Yesterday I asked how small a home you thought you could live with and still be comfortable and what you thought you could give up to live in that smaller home. EcoCatLady turned the tables on me and asked me about my impression of the tiny houses such as these. I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the tiny house movement.
If you aren’t familiar with the tiny houses, these are generally under 150 square feet,built on trailer beds (with wheels) to get around zoning laws and involves a ladder to access loft sleeping spaces. Many do not have indoor plumbing and most use composting toilets.
I first became aware of the tiny house idea after Hurricane Katrina hit and builders were coming up with a small home that could be added on to later as a quick and affordable way to put families back in homes. These homes were aesthetically pleasing and didn’t come with the health hazards of the FEMA trailers, and they had indoor plumbing.
Would I live in a tiny home of under 150 sq ft? No, I can’t see myself going quite that small. The reason being that I don’t live in a tropical geographic area where I could entertain outdoors year round and I would need one floor living. Small is one thing, but too small to entertain, too small to host Christmas with my family…that’s too small for me.
What is too little?
I grew up loving camping and could pack one half-trunk to fill all my needs for 8 weeks of continuous camping, so I’m very comfortable with living with less, that said there are a few things that if I were to live without today it would decrease my contentment.
- Indoor Plumbing: I have no interest in hauling water daily as some in tiny houses do
- Loft sleeping space: First I have no interest in, or ability to climb a ladder every night to access my bed. Most of these loft spaces have very little head room which would bother me. I enjoy sitting up in bed reading before drifting off to sleep.
Environmental questions about tiny houses
Very few of the tiny homes are being built with reclaimed materials. While most purchase the trailer used to build their home on that seems to be the extent of the reclaimed materials. I should say not all the tiny home owners chose environmental issues as their reason to build tiny, but the price of materials adds up when they choose top of the line building materials. I struggled with this question myself and decided for me the greenest possible way of having a home was to live in an existing structure. I hear you, if you want to live in less than 200 square feet there are no homes around my area, and probably not in yours, that small. But if your concern is the environment wouldn’t it be greener to buy an existing home? You could even create an apartment in the home and rent the rest of it out.
Hauling water takes gas for your vehicle unless you have your home parked on private property such as in another person’s back yard and can get just a jug or two of water from your neighbor, or use a hose from their home to yours. What I constantly question is why more tiny home dwellers aren’t collecting rainwater and filtering it. Sure a tiny house doesn’t have a large roof to collect massive amounts of water but it can be done and will offset, possibly even eliminate the need to haul water.
Heating costs are another consideration. The location of the home featured in Tiny, The Movie is the mountainous area of Colorado. This area, like my home state see some really cold temperatures in the winter months. After living in a mobile home I know all about frozen water pipes and floors too cold to comfortably put your feet on. So I question whether these tiny homes will save on fossil fuel use to heat them. I would think a better solution would be to build an earthship, or use earthbags, cordwood or even straw bale method to add mass to the walls and eliminate the cold drafts from under the home. Most earthship homes in and around the Rocky Mountains report being able to heat their homes with one cord of wood or less for an entire season, a fraction of what a typical home in the same area needs.
The vast majority of tiny homes are built with composting toilets. Most of these composting toilets are self built using a 5 gallon container and a box with a toilet seat on for ease of use. Sounds good right? I thought so until I heard an interview with Dee Williams about her composting toilet. Dee uses the plastic bucket method but wanting to live in Olympia,Washington she admits she had to follow regulations in the city that concerned her toilet. Humanure, (composted human waste) use is banned in Olympia, so Dee bags up her toilet waste and sends it off to the landfill. I don’t know how many others do this but I would have problems with this disposal method.
In many of these tiny homes owners who live in urban areas have opted not to include a shower in their design (read the comments where Tammy states she would be showering at the gym), even when adding indoor plumbing, and choose to shower at their local gym. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my own bathroom service all my needs.
So I guess my answer is tiny homes are an interesting alternative to standard homes but not for me. If I wanted a home on wheels I think it would be easier and better use of natural resources to purchase an old RV and make it into my home than build one of the tiny homes. If I didn’t want my home to be movable, then I would choose another building method better suited to my climate. If zoning hadn’t been an issue I would be living in an earthship as my son’s and I designed one we wanted to build when they were teens but no area near where we were living permitted them. I still question the loft with ladder access only. What if you were in an accident, crutches wouldn’t enable you to climb to your bed and what about age? At what age would you not want to climb a ladder, although I have seen newer tiny homes with staircases that also serve as storage underneath which makes more sense to me.
What are your thoughts on the tiny homes? If you were going to build a home what method would you use?