learning about Lindal kits

To build small, let’s check out a large kit house provider named Lindal Homes. Some 50,000 homes have been built through Lindal over 70 years. While best known for cedar prow-deck designs, the company has expanded to warm modern styles designed in-house or via architect collaborations.

These "Taliesin" Lindal homes range from 470 to 800 square feet, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Options include cedar or cement board exteriors, with adjustable interiors to suit your needs. (Lindal.com)

These “Taliesin” Lindal homes range from 470 to 800 square feet, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Options include cedar or cement board exteriors, with adjustable interiors to suit your needs. (Lindal.com)

Lindal explorations

Explore Lindal’s styles, create a folder to see house plans, and join a conference call to learn more. We dialed into a call last weekend and were surprised to hear Michael Harris, former CEO/President of Lindal, who shared architectural styles and other build information:

  • Project design cost – “A disciplined use of our building system’s most efficient components and assembly details [will] dramatically reduce design time.”
  • Higher home value – “Lindals resell for handsome amounts of money. They get financed like conventional houses [unlike modular homes]. Appraise for more than typical houses because of finishes.”
  • Time to build – “Total length is 6-9 months total, comparable to the typical modular producers. We use local labor, so it’s 9 months to a year.”

Kits and pre-fabs

Lindal is a kit house company which sells finished Post and Beam plans and delivers materials to individual building sites. The company adjusts designs based on the buyer desires, lots and area conditions. There are 100 U.S. Lindal dealers who guide local customers through home planning and builds.

Remember there’s a spectrum of pre-fab homes, from kits to partly or fully-built homes delivered to your site. Do you want to make changes to designs and materials? Do you have a specific budget or time frame in mind? Answer these questions and it may set you down the right path.

LEED certify your small home

As you know, it’s possible to save energy consumption simply by downsizing to a smaller home. You may also consider taking more deliberate steps to build a home that qualifies for LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification.

This one-story FreeGreen home is designed for high energy efficiency, within a roomy 1,356 square feet. (Houseplans.com)

This one-story FreeGreen home is designed for high energy efficiency, within a roomy 1,356 square feet. (Houseplans.com)

Greener house plans

Recently Houseplans acquired FreeGreen due to its current inventory of plans starting at 525 square feet. All the plans feature detailed prerequisites and credits used by LEED-certified builders today.

For a limited time, you’re invited to download a free set of FreeGreen house plans. Eight different styles are available, including the one-story home shown here and four others ranging between 1,000-1,900 square feet.

Inside this one-story FreeGreen home, you'll find a great room, three bedrooms and two baths (Houseplans.com)

In this one-story FreeGreen home, you’ll find a great room, three bedrooms and two baths. (Houseplans.com)

Building and living well

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “LEED homes are built to be healthy, providing clean indoor air and incorporating safe building materials to ensure a comfortable home. Using less energy and water means lower utility bills each month.” There are eight LEED categories:

  1. Innovation & Design (ID) Process – Special design methods, unique regional credits, measures not currently addressed in the Rating System, and exemplary performance levels.
  2. Location & Linkages (LL) – The placement of homes in socially and environmentally responsible ways in relation to the larger community.
  3. Sustainable Sites (SS) – The use of the entire property so as to minimize the project’s impact on the site.
  4. Water Efficiency (WE) – Water conservation practices, both indoor and outdoor.
  5. Energy & Atmosphere (EA) – Energy efficiency, particularly in the building envelope and heating and cooling design.
  6. Materials & Resources (MR) – Efficient utilization of materials, selection of environmentally preferable materials, and minimization of waste during construction.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) – Improvement of indoor air quality by reducing the creation of and exposure to pollutants.
  8. Awareness & Education (AE) – The education of homeowner, tenant, or multifamily building manager about the operations and maintenance of the green features of a LEED Home.

Building to meet certification requirements obviously takes expertise! As you look for a builder or building company, ask if they are credentialed and/or otherwise know a rater who may help you. Any of the LEED certification levels would be a sweet reward for a well-built home.

Or simply knowing you have built to green standards is a good thing, no?

minimum sizes for tiny houses

If you want to build a tiny house on the ground, then it’s a good idea to start with the International Residential Code’s (IRC) minimum size requirement: 120 square feet measured from interior faces of exterior walls.

Please buckle your seat belt to learn more about IRC habitable space, minimum areas and ceiling heights. These codes are revised and reviewed by the International Code Committee (ICC), and are known throughout the U.S.

Here's a new yet classic cottage based on the Whidbey design from Tumbleweed Houses. Sporting 960 square feet, the Great Barrington (MA) riverside home is now for re-sale. (realtor.com)

Here’s a new yet classic cottage based on the Whidbey design from Tumbleweed Houses. Sporting 960 square feet, the Great Barrington riverside home is now for re-sale. (realtor.com)

Welcome to minimum codes

Let’s begin with a confusing but true statement: while all the minimums apply to habitable spaces, habitable spaces are defined by meeting minimums too.

In typical houses, all living, sleeping, eating or cooking areas qualify as habitable spaces. Bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces aren’t defined as habitable, for any dwelling. Here are minimum room sizes:

  • Minimum area. One habitable room that’s at least 120 square feet.
  • Other rooms. At least 70 square feet.
  • Minimum dimensions. At least 7 feet in any horizontal dimension.
  • Height effect on room area. At least 7 feet high. If sloped, also over 5 feet.

Tom Meyers, past chairman of ICC’s residential code committee, explains height requirements for a habitable room:

“The IRC requires 7 feet vertical clearance except when the ceiling is sloped. When the ceiling is sloped, only one half of the required room area must be provided with the 7 foot headroom clearance. If the room is required to be 70 sf in area, then 35 sf of the room must have 7 feet of clearance. Additionally, all the remaining required area must have a minimum of 5 feet of clearance.”

There are some exclusions and exceptions. Notably, kitchens are excluded from the other room, dimensions and height effect codes. Also bathrooms only need to be 6 feet, 8 inches tall, to accommodate fixtures.

Sleeping lofts are not “habitable” areas

In a tiny or small house, an upstairs loft typically won’t qualify as a habitable bedroom, so you may access it with a ladder or non-compliant egress. Tom Meyers offers clear advice:

“If you are ever challenged on the use of a ladder for non-habitable loft, be assured that the code allows it by default. Intentionally, there are no requirements for non-habitable loft access. I know this as I am the one that wrote this code section.”

“The code official is unlikely to allow you to use your non-habitable loft for compliance with permanent provision for sleeping. Best to figure out a way to put a bed (fold out or otherwise) on the lower level.”

Rural, suburban and urban code approvals

When living in a more populated area, you should expect larger and different minimum sizes in your local building and zoning codes. Please check with your City Hall while planning a single home or secondary dwelling unit build on your property. Otherwise your house could be unusable!

Are all these codes necessary? Suburban and urban people live with many codes because they’re not contemplating “daily survival,” muses Tom Meyers. By contrast, rural areas are more lax and may not even have codes because “they don’t need to be told what they already know.”

More Information: Please check out exact wording of the International Code Council (ICC) minimums below, covering Minimum Room Areas, Ceiling Height, Sanitation, and Toilet, Bath and Shower Spaces.

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more tiny tv shows, more reality

Tiny houses seem to draw TV audiences, just like they attract traffic online or at open houses. With increasingly mainstream exposure, it’s important to share tiny living realities on screen or online.

Here's a beautiful tiny house from Jamaica Cottage Shop. On Tiny House Nation, this home was built and the challenges of fitting a family were addressed well. (Tiny House Nation video)

Here’s a beautiful tiny house from Jamaica Cottage Shop. On Tiny House Nation, this home was built and the challenges of fitting a family were addressed well. (Tiny House Nation video)

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Tiny House Nation starts filming its second season immediately. A new show, Tiny House Hunting, also begins production. These series air/will air on FYI network, which replaced BIO channel.

FYI producers are pleased that “season one of Tiny House Nation improved the time-period average 37 percent in total viewers and 48 percent among adults 25-54 compared to last year’s BIO Channel average before the rebrand.”

We appreciate that viewers saw many tiny houses and learned about off-grid power, different toilets, kitchen options and multiple-use designs. One glaring omission? Getting municipal approvals and/or permits to live tiny.

Tiny House Nation: What happened

Each episode introduces the downsizers and builds a home quickly. There’s brief coverage on how they are doing now, while our online search finds new challenges after the cameras departed. Here are two examples:

  • 500 Sq. Ft. Rocky Mountain Mansion (video) – After a couple builds a swoon worthy home on the site of their forest-fire destroyed place, they’re stymied by a roof leak and still await their certificate of occupancy.
  • 210 Sq. Ft. Studio Retreat (video) – One young couple is very pleased with their Minim house, though face challenges about where to park and live in a new house on wheels. They want to remain local and advertise for help.

Tiny House Hunters: What matters

Have you seen house-hunter shows? Usually several options are shown and buyers make an offer which gets accepted. There’s some footage after the owners settle into their new place. All is well and good.

Yet with tiny houses built on foundations, issues may arise when owners decide to make any modifications. Compliance with zoning and building codes becomes a local pursuit:

  • Exterior footprint or height changes which violate zoning codes
  • Interior space changes that may not meet old building codes
  • Historic district locations with constraints of all kinds
  • Utility installations, upgrades or changes

Viewers and would-be tiny house buyers deserve as much reality as possible. Post-airing discussions could attract waves of on-demand viewing — and then everyone wins.

spiral stairs to sleeping loft

To conserve tiny house space, consider installing spiral stairs to access a sleeping loft. They would make an ascent or descent easier than any ladder, right?

Spiral stairs from a Washington tiny house

The first spiral stairs come from a jewel-box tiny home built by Zack Giffin, who’s a skier, carpenter and Tiny House Nation host. Over the past three years, Zack (and his partner Molly) traveled to many Western ski areas where they discovered powder secrets and tiny house admirers along the way.

These well crafted stair steps were hand-built by Zack Giffin, in his tiny ski house on wheels. They seem like fine furniture and works of art. (Photo by Michael Dyrland)

These well crafted stair steps were hand-built by Zack Giffin, in his tiny ski house on wheels. They seem like fine furniture and works of art. (Photo by Michael Dyrland)

Notice how the steps rotate around a vertical pole. It enables dwellers to use extra space for seating and other purposes. (Photo by Mark Fisher)

Notice how the steps rotate around a vertical pole. It enables dwellers to use extra space for seating and other purposes. (Photo by Mark Fisher)

Here the tiny house is truly at home, nestled into a ski area parking lot. Everyone inside should be ready for tomorrow's action. (Photo by Michael Dyrland)

Here the tiny house is truly at home, nestled into a ski area parking lot. Everyone inside should be ready for tomorrow’s action. (Photo by Michael Dyrland)

Spiral stairs from a Massachusetts tiny house

The second spiral stairs appear in a tiny house owned by Francis Camosse, a local youth minister. His dream home, a modified Tumbleweed Cypress, was just built by Zack Giffin, local contractors and the Tiny House Nation. Aah, we understand the source of these spiral stairs now.

"Henry Camosse, father of Francis Camosse, climbs the stairs to the loft of his son's tiny house in Charlton," says the Worcester Telegram. (Photo by Paul Connors)

“Henry Camosse, father of Francis Camosse, climbs the stairs to the loft of his son’s tiny house in Charlton,” says the Worcester Telegram. (Photo by Paul Connors)

Francis Camosse's tiny house gets log cabin siding for a sweet rustic look. The tiny is currently located on family land. (Photo by Paul Connors)

Francis Camosse’s tiny house gets log cabin siding for a sweet rustic look. The tiny is currently located on family land. (Photo by Paul Connors)