We knew designing a tiny house would be difficult and we’d need to be flexible and adapt our ideas as we learned more, but knowing that doesn’t make the process much easier. A couple weeks ago we ran into our first two major challenges. Travis was making a framing plan for our design in SketchUp so we could calculate the weight of the lumber and other materials to make sure we ordered a trailer with properly rated axles. The trailer we had been quoted was rated for 10,000 lbs, so we were hoping to come in under that weight. Well, we did, but just barely. However, that estimate didn’t consider the weight of interior carpentry, appliances or our stuff. With this kind of major decision, we didn’t want to leave such a narrow margin for error, so we had to begin rethinking our design decisions. In doing that, Travis did more research on the idea of a cantilever, which we had incorporated in our design to create a spacious elevated lounge/guest sleeping area. He was looking for ways to decrease weight with a solid cantilever design. In his research, he discovered that cantilevers are more complicated than they look if you start getting into the engineering concepts. Even though he felt he’d over-engineered it, we knew neither of us are engineers and we didn’t want to risk the back side of our house falling off. We had a lot of thinking and discussing to do.
When we looked at these two issues, they were definitely connected. The cantilever added a considerable amount of wood for bracing, which adds weight and money, both of which we are trying to keep to a minimum. We agreed that if we were to keep the cantilever idea, we would want to seek an engineer’s services to design it soundly, which would add another expense. Keeping the cantilever also meant getting a trailer with larger axles, which added yet another expense. The most logical solution to save money, weight, and time seemed to be removing the cantilever. However it was a tough call for us. We were both pretty attached to that initial design. We had already spent time imagining ourselves in that space, lounging on a rainy day, reading, writing, watching movies with hot cocoa. It was surprisingly hard to let go of the emotional attachment to that imaginary space, as well as the time that went into creating it. We had felt pretty proud of ourselves for our clever design solution. We debated for several days about how to approach the problem.
Part of debating was discussing other design options that accomplished the same thing in less space. We doodled in notebooks and measured and remeasured everything from ourselves to the SketchUp design to the trailer fenders. We tweaked the design multiple times to try and solve this puzzle. We even made a mock up of a completely different design and entertained that idea for a couple days. It took about 4 days of intense discussion and thought to sort it out. During these few days, it was difficult to stop and go to work or do the other chores we have around the property. We just wanted to resolve it and move on, but we needed the time to figure it out and talk through it. After bouncing ideas back and forth and letting them simmer, we came up with a slightly altered plan that we’re both excited about. We think it accomplishes the same thing as our cantilever version, with less weight and cost. We will also end up with more storage in the new version, which is definitely a plus.
How did we do it? We revisited one of our main goals for this project, which is to simplify. While we could have figured out how to make the cantilever work, gotten a trailer with bigger axles and spent more money for an engineer and the additional wood required for a cantilever, we decided that this path was the more complicated one. It took several days for us to find the alternative, but we stuck with the idea and in doing so came up with creative solutions to achieve the tiny house design elements we loved in less space.