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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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Airstream as a tiny house???

Updating a 1984 Excella Airstream

As a leader in builds for nontoxic and chemical sensitivities, we also will convert RV’s to  the same standards. In this case, we are updating a 1984 Airstream Shaska model to one our highest standards for chemical and environmental sensitivities. We are gutting this RV and salvaging the aluminum frame and axles. From there it will be a total rebuild of the interior with some movement of windows and door.
This couple wanted the ability to move around and park easily in RV parks and not be challenged by the legality of the unit. Their solution was to purchase a used Airstream trailer and have it converted.  They might be onto something.
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Update on the Ravenlore Tiny House

or a tiny house can appreciate in value

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Some tiny houses do appreciate in value, and the Ravenlore did. Nicki changed her career path which required a relocation to California and flying as a stewardess for Virgin Airlines. With that, she had to make a hard decision about her tiny house. Rather than take it with her, she decided to sell it as she would seldom be home, but traveling the globe.  So she put it up for sale and the Ravenlore sold quickly………..for more money that she paid for it. Like several thousands of dollars more.

We send Nicki best wishes for her new adventures. And if you are thinking of buying a Ravenlore tiny house, we can create one just for you. We do have a Ravenlore starting the “que” in production within 30 days for a customer that decided to purchase one before the price increased.

 

A tiny house named “Spirit”

Tiny House at Lochness Park for a photo shoot

Spirit has 238 sqft on the main level with 138 sqft in the 2 lofts. There is lots of storage in the smugglers holds, sliding spice rack, 7 -toe kick drawers, cabinet bridge, and stairs with built in storage.  Speaking of the cabinet bridge, it is constructed so that a guest could sleep on them, if needed. This tiny house also has a Airport Ball air exchanger to exhaust the stale house air and moisture to the outside while bringing in fresh air.

Tiny House Minnesota photo shoot, Tiny House Minneapolis, Tiny Green Cabins

Tiny House transport rounding a corner on the way to the photo shoot

Tiny House Minnesota photo shoot, Tiny House Minneapolis, Tiny Green Cabins, hOMe design

Parking the tiny house

Tiny House Minnesota photo shoot, Tiny House Minneapolis, Tiny Green Cabins, hOMe design

Tiny House photo shoot at the park

Tiny House Minnesota photo shoot, Tiny House Minneapolis, Tiny Green Cabins

Tiny house in the park

Tiny House Minnesota photo shoot, Tiny House Minneapolis, Tiny Green Cabins

Tiny house in the trees

 

Tiny house view thru the windows from the entry

Tiny house view thru the windows from the entry

Tiny house Airondack Recliner

A view of the tiny house Adirondack recliners built above the water storage tanks

 

Tiny House Cabinets

Cabinet bridge with cat sleeping areas, and a view of the Adirondack recliners built above the water storage tanks

Childs Loft

Loft for Wyatt

Tiny House Master Loft

Tiny House Master Loft

Fully functional tiny house kitchen

ully functional tiny house kitchen, with space saving dishwasher, range with oven, 7.2 cu refrigerator/freezer and table

Tiny House Boxout window over the sink

Tiny House Boxout window over the sink with custom mason jar lighting fixture

Tiny House Table

The drop leaf table in the kitchen

Drop leaf table

Justin and his father enjoying a cop of joe

Tiny House Kitchen

Tiny house kitchen view from the great room

Tiny house birch branch rail

Tiny house birch branch rail

tiny house, Minnesota tiny house

Tiny house Hobbit stove

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Tiny House Bathroom

Tiny House Bathroom

 

Tiny House Bathroom

Tiny House Bathroom

Tiny House Smugglers Hold Hatch

Smugglers Hold Hatch

There are 3 hatches with 6 peach crates inside of each hatch, and that provides 18 peach crates under the floor for storage.

Smugglers Hold Storage, Tiny House Minnesota photo shoot, Tiny House Minneapolis, Tiny Green Cabins

Smugglers Hold Storage

Tiny House spice and storage rack

Tiny house sliding spice and storage rack at the head of the stairs

 

 

Good night tiny house

Good night tiny house

The next post will show you how we made the Adirondack recliners and followed up by the step by step of making the mason jar lighting.

 

Freedom Tiny House Series

Ponderosa Tiny House

Features;

  • Custom tiny house trailer
  • Size 8′-6″ x 26′-0″
  • Sleeps 3 – 5
  • Curved Bow for aerodynamics when towing
  • Sunken Living Room
  • Full Sized tub
  • Space for washer dryer
  • Vanity at bath
  • Dual Lofts
  • Dual Stairs with storage
  • Fold up deck
  • Fold down deck canopy
  • Sliding patio door with grids
  • Wood framed (steel optional)
  • LP Smart Siding shingle panels
  • Corrugated Steel siding
  • Steel roof, guaranteed 50 years
Rustic Traveler Tiny House

Ponderosa Tiny House

Rustic Traveler Slice

Ponderso  Slice

Rustic Traveler Slice

Ponderoas Slice

Pricing starts at   $68,019.53

 

 

New home in Massachusetts for this tiny house

Parking found in Massachusetts

This tiny house has found a great place to park at in Massachusetts. It took a while but the owner never gave up on finding a great place to live in it. Massachusetts is probably one of the states that can make it difficult to park and live in a tiny house. But, this owner never gave up his search and kept asking a question, ” What do I need to do so I can live in it?”  He finally found a location and town that was willing to work with him. It shows that if one town or city says “no” just move on until you find a town or area that will help you out.

 

Tiny House Lakeview Tiny House Parking Tiny House view of lake

Stories and Snowy Tiny Cabins

Gunflint 1977

We all have a story, and this one is from a snow camping trip into the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.

Some of us start as campers with tents, then graduate to pop up campers, and then to self contained RV’s and motor homes all the while dreaming dreams of having our very own cabin to get away from it all.

A cabin can be defined as a small house or shelter to get away from it all, that may be located in a remote or isolated area.

Then some start to realize that they can capture the magical and peaceful lifestyle enjoyed at the cabin and build or have built a tiny house that they can take wherever life takes them. For me, I enjoy a life of simplicity and the coziness of a small cabin or tiny house. And  that takes me to books, stories, adventures, and experiences. Here is one story from my past.

“It was a hot humid summer day as thoughts turned to winters brisk winds. Sitting idly around a table sipping iced tea, several members of my family thought of possibilities and methods to cool down. As a lark, it was suggested that a day of cross-country skiing would be enjoyable and cold. As talk turned to bravado, the webs were spun and before long we were planning an expedition into the Boundary Waters for a little cross-country skiing and snow camping in the following winter. January was to be the targeted month, and the third week as those were the days that it was at the coldest temperature of the winter As the day progressed into the evening we plotted, planned, made lists, and decided who was to take care of which tasks. Now, this was before I knew about personality traits along horoscope lines, and if I did, I would have been aware of potential issues. Lists and Pisceans do not mix well, and Pisceans have a tendency to loose a list as fast as they are given one. Pisceans are dreamers and visionaries. I am a Piscean.

Several times thru the fall, phone calls were made, to remind us of the deal struck on that hot, humid, sweltering July day. The total group consisted of 6, and as the days became shorter, the temperatures dropped, the group became smaller. People were dropping out as fast as ice cubes had melted on that July day. I was even having second thoughts.

The day of reckoning arrived, and the surviving three dreamers met up in Hudson, WS. We quickly double checked our lists, gathered up our gear, and headed north. The evening temps were hovering around 28, and it had just started snowing. As we miles ticked off, the snowfall became heavier, until at times the road became obscured. We hung our heads out the window to eye the side of the road, and no one was talking about turning back. We had struck a deal, and we were not going to be deterred from our goal. We laughed as we drove, and decided we needed coffee and lots of it. Around 2AM, we pulled into Duluth, MN and stopped for that much needed coffee. We were slightly behind schedule considering the slow going of the roads. We were headed for the Gunflint Trail out of Grand Marais, and our goal was to start cross-country skiing at the end of the trail to our campsite by early morning. We had a 5-6 hour ski trek to make before we hit the campsite.

As we drove old Hwy 61 along the North Shore of Lake Superior, we could hear thru the snowfall the pounding of the waves on the rocks below us. 61 followed the lake, and at points was a shear drop to the lake without any shoulders. The only thing that separated us from the drop was a cable guardrail.

Around 5AM we turned out of Grand Marais, heading west, and the snow was piling up, the snowflakes being as big as boxcars, and the pine bows were along the road were sagging heavily under the weight of the new snow. The picture was an awesome black and white image in the headlights. We often thought we were part of a picture as the trees slowly crept by. Just as the early twilight of the morning had brightened to the day, we arrived at the trails end and a cabin stacked high with snow. We talked for a while with the lone owner and then strapped on our skis and headed out. We snapped some pictures and left the camera in the truck for safety. The sound of the skis on the new fallen snow was the only sound that broke the silence. It was very much like a lovers whisper in ones ear in the middle of the night.

After a couple hours of skiing along the lake, we heard the sounds of wolves in pursuit of some prey. Looking thru the pines in the direction of the howls, we saw a lone deer running ahead of 4 wolves, with 1 in the lead running down the middle of the lake. The sight held us spell bound as we witnessed the wild of nature and we were without the camera!

After another couple of hours of skiing we found our campsite and set up camp, and as we unpacked our gear, we decided we were slightly hungry. We searched all of the backpacks and discovered that food had not made the lists! We had coffee, 2 giant chocolate bars, some nuts, some granola and of course, I had a book! We made our coffee and decided that we were okay. This was not planned as a long trek, just 48 hrs, and we could shorten it and head out the next day instead.

We built a fire, melted snow, and told stories as the snow fell around us. Finally around 10 we decided to bank the fire and head to the tents. We could see the stars and the moonlight on the moonlight on the snow, the air biting at our cheeks, the frost icing up on my beard created a snapshot in my mind for years to come.

Around 2AM, I woke up, and thinking it was because I was cold, decided to do some isometrics in the sleeping bag to warm myself up. Then I heard what had woken me up. The sound was like a high-pitched scream in the night, and very much like a woman’s scream of terror. Now, I was awake, and so were Frank and Oscar. After some intense discussion we concluded it was the northern Lynx on the prowl.

The next morning dawned clear and cold. The snow was still falling, and we marveled at the sight. We had our coffee, ate some granola and nuts, and packed up our gear. By mid morning we were skiing across the frozen lake, making excellent time. By mid afternoon we reached the truck, stole the gear and drove to a restaurant in Grand Marais, where we ordered a large dinner to end the day.”

Below are some cabins and tiny houses in the season of December. Enjoy

The Move

Or Growing pains for the shop

A month ago, we were informed that our space that we were sharing with Pete’s Fabrication and Repair was ending as he was terminating his lease with the buildings owners. Our 1st thought was to rent the whole shop out for Tiny Green Cabins, but after running numbers, it was proving to be more than I wanted to undertake at this time. Some of our ideas for using the extra space;

  • Rent out some space for a private party to build their own tiny house
  • Host a series of workshops on building tiny
  • Rent out space for someone needed a shop for a weekend or short project
  • Move to New Ulm, MN for a less expensive shop

In our search of New Ulm we found a place that was for sale and inquired about it. The building was for sale and it could be leased.

After asking questions about utilities, we learned that the heat bill was over a $1000 a month through the winter. That heat cost made the New Ulm space more expensive that what we were looking at in Blaine. We made an offer on the lease asking for the owner to pay for 50% of the propane costs for the 1st winter and we would do a 2 year lease. He declined .

So we decided to stay in the Blaine area for the foreseeable future.

Then we had a visit from another shop owner that did welding and fabrication whom asked if we would be willing to switch spaces. He had 3000 sqft and we had 6000 sqft. The numbers were a wee bit more friendly, and after some thinking and discussion with family, I decided to make the switch. That meant tow shops that were working plus one that was closing needed to switch spaces. For me, that was an easy task as my work had not accumulated a lot of stuff….yet!!

Our part of the move was easy. The fabricator has a lot of specialized equipment and a mezzanine to move. He said he had built the mezzanine so he could take it with him. This we had to see.

And he did it. I am impressed!!!

However, Pete was swamped with trying to finish up his back log of clients and others that heard he was closing and wanted that last minute car repair done by him.

So we loaded our trailer and moved it to the new place and then moved the hOMe out of the shop to its new place.

So, now it was up to sort things out, pack up what he wanted, and toss the rest. He tossed out a lot, and he still has a lot to sort and liquidate. In the meantime, he is using some of our space and will be having a fire sale over the next month..

We are just about finished with the hOMe bound for MA, and have the other custom hOMe started. And that is all we can fit in the shop until Pete moves his stuff out. In a week or so, we will have room to start the Prairie Rose for the workshop class we will be holding the end of October.  And when Pete moves his stuff, we will have room for a 3rd tiny house.

The start to finish of the move took 8 days, with the weekend included in that.  Now we need to organize the shelves and shop so we can find stuff easily.

If anyone wants us to build or start one in the next month or so, I would suggest that you book that slot. Otherwise, the next slot after that would be early spring of 2016.

Tiny House Builder, Jim

Tiny House Builder, Jim

 

Window Installation

We install windows at Tiny Green Cabins using the following steps for all of our tiny houses.

Tools Needed: Hammer, caulk gun, slap stapler, level, tape measure, utility knife, work gloves

Materials needed: Butyl Caulk, Dupont Flex Wrap, Dupont Straight Tape 4″ wide, Shims, Great Stuff Window spray expanding foam

Step 1;  After the Tyvek house wrap has been installed and wrapped into each of the windows opening, cut

Wildflower Tiny House Bunkhouse Model

Wildflower Tiny House Bunkhouse Model

the Tyvek house wrap at the window rough opening top corner diagonally about 4″ upward and away from the window and tack back.

Step 2; Cut the Dupont Flex Wrap 12″ to 16″ longer than the window sill. Peel off the paper backer centering the Flex Wrap in the opening and full width of the sill. Press into place across the bottom and up the sides of the window – minimum up each window side is 6″.

Step 3; Peel the paper off the back of the flex wrap hanging outside the window and starting at each window corner, pull the corners outward and stretch while adhering it to the walls, then pull and press the rest of flex wrap into place.

Step 4; Using the shims, lay a shim at each window sill corner for creating a space to insulate used in step 10

Step 5; Caulk up the sides of the window frame, across the top of the window rough opening and down the other side to the sill. Warning, DO NOT CAULK ACROSS THE BOTTOM OR WINDOW SILL  – EVER

Step 6; Insert the window into the rough opening, center the window on the opening, and nail at one top corner of the window flange. Level the window and after leveling nail the other top window corner.

Step 7; Plumb the window sides   Tip: Square the window and check the reveal spaces where the window meets the window jamb. To square, using a tape measure, check the measurements diagonally from each corner to the opposite corner – they should be equal.  Also check the window edges from other features of the wall, such as wall corners or fascias to make sure things are set correctly. On a tiny house, since other features are close to the window, this is a check that everything is spaced correctly. After this check nail the window in place and around the window perimeter, nailing through every other hole in the flange.

Step 8; Install the corner flaps at each corner of the window.

Step 9; Cut the butyl tape for each side of the window and across the window head. Each piece should be cut 8″ to 12″ longer than the window. Install each side, and then install the top piece of Butyl tape.

Step 10; Do not install Butyl tape across the bottom window flange – EVER. This flange is left without butyl tape and caulk to allow water and moisture to escape in case it ever gets behind the window.  This is why the flex wrap is used as a sill pan flashing.

Step 11; Pull the Tyvek that was tacked out of the way, fold it down, and tack in place, cutting just short of the window head. Tape to the butyl tape and Tyvek together to seal them tight.

Step 12; insulate the window jambs cavity to wall opening. We recommend Great Stuff as the expanding foam seals the cavity better than a stuffed fiberglass can. Plus the foam does not allow mold to grow if the window leaks.

Here a good video that follows our best practices

Tiny Houses are filling a Vacuum

Nature abhors a vacuum

With the great recession of 2008, a void or vacuum appeared in the housing market, and it is not where one would think it is. The McMansions are thriving with larger and more unique designs every day.

These buyers are a move up from the previous level of buyers as well as buyers already in that niche that want something bigger or as a result of having to move. So, if one follows the buyers backwards, one finds a niche that has fallen on hard times in the housing market.

That niche was filled with 1st time buyers as well builders that carved out a niche for themselves with this market share. As these buyers started being locked out of the housing market because they were unable to qualify for started homes, it impacted those builders also.

The mortgage industry, after taking a beating on loans from 1st time buyers, changed the requirements to qualify for a loan. That meant increasing the down payments from 5% to 10- 20% and more. The 1st time buyer using this loan plus their meager savings is considered by many to be the foundation of the housing market. And no one in the housing market gains move up equity until the entry level buyer does. With no one buying in the entry level market, the next level of homes does not gain equity very fast, so they become stuck.

However, the people that own McMansions have deep pockets, so equity is less of a concern and keeping up appearances is more so. I helped build a mansion that was over 25,000 square feet, and one of the owner comments was that he had to build a place that large for entertaining clients as well as business partners.

It had 4 levels, with a nanny’s quarters in the trusses of the house that was 2000 square feet. The great room could hold 6 Tinys easily. The place was huge and it required 2 years to build. It is a beautiful elegant home and one could get lost in it easily. It also kept many people busy during the build, and I am sure the decorating and furnishing budget being about 25% of the build cost would mean that furnishing was at least 3-4 million. That is a lot of tiny houses in comparison.

And the McMansions and its owners keep caretakers, housekeepers, cooks, chauffeurs, and nannies employed, so the McMansions are a benefit to many people in the workforce.

The recovery in housing is becoming “supersized” as these people build bigger driving up the average square feet of housing with square footages growing faster now than during the peak of the housing boom. The average square foot has grown from 2,392 square feet in 2010 to 2,600 square feet last year. This growth is size has resulted in a new word for McMansions, ginormous homes. Homes over 4000 square feet have increased by 12%.

So, where have the people in the starter home market gone? Some have moved in with parents and some parents have moved in with children, a lot of them are renting rather than buying. And some are buying or building tiny houses. Except these tiny houses are on wheels and not classified as housing and do not impact traditional single family square footages.

This supersizing of McMansions is in direct opposition to the tiny house movement of people downsizing to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

And some call it a small or tiny movement and a trend. No one knew how big it is, or if it will grow much, but after last weekend and the Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colorado, people may rethink the size of the movement. The tiny house movement may become more than just a small, tiny movement. Facebook groups that have 150000, 100,000, and 20,000 fans are growing faster than butter melts on a sizzling hot griddle.  The Tiny House Jamboree that was expecting maybe 10,000 visitors had well over 16,000 visitors for the weekend event. That is a lot of people that are more than curious about tiny houses and kicking tires.

Tiny Green Cabins is expanding and evolving along with the movement to better serve our customers; from an average of 1 to 2 homes a year, we are now employing 3+ people and have room for building 3 Tinys at a time in our new shop area.

As the movement grows, companies that build park models are making an entrance into the tiny house market.  They offer basic floor plans with standard features as well as standardized furniture. And when it comes to options, you may want hardwood floors, or a custom exterior you need to go a custom tiny house builder. And that is where Tiny Green Cabins excel. We have over 40 years’ experience in building custom homes, so we enjoy creating a new look for the discerning customer.

So, when you are ready to start your build, give us a call or email us to start the process rolling.

Tiny Green Cabins, Mountain Cabins, Tiny Cabins, Green Cabins, Tiny Green Cabins, Garden Office