The Front Range model is finally complete! Please click here to be redirected to the permanent page for this model. Price is $37k for those interested.
A gentleman that I went to college and used to race bikes with back in my days of collegiate cycling contacted me last year. He and his wife Krissy were interested in having me build a tiny house for their young family to live in so they could simplify life, pay off their debt quicker, and start saving up for their ultimate dream of buying a sailboat and sailing ’round the world. With a toddler, a dog, and a cat comprising this family, as well as a second child on the way, they knew they would need something on the larger end of the tiny house spectrum, preferably 32′ or longer.
While the 30′ bumper pull tiny house was completed back in December ’14, I wasn’t sure how I felt about doing a 32′, especially knowing that they would eventually be towing it themselves from their current location in El Paso near Ft. Bliss to some place further north where Steve could be a park ranger after his time in the reserve was up. I asked if they would be open to a gooseneck design, partially because I had yet to do one and really wanted to, but also because I knew it would be easier to tow than a bumper pull of equal length. After drumming up some quick sketches, they said “sure!” And so started another fun, innovative, creative tiny house build here in the San Juan Mountains.
I like to name all the houses I build, as does most everyone else, so I asked them what they wanted to name the house, and after a little thought Steve got back to me: “Rio Grande”. It was a fitting name in so many ways. The headwaters of the Rio Grande lie only about 70 miles away from Durango in the San Juans, just on the other side of the Continental Divide. From high up in the alpine, snow melt travels south into New Mexico, meandering by Sante Fe and Albuquerque, before paralleling I-25 down to Las Cruces and then to El Paso. Most of the drive from Durango to El Paso follows the river closely. The river is always ebbing and flowing, changing with the seasons, reacting to the demands we humans have placed upon it. Just like life.
We took this river theme and found ways to artistically incorporate it into the design. The overall shape of the tiny house with the gooseneck, the changing rooflines, and a shed roof that gently drops off towards the aft invoke a feeling of flow. We took a propane torch to the cedar siding to brand on the shape of a flowing, growing river. Making “water” with fire. It’s awesome. Steve and Krissy collected river rocks, which we inlaid into a “river” that we let into the wood countertop and then applied epoxy over. I was ale to collect some river willow and use it for the guardrail over the gooseneck bedroom. Everything really turned out great.
I will stop babbling let the pictures and video do the rest of the talking. First, here are some quick stats:
- 24′ deck with 8′ of floor over gooseneck for a total length of 32′. Typical 7′-5″ width 13′-6″ tall at ridge
- (2) 7000# axles with brakes, GVWR 14,000#
- actual dry weight 11,500#
- 218 sq ft main level living ( including front gooseneck), 70 sq ft of sleeping loft
- 36″ reclaimed front door with a fold down porch, 24″ rear door made from reclaimed wood and glass
- Custom river rock inlaid counters at 41″ height for tall people!
- reclaimed picture windows in the main loft
- propane range and on demand water heater
- full size fridge, full size bathtub, washer/dryer combo
- 110v shore power
- on grid water system with hose hookup
- Nature’s Head composting toilet
- greywater drain system
- Full size 30×60 bath tub
- Woodstove primary heat
- Mini split A/C (not shown at time of photography)
- approx sale price: $60,000
- time to construct: 6 weeks (from day of trailer arrival)
A lovely couple from Colorado Springs commissioned me to build this tiny home for them in spring of 2014. As the time approached to get started on it late summer, a tv production company also contacted me asking if I had any unique builds going on or knew of any people building their own tiny house that they could film for a new tiny house reality series for HGTV. All I could send them was the contact for my clients to see if they were interested. Turns out, Derek and Mary were, and so we all agreed to let the house build be filmed.
After nailing down the details and getting all our ducks in a row, the crew came down to Durango from Denver on three weekends to film construction, and we filmed a fourth weekend in Colorado Springs once the house was complete and delivered. I wasn’t really able to talk much about the house, and absolutely none about the filming. We wanted to keep everything a surprise up until the air date.
The show aired back in December ’14, and so now it is ok for me to share this. People have been looking for more info about this house and haven’t been able to find it, until now!
Like all tiny houses that pass through the shop, this was a full custom design and build from scratch. Here are some of the design parameters we had to work around:
- Needed to be light enough to be towed by a 1/2 ton Ford F-150
- Needed to be warm, since the clients might have to move to a colder climate for work
- Needed stairs that their dog Buddy could go up and down
- Also needed a doggy door for Buddy.
- More or less a traditional looking tiny house, but with some contemporary flair
- Stainless counterops. A fridge larger than typical dorm style fridges.
- Woodstove, and Dickinson propane heater if feasible
- Room for a store bought couch. Also enough wall space to mount a 40″ tv
I worked with the Voight’s extensively to refine the design. I had just developed a great relationship with a SIP (structural insulated panel) company while on business trips to Boulder earlier in the winter. In fact, I had just built 3 energy huts for Hunter Douglass using SIP’s the month before, so I had learned about how the product goes together and was excited to apply it to a full time living tiny house. Luckily, Derek and Mary were open to SIP’s and were ready to become one of the few owners of a tiny house made from SIP’s.
SIP’s are a cool building product to work with, esp. for tiny houses. You absolutely have to pay attention to the minuscule details, however, or you are going to fight the system until it drives you crazy. My experience with the other three SIP structures along with the help of a very good sales rep made the assembly of these panels a breeze. I made absolutely sure my trailer was square and level before starting. We triple checked the locations of our baseplates before raising the walls. We made sure all of our edge nailers were flush with the OSB and no dried glue was sticking out. We left some wiggle room in key places. Everything went together perfectly until the last dormer roof panel. Things had somehow gotten a hair off, and a hair multiplied over nine or ten feet can add up to 1/4″ on the other end. Luckily, we were able to attach some mounting plates to key areas of the roof and pull everything into plane using winches.
I called Derek the other day to see how the SIP’s were performing now that they are in the dead of a Nebraska winter. He said “Great, it’s -4 outside and 77 on the inside.” Without doubt, the thermal performance of SIP’s is the number one reason to use them, but let me also cite a few more:
- They go up very fast compared to stick framing. The added cost of the product outweighs the labor time involved with traditional methods
- They are CNC cut, from the angles of the walls and roof panels, to the rough openings for the windows and doors. You are left with a very precise shell that makes it easier to install windows, siding, and interior wood.
- You have a solid substrate to attach components to on the inside. No need to locate a stud, just screw or nail anywhere and you will hit meat.
- they are strong as all get out. So strong, that you can actually use less steel on your trailer frame and still have a tiny house that is stronger than a stick frame house with an overbuilt trailer. The use of SIP’s on a trailer really takes rigidity to a whole new level. This was important since we were trying to keep weight down
SIP’s do have their drawbacks, too, but I will save this for a later post since they did not effect any of the design goals for this project. Moving along, here are some quick stats of the finished product:
- custom fabricated 18′ trailer with (2) 5200# axles equipped with brakes and a break away system
- Walls and Ceiling constructed from pre-engineered 4 5/8″ Structurally Insulated Panels. Floor insulation and subfloor is integrated into trailer frame to provide an extra 4″ of headroom
- Finished dry weight came out to 6900# This was within the weight rating of Derek’s truck with a little bit to spare for personal goods
- Electric and Water supply are setup for grid tie
- Grey water goes to a gravel collection pit that the clients installed after delivery. Solid wastes are handled via a “humanure” composting toilet
- Primary heat is provided by a woodstove, backup heat by a propane Dickinson Marine Newport
- A/C not required due to temperate climate
- Cost for a replicate would be in the 46k range
Due to all the filming craziness, I wasn’t able to snap too many shots of the finished product, but I did get a few:
To close this post out, I would like to share a photo that the clients sent me with the house all settled in alongside a sweet deck that they installed on top of an old trailer frame that was laying around at the Nebraska farm where they are parked. Tiny House, Big Living!
I am pleased to show you the latest tiny house to leave our shop and find its way to some very excited owners. I hauled this beauty down to Driftwood, TX where it will live for a year or so before moving right back into the Rockies. A family of three contacted me in late Spring this year to discuss having me build their dream home. The program requirements were pretty grand: 30 feet or longer, two lofts, a bedroom, a murphy bed, full size appliances, a full size tub/shower, stairs, A/C, LOTS of storage, an electic mix of gingerbread traditional, and rustic modern. We collaborated a few months getting the design complete and had to wait til mid October to begin construction.
From a RMTH standpoint, you can throw just about every superlative on this house you like: longest, tallest, heaviest, most difficult to tow, most complicated, most expensive, most delayed, most man hours, and most fun! The project came in on budget, but our completion was delayed two weeks due to a late delivery of all the beetle kill wood.
I’m not going to write up a whole lot more about it, because I actually made a video tour! My camera and impromptu documentary skills really suck, but I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of how this house feels and functions. Also below this are some photos of the exterior, the haul, and a few interior stills.
A few quick stats for the curious:
- 30 foot 15,000# triple axle trailer chassis custom fabricated
- about 12,000# dry
- 197 sq ft on the main floor and about 100 sq ft of loft space
- 4″ EPS foam floor and wall insulation, 6″ in the ceiling
- advanced wood framing
- $89,000 as shown
This past summer, a production company working with HGTV filmed Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses building a custom tiny house for some wonderful clients now enjoying their tiny house in Nebraska. I got word today that the pilot show will be airing Monday December 15 8pm CST. While there is definitely an entertainment factor involved, this should be a good honest look at the construction process, as well as builder-client relations. It will also be the first really good shots of the house that I wasn’t able to publish after the house was complete due to our agreement. If you have this channel or can find some place to stream it, please do so. Also, I’d appreciate it if you could help spread the word to all tiny house enthusiasts!
Here it is December and I am just now getting to this! Things have been crazy busy this fall heading into winter-so busy that I now have four employees! That’s a whole other post though. Today I wand to share with you a wonderful tiny house project that was completed back in October.
Sometime earlier this summer a lovely woman from Austin contacted me to see about having a unique tiny house built that she could use as a nightly rental for Airbnb and other similar sites. She was on a very tight budget and timeline, but was looking for some really funky and creative design ideas. After some back and forth collaboration, we agreed on a price and delivery date, as well as began with the design process .
With some careful planning and thoughtful use of reclaimed materials, along with some very much appreciated assistance from the client, we were able to meet budget constraints and were if not for some large rains that flooded the shop a few times, we would have been exactly on time but instead were a week late on delivery. Most importantly though, we were able to create a tiny house with very unique details that has caught the attention of tiny house enthusiasts the world wide. It is with great pride I present the Funky East Austin Rental tiny house.
First off, this tiny house is built on a single axle 12′ trailer. The client was originally drawn to the 16′ Boulder house I built since her backyard was fenced in by faded corrugated metal and cedar pickets, but due to the small size of where she had room to park it, we had to go with a 12′ design. We were both glad we did after I showed up and we had a heck of time just getting this 12 foot trailer through the gate, turned, rotated, and placed in the final spot! I have a motorized trailer dolly that I fabricated to help in situations like this, but it broke down right before delivery, and I’m not sure how well it would have worked since the yard had very loose soil. We enlisted the help of some neighbors and in duo with a hand winch, were able to manually get the house situated!
Similar to the Boulder, the plan features a kitchen up front, bathroom in the back, living space in the middle, and alternating stair treads that lead up to the sleeping loft. The house utilizes a shed roof design.
In addition to the inspiration taken from the original Boulder, the client wanted some steampunk and industrial flair, yet with a healthy dose of rustic elements. We achieved this unique look with the following:
Pipe fixtures- using off the shelf pipe fittings, these fixtures were installed for items such as TP holder, paper towel, pot racks, closet rods, handrails, and more
Barn wood with sliding barn door- much like the Boulder, there is a barnwood wall separating the main space from the bathroom. This design, however, features a sliding door that we fabricated the hardware for in house.
Steampunk light fixtures-these were all hand picked and purchased by the client. She had them shipped to my shop in Durango. This was not only a huge load of work off my to do list, but afforded the client a very hands on approach that reflected her tastes very well. They are beautiful!
Steampunk plumbing fixtures-these were all fabricated in house using carefully selected off the shelf pipe fixtures
Live edge maple stairs- I bought this wood in large slabs from the salvage yard next door. They took A LOT of cutting, planing, jointing, glueing, and prep work, but the end result speaks for itself. Another element of the stairs that was integral to the program requirements was to have a space under the stairs to use for suitcase storage, and or a small work area with a charging station.
Hanging couch- while I wish I could take credit for this beautifully designed and crafted piece of furniture, it was the client’s idea (purchased from this Etsy shop), so that suitcases and a small sliding coffee table could fit underneath. Most of my clients have a hard time comprehending just how compact tiny houses are and how to maximize function and storage, so hats off to Denise for bringing a ton of good ideas like this to the project.
Barnwood kitchen shelves. Simple but undeniably gorgeous. Care was taken to make sure electrical outlets were put in the right place to power the appliances the client had purchased as well as make sure they all fit neatly.
Live edge maple countertop- using the same maple slabs, we crafted a beautiful and large kitchen counter for guest to use during their stay.
Overall, this was a very fun project to work on and I’m proud to have had a hand in it. All accessories/furnishings were pre-purchased and installed by the client. I have to say, the grand vision for this project was entirely hers, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as nice without her very close coordination and help. Thank you Denise, for trusting me with this unique and fun project. I hope many folks come to stay and partake in your hospitality!
You can view a full gallery of images at the Rocky Mountain Tiny House facebook page here!
You can view the AirBnB listing and get in touch with Denise, the owner, here.
Hope you enjoyed learning about this project. Stay tuned for more awesome tiny house projects coming up!
The Stanley model is a rustic log cabin style tiny house. It is built on an 8×12 single axle trailer and features a folding porch, cantilevered roof for porch covering, folding eaves that allow the house to travel at highway legal width but provide nice water and snow shedding when lowered, a wood stove, small bath, small kitchen, a sleeping loft, and a little bit of room left to place a small couch or desk. Dry weight will range from 4800-7000 lbs depending on what kind of logs we are able to source and other features you want included in the build. Price for the Stanley range from $25,000-$32,000 depending on features.
Wow, what a crazy summer it has been. As the temps start to drop and it feels more and more like fall coming on here in Durango, I took a moment to reflect on the failures and successes of my business this summer. It has been a wild roller coaster ride, and the ride is far from over. I realized I hadn’t done any work on the site or blogged in a very long time. I was starting to get emails whether or not I was still in business. Turns out a lot of other builders aren’t, or they just aren’t getting back to anybody, leaving potential clients to believe they aren’t in business.
Well let me tell you right of that bat, RMTH is open for business. If I haven’t gotten back with you, I sincerely apologize. I have been absolutely so overwhelmed with work and inquiries that I just haven’t been able to keep up. For the longest time, I was a one man shop, taking calls, doing designs, building houses, delivering houses, doing my books, doing my marketing, etc. etc. I have finally gotten enough business to start outsourcing a lot of this work, but much of remains in my hands. I have gone weeks at a time working 12-16 hour days. I have pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion, only to get up and do it again.
I wanted to give a brief update of all the cool things that have happened since the Spring.
First off, I took a trip to Boulder in early spring to meet with my potential business partner there, and also meet a sales representative for Porter Corp, who manufacturers Structural Insulated Panels. We discussed the building system at length, as well as its possibilities for tiny houses. I left feeling excited and upon my return began putting together some designs to try out. One of the major hurdles with this product is shipping. They prefer to use semi’s to transport them from their plant in Michigan, and one semi load costs $3200, so it doesn’t make sense to do one project at a time. If you can 4-10 projects on a single truck, then shipping costs make more sense per project.
Hunter Douglas, a window treatment manufacturer in Broomfield, CO, commissioned me to build three energy huts on wheels that they could use to test their products, and coincidentally, they wanted them built out of SIP’s, so I had three units right away. I didn’t immediately have any other projects in the cue that I could add to that truck, so I added a Durango SIP package that my partner could build as a spec house and see how that went.
Since the client was only 20 minutes away from Boulder, and my partner had a shop space there, I decided to travel back to Boulder to build the units there with my partner and his crew. There were quite a few details to iron out but we got the units complete in three weeks and delivered to a happy customer.
Before I had departed for that trip, the city of Durango had informed me that I could not operate my business at its current location due to zoning and public access issues. I fought it for a little bit, but soon realized the validity of their arguments and began looking for a new property to relocate to. Luckily, I found a better property just two lots away and setup an agreement with the new landowner. It’s funny how seemingly bad news can actually turn into something better.
So, following my return from Boulder, I immediately had to relocate my shop, which was no small undertaking. I had to take down the old pole barn, put up a new and bigger one, erect a new tool shed, move all my tools, lumber, and other materials I had acquired for the operation of the business. As of this blog post, I still haven’t quite got the new shop fully done, although it is operational.
The reason for the shop not being done is because I’ve had lots of new commissions this summer! The first was an 18′ house for a couple in Colorado Springs. We decided to build this one out of SIPS, and by this time I had my ducks in a row to order two more spec houses (new designs!) out of SIPs so I was able to get three SIP packages on one truck delivered to Durango.
This house was on a super tight deadline since the client had just gotten a new job in Nebraska and needed the house ASAP. I recruited some good help and worked my ass off to meet the deadline. We were able to complete this beauty in 4 1/2 weeks and get it delivered just in time. I wasn’t sure if the old ’94 Ford would be able to tow an 18 footer that far, plus I had another build coming up that would require a much larger truck, so after weeks of looking for a new truck I tracked one down in Loveland, CO, somewhat on the way to Norfolk, NE, so the old Ford was able to tow the house up there, I purchased the new truck, and we used it to complete the trip, having to swing back through Loveland on the way home to drive both trucks back to Durango. What a hassle that turned out to be, but completely worth it.
The new truck is a 2000 Ford F-250 Super Duty, with the legendary 7.3l turbo diesel. It is so much more powerful and smoother than the old truck it’s not even funny. The truck had some problems neither the owner or I was aware of, probably brought on by towing a 7,000 lb tiny house 500 miles, but once I get them fixed this will be solid hauler for years to come.
Following delivery of that house, it was back to Durango to tackle four projects at once. Luckily, before I had set out on the Nebraska trip, I had hired a new full time employee to start when I got back. Chris is a super skilled carpenter with attention to detail and has already proved a great asset to the company. I gave him one of those four tasks to handle mostly by himself, a new 12′ house that will be going to Austin in a few weeks to be used a funky East Austin rental. Having used to live in East Austin, ironically only a few blocks away from where this will be parked, I’ve got a good feel of what the client is looking for and have no doubt she will be absolutely thrilled when this house arrives! After four easy days of work, Chris was able to get it floored, framed, and sheathed on his own.
The second task is starting construction of a 30′ house that will be going to family in Austin as well. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from Austin, TX lately, I guess my reputation is doing well down there. It is slated for delivery mid October. I will probably have to hire another employee to meet that deadline!
The third task will be to finish out the Stanley log cabin I stared back in Spring. I got it about 75% done before I had to jump over to other projects. I got a call from a guy who will be going to school in Oregon looking for something to built quickly or in stock. After mentioning the Stanley he was excited about it and actually drove out to take a look and put a deposit down. I have two weeks to get it done before school starts for him.
The fourth task is to try and get the shop completed. I had setup the tool shed, office (my personal house), and barn on a part of the site that was tucked in at the rear. I knew it was close to the property line of the neighbors, but I had no idea it actually crossed the line until they came over one to let me know that felt like it did. After some brief survey work, we discovered that it did, so I had to stop what I was doing and relocate those structures so I was in the right property. Got that taken care of and am now in the process of getting a roof on the new pole barn. I had the walls and roof trusses up, just no metal on top, which has been a pain in the butt since it has been a rainy summer. With a little luck I can hopefully knock this out while managing the other three projects. Busy, busy, busy. I’m really hoping things will slow down over the winter so I can get caught up on office work and sleep.
All the while, I’ve been trying to keep up with new leads. This has proved to actually be the hardest part. I keep thinking I’ll use all the daylight hours I can get to do physical work, and then do office stuff at night, but by the time I’m done doing design work and emails on current clients, I’m just too exhausted to do anything more. Luckily, with some new help coming in I’m starting to get things checked off my list and seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Once I get through September, I feel as if my greatest hurdles will have been cleared. I surely hope so. Being your own boss is cool and exciting, but it’s also extremely demanding and damn hard work.
There have been lots of happenings here at RMTH over the past few weeks. First off, the Boulder sold to a lovely local woman who just absolutely adores it. I’m happy that the house will get to stay in Durango for a while so I can still show it to interested clients! They say the first sale is the hardest, and although I was stressing for a good 2 months trying to sell this house, it actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Now that the house is gone from my shop, it actually feels a little lonely over here.
No worries though, I’ve got some good meat and potato news. I’ll start small, and leave you in suspense so that you actually read all this 😉 Construction of the Stanley has commenced with the arrival of the trailer chassis. I’m waiting on timber to get milled before this micro log cabin is really ready to rock and roll. I hope to have enough work done on it to showcase it in the Durango Home and Ranch show coming up April 26-27. I’ll have my personal house there too so people can get a feel for different sizes and styles.
I’m currently wrapping up designs and estimates for two new projects in the Front Range and about to begin two more! All the while I continue to get good leads on a daily basis. I am becoming very efficient in Sketchup which is helping to come up with cool designs more quickly. I’m also fine tuning my system for estimating which is improving speed and accuracy. I have started the process of becoming a licensed RV manufacturer but have no idea when or even if this will happen. It needs to happen at some point though so I can open up the door to RV financing and complete legality in parks that require the unit to have the RVIA seal.
Now, for the really big news, which is two fold: 1.Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses is expanding to Boulder, CO 2. Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses will be changing its building technology primarily to SIP’s
BOULDER- While my truck was broke down in Boulder back in February, I got to meet some really cool people, one of which is a fine home builder and businessman named Brooks. Brooks was extremely interested in my product and immediately saw their potential as temporary housing for victims of the flood last fall. He has built several large high end houses across that part of the country, and as he puts it, is just sick and tired of such wasteful construction. He was looking for a breath of fresh air, something more modest and meaningful. The reason for my trip to Boulder last week was to get to know Brooks a little better and brainstorm a partnership. Brooks doesn’t have much of a desire to own another business (he already owns 4), but he does really want to build some awesome Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses, so we are working out a general agreement whereas I will handle all of the client coordination, design, paperwork etc. while he will handle the construction work in Boulder. I should be clear that the business is still based in Durango, and I will still be building houses in Durango. This partnership with Brooks will simply add the following benefits. 1. Boulder is in a better geographic location than Durango. It is more or less the center of population for the state of Colorado, being very close to Denver, and not far from Colorado Springs and Ft. Collins. Boulder also has much easier access to I-25 and I-70 which makes transport to adjoining states or even further much more convenient. 2. As someone who has been in the building industry for 30 years, Brooks has access to every tradesman and every material supplier imaginable. He has way more manpower than I do. What takes me 2-3 months will only take him 2-3 weeks. So, it really makes sense to have a satellite location in Boulder for when things really take off. We will need to complete a few builds to see whether he can do it for the same costs, but theoretically he should be able to do it for the same or less.
SIP’s- Aka, Structurally Insulated Panels. For those of you not too familiar with this system, it is a foam insulation core with structural OSB sheathing glued on both sides. I’ve been considering using SIPs on a tiny house project for a while now, I just needed the right cards to fall into place. My second reason for going to Boulder last week was to meet with a SIP manufacturer that Brooks has ties to. The three of us sat down for a good three hours to answer each other’s questions and see how SIPs could be integrated into a Tiny House design. I’ve long been aware of the advantages of using SIP’s, but it wasn’t until this meeting that I had some truly incredible ‘a ha’ moments. Once the ins and outs of this system were ingrained in my brain, it became clear that for most tiny house designs I have in mind, SIP’s will be the best tool for the job. The product is not conducive to every design, but most of them.
Here is what we deem to be the advantages of SIP’s for Tiny House construction: 1. Assembly speed. It will now only take about a half day to create a shell that is sheathed and fully insulated. This previously would have taken me about 2 weeks. Framing and sheathing aren’t too time consuming, but insulating sure is, speaking of which-2. Better insulation. The R-value for the foam is the same as the R-tech foam I currently use. The main difference is that there are no internal studs to conduct heat and there are no cracks. It is an unbroken plane of foam, except at windows, but even here there is less wood and more foam since you don’t need king studs, trimmer studs, and cripple studs, just studs around the rough opening. 3. Comparable weight. The last house I built used advanced framing and 1/4″ sheathing on both sides to really cut down on weight. SIPs will add weight by using 7/16″ OSB on both sides, however, they take away weight by not requiring interior studs. Without doing a detailed calc or actually weighing each system, I can’t say which will be lighter, but they should each be about the same. SIP’s are definitely lighter than traditional framing with OSB sheathing. 4. Stronger. As opposed to relying on several component pieces and oodles of fasteners, SIPs derive their strength from uniformity.Stresses are transferred throughout the entire panel. This means that not only can they support more weight, but will stand up to wind, flex, and vibration better than stud framing. 5. More accurate- Panels are produced and CNC cut in a factory setting which means everything will be perfectly straight, square and level. 5.Air quality friendly. This was a big concern of mine going into the meeting. Will the foam offgas? Does the OSB have a lot of toxice glues such as formaldehyde? Turns out, the foam is very inert and our bodies contain more formaldehyde than the OSB used in SIP’s, so, this puts my mind at ease for incorporating this system into my Tiny Houses. SIP’s should prove to provide a better product for the same cost or less than I’m currently building my houses for.
With the incorporation of this building system there are some new exciting applications on the works. Sometime very soon, I plan to offer flat pack house “kits”. For those who want to do most of the work on their own house (which seems to be most everybody interested in Tiny Houses), but perhaps don’t have the time or know-how to complete the framing, the kit will consist of the trailer, floor system, wall panels, roof panels, and all the accessories you will need to put the shell together. The package can be delivered more easily and eliminate the hardest part of the construction process, yet still leave plenty of work and personal satisfaction to be had with the finish out. Stay tuned for more developments!
So, I think that about sums it up for now. So far it has been a pleasant spring in Durango and I am really enjoying working outside in abundant sunshine and nicer temps. I’m also enjoying the extra long daylight hours so I can knock off work at 5pm and get some good mountain biking in. Pretty soon river season will start up too, and I look forward to that. Thanks for checking in. Remember, Tiny Houses are awesome, especially ones of the Rocky Mountain variety 😉
First off, thanks to Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller who made the film TINY: A Story About Living Small. This film was one of many great films being screened at this year’s Boulder International Film Festival (hence called BIFF) . I was invited by Chris and Merete to bring a house to Boulder on behalf of BIFF, so many thanks to everyone at the festival who had a say and pulled all the strings to make this event go down. Special thanks to Crystal Gray, who, in addition to being my main contact, pulled through in my greatest moment of crisis
Next in line are the wonderful ladies that traveled with me from Durango to help with all the setup work, staging, distribution of literature, and answering a plethora of questions asked by hundreds of people- Emilie Monson and Heather Nyman. I am helping Emilie with the design and build of her tiny house, and she actually put in quite a few hours on the Boulder model, so it was only fitting she got to be involved with this trip. Heather was part of the Snowdown Parade float a few weeks back, really wanted to buy the Boulder, and also was up for an exciting roadtrip, so she jumped all over the invite. I simply could not have accomplished alone what we pulled off as a team. Thank you ladies so much!
Next would have to be John and Chris Spitzer. They unconditionally welcomed us into their comfy house when the truck broke down just a few blocks away on a cold windy night. They were crucial in getting the truck to a repair shop and getting the tiny house to a safe place for a few days. They were also great people to hang out with and talk about tiny house ideas. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for ALL that they did for me and the ladies.
A huge huge thanks to Jill and Danny, some long time friends of Emilie, not to mention some damn fine people who were critical in helping us get the truck fixed the first time it had hiccups ensuring that we made it to Boulder on time in the first place!
Thanks to the Denver Film Society for allowing us to bring the house to the TINY screening in downtown Denver. Thanks to Sam Palmer-Dwore, a fellow architecture scholar and soon to be tiny house builder for letting us crash at his place after the Denver screening and giving me a safe place to park the house until the truck got fixed.
Thanks to Urban Market of Durango for supplying the furniture and accessories that we used to stage the house and warm it up a bit.
Thanks to Brooks for stopping by the house while it was parked at John’s place and getting in touch with me about an amazing business partnership!
Lastly, thanks to everyone who stopped by the Tiny House to say hi, ask questions, take photos, or leave comments!
This journey started sometime in the fall of 2013. I was back in Durango following a crazy epic trip to see the rest of the US rockies. I had laid a lot of important ground work prior to that trip, now it was time to get things in motion. I finished the design of the Boulder and wasted no time getting started on construction. Mid January, the house was complete, and it was on to the task of trying to sell it.
The Boulder made its rounds across Facebook, the Tiny House blogosphere, and other internet outlets as well as by word of mouth. It wasn’t long before Chris and Merete found out about it, right at the time they were looking for a tiny house to invite to the festival. Following the formal invitation, I pondered it for a whole 2 hours before deciding to accept.
I spent the 10 or so days in between then and the trip to work on the pickup, finish itty bitty details on the house, build a portable solar power system and just get all my ducks in a row. Come evening of February 14, we hit the road! It was my first time towing a tiny house that far and over such conditions-long stretches of highway, mountain passes, high winds, high profile trailer, etc., but once I got a feel for the handling, my nerves calmed down and we were cruising. I wasn’t anxious, but I was still on high alert and constantly having to adjust the steering wheel and gas pedal to be in sync with the conditions. That evening, we made it up to Wolf Creek pass where we decided to park and camp til day break.
After a good night’s sleep and a lovely sunrise over the continental divide, we coasted into South Fork and found a little cafe for breakfast. Even in a town as small as South Fork, the house welcomed many looks and questions! It was back on the road to Del Norte and then north for a long stretch to Salida, where we stopped for coffee and a short break. Lots of people here stopped to take pictures and ask questions too. From here on, driving conditions turned unfavorable. The winds picked up and we began hitting sections with steeper grade and tighter turns. In times like this, just remember: better safe than sorry. I took my time and used pull outs when available to let faster traffic behind me pass.
It was slow go, but we were still on schedule. I had figured my average speed would probably be around 40 mph, with a top cruise speed of 45 mph. Some places, like the 7-8% grade up Wolf Creek only topped out at 20 mph, but that whole stretch from Center to Poncha Pass on US 285 is flat and smooth; we had no problem holding 55 mph, even getting up to 66mph just to see how the trailer did at that speed (it did fine, I just didn’t like watching my gas gauge visibly more towards the E! ) Then, our first major setback. Right after cresting a pass north of Jefferson, we heard a loud clunk under the truck and I noticed I didn’t have power steering anymore. The truck was still running, but I feared something with the steering had broke and fell out, either the power steering pump or gear box. Luckily there was a long pull out immediately to the right we were able to use.
We walked back aways looking for unknown auto part on the highway. I found a worn plastic pulley on the opposite side of the road, but it looked like it had been there a while and not what I was looking for. I picked it up anyways. After not finding anything else, I walked back to the truck, popped the hood, and there was the problem staring me in the face. The pulley I had found was the idler pulley that puts tension on the belt that runs all the auxillary parts like the water pump, alternator, cooling fan, and yes, power steering. It had popped off the metal bearings still attached to the bracket. I got my tool bag out and began trying to put things back together enough to limp into the next town.
Shortly after, Emilie showed up with her friends Jill and Danny. They had left Durango that morning and had just caught up with us-perfect timing! After not being able to reattach the old pulley, we decided it would be best to drive into the next town of Bailey 15 miles up the road and look for an auto parts store. There was no cell reception or yellow pages where we were, so we just had to hope for the best once we got there. Of course, we get there only to learn the nearest parts store is 14 more miles up the highway in Conifer.
We get there and find an O’ Reilly’s and thank God they had 1 pulley in stock. I buy it and we hop back in the car to drive back to the stranded truck 30 miles back down the road. After some nice conversation with Jill and Danny, we make it back, put the part in, and get back on the road. Jill and Danny follow us back to Conifer to make sure everything is alright (it was) and we set course for Boulder while they set theirs for Denver. I am so gracious for their help and I’m not sure we would have made it to Boulder on time without them. Someday, I shall come across someone in a similar situation, and I will not hesitate to return the karmic favor.
The film festival set us up with a hotel room that night which was much appreciated since all three of us were exhausted and stressed from the day’s travels. I roused the crew at sunrise and we got to work doing one last tiny house clean and pre-organization. We grabbed a bite for breakfast at a neighboring Einstein’s before hopping in the truck and heading to the Boulder Theater to setup for the big event.
The scene was already hopping when we rolled up at around 10am. I got the trailer backed into a spot where the festival people wanted it, and we began setting it up, first leveling the house, then stabilizing it, unfolding the porch, setting up the solar system, and staging. We had about 40 minutes before the film let out and chaos would surround us for the remainder of the day.
We got settled in just in time before masses of people exited the theater and begin forming a huge line to check out the Tiny House. It was an incredible moment, if not a little overwhelming. Between the three of us and a few festival volunteers that had a cheat sheet with a few basic facts, we were barely able to keep up with all the questions. Just about everyone who visited the house had great things to say.
Throughout the day we had a steady influx of visitors, although the big waves came and went in conjunction with film starts and finishes. I originally thought we might be there until 4 or 5 pm, but the crowds didn’t die down until about 8:30 when we decided to call it a day.
After breaking down camp, we began driving towards our host location for the evening. We came to a stop sign at Pine street and 20th. As I slowly let off the clutch, there was a loud chatter and very little forward movement. I knew right away something in the driveline was severely damaged, and this wasn’t good. I double checked that the shift stick for the transfer case was in the right spot and tried moving again. Nothing, except for that awful noise. My first instinct was to try and get the truck and trailer out of the middle of the road. The street had a little slope to it, and I was able to push the truck backward, but neither one of the ladies had experience backing up a trailer so we were able to kind of get the trailer to the side, but not the truck.
All three of us got on our phones and began making calls, trying to figure out the best line of action. It was 9pm on a Sunday in unfamiliar territory amongst unfamiliar faces. A few people did stop and ask if they could help, but what we really needed was someone with a big truck that could pull us to a safe place for the night. Everyone there seemingly drives a Subaru, Prius, or some other small car. Pickup trucks are a rarity. I had called Crystal, my contact for the BIFF but had to settle for her voicemail. I had spoken with my insurance company and I could get a tow to the Ford dealer 15 miles away in Broomfield, but wasn’t sure I wanted to do this just yet since I wasn’t sure about what to do with the house.
After exhausting a few other options, I was getting ready to unhook the trailer and have a tow truck come out to get the Ford. Luckily, Crystal called me back and said help was on the way. In a matter of minutes, her boyfriend John, who lived a few blocks up the street, was there to help us. We came up with plan to use one of his AAA tows to get the truck and house into a school parking lot around the corner. We were all welcome to stay at his house for the evening. Heather and Emilie gathered some things and he took them to get settled in while I waited for the tow to show up. We didn’t have a good way to hook the two trucks up, so we threw the tow cable around my bumper and flawlessly executed a live cable tow a few hundred feet. I’ve done this before, but never with a 3 ton trailer behind me!
Having felt better about the location of the house for the night, John and I walked back to his house where I was glad to be out of the cold and wind. He gave me a quick tour and then showed me to his computer so I could look a few things up and attempt to get in touch with CNN. We were scheduled to do a film shoot with them in downtown Denver early the next morning. I didn’t know if it would be possible, so I sent a message to the camera man asking if he could meet us in Boulder instead. Having done everything I felt I could have done that night to remedy the craziness, I crashed hard.
Come morning I was right back at it coordinating between the Ford dealer, local repair shops, tow drivers, John, Emilie, Heather, CNN, and a few people interested in tiny houses. CNN agreed to drive to Boulder and do the shoot there, sparing me the trouble of trying to track down a rental truck or rescheduling. Check. I found a reputable local shop and used my insurance tow to get the truck there. Check. John’s son, Chris, finally did locate one of his friends with a truck big enough to tow the tiny house from the school parking lot up the street to a safe place in front of John’s house. Check. I cooked an awesome breakfast for everyone. Check. I was completely stressed out about this whole situation, but keeping my calm and carrying on. For those curious about what happened to the truck, it was crazy. The teeth of the drive spline coming out of the transmission into the transfer case had rusted so much that the spline was no longer transferring any power to the driveline. The mechanic said he ‘d never seen anything like it before. The fix, completely rebuild both the transmission and the transfer case and reinstall them.
Jeff, the camera man from CNN, showed up later in the morning and we had a very successful filming of the tiny house along with some commentary from yours truly. If you haven’t seen the clip on CNN Money yet, check it out here. I was extremely relieved to have cleared the next major hurdle of the trip, but there were still a few more to contend with. It was Monday morning, and word from the shop was that it would probably be Thursday or Friday before the truck was fixed, so we had some time to kill while in Boulder. It also meant that I would have to track down a rental truck for another engagement in Denver Tuesday night.
While in Boulder, we spent a lot of time with Chris. He owns a house in Gunnison, but is back staying in Boulder to work on a masters degree in accounting. I cannot tell you how cool and how helpful Chris was to all of us. Just about everyone we met in Boulder were super nice people. Chris introduced us to his good friend Jeff, who turns out to not only be a badass gold prospector, but a super nice guy as well. Between the five of us, we had a real good time exploring the town. All the while, the tiny house was getting a lot of attention just being parked on the street…
Aside from several people that were walking, cycling, or driving by and pulling over to take a look and ask questions, one man in particular happened to drive by and stopped to take a look. I wasn’t there, but John happened to be home and talked to this gentleman for a good half hour about the thing parked in front of his house. A little later in the day I received a call from said gentleman, and wouldn’t you know, it was opportunity knocking at my door. I’m not at liberty to spare too many details at the moment, because nothing is set in stone quite yet, but, I will say that this person and I had a series of meetings while in Boulder and that if our proposed business venture does get off the ground here soon, it is going to be BIG. Sometimes a catastrophic vehicular breakdown is a good thing 😉
Tuesday afternoon rolled around, and I had located a 1/2 ton Uhaul truck that I felt could tow the house to Denver for a second screening of TINY at the Denver Film Society off of Colfax Ave. Surprisingly, the truck handled the house very well. Being a new truck, I think it even had more power with better MPG than my ’94 F-250. I could tell the suspension was a little lighter, but the Boulder is light and balanced enough that we made it to Denver without any problem. We were parked and setup with time to spare before the movie let out.
Although there weren’t nearly as many people at this event compared to the BIFF screening, the folks that were in attendance seemed to have more interest and asked deeper questions about tiny houses. A lot of them had already started building their own, or planned to start very soon. I was happy to share advice and encouragement. I was also stoked to display the sweet neon “Open” sign that had been gifted to me earlier in the day by Chris and Jeff. This thing is so sweet! Thanks guys!
After this crowd thinned out close to 9pm, we packed up and drove a little ways over to our host for the evening, Sam Palmer-Dwore. As mentioned in the opening credits, Sam is working on his Masters of Architecture in Denver and has started work on his own tiny house! ( He and his roomies were kind enough to let us crash inside their big house, and this was much appreciated since the three of us were completely exhausted!
Following daybreak, we unhooked the house from the rental truck, locked it up, and headed to the 16th st. pedestrian mall in Downtown Denver to grab a bite and do some sightseeing. We enjoyed the lazy morning, not having any obligations or dilemmas to try and figure out. Thinking that my truck would be fixed Thursday or Friday (the next day or another day thereafter), I left the house in Denver with plans to come back through and pick it up en route to Durango via Colorado Springs and I-25. We spent the rest of Wednesday hanging out in Boulder.
Thursday morning, Heather and I were up super early, along with Chris. Heather had to be back in Durango for work that evening and we had arranged for her to fly back from Denver. Chris graciously volunteered to drive Heather to the airport 40 minutes away. I tagged along to say bye and keep Chris company on the drive back. I was sad to see her go, but thankful for all her help. I knew we’d only be a day or two behind her too.
Emilie and I spent a good chunk of the remaining day doing some business planning and brainstorming. All the while we were still meeting with this potential new business partner. There were a lot of things to be figured out, and there will be for some time to come, but this forced time away from Durango turned out to be very beneficial in this regard. I got a hold of the auto shop that evening and the news on the truck worsened a bit. It was going to cost more to fix than originally quoted and not be ready until Monday or Tuesday of the following week. While I didn’t have any obligations requiring me to be back home by then, I just really wanted to be back in Durango so I could go skiing, biking, and hiking once more. Emilie did have some reasons to be back by Saturday, so I began exploring some backup options like purchasing another vehicle, renting a car, and trying to track down a good used transmission and transfer case for my truck that could be put in immediately and spare us the wait for the rebuild of the damaged ones.
As luck would have it, I couldn’t find any decent parts, everyone in town was out of rental cars, and I could not find a good enough truck with what little funds I had, but, Emilie was able to make some calls and get business taken care of back in Durango, so we decided to wait it out another 3-4 days. On Friday, we rented bicycles and rode around Boulder most of the day, stopping a while to check out the University of Colorado campus as well as some other neighborhoods we hadn’t explored yet.
Saturday was back to some business planning with a little more lounging around town. Sunday, I did not want to work and felt like getting out of Boulder for a little while. We had originally planned to stop by IKEA while in the Denver area and hadn’t got around to it yet, so this was the perfect day to do so. I didn’t want to burden Chris with making that 45 mile trip out and then back, so I asked if there was public transportation that would get us there and sure enough there is a bus from Boulder to Union Station in Denver, and from there, a light rail route that stops fairly close to the IKEA in Centennial.
It took a good 2 hours to get there, but we made it! After chowing down on some meatballs and lingonberry sauce, Emilie, Chris, and I continued our epic journey through the crazy rat maze also known as the IKEA showroom and marketplace. I like to visit IKEA once in while to get ideas about using space more efficiently, and also to see what kinds accessories would go well with tiny houses. There are a few secret items I like to stock up on because I can’t find them anywhere else, or I can’t find them for the ridiculous low price that IKEA sells them for.
After 5 hours of aimlessly wondering around and filling up my cart with super secret items, we got in checkout just as they announced the store was closing in 10 minutes. We had to walk another 25 minutes carrying bags full of Chinese Swedish stuff back to the train stop, and from there it was another 2 hour trip back to Boulder, and just like that, the day was gone.
Emilie and I enjoyed Monday doing our own things. I called the auto shop again only to be informed they were still waiting on the rebuilt tranny and t-case but would have them put back in as soon as they received them sometime on Tuesday.
Tuesday afternoon rolled around and the call finally came in that the truck was fixed! John gave me a ride to the shop, I doled out some serious cash, and it was back to John’s house to grab all our gear and bid farewell to the most awesome hosts ever. We drove back to Sam’s place in Denver and found the house just as we had left it. After a brief hookup and light check, we were on the road again! I-25 South was smooth sailing all the way down to Walsenburg where we parked the house at a quiet truck stop to crash for the night.
Most of Wednesday was spent driving to Durango on US 160. There was a little bit of wind and two mountain passes to contend with, but overall a much easier drive than US 285. On one particular stretch of road we got the train up to 70 mph! That might be a a new Tiny House land speed record!
We made it over Wolf Creek pass and down to Pagosa Springs, where a hot springs soak was well in order. I dropped Emilie off at her place on the outskirts of Durango and then warmly embraced the moment where Hwy 160 bends around a mountain and you see the Durango City Limits sign along with a great view of the Animas Valley in which the city lies. I made it back to the shop, backed the house in, killed the engine, then drank a beer as I watch the sun set over the western horizon.