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The Shiny Tiny; Airstream Update

The Shiny Tiny, part 1

In October, 2016, we received a phone call asking questions about building a tiny house that resembled an RV as they did a lot of relocating for their work and wanted to be able to stay at RV parks. However, they were experiencing a lot of pushback from RV parks about tiny houses, with one park owner saying “if it looked like an RV, say an Airstream, there would be no questions or issues.”

They then asked if we could renovate an Airstream to a nontoxic unit. They admitted that they called numerous places and no one could or would take on the project. They then asked, if I would consider doing it for them. I cautioned them that it would be out of our norm, but since we knew about nontoxic and chemical free tiny houses, we would do it. We set the budget and started looking for an older Airstream that could be gutted and rebuilt.

Criteria;

  • Price had to be under S15,000
  • No major denting of the roof
  • Few major leaks, All airstreams leak.
  • Within 500 miles of the shop
  • Not a “shiny turd”
  • No tail separation

A “shiny turd” is an Airstream that has been polished but not updated in any other way. It is shined up to get a higher sell price from unsuspecting buyers.

Shiny Turd

Shiny Turd

Another key difference is that a restored, renovated, or modernized Airstream will have documentation to prove that trailer has been repaired, a new axle installed, or the flooring replaced. A “shiny turd” will have none of that. A shiny turd is like a sign that says “buyer beware.”

Tail separation is when the tail end of trailer frame has separated from the main trailer, usually in connections to the trailer frame at the axles. A simple way to check this is to stand on the bumper and move up and down while noticing if the body of the trailer also moves or just the frame does. It is costly to fix and at this point, we were not considering rebuilding the trailer.

What we found was a 31ft 1983 Excella Airstream in fair condition. There was dent in the roof, the top was balding, it smelled slightly musty, and some of the appliances did not work. Since we would be gutting it down to the shell and tossing everything, the trailer appeared doable for the project, so we made a deal.

1983 Excella

1983 Excella

We towed it to the shop and started gutting it to the shell, and found that the floor had rot, which since all Airstreams leak, it was not a surprise. What we encountered next did surprise us. We removed the flooring and found the musty smell was strong. The pink fiberglass insulation in the floor had absorbed moisture with mouse droppings scattered on the top. Mice!!!IMG_20161117_103714750

Upon removal, we found that the underbelly had holes that allowed mice to get inside as well as many mouse carcasses. Upon closer examination, we decided to do a separation of the shell from the trailer so we could work on both. Once we had separation, we could see the holes in the frame from rust and corrosion as well as broken welds in outriggers. The trailer needed some major work.

After consulting with the buyers, it was determined to rebuild the trailer with heavier steel while reusing the axles, step assembly, tongue and hitch, as well as tank enclosures.  The rebuilt trailer cost $800 more than trying to fix the old frame.

The trailer was built for the Airstream in the background making sure we followed the old trailer design so that the shell could be reattached. This Airstream is being modernized to a nontoxic chemical free status. The couple chose the Airstream model over a tiny house as it would be accepted in RV parks for long stays without question.

Some have said that there is not much left of the original and while that is true, the most important parts are left; the RV certification and the shell which says I am an RV, and an Airstream! And it will provide a “safe” home for the owners to live in year around.

The new trailer

The new trailer

It has been said that you have not renovated an Airstream until you stood on the ground while inside the Airstream.

Stood on the ground

Stood on the ground

Airstream has a lot of different meaning for its’ parts such as “banana peels”

The floorplan;

Airstream Retorfit 5_2

If you want to follow the place we post pictures of the build click on the link Airstream Build

Come back for the next update to learn about that and more.

 

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Tiny House Parking Request

A tiny house special request

Tiny House OM Request

In need of parking place, can be temporary or permanent

One of our customers that retained us to build the attached tiny house for them has requested assistance in locating a place to park their hOMe tiny house. It is 28’ x 8’6”. Their ideal location would be in the vicinity of Framingham, MA. with availability as of August 1, 2015.

If you know of someone that has space for this couple to live in their tiny home such as a RV Park, trailer park, back yard, or field close to Framingham, MA. let us know. This tiny house is able to be lived in off the grid for extended periods of time with a solar system and 200 gallons of water storage tanks.

Send Jim an email at jim@tinygreencabins.com or comment on this thread.

Thank you – Jim

Firefighter buys a super tiny house

And you will not believe what she did!Nicki the Firefighter

In early May, we received a phone call from Nicki the Fire Fighter who lives in Savannah, Georgia. She had fallen in love with the Ravenlore tiny house and wanted to start the process rolling for purchasing it along with some changes. The list included eliminating the sleeping nook for a larger kitchen, adding a sink to the bathroom, and taking advantage of a sale we were holding, “Buy a Wildflower, Ravenlore, or Prairie Rose and get a 600 watt solar package for 2000 off” and could she select the paint colors. She loved the Carpenter Gothic architectural details of the Ravenlore tiny house and wanted it to “look like the Easter Bunny threw up all over it.”

Nicki is a firefighter, paramedic, and 1st responder in the Savannah, Georgia area and is passionate about life and her career. Some of her activities include kayaking, surfing, bike riding and exploring new places.

Nicki 2

 

She also likes to runs marathons……in full gear.

 

 

After we had it framed and sided, Masking 101

we started adding some color10622733_771073939616074_5362068251847797207_n

And more colormore tiny house color

And some more color1966108_10153365589384937_3958702924510469456_o

Then HGTV Tiny House Hunting called with the question; “do you know of any unique tiny houses that are close to completion that we could use in a new series? ” And Jim referred then to “Nicki the fighter” and she said “yes”
The crew showed up at the build site to shoot some film for “Nicki the Firefighter” episode with this film crew.
Tiny House Hunting Film Crew

Tiny House Hunting Film Crew

After which we finished the tiny house and the Ravenlore left for Savannah, Georgia and Tiny House Giant Journey filmed it as the courier was backing it into place for an open house that Nicki the firefighter had scheduled so all of her friends could see her new home. He even caught the jets overhead as he used hand signals to direct the driver. Pretty cool video and click the link below.

 

Tiny Houses on the Cheap?

or

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

 The road less traveled

 

Over the last few years, we have seen tiny house builder start-ups and seen some of their efforts littered on Craiglist, Tiny House Listings, or listed on blogs about tiny houses, as well as on Facebook pages.

The tiny house movement simply put is a social movement where people are downsizing the space that they live in. And this movement has created a lot of cottage businesses related to the tiny house movement. In the movement you find the purist, the DIY person, the back yard mechanic, the wannabe builder, project manager, and the builder; all with their wanting a sense of community, to be around or associated with like-minded folks.

For instance;

Purist;

“a person who has very strong ideas about what is correct or acceptable and who usually opposes changes to traditional methods and practices”

The purist is a person that downsizes for many reason of austerity, ecological, simplifying, and often feel that they and others must build the tiny houses themselves for as small an investments as possible. This group searches out the best deals, recycled products, pallets and does all the work for themselves.

DIY’er;

“the activity of doing or making something (as in woodworking or home repair) without professional training or assistance; broadly : an activity in which one does something oneself or on one’s own initiative”

The DIY is a person that downsizes for many reasons and often feel that they must build the tiny houses themselves just for the joy of creating and being able to look back and say, “I built that” His costs may also range from $47 to $166 per sqft foot and more. S/he cost will often exceed this range in they will make changes because they want something different and this more costly.

I have noticed that just about anyone that can pick up a hammer thinks of themselves at least as a DIY individual. I developed a lot of my skill sets from the many projects I did over the years; remodeling 3 homes, building 1, and often learning new skills because of the attitude, “I can do that!”  So, the following song is one of my favorites, as I started many projects with just a tiny idea and would see it morph into a huge project that was really fun and creative to do. It gave me a sense of pride when done.  This tune by Johnny Cash is for all the DIY and Purist tiny house people out there.

Back Yard Mechanic;

A worker who is skilled in the use of tools, machines, equipment, etc.

The back yard mechanic often works outside the rules, carries little to no insurance, offers no guarantees/warranties on workmanship or products. He often works on the project in his spare time, evenings, and weekends and does not carry or maintain a license. He may or may not have training to fulfil the crafts involved and will often “wing it” The risk side is definitely on the buyer and should trigger a “buyer beware” warning.

And one can find some great companies and groups have started a thriving business in their garage; Amazon, Apple, Intel, Disney, Google, Harley Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus Cars, Maglit are just a few that have made it big.

Wannabe Builder;

I added this group as some build tiny houses with marketing, websites, and social media much like a builder, and yet have not made the commitment to take it to the next level. They often are trying to earn a living, put food on the table and are willing and boast about undercutting competition by thousands of dollars. They, of course, turn it around that they can save you thousands of dollars. But more often than not, they are attempting to work at a livable wage standard. They often work with a handshake or verbal agreement.

Project Manager;

The PM has the primary responsibility of planning a particular construction job and overseeing its progress along the way.  A construction project manager sets up the estimates, the budgets and the construction timetable for the client and develops the construction strategy. He selects the subcontractors and workers, and provides required explanations for the builders and other professionals associated with the project. When delays or problems occur – as they always do – the construction manager is the project’s first responder, ready to make the changes required to move the project past the issue.

In a tiny house, the project manager would represent the client throughout the project, estimate the budgets, set the schedule, retain the craftsman and sub contractors to build the tiny house.  Often with a project manager, there is a budget set and a fee for the project management services. Some may refer to this as a cost+ contract or a type of AAIA contractual agreement.

Builder;

a person or group who builds, especially one who contracts for and supervises the construction or repair of buildings.

They are the professional with often years of training in their craft and related venues. The builder provides a product/building to the consumer with all the associated, known and unknown risks involved, via a written contractual agreement. Our definition of a builder is one the meets the insurance requirements and a sustainable business model.

The insurance premiums impact the costs of a tiny house or any home in direct proportion to gross revenue. The liability package runs 12%, workers comp is 11% of wages paid out, theft insurance and risk insurance. Everything being equal, one could expect to pay 20% to 25% more for a tiny house purchased through the builder than a back yard mechanic and wannabe builder.

But are things really equal? Not really.

The wages are large factor as the lower 4 levels either pay themselves nothing, nada, zippo or often pay themselves a low wage. We recently saw a wannabe say his labor rate is $12 per hour  as he links it to liable wage, whereas a reputable builder will often be paying more…. a lot more.

In public policy, a living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their needs that are considered to be basic. This is not necessarily the same as subsistence, which refers to a biological minimum, though the two terms are commonly confused. These needs include shelter (housing) and other incidentals such as clothing and nutrition. And yet it is not the wage of someone that has a skill set of tools or knowledge to build a tiny house.

For instance on the average a livable wage;

In California a livable wage is $12.34 for a person of one and  for a person with a child it is $25.27. For a construction trades person the average wage is $23.55

In Minnesota a livable wage is $ 9.69 for a person of one and  for a person with a child it is $20.64. For a construction trades person the average wage is $23.80

In New york a livable wage is $12.75 for a person of one and  for a person with a child it is $24.69. For a construction trades person the average wage is $23.99

In South Carolina a livable wage is $ 8.72 for a person of one and  for a person with a child it is $16.98. For a construction trades person the average wage is $15.48

California may be upwards of $40 to $50 an hour, in the Midwest $25 to $40 an hour for craftsman plus labor burden. This labor burden number is often 50% to 150% higher than the gross hourly wage. As costs are often used as the basis for pricing services or products, this is why it is so critical to obtain an in-depth understanding of the true cost of an employee.[1]

The builder also tries to price with a net profit of 2% to 5%, this profit is often what the builder uses as seed money for developing new products and expansion.

You will notice net is highlighted and underlined. It is not the gross profit as gross profit has all the cost associated with the project and running the business.

We have seen companies fail mostly for not understanding the costs of labor burden as well as not understanding what their overhead really entails.

From Wikipedia

“In business, overhead or overhead expense refers to an ongoing expense of operating a business; it is also known as an “operating expense”. Examples include rent, gas, electricity, and labor burden. The term overhead is usually used when grouping expenses that are necessary to the continued functioning of the business but cannot be immediately associated with the products or services being offered (i.e., do not directly generate profits).[1] Closely related accounting concepts are fixed costs and variable costs as well as indirect costs and direct costs.

Overhead expenses are all costs on the income statement except for direct labor, direct materials, and direct expenses. Overhead expenses include accounting fees, advertising, insurance, interest, legal fees, labor burden, rent, repairs, supplies, taxes, telephone bills, travel expenditures, and utilities.[2]”

A reader commented recently; “Seems some companies are out to get rich off a concept that is based on a way of living with minimum (even minimum money). “

This reader is obviously making a comparison that a purist = DIY = a builder. They are also missing the fact that a livable wage in New York  is 46% higher than South Carolina.  We are getting used to getting “slammed” by others about our pricing structure or taking advantage of others. Seems it is one of the road hazards we have encountered from time to time along this road less frequently traveled. Our opinion remains the same, we provide a quality built tiny house fairly priced.

There are associated risks at each level for buying from the purist through the builder levels and most of the risks involve consumer being at risk. And this is by far the biggest difference in the levels, as the builder takes on the majority of risks to protect and provide a product promised to the consumer, while the lower levels often is a trade-off for savings vs. risk.

And within all of these communities, you will find subcultures and sub-communities….and each with their own set of values and rules that are acceptable to them.

JoAnn, a friend of mine, made this comment,

“Last night I caught the movie about the founding of FB and thought how many different sets of rules there are. One of the benefits of a small community was that you knew what the rules are/were. Those who went to a much larger community and the various schools all had many sets of rules. No big revelation, but something that I’d not thought of so much previously. Multiply that times worldwide communities and it might be overwhelming if we were given that all at one time”

Given that, in the tiny house movement, there are many smaller communities and all feel that their rules should be the ones used as the “model” of the movement.

But in truth, it seems unfair to compare a purist against a backyard mechanic or a wannabe builder against a builder. The tiny house movement is about people downsizing and desiring to be more conscious of their lifestyle and expenses. There are many roads to achieve their goals and some would rather buy a turnkey unit rather and use their time for other things rather try to build one. And some take great pride in knowing they did it themselves, by their self, and they should be proud of their accomplishment.

A typical tiny house, if there is such a thing, is about 120 sqft and Tumbleweed Homes website notes that the typical material costs would be around 20K. Some take great pride in material costs being 5-10k or less. And they should feel proud for accomplishing this feat as it is not an easy task and involves a lot of time to find those “deals.”

The purist per square foot cost could start at $40 per square foot while the builder turnkey price would range from $205 to $ 485 per square foot for a turnkey tiny house. Using Tumbleweeds figures this could range from $47 to $166 per square foot for material alone.

RVs can start at $100 per square foot and I have seen custom ones (Spacecraft RV) top out at over $478 per square foot. We built a custom RV that came in around $500 per square foot as it had a lot of backup systems and stainless steel water tanks meant to take the RV off the grid for extended periods of time.

Tiny Houses turnkey built by a manufacturer can start at $200 per square foot and run up to $500 per square foot.

Larger custom built turnkey fish houses seem to range from $209 to $350 per square foot.

The chart below consists of numbers for different scenarios for tiny houses and RV’s. The 1st 3 are examples of DIY material only and should give those something to think on for a tiny house material costs. Minimotives and Tiny r(E)volution numbers are spot on as they kept accurate records and do not contain labor. The numbers should provide you a basis to benchmark what material costs are possible.

See Chart;

Tiny House Price Comps

Tiny House Price Comps

All the numbers are based on websites published information and unknown specifications. Do your research diligently folks.
Special thanks to Macy Miller from Minimotives and Drew Odom from Tiny r(E)volution for the DIY number examples

We can live as the early humans did or we can live in a quality built turnkey tiny house. The choice is yours and yours alone. What’s your choice?

Car Sized Armadillo

Car Sized Armadillo

Wildflower II

Wildflower II

If you desire more information on purchasing a tiny house that is priced fairly and by YOUR specifications, please drop Jim an email at jim@tinygreencabins.com


 

Sawhorses and Slideouts

A Readers asks; “How do you make your sawhorses?”

Tiny House Sawhorse

Tiny House Sawhorse

You can make a pair from five 2 x 4 x8  cut into six 32-in. lengths and eight 26-1/4-in. lengths. Screw the 32-in. pieces into I-beam shapes and attach the legs to the I-beams with 3-in. screws. These screws, along with the upper edge of the I-beam, stabilize the legs. And when you need another workbench, just screw a piece of plywood on the sawhorses and you’ll have a stable table. By screwing the pieces together, it becomes easy to change the part, especially the top I beam member.

Another readers asks; ” What is your pricing on slide-outs?”

Slideouts

Slideouts

An 11 ft by 34 ½” slide-out adds about 350 pounds of weight to a tiny house for  each slide-out. A 6-10 ft. module costs approximately $7,900. A 10-13 ft module would be around $9,850, and a unit over 13 feet would be approximately $1,000 per lineal foot. In this picture, there are 2 slide-outs, the master bedroom would cost about $ 7, 900 while the living room/dinette slide-out would cost about $9,850.00.  This does not include a roll out canopy over the slide-out.

 

So….A Tiny House?

Winter Morning Wildflower

Winter Morning Wildflower

SO….

You just bought a tiny, green cabin.

It sounds like the first line in a children’s book, but it’s actually a lesser- known, higher-tech housing option.

Essentially, it is a very small house built on wheels.

It’s road-worthy. It’s a trailer. It’s a RV.

But it looks like a house, feels like a house and has all the amenities of a house, from a full-size sink and shower to a washer and dryer.

It’s built like a house and will last a lifetime, unlike those RV’s!

It has an incinerating toilet which burns waste into dry, sterile ash.

I will never have to pack a U-haul again to move!

It’s built like a fortress!

Quality is never an accident

Loose screws in a steel framed tiny house

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
— William A. Foster

It has been said on a tiny house blog in January;

“Lots of folks think about using metal studs for the construction of tiny houses because of the weight advantages.

Although it’s becoming well-known that the screws can come loose when you tow your tiny house due to the vibration.”

We would like to address the issue of the screws in steel framed tiny houses.

With the road vibration from moving a tiny house, it is possible that screws would loosen up over time. That fact alone is the main reason we took the extra step of welding all pieces to make a stronger frame than could be possible with just screwing pieces together. After welding, the joints are actually stronger than the original piece of steel as now it has taken on the characteristics of the area around the welds similiar to tempered steel. This is an added step to make sure we deliver a product that will last a lifetime.

Typical Pictures are of the Wildflower II

Tiny House Interior Finish Stairs with Drawers

Tiny House Interior Finish Stairs with Drawers

Tiny House Welded Frame

Tiny House Welded Frame

Transportable Tiny Houses

Prairie Rose Tiny House

Prairie Rose Tiny House

 

Did you know? While serving in the military and subsequently deployed to an overseas location – they will ship the tiny house for free to your deployment location. This is subject to case by case review, and a tiny house is treated like portable housing. Cool

 

This puts a whole new spin on our motto;

“Take your tiny green cabin…wherever life takes you!”

Pictured is our Prairie Rose Tiny House ready and waiting to be deployed.

Tiny House Security

A Tiny House Security

A Tiny House Security

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller

Can one live safely and feel secure in a tiny house?  This week, will be an exploration of the positive aspects and challenges of living small in a tiny house.

Last week started with our laptop compromised by a hacker and malware program. I was surfing “stumbleupon” and a website started opening and our security essentials program, alerted me to the site that was trying to open. The next instant, what appeared to be the “recovery” window of Security Essentials opened and said to run an immediate scan, and started automatically. The next page, a millisecond later, so it seemed, another  page opened confirmed that I had a malware program, and asking for credit card numbers the program could download the “fix” By that time, I knew this was just plain wrong and shut down the computer.  On restarting the laptop, it was discovered that all the files were “gone!”   So, it off to “Chips” to see if they could recover the date and fix the laptop, which they successfully did.  The malware program hid the files and password protected them, so that the technician had to hack his with pass the program.

So, we got the laptop back on Thursday, and started to catch up on admin work. It started raining around 11PM when we closed up the shop and headed for the loft. The next morning, on walking from the cabin to the shop, I noticed that the car doors had been left open. Left Opened!???

To be continued….

A Tiny Green Cabins Safety Feature

Pictured is the Break Away Hitch and Safety System. All of Tiny Green Cabins trailers have this brake away safety feature, so just in case, the trailer breaks free from the tow vehicle, the electric assist brakes stop the trailer from becoming a runaway tiny house. The electric assist brakes also aid in transporting the tiny house as this feature assists the tow vehicle by applying the brakes in normal traffic when the tow vehicle applies its brakes. Tiny Green Cabins orders these safety features as a standard package of a tiny house to make the tiny house experience a wee bit safer for our customers. We consider the tiny house as a major investment by the customer, so we want to provide the best product available for the customers safety and investment security.