Part 1: Building A Tiny House (UK)

Here’s what I know so far:

  • The average mortgage in Britain is £115,000
  • The average time to pay off a mortgage is 35 years
  • There are other ways of owning a home without decades of debt.

I also know that I’m nearing thirty and by the time I own a proper house I’ll be nothing but teeth and dust.

With each mouldy room I rent and every twattish landlord I deal with, I get increasingly miffed that my only options for housing seem to be: 1) keep renting, 2) get a mortgage and sink into outrageous debt.

As a freelance tech writer, my chances of buying a home debt-free are fantastically low. So, between typing and hearing my landlord sneeze-fart upstairs, I decided to step into the side trail of society, if you will, and check other options.

And you know what? It’s not just hippies in cramped caravans or art students living in garages — there are genuinely cool and affordable homes out there that we’re simply not told about.

One option that stood out to me was the so-called ‘tiny house’.

It’s essentially a snack-sized home that you can build or buy for anywhere from £5,000 to…whatever you want to spend on it. Heck, for what the average Brit spends on rent a year (a depressing £11,000) they could get a neat little hobbit home. It’s a house that us Millennials can actually afford within a few years — if not already.

The tiny house movement is all about taking up less space, spending less on bills, and giving the finger to a galactically greedy housing market. Even the smaller range of tiny houses have more space than the one-bedroom studio I’m currently renting.

So, I’ve decided to build a tiny house.

Problem one: I have absolutely no idea how to build a tiny house.

I mean, I just learnt how a mortgage works a few days ago.

Problem two: There’s not much info on building tiny houses in the UK.

There are heaps of blogs and tutorials for the U.S, but the UK is mostly staying true to its tight-lipped nature. So, it’s going to take a lot of research and hours of stitching together relevant tiny house information to make it slightly easier for other UK folk.

Lastly, to my detriment (but much to your amusement), I’m going to journal the entire venture — in part to feel like I’m not sailing this shitshow alone. And hey, maybe you’ll pick up on something that puts you on track to build your own tiny home. (Or maybe just snort out your tea at my profound stupidity. Either is fine.)

Well, shall we?

July 1

After nicely telling yet another client that no, I can’t write 700 words for their website ‘as a small favour’, I switched tabs for some serious tiny house Googling.

I must’ve tunnelled through dozens of tiny home show reels and DIY YouTube videos. Turns out everyone from teens with shoestring budgets to single mums are building their own tiny homes, and they look irritatingly smug about it.

There’s a nifty YouTube channel called Living Big in a Tiny House that shows all sorts of builds by all sorts of people. One 17-year-old, Tom, built his tiny house himself from entirely reused materials. And, honestly? It’s not half bad.

The vid is here if you want to nosey the inside.

Now that is the posture of a man who doesn’t give a toss about paying rent or a mortgage.

Anyway, let’s start with the basics. What even qualifies as a tiny house? A tiny house is generally defined as ‘any residence under 50m2’. It can be as small as a garden shed or large enough to fit several bedrooms and a family of four who don’t hate each other’s faces.

I also learnt that it’s cheaper to build than to buy one — and that either of those options is massively cheaper than buying a regular brick house.

Next: tiny homes generally come in two flavours: stationary or on-wheels. The first is more like a proper house that you build on a plot of land, whereas the other is more like an upscale trailer that you can tow around with you. In this case, it has to be within road-legal measurements, which for the UK is around 2.55m wide and 7m long — if you’re hooking it up to a normal-sized car, that is. You can go a bit bigger if you happen to drive a truck.

Just imagine, you could drive to France and settle in a nice little patch of countryside for a month or two. Eat shit, AirBnB.

But heck, there’s SO much to think about. Not just the fun stuff like what colour kitchen tile you want or where to put your extensive houseplant collection; but if you want regular electricity or solar power, how to manage your waste, where to park or what plot of land you’re going to live on.

Suddenly, paying off a bunch of bricks for the rest of my life sounds a lot easier.

July 3

Today I tried to get savvy on where you can pitch a tiny house. I learnt that there are ‘tiny house communities’ you can live in. You can even pay to get hooked into their electricity grid. Mind you, this is all a lot more widespread in the US than here in the UK.

I certainly haven’t seen any myself, and the midst of a global pandemic seems like a bad time to go scouting. I also still haven’t decided whether I want to live in a green, leafy isolated space or within a community of eco-minded hippies willing to share their worm farm for composting.

Side note: today I also learnt that tiny houses aren’t just one solution to the housing crisis, but also to the disenfranchisement of LGBTQ+. Queer folk in the U.S. are building tiny house communities as shared safe-spaces to escape toxic homes and shelters. The ‘Tenacious Unicorn Ranch’ (because of course) provides housing and jobs to around 20 queer and trans people — along with 100 alpacas.

July 4

Chatted to a long-time friend today and casually mentioned that I’m thinking of getting a tiny house. I feel like I shouldn’t have said anything in case I jinx the whole mission. But after telling me how she ‘could never live in something so small’, she pointed me to a Netflix series called Tiny House Nation.

So I spent the rest of the day watching it and madly scribbling ideas in a notebook. A deck on top of the house for stargazing? Yes, please. A sliding door to separate the kitchen so your clothes don’t reek of bacon? Definitely. And oh, a swivelling bookcase for two sides of storage? Genius.

It was also pretty motivating to watch these couples go from a cluttered rented pad to a nice little home in the mountains. They always looked so much lighter and carefree.

In case you’re not arsed to watch the entire series yourself, here are a few pointers I gleaned from the first two seasons:

  • Everyone owns way more shit than they’ll ever be happy with. Seriously, just toss out whatever you haven’t used in the last six months. You clearly don’t need it as much as you thought.
  • A tiny house is essentially a very efficient closet. Every nook and cranny is an opportunity for storage and, when done right, your home won’t look at all cluttered. Unless of course you own 50 porcelain cats and the entire collection of Royal Family plates.
  • Tiny doesn’t mean cramped. A family of four had one built that was bigger than my childhood home in London. It had a full-sized kitchen, three big bedrooms and two bathrooms. They even had a jungle gym and a shipping container/swimming pool outside. Of course, this is America we’re talking about, where everything is…bigger.
  • On the other hand, mobile tiny homes are definitely narrow. Mostly because they have to conform with road regulations, so the widest they can get is about 8 m. HOWEVER, you can sneak in some extra room with ‘slide outs’ that expand at the push of a button to add width. When it’s time to go on the road, you can just tuck them back in. See Exhibit A.
Yes, this is Exhibit A.
  • It doesn’t always have to look like a farmer’s cabin. A quick Google search will pull up dozens of wood-panelled interiors and patched-up rugs. But the interior can be as bougie as you like. One musician couple had marble countertops, chandeliers, a grand piano, a fashion designer’s work station and even a flippin’ ballet bar.
  • Murphy bed. I knew what it was but not what it was called. It’s basically a pull-down bed that you can fold up against the wall so it just looks like an unassuming wardrobe. Dining room by day, bedroom by night. (I feel a YA novel coming on).
    Fun fact: It was invented by William Lawrence Murphy back in the 1900s because he didn’t want the woman he was wooing to walk into his one-room apartment and see his unsightly bed. Also fun fact: a top Google search is ‘can Murphy beds kill you?’ The answer is: yes, if you’re the kind of person who’s also prone to walking under falling pianos.
  • Ladder vs. staircase is apparently a very hot topic in tiny house building. Typically, you get a ladder to save space. Staircases can double as shelves, but they’re bulky. Although Season 2 Ep. 7 showed a nifty in-between: a folding staircase. There’s a handle on the side that you lift to fold everything up against the wall. Kind of like the Murphy bed of stairs.

And, possibly the most important takeaway is that ‘going tiny’ is just as much a change of mindset as it is a change of lifestyle. You have to shed the mantras of ‘bigger is better’ and ‘I’m better than you because I own more stuff’ and put your arm around the fact that sometimes less is…enough. Once you’re satisfied with having only what you actually use, you won’t find yourself thinking that buying that third spatula is somehow the key to your everlasting happiness.

Anyway, I definitely feel a bit more in-the-know after watching the series. Plus, I now have a decent wish list for what I want in my own tiny home. Time to start brainstorming interiors and find what company can help me build it. And uh, find out where I’m going to put it.

July 5

Today was blissfully spent hunting tiny home decor online like an unrestrained Pinterest mum. I now have entire folders of cool home offices, clever kitchen storage ideas and funky color palettes. Instagram has been a particularly helpful source. Here’s a shortlist of the most useful accounts I’ve perused so far:

Tiny House

Tiny Living

Tiny Living Daily (Some killer storage ideas here)

Tiny House Hunter (Lots of snazzy exteriors)

Modern Tiny Living

Minimaliste

MINT Tiny House Company

Alternative House (Hooray! An EU one)

Liberation Tiny Homes

Summit Tiny Homes

Honestly, there are just SO many accounts out there. I also stumbled across Tiny House Listings, which is a global marketplace for tiny homes. From the look of the perfectly polished interiors, I’m guessing any of those houses can be purchased for the low price of a kidney.

July 6

Apparently I can just buy a house on Amazon and assemble it like an IKEA wardrobe. It’s just over $63,000. Maybe I can get it for a tenner on Cyber Monday?

Amazon listing for a tiny house that costs $63,000.

July 9

My sister and her husband gave me their thoughts on what to do when the funds from our dad’s house sale. He sold our family home in London a few years back and stowed the money in an account that will only be open to us when we turn 35. (Because if we’re 34 and 11 months old then we’ll just spend that money on cruises and beach hats. Obviously.)

Anyway, they think it’s a good idea if we pool all that money together and buy a proper home somewhere in England. Possibly in Kent.

‘You’ll live in it in the meantime,’ they said, since they both currently live in Colombia. To add to their graciousness, when they come over to the UK we can just all live in it together like one big happy trio.

Charming.

Maybe I’ll just get that house off Amazon and pitch it in their garden like some kind of resident garden gnome. Or a rat.

July 10

I’ve been telling myself to research UK tiny house builders for days but always seem to find something else to faff about with instead. I’ll be vacuuming the ceiling next.

I did end up getting around to it. Sort of.

Here are a few builders and other resources I pulled from the very first page of Google because I am very tired and also a failure:

Tiny House Scotland started out as a tiny house community to house the homeless. Nowadays, the guy behind it builds a few custom tiny homes a year. You can get a NestPod (on wheels) or a NestHouse (not on wheels) which has a few sub-options. The “moveable modular build” caught my eye since I want a proper house but with the option of saying ‘fuck this, I’m moving’. It looks like they make homes for the UK in general. Or maybe I should just move to Scotland. They have that statue with a traffic cone on his head.

Tiny Eco Homes is the main seller and builder in England. They have a pretty good brochure for beginners to get their head around the whole ordeal. Their homes range from £15,000 to a pre-built, two-floor home for £55,000. They actually let you sleep over in a tiny house (definitely doing that) so you can ‘try before you buy’ for…um…£195 a night (never mind).

Tiny House UK is another one that lets you buy someone’s ready-made tiny house or choose from a few custom-built options (static or on wheels). You can either order the building kit for under £10K and hire the builders yourself, or have the company take care of the whole shebang for a cushy £20–25K. The houses don’t look half bad but the website’s a bit shabby. Can’t say it inspires me with blind confidence to read things like ‘as seen on Chanel 4’. Hope they’re better at building than they are at spelling.

The Tiny Housing Co seems to be a new UK company that specialises in solar-panelled tiny homes made for the road. They’re sleek, modern and come with one to three bedrooms. You can pick one off their pre-built catalogue or have one made completely custom. From what I can see, their homes range between £37–60K. Unlike Tiny House UK, this one doesn’t have a showroom and everything is done online — which is probably a good thing considering COVID-19.

MAC Container Housing: It’s exactly what you think it is. They build you a house using shipping containers. Starting price seems to be around £12K and the website is full of snippets on finding land and whatnot. Shipping containers are a lot bigger than you’d expect. Plus, you can stack them together to build a house with two or even three floors.

Campfire Mag is a great little starter read and touches on “Building techniques and the dreaded planning permission”. There’s also an ‘inspiration gallery’ for a nice pick me up after you’ve realised sitting your perfect little house on top of a perfect little plot of land is not, how to put this, realistic.

The Switch was both an informative and depressing read about impossible planning permissions and tiny house power and heating options. Still, you get an idea of what’s available. So far there’s solar, wind or hydro for power; then wood stove, propane, or and good ol’ electricity for heating. Let’s be optimistic and say I can afford a few solar panels on my roof.

Well, I feel completely deflated but I’m going to keep plodding on. There’s really not much else out there that relates directly to the UK, but surely someone on this godforsaken island has figured it out.

OFF TO THE FORUMS.

July 11

Considering there’s a Facebook group dedicated to bins being balanced on their lids (there really is), I was certain there were UK groups for tiny home-aficionados.

Sure enough, I found a Facebook group called TinyHouseUK. It’s about 10% folks showing off their self-builds, 30% desperate pleas for a spot of land to park their tiny house on, and 60% frustrated comments about the strict planning laws in England. Still, it’s a good poke around.

The grumpy tone in this group is vastly different from its Scottish counterpart, Reforesting Scotland Thousand Huts Campaign, which has been working to change building laws in Scotland to suit tiny house builders. They’re a much more cheerful lot and have tiny house communities where a bunch of them pitched in to buy land to share. Must be nice up there. As usual, England is dragging behind like a pompous slug, with zero intention of making affordable living any easier.

Speaking of Scotland, I really like the look of Jonathan Avery’s builds from Tiny House Scotland. They’re such warm and surprisingly spacious-looking homes with lots of modern trimmings, but then I checked his availability and—

Never mind. He does offer a consultancy service for ‘just £500’ though. [Laughs in poor.]

It’s days like these when I hover my finger over the ‘fuck it’ button and consider just looking for a fixer-upper house somewhere. Then I think about having neighbours on each side, replacing mouldy skirtboards and Victorian ghosts in the attic.

Yeah, never mind.

I just have to remind myself that, no matter what, owning a brick house will always be more expensive, more stressful and will eat up all my life savings on just the deposit.

July 13

Riddle me this: how the fuck does a composting toilet work.

July 15

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about home security. I mean, how do you secure a tiny house? It’s a bunch of wood sitting in a somewhat isolated location. You could go off on holiday and when you get back someone has axed their way into the kitchen or driven it away.

Let’s entertain my paranoia for a second and Google ‘tiny house break ins’.

WHAT.

Oh, it’s in the US. Okay, what about in the UK?

Nope, nothing in the UK — not reported in the news at least. I did find a few sites with decent security tips so I’ll drop those here just in case.

Tiny Home Builders says to remove the wheels if your home is mobile and jazz it up with security cameras and an alarm system that will notify you of any break-ins on your phone. They also say to stick a GPS tracker on it so you can watch your home zooming down the M1.

Another site called Tiny House Talks lists of a bunch of locks and blocks to make your home ‘unmovable’. Plus, they recommend getting a guard dog. I think my Amazon Alexa can bark if I ask her nicely.

July 16

Thanks to Netflix recommendations, I started watching ‘How to Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny’. It’s based in the UK so there are lots of useful nuggets about plots, planning, heating and price points. Plus, it goes beyond standard houses and into shipping containers, double-deckers, garages, and snazzy sustainable homes.

It’s also a good source of motivation after days of reading all the ways you can’t do it. One couple of 22 year-olds built their first debt-free, one-bedroom home using a couple of lorry backs for just about £5,500. Gives you a bit of hope, dunnit?

This is in Season 1 Ep 4, by the way. Also, you can blame Vodaphone for the shit image quality.

They looked so happy and rent-free. Oh how I hate them.

The same episode featured a freelance artist, Jules Bywater-Lees, who bought a garage for £36,000 back in 2015 and renovated it into a retro open plan studio — almost by himself.

Behold, the before and after:

It’s practically self heating and as eco as you can get in the city. He also had zero building experience and assures that someone somewhere has done that very thing you’re stuck on. They’ve also likely made a YouTube video about it. (In fact, that’s how he learnt how to install his solar panels.)

‘Not conforming to the normal home-buying process requires you to be different and look at buildings and spaces differently.’ — Jules Bywater-Lees

Right you are, Jules. Now excuse me while I go renovate my local ASDA.

July 17

Every so often I’ll sit with my tea, stare out the window as someone’s dog happily pisses on my plants, and slowly chew through the implications of owning a tiny house. I can already hear my very outspoken Colombian mother saying, ‘That’s a DOLL house not a REAL house’, closely followed by something like, ‘It’s so small! WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO FIT ALL THE BABIES??

July 18

Today I discovered that you can rent a tiny house on AirBnB. We’re not exactly spoiled for choice here in England, but I did come across a couple good ones.

If you’re feeling spendy, you can find it on AirBnB here.

That one is about £85/night, which is a helluva lot more affordable than the £195/night the UK tiny house builder is charging.

Here’s another one that’s a bit more ‘grandma chic’, but you can’t beat the leafy landscape of Cornwall — especially for only 70 quid a night.

You can find this one here.

Sure, staying in one of these isn’t going to help you decide what model you want from a specific builder, but it’s a good idea if you just want to check whether you can even live with yourself in such a small space.

July 20

I’ve had the Scottish Nesthouse website spinning in my mind for a while now, so I popped back just in case I had missed something important. And oh, I certainly had. On this page, he lists a few comparable tiny house builders around the world, so I checked them out and you need to see these.

One is Zyl Vardos in Austria. Picture the kind of house a Millennial forest pixie would live in — and that’s what they build. The prices range from $55K to $110K (without shipping costs, mind you).

Next is Baluchon in France. Let’s say shipping the house over to England would be relatively easier with them, but they only deliver to ‘neighbouring countries’. Fuck you too, then.

Anyway, they specialise in funky geometric homes with brightly coloured panels, and they have a LOT of different house styles to choose from. Each style has a description and lots of interior photos so it’s a good place to grab inspiration.

This is the Tiny house Essen’Ciel model. Whatever that means.

My French is crap at best but I’m sure even the densest of us can make out their pricing page. It’s about €20,000 for a self-build and up to €80.000 for them to take care of absolutely everything so you can just stroll in and dump your bags on the counter. According to them, a self-build takes about a year whereas they can get it done in four months. There’s probably a “English version” menu option on this page somewhere. Likely in French.

I have half a mind to get on an online consultation with Tiny Eco Homes UK, but I’m fascinated by the French one. Will be nabbing an idea or two from their builds either way.

July 22

My brother-in-law has come up with a secondary plan. While I’m living as their resident garden gnome somewhere in the UK, we can all get together and build a sustainable ‘eco community’ of sorts. Shared food gardens, charging stations for our electric cars, the works.

It’s in no way an original idea, mind you. It’s pretty much what the Tiny House Community in Bristol is trying to do. Their plan is to build a ‘regenerative, nature-first, community-led alternative’ to the current housing and climate crisis. So far, this is what they have in mind.

Source.

What are brassicas, you ask? Fuck if I know. Anyway, I think it’s a pretty neat idea and apparently anyone in Bristol interested in moving into it can join their monthly meetings and planning sessions. I don’t think I want to live in Bristol, but I would genuinely love to see this happen.

I’m all for this renewed interest in tribal living, honestly. I’m reading Rutgar Bregman’s book: Humankind, and in his chapter The Curse of Civilisation he talks about how nomadic humans were a peaceful, happy and healthy lot. Then we settled down in what scientists believe were egalitarian societies with no real hierarchy. Sure, this started a few squabbles over property, but we were still pretty happy and spending most of our days living than working.

It wasn’t until rulers rose to power and began flinging their dicks around with wars that these small happy communities were swallowed up to form bigger, ‘more productive’ societies. Fast-forward to today and now look at us. Look at us. Once happy nature-lovers stuffed into concrete boxes and made to work for more hours than we’re built for. It’s no wonder we’re all so fucking miserable.

The book cites decades of science and social experiments that show humans are much happier when in nature with a small, trusted community. Even Benjamin Franklin wrote how ‘civilised white men and women’ who were captured by the Native Americans (and then released) would promptly flee back into the wilderness after getting re-acquainted with this freewheeling way of life.

Turns out we don’t need to ‘hustle more’ to live better. We simply need to go back to the basics.

July 25

I did it! I scheduled a consultation call with Tiny Eco Home UK. I feel like I finally have enough context on the subject to ask him things that aren’t already plainly written on someone’s blog. So I paid the £75 fee and a few days later I chatted with their expert, Chris March, for about an hour.

(Okay, I actually booked an in-person consultation for £95 by mistake and had to panic-email them about it. But let’s pretend I got it right the first time.)

Five minutes before the call I switched on my laptop’s frontal camera to make sure there wasn’t a wild sock or bra hanging about in the background. As you do. Then, at exactly 5pm, Chris flashed into my Zoom with a big smile and the flustered look of someone who had just gotten off a call three seconds before starting this one.

‘Hi Jenny! Nice to see you!’

‘Hey Chris, great to meet you too!’ I said, showing off that I, too, managed to remember his name.

He rubbed his ginger stubble and confessed that he’s in the midst of a sudden tiny house ‘rush’. I suspect that’s because a lot of people, like myself, have been at home watching Tiny House Nation on Netflix to avoid boring their anus off during lockdown.

We have some general chit-chat about the pandemic pissing on everyone’s lives and then get into the real conversation. I’ll share some useful tidbits here for all you freeloaders.

Designing your tiny house

Basically, you can either work with an architect to come up with something completely custom, or pick out a pre-fabricated model and get the keys in as little as 3–4 months.

Chris said that most people will come in with all sorts of plans and sketches (hello me), but once they see a model home they’ll just go, “Yep, this will do’. I smile and nod, suddenly feeling defensive of the lavish decor ideas overflowing my Pinterest and Instagram.

Now, remember, there are two main kinds of tiny houses: static and on-wheels. Design-wise, you can do whatever your alcohol-induced inspiration wants to them. Just keep in mind that if your tiny house is on-wheels, you’ll need everything inside to be sturdy enough so that your belongings aren’t swishing around on the road. Never thought of what kind of cabinet I’d need to strap in my dishes before a trip.

Deciding on your type of tiny house

I then nudge him for help deciding between a static and mobile home as my full-time residence, to which he gave me this potentially-helpful info:

Static tiny house: If you prefer staying put and inexplicably like having neighbours, you can plant your tiny house in the ground, start a herb garden and call it home sweet home. This cushy stability, however, comes at the high price of being legally classified as a ‘permanent residence’, which means you’ll need to secure a proper plot of land and go through all sorts of legal rubbish.

Mobile tiny house: This is the easier, more flexible option — but it’s limited to 2.55m width and about 7m length so you can tow it without flattening your fellow drivers. It’ll be classified as a ‘temporary residence’, so you can only legally live in it for certain periods at a time (but who will know, honestly?) but at least won’t have to bother with planning permissions. (It’s also perfect for digital nomads and/or people like myself who, to their family’s dismay, can’t seem to decide on where to settle down.)

Me: Is there any way to extend a mobile tiny house?

Chris: Oh yeah, you can actually pull up a second mobile house beside it and create a sort of extension. But once people get one in place and put the deck out front with chairs and things, it feels much more spacious.

If you say so.

Finding land for your tiny house

First, I ask him if he knows about any tiny communities here in England, hoping he’ll reveal some fairy-like woodland unknown to mere city-folk where sweet fruit trees abound and wine flows freely from a solar-powered fountain.

‘Yeah, those don’t really exist here.’

Oh.

He adds that yes, there is an experimental tiny community in Scotland but that’s all there is (so far). ‘Honestly, everyone just takes their tiny house and does their own thing. They put it in someone’s garden or caravan site — or get their own land’. Sounds like tiny home-owners are the moody teenagers of the housing world.

He then gives me a quick rundown of what each land option entails:

Using your own land: If you have a large garden or know someone who does, you can simply skip along and pitch your tiny home there. Voilà.

Renting land: There are sprawling caravan sites owned by corporations (pricey), and then there’s land owned by private individuals (less pricey). Chris recommends ‘going off the beaten track’ and scouting private land instead — like camping sites, farm lands, holiday home areas, etc. He also says you’ll have more luck convincing the owners to rent to you if you ask them in person, preferably with pictures of your planned tiny house in hand so they know what the heck you’re on about.

Buying land: If the land has a building on it, then it already has planning permission. Hooray. But if the land doesn’t have a building on it, then it likely doesn’t have planning permission (but definitely check), and you’ll have to sail through that shitstorm yourself with your local council.

Chris says that land with planning permission is considered ‘premium’, so it can go for around a devastating £100,000. At this point he notices dreams dying in my eyes and quickly follows up with ‘but you know, one guy saved so much money after moving into a tiny house that he bought his own land’.

Aaand we’re back.

Powering your tiny house

On-grid: This is the standard build where your home comes fully-equipped with water and electric hook-up points. Chris says that even people who have pitched their tiny homes on remote farmer’s fields haven’t had a problem getting plugged in.

Off-grid: This is where you can get gas bottles, a wood-burning stove, solar-panels, rainwater collection — the works. Chris says living on rainwater alone isn’t as doable as you’d think (even in England), so he wouldn’t recommend it. Also, solar panels are quite the hefty investment and can run up your budget with an additional £10,000. So if you’re starting cheap, better stick to the conventional route.

Securing your tiny house

I already did my Googling on this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask an expert. Here’s what I got.

Chris: You definitely can set up cameras and a GPS-tracking system and it’ll all feed right into your phone.

(I knew this.)

Chris: But honestly, the wood is too thick to just break into. It’s not like a garden shed. They’d need an actual chainsaw to get through.

(I did not know this.)

Chris: Plus, they’d have to be incredibly brave or stupid to try and run off with a tiny house in the UK. It’s not like it’ll be hard to find.

(You make an excellent point.)

‘There is a great company called Love Your Hut’, he says, ‘and they’ll insure your tiny house and even cover your belongings inside as well.’

(Cheers for the tip.)

Life expectancy and maintenance

In his company brochure it says every tiny house has a ‘lifetime warranty’, but then casually mentions that a lifetime is actually about 50–60 years. So I decide to press him on this.

Chris says that the cladding is heat-treated wood, so it won’t contract or expand or even rot like normal wood. But you do need to keep up with UV-protection oil, paint touch ups, and other bits and bobs.

So it’s not like part of your roof will drop and conk you in the head on the 50-year mark. You just have to do general maintenance over the years, as you would with a normal house, and it’ll likely all still be standing 80+ years on.

And that, my tiny friends, was the entirety of our Zoom call.

I have to admit, I left it feeling much more hopeful than I expected to. I went in thinking he would say something along the lines of, ‘the deposit will be £40,000 and my next availability is in 2052’. But you know what? If I started right now, I could have my very own tiny house by the end of the year.

Now that thought just butters my parsnips.

July 28

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, pacing, and 2 am biscuit-binging over the sink. Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced that I want a tiny home from them specifically — not that I have many options in the UK. But I do think I should go see the tiny homes in person to get a better sense of the space.

Maybe I should go ahead and rent one of those tiny homes on Airbnb, just to try?

Oh wait, there’s a global pandemic still going on.

Never mind, then.

Note to everyone else: plague aside, don’t be like me and pay for an online consultation just to realise you actually do need to see the houses in person before making a decision. If you can, just eat the extra 20 quid and get yourself on-site.

July 30

I’ve been looking at the best way to view the houses in-person. And I think it’s a teensy bit out of the way.

And, good news! I don’t have a car.

The train route is no better. Chris was nice enough to offer a pickup from the nearest station (Ridingmill), but I could squeeze in a round-trip to Portugal first and still have time to pop into Costa.

July 31

Looking back on what I’ve ‘achieved’ so far in my tiny house project, I have to admit that it could’ve been done in a much more logical order and in about two weeks time, instead of a whole month. But, consider the following: 1) I have to work on my actual job so I don’t die; and 2) I have no idea what I’m doing.

I know it’s been absolute chaos, but surely you understand a bit more about building a tiny house in the UK than when you started reading.

Well, at least I do, anyway.

After all this broad research, I think my next move is to zoom in on the individual stages: designing it, finding land, getting a good builder, etc. Also, I want to dig into something most blogs tend to hastily gloss over: the downsides of tiny living.

What groan-inducing routines would you have to adjust to? What do tiny house owners know now that you should consider before building one?

So far every story paints a picture of unbridled success, and it feels a bit like when you’re being sold a new phone and they only show you the flashy bits to make you sign the contract. I’m too much of an anxious mess to blindly skip ahead without knowing absolutely every possible thing that could go wrong.

So, I think it’s high time to take an honest look at the realities of tiny living.

Onwards!

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Tech writer/editor who dreams of living in a sustainable house with a delightfully stupid cat.

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Jenny Medeiros

Jenny Medeiros

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Tech writer/editor who dreams of living in a sustainable house with a delightfully stupid cat.