The lozenge-like Kanin Winter Cabin is just a little over 100 square feet and so lightweight that it took a military helicopter to its spectacular location. That’s the Slovenian Army and Mount Kanin, on the Balkan country’s Italian border. The cabin was designed by OFIS Arhitekti and Contemporary Building Design (CBD) and is constructed of glass and aluminum panels over a cross-laminated timber frame. It’s primarily meant as a test of materials and architectural design techniques for difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions. You can judge the terrain from the photos; as for the weather on Mount Kanin, it defeated the army’s first three attempts to deliver the cabin. Should be a pretty thorough test! But the location was also chosen for its scenic beauty, and the structure will be available as a shelter for the hikers and mountaineers who frequent the area. There’s not much inside except a rack of antlers and a few shelves to sleep on, but it can accommodate up to nine people and has stunning views of surrounding peaks and the Adriatic Sea.
Anyone who’s worked on a serious construction project knows how important it is to have the right tools. It can mean the difference between endless swearing and frustration – and sitting back with a beer and admiring your handiwork in the evening. We spent some time rounding up the best tools for the job – tools that will save you time, frustration, and most importantly, help you build a better home.
Ryobi AirStrike Cordless Brad Nailer
Why you need it
Naturally you’ll be doing a lot of nailing, and swinging a hammer can get old real fast. This is probably one of the best investments you can make in order to save time and energy.
The important stuff
18-volt cordless lithium ion battery stores plenty of power
No need for an air compressor, CO2 cartridge, or cord
Up to 700 nails in one charge
Delivers 18-gauge nails from 5/8 inch to 2 inch length
Compared to similar tools like the nailers by DeWalt and Rigid, this one is much smaller and easier to handle. Ryobi has been making a name for themselves over the past decade and continually improving their products. This one is no exception.
Now that you’ve got a nailer, complete your collection of basic building tools with Ryobi’s rechargeable drill/saw package. Now you can handle 90% of your construction tasks without breaking a sweat!
The important stuff
Compact 18-volt lithium-ion battery works with both drill and saw
Included dual chemistry charger is compatible with many other Li-ion batteries
Drill has 24-position clutch and 2-speed gear box for varied torques and speeds
½-inch keyless chuck with spindle lock makes changing bits quick & easy
Ergonomically designed circular saw with left-side blade for better visibility
Light weight but high performance, with a battery that lasts and lasts, these are two more quality tools from Ryobi. With a powerful, versatile drill and an easy-to-handle saw that makes quick work of 2×4s, this combo is what you’ll reach for whenever you need to make a cut or bore a hole. The battery recharges in just 60 minutes.
How are you going to drive a nail if you don’t have room to swing a hammer? You’ll find yourself in any number of tight spots when you’re putting together a tiny house, but Bostitch’s tiny nailer can squeeze into all of them.
The important stuff
One-pound nailer that fits in the palm of your hand
360° swivel air fitting lets you position it anywhere you need to
Insulating rubber grip reduces vibration while front exhaust directs air away from you
Compatible with standard bulk finish, framing and timber nails
Bostitch makes one of the smallest, best and cheapest impact nailers around. It’s great for putting in joist hangers, it’s a godsend for places where swinging a hammer would be impossible or just too uncomfortable (directly overhead, for example), and it’s so easy to use that you may end up retiring your old-school hammer to the toolbox for good.
Using a sanding block is time-consuming and tiresome even if you’re just building a table or a cabinet. Now imagine finishing an entire tiny house like that.
The important stuff
Big 1/8” random orbits at 12,000 orbits per minute sand wood quickly and smoothly
Uses 5-inch hook-and-loop abrasive disks for quick changes
Self-contained through-the-pad dust collection system with dust bag included
Highly durable, with rubber-sealed switch and oversized ball bearing
Makita’s powerful 3-amp sander stands head and shoulders above the competition for ease of operation and fast, non-marking sanding action. There are cheaper sanders, but this one will last a lifetime. The attached dust bag is great for keeping the air clear in small spaces, but if you need to you can hook the unit up to a vacuum cleaner for even better dust removal.
You’ll need a good miter saw for easily cutting accurate angles both when you’re framing your tiny house and putting in molding. And while Ryobi’s cordless circular saw is great for as-needed use onsite, you’ll want a more powerful plug-in saw for higher volume cutting operations. Plus it makes cutting exact angles a breeze. Remember, measure twice, cut once!
The important stuff
Heavy-duty 9-amp motor spins 7¼” up to 5,800 RPM for effortless cuts
Exactline laser alignment system shows exactly where the cut will go
9 ball detent stops at 0 and ± 15, 22.5, 31.6 and 45 degrees
Handles 2×4s and 3½ inch crosscuts
Another quality saw from Ryobi. The laser guide is bright, dead-on, and shows up on all visible surfaces of the piece you’re sawing. Despite its power, this compact saw takes up just 2 cubic feet of space – a definite plus when you’re working (or living) in a tiny house.
Your tiny house is going to have cabinets, right? Kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, storage cabinets… Making them will involve some serious joinery, and to do that efficiently you need a router to create rabbets, dados and dovetails. You can also use it for decorative effects.
The important stuff
Powerful 1¼ horsepower aluminum motor with variable 10,000 – 30,000 RPM operation
Soft start so it won’t jerk in your hands and ruin the piece when you turn it on
Easy depth adjustments with quick release cam lock and rack-and-pinion fine depth adjustment
Electronic speed control keeps speed uniform as you cut
This solidly built router is the top choice of professional woodworkers looking for something compact. It’s comfortable to hold, relatively quiet, and has a soft start feature, so it’s a great choice for beginners as well. Powerful enough to handle anything you throw at it and durable enough that you’ll still be doing projects with it years after you move into your tiny house.
A sloppy paint job can make a perfectly well-built house look like amateur hour, but if you’re just building one tiny one you don’t want to invest in bulky, expensive professional house painting gear. HomeRight’s small, self-contained residential sprayer is a great alternative.
The important stuff
Makes it easy to achieve a smooth, even finish on painted surfaces. No more brush marks!
Variable flow rate with three adjustable spray patterns so you can use it for practically any painting application
Operates at low pressure for precise control and reduced over-spray
Easy clean up – just a few minutes
HomeRight’s sprayer is very popular with DIYers for its high-quality finishes, ease of use and low price. It’s everything you need for a professional looking paint job in one small package – you don’t have to buy (or mess with) an air compressor or additional hoses. It works with latex, acrylics, and enamels and has no trouble handling poly/top coats and specialty paints.
As a DIY builder you can’t count on always having a helper around to hold the other end of a tape measure. This ultra-tiny laser measure gives you an accurate distance at the touch of a button – and you don’t have to go an inch out of your way.
The important stuff
Precision laser technology with 1/8-inch accuracy up to 50 feet
Square base allows easy measurement at any angle
Just 4 inches long
Simple one-button operation
This is Bosch’s smallest, least expensive laser measure, but it’s still a quality product, and its 50-foot range is plenty for a tiny house. It displays a continuous measurement, and its capture feature lets you save one distance and then go on to take another. The minuscule size and square shape lets you measure from just about anywhere at any angle.
You’ll love this for any task that requires straight lines or right angles, and there are a lot of those when you’re building a tiny house. Think about marking studs, hanging cabinets, flooring, and putting in countertops and appliances, and you’ll see how useful a laser square can be.
The important stuff
Projects a pair of perpendicular laser lines up to 30 feet on any surface
Alignment guide allows for incremental 5-degree turns
Good accuracy of ½ inch at 30 feet
Comes with non-marking adhesive so you can attach it to vertical surfaces
Again, a general contractor would probably buy a larger and more capable device, but for the short distances in a tiny house this is really all you need. This model wins respect for its bright laser (which is easily visible even in full daylight) and its true-to-square alignment. It has two built-in bubble levels for accurate positioning.
A lot of people find doing the wiring to be one of the most tedious parts of tiny house construction. Having a good tool for stripping, crimping and cutting can remove a lot of the frustration and fatigue.
The important stuff
Strips wire from 10-24 AWG; crimps 10-22 AWG insulated/non-insulated
Self-adjusting mechanism plus swivel knob for micro-adjusts
Includes wire cutter
No-slip ergonomic grips let you work for hours without discomfort
If you’ve done any wiring before you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is with this tool. It adjusts automatically so you don’t have to worry about the gauge of the wire – just grip and strip – and has an adjustable stopper so you get the same strip length each time. Good for crimping and cutting too, and the comfortable grips make the whole process a lot less painful.
No matter how many tools you have, the inevitable hiccup will arise in your building plans. Before, during, or after construction, there’s always a place for a cold brew. Plus it’s a great way to bribe your friends to help you!
The important stuff
Stick with a lower alcohol session type beer. Those 8.9% alcohol double IPAs will NOT do your coordination any favors.
Everything in moderation. Enjoy a brew with lunch, or for a mid-afternoon snack. Don’t get plastered and start firing nails as target practice.
Get enough to share.
There you have it! Do you have any recommendations for “must have” tools that you used to complete your build? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Flatbed trailers make a great choice for an alternative foundation to use when building a tiny house. They afford you the opportunity to tow your home anywhere, and with a variety of different sizes you can find a length that fits your exact needs. It also marks one of the very first steps many aspiring tiny home builders take, and it’s a significant investment. For those reasons, it’s important to think about the pros and cons of a fully prepped trailer vs. a used one you need to spend time and money modifying to fit your needs. Today we’ll explore the ideal trailer specs, and explore some of the basic methods to attach a sub-floor to the trailer so you can begin framing your tiny home.
The ideal trailer includes:
Heavy duty axles each rated at 5,200 lb GVWR
8’6″ wide and anywhere from 20-22′ long (or larger, it’s up to you). Keep in mind the Department of Transportation limits the dimensions to 8′-6″ wide x 13′-6″ tall x 40′ long.
Electric brakes with working lights. You want to be sure to have extra stopping power when hauling 10,000 pounds of precious cargo.
Steel flange welded to the side to maximize width and reduce the amount of overhang and maximize the width of your frame.
Minimally curved fenders are less invasive in terms of space they take up, making it easier to build around.
High load tires that can sustain the weight of a tiny house without risk of blowing out.
A steel beam deck is preferable to a wood lined one, as it provides better strength and lighter weight.
One of our favorite sites, Tiny Home Builders, offers several different size trailers priced between $3000-5000 depending on the size. They come fully prepped for a tiny house build, meaning you don’t have to worry about shaving off piece of metal or welding anything. Other vendors you might consider include Mac-Lander, Tumbleweed, PJ Trailers, and Iron Eagle. These companies all have experience modifying trailers for tiny house builds, and sell ready-to-use models that don’t require any prepping or modifications. Expect to pay around $3-4,000 for a brand-new trailer and of course you should check Craigslist to see what might be available. You never know when you might find a great deal on a used one.
Types of Trailers
Although the flatbed version shown above is our favorite choice and probably the most popular among builders, you do have other options. They include:
Deck-between: This is the most popular choice, and the same as the one you see above, with a deck between the wheel wells. They sit lower than the “deck-over” style, making it a good choice to maximize building height, especially when incorporating a loft. If you do not have the luxury of the extended steel flanges, the width will be closer to 6′ instead of 8′.
Deck-over: This popular type of trailer doesn’t include the wheel wells, meaning you’ll build over them. It might be a good choice if you don’t need a loft and only want a one-story house, but when height matters, the “deck-between” style is much more preferable.
Gooseneck: This type includes a hitch connection that rises from the front of the trailer, and is usually found on larger trailers around 30′ or more in length. The gooseneck can provide a bit of extra building space. Check out the popular Minimotives site to see how Macy used it to build a loft space for sleeping.
Dovetail: This type includes an angled portion at the rear of the trailer that drops down to allow easier loading for cars or tractors for example. This type is not recommended for using as a foundation, as extra work would be required to make it suitable for a house.
Once you get your trailer, the first question you might have is “how do I get started”? If you bought a trailer from a company like Tiny Home Builders or Tumbleweed, you don’t have to do anything to modify it, and can start prepping the subfloor right away, but if you found one on Craigslist you might have a bit of prep work ahead. Depending on the condition, this could be fairly involved, requiring cutting steel, welding, and removing rust. You’ll need to remove all vertical metal side rails and anything that sticks up above the surface as you prep it for subfloor installation.
This type of trailer would not be recommended, as the raised sides and ramp would need to be removed. Even if you find something like this for a great price, the time and effort spent making it work might not be worth it.
Styles of Subfloor – Recessed or On Top
You have two basic options when installing a subfloor. You can build on top of the trailer, or embed the subfloor within the frame. The image below does a great job explaining the benefits of building on top of the frame rather than recessing the floor into the frame (click to enlarge)
As you can see, building a subfloor on top of the frame provides consistent insulation and leaves more room for plumbing clearance underneath. Depending on the climate where you live, and your plumbing situation, either method could work.
Attaching the Subfloor To the Trailer
Of course the most obvious question you might have at this point centers around how to attach the subfloor to the metal trailer frame. It’s actually not as difficult as you might first imagine. The basic idea is to drill holes through the wood and metal and use bolts to secure the floor joists. Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders recommends drilling a 1″ wide hole, and using 3/8″ lag bolts, nuts, and a washer to secure it to to the trailer.
Obviously you want to make sure you squeeze every possible inch of space out of your build, and if you purchased a flatbed trailer that doesn’t have the steel flanges, you’ll probably want to build trailer bed extensions. This basically requires securing a few pieces of lumber to the entire length of the outside of the frame, only separated by the wheel wells. Scratch Pad Tiny House put together an excellent series of videos showing how they build their extensions, and then attached them to the trailer.
Like most of you, I have very little building experience. The last structure I built was probably a basic wedge shaped skateboard ramp when I was about fifteen years old. With the abundance of first-time builders and DIYers out there who tackle their tiny house build, we thought it only appropriate to develop a new category for our blog that focuses on building tips. Our aim is to cover everything from the most basic things like how to correctly hold a hammer to more involved carpentry practices like how to properly cut dove tails. There’s a whole vocabulary that comes with carpentry and building, and going forward we plan to connect with experienced builders who are willing to put down the handsaw and plug away at the keyboard to share useful insights.
With that said, today I wanted to begin by exploring the topic of siding, which is arguably one of the most noticeable aspects of any house, a pure expression of the home’s personality. In this article we’ll explore some of the different styles and materials to choose from, and look at how one tiny house duo installed their own reclaimed wood siding.
You have many options when it comes to siding, from metal to wood, or a combination of both.
Common Siding Materials
For a long time wood was the only choice for siding. Despite new materials like vinyl and cement, wood is the traditional choice and also one of the most versatile. From cedar shingles and live edge clapboard to pieces from a reclaimed barn, you have an abundance of choices for wood siding and it’s probably the most eco-friendly material. One downside is that it won’t resist fire very well, and the constant exposure to weather means it usually needs a bit more maintenance than metal or vinyl. Over time it fades to a gray color, but you can always paint or stain it.
Although not as common, using a metal material for siding has its own advantages. For one, it won’t burn, which is something to consider. On the other hand, it dents more easily than other materials. As for the type of metal, the most common seems to be corrugated aluminum, although steel is often used as well. Depending on where it’s sourced, metal can be a “green” option. One downside is that it can rust, something that happens much more in a salty environment. We notice a growing number of houses using a combination of wood and metal siding, blending contemporary and rustic, which makes for an interesting look.
The favorite choice among cookie-cutter houses, and most homes across America, vinyl is known for its durability and low maintenance. You can find all sorts of colors and designs to mimic traditional shingles, clapboard and any other popular style. While it might cost a bit more than other materials, it will last a very long time. Given its plastic appearance, many homeowners opt for something with a bit more personality and authenticity. Given the hand-built nature of many tiny houses, where sustainability and resourcefulness takes center stage, we don’t see vinyl used very often and that’s a good thing in our opinion.
The “Mica” design by Tumbleweed uses a hot rolled weathered steel siding for a completely unique look.
Popular Styles of Siding
From brick and stucco to reclaimed wood and cedar shingles, you have a lot of options when it comes to siding. We picked some of the more common ones used for tiny houses. Because weight is often an issue, certain materials like stucco, cement, and brick don’t often make sense, but if you don’t plan on moving your home they might be decent options.
Board and batten is a traditional method that uses a vertical arrangement. Typically seen in New England homes and cabins in the woods, it’s one of the least expensive styles, and also uses very few screws, making it a bit more affordable. Often overlooked for alternative styles, it has been around for a long time and remains a tried and true method for good reason.
It’s created by using wide cedar boards spaced with narrower boards (battens) covering the joints. You have the freedom to pick whatever width boards you like, though a common combination includes 1″x3″ battens and 1″ x 10″ boards.
One advantage of this style is its ability to expand with humidity and contract during cold and dry winters, making it a good choice for homes that see varying weather patterns as the seasons change.
This lovely house in Portland mixes siding options, using staggered shingles and reclaimed clapboard for a unique appearance.
Clapboard (also known as lap or bevel) siding uses planks of wood installed horizontally, where the piece above overlaps the one below. This is a very common style, and it comes in a few variations. Regular clapboard is the simplest, while insulated and beaded styles offer a bit more versatility and protection.
“Wavyboard” siding, shown here, uses natural “live” edges to create a distinctly rustic style of clapboard.
Shingles give a smoother and more consistent look, and can be arranged staggered or straight edge depending on your preference. Traditional shake siding comes in the form of a wooden shingle made from split logs. Although the terms shake and shingle are often interchangeable, historically shakes bring a more rustic, hand-split connotation whereas shingles are sawed thicker and made commercially so they appear a bit more uniform.
Terms you should know:
Batten – vertical strips that cover the seams between boards used in vertical siding.
Course – a single horizontal row of siding.
J-Channel – a piece of trim material, usually around windows and doors, that accommodates the ends of vinyl or metal siding.
Reveal – The amount of material that’s actually exposed and visible. For example, shingles overlap each other and the reveal is amount of shingle that’s not tucked underneath the adjacent course above it.
Shake – As it refers to wood, a shake is similar to a shingle except it is split one or both sides resulting in a more heavily textured surface.
Sheathing – the plywood, wood or other material that forms the outer surface of your home’s structure that the siding is attached to.
Shingle – As it refers to wood, a shingle is a small square or rectangular piece of siding material that’s sawn on both sides.
Square – The unit of measurement used in the siding industry. A “square” equates to 10ft x 10ft (or 100 square feet of area).
The good folks at Tiny House Giant Journey offer a detailed explanation of their siding choice and the installation that went with it. Here’s a video explaining their process: