Why a tiny house
There are many reasons people choose a tiny home over a ‘standard-sized’ home – for a lower acquisition cost, for lower operating costs, for less maintenance effort and cost, to have a smaller footprint on the earth, to express their individuality, and for some people (like me) they are just more comfortable in smaller, more intimately-sized spaces than in larger, more open spaces. Many years ago I received The Not So Big House, by Sarah Susanka as a gift that started me on the path toward quality over quantity and to understand what are, for me, the essential aspects of “home.” I have purposefully downsized in each of my last few moves such that what possessions are left are those that are meaningful to me. After almost two years living in less than 64 square feet and a year living in less than 200 square feet, I know the size, use, and interrelationship of spaces that are important to me can be achieved in a small footprint.
For me, this will be my last home acquired before retirement so both acquisition and maintenance cost are key considerations yet I am now less willing to compromise on my home’s comfort, quality, and amenities than I did in previous homes. These have to fit within my retirement budget. It doesn’t make sense to lock into a 30-year, or even 15-year, mortgage and preliminary discussions with a handful of lenders indicated they would not approve a loan anyway due to the uniqueness of my project. A tiny home makes it less likely that I will need to compromise for budget or upkeep reasons.
Deciding which type of tiny home
These days tiny houses are everywhere and come in many forms. There are tiny house on wheels (THOW), converted shipping containers, traditional stick-built houses, and yurts, just to name a few. This abundance presented almost too many options! When trying to decide which type of tiny home for my project, each option had its own trade-offs between cost, time to completion, and long-term livability. This is how I decided which is right for me.
The urge to be in my own home hit hard once I closed on my property. The fastest way to get into a house is to buy one ready-made. Fortunately the tiny home market is mature enough now to have robust property listing services. I spent evenings searching Tiny House Listings for a THOW or shipping container house that would meet my other criteria.
Fits In a Greenhouse
First and foremost it had to be low enough to fit inside a greenhouse because I was absolutely committed to the greenhouse first. Due to the cost difference between purchasing an engineered commercial greenhouse ‘kit’ versus building a custom designed one, I decided on a the commercial greenhouse kit. This meant limited options for sidewall height and roof truss type which provided a rough idea of the footprint and height restrictions for the house. While a one-story THOW or shipping container would fit for both height and footprint, a yurt with my desired room size would not.
Age at Home
I want to be able to live at home for as long as I can and not have to move due to barriers within the home. Plus, moving sucks; it’s expensive, disruptive, and exhausting. I don’t want to have to move again. I’m of the age when I’ve watched my parents, and even some of my peers, experience health issues that limit their mobility, or their ability to care for themselves or maintain a larger family home due to barriers within the home.
One big strike against a THOW is that if I were to need a cane, walker, or wheelchair, the step up to a THOW would be a challenge. There are a few ‘ADA accessible’ tiny homes available on the market these days, but the ramp used to get into these homes would consume an unacceptable amount of precious (and expensive) space inside the greenhouse. Even if a ramp were acceptable, there are few THOW with the bedroom on the main level. With few exceptions, when a THOW, or shipping container home, have the bedroom on the main level, that floor space is at the expense of other rooms like the bathroom which then end up too small to maneuver with a walker or wheelchair.
To incorporate other barrier-free criteria like 36” wide doors, curb-less shower, and a 60” diameter space for turning around were other strikes against fixed-width THOW and shipping containers.
Ultimately, only a custom-designed and built tiny home can meet my most important requirements to fit inside the greenhouse’s 12’ height restriction, eliminate key barriers to aging in place, and incorporate the quality and spaces I desire. Being able to get nearly everything I desire, I can accept the trade-off with delivery speed.