We built our tiny house ourselves without any prior knowledge on building or carpentry, simply by doing our research and watching lots of YouTube videos. We’ve been happily living off-grid and off renewables for over two years now.
We’re Paul and Annett. Paul works in IT, and Annett works in Media and Communication. We are both very interested in living off renewables, especially since living in a sunny and warm country like Australia. Australia has an abundance of sunshine and space, and yet instead of using its full potential and leading by example, Australia still opens new coal mines and relies on fossil fuels for their energy needs.
We were living in an apartment and paying rent at the time. However, in order to live the way we wanted, we needed to have our own house. But house prices are high, and we didn’t want to be burdened with a mortgage for the rest of our lives. That’s when we stumbled across tiny houses online. We both felt like a tiny house on wheels is the perfect solution for us. We don’t need much space, are happy to downsize, and it won’t break our bank.
Design and layout-wise, we watched a lot of YouTube tiny house videos for inspiration. Back then, more than four years ago, there were only a handful of different designs out there, but we wanted something practical and simple anyway. Neither of us had any relevant building or carpentry skills, so everything was a challenge initially. We had to do lots of research and built the whole house watching YouTube videos. It got easier once we broke down the build process into manageable steps. Here are some of the more common challenges we faced:
1) Most of the videos we watched were based in the US, or other countries, and not all the materials were available in AU. So we had to find alternatives that were available in Australia.
2) Sometimes we found 3 or 4 different ways to get to the same result, so we had to decide on one. As building rookies, we found this hard because we lacked experience and skills back then. It took us one year to build the tiny house on weekends because we still had our day jobs during the week. We used mostly new materials but also some repurposed materials as well as some second-hand appliances.
We wanted an open plan house, the design needed to be practical to let in lots of natural light and provide ample ventilation. We also designed the house to keep it as cool as possible in the summer. As it can get hot in our climate, design features like cavity battens, reflective foil, white roof, solar panels shading the roof, and insulation were an important consideration.
The actual house design is rather common these days. What makes our house unique is the off-grid equipment around it and the fact that we live purely off solar energy, rainwater and produce our own cooking gas. That’s why our kitchen is equipped with an induction cooktop that runs off solar energy, as well as a gas cooktop that uses homemade biogas.
We use the space under our stairs for the fridge and pantry, as well as storage. Our kitchen bench is 10cm slimmer than a standard bench. This gives us more space in the middle of the house. We built a fold-away office desk and added a smart TV on a wall- mount so it can be used as a monitor for work during the day and a TV at night.
Annett’s favorite part is the sleeping loft with the skylight as this is the coziest place in the house, and the skylight lets in lots of natural light during the day and offers fantastic star gazing at night. Pauls favorite part of the house is the gaming and office space with the swivel TV.
In theory, we could accommodate guests, our couch turns into a bed, but it probably would get a bit crowded.
We spent AU$42000 on the house alone and an additional AU$20000 on the off-grid equipment, which includes six solar panels, 24 deep-cycle batteries, one solar hot water unit, one 10,000L water tank, and one biogas digester.
Our house is located in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia.
We are lucky enough to be located on a beautiful farm surrounded by nature and bushland. Friends of us introduced us to the owner. We pay a small amount of rent to the farm owner.
For us, the downsizing process wasn’t difficult as we came from a small apartment in Sydney, and neither of us owns unnecessary stuff. Before leaving Sydney, we already sold or donated most of our things. To this day, we sort through our belongings every year and donate everything we no longer use. We watch our spending habits and only buy things we need or use.
The best things about living in a tiny house are that we own our home, we’re saving a lot of money compared to our Sydney lifestyle, and we drastically reduced our carbon footprint by living off renewables.
When it comes to the negative aspect of tiny house living, there honestly aren’t many. One can be that we have to spend more time in the morning on maintaining/cleaning our composting toilet (= emptying a bucket). But we both feel like this is a small price to pay for the lifestyle tiny house living opened up for us.
We love our house and the design. However, should we ever build another one, we like the idea of building one without loft levels. Also, we would use more reclaimed and recycled materials.
We are very thankful that we’re able to live in this amazing part of Australia. Living in a tiny house has enabled us to live off renewables and to share this experience with others in the hope of inspiring more people to live this way and to show that it’s possible to live off solar energy and rainwater.
The biggest improvements are that we escaped the city grind; we live in nature without sacrificing a modern lifestyle. Not only are we saving a lot of money, but we managed to build the house without accumulating any debt.
When we moved into the house two years ago, we calculated that when we compare the total cost of the house with the rent, we paid in Sydney, the house will have paid itself off in 3 years. One more year to go. 🙂
Before you build your tiny house, do your research and make sure you are familiar with the road restrictions in your region if you are building a ‘tiny house on wheels’ as it has to be road-legal.
Watch videos, follow other tiny houses accounts on social media to learn from their experiences, and to get design ideas. There are so many resources out there these days with experiences and knowledge from all over the world.
Design the house to suit your needs and customize it, that’s the beauty of tiny houses.
The house is 8.1m long, 2.5m wide and 4m high.
The inside floor space is 20.25m2, both loft levels included the total floor space is 31.5m2.
We documented the whole tiny house build on our blog http://www.livingtinyandgreen.com and shared our experience and knowledge to inspire people to do the same.