(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 02--Tiny house advocates will admit that these compact dwellings are deceptively complex. People new to this specialized housing segment might think a smaller house means simpler designs and construction. (We already dispelled the myth that they cost less per square footage than standard homes).
If you have ever wrestled with remodeling a small kitchen or closet to try to maximize livable space and storage, you will understand what tiny house designer are up against.
If you have only 200 square feet, how do you squeeze in cooking, sleeping and bathing areas?
To find out, you can enroll in a workshop. PAD (Portland Alternative Dwellings) offers comprehensive, two-day building classes as well as shorter courses on chair construction.
The next Tiny House Basics Workshop ($325) is May 31-June 1. Participants will be introduced to the area's accessory dwelling unit community and learn about building sturdy houses with moisture control, heating, ventilation and utilities by pros Dee Williams, Joan Grimm and Lina Menard.
ADU building teacher Kol Peterson also offers frequent workshops inside his accessory dwelling unit in Northeast Portland. He has a master in design and the environment from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Sustainable Home Professional certification from the Earth Advantage Institute. The class is limited to 13 and fills quickly (the next available one is April 19, fee is $125).
The course covers the design, permitting and building process as well as information on green building, financing, rebates, cost-saving design/build measures and resources and regulations.
If you are unsure about your design abilities, you can buy plans for around $300 from established builders like Todd Miller of Oregon Cottage Company in Cottage Grove or PAD. PAD's Don Vardo ($30 for a downloadable version) is a sweet, 70-square-foot starter project.
Or you can buy a completed tiny house through Portland-based Shelter Wise (the 150-square-foot Miter Box is $39,500) or other builders who focus on micro units.
If you see a tiny house that works for you, ask the designer if plans are for sale. A good place to test out if you are compatible with tiny house living is to check into Peterson's and wife Deb Delman's Caravan: The Tiny House Hotel in Northeast Portland.
You can hire a project manager like John Hayden of New Avenue Homes in Portland to guide you through the permit process and building codes, and connect you to designers, builders and suppliers.
Or you can sketch a floor plan yourself. Even if you don't built the tiny house alone, being about to visualize it clearly and communicate your idea will solve problems before they are erected in front of you.
If you're comfortable with graph paper and pencil, starts mapping out your space with each square equal to 6 inches or 1 foot. You might see how quickly floor space gets eaten up by a bed and consider adding a sleeping loft.
Google Sketchup, Chief Architect and other architectural drawing software is a lot easier to use than you might think. Most offer a free test run and tutorials.
Tiny House blogger and builder Alex Pino reports that many tiny house designers use SketchUp, which offer a free 3D modeling program, and Michael Janzen from Tiny House Design has video tutorial series.
However you draw up plans, a measuring tape is critical to accessing space needs for the thickness of walls, windows, doors -- adjust for opening doors -- cabinets and furniture.
If all of this seems overwhelming, PAD offers a free tiny house mixer every month where seasoned builders and novices talk out solutions. The next one is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. March 27 at ADX Portland, 417 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97214.
-- Janet Eastman
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