Thursday, March 27, 2014

An overdue update

No, we did not fall of the face of the earth!  New Year's, which was our one year anniversary for construction, came and went.  I had been waiting until we had some good news to report on the land purchase and zoning front, but it is still not entirely resolved and I don't want to jinx ourselves by blogging about it.  So keep waiting (sorry!).

Several other small projects have come together in the meantime, and looking through our blog I realize now there are a lot of things we've been living with for a long time, but haven't photographed yet.  So here they are!

 A little rack for cups and such

Some overhead lights!  We got these cool Vianne pendant lights a long time ago at Bring Recycling, in Eugene, Oregon.  I found a third one on Ebay, and we need just one more to finish the lighting in the kitchen.  The company is out of business so who knows when we'll find it.  All the wiring in the ceiling is DC, and the LED bulbs we use take just 5 to 7 watts each, depending on the brightness.

Just one in the kitchen for now.

We still haven't made a final decision on lighting for the rest of the house (the loft and bathroom, that is).  These three light up the place pretty nicely on their own.

 A pull-out for the cabinet!  This thing is great.

A place to hang pots, and a cabinet for the dishes!  Inside, the plates stand vertically in slots in the shelves to save space.

 The welder proves its worth, once again!

And the stove pipe got clogged with soot!  We're not sure if it was the fault of some pitchy piƱon wood, the narrowness of the 4" pipe, or a combination of the two, but by the end of the winter the pipe was full of fluffy soot and the stove was not drafting well at all, (this all came on pretty suddenly, within a matter of a couple weeks).  A SERIOUS cleaning and a resolution to only use the driest wood possible brought her back to life, though.

And finally, the bathroom sink is finished!  Yes, it is IN the shower, but it doesn't take up much space.  A big thanks to Hanselmann Pottery for the bowl!  The rest of it is made of the same cedar that we used to trim the shower and shower window, and a heavy-duty coat of marine spar varnish.  Except for a curtain, the shower is now DONE!  The bathroom is still the most unfinished part of the house.  Since we don't have a real sewer or septic hook-up right now, we couldn't use it anyway.

Also, Billy Ulmer from Portland Alternative Dwellings came by to take some pictures and do an interview for his upcoming book.  It sounds like he's interviewing some great people, so we'll be in good company!  We'll post more info on that as it becomes available.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Some thoughts on zoning (and a bookshelf)

When we started this whole tiny house project, we kind of assumed we would build it, find a backyard, field, farm, or some other piece of semi-rural land, be nice to our neighbors, and hope that nobody from planning and zoning came around.  Tiny houses fall into a legal grey area, as building and zoning codes don't address them directly.  Our situation has changed, and now we are planning to park the house permanently on a piece of agricultural land that we will own.... and do it legally.  Without a doubt, the difficult path to legally living in a tiny house is THE BIGGEST pitfall of the whole tiny house movement.  But we're going to take a crack at it.

Here are some definitions from the our county zoning ordinance:

Manufactured Home
"A manufactured home or modular home that is a single-family dwelling with a heated area of at least 36 by 24 feet and at least 864 square feet, constructed in a factory to the standards of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 (42 USC 5401 et seq.) and the Housing and Urban Development Zone Code II or the Uniform Building Code, as amended to the date of the unit's construction, and installed consistent with the Manufactured Housing Act (NMSA 1978, § 60-14-1 et seq.) and with the regulations made pursuant thereto relating to ground level installation and ground anchors."

in another instance...

"A manufactured home (formerly known as a mobile home) is built to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) and displays a red certification label on the exterior of each transportable section.  Manufactured homes are built in the controlled environment of a manufacturing plant and are transported in one or more sections on a permanent chassis.  All manufactured homes must have an affixed HUD seal(s) located on the outside of the home.  If the home is a multi-wide unit, each unit must have a seal.  These seals will be numbered sequentially.  The actual label affixed in the factory is red in color with dimensions of 2 inches by 4 inches.  HUD does not reissue labels that have been removed or missing from the home."

Okay, so definitely not a tiny house.  This is why so many people seek to have their tiny houses classified as RV's.  If you are an RV, you fall under the jurisdiction of the motor vehicle department, instead of the heavily regulated HUD.  Unfortunately, there are very few options for living in an RV full-time.

Recreational Vehicle
"A vehicular unit not exceeding 40 feet in body length, eight feet in width, or 11 feet in overall height, primarily designed as a temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or travel use; it either has its own motive power or is designed to be mounted on or drawn by an automotive vehicle.  Recreational vehicle includes motor home, truck camper, travel trailer, and camping trailer."

Closer, but we are wider and taller: 8'6" wide and 13'2" tall, shorter than a semi-truck and within the towing dimensions that allow us to move it without a wide-load permit.  It looks like Tumbleweed is now making RV certified houses; I am pretty sure they are taller than 11 feet, and would be curious to see how they deal with that issue.  Also, we are definitely seeking to use our house as a permanent dwelling, so calling it an RV is out.  We had thought about getting it registered with MVD as an RV for insurance purposes, but now it looks like that might give us trouble with zoning.
Mobile Home
A vehicle without motive power, designed to be drawn by a motor vehicle and to be used as a temporary or permanent human habitation, including trailer coach, trailer home, mobile home and house trailer, whether the same be with or without wheels, and whether or not attached to or incorporated in a building and that part of any self-propelled vehicle, or removed therefrom, whether the same be with or without wheels, and whether or not attached to or incorporated in a building. Skirting is required in addition to a storage building of sufficient size to accommodate all outside storage.

The term "mobile home" is also used to describe manufactured homes built before 1978.  But this particular wording seems to be somewhat of a catch-all.  If we can call our tiny house a "house trailer," this just might work.  Codes vary A LOT from county to county, but we are hopeful, and it looks like a couple people have tackled this in other states (here, and here).

In other news, work on the tiny house has definitely slowed down since we moved in.  Cold temperatures mean glue and finishes won't dry outside, and there's less of an urgency to finish since we're already inside.  But we have gotten a few things done....

A book shelf!

Lest you forget we live in New Mexico

And a bathroom fan, vent cover and shelf combined

We've also listed our AirHead composting toilet on Ebay, and a couple sections of 4" chimney.  Looks like hooking up to septic might be the way to go for a permanent living situation, though we were very impressed with AirHead's customer service, and think they have a great product!