Posts Tagged With: Michigan Tiny Houses

Heating Our Tiny House

Living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula means 6-8 months of winter; we’ve had winter show up in October and not leave until May. There are quite a few options for heating a tiny house and each option has its pros and cons. When it came to heating our tiny house, our first thought was to heat with the Newport Dickinson propane fireplace. This is the stainless steel wall mounted direct vent heater that you see in so many tiny houses. We liked the clean stainless steel look and the glass window that revealed the flame. What we didn’t like about the Dickinson was that it is either on or off, and on high or low. We didn’t realize it at the time we made our decision, but because we have a propane refrigerator, it is imperative that we be able to keep the ambient temperature above 61 degrees or the fridge will go to freezing temperatures (apparently that’s just the way propane fridges work). With the Dickinson, we would have had to keep it running at all times.

Prior to buying our property we wanted to put in electric in-floor heat; however, once we found our property, we knew we were going to be off grid for a while. This ruled out all electric heat options. That left us with propane or wood. We looked at other wall mounted direct vent propane heaters, but I found most of them to be very unattractive and they also needed a certain wall depth that we didn’t have with our 2×4 walls.

The property we purchased has about 20 acres of woods, so heating with wood would be the most cost-effective heating method because it would be free if you don’t count the cost of our time cutting, chopping, and hauling wood. However, a wood fireplace has many drawbacks in such a small space. First and foremost, you can’t keep the house at a certain temperature. This would mean coming home after work to an extremely cold house. Also, because the house is so tiny, it would require an equally tiny wood stove. While tiny wood stoves do exist, keeping a fire burning throughout the night in such a small wood stove would not be possible, leaving us with either waking up to a cold house or getting up in the middle of the night to stoke the fire. We’ve lived in a house that we heated with wood and even with its large cast iron fireplace, we still often woke up in the morning having to re-start a fire. I also wasn’t too keen on the mess associated with wood heat. In a “normal” sized house, there is space for a large hearth with wood and kindling storage, but in the tiny house it would be difficult to keep ashes contained and store everything necessary with wood heat.

It became very clear that the best option for us would be to heat with propane, but we still had to find the right heater. In searching for heaters I came across a blog post all about heating tiny houses. In that post was a link to the Mini Franklin stove from the Woodstock Soapstone Company. The website claimed that the Mini Franklin would heat a space 100-400 square feet. We also found it to be very attractive, featuring a glass window to view the flame and cast iron and soapstone construction. What we liked even more was that we could add on a thermostatically controlled remote control giving us the ability to set the temperature or program the stove to a heating schedule.

We decided that this would be our stove of choice and began planning for its placement in the tiny house. We couldn’t afford to buy the stove at that time so we looked at the installation manual, made the necessary measurements, and located the place on the wall where the stove-pipe would vent to the outside of the house. We were required to frame in the opening on the wall where the pipe would go out and we installed our tongue and groove everywhere else. When we were finally able to purchase the stove we realized that our measurements apparently didn’t take into account the added hight due to the bend in 90 degree pipe elbows and our opening was 1-2 inches too low. We had to cut away some of the tongue and groove cedar and cut out the 2×4 that framed the opening and install it higher. We’ve had far worse goof ups so while this was inconvenient, it really wasn’t that difficult a fix.

There was some trial and error when installing the stove-pipe but eventually it all came together and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. The stove was installed at the end of September and just prior to installation we were experiencing some rather cold nights. We were able to set the thermostat to 62 degrees and the stove would kick on as needed. We found during that first month of having the stove that it didn’t really need to kick on very often. The propane fridge that we have (a post on the cook stove and propane fridge will come eventually) kicks out quite a bit of heat and during the fall it was almost heating the tiny house on its own, with the fireplace only kicking on at night. Now that winter is officially here (we have already had up to 4 feet of snow fall) the fireplace is on fairly consistently but has done a great job heating the tiny house. Most of the time, we just keep the house at 62 degrees, but the fireplace has no problem bringing the house temperature up to 70 degrees if we crank the heat. It’s too soon to tell how much propane we will go through, but we purchased two 100 pound propane tanks and have gone through two tanks since the end of September (the first tank lasted 6 weeks; the second tank lasted 3 weeks). We have a local farm store nearby that currently charges $82 to fill a 100 pound tank. We figure, at the most, we would go through two tanks a month in the winter, leaving us with a gas bill of $164/month. It’s quite likely that propane prices will go up throughout the winter, but with that being our only utility bill we don’t think that’s too bad.

The only complaint I had with the gas stove is how the company handles the painting of the stove-pipe. The pipe sections come with stickers labeling the type of pipe. The company either paints around the sticker or they put another sticker over the label and paint over the whole pipe. It looks terrible. Granted, I am a rather picky person. I formally complained to the company and they sent us a can of spray paint. I was able to peel off the stickers and repaint the sections. There was some sticker residue that was left behind but overall once I put a few coats of new paint on it wasn’t too noticeable.

I would definitely recommend the Mini Franklin to other tiny housers. It’s incredibly easy to light, looks very attractive, and keeps the house at very comfortable temperatures.

Categories: Fireplace, Refrigerator | Tags: , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The Tiny House Has Insurance!

Just before moving the tiny house out to the property I called Vast here in Marquette to inquire about insurance. I spoke with Karen and explained that I wanted to make an appointment to discuss insurance. When she asked for more imformation I explained that we were building something called a tiny house. She asked if she could find information about them online and I assured her that if she googled “tiny house” she would find more than enough information. I made an appointment to go to the office later that afternoon. When I showed up for the appointment Karen asked all sorts of questions about our little house. What was the square footage, how much had it cost so far, would it have a smoke alarm, would we anchor it to the ground…

She also told me that she called her insurance underwrite after she got off the phone with me and explained that she had a couple looking to get insurance for a tiny house. Her underwriter knew all about tiny houses and wanted to get one himself!

The tiny house is insured under a mobile home policy with a premium just under $400 a year. Compared to someone with a “real house” worth a couple hundred thousand dollars our policy seems rather pricy; however, in the insurance world, mobile homes are considered riskier and at $32 dollars a month we think it’s worth the price. I spoke with a coworker who’s camp is a mobile home and asked him what his premium was and he explained that he can’t get insurance on his camp because the mobile home is too old and that he would gladly pay $400 a year for coverage if he could get it.

Our policy covers $25,000 on the structure, $17,000 on personal belongings (I doubt we could even fit enough belongings in the tiny house to equal that), and $300,000 liability on the property. I did make an appointment with another insurance agency in town to compare policies. The other agent I spoke with seemed skeptical about being able to insure the tiny house, but he did say that the Vast policy looked about right. He told me he would look into things and call me back either way…I never heard back from him.

We did have to wait to get our physical address before we could sign our policy and that involved calling the Sheriff’s Department to request a fire number. The fire number took a few weeks to be issued but once I was able to give Vast our physical address we were insured. And I did confirm that we’re covered if the house is stolen!

Categories: Tiny House Insurance, Tiny House Living | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

Moving Day!

May 31, 2014 – The day has finally arrived! We moved the tiny house out to our property! The tiny house is far from finished but our lease is up and we are done paying rent!

We hired Terry and his very nice truck to move the tiny house from Pelkie out to Chatham. It took just over two hours and everything went very smooth. It was rather windy though and Terry mentioned that it would have been better if we had sway bars on the trailer. Since we didn’t, he just took it a little slower.

I was a jumbled ball of nerves when we moved the house last fall to my moms so this time I avoided coffee in the morning and also drove in front of the tiny house while Pete followed behind. I discovered being in front was way less stressful than watching the tiny house from behind. I only had to think about my home rolling down the road at 55 mph whenever I looked in the rear view mirror; which lets face it was every 45 seconds. But still I was much less nauseous this time around. I’m glad we don’t plan on moving the tiny house any time soon, but I think I would eventually get used to it if we traveled with it.

It will be interesting trying to live in the tiny house while we finish building but we’re so happy to finally be out at the property that I think the new excitement will outlast the construction phase…I hope.

Thanks again Terry for safely moving my baby!

Categories: Tiny House Living, Towing the Tiny House, Trailer | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Installing Tongue and Groove Cedar

Pete and I spent the second weekend in May putting up the last of the vapor barrier and starting on the tongue and groove. It’s so satisfying to see the tongue and groove go up; things are really starting to come together.

The trickiest part of the vapor barrier was the sleeping loft and of course we left that for last. By the time we finished with the vapor barrier we jumped right in to the tongue and groove. We started at the easiest location, the wall behind the future couch. When we were finished with that we moved on to the ceiling in the sleeping loft. We were trying to work on areas that wouldn’t have any seams because our chop saw can’t do the cuts we wanted for seams. Instead, we would be borrowing my coworker Brian’s miter saw the following weekend. We borrowed this same saw when we put up the exterior cedar siding. When we finished with the ceiling in the sleeping loft we put up plywood in the kitchen area. Not only does this save us a few bucks but the metal plates covering the gas lines keeps us from being able to nail the three-inch wide cedar boards to parts of the wall. The following weekend we continued to make progress with the tongue groove.

Categories: Cedar Tongue and Groove, Vapor Barrier, Walls | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

We’re Insulated!

April 6, 2014 – The tiny house in insulated!  But only because we have good friends that will let us borrow their truck for a day and a half!  I reserved an insulation blower to be picked up Saturday morning and we left for my mom’s house Thursday evening because we were expecting a snowstorm on Friday.  We were originally planning on taking the truck to my mom’s to take her winter’s worth of garbage to the dump, but because of the impending snowstorm and our very bald tires we decided it would be safest to take the car.  However, on Friday it dawned on me that maybe the insulation blower would not fit into the back of our rather large Volvo wagon.  My mom called and confirmed that the insulation blower needs to be loaded into the back of a pickup truck with a forklift and it stays in the back of the truck during operation.

My mom called our friend Paul, who came over with his brother-in-law and a truck to move the tiny house previously, and asked if we could borrow his truck.  He said we could come get it in the morning as soon as he was done plowing.  Meanwhile, we realized we left a full box of insulation back at our apartment an hour and forty five minutes away.  My plan was to drive back to the apartment and get the insulation in the morning if it was no longer snowing.  We ended up getting about 15 inches of snow on Friday, but it was clear by morning so I ran back home for the insulation.  Pete was able to pick up Paul’s truck and go get the insulation blower.  He ended up getting back to the tiny house about 10 minutes before I did.

It took us a few mintues to figure out the blower; of course no one at the hardware store knew how to work it.  By 11:00 we were up and running and we finished up at 8pm. We have a few areas where we need to hand place the insulation and we need to go back through and make sure we have enough insulation behind and under all the junction boxes.  Originally we were going to hand place the insulation behind the tongue and groove like many other tiny house builders have done; however, my brother strongly encouraged us to put in a vapor barrier and so hand placing was not an option.

Now that we are pretty much fully insulated the next step is to put up the vapor barrier and prepare for tongue and groove.  Our lease on our apartment was initially up on April 19th, but because of the super long winter we’ve had we decided to extend our lease to the end of May.  The tiny house definitely won’t be done by then, but my goal is to have the tongue and groove completed by the time we’re living in the tiny house.  We’ll then have the rest of the summer to install kitchen cabinets, appliances, closet, and a ladder.

Due to work and family comitments, we’ll be tanking the next two weekends off and if it hadn’t been for Paul we would have had to wait three weeks before getting the insulation in.  Thanks Paul! It feels great to have accomplished such a big step!  🙂 By the way, we didn’t end up even needing that box of insulation that I drove home to pick up!

Categories: Insulation, Walls | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Making Progress

Since the last post, we’ve gotten the electrical to the point where we can start insulating. We also had ALK Contracting out to run our gas lines. They are a small local company that specializes in heating, cooling, and plumbing. And while Pete and I ran our internet and cable lines, we hired Aire Care out of Houghton to finish up the job for us. We didn’t have the necessary tools to put the ends on the wires and cables and really we just wanted to make sure we were doing it right. We worked with Roger, who stopped by on a Sunday on his way to camp and showed him what we were working on. He came back out a few days later and finished things up; super nice guy!

We’re installing an oven range vent hood to help with humidity while cooking.  We bought an under cabinet mounted hood that will vent straight out the back.  We located the area where we wanted to the hood to be installed and started making the opening.  We wanted the range hood to be up as high as possible and started hacking into our top plate before going outside to realize that the vent opening would interfere with our soffit.  We relocated the opening so it comes out just below the soffit.  We also had to cut into a stud, so we placed another stud next to it.

As for our gas lines, we had to run three separate lines because we would not have access to the lines in the wall.   When it comes time to install the appliances we’ll have a professional come out to finish the job.  At that time, the tiny house will be out at the property so we’ll have to find another company to finish it up.

And finally, last weekend we put up the netting that came with our wool insulation. We’re scheduled to rent a blower tomorrow morning to blow in the insulation. After that, we’ll be able to put up our vapor barrier and start putting up the tongue and groove cedar.

 

Categories: Electrical, Insulation, Kitchen, Propane Lines, Soffits | Tags: , , | 12 Comments

On the Road Again…Again

November 2, 2013 – Like fish that starts to stink after three days, so too, do friends building a tiny house in your driveway!  Jeff and Cindy have graciously let us occupy their driveway the past two summers and into this fall so we were not at all surprised when Cindy asked if we would mind taking the winter off.  Our plan though, is to be living in the tiny house full-time come spring, and since we haven’t even gotten started on the inside of the tiny house, we really need to keep plugging away throughout the winter.  We started looking into our other options and at first thought we would move the tiny house to our newly acquired property.  However, the property lacks power, we lack a snow plow, and it would have been pretty tough trying to work on the tiny house in the middle of winter.

Our only other option was to bring the tiny house to my mom’s house one and a half hours away.  At first we were not too keen on this option as it will mean a lot of driving most weekends, but the more we thought about it the better it started to sound.  While working at Jeff and Cindy’s, we tried to be very conscientious of their space and tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.  That meant only running inside to use the bathroom when I couldn’t possibly hold it any longer.  At my mom’s house, I’ll feel free to pee when the moment strikes!  Another bonus is that we’ll be able to put in longer days.  Since we’ll be spending nights there it will be easier to get started earlier in the day and work later into the evening, so we should be able to be more productive.  Also, my mom said she’ll cook for us!  This too will allow us to be more productive as we can keep working until dinner is served.  Before you start thinking we’re taking advantage of my mom, this is also a win win for her too!  My mom has gotten to the point where she dreads the Michigan winters.  Last winter she went south for the first time and stayed with my uncle Bill and aunt Karen in Macon, Georgia.  This winter she’ll have constant company and will be able to rely on us for shoveling and grocery shopping.

When we first decided to build a tiny house, we read about how other people who owned tiny houses would rent a 1 ton U-Haul truck to move their houses.  This had always been our plan if we didn’t have a truck to use.  While trying to line up a truck, we quickly found out that it’s not as easy as we thought it was going to be.  Apparently finding a rental truck in a large city is not too difficult, but here in the U.P., they don’t exist.  We called several companies and none had a large moving truck in the area.  In fact, U-Haul places that I know exist right down the road, couldn’t even be found while searching the company’s website.  I put in our zip code and was informed that no U-Haul’s were within a 100 mile radius.  We checked with the couple of people we know with 3/4 ton trucks but for one reason or another that wasn’t an option.  I started Googling how to move a tiny house and found a blog post with a few suggestions.  One suggestion was to have a tow truck move it; I called a tow truck company and they said they could not move anything that long or that tall.  I went so far as to email someone on Craigslist who was trying to sell a big truck and see if we could hire him or rent the truck for the day; we even put an ad in Craigslist.  I finally started texting everyone I know asking them if they knew anyone with a large truck.  We were starting to get a little worried and thinking that “this is the U.P., more people should own big trucks!”. But everyone we know, including ourselves, only had 1/2 ton pickups.  Thankfully my co-worker Sharon came though.  A good friend of hers owns a big Dodge dualie and was willing to move the tiny house for us for a reasonable fee.  Her friend Terry owns Marquette Transmission and Auto Repair here in Marquette and I’ve seen his truck at the shop before.  We’ve brought our personal vehicles over there for repair as well as work vehicles.  When we heard Terry pulls a 14,000 pound fifth wheel trailer with his truck, we knew the tiny house would be a piece of cake.  Of course even with a super big truck, I was still nervous on moving day; we’ve invested quite a bit in this little house.  But, I am happy to report that the move went off without a hitch.  We did have to stop one time to re-staple the house wrap that was starting to flap around, but other than that we didn’t have a single issue.  We did get a lot of really strange looks though; that was probably the best part. Thanks for taking half of your Saturday to move our house Terry, we really appreciate it.  And, we’ll be calling you in the spring to do it again!

We also have to thank our friends Paul and Tom for coming over on Sunday to adjust the tiny house location.  Thanks guys!  When Terry pulled into the driveway with the tiny house, we had him park it on the driveway, but just off to the side.  After thinking about it, we realized it would work out better to have it right on the driveway, making it more stable and easier to level.  At first we figured we could just drive our truck out the next weekend to move it, but we really hated to drive the truck all that way just to move the tiny house.  So we called up a good family friend, Paul and he and his brother-in-law Tom were more than happy to come over and lend a hand.

I also had to tell Pete that he was right and I was wrong!  When were having trouble finding a truck to tow the tiny house, I looked online to see how much a half ton Chevy could tow.  All the websites I checked kept saying it could tow over 8,000 pounds.  At this point we figure the tiny house doesn’t weigh more than 5,000 pounds so I was trying to talk Pete into moving the house with our truck.  As I watched Pete lower the tiny house onto the ball of Paul’s truck I realized that our truck could not have moved the tiny house; I thought the back bumper on Paul’s half ton Chevy was going to bottom out.  Moving it around the driveway was one thing, but we definitely needed a bigger truck to haul this thing down the highway.

The tiny house will stay at my mom’s until spring and we’ll keep working on it throughout the winter.  Hopefully it will be move in ready by April, and if it’s not, we’ll be living in it anyway!  A super huge thanks to Jeff and Cindy for letting us get this far on our project in their driveway! We couldn’t have done it without your generosity!

Categories: Tiny House Living, Towing the Tiny House, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Since the Last Post

We’ve been slowly plugging away at the tiny house making small accomplishments almost every weekend.  I’m on annual leave next week and Pete has been laid off early due to the government shutdown so we’re hoping to get the exterior completed on the tiny house.

Since the last post, we’ve continued putting metal up on the roof and as of yesterday, have all the metal sheets installed.  All that’s left for the roof is the ridge cap, end wall trim in front of the dormers, sidewall trim along the sides of the dormers, and the Denver gable trim along the edges of the roof.  We’ve had to stair-step the metal roof panels in places due to things not being perfectly square and we discovered how much harder it is to keep the panels square when you cut a huge section out to go around a skylight.  So the roof is not perfect, but like I probably mentioned in the last post, it will keep the elements outside where they belong.

We installed all the windows in a day and a half.  Putting in the windows has been by far the easiest part of this building project.  We decided that if we have to find new careers, we could be professional window installers.  We did have a close call with one of the windows though.  The instructional video that we watched said to make the windows level horizontally and put a couple nails in.  Then it said to check the level vertically and prior to nailing in around the rest of the window, open the window and make sure it opens as it should.  So we did this on all our windows, sometimes forgetting to open them before nailing on a couple, but we didn’t run into any problems.  On the final window, one of the big ones in the dormer; we did exactly as the instructional video said.  Well, we’re just lucky that I was sitting on scaffolding and not balancing on a ladder!  After putting in our two nails at the bottom and making sure we were level on the sides, Pete started to open the window. When the window was open most of the way, the window proceeded to fall out of the opening!  I was able to stop it from falling all the way out while Pete was pulling it back from the inside so all ended well but it definitely got our hearts beating a little faster.

We also put the trim around most of the windows, got the fascia up along the sides of the house and at the front and back of the house, and put soffits in along the side of the house and at the back of the house.  We also have the fascia installed in front of the dormers because we had to do that before we could put the drip edge on and the rest of the metal panels on the dormer section of the roof.

Our local Menard’s is having a lumber sale, so we took advantage and picked up the bulk of our beveled cedar siding at the lowest price you can buy it in town.  We spent over an hour at the store opening up each package and picking out the best boards.  After going through everything they had in stock, we wound up with forty-one twelve-foot boards.  We’ll probably have to get a few more but this is a good start.

Once we put up all the roof trim pieces, we’ll get the last few windows framed in, finish framing in the corners, and start putting up siding.  We’ve talked my mom into coming and staying with us next week; she’s very good at staining boards! 🙂 Here’s to a productive vacation!

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Categories: Dormers, Fascia, Gable Walls, Roofing, Skylight, Soffits, Windows | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Another Tiny House in the U.P.

While taking a run to my mom’s house the other weekend, some friends of ours had mentioned that there was a tiny house just down the road from my mom’s. We decided to check it out and sure enough, there it was. It’s very exciting to come across tiny houses in the U.P. and this one is very unique! It doesn’t look like anyone is staying there right now but it would be nice to check it out again this summer and maybe get a tour of the inside.

Nothing new to report on our tiny house. We are very anxious to get started again and will probably get inside in the next week or so to figure out the measurements for the dormer walls and get them framed. We’ve also been discussing borrowing a heater from a friend and heating the garage so we can start staining the siding. Anything we can do now to give us a head start when spring arrives would be good.

Categories: Tiny House Living | Tags: | 4 Comments

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