My First Time

It happened! I actually stepped foot into a Tiny House today!!

Don’t get too excited, we haven’t even started building our Tiny House yet – but what a wonderful experience it was to actually go and visit one.

When I first stepped foot into the first Tiny House we were visiting at Kent Homes in Bouctouche, NB, I knew it was meant to be. A feeling I can’t quite describe washed over me. It was a mixture of joy and belonging, and knowing that I was right where I was meant to be in life. This is my future. I am a Tiny Houser.

I first spoke with Laura Maillet, designer and employee at Kent Homes in Bouctouche, about a week ago. It did not take long for us to set up a meeting time, as I had explained to her that I was interested in getting as much information as possible about Tiny Houses and their place here in Eastern Canada, more specifically in New Brunswick.

Laura was such a pleasure to talk with. We met up with her this morning at 10AM and we hardly stopped talking during the whole 2 hours we spent there.

As soon as we arrived, she greeted us and we went straight to visit the first of their two finished designs. The one we were about to enter was called The Haven, and it’s name was right on par – safe, comfortable, cozy, home. The inside was all wood, giving it a very traditional cottage feel, which is a big appeal for customers in Maritimes and surrounding areas.

The Haven had one large loft for a queen or king sized bed, and a smaller loft which can either be used for storage or as a small second sleeping area. Below that small loft is a custom built couch, which could also double as a spare bed if a customer wanted. Walking a little further into the house is a seating area across from a large screen TV mounted on the wall, and then the kitchen area – personal favourite! On one side, the fridge and the (steep) steps to the main loft. On the other side, some counter space, a four burner propane stove-top/oven, a sink, and lots of storage space! Gotta love that storage space. The house is also equipped with a washer-dryer combo (apparently not very efficient, as I’ve read in many reviews – at least not in Canada) and a nice washroom with a flushable toilet (could also be a compostable toilet), a small sink, and a nice shower.

One thing that stood out to me immediately was the amount of natural light coming into this Tiny House. Laura explained that the average 2-3 bedroom house will have 7 to 9 windows, whereas this particular house has 18, including the skylights. Every space in the home feels light and open, despite the size of the entire building being under 200 square feet. I was happily surprised, I did not feel closed in at all. It was even cozier than I had imagined, if you can believe it!

The more time I spent inside the small little house, the more it became clear that I really was taking a step in the right direction, that this was exactly where I was meant to be. And thinking of that made me wonder about Laura’s journey, and what it is that brought her to thinking about Tiny Houses, let alone designing them.

Laura’s daughter was apparently an environmentalist, very conscious of her ecological footprint, and began sharing information and pictures she would find online about Tiny Houses when they first came out in the early 1990s. Laura was intrigued. She had always been interested in small space designs and fell in love with Tumbleweed’s first series, which consisted of cottages. Since that time, she had always photos or images pinned up around her desk, and one day, a new VP walked into her office and noticed them. Given their growing popularity in the past few years, he suggested, “Why don’t we build one?” And thus the project was born.

Laura and two other employees from Kent Homes actually got the chance to attend a Tumbleweed Building Seminar in Boston – something I’ve long been debating! She let us know how informative the weekend was, and that they had even approached them to partnering up to do this project, but unfortunately, they weren’t ready to commit so Kent Homes decided to do the project independently.

Given their connection with Tumbleweed, they were their first choice for purchasing a trailer to start building their first demo Tiny House – The Haven. Unfortunately, Kent Homes had the displeasure of learning that trailers certified in the Unites States do not meet the Canadian standards. Therefore, their display model will probably remain a demo and never be sold, as it is not road-worthy in Canada.

The bright side: they found a hidden gem nearby. A company named Linkletter’s Welding Ltd (LWL), located in Central Bedeque, PEI, was willing to not only build them custom-made trailers (lowered floor between the wheel-wells), but also to certify the trailer and house as a whole. You read that correctly – they will certify both the trailer, and the plans for the tiny house. Because of this, Kent Homes is limited to only selling the plans that have been approved and certified, so there is not always room for customization. But if you check out their options online, you can see they are pretty much all great choices.

Once they had trailers on hand, they were ready to get down to business – starting the actual build of their first Tiny House.

Laura informed us that approximately 425 hours of work were put into building The Haven – keeping in mind that numerous departments had to play a part in the design and construction of the building, and this was in fact a demo home. She said after ironing out all the kinks, they were able to build a second model (their first sale!) in about 4-5 weeks, working on it full time. But she emphasized about taking the time that is needed to get everything done right, to figure out the best approach for individual project – and sometimes that means standing around for hours trying to figure stuff out.

One very interesting idea that Laura mentioned they had tried out was doing a taping exercise. Basically, they taped off the realistic proportions of the house walls, appliances, furniture, etc., to see how it felt to walk around in it, to make sure it’s comfortable to walk around everywhere and not feel confined in a small space.

“A house doesn’t have to be big, it has to be functional.”

Summer Planning!

It’s that time of year again – Summer Time! (Also known as Vacation Time!)

Obviously, I have started making plans. If by any chance you’re interested in coming to visit me and/or seeing me during my travels this summer, please leave me a comment or send me a message so I can make sure to fit everyone in!

My first plans are already for next week!

Solo Road trip #1 – Cheticamp in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. 

I’ll be landing in Cheticamp Thursday, June 29th late at night – not making any plans other than crashing at my best friend’s house. I’ll be spending the entire day there on Friday June 30th, hoping to do supper with family, then heading back to Moncton on Saturday morning so I can spend Canada Day with my better half.

(Side note – if you want to make plans for Canada Day at night, let’s meet up for the fireworks!)

Solo Road Trip #2 – Cheticamp, again! 

I’ve marked this down as a solo trip because Max and I are both aware that he probably won’t be able to tag along. Summer is the hardest time of year for us to make plans because we just don’t have the same days off. I had requested to get Sunday-Monday off, but it wasn’t possible, so I’ve got Friday-Saturday, which are the only two days that Max works every week.

Despite being disappointed that I’m doing the trip home by myself again, this time it will be to visit the LeBlanc/Bourgeois family, all of whom will be camping out at the Beach! It’s gonna be a fun family weekend, and we’ll even be celebrating my step-mom’s birthday!

Although that was the main point of my trip, I was fortunate enough to get an extra day off work on Sunday to stop by the Inverness County Centre for The Arts where they will be hosting the grand opening of a Tiny House Exhibition! Really looking forward to attending this event and meeting some people from the area to talk about Tiny House Living! If you plan on going to this event, let me know!! And if for some odd reason you need a drive from Cheticamp on the way there, and a drive to Moncton on the way back, I have room in the car! 🙂

Garage Sale

Ok, so that’s not exactly a trip, but it is a part of our summer plans! We don’t have a date picked yet, but I’m hoping in early or mid-July! We’re going to have a ton of stuff to sell for cheap, so make sure you keep an eye out for our poster or Kijiji ad in the coming weeks so you don’t miss out!

Magic Mountain Day with the Mills Family

Nothing is set in stone, but my mom and all of my step-dad’s family usually come up to Moncton once each summer and we spend an entire day at Magic Mountain water park! My mom mentioned it might be in mid-July, so fingers crossed for good weather and that everyone can come visit at the same time!

Camping in Cap Pelé
Ok, we won’t be the ones doing the camping, but the Bernard’s will! Max’s parents have been camping in Cap Pelé every summer for quite a while now, and we are really looking forward to seeing them and spending time at the beach together! Weirdly enough, this is actually where I met the entire Bernard family for the first time ever, when Max and I had JUST started dating! Pretty special spot. 🙂

Halifax Buskers Festival

So this one isn’t even written in my scheduler, but I haven’t attended the Buskers Festival in at least 4 or 5 years now, and I really miss it. Plus, Max has actually never been, so I’m going to try to see if we can squeeze it in, if he’s not working. We could even do a day trip and just get home super super late… (fingers crossed!)

CHANTAL’S WEDDING!

And the most exciting event of the summer… my university roommate’s wedding!!! I am so incredibly excited for this! Did I mention I’m flying over to Winnipeg for their marriage?? Yeah, it’s gonna be quite the adventure!!

During my stay, I’m hoping to visit with some of my friend in the area, and most definitely check out the Assiniboine Zoo!! Any other suggestions on what to see during my 4-day stay? Let me know in the comments below!

It’s gonna be an amazing summer, I can already feel it!

Tiny House Meet-up! 

On Friday May 26th, I was already excited. I cleaned the house and packed our bags so we would be ready to go as soon as Max was done work. I was off on Friday, but he got called in, so we would be leaving later than planned. Fortunately I was able to get Sunday off – something that almost never happens – and so off we went to Cape Breton!

Destination: Sydney, Nova Scotia

Purpose: Attend a Tiny House Meet-up for the first time ever!

(And also visit family)

So I should probably begin by explaining what all of that means.

To sum it up, a Tiny House is a very small home, often built on a flat bed trailer, that is meant to be eco-friendly and often, a means to be more financially independent. As for the Tiny House movement, it is not actually about owning Tiny Houses or building them, but rather about a minimalist lifestyle, about community, about teamwork, accountability, and financial stability. To quote Carey Rolfe, it allows us to “[enjoy] all the things that life can bring.”

When we talk about a Meet-up event, well it’s basically as the name states – an organized meeting of people who have similar interests to discuss about a specific topic. The topic in question this time: Tiny Houses.

Honestly, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I figured not many people would show up, that it might not even be a real thing. But I dragged Max over there and we were pleasantly surprised.

As we entered the room where the event was taking place, we were greeted by over a dozen people, maybe even twenty, and not everyone had arrived yet. We looked around to decide where we would like to sit, and we landed where I always prefer to be seated: right in the front.

Immediately, I looked around to see if I could find who was leading the event, because it was one of our goals to record and film during the entirety of the event, and we certainly didn’t want to do that without permission. Everyone seemed OK with the idea, and they jumped into it right away.

The first person to take the stand was a woman named Tracey. We soon learned that she had attended a Tiny House Conference in Portland, OR – side note, they cost a fortune to attend, which is why we have never been – and that she was challenged to take action to help the Tiny House Movement. Finally, she decided what she would do to help, and that was to organize a Tiny House Meet-up in Cape Breton.

She then went on to introduce our speakers: Carey Rolfe, from Underway Tiny EcoHomes, followed by July Pratt and Nicki Duenkel, whom you may have heard of in the news, who moved into their Cape Breton based Tiny House in late 2015.

Carey spoke to us a bit about the purpose of Meet Ups, because he is actually the head organizer of Tiny House meet-ups all through Nova Scotia. But mostly, his talk focused on his business and what they do. It was surprisingly impressive, especially to find this kind of work being done in Nova Scotia. Basically, his company not only works on building Tiny homes, but also acts as a supplier for materials specific to Tiny Houses, some of which are just not available at the local home renovation stores.

“Our goal was never to be the builder of choice, but rather to be the supplier of builders of sustainable homes.”

One of the products that they are encouraging others to buy are Structural insulated panels. In short, they consist of two sheathings – I am pretty sure this means two pieces of wood, one of the outside, one on the inside – with an insulating piece of foam core in between them. Why is this is better than regular insulation, you might ask? Well, for tiny homes, it’s definitely the space aspect of it. Using this type of insulation makes for thinner walls and allows you some extra space on the inside of your Tiny House. And of course, that’s on top of all the usual benefits of their strength, their efficiency, and how cost effective they are. According to Cary Rolfe, the R value – I was told this means the power that the insulation has to keep the heat in – is “as much as a 2X6 wall.”

 

Carey also touched on other subjects during his talk, and one thing that really spoke to me was when he started mentioning financials. Reality check – it’s not always possible to build a Tiny House for under $20 000 in our climate. We live in East Coast Canada, not in Portland, Oregon. We have really cold temperatures, we have strong winds. We have large amounts of snowfall, and we have large amounts of rainfall too. We live in a 4 season environment, so our Tiny Houses need to reflect that. And that being said, it is – in my opinion – better to put more money into your Tiny Home to ensure its longevity if you do plan on living in the Maritimes.

And speaking of living tiny in the Maritimes, that’s exactly what Judy and Nicki were there to share with us.

Judy and Nicki first moved into their Tiny House about 18 months ago, which is located in a small town outside of Sydney, Nova Scotia. If you haven’t heard of them, you definitely need to check out this CBC Article and watch their video.
Their Tiny Home is nothing but ordinary. It is incredibly unique, in the sense that it meets all of their wants and needs, all inside a very small space. They have all the luxuries they don’t want to live without – and that includes a tiny dog elevator!!

You read that right – a doggy elevator! Judy and Nicki have an 11 year old corgi named Shanti with a bad back who has slept in their bed since they adopted him, so they told the builder that they couldn’t move forward until they could find a way for him to get upstairs. And after much research, the builder – Matt from Howling Dog Construction – came up with the idea of a small electric winch-powered elevator that the dog would fit into!

Of course, there is much more to their Tiny House than just their doggy elevator. I was happy to see that they decided to go with steps instead of a ladder to get to the main loft – our preference as well. They also had a very cool kitchen design, which was U shaped, with one of the back corners being used as storage – from the outside of the house!

When it was finally time for them to make the move into Tiny – that’s what they named her – they found themselves asking one main question: “What am I attached to, and why?” A very important question indeed, as I think we are all aware that one of the biggest sacrifices when making the move into a Tiny House is downsizing the amount of stuff we own/keep.

As for insurance – which is one of my biggest concerns – Judy and Nicki explained that their Tiny House is insured as a Mini Home. However, they did have to get it tied down and skirted for it to be considered a Mini Home. We still aren’t too sure how that will work in New Brunswick, but I’m assuming it’s probably the same as in Nova Scotia. (More info on that in a later post…)

To finish the Meet-up, Matt from Howling Dog Constructions brought up some photos of his two Tiny House builds, the first being for Judy and Nicki, and the second being a much more luxurious Tiny House for a couple from New York who wanted a summer home in Nova Scotia. And of course the question came up: how much does a Tiny House like that cost? This New York couple paid a whopping $130 000 for their custom made Tiny House – keeping in mind that they paid a builder for his time, on top of all the materials including furniture and appliances, one of which included a special order backsplash from a showroom in New York. At this point, Judy and Nicki spoke up to let us know they most certainly did not pay that much for their Tiny House, but it just goes to show you can put whatever amount of money you want into a Tiny House and make it work for your wants and your needs.

And of course we stayed after it was all done, just to say thank you to everyone, and to ask some more questions. Max went to speak with the two builders, with one of which he had a very interesting conversation about the design he had done in regards to structural integrity. As for myself, I went to speak with the organizer of the event, Tracey, and had a great conversation about what our plans are for the future – Max and I, that is. She proceeded to tell me she was actually writing a book about the Tiny House Movement and would love to stay in touch and possibly ask us some interview questions for her book. I thought that was so cool because we are planning on documenting the entirety of our project, and not only would this be extra publicity for us, but I could also get her advice and expertise on the whole writing aspect.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say we had an amazing time attending this event and it has just instilled even more motivation for us to get started on our own project. We know we’ve still got a long way to go, but we hope you’ll all be following along with us as we go through this new journey in our life.