Important Notes from the 2017 Tiny House Summit

As I’ve been saying repeatedly, most of the ideas for tiny houses apply to building small DIY homes out of natural materials such as earthbags, straw bales, etc. Tiny houses and small homes in general share much in common, and therefore it’s very much worth the time and effort to learn about what’s going on in both types of housing movements. With that in mind I’ve compiled notes of some important concepts that were covered in the recent Tiny House Summit.

– potential size of the US tiny house market: there are many millions of people who are falling between the cracks in the current economic system — millions are unemployed or part time employed, single parents, baby boomers who lack sufficient savings for managed health care, veterans, students with loans they can’t repay, young people living in their parents basements, handicapped, homeless, divorcees, etc. Also, there is growing demand for grandmother suites, and backyard offices and rental units to generate extra income.

– the current housing market is clearly unsustainable for many reasons. Tiny houses offer one viable solution.

– the amount of pollution from housing is just as bad as from transportation, but for some reason it’s not talked about as often.

– tiny houses on wheels offer unique options: for example, if you lose your job you can move the house to another location near your new job.

– numerous videos talked about various aspects of tiny house trailers: need to level trailers carefully, extensive warnings about using a strong trailer that’s built for the task and load balanced, etc. Many DIY tiny houses are built on inadequate trailers and so there were many warnings about this. A good trailer is just as important as a good foundation in a typical home.

– most tiny houses are not properly attached to trailers: the stresses on a tiny house as it’s rolling down the highway at 60mph are tremendous. If you hit a bump or chuckhole it’s almost like the house is going through an earthquake. The fasteners used to secure about 50% of current tiny houses to their trailers were not designed for this purpose and exceed manufacturer specs. That means the house could fall off the trailer in a windstorm or while going around a curve. That’s why all vehicles on the road today are built to industry wide safety standards.

– need for an air exchanger to ensure proper ventilation to prevent mold, prevent lack of oxygen, help remove offgassing from treated wood, construction glues, wood finishes, etc.

– importance of proper construction details to prevent moisture damage such as rot and mold

– most tiny houses are not legal and owners may get fined someday for moving them on public roads

– most tiny houses are not built to an industry standard. At some point in the near future there very well could be a crackdown on these structures.

– builders of tiny houses not built to an industry standard may be held liable if there are problems in the future

– most DIY tiny houses are best suited to rural areas with few or no building codes

– buying an uncertified DIY tiny house off Craigslist or the Internet is a crapshoot because it might have dozens or hundreds of serious flaws. Most of these problems will not be apparent to the average buyer (I know because I used to do home inspections for years).

– In the not distant future there’s a very good chance tiny houses will be required to meet an industry standard such as IRC. The inspections and permitting process will complicate construction to the point where many people will end up buying factory built tiny houses which could cost around $70,000+. In addition, the new codes will require permanent foundations, as well as sewer, water and electrical grid tie connections that further raise the cost of construction.

– Once tiny houses are legal (by being built to an industry code standard), owners may have difficulty finding suitable land since most neighborhoods nowadays are protected by zoning codes and homeowner association covenants that have minimum house size requirements. These zoning regulations are set up to protect property values in the neighborhood. That may mean the only land available is in poor, undesirable neighborhoods near industrial zones which lack bus service, good schools, etc. Even then, cost of land in cities is still very high. According to one Summit video, the price of a lot in Portland is now up around $400,000. Add everything up and a tiny house could cost around half a million dollars. And, you’d likely be living in an undesirable neighborhood! So obviously readers are cautioned to research all the details carefully.

-Fresno and Ojai California have popular accessory dwelling unit zoning regulations that work much better than places such as Portland, in part because they allow tiny houses on wheels.

– The ICC code discussion for tiny houses on wheels begins in 2021. Right now the new tiny house building codes only apply to tiny houses on permanent foundations.

– In one video Deek Diedricksen gave his list of favorite tiny house books (my favorite video by Deek, by the way.) In addition to books specifically on tiny houses, his favorites also include books on cabins, resorts and vacation homes. This reinforces how tiny houses and small homes have much in common.

Best, Must See Video from the 2017 Tiny House Summit

Brad Kittel from Pure Salvage and Tiny Texas Houses just blew me away with what was to me, beyond doubt, the best video from the 2017 Tiny House Summit. The hour long video actually gave me goose bumps. As I was watching I kept saying things like “slam dunk, slam dunk” as Brad eloquently explained his salvage tiny house solution to solve the web of problems facing our world today -– homelessness/ lack of affordable housing, unemployment, lack of decent paying jobs and job training, environmental degradation, lack of community, respect for elders and future generations, health problems from ‘sick housing syndrome’ and more.

The host, Steve Hargadon, looked a little stunned as he was interviewing Brad. At the end of the video, Steve said “There hasn’t been a presentation even close to this during the event. I think it’s going to get some attention.” Unfortunately, the video is not on the Internet at this time and so there’s no way to embed it into this blog post. The video is now only available as a package from the Tiny House Summit website. But don’t get discouraged, because the video below summarizes the same basic information in about four minutes.

For detailed information, one good option to consider is Brad Kittel’s Salvage Mining DVD set that explains how to safely and efficiently salvage materials from old barns and houses. Even if you’re building with earthbags, straw bales, adobe, etc. you could still use this wood for your roof, doors, windows, interior walls, trim, flooring, etc. as well as getting lots of free hardware, bathtubs, antiques and other valuable materials.

Tiny House Tech Program Proposal

All the great videos being presented at the Tiny House Summit have really fired my imagination. One of these videos by Saul Rip Hansen was about tiny house high school shop classes. I think this is a great idea. Shop classes in high school played a key role in my career as a woodworker and contractor, and I can see where the right program would be very beneficial.

Quick note about Saul’s video: His 102 minute keynote presentation for the Summit is packed with demographic information and other details that would be very valuable to anyone working in this field. I’m thinking in particular of tiny house designers, builders and other entrepreneurs. If the legal ‘doors’ are fully opened to allowing tiny houses as either RVs or accessory dwelling units (which they already are in some areas) then the potential market is staggering. Again, as mentioned previously, these Summit videos are available for free this week only. After that they will be sold as a package.

So here’s my closely related idea: create a tiny house curriculum and training program for technical colleges. High school shop programs are great, but an in-depth training program for older students who are seriously interested in entering the construction field might be of even more value. It shouldn’t be too hard to adapt Saul’s program to technical colleges. A tech college program like this would turn out qualified workers who have a whole range of skills versus just one specialty such as carpentry or electrical. What do you think?

Man Lives Inside $150 Bicycle ‘Stealth’ Camper

“For years now, Paul Elkins has been traveling the country in his ‘stealth camper’. Unlike many small homes you see, this one is attached to the back of a bicycle and it only cost $150 to make! You won’t believe what the inside looks like.

“It does show the possibilities of a new way to get around and travel or to live. You don’t have car insurance, you don’t have home insurance payments. What do you got? Food.” Paul says.”

Going Viral Posts
I’m going to run tiny house related blog posts all week in order to keep plugging the Tiny House Summit. There are some amazing things coming from this community (tiny house codes, tiny house villages, small space living ideas…), and I hope to see more collaboration between them and natural builders in the future. Click on the Tiny House Summit icon on the right hand side of the page for free videos every day. They’re only free one day and then they’re replaced with new ones. If you miss some videos you can buy the entire set.

ICC Tiny House Code Accepted

“The International Code Council (ICC) reported that the tiny house appendix passed its final round of voting, receiving the required 2/3 majority vote. According to the organization, a tiny-house-specific appendix will be part of the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), allowing people to receive Certificates of Occupancy for tiny houses when built to meet the provisions of the adopted code appendix.

The code has no legal effect unless it is adopted by local governments.
The organization said RB168-16 was backed by Andrew Morrison of TinyHouseBuild and a team of architects, builders, designers, and educators. The team initially defended the proposed appendix at the ICC public comment hearings in October 2016 at which time they received the first 2/3 majority vote necessary to place RB168-16 on the official ballot.”


Having a tiny house appendix in the IRC code would mean more than you may imagine.

It means that people who are strapped for money because of insanely high rents or mortgages could get out from under that weight.

It means that people who have lost their homes and are living on the street could have a dignified place to live move into and get their lives back on track.

It means that college students could afford housing to start themselves out on the right foot after graduation.

And for all of us building tiny houses, it means that we will have a guidepost to building safe and healthy homes with a certificate of occupancy at the end of that road.”

Tiny House Codes GoFundMe
Full text of Tiny House Appendix

Tiny House Summit – Day 1 Videos Are Live

“The first day of the 2017 Tiny House Summit is now live, with presentations by Macy Miller, Valerie Cook & Tim Boffe, Becky Elder, Darren Hughes, David & Jeanie Stiles, Jewel Pearson, Laura M. LaVoie, and Jenn Baxter. These videos will be available to watch for free for 24 hours (ending at 12:00 pm US Eastern Standard Time, Tuesday, February 21st), at which time they will be replaced by eight more!


I really hope you enjoy these! There’s lots to talk about in them. Join the conversations at or, or wherever you like to share (and we do hope you share – send people to to sign up)! And get ready for more great videos all week!”

Owen: The information in these videos will be applicable to anyone who wants to live in small sustainable homes, not just tiny homes, so I encourage readers to watch.