tiny vote: how to clean clothes

How do you clean clothes while living in a tiny house? There’s a surprising spectrum of conventional, powered or manual cleaning options. To quantify preferences, we cordially invite all readers to answer this question below.

Stay tuned for your washing selections. In the the meantime, let’s look at a handful of smaller washers, dryers and combos already used by some tiny housers.

Click and watch how this newer hand-cranked washer and spinner works. (The Laundry Pod)

Click and watch how this newer hand-cranked washer and spinner works. (The Laundry Pod)

The Wonder Wash is a hand-cranked washer that's popular with tiny dwellers. (Laundry Alternatives. Amazon)

The Wonder Wash is a hand-cranked washer that’s popular with tiny dwellers. (Laundry Alternatives)

This tiny electric dryer, called the Nina, receives kudos as a powered spinner. (Laundry Alternatives)

This tiny electric dryer, the Nina, receives kudos as a powered spinner. (Laundry Alternatives)

Among the 110 Volt washer-dryer units, the little Sonya gets good reviews. (Sonya, Amazon)

Among the 110 Volt washer-dryer units, the little Sonya gets very good reviews. (Sonya, Amazon)

similar city birds and tiny housers

Over the past three years, New York City artist/architect “XAM” has designed, built and installed extraordinary birdhouses for urban avian residents.

Here's a sweet home on a sign. The insulated roof features succulent green plantings. Notice its little DISH which provides TV service for lucky nesting viewers. (Huffington Post)

Here’s a sweet home on a sign. The insulated roof features succulent green plantings. Notice its little DISH which provides TV service for lucky nesting viewers. (Huffington Post)

Tiny houses and their features

XAM says “my dwelling units incorporate passive ventilation, solar panels, LED porch lights (to attract insects), green roofs (for insulation), a food storage area that I fill before hanging and a dwelling space. My feeding units are gravity fed and the feeding trough is refilled from a large food storage cavity.”

Similarly, tiny houses for people focus on insulation, ventilation, humidity control and waterproofing. Tinies naturally conserve energy, and often sport LED lights. Many off-grid homes also generate power through solar panels. And you will find dwelling space with a kitchen, rather than feeding trough.

Living well and in peace

It’s about the neighbors! During 2011, XAM began hanging birdhouses on Brooklyn street signs and they were quickly removed by humans. The houses last far longer when hung in different places, such as industrial sections of Los Angeles.

“I like the community to decide the longevity of my work. I guess I like playing with ‘grey areas’. Are we supposed to accept and/or appreciate the units because they are in a way trying to reverse our destructive effects on nature?,” asks XAM. “Or should we remove them because they are illegally placed? I like to provoke thought and challenge our belief system as well as expand definitions.”

When neighbors see tiny homes for people, they tend to appreciate them. Houses on wheels are technically RVs, which legally prevents full-time living. However, some cities allow caretakers to live in them. For permanent tiny houses, on foundations, other cities like Portland (OR) and Austin (TX) are adjusting secondary dwelling unit codes.

Perhaps we are like the birds, sharing their need for reliable tiny spaces. Birds are used to relocating seasonally and building nests. Yet it’s nice to have ready-made city houses they can simply decorate and use.

those solar decathlon homes

Have you heard about Solar Decathlons? College teams build energy-saving homes for a biennial competition, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy. Afterwards, many houses become residences or are available for tours.

The 2013 Decathlon winner

Vienna University of Technology students built a beautiful and energy-surplus home. They plan to make this winning model commercially available to urban and rural customers, starting in Austria. Here’s a quick tour.

Known as LISI, or Living Inspired for Sustainable Innovation, the Austrian entry offers a calming, zen impact.

Known as LISI, or Living Inspired for Sustainable Innovation, the Austrian entry offers a calming, zen impact. (DOE 2013)

Vienna students created a Mad-Men type of great room, with areas for cooking, dining and hanging out.

Vienna students created a Mad-Men type of great room, with areas for cooking, dining and hanging out. (DOE 2013)

A sustainable, upscale looking bathroom has been installed in the Austrian prototype home. (DOE 2013)

A sustainable, upscale looking bathroom has been installed in the Austrian prototype home. (DOE 2013)

There is nothing flashy about the Decathlon winner's private and cozy pod space for sleeping. (DOE 2013)

There is nothing flashy about the Decathlon winner’s private and cozy pod space for sleeping. (DOE 2013)

Earlier Decathlon competitors

The U.S. Solar Decathlon has been held six times, first in Washington, DC and lately in Irvine, CA. Let’s take a look at special homes over the years, including their post-competition whereabouts.

Appalachian State students built home modules connected by a solar panel porch. Today a modified version is available through Deltec, a North Carolina homebuilder. (2011 DOE)

Appalachian State students built home modules connected by a solar panel porch. Today a modified version is available through Deltec, a North Carolina homebuilder. (2011 DOE)

Santa Clara University students created a tube-shaped home that won top awards for architecture and communications. Back on campus, it's used for research purposes. (2009 DOE)

Santa Clara University students created a tube-shaped home that won top awards for architecture and communications. Back on campus, it’s used for research purposes. (2009 DOE)

A Le Corbusier-style stunner was built by students from Spain, Central and South America. Madrid students continue making home improvements in their materials courses. (2007 DOE)

A Le Corbusier-style stunner was built by students from Spain, Central and South America. Madrid students continue making home improvements in their materials courses. (2007 DOE)

Virginia Tech students won the top architectural award for their energy-efficient marvel. Today the home resides at Richmond's Science Museum of Virginia. (2005 DOE)

Virginia Tech students won the top architectural award for their energy-efficient marvel. Today the home resides at Richmond’s Science Museum of Virginia. (2005 DOE)

Crowder College students received the People's Choice award for a not-so-small home. It's one of two Decathlon entries now displayed at the Missouri school. (2002 DOE)

Crowder College students received the People’s Choice award for a not-so-small home. It’s one of two Decathlon entries now displayed at the Missouri school. (2002 DOE)

More Decathlon details

Fortunately, Decathlon archives are open and accessible. To start, we suggest clicking on a year below. You might pick a college and read about its home, or else select one (of 10) contest categories and compare homes.

Summary | 2013 US | 2011 US | 2009 US | 2007 US | 2005 US | 2002 US
Results | 2013 US | 2011 US | 2009 US | 2007 US | 2005 US | 2002 US

tech offices sport tiny escapes

Many tech offices are known for their hip hangouts. Rather than sticking to bright and energetic themes, companies are adding calm and escapist areas. We’re seeing small-space benefits play out in meeting rooms, dining areas and other work spaces.

Let’s examine evidence from Twitter, Quixey, PayPal and Google offices.

Authentic West from Twitter

TWITTER - Here's a 100-year-old Montana homestead, one of two reclaimed for Twitter's headquarters. (marinij.com)

TWITTER – Here’s a 100-year-old Montana homestead, one of two reclaimed for Twitter’s headquarters. (marinij.com)

TWITTER - This log dining area comes directly from a Montana cabin, forever protected from the elements. (Inhabitat)

TWITTER – This log dining area comes directly from a Montana cabin, forever protected from the elements. (Inhabitat)

Ersatz West from Quixey

QUIXEY - In a saloon meeting room, featuring an 1880s piano, staffers transport to the Wild West. (SV Business Journal)

QUIXEY – In a saloon meeting room, featuring an 1880s piano, staffers transport to the Wild West. (SV Business Journal)

QUIXEY - The Ski Lodge meeting room delivers mountain charm, especially with that hunting prize. (SV Business Journal)

QUIXEY – The Ski Lodge meeting room brings mountain charm, especially with that hunting prize. (SV Business Journal)

Outside from PayPal

PAYPAL - In Chicago, a tree house is ready to host Braintree collaborations or independent work. (Business Insider)

PAYPAL – In Chicago, a tree house is ready to host Braintree collaborations or independent work. (Business Insider)

PAYPAL - Three Braintree employees are working comfortably in hammocks, rather than sitting at desks. (Braintree)

PAYPAL – Three Braintree employees are working comfortably in hammocks, rather than sitting at desks. (Braintree)

Inside/Outside from Google

GOOGLE - In the NYC office, Google's tiny apartment interior delivers a non-Googley meeting environment. (PC Mag)

GOOGLE – In the NYC office, Google’s tiny apartment interior delivers a non-Googley meeting environment. (PC Mag)

GOOGLE - There's a furnished tiny house trailer parked in the Amsterdam office. We love this escape! (Office Snapshots)

GOOGLE – There’s a furnished tiny house trailer parked in the Amsterdam office. We love this escape! (Office Snapshots)

brainerd, minnesota voted yes

This year, Brainerd City Council members began addressing their vacant city lot problem. With 465 properties legally blocked from development, members proposed lower minimum house sizes — and finally voted yes!

This 1920s Brainerd home contains four bedrooms and two baths. It just sold for $84,000, a decades-ago price in any large U.S. metro area. (Realtor.com)

This 1920s Brainerd home contains four bedrooms and two baths. It just sold for $84,000, a decades-ago price in any large U.S. metro area. (Realtor.com)

Brainerd took its first downsizing step, lowering minimum house sizes from 750 to 500 square feet on all empty lots. While a 400 sq. ft. minimum was first proposed, it changed due to existing home value concerns.

Why is Brainerd, MN unusual? It’s a small city of 13,590 citizens, and a vacation place with modest home prices. Typically large metros, with high real estate prices, have been first-movers in lowering minimum sizes of homes.

The Star-Tribune reports that Minneapolis set a good precedent, with 500 sq. ft. minimums for standalone houses and 350 sq. ft. minimums for secondary, efficiency apartments.

P.S. Are Brainerd residents thinking about buying property yet? A quick search uncovers Minnesota companies which design and build small, beautiful places. We like these weeHouses and cabins.

sweet definition of a kit house

Typical kit house: A house design and all building materials available for sale. Separately requires land purchase, building permits, site preparation, foundation and utilities. Constructed by local contractors. [Tiny House Joy]

Here’s a sweet 550 square footer from Seattle-based FabCab. The estimated cost without land is $165,000 for this high quality house. Let’s take a peek at the exterior and floor plan, and then learn how kits get built.

This TimberCab 550 kit home is located on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille. The owners added an extra deck and porch to expand outdoor living on the hillside. (Fine Homebuilding)

This TimberCab 550 kit home is located on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille. The owners added an extra deck and porch to expand outdoor living on the hillside. (Fine Homebuilding)

The floor plan of the TimberCab 550 features a separate bedroom, great room with kitchen, bath and entry. It's possible to build on any foundation for storage. (FabCab)

The floor plan of the TimberCab 550 features a separate bedroom, great room with kitchen, bath and entry. It’s possible to build on any foundation for storage. (FabCab)

Kit house companies provide materials

With a kit house, you rely on experts to design a home as well as source, order, manufacture and pre-assemble materials. The kit company will handle and deliver everything to meet its building plan specifications.

We picked FabCab as an example since it offers modern looks, in single-floor living. The company also specifies efficient materials, notably structural insulated panels which deliver R-24 efficiency for walls and R-40 for the roof.

After finding a kit you love, check for “strong bones” and longevity. There should be easily-maintained internal/external finishes — and natural wood, double-paned windows and a long-warranty roof are good indicators.

Many kit companies also have interior packages for kitchens and bathrooms. It’s enjoyable to start making your appliance and fixture selections upfront, especially in a smaller square foot home where everything gets noticed.

Your responsibilities for a kit house

Starting with the house plan, you may want to make adjustments due to your preferences, site or local permit requirements. Kit companies vary in their support, though FabCab offers architectural and engineering services.

Searching for the right general contractor becomes an important step. Check previous jobs and references, and make sure individuals are credentialed through your state’s licensing board. Review small builds: five key things to do.

You should decide on a foundation, whether using pilings (least pricey), slab, crawl space or full basement. Consider your geology, local environment and municipal requirements.

Utilities access must be addressed for a primary or secondary dwelling unit. Do you have a line for water, access to electricity and gas, and connections to city sewer or septic? What are the costs for installations?

Keep in mind that your general contractor will oversee the build and sub-contract plumbing and electrical work. He or she handles municipal inspections along the way, plus getting final approvals.

The rest of the FabCab kit house tour

Now that you know what’s involved in bringing a kit house to life, we want to complete the TimberCab 550 model’s tour. Here are sweet interior photos of the Idaho lake home, which reveal its rooms and finishes. Learn more here.

What a shining example of a great room, overseeing the lake! We love the lighting and furniture, though might arrange more seating in our own place. (Fine Homebuilding)

What a shining example of a great room, overseeing the lake! We love the lighting and furniture, though might arrange more seating in our own place. (Fine Homebuilding)

This attractive galley-style kitchen, located within the great room, includes a tall fridge-freezer, dishwasher, cook-top and microwave. (Fine Homebuilding)

This attractive galley-style kitchen, located within the great room, includes a tall fridge-freezer, dishwasher, cook-top and microwave. (Fine Homebuilding)

The bedroom is accessed through modern-day, sliding barn doors. It takes up one wing, with plenty of room as well as open views towards the lake. (Fine Homebuilding)

The bedroom is accessed through modern-day, sliding barn doors. It takes up one wing, with plenty of room as well as open views towards the lake. (Fine Homebuilding)

Next to the house entry, the spa-like bathroom shows off with its elegant sink, toilet, cabinet storage and a modern shower reflected in the mirror. (Fine Homebuilding)

Next to the house entry, the spa-like bathroom shows off with its elegant sink, toilet, cabinet storage and a modern shower reflected in the mirror. (Fine Homebuilding)

backyard cottage, a budget primer

Your custom-designed, backyard cottage is a terrific idea that costs more than a high end auto. To shed light, let’s review key budget areas and some choices together.

Susan's cottage has a 247 sq. ft. first floor and 176 sq. ft. loft. It's built in her San Francisco area backyard. (New Avenue)

Susan’s cottage has a 247 sq. ft. first floor and 176 sq. ft. loft. It’s built in her San Francisco area backyard. (New Avenue)

According to New Avenue Homes, a custom one-bedroom, 360 sq. ft. cottage will cost $147,000 including its design and permitting ($26k), construction ($106k) and project management ($15k). Yet we noticed a few places to save costs:

  • Buy existing house plans, making minor changes – $15k
  • Use pilings instead of a concrete foundation – $5k or more
  • Take over your bidding, oversight & administration – $15k
  • If willing, run your own project in lieu of a manager – $15k

Excluding project management, there are 13 different building steps and plenty of details to consider in your budget. Make sure you have plenty of room to make changes as well.

Build preparations

  • Design & permits – $25k, with $18k for architect/engineer hours, $6.5k for municipal permits and $2.5k for a site survey.
  • Bidding, oversight & admin – $6k for billing, change orders, meetings.
  • General contractor mobilization – $4k for site, toilets, cleanups.
  • Demolition and remediation – $0.6k demolition if needed.
  • Site work & earthwork – $7k for digging foundation, utility trenches.
  • Foundation & concrete – $12k for foundation construction.

Materials and installation

  • Framing & carpentry – $22k for all framing, interior work, cabinets.
  • Insulation & moisture protection – $13k for siding, roofing, insulation.
  • Windows & doors – $6k for four doors, four windows, one skylight.
  • Finishes – $11k for painting, walls, floors (appliances extra, by owner).
  • Plumbing – $16k for gas, sewer, water, all bathroom, sinks.
  • Heating, ventilation & air conditioning – $4k for gas unit, ducts, vents.
  • Electrical – $5k for wiring, panels (fixtures extra, by owner).