Designing and Building a Tiny House, and Everything In Between. 

Ribbons, Sails 

& Dandelion Fluff

May 2020 –

Building a Shelter

Steel Frames & Cladding

Apr 20 – Jul 19

Doors & Windows

The Beginnings of a ‘Tiny’ Project

Apr 19 – Aug 17

Succulents & Raspberries;

A First Foray into Gardening.

Oct 17 – Apr 15

Bathroom

Mocking up the Bathroom​ / Sketch Up Tour

As great as Sketch Up is, it has its limitations. For one, you can’t really move about the space as you would in real life, so you can’t truly tell how a room will ‘feel’. Then there are the details which go unnoticed until you are actually using the space: that your elbow hits the basin bench when you turn on the bathtub tap or that you can’t comfortably reach the toilet paper. I am sure the experts who design homes for a living, have these details worked out, but I need to see things in 3D to fully appreciate how they work. This is why I took the bathroom out of the Sketch Up drawing and into the ‘real’ world, well into my shed.

In the past, I have chalked up my house, but this time I needed to bring it into the third dimension. Fortunately, we have a shed full of bits and pieces, perfect for a rough mockup. Gladly, I can say it was an exercise well worth the effort. Once I had set up the room, I could finally visualise the space that had been so neglected. I decided I wanted two sets on taps in the shower and locked in a deep tub as the base. I could plan the best location for power points and happily concluded that there was plenty of height in the shower. I could comfortably set up my ‘laundry’ without inconvenience and decided upon the bathroom windows dimensions and height. With all these details locked in, I could finally draw the bathroom up in great detail with confidence.

Below you can finally ‘tour’ the first ‘completed’ room.

Mock Up

Ideally would have a shower base with raised sides.
Space for laundry as there won't be a washing machine.

Sketch Up

Wardrobe just outside- have a shower, dry off, get dressed.
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Plumbing Plan: Collecting Rain Water

As I hope to strive towards an off-grid lifestyle, I decided early on that I want to harvest rainwater. Fear not, I am not naïve to fact that it’s unlikely that I will be able to collect enough to meet the demands of the house, but at least a little is better than nothing. I admit I am curious as to how much this ‘some’ will be, however as I don’t know where I will be planting my house, I will leave this for a future date.

So whilst the numbers are all unknowns at the moment, I still needed to gain a better understanding of the ‘how’ behind rainwater harvesting. To do so, I read Michael Mobb’s book ‘Sustainable House: Living for Our Future.’ This book breaks down the process Michael went through to convert his Sydney house into an almost self-sufficient home. Though a fair amount of the information isn’t truly applicable to a Tiny Home, it was an excellent read and the chapter on Water was incredibly helpful. I recommend checking out his site– this particular post talks about his water system. If you can get your hands on a copy of the book, it covers this in more detail.

I have watched a couple of YouTube videos which do capture Tiny House water set ups, but they seem few and far between so please, if you have seen any others do share below! Here is one which shows a more permanent set up, and another which doesn’t collect rainwater but provides an insight into alternative options.

Just quickly, I wanted to note that I am now remembering why in the past, I have repeatedly fallen out of the habit of blogging. I am a pretty pedantic writer and will read over and over a sentence to ensure it’s spot on. This becomes most unproductive and in the end don’t have time to post. In an effort to avoid this, I have decided that I will only post about stuff I am currently researching, meaning I’m afraid I won’t be covering information I already have stored in my brain. Whilst I will try to provide some helpful links if I come across such areas, I won’t go into detail myself.

I mention this now because I was about to explain how rain is collected from the roof, but to be honest, I already know this back to front and so will be skipping past, but I will attach a scan of my notes. (I do apologise – my handwriting’s a little scrappy! However my past research has been fairly erratic, so though I have the guttering down pact, I am yet to look into the actual storing of the water, this would be a good of time as any to fill this hole.

As I don’t have a loft, and therefore miss out on the extra storage space this can offer, a sneakily disguised indoor tank doesn’t seem a viable option for me. As a result, we are currently thinking of popping a tank under the trailer instead. Fortunately, there appears to be a large market of under carriage caravan water tanks. Unfortunately, the majority seem to max out at 90 litres. I really didn’t have any idea as to what the typical Tiny House water tank capacity is, but this did seem a little on the small side so I had a quick look to see what others have opted for. Below are some examples:

Build Tiny– Gina Stevens: Fresh Water Tank 340L/Grey Water 360L
Tiny House, Giant Journey: Fresh Water 175L/ Grey Water 57L (see video listed in Plumbing Plan- Connecting to Mains)
Brett (feat. on Living Big Tiny Home): 380L Fresh Water
Bryce Live Big Tiny Home: 220L Fresh Water + 90L Hot Water

All a tad bigger than 90 litres..hmm, clearly this warrants further investigation.
It would also appear that one should know the catchment area of their roof. This can simply calculated by:

[House Length x House Width= Roof Square Metres]
So in my case: 6 x 2.5 = 15 square metres.

Now, this is a very small catchment area, especially if you consider that the average Australian home would have a catchment area of around 200 square metres, however at the same time a Tiny House uses considerably less water than a regular home.

Once you have your catchment area, you can work out how much rain you can harvest, though you will need to know the approximate rainfall for you area. This can be found online. (Australia)[Rainfall (mm) x Roof surface area (m2) = Harvestable rain] 

 

Connecting to Mains

Rereading my last post, I decided the information got a bit lost amongst my own thoughts, so I think going forward I will try to keep these separate.

The below will be the first of my Plumbing Plan posts- if you have any feedback as to what works or what doesn’t, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!

I have also added a glossary section and product examples. I have done this as I think this makes it all a bit easier to understand. Any words covered in the glossary will be underlined, products marked in italics. Please note that the product examples are just that, examples. I have never used these products, nor have researched them of yet. They are simply the first result I found and are just for reference.

Connecting to city water

Whilst I will be collecting rainwater, I’d also like to be able to connect the house to the mains. So, my first question is, how do you connect a Tiny House to the water mains?

Essentially, you simply need a hose connection, exterior to your house.
To this you attach a water hose, which runs between the house and the properties utility spigot, giving you water. At either the utility tap or at the connection point of your house, there should be a shut off valve. This will enable you to turn off the entire water system if something goes wrong.

The water from the mains doesn’t need to be run via a pump, as the water will already be under pressure, however you can install a pressure regulator if your water source pressure fluctuates greatly. [Tiny Nest installed a sprinkler pressure regulator as a solution to this. This video also shows them connecting to their house to the mains to test their plumbing]

How is the external hose fitting plumbed to the rest of my house?

I will cover pipes in another post, but in short, the hose fitting is plumbed to the pipes in your walls. So once a water hose is connected, the pipes will fill with water, ready to be used. This could be as complicated as your plumbing gets, but it’s likely that you may want to filter, collect or heat the water before it reaches your fixtures.  Therefore let’s have a quick look at a few possible options:

Water Mains –> Water tank: If you have an onboard tank, you can direct the mains pipe to fill or top up your water tank.
Water Mains –> Water Filter: Some people choose to filter all their water as it either enters the house/leaves the tank. Others only select to filter a single fixture. This is typically achieved by adding a water filter under the kitchen sink.
Water Mains –> Water Heater: After the water enters the pipes, it may be directed to a water heater for heating. This water will then direct to any ‘hot’ faucets.

Each of these areas credit more research, and I will delve further into each of these soon, but hopefully, this covers some of the basic foundations of connecting to the water mains.

Note* [This Tiny House, Giant Journey video is a really fantastic view of how they connect themselves to the mains when they reach a new site.]

Product Example

20m Drinking Water Hose with Fittings: Price: approx. $50. This hose has been specifically designed for drinking water use with non-Toxic Materials and is free of any taste or odours as can be present in other hoses.  *Note: You can actually connect pressure monitors and valves directly to your hose, in addition to external water filters.

GLOSSARY

Tap: Turns to open or close the flow of liquid or gas.
Faucet: Typically, an indoor tap used to release water and adjust the flow.
Spigot: An outdoor tap used to connect hoses, works using a gate valve rather than washer.
A gate valve turns the water off and on, rather than adjusting the flow, and therefore should only be left fully open or fully closed. Check out this link for the inner workings of a spigot.

I Finally Have Some Learnings to Spout

I admit that the idea of plumbing has never sent me into a spiral of excitement.To be fair it probably doesn’t send many people into a ‘spiral of excitement’, but it truly has been one of the aspects of the Tiny House that I’ve least been looking forward to. Little did I know that plumbing, at least Tiny House plumbing, is actually pretty neat, completely straightforward and, dare I say, really, truly exciting. In fact, I’m now that darn keen on plumbing, that I recommenced this blog just so I could talk about it.

Now, I should probably note, the levels of excitement radiating from this post may suggest I actually have hard and fast knowledge to share, I don’t. So if it’s good solid information you seek, I would propose saving yourself some time and maybe skipping this one. However, if you are a plumbing newbie like myself and just seek a small assurance that plumbing is not all bad, you may find some comfort.

I will add that there are some brilliant resources specifically related to Tiny Homes and as I go, I shall be listing the sites and videos that I have found the most helpful. That said because I didn’t have an understanding of even the basics of plumbing, on first viewing I found these somewhat overwhelming and confusing. [Heck, I didn’t even know that water just constantly fills the pipes in your house, only held back by the faucet handles being in an ‘off’ position! Here I was imagining the water waiting patiently at the mains connection, then only directing to the tap in use; I was so confused as to how the water knew which pipes to flow through!] So really the point of this post, and the next few to follow, is to share the rudimentary information that I found helpful in making perfect sense of these brilliant resources.

What better place to start then with the humble tap.

Different kinds of taps and how they work:

I knew a traditional tap had a washer in it…. but that was about it.
In my youth, Dad showed my sister and I how to change these when the tap was dripping, but to how they worked I never really paid attention. Turns out it’s very simple. The handle is connected to a packing nut, which screws up and down as you turn the tap. When turned to an off position it presses the washer tightly down against the ‘faucet seat’ creating a watertight seal.

But this is only one kind of tap- the modern day mixer is far more mysterious and to be honest, my understanding of how this works is a little less clear. I do know that there are single-handed taps with a ‘ball valve’ that swirl to let water through. Then others that have ceramic disk faucets, which mix hot and cold water in a pressure balance cartridge… whatever that is. This post by The Spruce, identifies the different faucets types you may come across, and what’s more, details how to fix them should they begin to leak, providing a sneak peek at each taps inner workings.

Now it goes without saying that each style has their own pros and cons- the washers in double-handed taps wear out easily but the taps themselves are cheaper. The ceramic disks in single-handed faucets are highly reliable, but Samantha and Robert from Shedsistence mention in their exceptional ebook (which I really recommend) that single-handed mixing valves reduce the flow rate of water, which at times can prevent the water heater from triggering, making it difficult to achieve warm water. (Be assured they explain this far better than I.)

All in all, I really think this is a decision that will mainly come down to personal preference. I for one, think I’d prefer double handed taps in the shower simply because I find them easier to get a good temperature. Which brings us to water heaters!

And a place of pause.
The last thing I want to do is overwhelm you. If there is one thing that will send me running off to another site, is an incredibly long, graphic-less post, which this one is threatening to become.

So take a break, check out the above links and check back soon for part two.

(There is still so much to cover, isn’t it thrilling! Pipes, drainage, water tanks, water filters, water heating. Then the things I haven’t even looked into myself yet, like the all-important pump!)

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