Thursday, February 26, 2009

BUILDING THE VARDO: The cost of simplicity

Clip art credit:
"People are often confused as to why a 100 square foot costs more than $150 per square foot. The mindset in America is to look at the cost per square foot. Increasing the size of a room by 50 square feet costs almost nothing. Basically, all you’re paying for is the roof and flooring, and maybe a little extra wiring and plumbing. One of the easiest ways to make a house cost less per square foot is to make it bigger."
-from the Q&A Section of Tumbleweed Houses' Blog.

More and more people are looking at "smaller is better" as a option for their lives. Tiny may push the edges of okay-ness for most folks, and yet the attention that the tiny home revolution receives must say something about the re-think of the American dream. Pete and I began building our VardoForTwo because 1) 'normal houses' made us sick, 2) rent and a mortgage made no senses 3) we saw an option that just might work and it was called a 'vardo.' We are moving ever closer tothe completion of our 8x12 foot home with a porch. Today Pete is talking with yet another (that would make five) roofers to help put a roof on VardoForTwo. Gods willing we will have a deal that works for everyone by the end of the day:))

The excerpt from Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Houses blog is an important point to make for any of our readers exploring or just curious about the real life dream and activity of a tiny home builder. Building small WITH quality does not mean it will be cheap. We have put our money, time and Pete's labor into the best quality material we can afford and live with without an ill-effect reaction. This home of our is mostly cash and carry. We buy what we can pay for.

After yet another detailed discussion about roofing the vardo today, I just felt the need to get something out to our readers that might help you walk through the process. The cost of simplicity is: a lot of true work! It will not come cheap, but then why would you expect that. Here are a few vital points to consider before and during the process of building a tiny, MCSensible home:

1. Be patient. If you are building it yourself, be patient with yourselves. If you are having your home built, even a builder who 'specializes' in MCSensible home-building will not know your particular brand of sensitivities.

2. Have reliable back-up.
  • This means, who are your health-care supporters? Will they and can they support you through the testing material phases of building your home?
  • Escape Hatch: do you have somewhere or someone who will give you safety if you need to leave the building site?
  • It also means who will be your 'go-fer' shopping and pricing all the materials you think you'd like to use. Again, if someone is building your home for you, the ultimate bottom-liner will be you the owner-builder-MCSer. Build in the time and energy it takes to go through this, then add another 15%-25% of time, at least.
3. Know how much you will spend on your home. In our case, this amount of money is money we already have. There were no loans/mortgages. There were two gifts that amounted to $2,500 which paid for our four customized windows and part of the custom front door.

  • Living with MCS has meant we have no regular income sources.
  • We have a set amount of money from past investments that pay for every bit of our daily expenses and building costs. We aimed at a figure for spending that would leave us a very frugal allowance to live on for one year after VARDOFORTWO was completed.
  • Add 20% to the original budget you aim at ... it just works that way.
4. Material and Set-up. For each phase of our building Pete has beavered away at finding the best suppliers and providers of service. That is such an incredibly valuable job. It's value in dollars saved would probably add another 15% to the over-all cost of the tiny home.

  • We are not using the most readily available or least expensive/potentially harmful materials. So finding these materials and testing them takes a lot of time. It's one thing to build as many do, with exterior plywood for siding and flooring. It's quite another to innovate and research other alternatives.
  • Set-up: this phrase refers to the heating, air purification and electrical cooking/lighting that will make VARDOFORTWO comfy and cozy. We live a higher quality life with no gas appliances or heat, an electric radiant heater has been our choice, an Austin Jr. Air Purifier cleans the air for us now and we'll include it in the vardo. Electrical outlets for those appliances plus one lamp and a string of small 'Christmas lights' will light up our home. One outlet will be used for the laptop so we can keep this blog alive.
There are many other details involved in building any home, and a tiny home is no different ... perhaps it involved more detail there's no room for 'junk drawers.' If you're a lurker whose interested to the point of getting serious about building ... spring's a great time to take the first steps. Questions? Comments?

Cheers! Mokihana

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