Home How To

3 529

Tiny House Map is a great place to begin a search for tiny house builders near you. It’s a simple mapping tool that Dan Louche and I dreamt-up and Dan coded. Anyone can post their tiny house related effort on the map including workshops, houses for rent & sale, open houses, and businesses.

The view pictured above shows all the tiny house builders listed on the map in the U.S. It’s a world-wide map but most of the listing are in the U.S. so we have it defaulted to that. Most experienced builders of big and small homes could probably build a tiny house, but the folks listed here specialize in tiny homes.

  • If you’ve got a tiny house or related cause and you’re not on the map be sure to add yourself.
  • If you’re looking for something tiny house related give the map a search.

Go to TinyHouseMap.com

1 455


In the video below I demonstrate how to draw a gambrel roof with SketchUp, and it’s actually quite simple. In a nutshell a gambrel roof is simply half an octagon with four even sides. In the video I mostly use the move tool and rotate tool but also include a few tips & tricks that should make using SketchUp easier.

If you’d like to get the plans or SketchUp file for the Micro Gambrel just subscribe to my email newsletter. Links to both files can be found in every one of my newsletters from today forward.

Subscribe by Email and receive links to the SketchUp file and PDF plans.

5 394

Small House Floor Plans - Bedroom

I’ve been spending a lot of time waiting for my computer to render SketchUp images lately – but happy with the results. These illustrations are made with SketchUp and then exported/rendered with a plugin called Podium. There are many photorealistic plugins on the market, but I chose to buy Podium because it seemed (and is proving) to be very capable and has a reasonable price.

In an nutshell, you draw normally with SketchUp and then add a few key items from the plugin’s library of components and materials to really make the drawings shine. Let me call out a few of those items in the illustration above.

Lighting – Normally you have just one light source in SketchUp – the sun. It makes shadows. With Podium you can add more light sources in the form of light fixtures (like lamp components) and points of artificial light for increased ambient lighting. In the drawing above the light sources are the lamp on the nightstand, the SketchUp sun outside, but mainly a single point of artificial light placed in the peak of the ceiling. This last light source is what really lights up the room.

Materials – Lighting is made more realistic looking when materials take on real world qualities. For example the glass materials that come with Podium reflect light and allow some transparency. Notice the mirror next to the bed and the reflection of the bathroom sink in the window across the room. These tiny details are incredibly helpful for making the drawing look real, and they are as easy to implement by simply dragging Podium components and materials into your drawing.

Components – All the objects in the room are available from the makers of Podium. They have been optimized to render well with their plugin. You can make your own components and add their materials to make them look more realistic – like the kitchen cabinets in the drawings below – but sometimes it’s just easier to drag and drop readymade components into your drawings. When you do you’ll discover hidden surprises when you render drawings, like mirrors that actually reflect objects across the room.

Rendering is where the magic happens. Initially your drawing looks like the image below – just a plain-jane SketchUp drawing. With the click of a button the rendering begins. You can sit there watching the processing or go off and do other work while your computer spins away in the background – crunching all the math and putting all the details in order. Depending on the complexity of the drawing and the processing power of your computer, the rendering will take between a couple of minutes to a couple of hours.

Small House Floor Plans plain

It has taken me some time for me to figure out how to make the most of the plugin, and I still have a lot more to learn. Most folks dabbling in SketchUp for their own tiny house projects will never want of need something like Podium, but for those that want to take their drawings to the next level, a photorealistic plugin like this is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it.

I do have one warning though… to keep up with your imagination you’ll need to buy ever more powerful computers – rendering demands processing power.

Below are more images from the same house design – which is slightly taller version of the Pioneer’s Cabin. I’m making these drawings to help illustrate my next book, titled Small House Floor Plans – a follow-up to my first book. Expect to see my new book on Amazon in just a few weeks.

Small House Floor Plans - Bathroom Upstairs Small House Floor Plans - Bathroom Upstairs from above Small House Floor Plans - Bedroom Looking Toward Stairwell Small House Floor Plans - Downstairs Bathroom Small House Floor Plans - Kitchen Small House Floor Plans - Living Room and Kitchen Small House Floor Plans - Living Room Small House Floor Plans - Stairwell

0 312

Dan Louche at Tiny Home Builders has been busy building another tiny house and recording the process in an instructional video series. The videos are now available through his website and show how to build a tiny house step-by-step. Dan tells me:

“The library is currently has 22 videos and over 3 hours of footage. I expect this series will grow to about 40 videos in the next 6 weeks.

The price for access to the library ranges depending on the bundle that the customer selects but the base price is around $269 with discounts provided if purchased with plans.”

Dan also gave me a peek at the videos themselves, and I’m happy to report they are very well done. His explanations are clear, the video is crisp and clean, and the sound quality is high. Each video focuses on a specific topic so it’s easy to focus-in on the topics you choose to review or watch the entire process from beginning to end.

In many ways this instructional video series delivers a lot of the same kind of information you might get from a tiny house building workshop. So while there is no substitute for a hands-on experience I think Dan’s videos are a lot better at delivering the information than many classroom based workshops; especially since you can go back to the videos and review the topics you as you’re building your tiny house.

Dan also has offers a Tiny House Construction Guide and tiny house plans. Currently there are three designs available.

So if you’re planning to build a tiny house, or building one now, you should take a peek at what Dan offers… you may find the answers to your building questions in his construction guide and video series.

This is the kind of information the wider tiny house community has needed for years. I’m really grateful that Dan has taken the time to produce such a valuable resource.

0 181

Tiny home builder Dan Louche will be hosting a Tiny House Build Along beginning in March 2012. This is a novel approach incorporating online and hands-on learning while building your own tiny house.

In a nutshell, Dan will begin building a tiny house in March 2012 and he’s inviting others to build their own tiny homes in parallel. Participants will have access to an online community where they’ll be able to get support and answers to their questions. He will also provide videos, pictures, and documentation that details the step-by-step build process. An online forum will be setup where participants will be able to ask & answer questions, share knowledge and experiences. On top of this each build process step will be accompanied by a group conference call where Dan will present the information needed to complete the step and field questions. Participants will also have Dan’s direct phone number if they get stuck and need immediate help.

The cost is $849 and includes a set of Dan’s detailed tiny house plans, his book, and the aforementioned details. If you’ve already bought Dan’s tiny house plans you can join the Tiny House Build Along for $600. If you’d like to use someone else’s plans (or your own plans) the cost is $749.

Reserve your spot today for $99. Learn more at tinyhomebuilders.com/buildalong. Also listen to Dan describe the Tiny House Build Along below.

24 1057

Nuclear fallout shelters have been stigmatized as the ultimate prep for the paranoid and the butt of many jokes. But now that we’ve all been reminded that nuclear accidents can happen, nobody is laughing anymore. My hope is that nuclear preparedness becomes a topic we’re more comfortable talking about again. I’d hate to see us succumb to fear mongering and instead educate ourselves, prepare for the possibility, and work toward eliminating nuclear power and weapons.

The Cold War seemed to create a general misconception – that a nuclear incidents are not survivable. So most folks just gave up on the topic assuming there was nothing we could do. Even well-intentioned documentaries like Countdown to Zero tend to leave the viewer with a total sense of dread and hopelessness. The truth is that reactor accidents and blasts are survivable because radioactivity diminishes faster then we might think. After the initial incident those that stayed sheltered would be left to rebuild, just like those who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Life would eventually return to a level of normalcy.

A misunderstanding of half-life might also be contributing to the general confusion about radiation. Reactor waste (like fuel rods) takes thousands of years to decay; but fallout from a nuclear blast can return to safe levels (for evacuation) in as little as three to five weeks. This mix up, and Hollywood, are probably the culprits for the spreading of the idea that nuclear fallout will destroy life for thousands of years – which is nonsense.

This doesn’t mean we should allow the continued proliferation of nuclear reactors and weapons unless we want to eventually move underground, but while we are busy demanding the end of nukes, we should also be educating ourselves about the necessary tools and techniques for surviving nuclear accidents and blasts.

I’m not an expert fallout shelter designer, but the basics are easy to understand. So now that we’ve all been reminded that radiation from nuclear fallout is all bad, lets move onto fallout shelters.

Fallout Shelter Basics

The basic design principals are simple. The more mass and/or distance you put between you and radiation the better. A useful analogy for understanding the nature of radiation is to think of it as heat you can’t see, feel, hear, taste, or smell. The farther you are away from any heat source, and the more stuff between you and the heat source, the less likely you are to be burned.

It’s also important to understand that the amount of time you’re exposed to radiation the more of an adverse affect it will have on your body. So while the amount of radiation currently coming across the Pacific is insignificant, over time it could be a bigger problem if the source is not contained.

Since we can’t detect nuclear radiation without special instruments we’re vulnerable. For civil defense purposes there are two primary types of meters, survey meters and dosimeters. A survey meter (like a Geiger counter) detects the amount of radiation currently present. A dosimeter tells you how much exposure you’ve had over time. Both are useful because the survey meter can alert you to the source and intensity of a danger while a dosimeter can tell you how much total radiation you’ve received.

Unfortunately very few people have access survey meters or dosimeters. To make matters worse store shelves are currently bare as a result of the nuclear accident in Japan. As soon as supplies become available it might be a worthwhile investment and there are some low-cost options like the NukAlert and the RADSticker. But I also suspect a whole new generation of civil defense meters will flood the market as companies work to meet the renewed demand.

This illustration, found in a recently published guide from The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, shows the safest places to take shelter in buildings. As you can see the deeper you are inside a building, surrounded by the mass of the building and/or ground outside, the safer you’ll be. This is a good tactical strategy to know in an emergency but also a good visual teaching tool for understanding what is needed to shield yourself from radiation.

As you can see from the illustration above, typical homes provide little protection against radiation. This is simply because most of our homes are built from relatively lightweight materials. Below is an illustration I whipped up based on shielding design information available on Wikipedia.

Some materials shield against radiation better than others. Each of the wall thicknesses below shield the same amount of radiation. Lead provides the thinnest wall while packed soil provides the most cost effective wall, albeit at 3-feet thick compared to 4 inches of lead. For more information see this wikipedia article on radiation protection.

The drawing below shows three ways to build a house, kind of like the the story of The Three Little Pigs.

  • The first house (left) is what most of us in America occupy, lightweight stick-framed structures framed with 2x4s. The walls are thin and have virtually no mass.
  • The second house (center) represents an earthen home, like an adobe or earthbag home with a conventional roof. The thick walls would provide a lot more shielding than the stick-framed home, but the roof would still allow radiation from any airborne fallout to penetrate the home from above.
  • The third house (right) has 2-foot thick concrete walls and dome masonry roof. This house would provide the most protection and is the recommended minimum thickness for an above ground concrete fallout shelter.

In an article titled, U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable (December 2010), The New York Times reveals that the U.S. Government is now recommending that people should stay inside until we’re told it’s safe to go out – instead of making a run for it – even if you’re home is a flimsy box.

While this seems crazy at first it actually makes sense because the number one thing that will hurt you in a nuclear disaster (after blast effects) is inhaling or ingesting radioactive material. If you get radioactive material on your body you should wash it off gently. If radioactive material gets into your bloodstream through a cut, eyes, mouth, etc, it can’t be washed off. So you’re best odds are to stay inside/under the safest building around – and to stay inside until the radioactive material has decayed to safe levels.

So just to recap, the basic shelter requirements are:

  • Ample mass to block the radiation
  • Air filtration to prevent inhaling or ingesting radioactive material
  • Water and food for several weeks
  • Radiation meters
  • Energy sources both electric and burnable fuel
  • Radio for communications
  • Simple waste disposal
  • A way to wash off radioactive material
  • Security measures
  • Since radiation can’t make turns, use 90-degree turns at doorways and air ducts

Fallout Shelter Design Study

Below is an illustration of a shelter I whipped up using information from the available sources as guides. To build an underground shelter like this would require some careful engineering and construction expertise – so please do not attempt to build a shelter solely from what you read here. Do your homework and due dilligence before embarking on any project with a multi-ton roof. A roof cave-in will hurt you faster than radiation.

It’s one room with two entrances. The room is 6′ 8″ wide and 12′ 8″ long, which also ironically happens to be about the size of many trailer-based tiny houses.

The design is intended for a family of four. At one end is a set of fold-down bunks that could double as seating space when the family is not in bed. Below the bottom bunks would be space for food and water storage in 5-gallon buckets.

Dividing the bunks from the main living space are two tall cabinets (or lockers) for the occupants’ possessions, which would be mostly clothing, books, and personal items. These items, as well as the food and water, would need to be stocked and stored prior to a disaster so that the family could escape to the shelter as soon as a threat was detected.

The main living space would also contain additional water storage (110 gallons in two stacked 55 gallon drums) a small food preparation space, four folding chairs, and a fold-out table.

The toilet (bucket-style sawdust toilet) would be located in the main entryway just outside the interior shelter door on the bunk-side of the shelter. The toilet end of the entryway would be as well shielded from radiation as the main shelter but would provide a little more privacy from the main shelter. The potential oder from the simple emergency toilet would also carried outside by cross ventilation.

Air itself doesn’t become radioactive, the problem is the radioactive particles in the air. So the air entering the shelter must be filtered to prevent fallout particles from being carried inside. Some suggest that one micron filters be used but others say 90-degree turns in hallways and ducts are sufficient. A non-electric ventilation option is a Kearney Air Pump.

The doors and hatches would need to be vented to allow the cross ventilation. Low voltage fans would be needed to keep the air moving. Air would enter the shelter through the rear (smaller) entrance. It would cross the main shelter and then escape through the main (larger) entrance. Both entrances would provide a space for washing-off contamination before entering the shelter. The runoff water would need to be carried away by a drain or pumped outside since it would contain radioactive particles.

This brings up the issue of electricity. In an actual emergency the likelihood of the electric grid going down is high; so this tiny shelter would need to be completely off-the-grid and powered by external solar panels or human power. Solar panels would run the risk of being covered with fallout, so some kind of human power generator backup would need to be available. The reliance on electricity would need to be limited to lighting, ventilation, and communication simply due to the lack of power.

Another item to stock would be heating and cooking fuel. While subterranean structures naturally regulate their temperature, they are not typically warm unless some kind of passive solar heating or artificial heat source is used. In a space this small the occupants’ body heat may actually make the interior fairly hot after some time has passed. But having a way to heat the shelter with a clean-burning fuel would be a good idea too.

Lower-Cost / Multi-Function Shelter Examples

The shelter I’ve drawn here could be expensive to build and truthfully, the whole neighborhood would know you built it due to the size of the hole. So I’m guessing that most folks aren’t going to be building this kind of purpose-built fallout shelters.

I suspect most people will want something that will provide multiple functions. They’ll probably be modifying their current homes or building outbuildings with more shielding than their current homes. Here are some examples of small buildings I’ve some across in the past that would make decent fallout shelters.


There isn’t a whole lot of information out there about nuclear survival. Here are some good places to start learning.

Did I miss something?

If you’re an expert on the topic please contribute by commenting on this post. My intention is to help educate and help lessen the taboo on the topic of nuclear disaster preparedness. Thanks!



1 290

I’m closing in on the end of this video series with just a few segments left to post on YouTube. This segment shows the initial work on drawing the interior of this tiny house. I began drawing this house with just a loose idea in mind for how the interior would work and will use Google SketchUp to play with different spatial and framing solutions. So in this segment and the next you’ll see a lot of fine tuning of the interior elements and framing members.

2 343

In the fourth part of this Google SketchUp tutorial I show how to draw the front door, windows, and exterior trim. By the end of this clip the house is really starting to look like a complete tiny house and only needs siding and a finished roof, which I’ll cover in part 5. In part 6 we’ll move inside and draw interior walls, bathroom, and kitchen. Be sure to follow along on YouTube by subscribing to the Tiny House Design YouTube Channel.

4 511

In this second video I clean up the walls that I quickly drew in the first video and then add a doorway, kitchen window, and move the existing windows to their final locations. I also cover the framed walls with exterior plywood sheathing. No new drawing tools are introduced but I do explain how I use layers to manage the different objects in the drawing.

I’ll be posting more segments to this tutorial soon, so be sure to subscribe to the Tiny House Design YouTube Channel.