TinyHouse43's Building Blog

From Texas-sized 2 Tiny House For Three

Fingers crossed? Check. Eyes crossed? Umm… >.<

Greetings sports fans!

I have no idea why I said that since this blog is not about sports and I don’t particularly care for sports (at least not pro sports – overpaid bunch of prima donnas IMHO), but for some reason that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I sat down to type. Moving on…

So, apparently the folks at Tumbleweed are mind readers, because they are now offering a “finish it yourself” type model they call an “Amish Barn Raiser.” 


I was quite literally just lamenting the fact that we’re realizing we are going to likely need more help with our house than we originally thought simply because of how many other obligations we all still have over the next year. Brandy is now a full-time college student and full-time SAHD to R.A.D; my dad still works out of town about a week per month, has other projects around his house going on, and is planning to take some time to road trip to visit family/friends; and I just got another promotion at work that will have me running all the day-to-day hospital stuff of two very different facilities (lab, infection control, nurse and tech scheduling, payroll, tons of reports, and still working 2 clinical days), plus I still have a 2nd job to make up Brandy’s lost income. Yeesh! Once we sell our house (and we’re going to work on that full bore Sunday through Tuesday and as much on Wednesday as I can squeeze in after my staff meetings) we will at least be able to free up additional funds for all our projects, and I will be able to work fewer hours at the second job at that point, too. In the meantime, however, we have to work with what we have.

With all that and our time frame for having the tiny house ready for full-time living in mind (which is by January 2015 incidentally), I started reaching out to various professional builders to see if they could and would be interested in building a shell for us to finish ourselves. That way we get the best of both worlds: a professionally framed and secured house on a brand new trailer designed just for tiny houses AND the ability to customize the interior and exterior to suit our needs and tastes precisely. AWESOME! I received some great replies from enthusiastic builders (some of whom I still need write back to actually to thank them for their time and info), but most of them still wanted $30k+ just for a shell. Now, granted their idea of a shell vs. my idea vs. what Tumbleweed is listing are all slightly different to varying degrees of what’s included (insulation or not, rough plumbing/electrical or not, installed doors/windows or not, etc) but the bottom line is that we want to spend a MAX of about $25k on the ENTIRE house; not exceed that in the framing alone.

Just about the time I was starting to get frustrated again trying to prioritize our various projects and create a genuinely workable budget for us… BAM… my e-mail lit up with news of the “Amish Barn Raiser” at Tumbleweed! The overall price is right, the amount of work they do vs. we do is right, and the fact that they offer financing on the shell is a DEFINITE right for us since we still have to fix up and sell our current home and don’t have a ton of spare cash hanging around to use. I immediately applied for the financing option to get the ball rolling, and I’m waiting to hear back next week about it. Since Brandy is no longer working I only listed myself on the application to start with and already got approval from one of their banks for a partial loan, but I know from previous experience that banks prefer to have more than one name on big loans like this. I told them to wait until they hear back from all of the choices, but my dad has graciously agreed to co-sign if need be to give the added security for the banks. They had the option to list our house as collateral, but since we’re selling it that seemed pointless. Even with the partial loan we have enough other credit available to us to cover the total coast ($15,900 for the 24′ Cypress model with dormers), but it would sure be nice to only have one bank to pay back instead of two. And this, my friends, is where the finger crossing comes in!

Now I know I’m probably coming off as a Tumbleweed crony, but of all the builders currently out there and of all the amazing tiny house options we’ve found in our research, they just seem to be the best fit for what we want in terms of both floor plan for our growing family and, now with the Barn Raiser, options for how much work we really can invest in our house ourselves. Would we buy one of their “house-to-go” models? No, simply because they are not customized enough for our needs (and wants) and are above our overall price range even with the great financing options they offer. Does that mean they’re overpriced? I think not. Their builders are highly skilled craftsmen (the same craftsmen who will be building a sizable portion of our own house, TYVM) who deserve to be well paid for their work, and the whole system they have set-up with the website, the house options, the workshops (which we are also attending in April), and the general products they offer are all great values. If you want a great house with the advantages of already being a certified RV I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option out there. We simply would rather save the additional money spent on the vast majority of the labor costs and some of the materials costs (since the shell is just the framing, sheathing, and trailer – none of the finishes) so that we can instead put more money and our own time into making the house just right for us. Like I said, that just fits our goals better.

I still say if time, distance, and money wasn’t a factor we would absolutely contract Abel at Zyl Vardos to create a one-of-a-kind house for us based on the look of Howl’s Moving Castle (it was great to find out he’s a Miyazaki fan, too). I am definitely going to keep his site and contact info handy for the future when we do actually move to Washington, because that man is an artist in every sense of the word. I would LOVE to hire him to consult or even design the house we build on the land we buy in a few years since little by little we’re realizing we might not even need the 1421sqft of the house we’ve had in mind for many years now. Only time and experience in our mobile tiny house will tell! If you haven’t checked out his site you, I HIGHLY recommend you visit Zyl Vardos to see the exquisite creations. I’m particularly fond of the Little Bird for it’s spectacular copper curved roof, and the Fortune Cookie is just beyond impressive. C’est magnifique!

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to some projects here at work now, but I wanted to share the latest tiny house news. We’ve got drywall repairs and painting on our to-do list this weekend while my dad watches RAD for us on Sunday (don’t want little man breathing in any of the nasty drywall dust, and cabinet paint is hardly VOC-free…. yuck!), but hopefully we’ll make some genuine progress toward readying the place to show. I’m also determined to get at least 2 more bags of items ready to donate (have 2 full of my clothes so far) and as much crap cleared out of the garage as possible before trash day on Monday, so I guess I’ll have to cross my toes that all gets done since my fingers are otherwise occupied. Ha!

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