by Janice Henshaw –
As Canadians, we love our personal space, right? So much so that our new homes have doubled in size since the 1970s, while at the same time our family size has decreased. Why do we need such large homes? Well, one answer to this question is “Because we can.”
At the other end of the spectrum are tiny homes on wheels, homes for people who would rather live simply without the burden of a huge mortgage. In comparing sizes, several tiny homes could fit into the footprint of a modern house. How’s this for a change in perspective: imagine a beautifully crafted tiny home surrounded by gorgeous gardens and trees with the green space being the major focus rather than a huge house looming over tiny strips of surrounding land. Another idea is forming eco-villages of tiny homes with shared green space. So many possibilities await us!
As most municipalities currently restrict tiny homes from being used as permanent dwellings, finding a place to park them can be a challenge. Zoning changes are long past due. It’s a hoped-for reality in the minds of tiny home builders Patrick and Jessica Whelan, a husband-and-wife duo that own and operate “Rewild Homes” in Cobble Hill. They and their team of skilled tradespeople have been building and designing high-quality custom tiny homes on wheels for over six years. Jessica and Patrick believe that “Living in a smaller house is the biggest single step you can take to change your life. With fewer bills, less space to fill (and clean), and the freedom to go anywhere, home is anywhere you want it to be.”
Recently Rewild Homes designed and built a 24-foot tiny home and delivered it to a gulf island property that has no ferry service and no paved roads, power or water. A separate utility shed was added to contain all of the off-grid equipment, which includes deep-cycle AGM batteries, an inverter and charge controller, a water pump, solar panels and rainwater collection eaves.
“The inside of the home was designed to be simple, open and bright,” says Jessica, “with the focus being on the incredible cliff-side ocean view and surrounding trees.” Features include solid butcher-block countertops, white walls, beautiful fir accents and hickory flooring. Appliances include a combo washer/dryer, on-demand propane water heat, a propane range, electric apartment-sized fridge/freezer, and propane space heat. An instant home!
Rewild homes have closed-cell spray foam insulation in the floor, walls, and ceiling for maximum R-value. “Our homes heat up fast and stay warm for a long time, and they keep nice and cool in the summer. Heating options include propane, electric or wood stoves. “The best choice depends on your budget and the climate you plan on living in,” says Jessica. Good ventilation is provided by fans in the kitchen, bathroom and living room.
Tiny home bathrooms often come standard with a toilet, shower and sink. Cozy options include radiant-in-floor heating, custom tiling and even small soaker tubs. The level of connectivity to water and sewage affects plumbing decisions. A modern odour-free composting toilet separates liquids from solids, which helps speed up the composting process and produces non-toxic fertilizer as the end result. Other alternatives include an incinerating toilet, or a traditional RV flush-style toilet and holding tank if sewage connections are available.
Rewild’s finely crafted tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes, with most of them sized from 16 to 30 feet long, 8.5 feet wide and 13.5 feet high. Building within these dimensions allows the homes to be towed anywhere in North America. Including a certified made-in-Canada trailer, the smallest fully finished 16-foot home has a base price of $45,000. Most 20- to 24-foot homes cost between $75,000 to $95,000, and larger 28- to 30-foot homes cost between $95,000 and $115,000. If a client’s budget doesn’t stretch that far, then three levels of partially complete shells are available for do-it-yourselfers to finish as they like. It’s a great way to add guest accommodation, a she shed, office space, workshop, art studio or a teen hang out.
Salt Spring Island Tiny Homes is another family-run business that builds tiny homes. Owners Colin and Lesley Crystal and their team share an inspiring goal to make homeownership accessible to everyone. “We will design and customize tiny homes to your specifications and create beautiful and affordable, high quality, functional, west coast tiny homes crafted to last lifetimes”
“Many elements play into the cost of a Salt Spring Island Tiny Home,” says Colin. “Design, materials and intricacy are the main categories. The majority of the cost of the home comes from the kitchen and bathroom services, infrastructure and the fine finishing details.” A road-certified trailer can be provided by Colin or accessed by the homeowner.
Why build a tiny home instead of purchasing a larger RV? Colin says that the design and interior of a tiny home is one of a home and not of a travel trailer. “You can have a full-size custom kitchen and a beautiful bathroom, a dreamy sleeping loft and custom details that you can update or renovate as your taste and lifestyle changes. Our tiny homes are built to live long lives just as traditional homes are. RVs are made with materials that have a fast deterioration rate and therefore have short life spans. They also greatly lack quality and are missing many fundamentals of a home such as sufficient insulation, warmth and character.”
A customized move-in ready Salt Spring Island tiny home takes two to three months to build and depending on options costs between $65,000 and $90,000. Add-ons include decks, awnings, rainwater catchment, and solar energy systems. An off-grid tiny home will cost from $2,000 to $6,000 more than one that is conventionally plumbed and wired. A finished exterior shell is $25,000.
Living in a tiny home or even a smaller home can be a challenge at first. It means saying goodbye to spacious rooms that we have become used to and cutting back on questionable prized possessions and various “things” that most of us think are essential. On the upside, a tiny home provides an affordable and beautiful place of your own to call home.
I would sure like to order one!
Photos courtesy Rewild Homes and Salt Spring Island Tiny Homes.