06 December 2017

Get Affordable Internet in your Tiny House



How do I get internet in my mobile tiny house? Most tiny houses are designed to be mobile and quite often located a distance from house services. So plugging your house into a high speed fibre connection is going to be unlikely. If your tiny house to close to a WiFi signal from say a house you might be able to tap into this signal. Most likely this will not be the case so another solution is needed.



Rural wireless broadband or rural broadband initiative (RBI) has been running in New Zealand for a few years now and suits the tiny house living well. This solution can be suited to more permanent situations and highly mobile also. Instead of using fixed phone or fibre lines to access the network, wireless broadband uses radio waves from the existing cellular network. A pretty standard looking modem is used to receive 3G/4G signals with a sim card in its belly. This network is currently getting updated and expanded as the government is supporting this technology to get good connections to rural NZ.

Typical RBI modem or router

Sound good? The first thing to do is check you can get this service at your location. Enter your address at any providers website. This service works best when you are located closer to cell phone towers which is depicted on the providers maps somewhat. It pays to check different providers maps to compare. If you are behind a hill or your modem is in a concrete box you may need an extra antenna which is connected to your modem and attached at height to increase signal strength. Speak with providers before committing to ensure signal strength is going to be reasonable.

Our Experience


We have been running wireless broadband from Wireless Nation for 2 years. We are lucky to be within sight of two cell phone towers so don't need an antenna. We tried placing the modem in different locations with only one device on the network and running an internet speed test. Results did vary so its worth finding the faster spots if you have options. We have around 6 devices on the network and stream videos pretty hard and speed is not an issue. Doing a speed test at 9:30pm while streaming music and all devices on the network we get the following speeds using speedtest:



Broadband compare says we should be getting 36 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up which we are, wow! Over the 2 years we have had drop outs which seems to happen with poor weather visibility. Worst case it was out for hours, but sometimes just a few minutes and a modem reset sometimes helped. The dropping has decreased over this period and is now pretty rare now which I guess is down provider system upgrades.

Our two year contract with Wireless Nation has ended its time to check the market. As with most decisions there are pros and cons with different providers and plans. We are looking at whats called naked plans which means there is no phone connection but internet connection only. broadbandcompare is a good place to start by entering your address which brings up a list of available providers. This provides a good summary of information regarding each plan that you can compare. For us high speed is a priority and only three provides support higher speed. We summarise these three in the table below.

Compare Internet Service providers  - check as this information changers regularly, edited 6/12/17



A important point to note is Spark Vodafone and Skinny locks you to an address that means you are unable to move around. You have to notify them of change of address. Where Wireless Nation lets you move around freely which could be a deal breaker if you are mobile. As we have been good customers with Wireless Nation for a couple of years they have come to the party with a good package for us. Their customer service is excellent and reliability seems to be improving as mentioned above so we are very happy to be customers. As with anything it pays to shop around and do the research.

Hope this helps to get internet in your tiny house or anywhere for that matter. Let us know what you think and your experiences in the comments below.

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02 November 2017

DIY Tiny House Plumbing and Electrics

This is an overview of how to plan out tiny house plumbing and electrics. When planning out a tiny house there are a lot of things to consider. This is magnified by fitting a lot into a small space. Often one decision will effect the next. For example, should I run 240v or 24v fridge? The fridge may need to fit under the stairs and there is limited height. So you need to answer this question early in the design process. If you go with 24v what wiring circuits do you need to run? Will you need to be off grid? So you need solar? Do I? What does that mean in terms of roof angle? I don't know what pitch my roof even needs to be?? Help...

Sometimes it can feel all to much especially when it comes to plumbing & electrics. Novice designers & builders of tiny houses have these questions going around in their head at all times of the day. These fields tend to be harder than the rest of the build due to the fact most people are not exposed to these disciplines. Also you can't see electricity so its harder to understand, this is somewhat true for plumbing to.

If you are designing yourself it does help if you have a basic understanding of your tiny house system. The second option is to work it out for yourself. This was not really an option before the internet. But how with a wealth of information in the form of videos, text and pictures you can teach yourself anything! Ok this approach is going to take much longer but you will learn a lot and save coin. The more you learn about the systems the more you can nail down the design in hope a better product at the end. Or course you still need to get you plumbing and electrics signed off.

We put this video together to try to explain the basic overview of a tiny house system after many questions on the subject. We cover off the following:



Plumbing


Running and connecting up different components in the system.
Pressuring water to feed the tiny house using pumps or header tanks.
Heating hot water with hot water cylinders, wet back and hot water heaters.

Electrics


What is best to run, low voltage or high voltage in a tiny house?

High voltage 240V


Plugging into mains with a caravan plug.
Whats is a distribution broad, switch, RCD, and circuit beakers?
How many circuits and sockets to run in the tiny house.

Low voltage 12/24v


What does a LED driver or power supply do?
What sort of low voltage lights to run.

Gas Fitting


LPG gas bottle mounting and sourcing.
Why use a gas oven?

Solar


Retro fitting solar after running on mains.
Should you run a electric oven on solar?
What is a charge controller?
Solar batteries and inventors.

Heating


We don't need it hopefully. Air tight well insulated house!


We offer a service to help out DIYers though these issues, so get in touch if you need any help.



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18 September 2017

How to Stain and Protect Plywood Floor

Want your plywood floor to look like natural timber? We have pulled it off, see how (video).



We wanted to use a plywood floor in our mobile tiny house because its lightweight and strong. We also wanted to achieve a more natural finished timber look, to do this we used a dark stain by Resene called Colourwood. We mixed this with Resene Colourwood Reducing Base to thin out the stain. As shown in the video below we used a brush to apply, followed by a clean cloth to wipe off excess. This process brought out the natural grain of the plywood. We filled any holes with a filler coloured close to the finished look from Mitre 10. To protect the soft plywood timber and new stained surface we used Resene Qristal ClearFloor 1K. We used a roller to apply five coats, again see video for more detail.


Tips


  • Research - look around for colours and finishes you like and mimic these. 
  • Try before you buy - take a sample of your wood to your local paint store and try some small samples or grab yourself some test pots.
  • Keep it consistent - which ever method you choose keep it consistent . This could mean doing the whole job in one go and/or one person doing each job. 



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31 August 2017

The Millennial Tiny House Stands out from the Crowd

The Millennial tiny house on wheels manages to stand out from the crowd with some clever design. The house seems open and light which packs in many features similar to a full size house. Space is achieved in this 7.2 x 2.4m tiny house with features like retractable stairs.

Gina Stevens designed and built the house with brother in law builder Jason. At time of writing there are two models available the Millennial and the cheaper Boomer, this post focuses on the former. The full build will set you back a touch over $120K with cheaper partial build options available.

If you want to experience living in a tiny house in NZ the The Millennial is on Airbnb.



Build Tiny Website



YouTube Tour

Auckland Home Show tour



Access to the office is via rung stairs

The gully kitchen is large with full sized appliances. 

The space saving stairs pull out from the HPL poplar plywood cabinetry for access to the sleeping loft.

Clever storage accessed through floor, plus plenty of other options to hide your minimal stuff. 

Open and clear sleeping area that accommodates any sized bed up to super king with airing slats integrated into the floor.


The bathroom offers full sized shower and vanity, plus compositing toilet.
Included is an eco washing machine built into the space defined by the stairs.

The office space offers seating with your feet extending down into the kitchen area. This area could also be used for sleeping or storage.

Colour steel cladding reduces maintenance and weight. Aluminium double glazed windows and doors are tinted for privacy and warmth. 


The utility cupboard houses gas bottles, switchboard and room for solar if installed. Gas califont supplies hot water.

The structure is made from roll formed steel framing with earthwool insulation in walls and polystyrene in the floor. 
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23 August 2017

How to White Wash Plywood Walls and Ceiling

If you want to know how to white wash you have come to the right place. We will show you how in the video below and best of all its easy as. So why white wash in the first place?



  • Its cheap - all that is required is a small amount of paint and free water, it does not get much cheaper than that.
  • Quick - one quick coat that you can apply pretty roughly is all its takes. Compared to other methods there is no waiting between multiple coats.
  • Easy - does not require too much skill,  a little practice on a test surface and you are away. 
  • Attractive - creates a modern clear look.


What we did


We did a single coat of one part paint to two parts water. We used Resene Zylone Sheen VOC Free paint because it has less toxins to off gas. Cut in with a brush and used a roller for the majority. 

Finished white washed wall in our tiny house


Tips



  • Test ratios and paints before you commit to the real job. 
  • Best to have one person apply to keep consistency across the job.
  • Mix one batch and apply over the whole job to keep consistency.
  • Try brushing over after using roller.
  • Don't cut in, when it comes to corners use the roller to get close as possible and very quickly use a dry bush blend.

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07 August 2017

Lining Walls and Ceiling with Plywood

We used plywood to line the interior of our tiny house and it looks great. So why use plywood to line your walls and ceiling when you could use plaster board (gib)? Here is why we think ply is good, maybe not the best but worked for us.



  • Lightweight and strong - due to its laminated design it has a very good weight to strength ratio. 
  • Bracing - because of its strength it can be used as a bracing element which is important in a mobile tiny house. 
  • Looks good - this is up for debate but we feel it creates a modern clean look.
  • Can be finished in different ways - Ply can be finished many different ways including paint stain, varnish, and veneers making it very flexible.
  • Many varieties - Ply comes in many different types including Radiata, Okoume, Birch, Poplar etc. This means many options when it comes to  colours, textures, strength and weight.
  • Easy to install - ply generally comes in standard sheet sizes making it easy to work with. Only basic tools are needed to measure cut and secure. 
  • Easy to source - ply is available at any hardware store or specialist.
  • Quick to install - its simple to install and finishing is generally fast due to not having to not having to use plaster.
  • Cheap - depending on the options you choose it is generally a cheap material to install and finish.  
  • Easy to fix - any dents or holes can generally be fixed easily by using filler and the finish coat can be retouched. 

What we did


We used 7mm Radarta ply non treated on the walls and ceiling from Placemakers. We used 30 sheets of grade CD, 2.7m long ply at 1.2m wide which covered the longest span of the ceiling. It was fixed using gauge 16 brads at 50mm long with nail bond fast from Mitre10. We finished in whitewash paint (have a blog coming on this) on the walls and hard white everywhere else. 



What type of plywood should I buy?


  • Use standard sheet size -  standard size sheets commonly come in 2.4m and 2.7m long and sometimes 3m. Width is generally 1.2m wide. To best utilise your sheets, design your fixings at multiplies of 1.2m. You could have studs at 400mm or 600mm for example. 
  • Weight, either look for a sheet weight or density. For example Radarta plywood has a density of around 500 kg/m3.
  • Plywood grades The front face is always stated first. So for example CD has a face grade of C and back grade of D.  
    • A – high appearance grade suitable for clear finishing.
    • B – appearance grade with a solid sanded surface.
    • C – non-appearance grade with a solid sanded surface.
    • D – non-appearance grade with permitted open defects.
    • S – an appearance grade permitting natural characteristics as decorative features.
  • What thicknesses does it come in? Plywood is a series of timber veneers glued and pressed at right angles to each other to form a rigid board. The number of layers depends on the thickness and are usually. 
    • 3ply 4mm, 7mm, 9mm
    • 5ply 12mm, 15mm
    • 7ply 17mm, 19mm, 21mm
    • 9ply 25mm
  • Wood. There are many different woods that can be used to make ply and in some cases a combination of different woods can be used to form one sheet. Check country of origin to ensure you are comfortable with the way it has travelled, consider carbon emissions. 
  • Look. Finish and type of wood will control the final aesthetic. We find it best to get some free samples which most companies offer so you can try in the space. 
  • Treated Plywood. If the plywood is for exterior use treated H3.1 greenish looking ply is recommended. If for interior non treated is just fine.
  • Off gassing. Because ply is glued together there is an amount of off gassing occurring. There are some products that have a stronger focus on reducing the potentially dangerous chemicals used. See this post regarding Formaldehyde
  • Suppliers Any leading hardware store in NZ supplies plywood, these stores can be limited in what they stock but if you ask you can generally get what you are after. We found they don't all have access to the same products so its worth asking around if one does not have what you are looking for. There is a number of specialist plywood stockists in NZ which offer a larger range and more detailed advice. 










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06 July 2017

Wiring up your Tiny House Electrical System

In this blog we will show you whats involved regarding wiring up your tiny house electrical system. Most will leave this job solely to the professionals. There are some benefits of doing the donkey work yourself under the supervision of a registered electrician. A lot can be learnt by doing anything yourself and wiring is definitely one of these jobs. By working along side an electrician and doing a lot of the labour yourself you can save a substantial amount of money.



In the video below we will go though the following:


  • How to run wire and conduit.
  • Explain wire size and descriptions.
  • Separation between low and high voltage circuits.
  • Using multi strand wire in a caravan or mobile home.
  • Using the NZ wiring standards 'ASNZS 3000-2007 Wiring Rules' and 'ASNZS 3001-2001 Relocatable premises'
  • Protect TPS cable from polyurethane foam.
  • Methods to secure cable.
  • Protect wire from lining fixings with strike plates.
  • Installing flush mount boxes. 
  • LED strip lighting. 
  • How to order and use wire from a electrical wholesaler. 
  • Show isolation switch, RCD and circuit breakers.
  • Distribution board or fuse box install.
  • How to connect a caravan plug to you tiny house.
  • What supply cable to use for your tiny house.
  • Why to earth a mobile house chassis.



Hope the video helps you guys. Remember always be safe and understand what you are doing. Thanks to Corys Electrical and Mitre 10 for material supply. Feel free to ask any questions below. 





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10 June 2017

Gas Water Heaters (Califonts) Explained

We've installed a gas water heater califont into our tiny house. There are multiple options in terms of water heating systems available but we chose to go down this route and below we explain why. (Watch the video for the 'how to' install.)




What is a califont? 


First up they are known by a number of names:
  • Califont
  • Gas water heater 
  • Water heater
  • Instantaneous water heater
  • Califont gas heater
  • Can be known by brand names like infinity
Typical domestic califont
A califont is basically a tank-less on demand gas powered water heater.  

Califonts provide hot water only as its needed. There is no tank or energy lost waiting to use the stored hot water. They burn gas to heat cold water instantaneously. In NZ they typically use bottled LPG or natural gas from the mains line to your house. In NZ califonts only burn one type of gas so ensure you use the right type.

Advantages of a califont:


  • Relatively light weight.
  • Small space envelope.
  • You won't run out of hot water (as long us there is gas).
  • Relatively inexpensive due to saturated market, including second hand options.
  • A lot of the install can be done by owner with consultation and sign off from a qualified gas fitter.
  • If you are running a solar system a califont works well due to using gas energy instead of electric. 
  • May be more efficient for small homes than other forms of heaters. 
  • No tank means less chance of harmful disposals building up.
  • Can be installed out of sight on the outside or inside of the house (depends on type of unit)
  • Life could be up to 20 years if installed and maintained correctly. 
  • Safe as they only operate when they heat water. 


Disadvantages of a califont


  • Produces greenhouse gas emissions, but may be cleaner than electricity generated using fossil fuels.
  • They can break down quickly if using hard water (use water softener). 
  • Gas bottles need to be filled or replaced regularly and require regular paid safety checks.
  • They produce noise while operating, consider this before selecting install location.
  • Qualified gas fitter needs to sign off install - added cost and time.
  • Can be a high up front cost - depends how this is tackled (can be both advantage and disadvantage as demonstrated on both these lists). 
  • May need expensive venting which can be unattractive.

Flow Rate


Flow rates vary from around 5 litres per minute to about 30L/min with the marine style at the lower end of the range. For two people in a tiny house 10-20L/min should be fine, we settled on 16L/min. So for example say the shower draws 10L/min there is still 6L/min to provide hot water at the kitchen sink. 

NZ standards


The relative NZ standard that needs to be followed is 'ASNZS 5601.2 LP Gas installations in caravans and boats for non-propulsive purposes'. This is a relatively light read and contains excellent information to keep everyone safe. We used the guys at Hagen and Owen to help us install.

Solar


We are using solar power to take our tiny house off grid so we needed to reduce our electricity draw where possible. Using a califont to take care of one of the big energy uses was essential for the off grid system.

Marine Califonts


We've gone for a domestic califont as our choice which is explained in more depth in the video above. However there are also Marine califonts which can be another good option for small spaces.


Typical Marine Califont

  • Primarily designed for boats but can work well for tiny homes. 
  • Tend to be cheaper than domestic.
  • Have more adjustment of gas and water flow. 
  • Tend to have lower flow rate.
  • Need a flue to extract combustive gas.
  • Lighter than domestic.
  • Batteries usually used to ignite flame. 




As always we would recommend giving it to go to install a califont yourself with help where needed. Please comment below if you have any questions. 























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11 May 2017

How we built our walls ... its different

Our tiny house uses nontraditional systems in terms of structure, bracing, weather proofing and cladding. We are using a form of structurally insulated panels (SIPs) for the structure which is based of the Pop Up House design. The tiny house uses an open joint cladding system using US products which is not common in New Zealand. The cladding was pulled from the rubbish pile and turned into a free and lightweight cladding system. Yes we like to do things a bit differently, read on for more detail.

Structure


The floor, walls and roof are constructed from rigid polyurethane foam (imported from china) and plywood glued together. Sections were glued together on a level ground surface and assembled to the house floor.


This is a form of SIPs system which minimises thermal bridging creating a very well insulated house. The floor roof and walls have an R-value of 4.2m²K/W which is well over NZ building.

Image result for insulation building code nz


In the design of mobile tiny houses weight is a big issue and has to be considered for every material choice. An advantage with this system is its light and strong and incorporates the insulation into the structure.

Rainscreen 


The whole structure is warped in a rainscreen membrane by DuPont under their Tyvek range called UV Facade. This lightweight product from Pink Batts is water and UV resistant and vapour permeable. Meaning its keeps the weather out and-enhances air tightness while being able to breath. 

Cavity Batten


The cavity battens are 25mm thick pine from Mitre 10 painted black using Resene paint. They are attached to the 25mm plywood via screws which bracers the polyurethane. The top surface of the battens have a mitre cut so water does not form on this surface improving life of timber. 


Cladding


The cladding is recycled pine extrusion packaging we sourced for free. At around 8mm thick makes this a light and very cheap material. The cladding is attached to the cavity battens via screws which again help brace the structure. The cladding is stained using resence woodsman 'woody bay'. The cladding has a 12mm gap between each vertical piece crating a gap known as open joint cladding. We also took advantage of second hand corrugated iron by painted the same colour. The idea here is to reduce weight and break up the wooden cladding around the back of the house. 

A post shared by Wee Make Change (@weemakechangenz) on


Open joint cladding 


Open joint cladding is not common in New Zealand but more widely used in the US and Europe. The idea is the Rainscreen, cavity battens and cladding all work together as a system. The open joints between the cladding has two stages. Firstly instead of fighting to keep the moisture out at the cladding this system simply lets a small amount in. The house is protected from the incoming moisture via the rainsreen. Now stage two kicks in with the open joints that let the sun and wind to quickly dry out the moisture. The second benefit of this system is the negative detail aesthetic from the black rainsreen. 

Cavity Battern inside


We used 12mm plywood ripped down to 25mm wide and screwed and glued to 25mm think structure ply. This braces the inside of the walls and creates a cavity to run wires and plumbing. 


Lining


7mm lightweight plywood lining is glued and pinned to the battens create cross bracing element. 


At time of writing the system has been installed for a year and half and we have has no problems. The UV facade it still the same black colour and showing no signs of giving up in the hot Hawkes Bay sun. Some of the cladding has warped and blown a few screws a month or two after installing. This is due to immature pine timber twisting in the heat and rain. In hindsight better material section would have avoided this. 

Another reason we could be a bit more riskily in terms of design is because this is a tiny house. For example we can re clad it if we had to and its not a massive job. 

The warm inside the structure seems excellent with living it at as of yet. We have not considered a heat source us of yet and taking the wait and see approach. We suspect we may need a small heat source or just turn the oven on! 

A lot of what we have done is new and even unproven in some regards, but that is whole idea. This has all taken a great deal of time but the whole idea for use was to learn and think and about things differently. Would we do it again this way? For the most part yes, off course they are things we would do differently but we are real happy how its all turned out. 

Please ask any questions you have.

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16 February 2017

How to Plumb a Tiny House

Plumbing can be a daunting proposition if you have never tried it before but like most things a bit of research and learning and anyone can do it. We have put together a how to video detailing the process which was involved for our tiny house. To simplify the concept think about it like this, liquid goes in one end and comes out the other without leaking. Of course there is a bit more to it but that is the basic concept.




In the following videos we explain:

  • What plumbing system we are using and why
  • What the different fittings do and and how to use them.
  • Show the use of the Dux plumbing system
  • Where to source your plumbing supplies from
  • How to use pipe crimpers
  • Working out pipe diameter
  • How to cut pipe with pipe cutters
  • How to reuse copper pipe fittings
  • Best way to route pipe
  • Securing fittings
  • How to install an isolating tap for your tiny house
  • How to use thread tape
  • Leak and pressure testing


We would like to thank Plumbing World Napier for their support and knowledge throughout the build.

Image result for plumbing world logoImage result for dux logo



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28 October 2016

How to Replace Glass Pane Timber Window

Broken a window? Don't worry this video will see you right. In this video we show you how to replace a glass pane in a timber window.



In this case we have very hard putty (glazing compound) left from the old pane of glass. We used a heat gun to soften the existing glazing compound. A chisel is used to scrape the glazing compound making way for the new pane. Glazing points were removed and reused. We used a water based paint primer to seal the window frame.


Heat gun used to soften existing putty on this timber window




Chisel used to clean up old glazing compound from this wooden window 

The video also talks about using oil based paint and linseed oil for sealing. We run through four techniques to apply the glazing compound and comment on each. Hope this video can help you guys with a broken pane or new install.



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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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