Candid Tiny House – Jim
“What I wanted was space up there, because I didn’t want to be crawling around at seventy years of age, crawling around upstairs. To have stand-up space upstairs was really important,” says Jim about his tiny house design. But he also wanted his tiny house to meet the height limit in the road rules, so that he could register his tiny house as a caravan and therefore access insurance policies.
This is a common problem with tiny houses: the legal height limit of a road vehicle is 4.3 meters tall, and staying inside of that dimension often limits people to a very low loft height. This can be resolved in a few different ways, and Jim chose his preferred option: a hinged, pop-up roof design that allows the tiny house to travel in it’s folded-down position (maintaining compliance to road rules) and the roof can be folded up when the house is being lived in, to allow Jim standing room in his bedroom loft.
It’s a clever idea that Jim first saw on a tiny house in Byron Bay, which convinced Jim that this was the solution for him, as it met both requirements: compliance to the road rules and ease of living.
After researching tiny houses for twelve months, Jim engaged Fred’s Tiny Houses to draw up a construction plan for his tiny house pop-up roof design*. It took a fair bit of head-scratching, but with persistence, Fred and his team were able to figure out how to build a hinged roof that sheds water in both positions and is strong, elegant and really works- inside and out.
Jim found a local builder, Tim Allen, who was willing to work to the brief, including adopting the Unified Construction Method® instead of applying the usual residential building code. This helped keep the construction of the tiny house lightweight and vibration resilient, as well as insulating the roof and walls against summer heat and winter cold.
We asked Jim about his experience of engaging a builder to make a custom tiny house on wheels, because finding the right builder is crucial for creating a tiny house project that is successful as a vehicle as well as a house. “If you have a builder build it, have a very good relationship with your builder, make it very clear, the principles in which you’re wanting the house to be built to,” Jim suggested.
“You’ve got to be really on-side with your builder and your builder has got to be really on-side with you, and your vision of what you want,” Jim added. Happily Tim Allen was on-side with Jim’s plan, and it worked out for Jim. This is however a specific quality that is essential in finding the right builder for the job, because it’s understandable that a professional builder would want to rely on their previous experience of building large houses on foundations, using methods that they have honed over years. But the danger is that, in relying on previous experience of building buildings (not vehicles) the builder does not account for the weight of the materials, which can really ruin a tiny house project. This is because if a tiny house is over the weight rating of the trailer, it cannot be towed on its own wheels, let alone be registered.
As for the weight management of Jim’s tiny house? “[Tim Allen] kept an on-going log of all the building materials as they went into the place, and the weight, and he was calculating as he went along. So basically the whole thing came in under four and a half tonne,” Jim said. It worked well between Jim and Tim as a collaboration, that they both kept an eye on the scales as well as the budget as the build progressed.
“I feel very lucky. For me, it’s worked out really well, I mean I love coming home. And of course Covid really tests you about living in a confined space. But becasue it’s so open to nature, I don’t feel it’s confined,” Jim reflected.
*Fred’s Tiny Houses no longer offers Design Services but we can refer you to graduate architects who are providing custom tiny house construction plans on FTH trailers.
See a tour of Jim’s tiny house below.
Listen to the full interview on your podcast app. Jim talks about:
- His decision to choose a tiny house on wheels as a single person.
- Off-grid living and the lack of bills.
- Internet access in a tiny house on wheels.
- How he found the property that he lives on.
- Working with a builder to make his tiny house idea into a reality.
- His removable awning and deck.
Trailer length: 7.2 meters
Trailer style: Flat Top
Trailer width: 2340mm Option C
Trailer received: February 2020
Started building: June 2020
Moved In: December 2020