Tiny Home Alliance Canada

I’ve recently been in touch with the founders of a Canadian tiny house organization! I was so excited to receive a message about an organization in Canada. Robert and Leanne Leonardo founded Tiny Home Alliance to be a resource for aspiring Canadian tiny housers. They loved my blog and would like me to work with them to build their database of tiny house information!

When I first discovered tiny houses, I read about people who had built their own tiny houses and then ended up working for Tumbleweed. I thought that would be pretty cool, but I’m honestly not a big fan of Tumbleweed and it’s American. There are so many tiny house builders I read about in the States that don’t have to worry about high r-values or freezing water pipes.

Instead, I can work with Robert and Leanne and use what I’ve learned to help grow the movement in Canada, and help other tiny housers and people interested in sustainable living.

This dream is getting bigger:

https://www.facebook.com/tinyhomealliance/posts/1023653630983407

Visit their Facebook page and website here:

https://www.facebook.com/tinyhomealliance

http://tinyhomealliance.ca/

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Meeting with the County

This past Thursday I had a meeting at my local zoning office to talk about the tiny house. I printed off my plans, made notes about the trailer and insulation values, and compiled my drawings. What I expected was a little office with the person who got me the meeting (my dad’s friend, Albert) and someone who knows all about the building codes. Instead, it was a big board room with two men with a giant book on the National Building Code, a woman who knew about different zones within the county, and Albert.

All of them were familiar with the idea of tiny houses. They took a look at a couple of pages of plans and drawings. I was saying that tiny houses are built on wheels to avoid minimum size restrictions when they interrupted me and said, “There are no minimum size restrictions. They took them out.” Apparently, as long as you have a functioning space for different tasks like cooking, eating, etc., it doesn’t matter if you have collapsible furniture and tiny rooms. I was too shocked to ask more. That seems too easy.

As far as the building code experts were concerned, my house is an RV and therefore the National Building Code completely does not apply. Also, as far as they know, there’s no national standard for custom RVs. I told them I still want to meet the building code as much as I can for safety reasons. They brought up having an egress exit in the loft since I’ll be sleeping up there, and I told them I plan to have an opening skylight. They said that works, as long as there aren’t any special tools required to open it. The guys mentioned that it is a good idea to build with 2×3 or 2x4s because the structure is small enough to be supported by smaller boards. They suggested using spray-in insulation because it offers structural support. Other than that, they didn’t have much to tell me concerning the building code. However, they did tell me that I probably won’t be allowed to live in a mobile home park, because those do have their own standards. To be allowed in, a mobile home has to have a CSA (Canadian Standards Association) sticker and a serial number. My tiny house won’t have those.

They talked to me about eventually putting the house on a permanent foundation, because that’s when the building code would apply. Normally, when a house is built, it’s inspected at seven different points. Without those inspections throughout the build, it’s up to an inspector to decide if my tiny house is acceptable or not. An inspector might want to cut a hole in the wall to take a look at what’s inside. The men recommended to me two things: 1 – get an engineer’s stamp of approval, as in work with an engineer to create detailed plans and then follow those plans, and 2 – keep records of the build; keep a big binder full of notes, information, and include lots and lots of pictures. Then the men and their giant book of codes left.

Working with an engineer could help me improve on the plans that I already have and would save me from having to do all the altering myself (my windows are different sizes and in different places than the plans and my trailer is wider and longer). I already plan to keep track of the build for other tiny housers to learn from.

I talked with the woman about what different zones allow. Basically, the more people that live in an area, the more restrictions there are. In subdivisions, you can’t really do much other than have a garage. In areas with large properties, farm animals are allowed, for example. So not only is every county different, there are different zones within a county that have different rules. In the zone my parents live in, you are only allowed to live in a travel trailer/camper/RV for 90 days in a calendar year. I’ve read about codes that talk about consecutive days and people just sleep at a friend’s every 30 days or whatever the restriction is, and codes that people get around by moving their tiny home slightly on the property, but neither of those work for my area. However, she did tell me this: certain areas aren’t zoned at all. Outside of towns, where there’s more land than people, the zoning office doesn’t restrict or even really pay attention to what people do. You’d think you’d have to live pretty far out of town to be in an un-zoned area, but where I live, if you drive 5 minutes out of town, you’re free and clear. There’s lots of farmland.

Next the woman left and I talked with Albert about RV parks. They’re zoned differently, so the 90 days in a calendar year rule doesn’t apply. I could stay in an RV park all year if the owners let me, but I live in Canada and RV parks are seasonal. There are three around here, and all of them are only open May-October. I thought of talking to owners about letting me stay, but Albert told me that at least one of the parks drains their water system for the winter, so even if they let me stay, I wouldn’t have water.

Then we talked about grey water. He was thinking I’d have on-board tanks and would drive the house to a dumping station every two weeks. I’m not going to own a 1 ton truck and unhook my whole house every couple of weeks! I can attach tanks to the bottom of the trailer for when I do move it, but tanks aren’t realistic for me or for Canadian winter. Hopefully I’ll be able to hook up to an existing septic system on the land I’ll rent. Albert wrote down who to call to get the okay for that, but they weren’t in when I called so I’m going to try again another day. Albert’s parting advice was to never get rid of any certification I get from an engineer, and he warned me that zoning codes could be completely different and more restrictive in Ontario.

My conclusions: it would be really hard to legally park a tiny house in a big, populated city. The bad news: mobile home and RV parks are out, as is parking in or near town. The good news: I know a few people in the un-zoned area, and I could even live by the water! I think I’ll stay in Nova Scotia for a while, and my best bet is to rent land from someone in an un-zoned area and hook up to their septic system. I’ll also be contacting engineers in the near future, but they are ridiculously hard to find.

WHC: Week 12 and Other Things

The end of January was an optimistic finish date for my end table. After a lengthy lesson last night at wood hobby club and still more lessons to go, continuing into February is going to be inevitable.

I don’t mind though, because I went back through my emails and found that the lead time for my trailer will be about 4 weeks, not 6-8 like I expected. So I still have time before I really dive into the tiny house. I also found the original price quote, and it turns out, I already accounted for tax in my budget, phew!

The lesson last night was about attaching the door, drawer, and drawer front, and it was a lot of steps. I still haven’t made my door yet, but I’m going in on Monday for a make-up lesson. Then hopefully I’ll be able to get my door done on Tuesday. I also need to finish my drawer front. There are three pieces of wood I need that aren’t on the materials list, so I have to cut, sand, and attach those. I have to sand and attach the top rail of my facing. I need to cut my top to size. After all that, I’ll still need to attach the door, drawer and drawer front, and top, then sand and seal everything. No wonder people buy ready-made furniture.

I emailed back and forth with the design consultant I talked to on the phone and all is well. He personally knows the man who will be building my trailer and said to let him know when I order the trailer so the two of them can talk. They’ve worked together before and I think the consultant can help get my trailer right for a tiny house with less metal. However, I am concerned about including a third person – who suggested I build with 2×3’s and plywood only to keep the weight down (where would I put my insulation and nice siding?) – and not hearing the conversations that go on without me. This trailer will be the most expensive purchase of my life so far, so I don’t want an outsider over-ruling my researched specifications.

My tiny house dream is an emotional roller coaster of “Oh my goodness, what if this doesn’t work?!” and “This is going to be awesome!” I love this dream too much to quit now!

I ❤ Tiny Houses

January Update

Today I talked to the structural consultant I didn’t get a hold of on Friday. Other tiny house blogs have advised prospective tiny housers to use language the code people can understand, like “custom RV”, but the man I talked to said, “Oh, you’re building a micro home? You’re not the first one.” He asked me to email him my trailer plans and said I shouldn’t have too much trouble, he just has to make sure the trailer’s safe and that what I build on it won’t have pieces flying off on the highway.

I also looked up what inspectors look for at a “motor vehicle inspection station” and read, on an official Nova Scotia RMV site, that mobile homes on their way to a permanent location are exempt from inspection. I’m not sure what it takes to be called a mobile home, but if we’re being literal, tiny houses count. Considering how rarely I’m going to be moving the house, I shouldn’t have any problems. Besides, it’s not building it and moving it that can get you into trouble, it’s living in it.

In other news, I bought build plans! I waited until after Christmas to see if they would do a Christmas sale again like they did in 2013, but no luck. Regardless, the ones I bought are much cheaper than Tumbleweed’s $600+ plans. I chose the Tropical Tiny House plans. Canadian weather isn’t tropical, but these are the only plans I’ve found with the roof line I want. Plus, the Tiny Tack House was my original inspiration. The interior of my house will be entirely different and I’ll have a corner porch (which I have framing plans for already), but I wanted to have some plans to start with. I’ve never built the frame of a house before. I was hoping for more information – the plans include a lot of images and not a lot of text – but they do look like they’ll be a good base.

I bought the plans on the 8th and would’ve posted earlier about them, but that night on my way home from work I was in an accident. Slippery roads on a snowy night ended with my mum’s van in the opposite ditch, facing the other direction after a 180 spin. Luckily, there was no oncoming traffic at the time and I wasn’t hurt at all. One of my co-workers said afterwards, “You’re surrounded by guardian angels.” My parents and I ended up splitting the cost of a newer, replacement van. My tiny house savings dropped by $1000, but the whole thing could’ve been way worse, so I’m just grateful I wasn’t hurt.

I bought more books as well, the last ones on my to-buy list: Cracking the Code and Shockingly Simple Electrical by Ryan Mitchell from The Tiny Life, and Go House Go by Dee Williams.

I have several books now that I still haven’t read, but I have so much to do before I order the trailer in February. I’m gonna hold off on reading the plumbing, electrical, and composting books until I get to those points in the build. However, I’ve read part of The Humanure Handbook so far, and I highly recommend it!

I finished Cracking the Code today, and I think it’s definitely worth buying if you’re planning your own build. It seems to me that a lot of tiny housers are intimidated by laws, codes, and zoning rules, which is understandable, but it’s always good to be informed on the options and the fact that often, tiny houses are illegal. I can’t think of anything the book left out and the glossary is extensive. I encourage you to buy it and read it earlier in your planning, rather than wait until the last minute like I did.

My (not so) tiny to-do list for the rest of January:

– Get my stuff together for my meeting on Thursday (pictures, plans, etc.).

– Estimate material weights. I need to figure out how easy or difficult it will be to keep my house below 10 000lbs before I can order my trailer. The man I talked to today suggested I build my framing with 2x4s or even 2x3s to keep the weight down. I told him I was planning on 2x6s because I need a certain R-value in the walls and therefore need space for thick insulation. He replied that I’m insulating a very small space. I’ll be asking about R-value at my National Building Code meeting. He also suggested looking at travel trailers that are for sale to get an idea of weights.

– Start a steps list. I’m going to break down the build into steps, and collect information on each step. I’ll be referring to other blogs, Tumbleweed’s construction video, Tiny House Build’s construction video, Dee Williams’ Go House Go, and Dan Louche’s Design and Construction Guide.

– Finish my end table. Cabinetry will be taking a backseat until it comes time to do the interior of the house.

Canadian Tire Flyer

A while ago I signed up to receive email flyers from various stores that sell things I’ll need for the tiny house. This week’s Canadian Tire flyer showed that outdoor extension cords are on sale, which is one of the things I’ve been keeping an eye out for. I need a 100 foot cord to reach from the garage to my build spot, preferably with three plugs on the end so I don’t have to unplug one tool to use another. Sooo, look what I bought today with my Canadian Tire gift cards:

40% off.

40% off!

Every bit I save helps! 🙂

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Quotes

"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that they are difficult." - Seneca

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris