Take these four things into consideration when building or buying your own wee house.
When Susan Mills and her husband, Bill Mullen, both in their 50s, decided to move from Nova Scotia to a tiny house in Turtle Lake, Sask., they had no prior knowledge of the trend. "I'd been looking at them online and loved them," says Susan, "but I'd never seen a tiny house in person before building one." Luckily, she did all the research and made their new 118-square-foot house into their dream home. Here's how she did it.
The right spot
A key reason for the couple making the move was to be closer to Susan's mother in Saskatoon. But in the course of her research, Susan learned that tiny houses on wheels are illegal in that city. So she moved hers an hour north to Turtle Lake. Be sure to check your local bylaws before constructing a home of your own.
The right design
Instead of a total DIY, Susan opted for a tried-and-true design by architect and tiny house pioneer Jay Shafer, owner of California's Four Lights Tiny House Company. "I liked how his houses looked—Craftsman style," she says. "And since he had lived in a tiny house for 15 years, that's what decided it for me." Susan also knew that Shafer's design would have addressed the problems she had read about, such as condensation and mould.
The right extras
In building her house, Susan kept the Saskatchewan climate top of mind, paying close attention to insulation and installing triple-pane glass windows. "We had a warm winter this year, but we often have winters where we hit -40°C," she says. "Insulating well also helps keep things cool in the summer."
The right mindset
"The decision wasn't really financial," says Susan. "I was already debt-free and had a house that I liked a lot. It was more a lifestyle change." She started acquiring clothes and possessions to suit her new space and fresh life chapter. "It's a midlife thing where I don't want all the stuff that was appropriate to me at 25. I like having a house that can come with me to a new location or, if I end up travelling, as many older people do, an easy house to maintain."
If you're convinced you have what it takes to go small, here are your next steps.
- Go to a home show featuring tiny house builders. Often a model home will be set up for you to step inside and see what it's like.
- Educate yourself. There are groups like Tiny House Alliance in Loreburn, Sask., popping up across the country. Ask to attend one of their regular meetings so you can learn from real tiny homeowners about the challenges and joys of their lifestyle. Also, inquire if someone will let you visit their house; a functioning household will give you a realistic idea of what's involved in living small.