blog

5 Pitfalls of the Tiny House DIY'er

temp-post-image

By: Ryan McCue “Tiny Ryan” (@tinyryan) and Jonathon Stalls (@jonathonstalls)

One of my current clients, Jonathon Stalls the proud owner of JStalls Tiny House, has been working on his DIY off-grid tiny home for just under three years. He is quick to name that his process, although slow-going and sometimes stressful, is full of inspiration, growth, and joy. He has a custom 24 ft Elm shell from Tumbleweed Tiny House company. He has, with the help of many friends and contractors like myself, gone from zero construction experience to installing windows, interior and exterior siding, solar panels, electric, plumbing, doors, and so much more. He’s learned a lot and probably has another 6 months to a year until he’s finished. I asked him if he could advise a DIY'er embarking on a tiny house building adventure of their own what he would say to them. Take a look at some of his DIY tiny house experience and advice below:

1. Get in bed with the Details: One of the biggest challenges I faced (and continue to face) is the adaptations I’m required to make along the way because I didn’t spend enough time focusing on the detailed function of things like: A) specific window placement and their relationship to stairs, wood stove, and counter height B) door location and my behavior of how I would walk into the space (side of tiny house, how door would open etc) C) Off-grid needs related to wiring, solar panels, venting for compost toilet, venting for batteries, stove vent location etc. Today’s DIY tiny house builder needs to spend quality time walking through the specific relationship of how you will move through the space. Imagine where you would want the windows in relationship to the desired counter height? Imagine how you want to enter the tiny house in relationship to where the stove will be and how the door might swing?

temp-post-image

2. Time is Money: Project management challenges. I can’t stress enough the amount of time that I felt was wasted in trips to the hardware store simply because I didn’t devote enough time (even 10-15 minutes) to plan out the various project stages and what I might need for them. I am a social entrepreneur who lives a very tight financial life. I don’t have the luxury to have a lot of extra time on my hands. When I protect time for working on the tiny house, I expect myself to maximize what I can get done. I’m not aggressive or over-controlling, but I’m deeply hoping to make the most of how I spend my time. It can often be stressful to stare at precious time knowing I’m without what I need to do the work I’ve hoped to accomplish.

temp-post-image

3. Seek out the Right Questions & Navigate YouTube Hysteria: I lack construction confidence and experience; however, I feel capable navigating available DIY resources. YouTube and my inner circle of more experienced peers is, of course, helpful and gets the process moving. That said, I often don’t protect enough time to think about the right questions I might ask someone with more senior experience beforehand. I am usually stuck in front of a problem or foreign project and I’m lost in scanning what feels like hundreds of strong opinions on how to do what and why and when. It becomes more stressful than it would need to be if I had focused on forming the right questions. Let's not forget the amount of time I have spent lost at the hardware store. I usually rush off with a disjointed trust that “I’ll figure it out when I get there” vs a focused list of questions and materials that I can present to one of the staff.

temp-post-image

4. Seek Support on Screws, Bolts, and Tools: Study up and get familiar with common tools, screws, bolts, nails, and such. Build a chicken coop, build a shed, take courses, or hire someone like Ryan to walk you through a construction/DIY 101 on general tools and materials. So much money and time I felt was lost in my spray of learning and growing in these areas. I’m far from an expert and I know many DIY folks who deeply believe that you have to go through these ‘growing pains’. I agree; however, significant time can be saved by having a little more intention in being guided around the details of what you will be using to build your tiny home. It will go a long way.

temp-post-image

5. Time for Grace, Progress, and Process: Regardless of how much time and skill you have, I find that having practices that: A) ground how you set realistic expectations, B) open you up towards what the project might teach you, C) allow for storytelling and progress mapping, and D) protect time to enjoy what you’re experiencing will make this DIY process inspiring and worth every drop. I personally do this in the morning before I start working through 20 minutes of meditation or silence, walking and hiking, pausing to observe, writing out my goals and just naming flexibility over the project. I sometimes also finish the day with answering: What did I learn today? What did I accomplish? What am I grateful for?

temp-post-image

So, there you have it. Some great advice from someone who is actively building his own tiny home and living the adventure. If your are looking to start your own tiny house build or are in the think of it as we speak, my best advice is to protect more time than you think for planning ~ not just drawing plans but the actual per project plans. The time you take to seek support on what might feel like the simplest of tasks will go a long way.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “If someone gave me 8 hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend 6 hours sharpening my ax!” If you need any support, I offer one-two hour consultations to help get your process started. Check out all areas of my website here and get in touch with me to schedule a time. Be sure to follow me on social media for updates, videos, and tips!


contact

Please fill out all inquiries here.