Deconstructing a Tiny Home

I am currently in the process of constructing a tiny home here in Maine. Recently, I had to grapple with the reality of de-construction, something that most builders will experience at some point.

My tiny home is now in the framed and sheathed state of construction with most of the windows installed. It is at this stage that one can really experience what the house looks and feels like, most importantly, from the inside. It is also the stage where others will begin making comments. In my case, it had to do with the windows. I had chosen small awning windows for the main floor – rough openings of 32” wide by 18” high – and small long windows for the loft area – rough opening 48” wide by 12” high. While doing this design on the computer, the sizes looked okay, and having the sizes uniform made for nice lines, but it wasn’t until the house was framed and sheathed and some of the windows installed that I and others could really get a sense of it.

What was commented on the most was the lack of egress from the sleeping loft. Although the house is only 24’ long by 8 ½’ wide and getting out of it should not be a problem even if there were to be a fire – no one would balk at a room in a house this size that only had one egress – the perception here is what was important. Logically, a working smoke detector would alert an occupant in plenty of time to escape the house through the door even from the loft (at most only 15 feet away), but perception wins out on this point. So, that would mean cutting out my nicely framed and sheathed walls to make way for two larger windows, one in the main loft in the front, and one in the smaller loft in the rear.

The second area of concern was the sitting area in the middle and back of the house. As I mentioned above, having a uniform window size made for a nice look, but since smaller windows were needed in the kitchen area above the counters and below the cabinets, keeping that size meant the windows were too high for anyone seated in the living space to see out the windows. So, once again, if I wished to correct this, I must cut out the nicely built new framing  and sheathing of my house in order to make way for two larger windows in that area. It would also mean removing two windows that had already been completely installed.

Perhaps you are saying, “Okay. So what? Just do it.” But, here’s the rub. There are many factors that must be dealt with before coming to that conclusion. The first is ego. In order for me to make this decision, I must first admit that I was wrong. After putting in so much time and energy into both the design phase and the construction phase up to this point, such an admission is not so easy to come by. When someone comments, “Hey, why didn’t you do this?” or “Why didn’t you do that?” the first response is defensiveness even if the voice in the back of your mind is telling you they are right.

The next factor that comes into play is the reality of having to tear apart what you have worked so hard on to this point. The work took months to get to this stage and it took great care getting it to come out right, and now I’m faced with the prospect of taking a saw to it and cutting it all up. Ouch!

Next is no small factor – time and expense. Windows are one of the biggest single expenses in any build, typically several thousand dollars, and now I will be left with four windows that I purchased and cannot use. Also, these windows took weeks to be delivered, and ordering four new windows will set back the build by at least that long plus all the time it will take to remove windows already installed and modify the openings to accommodate the new ones. Depending upon your budget and your timeline, these are serious concerns. So, the question becomes, if you decide that you cannot afford either the additional time or money or both, can you live with the result? Can you be at peace with your initial design and perhaps with the ongoing negative comments from others along the way? In my case, the answer was no.

A builder friend of mine put it best. He said that making this kind of change is extremely difficult, but he said that once it’s done, you’ll feel absolutely great. So, that’s the key. Keep your eye on the prize and soldier on. Suck up your ego, cut into your nicely framed house, find a way to pay for it and to take the extra time, because in the end, you’ll be happy with the result and have no regrets.