to follow my own path. A privileged position if there ever was one — but more on this later.

Before I knew it, browsing Craigslist became a regular pastime. And one day, I hit the jackpot. A wonderful woman named Sasha (who I happened to know through urban farming circles) had started working on a tiny house, but had decided to sell her trailer and materials so she could move to Sweden to farm! What an opportunity (for us both)! It was like life was telling me to build! Or I was just procrastinating writing my thesis… either way, I bought the trailer, assuring Sasha that her project was in good hands (thankfully I’m not going to be building it solo, so I can say that confidently).

Check it out. My new home:

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This is when I first went to see the trailer and materials in August. The trailer is 22′ long by 8.5′ wide. It will be 13.5′ tall at the highest point. 187 square feet, not including the loft. Tiny tiny.

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Sasha bought the trailer from Trailerman Trailers Ltd., who designs and builds trailers specifically for tiny houses. Apparently they were really great to work with, so I pass on a hearty recommendation.

As you can see in the photo above, Sasha had already done a lot of the hard work attaching flashing and insulating the trailer frame. For those who don’t know what flashing is (me 3 months ago), it’s galvanized sheet metal used in waterproofing, important in stopping moisture and debris from getting into the insulation and wood framing. Check out the work Sasha did on her blog — she’s one talented handywoman, and has recorded loads of valuable information to refer to. With the trailer bought and flooring mostly done, it means I can start building vertical pretty soon! SO EXCITING!

Fortunately, everyone I’ve told my crazy plan to (“Hey, so I’m just going to build a tiny house on wheels and I’m not sure where I’m going to put it yet but I’m sure it will work out”) has been super supportive. I quite literally could not have gotten this far by myself. For instance, my Mum’s partner, John, has been my tiny house guru. He’s owns a contracting business, can tow giant trailers, and is extraordinarily patient. This last point is particularly important, as he has already had to endure a barrage of (probably pointless) questions, from “is $50 a good price for a skylight?” (yes) to “can I use cedar for my kitchen countertop?” (No). Incredibly, John has agreed to help me with the entire building process – not sure what I’d do without him.

I’ve also received help from other contractors, architects, carpenters – so far, most people I’ve spoken with have been really interested in the concept of tiny houses, even (or especially) when I start talking about incorporating recycled materials and renewable energy sources. For instance, when browsing my back alleyway for salvageable materials one day (it’s incredible what people will throw out), I came across a very helpful carpenter who agreed to put aside materials for me from some of his demo jobs.

The power of community.

From my friends, I often get the response, “I don’t know how to build but I’ll help you build!” Which is fantastic, and I’ve already taken them up on it.

Like this guy, who joined me one sunny afternoon to tear cedar siding off a house (with permission) so I can re-purpose it:

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Thanks Mat 🙂 And thanks to John, who helped me collect the trailer a couple months ago:

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That’s us after two hours of prepping the trailer, attempting to tape a temporary license to the metal frame, which — if you were wondering — is impossible to do under water. We were pretty much swimming that day.

Lastly, one of the beauty pieces that Sasha left for me along with the trailer:

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I’ve been inspired by various tiny house & storage blogs, and will be incorporating this (and other) pieces into space-saving designs for my home. Fold-down desks, pull-out counter tops, pop-up root cellars (the options are limitless)! Brain candy for the multifunctionally-minded. Lots of projects on the go.

So. It has officially started! I’ve bought my trailer, am collecting materials, brainstorming designs and spending a few too many hours researching how to create rainwater harvesting systems. John has helped me find a spot to build the tiny house, and I’m actively pursuing places to put my tiny house once it’s built.

For now, here are my next steps: 1) Move the trailer to the building site  2) Finish the flashing & framing of the floor  3) Draft the blueprints (I can’t wait for this!)  4) Start on the vertical framing, for which I’ve got a really excited lead.

More specific tiny house discussion, including SIPs and blueprints and compost toilets, to come.

But for now: thanks for reading and a happy home-making to all.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Henry says:

    This is awesome, Sam! Will it have a guest room when Annette and I come to visit?

    Like

    1. samgambling says:

      If by guest room you mean guest sofa, then yes!

      Like

  2. hi! Our mutual friend Tamara D just shared your blog with me. I’m on Vancouver Island, and plan to start and finish a tiny house with my daughter within the next 1.5 years. Thanks SO much for the Trailerman link, btw 🙂

    Like

    1. samgambling says:

      Thanks for the message Janelle, let’s keep in touch!

      Like

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