Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

It’s a happy day on happy mountain!

The exterior of my Tiny Cabin is finished and I am happy happy happy! I’m sitting here in LA waiting for the arrival of the new wind turbine and I thought it might be a good idea to answer some common questions that have popped up in e-mails.

1. Have you drawn any plans for the cabin so I can build one?

WOW, I am WAY flattered! Since I made the cabin up as I went along, I don’t have any actual plans. I started with a 10′x12′ footprint and some reference pictures of modern sheds. I played around in SketchUp and PhotoShop until I came up with a simple design that looked nice and would be simple to build. If you read through the whole blog, I think there should be enough pictures and notes for someone to build a similar version. The main points I learned in “building-as-I-go” were to

A. follow the framing book and use 16″ on center construction (for maximum efficiency in materials)

B. design the framing plan around whatever materials I had in hand. All my windows were free (as well as some of the lumber)

C. it will take longer than you think

D. I underestimated costs for things like replacement tools, blades, nails, screws, band-aids

E. bring a friend, even if you’re building it by yourself. It gets lonely out there and since cows make lousy conversation, having someone to talk to (and drink beer with) is a God-send (drunken cows will never leave)

F. When in doubt, look it up on the Internet!

2. How much did it cost?

So far with the exterior finished I am in for a total of $3,640. This takes into consideration that the large and small windows were free, The deck lumber was free, and I already own a good tool kit. I’ll post the line-item budget at the end of this post in case anyone wants to see the details.

3. Where is your cabin?

It’s just outside metro Los Angeles, a modest drive from Hollywood. I’m keeping the location a secret for a few reasons. As I’m dancing on the permit line with the county’s building department, I need to stay under their radar. While the cabin…I mean “storage shed”…stays within the letter of the law, I really don’t need any unwanted attention from my neighbors or the inspectors.

4. What about a kitchen and bathroom?

My plan is to build a larger, adjacent cabin which will house the kitchen, bathroom, dining/living room. In order to do this, I will need a building permit (another reason to keep the tiny cabin “street legal”), a water system installed, engineer-stamped seismic-4 compliant plans, and, the money to do it.

5. What’s next?

>My immediate “to-do” list is… to re-build the small nearby tool shed. In order to finish off the interior of the tiny cabin, I’ll need to relocate and store the stuff cluttering up the interior. I need a real storage building to avoid everything getting chewed up and covered in mouse urine so I’ll close-in and mouse-proof my open-air 6′x8′ tool shed.

>Next I will finish off the drywall, install a T&G pine ceiling, install a proper floor, paint and add furniture!

>Build a battery house and install the wind turbine. I’ll need to buy a tower pole kit (about $400) so I’m currently sourcing them and trying to figure out the most affordable option.

>Build an outdoor shower pavilion. Currently I take showers using the outdoor shower on the back of the trailer. I need to set up a semi-enclosed stall so I can shower regardless of the time of day or temperature. The cold and wind often make it unpleasant to be naked and wet on the hillside.

……………………………………………….

I cannot express how grateful I am for all of you reading, emailing and being so supportive of my crazy scheme. It’s been a rough year for me career-wise. Money is so tight and paying work has been very hard to find. The tiny cabin has been a therapeutic adventure for me as well as a source of pride, solace and security.

Thank you all so very very much.

Elroy

…………………………………………………

My hard costs…

FOR WHAT AMOUNT
GRAVEL 34.42
NAILS 21.09
LUMBER- 2X6X10 PRESSURE TREATED 14.94
LUMBER- DECK FRAMING/T&G PLYWOOD/NAILS/TARP 301.21
LUMBER-ADDITIONAL SHEET T&G 20.87
FRAMING BOOK 19.44
GRAVEL-3/4 TON /BAG DEPOSIT 93.02
GRAVEL BAG DEPOSIT RETURN (21.65)
LUMBER/HARDWARE/HAND TOOLS/FRAMING HAMMER 118.89
NAILS/SUPPLIES 17.47
USED 6500W GENERATOR 325.00
PLASTIC SHEETING/NAILS/SCREWS/SAW BLADE 152.63
FRAMING LUMBER- 46/2X4X92″ 75.69
FRAMING LUMBER- DIMENSIONAL & ROOF OSB 199.76
LUMBER- 16′ RAFTERS/GRAVEL/SAW BLADE 112.16
NAILS/SIMPSON CONNECTORS 31.51
NAILS/SIMPSON CONNECTORS 29.62
ROOF FELT/STAPLES/TAR PAPER 64.00
NAILS 10.19
RAFTER TIES 32.06
16′ LADDER RENTAL (FOR ROOF) 20.00
ROOF FELT/ADHESIVE 46.73
NAILS/ROOF BLOCK LUMBER 29.03
ROOF FELT/INSULATION 102.11
RETURNED ROOF FELT/WRONG TYPE (71.21)
RETURNED TAR PAPER/OVER-BOUGHT (13.45)
TAR PAPER/WINDOW FRAME LUMBER/CAULK 78.85
RETURNED TAR PAPER/OVER-BOUGHT (24.38)
DOOR HARDWARE/INSTALLATION MATERIALS 67.36
STEEL & GLASS ENTRY DOOR 335.84
POWER INLET 67.55
PHONE INLET 10.96
METAL ROOF/SAWZ-ALL BLADES/ROOF SCREWS 450.56
RETURN 2 METAL ROOF PANELS (68.11)
SCREW GUN SOCKET SLEEVES 10.79
HARDI-PANEL SIDING (2 WALLS)/SIDING NAILS 182.38
EXTERIOR TRIM PAINT/SIDING STAIN/BRUSHES 88.85
EXTERIOR STAIN 35.68
SIMPLE BOARD SIDING/EXTERIOR SCREWS 133.67
PHONE LINE BURIAL SUPPLIES 27.85
INSULATION-R-13/R-19 108.08
STORE CREDIT/RETURNED INSULATION (108.08)
STAPLES 8.64
SAW HOLE/TELEPHONE/ELECT INSTALL EQUIP 55.94
STORE CREDIT/RETURNED TOOLS INSTALL (34.75)
DRYWALL, SCREWS, JOINT COMPOUND, UTILITY CONNECTORS 158.63
RETURNED DRYWALL, EXCESS HARDWARE (57.24)
UTILITY BOX SPACERS 3.20
SIDING STAIN, EXTERIOR SCREWS 77.41
DECK FOOTINGS, EAVE SIDING PANELS 74.16
DECK STAIN, PAINT, SIMPSON CONNECTORS 71.66
DECK NAILS, SIMPSON CONNECTORS, TRIM BOARDS, FOOTINGS 114.94
TOTAL SPENT SO FAR $3,635.97

4 responses

  1. I looked and looked for the Telletubby in the photoshopped image of the cabin and was happy to not find one :-D …jk

    Congrats on this milestone!

    Fingers crossed that the money loosens up in Hollywood and the studios get the capital they need to bring people back to work.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:45 am

  2. Fantastic to see that you’ve finished the exterior, many congratulations. I’ll look forward to your continuing adventures on the mountains with great interest.

    Cheers,

    Justin.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:09 pm

  3. Pingback: Tiny House Living , Archive » Happy Days for the Urban Rancher

  4. rebelcrafter

    I totally agree with “bring a friend.” Not only is it lonely out there, but safety-wise, if you’re in some remote locale and happen to fall off the roof, or accidentally cut yourself with a saw, it’s good to have somebody around to help you.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm

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