26 September 2016

Taupo Couple Build and Live in 3 Meter Wide Tiny House

A Taupo couple designed and built their our tiny house where they have lived for a year. Now its time to move on so the house is for sale on Trademe. We were drawn to this 7m x 3.1m house with its open plan living and spacious feeling.

Holly and Oli were inspired to build the house after browsing through YouTube and watching a channel called Living Big In A Tiny House. They took approximately one year to build and have been living in the house for about a year. They really enjoy living in this beautiful space but now its time to move on hence the reason for selling.

The mini abode is open plan, containing a small kitchen, bathroom, living room, and loft-style bedroom. It has both a staircase and a climbing wall up to the lofts, cupboards with room for a washing machine, insulation and double glazing. They have manged to keep the house compact but somewhat similar to a traditional house with things like full size appliances and a dining table. Unlike most Tiny Homes, this sleeping loft even allows the couple to stand up!

They have taken a different approach by building 3.1 meters wide. The thought behind this is to gain extra width which makes a big difference to the space. The house is designed to be towed by a tow truck or similar by a professional. Apart from the extra cost involved all the house needs to be transported in NZ is wide load flags which is made possible using the reg'ed and warranted trailer the house sits on. The intent is the house is moved infrequently.

Bet the new owners will be stoked with this one.
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31 August 2016

How to Replace Single Glazing with Double Glazing in a Door or Window

The following post and video explains how to retro fit double glazing into a timber framed, single glazed window or door. So before we crack into it why would you want to do this? Double glazing has the following benefits:
  • Can halve heat loss through windows and doors
  • Significantly improve thermal comfort of your home
  • Reduce external noise
  • Reduce or remove condensation build up in cold weather.

For our tiny house we have chosen to double glaze all windows and doors for the reasons above. All the tiny house timber windows and doors have been sourced second hand.

A door or window can be converted to double glazing either before or after the frame has been installed in your house, the first option is easier and faster. The video below shows an example of how to do this, it took us four full days to complete one colonial style door. In NZ double glazing can be sourced from your local glass shop who will generally use either Metro or Viridian.

Without going into great written detail we will let the video of the process explain how to do it:

We will show you how to:

  1. Remove existing window or door
  2. Remove existing glass 
  3. Measure and size for new double glazing unit or Insulating glass unit (IGU)
  4. How to calculate the thickness of your IGU
  5. How to recess the windows and door to fit the new IGU
  6. How to rebuild a colonial window or door
  7. Sourcing IGUs
  8. Talk about argon filled and low e IGUs
  9. How to install IGU using the drained method. 
  10. Explain the purpose and placement of window/door drainage holes
  11. Prime the frame before installing double glazing
  12. Make and install wooden beads
  13. How to use butyl sealing tape to seal and protect from moisture 
  14. How to make and install packers to support double glazing unit
Like anything with all the information its not a hard job and very rewarding. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. Happy building! 
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08 June 2016

Tiny House Bed that Lifts Away with a Touch of a Button

We love great design - we think these guys over the ditch have it going on big time. Want to see a bed that lifts into the unused roof space at the touch of a button? Or a deck that can be assembled in two hours that almost doubles the size of the house? Check out this blog post for details....

This 18 square meter tiny house was built by a team of young Australians and is designed for a sub topical climate near Brisbane. After building this house as a prototype, the couple have created The Tiny House Company so the can make more of these beautiful houses.

Clean sight lines though the house make it feel bigger. "de-cluttered and ordered views tend to feel bigger"

Up up and away, one push of a remote button and the bed rises to the roof and is out of the way for entertaining, relaxing or whatever takes your fancy.

Exposed LVL (Laminated veneer lumber) frames at 900mm centres dictates the place of kitchen cabinets, doors and windows

The demountable deck almost doubles the floor area of the house and can set up or dismantled in a couple of hours.

Clean lines all around lead to eye creating the feeling of space

With limited width the high ceiling creates a real sense of space.

Beautiful recycled hardwood timbers have been re purposed and used as flooring and decking which creates that warm, homely feeling.

Don't believe us about the bed - check this video out.

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13 April 2016

Building a Tiny House in the Rain

How do you build a tiny house in the rain? What about in the intense sun, or wind that is so strong it feels like its going though you? Building in the elements can be very challenging. Fortunately with building mobile and tiny there are options to combat the weather. As we see it there are three options to consider:

Build your Tiny House Exposed to the Elements

Building in the rain might be fun the first time it happens but it will soon drive you crazy. The work you can do on any given day is affected by the weather, for example installing a roof in the wind is not going to be a smart idea. Some materials are not well suited to sit in the rain for periods of time and can degrade, discolour and even become unusable. This situation can also affect your morale for the build and it can be hard to draw enthusiasm when everything is soaked and cold. The benefit of choosing this method is its cheap and is sometimes the only option. A temporary trap could be used to protect while sitting. We thought about this option ourselves but realised a lot of trap or traps would be needed to cover the house. We also didn't love the idea of pulling wet cold traps off the structure everyday to work for it to start raining shortly after.

Build a Temporary Structure Over Tiny House

Building a temporary structure can protect you and your house build from the elements. This method does involve time initially designing and sourcing the materials for the structure. The time spent at the start of the build to get this right though should be able to be made up by being able to work on your house wind, rain or shine. Sourcing materials is going to cost unless you use the free variety or re purpose the materials for the tiny house or another project. For example we used and old PVC advertising hoarding that was cheap which we used to protect materials after we had finished with the temporary structure. This method also has the added benefit of keeping your tools dry which they will love. Just remember your temporary structure needs to stand up to wind, rain, sun and maybe even snow so design it well and design it for your specific environment and weather conditions. We used this method by attaching the temporary structure to and existing shed. Check out our video:

Build Tiny House in shed or workshop

This is the supreme option and if you have a choice you should do this every time. We are talking about building your tiny house in a shed or workshop environment. The benefit here is you and your tiny house are always protected from the weather elements. Having a solid level floor would be great and wheeling tables, pushing ladders around and working on the ground would be much easier on an even dry surface. Access to power and even air lines would added bonus for power and pneumatic tools. Being able to secure your new house and tools while you are offsite is excellent. Also being able to come and go and leave tools where they are half way though a job can be a time saver too. There are not many negatives with this option apart from finding a premises and maybe having to pay for it. Make sure you do your maths regarding door height and width, otherwise you may be living in a tiny house within a workshop!

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17 February 2016

How to Install an Old Wooden House Window

We looked low and high for a video how to install an old timber house window but could not find a full how too, so we made one. The video below takes you through the the following steps.

  • Cutting and sizing rough opening
  • Cutting and attaching building wrap
  • Sloped window sills and benefits 
  • Flashing rough opening to be weather tight
  • Use of tyvek UV Facade wrap and tape plus Dupont Flaxwrap NF
  • Fitting reclaimed wooden window
  • Leveling and squaring window using packers 
  • Benefits of using backing rod to fill rough opening void
  • Filling and sealing rough opening 
  • Sizing, installing and sealing window trim

Thanks to the following companies for supplying.

Quick dry undercoat
Lustacryl Gull Grey

Backing rod

UV Facade wrap 
UV Facade Flashing tape
Dupont Flaxwrap NF

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29 January 2016

NZ Tiny House that is Build like a Boat

This off the grid tiny house has been built with systems and fine craftsmanship in mind. The house is totally self-sufficient, generating its own power and collecting free water from the sky. The small wood burner takes care of space heating and also warms water using a wetback system.

Jeff Hobbs a boat builder and cabinet maker has designed and built the tiny house for a client. Jeffs expertise in these fields has come through in the build, using techniques like vacuum pressing SIPS walls and floors and using materials like epoxy. The floor is recycled kauri at 3mm thick laminated is friber glass to save weight.

Some simple ideas have really been thought about like having the washing machine outside in the unity box and designing an open but quite steep staircase to maximise space.

This home has been constructed for one of Jeff’s clients and has now been moved to it’s new home on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Check out the blog roomtomove.co.nz for more info.

Watch the video tour of the house here by Bryce at Living Big in a Tiny House.

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18 November 2015

Couple Design and Build Beautiful Tiny House with Limited Experience

Young couple Brian and Joni have designed and built a very polished tiny house with little previous construction experience. Close to their 30's they were eager to settle down in a place of their own but they did not know where their fledgling careers would take them. So they devised a solution that was unorthodox but practical, and they built a house that could go with them no matter where they ended up.

3.3m high and 2.6m wide

Large skylight over loft bed

  Storage compartments in the floor

The 22 sq meter (236 sq foot) mobile tiny house cost $50K US. “We maxed out all the assets we had. Most of our family members thought we were crazy.”  Brian says.  “I thought I would knock it out in a few months,” but the project, which the couple squeezed in around their jobs, took about a year. They married in August 2014, plan to continue living in the trailer full-time until they start a family.

The cedar-clad trailer is slightly taller at the back, giving it an angular, contemporary shape.

Structural insulated panels were used for floor, walls and roof

Inside, the dominant material is birch-veneer plywood - a modern choice, versatile enough to serve as walls, floor, ceiling, and kitchen cabinets.

Simple yet stylish kitchen with full size appliances

Large sliding-glass door and two sky lights adds natural brightness

Still room for a 55-inch flat-screen television

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04 November 2015

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) Tiny House

There are many ways to build a house and many ways to build a tiny house. Most tiny houses go down the path of traditional stick frame construction due to its relatively simple construction and easy access to materials. But is this the best approach to build a floor, walls and roof? Like most things there are multiple options, each with pros and cons. One option that is a fairly new-ish approach in NZ is (SIPs) or Structural Insulated Panels. SIPs are reasonably common for tiny house construction in the States but not so much in NZ yet. Lets find out the pros and cons, look at some examples and hear what approach we have taken.

What are SIP's?

SIPs are generally referred to as panels made from a thick layer of foam (polystyrene or polyurethane) sandwiched between two layers of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) or Magnesium Oxide (Mag). The result is an engineered panel that provides structural framing, insulation, and exterior sheathing in a solid, one-piece component. They can be used for many different applications, such as exterior walls, roofing, floor and foundation systems.

What are the benefits of SIPs over traditional timber construction?

  1. Better energy efficiently - because the construction method is very precise a near zero air leakage is achieved meaning no drafts. Due to zero thermal bridging your energy bills will be less, saving money over the long run.
  2. Durability - improved structure strength, great for a mobile tiny house.
  3. Speed - due to the standardized and all-in-one nature of SIPs, construction time can be less than for a frame home, as well as requiring fewer tradesmen.
  4. Cost -  Less man hours are required during the build but the material is generally more expensive. However the running cost will be less in the long term. These factors vary between countries, regional, location of building and local labor costs. As with any build a cost analysis would need to be conducted to compare. In general SIP's seems to be more cost beneficial. 

SIPs Specifications

Typical product specifications are:

Width: 300mm, 600mm, or 1,200 mm wide
Length: 2.4, 2.7, and 3 m long, with roof SIPs up to 6 m long
Thickness: 100mm-300mm
Density: 15−20 kg/m

They are not limited to these sizes as custom panels can be constructed.

Examples of SIPS tiny houses include. 

Minim Homes

Brian and Joni's Tiny House under construction

Leaf Tiny House

Monarch Tiny Homes

New Zealand SIP's Manufactures

There are a number of NZ SIPs manufacturers which include and not limited to:


Our approach to SIPS's

We think SIPs is an excellent option for building a tiny house for the reasons above. However we investigated this option for a long time and after some careful thought we decided for our budget this method wasn't for us, A do it yourself build methodology was a better fit for us and was better for green reasons.  

Cost: After getting quotes for a single level foot print approx 8m x 3m we were getting quotes in the order of $15k to install yourself. For a total house budget of $25k, this was not feasible for us. If you build you own I don't think you get the cost savings from the reduced labor time.   

Build mythology: We want to build as much of the build as possible to gain experience. Although possible to build your own SIP panels it did air on the risky side and required equipment and plenty of space to construct.  

Green : Not all but many SIP's use polystyrene for insulation and structure. We were not comfortable using in this material in our tiny house, see here for why. Having said that there are more green SIP alternatives available. 

We decided on a different approach that uses polyurethane and plywood sandwich see here. You might be thinking these are not the greenest materials, but there is always tradeoffs. Polyurethane and plywood do off gas initially and then become stable, and seem to be a much better option than polystyrene. The structure is lined inside and out reducing this risk also.

To conclude we would recommend building a tiny house or any house from SIP's if you can get the cost at the right point.
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07 October 2015

Moving / Towing a Tiny House Trailer

Whether you are choosing to build your own tiny house trailer or have one built for you, chances are you will be moving the trailer from the manufacturing point to the construction site. We designed and built our own trailer and wanted to share the experience of moving a freshly constructed, 9.5m long fabrication down a public road.

We chose to protect the tiny house trailer using galvanisation, see here. Once the trailer frame was completed and wheels and drawbar attached to was time to test the trailer. We used a private location to tow the trailer, putting it through its paces by turning, stopping and reversing and checking everything was ok. Once we were happy the trailer performance it was time to transport it to the local galvanising plant. Fortunately it was only about one kilometre down the road. For this reason we concluded it was safe to transport the trailer on its own wheels for coating. Our trailer is not designed to be road legal and even if it was its would be in no state without lights, brakes and number plate. So deciding to tow down a public road is not technically legal for this short distance we thought it would be safe. We did the following to ensure safely:

  • Planned and mapped out the route. 
  • Attached high vis to both rear corners.
  • Conducted the move at a quiet traffic time.
  • Conducted during daylight.
  • Used two persons, with one following with communication between the two.  
  • Drove sensibly leaving plenty of room for other road users. 

At this point in the build height is not an issue but the length can be. We found the trailer tracked and followed the tow vehicle very well. But we did have to be careful over gutters and dips as when the wheels drop you can run into danger of dragging underside the rear and front of the trailer into the road. We did not have any issues here as the route we chose was wide and flat.

Another option here is to use and truck or trailer to transport your trailer from A to B which would of course be legal and safe but most likely cost $ or a box of beers or two. Or many of the galvanisers offer a transport service like HB Galinvasing will pickup and drop off for a cost.

Once at the galinvaser we removed the hitch and wheels and unbolted the frame and pop on blocks ready for them to coat. Keep it off the ground keep it clean and dry and also aided in lifting for the galvinistors.

After galvanising we needed to clean up the axle stubs to refit the bearings and wheels. One slight error we made was leaving the coated trailer in the yard for a few weeks over which time it rained. This caused the stubs to start rusting which was removed but a bit of a pain and time consuming. Once we had the trailer back together we used the same procedures to transport it back to the workshop for finishing.

As we were traveling a short distance we decided not to grease the wheel bearings. We had the wheels on and off a couple of times so this saved time and money buying grease. Also it avoided the messy clean up in a gravel yard at the galvanises.

Overall the process worked well due to pre planning and communication with involved parties.

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08 September 2015

Walls and Roof Contstruction

The wall and roof construction used the same method as the floor detailed in this post. The following video details the construction process. This method is taken from the Popup House concept for permanent houses in France.

The simple materials list includes polyurethane foam, plywood, screws and glue. All panels were designed in 3D CAD software and ordered to size. This ensured everything fitted level and square with very minimal tweaking. Panel sections were pre constructed on a flat level surface before being erected and attached to the sub floor. The roof panels were glued to the walls and secured with brackets.

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13 August 2015

Importing our Tiny House Materials - Did we get Scammed?

We thought buying insulation materials from China would be a breeze. Half way through the process we had handed over 3 grand to a Chinese manufacturer who we had lost contact with and no sign of any material. What did we do wrong? Did we get our product or money back?

We researched how to import materials safely which is summarised in this post 'Alibaba Tips and Tricks for Safely Importing Materials from Overseas'. By using this process we narrowed it down to two potential manufacturers and ended up choosing the manufacturer on price (classic mistake). We carried out some checks to ensure they were a legitimate manufacturer, you can read about these checks here. As we were new to this game we did not carry out all these safeguards but from what we had researched we were satisfied the manufacturer was for real and they appeared professional. In hindsight we would say they were quite pushy in the initial stages of communication, they were wanting quick responses and looking back on it now it all seemed too eager. But... once again money came into play and they were about 2 grand cheaper so we decided it was worth pursuing.

We produced a detailed drawing of the panel sizes, material and density which we sent through the Alibaba messaging service, this ensured we had written records of specifications. Through the Alibaba messaging system we decided to pay half the total amount to start the job and the final amount would be paid upon completion. We agreed on a completion date of approx 2 weeks. The manufacturer was very keen to use western union to make the transaction but this did not sit well with us as there are no safeguards. We managed to convince the manufacturer to use Paypal which they signed up for (in the end this was a great move).

Communication for the first week after paying was good, indicating they were in production and all going well. The second week communication was limited which seemed a bit odd but we thought they must be busy and we didn't anticipate that there would be any problems. After the agreed completion date all communication dried up, this was when we started to really become concerned. We were making friendly communication through the Alibaba messaging system and getting no reply. We tried emailing with no avail. Two weeks on and still no luck we searched the internet for alternative ways to contact the manufacturer (again with not much joy), this is why it is important to obtain as many communication forms as possible early in the process (emails, phone numbers etc). Then out of the blue we got a message in broken English that everything we ok but they had miscalculated the wastage and we needed to pay another thousand dollars. Alarm bells started ringing! We had already paid half the total amount and were thinking, thankfully we had not paid the full amount upfront and now they want to break the agreement. So what to do?

Well we used common sense and asked politely if the order could be fulfilled to the existing contract. The response was 'no there was no possible way' this was incredibly frustrating to hear after we were so far down the track. So it was either to pay extra or pull the pin. We weighed up the risk and decided to cancel the order and ask for a full refund... our fingers were crossed!! We politely asked for this request using Alibaba messaging system. After a couple of days of no reply we tried with another slightly more direct message, still nothing after a few more days.

At this point after about 6 weeks from the initial order with no product, no contact and three grand being used for who knows what, it was fair to say we were worried. What can you do but keep trying. So we emailed the manufacturer's business and personal email. We kept down this route for about 10 days at which point we started a paypal dispute.

Using paypal the buyer has protection if:

  • You don't receive the item
  • The item is significantly different than the description

You can raise a dispute up to 180 days after the purchase was made. If the seller and buyer cannot work out the dispute Paypal will get involved to resolve the situation.

The next day after the Paypal dispute had been raised we heard back from the manufacturer (funny that)! They said they would provide a full refund immediately. Yes! no product and a lot of wasted time but we will get our money back. Over the next six straight hours we were in constant messaging contact mainly working out how the paypal dispute system worked as both parties had never used it. I am going to say it is confusing to use and did not help we were paranoid about losing more money. Will not go too far into the details but it was a long night as we did not want to lose contact and risk not getting the money back.

After the manufacture released the money it took a further three day for the money to clear back to our account. At the end of the day the manufacturer apologised and we did get all the money back but we're still not sure if they were legit or if they were taking us for a ride. We counted our lucky stars we used Paypal and not something like western union in this case. More about payment pros and cons in the next post.

So back to the drawing board to start the process over again. We used our second choice manufacturer who was more expensive but you know what they say you get what you pay for.
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