Tiny Living: City Vs. Country

When it comes to living the tiny life which is better? The city life or the country life? With the ability to move your home the possibilities are endless. Having recently made the switch from urban to rural tiny lifestyle, we’re assessing the transition. Here are some advantages and disadvantages we’ve experienced in La Casita.

The majority of folks I’ve talked to who live in a tiny house do so for economic reasons as well as ecological ones. Those were the big motivating factors for Cedric and I. Living lighter on the earth is of great interest to us as is meeting our needs with less money so our recent move got me thinking: is living the tiny life in the country greener and more economically sound than living in the city? In the city we rode our bikes to work, the americanogrocery store, the bowling alley, restaurants and most of our friends’ houses. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural area I find I’m driving a lot more. I definitely feel dependent on our vehicle rather than my bike. For me, living the tiny life isn’t just about houses, it’s my intention in everyday experiences. Being dependent on a car does not satisfy my need for a more intentional, regenerative existence.

There’s also the added expense of car dependency. Gas is more costly here than down south. Plus, with winter still in full swing we had had to buy a set of studded tires so we could get out of our driveway!  We’re both feeling as though it takes a lot more stuff to live the country life in the north than it did the city life in the south.

P1000287When it comes to aesthetics living rural has living urban beat-even in the winter! Life out in the country is proving exceptionally beautiful and much more quiet than our life in Charleston. There’s also a lot more privacy. Walking out the door in the city often met with someone staring at the house and wanting to know more about it. I loved talking with passer-bys but when you’re getting stared at on the regular, it starts to feel invasive. Plus, being packed in next to other houses does not provide the most scenic view. Here in Vermont we look out to the woods and up to a mountain and at night the stars are stunning. I’m definitely sleeping better at night without my next door neighbors yelling and drinking in to the wee hours of the evening!

Air and water quality are other big factors. In Charleston, we lived by the highway and after one year there is noticeable exhaust and street crust on our house. It’s disgusting to think that that’s not only sticking to our lovely Cyprus siding but also our lungs. It’s going to take a good bit of work to sand off the black dust and re-oil the house. Even if we had lived in the greenest area of Charleston, it’s a port city and air and water quality are not great. There’s fluoride and chlorine but out on the mountain we have crisp, clean spring water and excellent air quality with little industrial or transport pollutants in the air. Building a tiny house was definitely about living a healthier lifestyle and it feels much more so here in the country than it ever did in the city.

P1000256Living in a tiny house requires the ability to move out beyond its walls on a regular basis in order to maintain emotional balance. In the city this often meant hopping on a bike and going to the park. In the country it means stepping out the front door and taking a walk through the woods. Both satisfy the need for spaciousness that Cedric, me and our pup Asher often crave living in a tiny house. We seem to be able to take care of this need equally well whether in the city or the country, it’s just a matter of preference. Asher, however, definitely prefers the woods to the city and we are more relaxed now that we don’t have to worry about cars. I have to admit I am worried some animal might mistake him for a tasty rabbit, especially when coyotes are howling nearby!

Besides quality of life, the other advantages and disadvantages pertain to anyone trying to make the decision to live rural or urban. The city is more convenient in terms of job density and meeting daily needs although for tiny houses it can prove more difficult when it comes to zoning. After one year in Charleston, a city zoning official came through our neighborhood looking for us. We moved just in time but I can’t say I was surprised when my neighbor called to tell me the city had come searching. We’d been waiting for it.  Rural areas tend to have less stringent codes when it comes to building so for a tiny house dweller it can prove less stressful.

DSCN3040The most exciting thing for me living rural is a big garden. In the city we had limited space to grow.  Although, you could argue that in cities vertical gardening and creative use of space can greatly increase your growing power. I’ve certainly seen some very clever ways that people use small spaces to grow quite a bit of plants!  In the country,  we have acres to work with and providing ourselves with the bulk of our summer food is looking like a reality. That’s something we were not able to accomplish in the city and we’re looking forward to the challenge of growing on a larger scale.

No matter where you end up, every locale will have it challenges and rewards. When it comes to the city vs. country debate it’s a highly personal choice. It’s important to assess your needs and the best way those needs can be met by your home and its location. I’m enjoying living life more remotely but I can appreciate the aspects of city living as well. Ultimately, our home has proven itself a wonderful space whether in an urban setting or a rural setting and to me that flexibility is the key to a positive tiny house experience.

Your Turn!

  • Are you a country mouse or a city mouse?
  • What advantages or disadvantages do you experience in rural or urban living?
  • What challenges have you faced living the tiny life in the city and/or country?

 

 

 

Tiny House, Squared

Unless you are building a round or organically shaped house made from cob or adobe (in which case, cool!), keeping the corners of your floor, walls and roof square is a critical task that lasts for the entire construction process. Constant re-evaluation of your squareness will make your life easier at each subsequent step of the building process.

Or so we’ve heard.

There are many good reasons to “square as you go,”and I think we can all agree it’s a best practice for building anything, but there are many forces working against square corners, including:

  • Lumber is seldom straight,
  • Fasteners (nails and screws) seldom go in level,
  • Weight or pressure can shift boards,
  • Existential chaos and entropy

squaring the floorOf course, understanding you need square floor joists is a completely different animal from having square floor joists. Here’s where I reiterate that Alan and I are far from experts and can only share our unique trial-and-error experiences. When we began our procrastiprepping, we agreed we’d need to check for squareness frequently. What we didn’t realize at the time was, this checking and rechecking would also require fixing and refixing: if something is out of square, you have to do something to correct it, something that may interrupt your building timeline. It can be incredibly frustrating, repetitive and disheartening, but also necessary. I don’t want to be on the roof six months from now, realizing I have to cut a weird miter to fit my non-square upper left corner 12 feet in the air. I mean, we’ll probably have to do that anyway, but at least if I make efforts now, I won’t be blaming my past self, just my present/future self. Talk about existential chaos.

P1060304Anyway, there are a number of references and established processes for checking the squareness of your floors and walls while building. As a hobby painter (one who has built her own canvases), I like the “measure your diagonals to see if they match” method:

And my high school friends thought we’d never need geometric theorem notation! Ha!

What this means is, if the length of both diagonals match, the square or rectangle has 90-degree, or square, corners. If one diagonal is shorter than the other, then the corners with the shorter length have an “obtuse” angle, or an angle wider than 90 degrees.

Another way of telling whether you are in or out of square is the Pythagorean Theorem:

P1060306 This method is helpful when you can’t access all corners of your square or rectangle, like tall walls, or if you are working alone. The shorthand version (demonstrated at the bottom of my most excellent drawing), the 3-4-5 rule allows you to just measure off three feet on one side, mark it, four feet on the other side of the angle, mark it, then measure the diagonal between the two marks. If the diagonal is equal to five feet, you’ve got your 90-degree, square corner. The 3-4-5 rule works because Math.

Once you’ve determined you’re not square, which is most of the time, there are several ways to fix it, most of which involve propping, pushing, pulling or yanking. John Carroll’s book, “Working Alone: Tips and Techniques for Solo Building” and the This Old House website are good resources for time-tested methods. But our Fencl floor proved a special challenge, and not in the good-special way, because the wheel hubs got in the way and prevented us from squaring the whole floor at once. Plus, the steel rods that hold the house to the trailer frame also held everything pretty firmly in place, so we didn’t have much control.

corner out of squareHere’s the problem we faced with the floor’s left-hand corner, closest to the trailer tongue. You can see that the corner is about a quarter-inch out of square in comparison to our speed square. Oh Noes!

Incidentally, I heart speed squares. They’re invaluable. We have this big orange one and a smaller steel one. When we get to the roof rafters, we’ll probably get a big framing square too, the one that look like the letter L and has all the rafter dimensions printed on it.

Our problem was compounded by the fact that one of the steel rods held runs through the sill just a foot or two away from this corner. Therefore, we couldn’t just push the far corners closer together, because the rod was holding the outside of the sill in place. The wrong place, but in place all the same.

We adapted one of the classic squaring techniques (attaching a diagonal chain and tightening it to pull opposite corners closer together) to a smaller area. We attached the chain to the sill in two places with several nails, then attached a turnbuckle to the chain. You can see the welded steel rod under Alan’s right arm in the third photo.

Sorry for the changing POVs in these photos… it’s making me a bit motion sick.

P1060274 P1060275 P1060279

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another aside: The guy at Lowes didn’t know what a turnbuckle (the hooked thing in the middle photo) was when we asked, so it took us 20 minutes longer to find them than necessary. If you need to know where to find turnbuckles in Lowes and probably Home Depot, they’re with the door and gate hinges, instead of the rope and chain.

By tightening the turnbuckle, we accomplished the bending of nails most efficiently. But we also managed to bring this corner into square, so the sacrifice of six nails was glorious indeed.

squared corner

Success! Mostly! At least it’s noticeably better than it was! Beer for all!

Ok, so it’s not perfect, but it’s within our arbitrary tolerance of “less than 1/8th of an inch.” It’s also not perfect because we accept that, although the corner is close to square, the sill will bulge out around the steel rod a bit, meaning the wall won’t be perfectly straight, but I think we can work with that problem better than kerflunky corners. At least, I hope we can.

Your Turn!

  • What rules, such as “always check for square corners,” have you given yourself?
  • What is your preferred method of squaring frames?
  • How do you decide when good enough is good enough?

 

The Biggest Tiny Move

First off, I want to give a big shout-out and say thank you to the community of readers here at The Tiny Life for the wonderful advice many of you sent me on moving our home.  When you’ve never done something like this it is so incredibly helpful to gain insight from those who’ve gone before you!

moving

Thanks to suggestions from this blog, as well as the Facebook page and CharlestonTinyHouse.com, we decided to set up a profile page on U-Ship.com and give it a whirl. U-Ship is an online global shipping service connecting individuals and businesses with transportation providers. It works like this:

1. Create a username and password.

2. Fill out a profile.

3. Load a picture and description of what you want shipped.

4. Enter your price range and location.

5. Wait for bids.

After a couple of days we had 3 bids! I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it. I figured most service providers would be out of our price range, but lo and behold we found Roger Howell, or really he found us. With a great price, lots of positive reviews and an excellent, professional profile we thought he was the best bet for the job. He not only moved our home within our budget but without a scratch on it! It was such a relief to be without all the added stress and time of towing it ourselves, especially through a northeastern winter. Plus, it would have cost us as much, if not more, to move it ourselves after renting a truck, paying for gas and taking out insurance. Uship covered us up to $15,000 in damages and as the carrier, Roger also had insurance providing us with a sense of security that was well worth the investment.

The experience was not without hiccups. There were delays on our house due to the severe winter weather we had up ushiphere in early February but Roger was very communicative and sent e-mails and texts as soon as we had questions or something happened en route. We figured it gave us more time to find a place for the house so we weren’t upset at the delay. Nevertheless, it was great to work with a professional who was in the business of towing large shipments, provided quick, clear communication and was first and foremost concerned with getting us our shipment safely.

moving la casitaWe were a bit skeptical of this site at first but in the end we were really happy with the experience. The website is very clear and informative and carriers have profiles and reviews by customers who’ve shipped with them. With very little time to prepare for our move it felt like a huge weight off our shoulders. It wasn’t without work on our part. We had to hook up lights, check our brakes, pack and board up the house and get a license plate for the trailer. It took about 2 weeks to get everything together and ready to go but it was well worth it. We left ahead of the house and were able to arrive in Vermont, place ads and find a home for La Casita in a couple of weeks. If you have a tiny house to move, I’d recommend the services the website provides. Doing it yourself is a rite of passage for some but for us it was going to be more hassle and expense than we wanted to deal with. Hopefully, we won’t have to move the house again. It ain’t cheap moving a tiny house, no matter how you do it. We figured it out to be about a $1/mile so at 1200 miles there was definite expense.

Living the tiny life has its perks but before this adventure I was foolish in thinking it would be a cheap and easy dwelling to move. It’s definitely a more flexible option in life but I’ve learned that more than anything, I want to stay put in La Casita and not have to uproot her too often. Hopefully, this is the last move we’ll be making for a long time and we can settle in to this new chapter of our tiny life.

Your Turn!

  • What alternatives do you know of for shipping a tiny house?
  • Has anyone else used Uship? What was your experience?
  • How has The Tiny Life readership helped you?
  • If you’ve moved a tiny house, what did you find were the most cost effective options?