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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reasons I wanted a Tiny House

Posted by Dave on November 17, 2009

Could you live in a 100 square foot house?

In my initial post when applying for this job I wrote of my smallish 1,000 square foot house. Some of the comments stated that 500 square feet per person is large in comparison to global standards. Having recently scoured a city of 120,000 for small houses, I can comfortably say that the house we bought is one of the smallest available. After doing some reading I found that there really aren’t any smaller houses available due to building codes (something to do with the buildings being uninhabitable or something).

In addition to the connected townhouse we ended up buying we looked at condominium apartments, the square footage for the vast majority of places was somewhere around the 800 to 1,200 square foot range, which is not really small at all.

An alternative to all of these conventional condominium townhouses and 1,200 to 2,000 square foot detached homes was a Tumbleweed Tiny House. These houses range from 65 to 800 square feet, significantly smaller then what would conventionally be seen in Canada and the United States in homes being built. There were several qualities that piqued my interest in these homes:

1.) Cost – these houses can be built for approximately $20,000, most people that choose to live in one of these homes build them themselves.  Depending where you build, you could easily have a house and land for the price of a new SUV.

2.) Larger houses have a negative impact on the environment. It takes a lot of energy to heat and maintain a 1,500 to 2,000 square foot house, it also takes significant amounts of raw materials that are required in constructing them (more trees cut down, fossil fuels spent).

3.) Most houses that the majority of the population lives in have a lot of unused space (For example, I moved in to my current home at the end of June and still haven’t really utilized the basement for any reason other than to dry clothes).  Living in one of these might be more cramped then inefficient, but I think this is a better result.

4.) A smaller house would mean less “stuff”. I would love to live a less cluttered, more simplistic life with less room available.  With a larger home there is no incentive to get rid of accumulated things that I have and don’t really need.

The house that I really like is 251 square feet. Its footprint is 18’x 14’ and allows for a queen – sized bed in the loft, with a small living room and kitchen. Generally, the place is just like any other, just significantly smaller and more efficient.

In the end, we purchased a more conventional townhouse. This decision came came after my spouse stated explicitly “I will not live in a garden shed no matter how ‘cool’ you think it is”.  Also, we decided we wanted to live in the city for at least another few years.  The house is significantly bigger then we need, but it’s close to both our places of work and was as small as we could find.  I think it will be easier to entertain guests in our new house compared to a tiny home, but for the one weekend out of every two months we have visitors, I’m not sure this is worth the extra cost and essentially wasted space (two people can only use so much room on a day-to-day basis). Maybe in a few years we will revisit moving to one of these houses (I think I have to work on my “pro” side argument of living small, and maybe find one that looks less like a garden shed…)

I’m interested in other people’s opinions on these houses. Do you think you could be comfortable in an 18’x14’ home? How much room do you use in your current house, are there rooms that are not used very often?

Comments

28 Responses to “Reasons I wanted a Tiny House”
  1. Canadian Dream says:

    100 sq feet? No can’t happen. Kids and the daycare would prevent that. Daycare actually requires a minimum number of sq feet per child.

    I actually like smaller homes. When I stop working I would like to down size but not to 251 sq feet. I think I could handle 800 sq feet (down from 1600 sq feet now), but I fairly sure my wife would put here foot down if I went much smaller.

    Tim

  2. Traciatim says:

    I also agree that there is a limit to how small I would go. I like to think that about 250-300 sq feet a person is really reasonable, and could easily pull one of their 250-300 sq foot homes if I was alone.

    I think I would rather get a room mate and be in 600 sq feet or so, at least then the place looks a little more normal and would possibly be able to be sold to ‘normal’ people if you needed to move.

    I moved from a 750 sq foot apartment with my GF, a room mate, and I in to the exact same apartment with 1, and then 2, kids. After that we decided we wanted our own place since the building we were in had 3 apartments (out of 7) move in all in the span of a couple months that we just couldn’t seem to get along with. Now we have an 1150 sq foot bungalow and find it huge for 4 people.

  3. Jazmin says:

    It depends a lot on lifestyle as well. There is only two of us (my husband and myself) living there full time (with no plans for children), but we entertain a lot. We easily have 7 or 8 people over for dinner and evening 6 or 7 times a month and that doesn’t include the larger parties that we hold perhaps 3 or 4 times a year with 20+ people at them. Our older, lots of small rooms 1100 sq ft house feels very small with 25 people in it, I can assure you of that!

    That being said, not all 1000 sq ft are created equal, layout counts for a lot. The numbers between two houses might be exactly the same, but the flow of the house would have one feeling cramped for two and the other feeling open enough for parties. It tends to make the ‘how low can you go’ questions about square footage a little bit moot.

    We are hoping for a slightly larger house, or at the very least one that is better laid out for our lifestyle. In an era when most outlets are waggling an admonishing finger at any who want a larger house, we’re quite comfortable in saying ‘yep, it’s worth it to us and we can afford it’.

    Just my 2 cents on the topic.

  4. jacqjolie says:

    My motorhome is only 24′ (so 130 s.f. or so) and we stay in it quite comfortably (only up to 3 weeks at a time until I retire) with one adult, one child and a 100 pound dog. But we spend most of the time outside, so that makes a huge difference.
    The one thing that really makes me want more space is the TV. I hate the sound of TV.
    The smallest place I’ve lived in with my 2 kids was a 2 bedroom apartment of about 850 s.f. We had plenty of room and very little junk at the time. So I could likely go as low as 500 s.f. with no problems with 2 people (separate bedrooms).
    Right now I live in a very large house (about 3500 s.f.) but it was purchased as a fixer upper, so I think of it more as an investment. We actively use about 1/3 of it.
    I think the estimate of $20k to build is low here in Canada. Another good site for plans is http://www.countryplans.com
    - there’s a good forum on there as well.

  5. jacqjolie says:

    I should mention as well that the house I grew up in was 1300 s.f. with 10 people (2 parents and 8 kids). Three girls in one bedroom and 5 boys in another.

  6. guinness416 says:

    I love the tumbleweed houses and think I could live in one – if I were single, and if I was in a big city for entertainment purposes. My apartments in NYC were barely larger than shoeboxes, but we (like many New Yorkers) were out all the time and the city is geared to that. I couldn’t afford that lifestyle here in Toronto.

    On the other hand even the notion of having to clean and fill a garage, three bedrooms and everything else that comes with a big house makes me feel very stressed out. I’ll stick to my little two bed home.

    Weirdly, this is the third “house size” post I’ve read this a.m. GRS has one and 100k House had this great post (“bonus rooms” my rear end).

  7. Tim's Wife says:

    Dave, I totally agree with your wife and her comment of a garden shed. Tim, you’re totally right on the smallest I’d be willing to go.

  8. DabCan says:

    My wife and I and baby currently live in a 1000sqft house along with 2 roomates. Something to remember is that at least in Calgary, they don’t count the basement in the sqft, so our house is actually double this size as the basement is finished. We are looking into moving and would like something much smaller, however as you stated, that’s not really available. The smallest I’ve seen in Calgary is 800, which still has a basement making it not much different from our current house.

    Next summer we (wife baby and I) will be living in Paris in a 200 sqft appartment for 3 months, upon our return I think we will easily be able to fit in a much smaller house.

    Have a look at these houses, a little more money, but very modern and small.

    http://www.sustain.ca/

  9. Astin says:

    Depends how much you like your wife. Small houses mean a lot of encroachment on personal space, and nowhere to go when you want to be left alone, and very little privacy.

    Add small annoyances like sharing a washroom, a kitchen not big enough for two people, and having to partake in the same entertainment when you’re both home (only one TV, or a computer in the same room as the TV, no silence for reading if someone’s doing something else, etc.), and tiny spaces can lead to big stress.

    My main piece of advice to people living together is to always make sure you have someplace to get away in the house. A couple hundred square feet isn’t going to cut it.

  10. luc says:

    Missing a critical piece of information – how big/small is the “conventional townhouse” you’ve eventually settled in?

  11. Kym says:

    I am single, living in a 775 sq. ft. apartment that I find is entirely too large for my needs. The bedroom fits not only my queen size bed, but also a largish dresser and a small couch, with room left over for a coffee table there if I wanted to put one there, but I only sleep in there. My desk and table are set up in the dining room, and that’s where I spend most of my waking hours. Since I don’t own a television I find little use for sitting in the living room, so it’s mainly used as storage space.

    I love looking at the Ikea models for living in small spaces, and feel like I’d be much more comfortable living in 150-300 sq. ft., but 775 is the smallest place I was able to find that is close to work. I don’t think the commute-time tradeoff for getting a small RV/mobile/manufactured home on some land (that would have to be outside the city limits) is worthwhile.

    That said, the size of my space (too large) has an impact on how I live in it. Large empty spaces make me uncomfortable, so I have a tendency to fill the place up with random clutter. I think my 775 sq. ft. is probably perfect for 2 people (or 2 adults and a small child), but far too much for 1.

  12. deegee says:

    I live in a studio apartment in a co-op complex. It is about 625 square feet, counting the small kitchen, closets, and bathroom. Having a low maintenance on it helped me save lots of money in the 20 years I have owned it. However, had I waited one more year before I bought it in 1989 (before the housing market and interest rates fell sharply), I could have bought a 1-bedroom for the same price and lived a little more comfortably despite a higher maintenance.

    It has always been a challenge to use my limited space efficiently, including changing how much furniture I have here as well as making room for big toys such as a computer table and dishwasher. But I have managed.

  13. Traciatim says:

    Wow, those sustain.ca homes are incredibly expensive. They actually advertise they sell custom 12×36 models from $270 a sq foot. We have a local construction company where I live that has a basic home building service for custom floor plan homes at $99.95 a square foot, and I’m sure they could do piles of custom work for less than $150 a sq foot, include a solar hot water preheating and home heating system, with tied in electric hot water and wood heat backup and your probably still under 200 a square foot.

  14. Dave says:

    @ Traciatim – The good thing about the tiny houses is if you don’t initially build them on a trailer, they would be super easy to float just about anywhere – if I had to move, I could take it with me :)

    @ Jazmin – We are the friends that would be visiting you, rather then everyone coming to our house – we drive all over the province to visit people (this summer we weren’t home on weekends from the end of June until the middle of September) – it’s easier for us to go visit people with kids, weekend jobs, cottages :) etc. then for our families and friends to come visit us. If our house was getting cramped a large majority of the time, I would probably think about bigger, but that’s just not the case.

    @ jacqjolie – The $20k was off the Tumbleweed site – I’m not sure how close it would be, but even at double that, it would be 1/4 the cost to build and much cheaper to maintain then a larger house.

    @ Guinness – My wife says that I can live in one, if I’m single, but she will not live in it with me…..
    GRS actually had 2 posts on small houses today (one in the afternoon as well) – what are the odds? I wrote this about a month ago too, just happened to be the one I decided to post today…..

  15. Dave says:

    @ Tim’s Wife – she didn’t even let me down easy on it either…..

    @ DabCan – I’ve seen apartments in New York at around 200 square feet.

    The Sustain homes are cool – I like the 100% green materials and the ability to live off-the-grid too.

    @ Astin – I think that this is where my wife’s apprehension came from – she is not such a big fan of the bed being in a loft above the kitchen/bathroom.

    @ Kym – We live close to our workplaces – I wanted a place I could bicycle to – I was not overly interested in a long commute that would be needed to own a plot of land outside of the city.

    @degee – when we were looking at houses, it seems that it’s a challenge for most people to use their space efficiently – we saw a lot of houses where we couldn’t tell how big the closets were because they were stuffed with “things”.

  16. dlm says:

    Jaqjolie: Re sound of TV: we’ve used headphones for years, so never have to listen to the sound of the TV or commercials.

  17. Pam says:

    I’m single, 25, and I live in a barely 500 sq foot condo. It’s perfect for me (although I do hit my shins on my bed sometimes while trying to navigate to my closet). I can’t entertain very well in my actual apartment, but my condo building has a rooftop patio with barbecues and a party room that have been great get-together spaces.

    I have a dishwasher, washer/dryer, coat closet, full bathroom…everything I need.

    I used to own a two-storey + basement 1800 sq foot house with my ex and it was much too large for us. We got sucked into the idea of bigger is better – we wanted a guest bedroom, massive ensuite bathroom, office, den, tv room etc etc. It was just way too much space. Impossible to keep clean, and we only used a few of the rooms. I’ll never live in that big of a space ever again.

  18. “This decision came came after my spouse stated explicitly “I will not live in a garden shed no matter how ‘cool’ you think it is”.”

    Thanks Tim, it’s been awhile since something I read made me laugh out loud like this sentence did.

  19. Mrs Pillars says:

    My first house was a one bedroom bungalow with the bathroom in the basement. It was about 450 sqft of living space. It felt like a huge step up to me, coming from a bachelor apartment.

  20. ddacost says:

    First let me say I LOVE this site… My husband and I live in Toronto – and this is our dream..to be debt free at 45. The only problem is…we live in Toronto. The lower priced townhouses have $300-600 maintenance fees and the cheapest houses out East are ripe with crime – and at that i’d be willing to take a risk if it weren’t for our two children. I’m still holding out hope that by some miracle, we will still be able to get to this point; and will be checking in often for inspiration. : )

  21. Jon Snow says:

    Nice to see this thread revived!

    Once I retire (40? 42? 45?) my intent is to build a small cabin in the B.C. gulf islands… I already have the land… of course, having chosen to retire this early, I can’t see any way of building something that isn’t small… but as long as I have a hot tub and a big south facing deck, I don’t need alot of room.

  22. Sault says:

    My first apartment was 300 sq feet for two (large) adults and a toddler. We could only have one guest over at a time. It was a cocoon but there was only space for a few thousand books and barely left the third floor walk-up during Toronto’s winters. We moved to a detached house in a small town, 700 feet felt huge to us and we managed to buy more bookshelves. Ten years, three kids and a dog later I d feel cramped. Another post talked about the need to decompress or unwind alone after work. In a small house there is no private space, and despite not buying much “stuff” it is difficult to own enough pots to cook in or keel more than a few days worth of food in the house due to a lack of storage. The reality of living small is very different than the dream many people have, especially if they plan to share the space.

  23. Dave says:

    @ ddacost – It’s tough living in the city if your income doesn’t match the significantly higher cost of living. I would do the same thing if I had kids, much more willing to take on some risk in my living situation, but not wanting to put the small ones in any sort of risk.

    @ Jon Snow – I have a similar intention, not sure if I can get my spouse behind something like that, so we’ll probably moderate in the middle (small town, rather than wilderness) – I’m not a huge fan of cities, she’s not a huge fan of living in the bush.

    @ Sault – I guess it depends on how you want to unwind…I tend to do this by going for a walk outside rather than sitting down somewhere (which differs from Tim) so a lack of square footage is no big deal.

  24. Dave says:

    I live on my own in a space of 280 sq feet, which includes bathroom and kitchen area. It never feels claustrophobic. With less stuff (very do-able) I could manage a little less.

    An RV space of around 100 or so sq feet would be manageable for me because, as another poster mentioned, the area outside your RV becomes part of your living space.

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