Before we began to convert our garage into a Tiny House there were a few things that we needed to check out first.
Permissions. I looked at the local council website and tried to decipher the jargon (yes, even as a trained interior architect albeit one out of practice, found the wording and restrictions confusing), I had a rough idea of what I was allowed to do. I made notes and then booked an appointment with the planning department for an informal consultation to check that I had actually understood. This was a really helpful thing to do as the planning officer was able to direct me in how to go about submitting plans that were less likely to be be rejected. He also pointed out some of the things that I missed in terms of roof heights and boundaries … all important stuff. It was good idea to take photos, rough plans and various ideas with me into that appointment as the officer was able to dismiss anything that was an obvious no with regards to planning.
Foundations. This is probably a very important point. Back when our house was built in the 1950’s, the building regulations were very different. The foundations were shallow and appropriate for the era …. but now when you build an extension to your house, foundations often three times as deep and twice as wide have to be dug and filled with concrete. We checked the foundations of the garage by digging out a small section of soil until we reached the top of the concrete then proceeded to dig round that and deeper until the underside of the concrete was found. This measurement was needed for the structural engineer and his calculations for the beam that we were hoping to add. Thankfully, the foundations were enough for us to use. If they weren’t we would have had to either; arranged for deeper foundations to be made or for the new part of the structure to be carried by internal framing thus reducing the already limited internal space.
Services. Water, heat, power. We needed to decide how to supply the services that would be needed in the tiny house. How would the water would get into the tiny house and how it would waste water would be removed? Worth thinking about in the planning stage because this can be a quite expensive part of the build and you don’t even get to see it as it is all buried underground. You want to be able to link up to your mains water in a simple and efficient way and get the waste water out and into the drain without too much hassle. What type of heating would be best? Ideally, gas would have been a more economical way of heating the water and the space but in order to do this we would have had to have a second gas meter installed so that “both” properties would have enough supply. This would be a big expense. Therefore, we opted for electric water heaters, shower and heating system. Because of the extra electricity needed to run all of these things a rough idea of sockets, lighting, cooking facilities and power ratings on water heaters and radiators was required. High rating cables are very thick and difficult to install in small spaces because they do not bend and tuck away neatly. It was important to calculate the rating so that the correct cables to the mains could be planned. It would be great to think about power in terms of renewable sources e.g. solar, wind … these should be worked out at this stage too.
Budget. Building a Tiny House is a lot cheaper than building a house but it still costs. We were able to use our own skills to cut the price. Another way to reduce the bill is to manage the different trades yourself, although this may be more stressful. Budget will need to be set aside for: plans and drawings, structural calculations (and maybe a site visit), skips and waste removal, timber, fixings (screws, bolts, nails …), tiles, roofing felt, guttering, concrete, electrics, plasterboard, plaster/plasterer, stairs, pipes, windows, sanitary ware, storage … Quite a bit will be required. Be sensible with your budget. You don’t want to overspend because of lack of planning.
Plans. Using the advice from the appointment with the planning officer, simple plans could be drawn. This is my skill and I was happy to get to work with it. It needn’t be too difficult to do yourself especially if the council are not asking for planning permission and building regulations are just required. Please note, there are rules about building a habitable dwelling that need to be adhered to, but likewise there are also ways of building a space that a person can sleep in but not “live in independently” because it has shared facilities with the main dwelling. There are places online that you can buy plans for tiny houses (although these tend to be timber houses). Using squared paper, a scale drawing of the space can be produced. You would probably need existing plans and elevations, proposed plans and elevations, site plan and a whole load of technical jargon about insulation, access, ventilation, u-values … With a bit of time on the internet, these things can be accessed but prepare yourself to be confused. A simpler way is to employ an architect, but if you have thought through the space well and planned a rough idea on paper you are more likely to get what you want and hopefully the bill will be smaller. We were hoping to remove the flat roof and add a pitched one instead. Since this was near to the boundary, we needed to get planning permission. I was able to do the drawings and work out the building regulations for our project with a little time.
Tiny House Building is now a book that contains everything and more than the tiny house posts on this blog. It is available here.