After much discussion and head scratching, we elected to design our house from square one, rather than buy a pre-existing plan and modify it to suit our needs.
With this in mind, the first thing any good project needs is a ...
We’re going to build a beautiful, functional and sustainable tiny house on wheels!
- Road-legal, to NZTA “Light Trailer” specifications, so we can tow it ourselves.
Less than 3.5 tons.
Fits inside 12.5 m by 4.3 m by 2.55 m size limits.
- Made to NZMCA “Self-Containment” standards.
- Follow the NZ Building Code, wherever possible.
- Twenty year lifespan
- Accommodates two adults, with space for two future children
- Able to be run on and off-grid.
- Bright and open feel
- Full kitchen and bathroom amenities
- Clothes washer
- Hot water
- Storage for our snow, surf and other sports gear.
To bring our brief to life, we first needed to upskill. The following are some of the resources we used to complete our design:
- “Tiny House Design and Construction Guide” by Dan Louche. Our bible.
- This excellent sketchup tutorial series from the lovely folk behind Tiny Nest (we probably wouldn't have been able to design our house without them!)
- The NZ Tiny House Community facebook group.
- Various Youtube channels.
- Pinterest/Instagram/Google Images for ideas.
- The National Tiny House Jamboree 2017 in the USA to see how the professionals do it!
If there is one thing that every resource on Tiny Houses seems to agree upon, it’s this: Do not skimp on the trailer!
Our trailer will be the foundation of our house, if it fails, the whole thing is coming down, one way or another. So rather than buy a second hand one and refurbish it, we decided to go with a brand new model.
There are a growing handful of manufacturers in NZ that offer specialized Tiny House trailers. After emailing around, gathering quotes and weighing up our options, we decided to go with Superior Trailers, who offer a range of reasonably-priced, built-to-order tiny house trailers.
The maximum width for a Light Trailer on New Zealand roads is 2.55 m, the maximum length is 12.5 m, and the maximum height is 4.3 m. Practically speaking, we wanted to be as close to the width and height limits as possible, but there was no was no way we could approach a 12.5 m length without blowing the weight limit of 3.5 tons.
In the end we ordered a 7.2 meter Little Home Trailer, with a lowered deck that leaves us with protruding fenders to build around, but a little more height to play with.
Lesson number one of building tiny: everything’s a tradeoff!
With our size constraints locked in, it was time to start planning our layout.
Our key design features, and reasoning:
- Gable roof
While more complex than a shed roof, we eventually settled on a gable roof design to make it look more ... housey. In addition, we designed the sleeping loft with shallower pitch to the rest of the house to add a point of interest and add a little more head-room in the bed-room.
- Front Overhang
This will increase construction difficulty and overall weight, but we feel it’s worth it for the extra two and a half square meters of floor space.
- Dual Lofts
We wanted to make the absolute most of the space we had available, without making the house feel claustrophobic. The second loft will be used for storage and is slightly higher-set which allows for more head room in the living room. The large open space between the lofts will allow air to circulate, while giving a sense of space.
- Stairs to Sleeping Loft
Many designs incorporate ladders, we preferred stairs for ease of use, and so we can climb up carrying a baby!
- Gymnastic Wall Bars to Storage Loft
This distinctive aspect of our design serves multiple functions, a ladder to the storage loft, an exercise and stretching station (with chin-up bar attachment), and support for a detachable work desk.
- Dual Kitchen Bench
We cook a lot. This will allow us to maximum food preparation space.
The next step was to bring our floorplan to life. Well. Virtual life. The obvious option here, (unless you already have Autocad) was to use Google’s Sketchup.
Sketchup Make is free, easy to use, and more than fit for the task of designing a tiny house. We can highly recommend it. Google’s tutorials are great to get a general feel for it, but for Tiny House specific tips, Tiny Nest’s tutorial series was worth every penny.