12K Cabin

12K Cabin

Sue spotted my post on The Shed Option, and commented with a link to her own shed-based bunkhouse. The whole project cost them about $12,000 to complete. Here’s what she said:

“We bought a 10 x 16 cedar sided “shed” type shell building that we finished as a “bunkhouse”. We live in a small 464 sq ft cabin built on site by the same company that built the shed and brought it out. We finished it, doing all the work ourselves except for the electrical rough-in and the plumbing, which included hooking to our septic system. We just added a 5 x 16 deck to the bunkhouse. Total cost for the project was right at $12,000. No permits or inspections were required for our area and we are in a warm climate. The wall AC unit also has heat.” – Sue

Their bunkhouse looks nothing like a pre-built shed to me – very nicely done!  The addition of the porch looks great too.  Kudos to Sue and her family – and thanks for sharing your project with us!

12K Cabin - Bed 12K Cabin - Corner Potty 12K Cabin - Delivery 1 12K Cabin - Delivery 2 12K Cabin - Delivery 3


Tiny Houses & Building Permits

A tiny house on a trailer could cost less than the permits for a normal house. This recent post on building permits by Karl Ulrich shows exactly what permits and fees will cost him to build a normal house in his neck of the woods. Karl is also a tiny house owner-builder himself and has a small cabin that borders the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont.

His Vermont cabin was built within the definition of a shed and cost less than $10,000 in materials. His normal house project will cost over $26,000 in permits and fees. Generally speaking the cost for permits ranges wildly from community to community and can vary even more widely depending on the size and type of structure. But you can see why a tiny house is an attractive option for many people when it is designed to preclude the need for permits.

This is not to say that a tiny house project is always exempt from permits and fees. Local codes and ordinances may apply, so check your local requirements. For safety reasons you should always build with the universal building code as a guide and know that obtaining insurance and financing for alternative housing can be more difficult. So tiny houses are not always housing nirvana, but learning more about this option can empower you with options you didn’t have before.

Three ways to avoid permits

  1. Build on a trailer. Trailers are typically out of the jurisdiction of planning departments. Local laws and ordinances may still apply since the house will often be looked upon as a travel trailer by authorities. Living and camping in a travel trailer is not always allowed, even on your own land.
  2. Build within the definition of a shed. This often means that  living in the structure is not technically permitted. Many backyard home offices are legally built this way, but check your local laws to inform your choices before choosing to live there.
  3. Choose a region that just doesn’t meddle in your housing choices. They are out there and I wish I could point you to a resource that highlighted communities that are alternative housing friendly. It seems that parts of Vermont, Texas and Missouri come up in conversation often but I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Pictured here is a Tumbleweed Fencl which typically costs about $23,000 in materials for an owner-builder to build themselves. Tumbleweeds are considered by many to be one of the finest tiny homes you can buy or build. But even using this premium tiny house as a comparison, it’s easy to see why tiny houses are quickly becoming an icon of freedom.

Palladio’s Escape Cottage

I spotted this incredible little house on Facebook recently. It’s the creation of Ricky Newcomer and a prototype for a prefab building system he’s developing that could be built by a contractor or owner-builder. The cottage you see here is 412 square feet and the shell would cost in the neighborhood of $29,000 to build with new materials. There are several photos so continue reading past these drawings.

Here’s what Ricky told me about the project:

My mission has become to truly help people “escape the matrix” of mortgage debt. The plan for accomplishing this mission is to produce a series of dignified small houses which can be purchased in whole, or more interestingly, by the prefabricated part. The parts, which bolt together on site, should be manageable by hand (installed with a boom or crane truck), easily stacked and stored until assembly and buildable by anyone with the basic tools, reasonable carpentry skills and a sufficient work space. The plan allows for people to buy house parts of varying amounts as budget and timing work out for them – in no particular order, with no credit required and no interest added. One would order and pay for an awning bracket, floor, wall or roof panel, etc. Then we’d build and ship it. 100% of the money goes directly toward house principal!

As an architectural designer and part time builder for over twenty years, I’ve worked with literally hundreds of really fine people to make their dream homes become a reality. Maybe it’s midlife, maybe it’s the state of our economy, perhaps it’s my own personal experience causing me to think that the truth is, most of the people I’ve tried to serve, now have a long term financial burden in the Classical, Colonial Revival or Craftsman Style. If someone had shown me the way, even as a teenager, how to work toward not having to get into the mortgage bind…I would have done it and saved so much time and wasted money.

This cottage actually started out to be a shipping pallet design before I got the chance to deconstruct a huge wooden warehouse. You’ll notice that there are four sections measuring 4′ x 10′ placed around a center void of 10′ x 10′. These dimensions work well with 40″ x 48″ pallets. The cottage is 412 square feet. It has a full kitchen, large bath sleeping loft, two pantries, two closets and space for full size washer and dryer. The exterior wall and roof materials would be chosen and installed by the owner. Also, the interior plumbing, wiring, finishes and appliances would be chosen and done by the owner on site. The basic shell to the blacked-in stage is what we could offer for now. The price using new materials is $ 29,000 with delivery being extra for the whole package. If someone is interested in buying plans or getting started buying their house parts they could contact me (until our website is finished) through our page on Facebook.