A Recap of our 2016 Travels

Hello readers! We haven't posted anything in awhile since our trip ended and our lives have been focused on establishing ourselves in Fort Collins. But we have been working on somewhat of a recap of all the travels we did in 2016. On the map below you'll see our overall route and if you click the arrows on the bottom, it'll step you through from location to location including a few photos and description from each stop. Enjoy and happy holidays to all of you!

Edit: If you're on mobile it might be a little clunky to try to use the map embedded below. Try it out directly from the source here.

The End of our Trip

Hello readers!

 

We are in Fort Collins, Colorado! That's right, we have headed back west, settling in Colorado where we think we want to live permanently. We decided that we can't afford to continue our travels to the east coast at this time, so we are parked temporarily in an RV park while we look for a place to park more permanently, and some jobs! It's a little bittersweet, but we are pretty excited to have some stability in our lives again.

 

The last couple of months have been pretty chaotic! Life on the road is exhausting, and as we drove back through the Midwest, we stayed primarily with friends and family. While it was great to see everyone, it was also tiring. It feels like it's been forever since we had some time in our house by ourselves to cook meals, go to bed early, and basically do nothing. It's a relief to have that downtime now.

 

Our last stop on our trip was in South Haven, MI. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful trip. We had a connection there with a great parking place and we celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Lake Michigan! The weather was phenomenal, the lake was beautiful, and we had a great time. After Labor Day weekend, we traveled quickly back through Chicago, Lincoln, Kansas City, and then landed here, in Fort Collins. We plan to live in our tiny house now for probably at least another year and we're hoping we can find a spot to park it on someone's land, perhaps, rather than an RV park. Our end goal would be to buy some land here and live in our tiny house while we build a more permanent home.

 

If any of you have a connection in Fort Collins who might be able to help us out with a place to park, let us know!

 

All in all, we towed our house 10,480 miles and put over 20,000 miles on our truck. We stayed the night in 47 different locations and spent nearly 400 hours in the car. We left Kansas City on April 20 and arrived in Fort Collins on September 11, so that means we traveled for 144 days or nearly 5 months. What a whirlwind!

 

Canadian Adventures

Hello all! We recently spent some time across the northern border in the friendly nation of Canada. Our border crossings (both ways) were actually really stress-free. They looked at our passports and took note of the dogs riding with us, but didn't ask for vet records or go inside our tiny house (though they did look at it with some pretty confused faces). At the US border in Montana, I they actually had us drive the house through a giant X-Ray machine that they use on big cargo trucks! 

We spent 4 nights in Vancouver, and we really enjoyed it! We found lots of little pockets of the city with neat stores, restaurants, and bars. We visited a couple of breweries (of course) and we walked around Granville Island and Stanley Park, where you can take in the charm and beauty of the city and its Pacific coast.  After Vancouver, we made our way towards Banff National Park. We stopped in Salmon Arm, BC for two nights along the way. That town sits on a beautiful lake (Shuswap Lake) and our campground was on a creek with signs that stated "Salmon spawning area.  Do not disturb". Once we made it to Banff, we enjoyed 5 nights in the Tunnel Mountain campgrounds and did some amazing hikes. 

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

We returned to the US after 11 days and spent some time in Glacier National Park, which I think we both have decided is our favorite park so far. The views were just stunning! Now we are wandering through Montana and Wyoming and making our way to Denver. We hope to see Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Craters of the Moon National Parks along the way!

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park

Big Horn Sheep, Glacier National Park

Tiny House Set Up Video

Hey wanderlusters! We just posted a new youtube video showing how we set up our tiny house when we pull into a new campsite. Stay tuned for a second video detailing how we prep the interior of the house for travel!

 

Two Months In!

Hello blog readers! We are so excited about all the recent publicity we've gotten and we're thankful for all our new blog subscribers. If you weren't aware, we were featured in a Today.com article, a Tumbleweed Tiny House blog post, and the cover article of Tiny House Magazine. (Just FYI, some of the proceeds from sales of the Tiny House Magazine go toward supporting our journey, so why not help us out and buy an issue!) These articles do a pretty good job of outlining our journey. If you're a new reader be sure to check out our past blog posts and especially our page of FAQs. Also, don't hesitate to use the search bar on our site. We get a lot of questions that may or may not have been answered elsewhere on our site and the search bar does a pretty good job of finding things buried in old posts. If you can't find the information you're looking for go ahead and contact us. We try to get back to as many people as possible but while on the road our access to internet is kind of limited so be patient with us!

Anyway, it’s been a couple of weeks since our last blog update, and in that time we’ve been exploring most of California and now Oregon!  Here’s what we’ve been up to...

After leaving Utah, we headed south to Phoenix, AZ.  You might ask yourself why we decided to head to Phoenix in early June when the weather forecast was 117 degrees, but it was a good stopping place on our way to San Diego and we have friends that live there that offered their driveway to us.  So we set off through Utah and into Arizona as the temperature rose well into the hundreds.  Once we reached Flagstaff and starting to head down through the hills into the valley, our truck started beeping.  The dash read “Check Engine Temperature” and sure enough, the gauge was in the red.  We pulled onto the shoulder, turned off the A/C, opened the windows and let it cool.  After the dial dropped, we started off again, but had to take it slow and leave the windows open for a short while.  We made it to Phoenix, but we nervous about setting out again to San Diego in the same heat.

We climbed in our truck a couple days later to head to San Diego to find our rear view mirror had detached itself from the windshield because it had gotten too hot and melted the glue.  We had another adventurous drive in store for us. It doesn’t really start to cool down until you’re only about an hour outside of San Diego.  We made our way slowly through southern Arizona, but as we got to the hills just past Ocotillo, CA, we started to see big signs telling truckers to turn off their A/C and check their brakes.  There were radiator water stations every ½ mile or so and we saw multiple overheated vehicles on the shoulder.  We killed the A/C, opened our windows and went about 30 mph the whole way through the hills until the temperature started to drop.

Anyway, a lot of people ask us about our truck and how it performs.  Our truck is rated to tow 12,500 lbs (only with an after-market weight distribution hitch) and our house weighs about 10,000 lbs.  We have had some trouble getting up big hills and the clutch fan kicks on frequently to keep the engine/transmission cool.  A tiny house is not the easiest thing to pull, and if we could go back, we might have even considered a larger truck. However, now that we've gotten past the heat of Arizona and southern California we should be done with hot weather for at least another month which helps. 

Trinidad Head, Trinidad, CA

Trinidad Head, Trinidad, CA

As we made our way up the California coast, we had stops planned in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Eureka, but a couple of the drives were longer than we wanted to do in one day, so we needed to break it up a bit.  We had looked into this program called “Harvest Hosts” before and decided to sign up and use them for the few nights in between.  Harvest Hosts is a program that hooks up RVers with either a farm, brewery, or winery for a free place to stay for one night.  They don’t offer any hookups and they only guarantee one night’s stay, but it is free once you pay the Harvest Host membership fee.  This sounded great to us!  There are so many wineries, breweries, and farms in California and Oregon and this would give us an interesting place to stop for just a night here or there.  So, we filled out the application, but ended up getting denied membership because our gray water tank is not self-contained (we have a portable gray water tank that sits under our house when we’re stopped).

This brings me to the next thing we might have reconsidered during the build phase, if we had known.  Our portable gray water tank works well enough.  It’s 25 gallons, so it can hold two showers worth of water plus the normal sink usage.  We usually empty it every day or two in a dump station.  It’s a good solution, but it’s not the best solution.  Had we thought about it more, we would have invested in a tank that has a very slim profile (6” deep or less) that could be mounted up under the trailer frame permanently.  Our plumbing would drain directly into this tank, and our gray water could still be dumped at the dump station by pulling the whole house through on our way out of the campsite. This is more similar to an RV, so for us it makes perfect sense.  It’s actually still something we may add.  It would not be hard to reroute our drain pipe into a tank, but it is just a project for some other time while we're not constantly traveling. Besides these couple of considerations, we are two months in and still really happy with our tiny house! 

But we've learned to manage with what we have and have been having a blast exploring the redwood coast.

We spent five days in San Diego, checking out breweries and beautiful beaches.  We then headed to LA for just two nights for a wedding where it felt like we spent most of that time in traffic.  After that, we spent four nights in Saratoga, CA outside of San Francisco which was beautiful.  Finally we spent a few nights in northern California near Eureka, CA.  If you’ve never been there, it is just gorgeous and totally different from southern California.  Now we are in Oregon, where the craft beer scene is nearly overwhelming. Check out the photos below! We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Our First Off Grid Experience!

Hello all!  Happy Memorial Day to all our readers.  Hopefully everyone had a safe and pleasant holiday weekend!

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Utah, near Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  The parks were amazing, and we really had a great time, but the town was just PACKED!  We had booked an RV park in advance but it was one of the cheaper ones and when we got there we were just so disappointed with it.  I was missing home, I think, and having visions of us grilling and drinking a few beers by our house on Memorial Day like we would have done if we were with friends and family.  But the park was so depressing that it just made me even more homesick.  We started looking for other options...

Every place in Moab was booked up, including all the state parks, national parks, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds.  But the great news is that this part of the country is just chock full of public lands.  There is just so much open land in Utah!  It's federally owned but not maintained, just preserved.  Since it's public land, it's free to camp on it.  They just ask that you look for designated campsites and that you leave nothing behind (including human waste, so even tent campers were required to have their own portable toilets).  We figured we'd give it a shot!  If you're at all familiar with this part of the country, there's a large section of these public lands off highway 313, on the way to Canyonlands National Park.  We pulled off near Lone Mesa campground and found a nice little clearing right off the road where people had clearly camped before.  We stayed for two nights and it was just amazing.  The stars were about the brightest I've ever seen and the silence at night was so relaxing.  It was such an adventure!

Here's a little info on how we were able to pull off 2 nights completely off-grid. First off, when we left our RV park we filled up our fresh water tank.  We have a 46-gal fresh water tank on board and a water pump for when we have no water hookup.  (Read more about this in our plumbing blog post.) We had already decided we could handle skipping showers for those two days, so we just filled it up about 2/3 full for hand washing and dishes.  We had about 1/3 of the tank still left over after the two nights.  Once parked, we pulled out our 100W solar panel and leaned it against the house facing the sun.  Our 100Ah battery supplied us with minimal lighting, a cold fridge, and a functioning water pump for the 2 nights we were there, but by the time the last morning rolled around, the inverter was beeping that our battery was low. (Read more about this system in our electrical blog post.)

Here's what we found and what we might do to become less grid-dependent.  Our fridge ended up using more power than I was expecting.  When the compressor kicks on, it uses a lot of power (a few hundred watts), but that's only for a second or two.  Then it just circulates that cold air through the fridge and when it's doing that it sits at about 50W.  That might not sound like much, but I was constantly noticing it humming.  We ended up turning the dial in the fridge all the way down, so it was cooling less.  Next time we might just buy a bag of ice and use it as a cooler instead of powering it.  We also had a bit of cloud cover while we were there and though it kept us cooler, when you're trying to harness the sun power clouds are no good!  When we were getting full sun, we would get about 60W from the panel. Even if the fridge was running we still had a net gain of power but overnight, when we were getting no solar power, the battery started to drain.

DSC03541.JPG

If we really wanted a more robust system we should add another battery and possibly another panel, but for the moment, a cooler and a 2-3 night limit is just fine with us.  We really had a wonderful time using all the features of our house, exploring such amazing and vast lands, and just realizing all the freedom that we have to park our house where we want.  We will no longer be afraid to book a couple nights at a campsite with no hookups.  The national parks were awesome too, despite the crowds.  Seriously Utah, you're beautiful.

One Month In!

Yesterday marks one month on the road and so far, it's been great!  We've visited so many wonderful places and gotten to see a lot of family and friends along the way.  We love our tiny house and honestly can't think of one thing we'd change about it, except maybe making it a little more aerodynamic!  In a couple of days, we head to Durango, CO and then through Utah.  We are so excited to see all that the southwest has to offer, from its amazing national parks to its delicious Mexican food, to its warm, dry weather.  Neither of us has spent much time in that part of the country, so we can't wait!

We wanted to give you all a closer look at life in our tiny house, so here's a little video tour we put together.  Stay tuned for more videos including how we do laundry and a more in depth tour of our tiny house kitchen (which we LOVE)!

Don't forget to check out our photos page for all of our travel photos!

Tire Troubles and Texas Travels

Here we are in Austin, TX!  We are really excited to be here in such a fun, interesting city.  We also love our state park (McKinney Falls)!  It's full of beautiful trails and our campsite is so secluded and wooded.

The first few weeks of travel have been amazing, but not without their troubles.  First, there has been so much rain!  We had to stop in Baton Rouge on our way to Texas to wait out a big storm in a parking lot.  At Sea Rim State Park in Port Arthur, TX, the overnight storm was so severe that we lost power and we're pretty sure the ranger station got struck by lightning!  We were so happy to get to Port Aransas and have a weekly forecast of just sunshine.

Second, we have had constant tire troubles!  Also at Sea Rim, we woke up to a flat trailer tire.  We took it off the trailer and brought it to a tire center who told us that it was the rim that was leaking, and they couldn't help us.  We looked up trailer repair shops and found someone in Beaumont, TX who could replace the rim for us.  He said he'd only ever seen a leak like this once before, and it was a particular brand that had some defects and he was able to make a warranty claim and get them replaced.  He also recommended we check our other tires.  Lo and behold, after the 45 minute drive back to our campsite, we discovered a second trailer rim that was leaking in the same way!  The following day, we were supposed to be traveling to Port Aransas, TX, so we had to get up early and run back up to Beaumont to get the other rim replaced before we drove the 350 miles to our next destination.  After it was all said and done, we contacted Tumbleweed (our trailer manufacturer) to let them know that we were having these troubles.  They generously reimbursed us for the new rims and said they hadn't heard of this issue on other trailers, so hopefully we were the only unlucky ones!

Once in Port Aransas, we took our truck in to get an oil change, and the shop told us that we needed new truck tires (ugh)!  They said the tires weren't that old, but they were cracking like old tires do.  Odd, but OK fine.  We found a pretty good deal in San Antonio and got them replaced a few days ago.

Then, we woke up yesterday to one more flat trailer tire.  We couldn't find a leak and after airing it back up, it seems to be holding air so... fingers crossed that the issue won't persist!  So far, we've replaced six of our eight tires/rims and had to re-inflate a seventh.  Not a great track record.  Hopefully this will be the worst of our car troubles on the trip!

Apart from all that, we had a great time in Port Aransas, TX on the beach.  The dogs got to see the ocean for the first time and we had some delicious, super fresh seafood.  

From there, we headed north and made a quick stop in San Antonio, where we got to see the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and enjoyed some pretty good Texas beers.  Now, we're here in Austin for a couple more days, which is great because there is a lot to see and do here!  After that, we are heading up to Granbury, TX, Oklahoma City, OK, Amarillo, TX, and then to Santa Fe, NM! Keep tracking us on our travel page and check out our new photos on the photos/videos page! Also be sure to check out our past blog posts and subscribe for updates!

Our First Week on the Road

It's been a little over a week since we left Kansas City for our six months of travel and I don't think it's really sunk in yet!  We made our way down through Arkansas to Louisiana, staying with family most of the way.  Then we spent the last 5 days in New Orleans, staying at Saint Bernard State Park.  We're starting to figure some things out, so I'll just list out a few here...

1.  People love tiny houses!  It was so funny how many people at the state park stopped by to tell us how cool our little house was.  We had so many slow drive-bys while people took pictures to send to friends.  It was pretty fun talking to everyone about our little project and getting to know people who share a similar mindset that you don't need as much as you might think you do.

2.  Towing something that large takes time!  Also, it can be pretty stressful.  We worried every travel day that things in our house were sliding all around, or that the truck might have problems towing, or that we were too tall for overpasses.  But we invested in a weight distribution hitch and swaybar system to make it go a little smoother (probably something we should have had from the beginning) and as the trip goes on, I'm sure we'll get more comfortable.  We max out at about 60 mph, and if the road is particularly windy, bumpy, or tight, it's usually actually less than that. That means that when google maps says it'll take 5 hours, it's probably more like 6.5 hours.  We were really glad to get to NOLA and have 5 nights of staying put!

3.  The dogs are having fun, so far!  They are definitely confused and sometimes seem a little stressed, but all in all, they've been having a good time.  We take them for long walks every day, and spend a lot of time with them - definitely more than we did when we were both working full time jobs!  They were intrigued by the sounds of the bullfrogs in New Orleans, and they both got to see their first armadillo!

4.  Life on the road is pretty tiring!  We spent 5 days in NOLA and even though we wanted to run out every day and see stuff, we ended up spending the rainiest day at home doing some laundry and cleaning up a bit.  We had grand plans to write a blog post, make campsite reservations, and clean the bugs off the front of the house, but mostly we just sat.  Sometimes you need that... no plans, no responsibilities, just lots of couch time with your cozy family.  Also, it is cheap.  We are on a budget and being a tourist just has to be different when you're traveling for 6 months, as opposed to a weekend trip.  

Mostly we're having a lot of fun and can't wait to see what's next for us!  We had a blast in New Orleans.  It's such a vibrant city full of amazing food and talented people.  We loved our state park, too!  It had clean bathrooms, good laundry facilities, well-maintained grounds, and friendly people.  The only downside was that it was about 30 minutes south of the city.  

Click the picture to see our full New Orleans gallery!

Click the picture to see our full New Orleans gallery!

Next we're on the road heading to Sea Rim State Park in Port Arthur, TX.  We are going to spend the next 6 days on the Texas gulf beaches and visiting with more family.

Be sure to check our travel page for info about where we are, where we've been, and where we're going! And make sure to subscribe for updates on when new blog posts go live.

Also, you can check our photos/videos page to see our photo albums from each place we visit. 

 

On the Move!

Hey everyone. We've been so caught up working on getting our house done that we've been putting off blog posts. But we're back at the blog today because we have some big news! We are ACTUALLY done and believe it or not we have already left the driveway. I'm sitting here writing this post from the one and only Harrison, Arkansas! Check out this video of us finally pulling it out of our build location.

As you may know, our first major destination is New Orleans, Louisiana. But from Kansas City to New Orleans is quite a jump and pulling a whole house is not a speedy endeavor. We've planned a few stops along the way to ease the travel process and also allow us to see some family along the way. Lauren's cousin happens to live here in Harrison and offered us a place to stop and park for a couple of days. This turned out really great for us because it let us get the hang of towing the house without going too far and also allowed us to get the kinks out of our set up and break down procedures.

The Wanderlust Tiny House sits parked next to a full sized house in Harrison, Arkansas

As for driving with the house, we had only done it once before when we picked up the barn raiser from Tumbleweed in Colorado Springs. We knew we were in for a whole new experience since we added about 3000 more pounds of stuff since then. All in all, our F250 is still more than capable but we did have some scares along the way. Between Kansas City and Harrison the roads lead you through the Ozarks region of Missouri. This area is full of hills and winding roads which put much more strain on the truck. While we were chugging along up a rather steep hill, we pushed the truck a little too hard trying to maintain speed. The fan clutch couldn't keep up and our electronic throttle control gave out on us which defaults the truck to a "limp home" mode as described in the manual. While in this mode the truck can't go more than 50 miles per hour. Luckily after we pulled over and restarted the car, the warning cleared itself and everything was back to normal. After reading up about this issue we believe this was just a self protection action the truck takes to not further damage something but no real harm was done...phew!

Anyway, hopefully with a little down time we can get the blog back up to date and get more photo albums up. I know people have asked for more photos of the interior so we'll be sure to get those but if you have any other specifics you want to see, let us know! Here's a quickly thrown together collage to tide you over!

Also, be sure to check our travel page to see where we are, where we've been and where we're going. You can also see where we are in the side bar of the blog (if you're on a computer). If we're in your area and you want to meet up, have a beer or a cup of delicious Maps coffee (local roaster in Kansas City) let us know!

Electrical

We have been SO busy trying to meet our departure date of April 20!  I can't believe how quickly we will be on the road on our way to New Orleans!  We've gotten a lot done and are nearly move-in ready, but let's take a step back and focus on the details of our electrical system.

Like the rest of the house design, our electrical system has both an on-grid and an off-grid option.  We purchased a solar panel, battery, and inverter to allow us to have lights, even if we have no power connection.  The diagrams below show the two scenarios for receiving power and a list of the items we purchased for this system.

1) Plugged into a physical 120V power connection at a house or RV campsite.  

At an RV campsite, this could be 30A or 50A feed, but at a friend's house, it's most likely from a 15A outlet.  Our inverter has a 30A breaker at the output which feeds our breaker panel, so our panel has no main breaker (it's main lug only). In general, we don't expect we'll ever trip even a friend's 15A breaker in their house.  Our highest power draws are our counter top convection toaster oven (max 1800W or 15A) and my hair dryer.  The LED lights and small refrigerator help keep our other power needs low.

List of items purchased:

  1. Solar Panel
  2. Solar Charge Controller
  3. Lead Acid AGM Battery
  4. Power Inlet, Cable, and 15A adapter
  5. 2000W Inverter
  6. 100A Main Lug Only Breaker Panel (purchased from our local hardware store)

2) Running off our battery and collecting solar power.

Our solar panel can collect 100W continuously, which means it can provide ~8.3A to our battery to charge it.  We monitor what we're getting from our panel via our solar charge controller and have only seen 5A max, when the sun in shining bright.  Solar panels are very directional, that's why being able to move it freely to track the sun is ideal.  Our panel will be stored in our house while we're moving and set up in the best possible location when we're parked.  Mounting a panel on the roof or exterior wall would mean that the house would need to be positioned with that particular side facing the sun, which might not always be possible.  The great thing about solar panels is that you can always add more.  We will assess how our system is performing, once we get a chance to try it out for real!

We went with a lead acid sealed AGM battery that's 12V and has 100 Amp-hour capacity, meaning it could provide us with 1A for 100 hours, 2A for 50 hours, etc.  When we're solely on battery power, we will not be using our convection oven or hair dryer.  Our only loads will be our lights, fridge, water pump, water heater (which is propane but draws a little power for the screen and starter), and any other miscellaneous items plugged into outlets like a phone charger.  We estimatee that the average continuous power usage when off-grid and trying to conserve energy is about 30W (with two lights, the fridge, and the water heater all on).  That means that our battery could keep us running for 40 hours.  However, when the fridge or water pump kicks on occasionally, it will drain the battery more quickly.  Anything the solar panel can provide helps to increase our estimated battery life.

The inverter we purchased is rated for 2000W.  This should be able to handle any larger appliances we run in our house.  The inverter converts the 12VDC battery to 120VAC to feed our breaker panel when on battery power.  When we're plugged in, it simply passes the 120VAC straight through to our panel, while also taking advantage of the power feed to charge our battery. 

We purchased an 100A 8-circuit main lug only breaker box, which is plenty for a tiny house.  We have 15 outlets and lights, because, well, can you really have too many?  The abundance of lights (on many different switches) allows us to be very selective with our lighting.  Some are bright and directional for task lighting, some are more ambient. All the outlets allow us to charge our phone or laptop wherever we want!

We really enjoyed designing and installing the electrical system.  Both of us studied electrical engineering in school, so it was fun to feel like we knew what we were doing for once (ha!).  It's also a huge milestone to turn on that first light or plug in the solar panel and see it charge our battery.

 

Plumbing

This week, we hit some major milestones!  We got all of our plumbing and electrical system up and running and finished installing all the wallboards and the stairs!  We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Let's talk about our plumbing system.  The system allows for us to be attached to a pressurized city water supply or for us to feed from our own water tank, say if we were camping off-grid.  Here's what our system looks like and a list of the major components.

  1. Tankless Water Heater
  2. Propane Auto Changeover Regulator
  3. Cooktop Stove
  4. Shower Handle and Shower Head
  5. Kitchen Faucet
  6. Kitchen Sink
  7. Accumulator Tank
  8. Water Inlet
  9. Water Pump
  10. Pump Strainer
  11. Potable Water Tank

As you can see in some of the photos below, we built a sort of "utility cabinet" in the lowest portion of our storage stairs.  Here we are housing our water tank, water pump, battery, inverter, and breaker box.  Our water and electrical inlets also enter the house in this area.  From here, the plumbing leaves the water pump (or straight from the pressurized inlet sourced from city water) and heads into the kitchen cabinets and over toward the bathroom.  We hid the water lines in the bathroom ceiling and installed the water heater on the bathroom wall above the toilet.  The water heater is propane fueled and wall-mounted.  Because it is an instantaneous heater, there is no water stored in the unit.  This makes it very compact and lightweight.  The vent on the top of the unit is routed straight out the wall on the side of the house. 

We purchased a shower head that has a hose and a "pause" button, since we will be trying to conserve water any time we are on our tank supply.  We also chose a kitchen faucet with a pull-down sprayer for this same reason.  

We chose to use PEX for all our pressurized water lines.  PEX is super easy to work with, since it's fairly flexible, the fittings crimp on simply with the proper tool, and we had no problems with leaks.  Unfortunately, we did encounter some leaks on some of our threaded brass fittings, particularly when transitioning from the tank, pump, and faucets. When we tested all our lines we found these to be the least reliable points. We ended up using a PTFE thread sealant in conjunction with teflon tape, which seemed to fix all those issues.

As far as drain lines, we used all PVC pipe that connects together under the house. The main drain line is then finished off with a fitting for connecting to standard RV sewer lines. The kitchen sink drains through a standard p-trap purchased from a hardware store but because the shower stall sits directly on the subfloor with only the thickness of the trailer deck below, a standard p-trap won't fit unless it drops well below the trailer deck. To avoid scraping a low hanging trap on anything that might be under the trailer, we decided to use an in-line trap. This is essentially a check valve in the line that allows water to flow one direction and doesn't allow any sewer gasses to travel back up. We'll have to put this through a series of tests once in use to see how well it works, but for now it seemed like the best option.  Most full-size houses have a stack vent, which is just a large pipe that extends vertically up and out of the house to allow air into the house's plumbing system for easy drainage.  Rather than this larger installation, we purchased an air admittance valve, which connects right under our kitchen sink and serves the same purpose.  The only disadvantage is that a regular stack vent also allows any sewer gases in the system to escape.  We don't have this, but we also don't anticipate this to be a major problem in such a small system.

For the propane system, we chose to use flexible stainless steel tubing, rather than black iron pipe which is more typical in larger installations.  We found the flexible tubing and fittings very easy to install and had no trouble with propane leaks when testing the system.  The only propane we're using in our house is for the water heater and the stove top.  We looked into purchasing a dual propane/electric fridge, but determined that a normal, all-electric fridge draws so little power that the advantage of having a propane fridge does not justify the cost of purchasing one.  We'll talk more about how the fridge fits into our battery system in the next post!

Doing the plumbing ourselves was definitely a learning experience for us and proved to be one of the more frustrating projects to date. Between finding the right fittings to transition between components, working in tight spaces, tracking down and resolving any leaks, and routing all the piping (especially drain lines that penetrated the subfloor), plumbing was certainly not a simple task and we are both glad to be done with it!

A House Without A Door

Welcome to Wanderlust Tiny House blog post number eight (or so). Our last post about siding detailed some of our decisions and work in effort to cover our house in siding. What it may have left out is that we are still one wall away from being done with that effort.

The wall where our front door is to be installed was put on hold until said front door was in our possession. We wanted to make sure the siding, trim and door would all fit together nicely and were hoping we'd be able to install it all at the same time. When we ordered our door at the end of January we were told it would be arriving around March 7th.  When we contacted the vendor on March 8th we were informed the door was damaged during manufacturing and they were working on a replacement that wouldn't be ready until March 24th. So that was a bit of an exciting set back in our plans!

But we haven't been sitting idly by waiting for a door. The moment we finished the three walls of siding we moved inside and started tackling the long list of projects that exists therein. It was an exciting change of pace to actually work indoors (do you call it "indoors" if there is no door?) and give the interior of our house some personality. We quickly got to work getting our bathroom partitioned off and our shower in place. There was also the water heater installation, plumbing, walling, kitchen cabinets, planning out our staircase and getting our utility inlets and systems all connected and functioning.

Each of those items was quite an undertaking and almost all deserve a blog post of their own outlining their details. We have just been so busy working on the house that getting the posts written has gotten delayed! We promise further updates will come, but feel free to ask any specific questions about our progress here or on our facebook page and we'll make sure to cover it in upcoming posts!

Siding

We've spent the last week or so installing siding on our tiny house.  We think it looks great, and we're super excited that our big green box is starting to look like a real house!

 Let's talk about why we chose the siding we did, and how the install went.

We chose to use LP Smartside lap siding.  This product is an engineered hardwood, making it extremely durable and long-lasting.  It looks similar to Hardie board or other fiber cement boards, but because it is made of wood, it is easier to work with and much lighter.  We knew that we wanted to paint our tiny house, so getting solid wood siding didn't make sense for us.  Not only is our siding lighter,  it's cheaper, more durable, and it's pre-primed so it's already ready to paint!

We chose to install a rainscreen behind the siding.  To do this, we installed vertical furring strips on each stud on the exterior of the house.  The furring strips hold the siding off the wall 3/4", allowing air to vent behind the siding and preventing condensation from building up in any gaps between the wall and the siding.  In our research, we found that some people think the rainscreen is definitely necessary and others think it may not be.  We decided it was a good idea to do it.  This meant that all of our window trim had to be installed 3/4" off the wall as well, so that the siding would butt directly up to the trim.  We chose to do the trim first, rather than trimming over the siding.  Again, this is just personal preference, but we like the way it turned out.

Installing the siding went pretty quick, with the exception of a few odd areas, like the angles in the dormers and the curves around the wheel wells.  We found gauges at the hardware store that clip onto the board below and hold up the board above to give the proper 1" overlap on every board. This helped keep every board level and all the proportions the same.  We used 3" screws on each board that screwed directly into the studs, holding it in place. Let us know what you think!

Insulation, Electrical, and Windows

This past week has been really fun!  We are making lots of progress and now have wall and ceiling insulation, all electrical wiring laid, and windows installed.  It's so nice to have all the natural light and it makes it feel much bigger inside!

Let's talk about insulation first.  We struggled with the decision of what type of insulation to use because they all have their pros and cons.  Here's the details on the types we considered:

1. Fiberglass, rock wool, or other bat insulation:  This stuff is really easy to install and it's the cheapest option.  It would have been fine for the wall insulation, but not for the ceiling.  The ceiling needs something with a higher R-value since the sun and snow both affect the roof directly.  There is no way to form a complete vapor barrier around the bats, so the roof would need to be vented, so that condensation can't get trapped in the air pockets.

2. Rigid foam insulation:  Rigid foam sheets are better than bat insulation, since they provide a higher R-value with less thickness. These would have worked alright for the ceiling.  We could have layered a couple sheets to get a high enough R-value and used canned spray foam insulation to fill in any gaps.  The issue we had here was that we still would probably need to vent our roof, because filling air gaps completely is a challenge.  Some of our roof is framed with 2x4s (instead of 2x6s), providing little space to install multiple sheets of rigid foam, meaning the R-value in those areas would have to be less.

3.  Closed cell spray foam insulation:  This is ultimately what we ended up choosing.  It is the best all around product because it forms a complete air and vapor barrier, meaning the roof does not need to be vented.  Spray foam also provides a higher R-value with only a couple of inches of foam.  The only downside is the cost.  It probably cost us more than double what other insulation would have, but it made sense for us with our tight construction schedule.  We were able to have our entire house (wall and ceiling) insulated in under 5 hours.  It also made sense for us because we are going to be traveling with our house through all different types of climates.  This insulation gives us the absolute best preparation for whatever weather we may see on the road.

The most expensive part of the spray foam is simply getting the equipment to the jobsite.  The installers showed up in a large truck that houses the equipment and just fed a hose out of the back of the truck and into our house.  Honestly, I think we could have saved some money by bringing our house to their warehouse (it is on wheels, after all), but we were in the middle of other projects and didn't want to risk the roof flying off as we drove down the road because it wasn't entirely complete.  The total cost was around $1500, which is their absolute minimum order.  It's just not worth it for them to drive the truck out for anything less.

Prior to getting the insulation installed, we ran all of the electrical circuits to our various switches, light housings, and outlets.  This was something we needed to do early because the insulation becomes very rigid once it is set.  We have 15 light fixtures and 15 outlets.  This might seem like a lot, but we can't have any table lamps or anything that will fly around while we are on the move.  Everything has to be a permanent fixture.  We wanted to give ourselves enough options to have the right lighting for any occasion.  We will talk more about our complete electrical system in another post!

Finally, we installed all our windows.  We have 9 windows, including 2 in the sleeping loft and 1 in the storage loft.  We went with vinyl windows as they're the cheapest and the lightest while still being very resistant to weather and rot-free. They also create a better separation from the outside than aluminum framed windows which don't provide any good thermal break (meaning the metal frame creates a good path for heat transfer).

It's so fun to see the house start to come together and really envision where everything will go!

Roofing (Among Other Things)

It has been a crazy week of non-stop tiny house work! When we got back to Kansas City with our barn raiser we were excited to hit the ground running and haven't stopped since. The main focus of our work has been the roof but there's been plenty of other work to fill the time as well (trim, soffits, fascia, rain screen...the list is never ending!)

The roof was the first thing on our list for several reasons. Obviously we wanted to get our house as weather-tight and protected as possible. With it being winter it's hard to know what to expect in Kansas City and we didn't want to risk being buried in snow before we even had a roof over our heads. Also, with the roof comes some of the trim. Things like soffits, fascia and drip edge had to be installed prior to the shingles so that everything layered nicely. These tasks were also necessary to be ready for the other exterior work like siding. We're quickly discovering that each piece has a precise order of installation for it to fit together nicely. 

Prior to making a decision on our specific roofing material, we did a lot of research on all the different options available. We ended up going with a product called Onduvilla. These shingles are made up of corrugated panels that overlap and fit together nicely for a rather easy installation. They are comprised of asphalt and recycled fiber material which makes them tough and scratch resistant while still being lightweight and easy to cut with a utility knife.  The panels are installed one after the other, with an overlap of a few inches.  They are secured with screws and washers in the ridges of each shingle.  Onduvilla also makes all the finishing pieces needed to create a complete roof system, including ridge caps, verge (side) pieces, and foam closure strips which sit under the ridges on the very last shingle to keep animals or bugs from climbing inside.  All in all, the system cost us under $900 and weighs less than 200 lbs.  It took about 3 days to install, but I think that was inflated due to our lack of experience.

One main concern with any roofing material was how it would stand up to high winds, since we will be cruising down the highway with this roof.  Onduvilla's roof panels are rated to withstand up to 150 mph winds (and have withstood even higher in actual tests).

The other main contender for roof material was standing seam metal roof panels. Given their durability and relative light weight, they are what most tiny homes use in their builds. We had just a few concerns with this type of material. First were the technical skills needed to work with such a roofing system. We've never done any roofing and certainly don't have any experience making precise, clean cuts in metal. I can't attest to how much of a challenge metal roofs actually are since we didn't go that route, but I definitely feel like our choice was a bit more forgiving to the novice builder. We had also heard that metal roofs require a fair amount of maintenance. If scratched (which can happen regularly with a travelling house) the bare metal would be susceptible to rust and would require repairs and preventative maintenance. Because Onduvilla is asphalt through and through, if scratched it maintains its protective qualities and doesn't require any specific fixes (unless torn all the way through of course).

All said and done, I am quite pleased with our roof. It was pretty simple (and actually fun) to install once we got in a good rhythm. I think it's as attractive as any other roof system and I have faith that it will stand up to the test of time with no problems. Let us know in the comments what you think or if you have any specific questions about the material or installation!

Picking Up The Barn Raiser!

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you might already know that we picked up our Tumbleweed Barn Raiser last weekend! We are very excited to get working on the finishing process. 

For those that don't know, a Barn Raiser is product offered by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. This company is centered around all things tiny house and sells everything from a bare trailer all the way up to a fully finished house on wheels.  The barn raiser is sort of a middle ground. They provide a trailer along with the house framing, sheathing, roof deck and exterior waterproofing materials. You can add options such as finished roofs, siding, windows, doors, etc. all pre-installed allowing you really focus on the part of the build that is convenient or comfortable for you. This product was a huge advantage for us because of our timing, schedule and our lack of building experience. We knew we wanted to do a lot of the work ourselves and customize our build, but also wanted to be ready to travel by Spring. This also offered us the peace of mind of knowing that the frame was designed with proper engineering practices and analyzed for structural integrity as well as built using current construction methods by qualified builders. Our barn raiser was essentially as basic as they come but has provided us with a great head start. 

When we pulled up and saw the house for the first time we were actually surprised how enormous it felt! The 13'-6" height doesn't sound nearly as tall as it looks.  We've never really towed anything before but didn't think a tiny house would be so intimidating. On our drive back to Kansas City we became very aware of overpass clearance signs. I'll admit I cringed with a bit of fear every time we went under one. Some of those overpasses were marked as low as 14'3" on the highways and in Denver itself, certain lanes were marked with 13'3" as the overpass arched down toward the outsides. Knowing your house is clearing a concrete structure at 60 miles per hour by mere inches is a bit nerve-racking! That coupled with the added width and wider turn radius really made the first towing experience interesting.

The tiny house stands as tall if not taller than an average semi trailer!

It was also a much longer and less efficient drive back home. Pulling nearly 7000 pounds and dragging a flat wall behind is taxing on even our big truck. We couldn't get going much faster than 65 mph and when we did it dropped our average gas mileage to about 6 mpg. So we averaged about 60 mph which turned a normal 9 hour drive into something more like 12. Because of this, we are planning our future travels to minimize each leg of the trip. Driving during daylight makes the whole ordeal a lot easier especially if we have to do some interesting backup maneuvering once we reach our destination. 

But after all that we are home and just excited to get to work!

FAQs (so far)

Here's a list of the most common questions we hear when we tell people we're going tiny.  Do you have others?  Leave them in the comments below!  We will try to respond, or create a follow up post to address them.

1.  How tiny is your tiny house?

Our little house will be 8' wide by 20' long.  The main floor will be approximately 140 square feet, and the sleeping loft will add another ~60 square feet.  The total height of the structure must be 13'-6" or less, to meet road requirements. This means that the height of the main floor under the sleeping loft will be limited to 6'-6", while the loft space will be about 4' at its highest point. This allows for the height of the trailer and the structural components of the roof while still keeping the roof at 13'-6".

2.  Where are you most excited to visit?

This is a tough one!  If you visit our travel page, you will see that we have big plans.  We are trying to see as much as we possibly can in 6 months.  That being said, I think both of us are the most excited to visit Yellowstone, Glacier, Zion, and Banff National Parks.  We've never really been to this part of the country and the more research we do and pictures we see, the more we just cannot wait.  Plus, the national parks provide many excellent off-grid camping locations, which we are super excited about!

3.  What kind of hookups will you have for water, electricity, etc?

Our tiny house will have regular RV hookups for power and water.  This will provide us fresh tap water and 120V power for outlets and appliances.  The majority of our large appliances (water heater and stove) will run off propane, so we will also carry two 20-pound propane tanks with us.  This means that we can easily connect to any RV spot in a campground, or to an extension cord and garden hose in a friend's driveway (if you have a driveway you want to offer, shoot us a message on our contact page!).  We will also have fully contained electric and water systems so that we can do some off-grid camping, with no hookups.  These systems will include a fresh water tank and pump, grey water tank, solar panels, batteries, and a charger/inverter.  We are only planning to have these system supply us off-grid for a few days at a time.  So, during this time, we will pack light and keep our food in a cooler, rather than the fridge.  We can use our propane stove top, but not our convection counter top oven. So life will be just slightly more primitive.

4.  How do you dispose of your waste?

The conversation about tiny houses inevitably always ends up with us talking about toilets.  That's just a part of life, I suppose.  Our tiny house will have NO black water, meaning we won't need to connect to a sewer system.  Instead, we will have a composting toilet.  This clever device has two waste containers, one for liquids, and one for solids.  The solid waste container is churned after each use with some peat moss to encourage composting and is emptied every few weeks.  The liquid waste container will get emptied every few days.  We also want to keep a larger compost bin in the back of our truck, for other biodegradable food waste.  All other water leaving our house (from our two sinks and our shower) will be grey water, and we intend to use all biodegradable cleaning products so that this can be safely disposed of pretty much anywhere.  We will keep a small, portable grey water tank with us, so we can collect it all and dispose of it wherever makes sense.   

5.  What will you use to pull that thing?

As we mentioned previously, we bought a truck... a big truck.  

Yes, we traded in our all-electric Nissan Leaf for a Ford F-250 Lariat with a 6.0L diesel engine.  This big-ole truck can pull up to 12,500 lbs.  However, we are hoping that when the house is fully loaded, it will weigh around 8,000-10,000 lbs. One of the main considerations when shopping for our truck was gas vs. diesel. We decided on the latter due to a few main advantages. Diesel trucks are usually more fuel efficient. This might be arguable when considering the current price of gasoline, but generally speaking it holds true. Diesel truck engines are also known for their longevity when properly maintained. This was important given how many miles we intend to put on this truck. Lastly, diesels are usually better suited for hauling large loads. Because of the high compression ratio necessary to ignite diesel fuel, the engine can generate more torque and power at a lower RPM.

6.  What will you do with your dogs?

We have two dogs and neither of them are small.  Otis is a 6 year old Akita mix (mutt) who weighs 120 lbs.  He's a big slobbery mess who loves to be near you.  

Otis

Otis

Colbie is an 8 year old Blue Heeler mix (also a mutt) and she weighs 50 lbs.  I think she's part Corgi because of her pointy ears and stubby little legs.  

Colbie

Colbie

They're both weird, quirky, sweet dogs that we couldn't imagine leaving behind.  So, it was an easy decision, we'll bring them with us!  The house may be crowded, but the lifestyle in general is great for dogs.  Imagine all the walks they'll get to go on, all the people they'll meet, and all the great open land they'll get to roam!  Each campground will provide new smells, new sounds, and new sights.  To make things easier for us, we are definitely putting a topper on our truck.  This will give them their own space on the car rides where they can lay down and we don't have to worry about them scratching up or slobbering on our seats.

Another topic we get asked about a lot is downsizing.  Yes, we sold our house.  We sold nearly everything in our house, too.  This was a big undertaking so we'll cover all that in a later post...


Planning For Tiny Living

The moment we learned about the tiny house movement we were very interested in how people could make such a small space work for day to day life. It was an odd yet intriguing concept for us. We had grown quite accustomed to our three bedroom house in Kansas City and knew making such a transition would come with some unique challenges. Since travel was one of our primary motivators and given that we would have to accommodate two adults and two sizable dogs it wasn't a simple or quick decision to try out this lifestyle. In order to get ideas and begin learning we started following other tiny house bloggers, researching tiny house living and mentally planning what it would take to get this all to work.

But before we could even begin the tiny house portion of this adventure, there were several steps we had to go through to prepare ourselves to start down this path. Lauren and I were living what most people would consider an average American life. We are both electrical engineers and before this idea took hold in our minds we were working standard 8 to 5 jobs, paying a mortgage and two car payments, and trying to figure out what we wanted next. Once this idea for change got into our heads we began planning for the better part of a year. We spent that time saving our income, planning budgets, planning travel routes, and looking for resources. We then quit our jobs, sold our house and most of our belongings and moved into a smaller place. It was a series of intimidating decisions along the way but we're finally prepared to kick off the tiny house construction phase.

truck

Oh...and we bought a gigantic truck.

Our First Post

Friends, family, and fellow tiny house enthusiasts:

The Wanderlust tiny house journey is about to begin.  In two weeks, Patrick and I will pick up our Tumbleweed Barn Raiser in Colorado Springs.  We'll then return to Kansas City where we will finish building the house and prepare to head out on an extensive tour of the United States.  We plan to travel for about 6 months, or as long as our savings can sustain us on the road... and we CAN'T WAIT.

Our travel destinations include nearly every state and parts of Canada.  Our two dogs and we will be adventurers, traveling to places we never imagined we'd visit and meeting people I'm sure we'll never forget. 

Stay tuned for updates and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram...