Dec 14, 2013

Wood-Tex Prefab Cayuga Log Cabin

If you like small homes, but aren't prepared to go tiny, this one might be for you.  I imagine lots of folks would consider a house the size of a modest two car garage with a loft to be pretty small.  Toward the bottom of this post I'll include links to other Wood-Tex homes I've posted in the past, and a video I shot of this home.

The Cayuga Cabin is a certified modular home with a rustic log cabin style inside and out.  The overall dimensions of the main floor are 24' x 23', making it about 552 square feet.  The loft dimensions are 14' x 23', which adds another 322 square feet for a total of about 874 feet squared (minus the area of the stairs which would otherwise be counted twice).

The main floor features a great room with a vaulted ceiling, and includes the kitchen, living room, and dining area.  Two pairs of sliding doors lead to a deck, and there's enough space to install a wood burning or gas stove between them for supplemental heat and ambiance.  

The remainder of the first floor consists of a bedroom, bathroom, and a hall running between them that has its own outside door at the end.  By my count, the house has four closets, one in each bedroom, one in the bathroom, and one under the stairs.

A nicely finished set of wood stairs leads to a second floor loft.  The loft has about half the area of the main floor, and it's divided into two spaces.  There's a nice open loft space that looks out over the great room, and there's also a separate enclosed second bedroom.  

Loft sleeping area

Second floor bedroom

According to their website, which I just checked today (12/14/2013), this model is currently on sale for about $72,000.

First floor bedroom

Check out my walk-through video tour of the Cayuga cabin below.  Below that, find links to earlier blog posts I've done on other Wood-Tex small homes, and a link to the Wood-Tex website.

To see an earlier post about the Wood-Tex 768 square foot prefab cabin, click here.

Click here to see my post on the Wood-Tex Adirondack Cabin.   And click here  to see my post about the Wood-Tex Adirondack Cottage.

I'm quite sure the folks at Wood-Tex won't mind a bit if you check out their website.  Here is the link:  Wood-Tex

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Sep 30, 2013

A Gas Heater to Consider for Your Tiny Home

Well, it's beginning to get into the heating season again, so let's do a quick comparison of the popular Dickinson boat heaters with another small gas heater you may not be familiar with.  Dickinson Boat heaters became more or less the gas "fireplace" de rigor in tiny homes pretty much ever since people saw Jay Shafer using them in his Tumbleweed Tiny Homes many years ago.  He never seemed to have any complaints, but then again, he lives in California, not the frigid north.  I don't know what the temperature was where Jay lives when I originally wrote this on the last day of winter, 2013, but where I was in upstate New York it was 19 degrees (F), snowing, and breezy to boot.   

Lately I've seen reports from a few folks who are underwhelmed by the heating power of Dickinson's  small stainless steel heaters.  I thought I'd call your attention to an attractive alternative made by Woodstock Soapstone Company of West Lebanon, New Hampshire. I should say at the outset though that it ain't cheap, and while it is small, I'm sure that the Dickinson boat heaters are lighter.  I'm not endorsing any of these heaters, but for me the model pictured directly below is more up my aesthetic sensibility alley than the Dickinson models.

Photo credit: Woodstock Soapstone Company
They call this model the Mini Franklin gas stove.  This diminutive heater looks great in my opinion. It weighs-in at 65 pounds and it can be configured to burn propane or natural gas.

If you look at the photo of it above without any context, it looks like it could be four feet tall.  The photo below provides the context to appreciate just how tiny this fireplace really is.  

Photo Credit: Woodstock Soapstone Company
 Some of this little gas heater's specifications appear in the chart below.

Image credit:  Woodstock Soapstone Company
It is difficult to do a fair comparison between Woodstock's Mini Franklin gas stove and Dickinson's propane boat heaters, but never-the-less I will attempt to do so.  Just for reference, below is a photo of a typical Dickinson propane boat heater.

Photo credit: Dickinson Marine
Let's start by comparing size and space heating ability.  Dickinson has two models that are popular with the tiny house crowd, the Newport P-9000 and the Newport P-12000.  They both look similar and have a clean, modern, utilitarian appearance.  If small size is your main concern then Dickinson is the way to go.  The P-9000's dimensions are 8.5"w x 14"h x 5.5"d.  Its BTU output is from 5,500 to 7,500 per hour, which they claim is adequate for about 100 sq. ft.  The P-12000's dimensions are slightly larger at 10"w x 16"h x 7.25"d, and it has a BTU output  7,000  to 9,200 per hour, which they say will heat 144 square feet.  Both models are equipped with a blower to help spread the heat around, and both are direct vent models that bring in outside air through a double walled exhaust vent for combustion.  Neither adversely affects indoor air quality.

The Mini Franklin has a more traditional appearance.  It's pretty small at 14.5"w x 17"h x 14.5"d, but that's still significantly larger than either Dickinson model, especially depth-wise.  Its stated BTU output range is from 5,740 to 8,200 per hour.  Woodstock claims it will heat spaces up to as much as 450 sq. ft.  It doesn't have a blower, but like the Dickinson models it too is direct venting and therefore it won't adversely affect indoor air quality or create drafts by pulling replacement air in from around the edges of doors and windows.  I don't know how to reconcile Woodstock's claim of heating a larger area with fewer BTUs  than that of the Dickinson P-12000, especially given that the Woodstock model doesn't have a blower, but maybe one of my astute readers can answer that question in the comments below.

One other thing about the Mini Franklin, it's available in 5 colors: black, blue, grey, brown, and charcoal.

Not sure how many square feet your tiny dream home has?  It's an easy calculation if your floor plan is rectangular.  Multiply the outside length of the building by its outside width.  For example if your tiny home is 8'-0" x 20'-0" then you have a 160 sq. ft. home (lofts and porches don't count because porches aren't conditioned spaces and lofts in tiny homes are often tough to sit up in, let alone stand up in).  I know that I count the walls, which aren't useable space, but that's how I do it.  If you want to be stickler about it then measure the overall inside length and width and multiply them instead.

The most recent prices I found for the three propane heaters are...

P-9000                 $699.00
P-12000               $789.00
Mini Franklin    $1,149.00

Check these links for current prices:

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Sep 14, 2013

Houseboat on Dry Land as a Tiny Home

How's this for a weird sounding tiny house idea?  Build a houseboat on pontoons, then park it on dry land and live in it.  That's what someone in Connecticut did.  

My former next door neighbor built this houseboat in the backyard of his business location.  When he finished it he actually used it on the water for many years.  Eventually, he had it moved back to where he built it, landscaped around it a bit, and moved in.  I understand from communicating with him via email recently that he lives in it on a full-time basis for about half the year.  That's because he's retired now and he spends the other half of the year in Florida.  Someday I hope to get back to the area, catch him at home in the houseboat, and get some photos of the inside.  I'd love to see how he laid-out the interior, wouldn't you?

The crazy thing is, for all the talk you hear about how difficult it is to find a place to legally live in a tiny home, and with all the sneaking around and flying below the radar that tiny homeowners do, this place is out in the open on a busy street.  Anyone driving by could spot it easily, and literally thousands of people drive by it every day.  The icing on this particular cake is that it's not in a sleepy backwater, it's in an expensive Connecticut shoreline town where the current average listing price is $839,000.  This is not a place where they ignore zoning laws.  

Next time I talk with the owner I'll have to ask him how he did it.

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Aug 5, 2013

Tiny Home near Binghamton, NY

I spotted this tiny log home from the highway just off Route 17 in New York, west of Binghamton.  I didn't have a tape measure handy, so I'm estimating its dimensions to be about 12 feet by 20 feet, or about 240 square feet.  It also features a covered front porch that's about 6 by 16 feet, a great room with a vaulted ceiling, and a sleeping loft over the  bathroom and bedroom.

It's an attractive tiny log home on a pier foundation.  The interior is very nicely finished as well.  How do I know?  Well, because I looked through the windows.  I've been inside too, but that was years ago...  Truth be told, I discovered this place long before I started this blog.  Sadly, it appears this once fine tiny home is now little more than a tool shed.  Back when I first discovered it, it was the smallest of two small homes, side by side, and both for sale.  I don't recall the asking price, and it's a moot point now, but it was quite reasonable.  I wish I knew what became of the talented builder/designer and his/her tiny home business.  

I also don't know what happened to the other house that was on the site, probably sold I guess.  Maybe one of my astute readers knows and will inform me!

As far as interior images are concerned, the best I was able to do was snap a photo through a dirty window from the outside, because the place was locked-up tight.  Actually, I didn't even try the door.  I assume it was locked!

The main level consists of three rooms.  The great room is about 10 feet by 11 feet, the bedroom is about 7 feet by 6 feet, and the three fixture bathroom is about 4 feet by 7 feet.  The bathroom and bedroom both had pocket doors.  As you can tell from my interior shot, the interior has a beautiful all wood finish.  

It's pretty obvious that the intention for the bedroom was for a twin bed or twin bunk beds.  There is no closet in the bedroom or anywhere else, so one can safely assume this was not intended as a full-time residence.

The sleeping loft would need to be accessed by ladder, but because of the steep gable roof, and the 12 foot width of the building, there is probably almost 6 feet of headroom at the peak.

Since I couldn't get in and get good interior shots, and I knew you'd be curious about the layout, I took the liberty of drawing a quick floor plan sketch.  Simple eh?


A few additional photos appear below.  Enjoy!

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May 9, 2013

"Essential Systems Pod" (ESP) Could Transform Other Buildings Into Homes

ESP floor plan

The ESP is a concept in development that could inexpensively simplify and speed-up the process of turning buildings such as barns, sheds, or garages into livable homes.  It could also be used to improve the lives of people living in substandard housing situations.  The ESP (Essential Systems Pod) is an 8'x20' high cube steel shipping container that would be fully insulated, and its interior would be completely finished with full kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities.  


Why do this in a shipping container? Because they are inexpensive, readily available, and easily transported.  In certain communities, the ESP module could be freestanding and shared by two or more families.  Even that would be a huge upgrade to living conditions in many parts of the word.  To do that, the plan would be adjusted so that the bathroom and laundry each had separate entrance doors from the outside, and doors would be added to the kitchen entry.  By eliminating the passageway between the kitchen and bathroom, the kitchen could take on a U-shape, allowing increased storage and counter space.  Using this initial plan as a nucleus, all these adjustments would be simple to do.

ESP cross-section through kitchen

The kitchen would have a two bowl stainless steel sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, range, pantry, base cabinets, counter-top, wall cabinets, and range hood.  It would be fully wired and have outlets, switches, and lighting.  All appliances would be standard sized and the layout would be highly functional.  The design also includes lots of awning windows for natural ventilation, daylight, and views.

ESP cross-section through bathroom and kitchen

The bathroom has a standard full-sized tub/shower combination, a water conserving dual flush toilet, a 36" vanity, a linen closet, and a full-sized stacked washer/dryer.  The linen closet could be home to a tankless water heater to provide unlimited on-demand hot water for the bathroom, laundry, and kitchen.  Alternatively, a small water heater could be located in a kitchen base cabinet or in the bathroom vanity.

As I mentioned, the ESP module could be attached to an existing building, like a freestanding garage for example, to transform it into livable space.  The modules could be prefabricated so that they could be inexpensive and easily shipped just about anywhere either individually or in quantity.  In many locations they could be used to improve the quality of the housing stock considerably.  The units could either add functions the housing doesn't already have, or upgrade and replace it so that space in the existing building could function better for living, dining, and sleeping.

When attaching it to another building I think it makes sense to do so with a short corridor.  This would allow air circulation between the existing building and the new module to avoid moisture build-up and rot. It would also allow any doors and windows on the existing building to remain functional.

I made the video below to more fully explain the ESP module concept, and show it in a variety of situations.  If you enjoy the video, please "like" it on YouTube, share it and comment.


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Apr 8, 2013

8x40 Shipping Container Home Design

I've designed and drawn-up my first 8' x 40' steel shipping container home plan.  It's a 320 sq. ft. tiny home design.  While it's specifically designed for a shipping container, there's no reason it couldn't be a stick-built tiny home plan as well.  In fact, if you did that you could put on a gable, gambrel, or shed roof to get some extra storage or sleeping loft space too.

View from the kitchen looking toward the great room.

Mar 1, 2013

Wood-Tex Adirondack Cottage

Every time I drive past the Wood-Tex place in Himrod, NY, I stop in to see if I can get some photos of the interior of this cottage.  I've been trying for months, but this model is always locked-up tight, so I was happy to finally get in last weekend.  

Front view of Wood-Tex Adirondack Cottage
Wood-Tex advertises the model as 16' x 40', but those dimensions include the 16' x 6' front porch.  The enclosed space is more like 16' x 34' which by my calculation is 544 square feet.  Their brochure calls it 510 square feet, but I'm not sure how they calculate that.  They are probably subtracting wall thicknesses or something from the square footage.

Kitchen view

Feb 21, 2013

A Remarkable and Beautiful Sustainable Building

It's obvious that this building is neither small scale nor a home, but it is a great showplace for many elements of sustainable energy and building practices.  That interests me a lot and hopefully it interests you at least a little bit too.  Let me show you around this living laboratory of sustainability. 

Canopy over the main entrance to Sustainability Hall
South side of Sustainability Hall  (photo taken autumn 2012)
North side of Sustainability Hall (photo taken February 2013)

 Just to quickly sum-up some of this building's cool features, here's a partial list...

1. 170 photovoltaic solar panels (w/ space to add 144 more)
2. Three wind turbines
3. A 400 kW fuel cell
4. "Green" roof 
5. Radiant slab floor heated and/or cooled by geothermal heat pumps
6. Rainwater management/reuse system
7. Four electric vehicle charging stations
8. Efficient LED dark-sky-friendly outdoor safety and security lighting
9. High performance building envelope
10. "Green" wall 

That's not a complete list, but it's some of the highlights.

Jan 20, 2013

A Houseboat as a Small Home

Houseboats are pretty much by definition smaller than houses that are not boats.  I'm not sure what the square footage of this nice houseboat is, but I'm inclined to say it's considerably less than 500 square feet.

Houseboat exterior

Of course a houseboat doesn't have a yard in the common sense of the word.  They tend to take full advantage of any outdoor space, decks, roofs, what have you, to gain a little outdoor living space.  In this particular case, the outdoor spaces span many levels.  Stairs can eat-up a lot of space so ship's ladders are used to move between levels, both indoors and out.

Jan 11, 2013


In small, tiny, or "right sized" homes, you don't want to sacrifice usable space if you can avoid it.  That's why you see so many ladders leading to the lofts of tiny homes. It's the perfect solution for some, but others may want something that makes loft access more, well, accessible.  The idea of negotiating a steeply pitched ladder in the middle of the night might deter many otherwise would-be small home owners.  I'm going to discuss space saving stairs and ladders including ship's ladders, alternating step stairs, and spiral stairs.

Gorgeous narrow diameter wooden spiral staircase.

Jan 5, 2013

Refined Living with no Electricity: Off Grid Living Part 2

Living with no electricity may seem primitive, inconvenient, or lacking, but Michael and Diana Lorence of northern California have been living that way for years by choice. They do it with surprising style and grace, all within the confines of a 12' x 12' tiny home they call "Innermost House."  To them, their life in this tiny home without electricity or hot water is not one of deprivation, but instead it's a life of luxury.  See if you agree.

View from sleeping loft into sitting area.