Category Archives: Alternative housing

Jay Shafer is Doing a Workshop! Oct. 4

Jay Shafer

I got a pleasant email the other day and just wanted to pass on the info for anyone that may be in the bay area.  Jay Shafer from Four Lights (He comments on MY blog one time, it was a highlight of this whole adventure!)  is doing a reasonably priced workshop at his house!  You get info, a tour of his house and a tour of BA’s house (and maybe you get to meet her dog too!?)  I haven’t seen Jay doing a workshop in a while and I am happy to see him back at it!

Here’s the info:

‘I want to present a local workshop for Bay Area Meetups’ – Jay Shafer

​October 4th, 2014, Graton, CA (just west of Santa Rosa)​

​”​There’s a lot of erroneous building information being bandied about in the small house world these days, and half of it originated with me. When I designed and built my first tiny house I knew virtually nothing. Now, it seems like I know almost all there is to know about wee abodes and little about anything else. It pains me to see folks building big problems into their little houses because they got some bad information from someone who seemed like they knew what they were talking about. 

Because I am limiting the gig to 6 1/2 hours plus another hour 1/2 for lunch in the middle and hosting at my in Graton (near Sebastopol, CA) instead of me and my Power Point show flying out to some fancy-shmanzy conference room somewhere, I can swing it for $140 per person, instead of the usual higher rate. As an added bonus, we could spend the last 40 minutes of the day touring my tiny house.  And BA says she will open her tiny house for tour for 30 minutes in the morning.)

I’d cover building, design and regulations, and there will  be a lot of time for Q&A, since the barrage of questions I was getting at Alek’s recent gig is what spurred this idea in the first place.  I won’t limit the event to just Bay Area Meetup people, but that is likely where the bulk of folks would probably be coming from. I’ll send this idea off to the East Bay Claustrophiles now too.  Anyone is welcome to attend, however.

I’m looking forward to this workshop format – local and more casual than my usual workshops.  Thank you! “~Jay Shafer

It was also mentioned that “if someone from out of town is interested in attending but can’t make it in person, I would suggest leaving a message on the Meetup page letting Jay know they can’t be there in person but would like to Skype in if possible. If there are enough people interested in that option, I think he’ll make it happen.”  So there is that!

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Where Do I Even Start With a Tiny House!?

So you think ‘tiny’ is for you?  Now where to begin!?!

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I get the question very often ‘where do I possibly begin with this tiny house dream?’ or ‘I have no experienced builders in my life, can I still go tiny?’ or other variations of the same thing.  Here is my suggested order of operations and some links to important resources.

Step 1 – Decide if you could do it, actually LIVE in that small of a space.  Maybe try minimizing your things, draw out a space in your current house with masking tape on the floor, see if you can fit what you want to fit.  Do scale models on cutouts if that helps, see if it will physically work for you.

Step 2 – Organize your thoughts on ‘why’ you want to minimize and be ready to answer other people’s questions about it, you will likely get a few.  I find the best way to be ready for this is to focus on the positives, when asked why you’re going to go smaller be able to reference your reasons for it.  Focus more on what tiny will enable rather than ‘take away’ as I think most people choose to see it, you can look at this post for ideas.  There is also a great post written on the top ten most asked tiny house questions which you can find here just to prepare for those.  It’s easier to respond when you’re ready for the questions, there are some weird ones asked!  Remember, every person asking a question is generally responding (negatively or positively) out of concern for you, if you are confident they will be confident, if you are not, they probably won’t be either.  Take it as a learning process for both of you and just be ready for the worst of it.

Step 3 – Find your helpers (emotionally, if not physically) and supporters.  Find the people who believe in you and hang out with them more!  (there is a great group of these supporters on Facebook HERE).  You will need those people as you go along to remind you why you’re getting into this, building a house is a long process that tests your patience.  Helpers are worth their weight in gold.

Step 4 – Make a top ten list of priorities you MUST have in your tiny house.  Do not limit yourself.  Write them down, order them in level of priority.  Mine had things like ‘oversized shower with unlimited hot water’, ‘Room for a Great Dane to comfortably live and move around’, ‘Room for my creative outlets (painting, sewing, sculpting)’, ‘Comfortable for 2 adults’, ‘double kitchen sink’, ‘king sized bed’, etc.  unless what is on your list is an 12 seat sectional couch and room to entertain 20 you will most likely be able to accommodate things with a little creativity.

Step 5 – Research, research, research!  Get books, look at blogs, Google search the attributes on your list to figure out how to make it happen ‘double basin sink in tiny house’, believe it or not you can even find examples now of sectional couches in a tiny house! (man how things have changes in the last couple years! :) )  Save those pictures in a file or on Pinterest etc., however works best for you.  THIS book was just released today and I honestly feel like it is one of the best resources out there for how to go about making the decisions you’ll want to consider, Ethan did a great job on it!

Step 6 – Decide if you are going to do it yourself or hire it done.  If hiring it done you can find builders close to you by looking HERE, show them your saved images and they will be able to work out a design with you for the right price, the more info you have going in the more accurately they can quote you!
If doing it yourself you can buy other people’s plans if they suit you (you can do this too to get accurate quotes from builders) (for what you can expect to get in a set of plans click HERE).  Find a house you like and see if they have plans available, there are of course Tumbleweed plans but there are a great deal of other, more cost effective plans out there as well.  It’s fairly simple to modify plans if they aren’t 100% right for you.
Or you can make your own plan!  You can use Sketchup which is a free software to put actual dimensions to things (there is a lot of room to fudge fixture sizes on graph paper, though it is a great starting point!).  I have a bit more in depth info on these starting steps to designing your own plan in my eBook.  Ryan also beat me to a great resource that has dimensionally correct cut outs you can use to start laying out your tiny house to scale in a very tactile way (the way I think best!).

Step 7 - Search Youtube to learn the skills you need.  Search ‘advanced framing techniques’, ‘How to drywall’, ‘how to do simple plumbing’, ‘simple electrical’.  There are great books and resources to learn skills needed HERE.  If you are new to some of these things I certainly suggest paying a local professional a small fee to check your work as you go, things like electrical and plumbing.  Nothing about a tiny house is very hard it is just very daunting when you look at all the steps together.  

Step 8 - Find a place to build.  Maybe your families land, may be your landlords yard, may be a rental you connected with on Craigslist.  There are a lot of options for this component but it’s a crucial detail if you’re going to do it yourself!

Step 9 - START!  Break it down small step-by-small-step parts and commit to making one little step happen daily/every other day.  You can plan a whole lifetime but there will always be surprises to work around.  At a point you have to make the big step forward into commitment.  Stay flexible, let things change and adapt as you go forward, but GO FORWARD!

To join my newsletter where I try to offer insights and encouragement for those on their path to tiny click HERE.