smallest practical home

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by pcdreams, Dec 28, 2003.

  1. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    Well we're kicking the idea around about building a house on our land in a bout a year or so. I was curious to get opinions on what the smallest home that would be practical.

    It's just the wife and I, 2 dogs and a cat. We've been looking at a plan for a cabin that is 12x20. We want to keep it small but, would this be practical? We were considering trying to rescale the plan to 24x24 but cost may be prohibitive. I figured a 12x20 would get us started then we could add on later. Won't have well or septic for awhile either.

    Main lack of funds is good jobs in this area. I currently work for just over minimum wage and can't locate anything in the IT field thats either local or within commuting distance from our present location. If anyone knows of anything in this area(Springfield, MO) let me know :)
     
  2. earthship

    earthship Well-Known Member

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    I would think 600 sq.' - 700 sq.' would be about minimum. Some people live in their car or beneath a bridge. You seem to have some time. Layout plans on paper; live with them; go out to your land and stake out to scale a proposed area. Walk within in it; get a feel for the living space and storage. Go to the library, get some books on house plans, building and homesteading. Checkout Ken Kern, Christopher Alexander, Scott & Helen Nearing, Mike Reynolds and others.

    A small space is possible, but if you are building something to call home shoot for a minimum that will be reasonably comfortable. Remember these are outside figures you have proposed - you will subtract the thickness of the walls for actual floor space. Build at least 6" thick walls for proper insulation - this will save you money in the long run. Try to use dimensions that maximize material usage for both length & width as well as height. Consider gathering materials from building sites, demolition and scrap (check building codes regarding used materials). Check out innovative alternative building that may take advantage of indigenous materials like rammed earth, straw bales, earthships, and papercrete. Be sure and take advantage of the site with regard to wind paths, drainage and solar positioning. Be innovative, creative, positive and dedicated. Necessity is the mother of invention ;-) Best of Luck and Happy New Year
     

  3. My grandma and grandpa raised 11 kids in a 2 room house that was only about the size you mentioned. Of coarse some of the older kids were grown up and moved out by the time the youngest kids were born. However they didn't have all the necessities in their house such as we have now days. We have indoor bathroom while they had outhouses. We have refrigerators and freezers while they had root cellars and smokehouses. We have attached garages while they had a pole barn that kept the horse and wagon in. So you may could get by with a very small house if you want to have all your necessities outside.
     
  4. ed/IL

    ed/IL Well-Known Member

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    A 12x20 is less the half the size of a small mobile home. Might be good for week end get away. A two car garage is about 24x24 That would be my minimum. Add a 24x12 screened porch and it might work.
     
  5. AngieM2

    AngieM2 Big Front Porch advocate

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    Check out the designs on this site, they have as small as you are talking and up to medium sized. I really like dreaming about a couple of them...

    http://countryplans.com/

    there is also a discussion group about building your own, and some owner built home photos...

    Hope this helps some.
    AngieM2
     
  6. HilltopDaisy

    HilltopDaisy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I live in 12' x 60' (720 sq. ft.) just me and several dogs and cats. I bought a 10' x 16' shed a few months ago, but before that, whew, was it tight! I plan on building in about 2 years, and would like the cabin-style home to be 24' x 32', with a loft/bedroom. I think the biggest issue, for me, is storage. I want to be able to keep the canner/dehydrater/pantry in the house!
     
  7. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I have a 26 by 40 , 7 room with attached greenhouse . Its sufficient space for me, two dogs and my PCs and engineering gear. If your building , a factor of 500 square feet per person and job space requirement is good.
     
  8. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    shop for a 12/14X60+ mobile home, you can get them practicly NEW and CHEAp thru bank repo dealers. pick a spot, park it and live well!
    find one you like better? move your old one, gut it and make it a storage shed or workshop.
    once covered with T1-11, it looks like a barn. I used a 60X12 one gutted out to store hay in years ago. it cost me 1000 bucks to buy and truck in.
    people upturn their snoots at trailers, i think they are a marvel of engineering. A home on wheels ready to use that lasts as long as anyplace else if taken care of.
     
  9. Jo

    Jo Well-Known Member

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    Thats exciting you are planning on building......I would have loved a loft but the cost is extra for the foundation and of course more wood. I settled for a floor plan of 860 sq ft. and didn't put in the upstairs.......the place where the stairs were to go, I put in a pantry. You can put more in pantry than cupboards and it is cheaper. And we have to have 6" walls here(code) but well worth it.....only cost about $400 in propane to heat. We only made 1 bedroom and 1 bath. We do have an outdoor storage shed.
    I wanted to keep our place small....save on taxes, insurance and heating bill. We want to travel and that was the only why to have the extra money.
    If you have any questions.... ask!!
     
  10. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    As comfortablynumb said, right now singlewide mobile homes are basically giveaway for price of hauling. Some people will even pay to deliver rather than pay mobile home dealer to dispose of them. This is by far the cheapest shelter in minimum amount of time. Watch out for codes. I have friend in KS who bought 80A completely unzoned, then just couple years ago the county zoned big time. No single wide mobile homes and whole bunch of other restrictions. This in a fairly rural county. She had waited too long to build creatively and cheaply on her land. If she had built earlier it would have been grandfathered in. A mobile home may not have been grandfathered in.

    As to small house, if you have minimal possessions then a 16x16 cabin with possibly a small sleeping loft would be probably as small as you want to go with 2 people. When my ex and I first moved here to AR, I put up a $300 pole type structure down by the road (econo treated 4x4's for posts, econo 2x4s creatively used for roof framing and cdx plywood for walls) with small sleeping loft. This was very minimal and uninsulated, etc. The next year with some used lumber and some new lumber (lot of grade 3) I put up a two story 12x14 house on top of hill that was lot more comfortable for around $1000. Size was sort of determined by wood I had salvaged. Looked like 2 story garden shed. Remember the Unibomber's house going down hiway when they were prosecuting him. Well something like that only more windows. I bought out my wifes half of property at divorce. Then at one point I had decided to sell to my ex and she hired some jackass to add on another room. Grrr...he slapped together a 16x12 backroom and ripped her off bigtime. She bankrupted and I got place back. Not trying to cheat her, I gave her back under table what she had paid me on the land, but she was out what she paid the ripoff carpenter. Debated on tearing off addition it was so bad, but repaired it instead. Living alone I still only heat the original structure. Takes very little to heat it. Small nsulated two story is efficient to heat. I had planned on building larger house, but living alone plans changed and no real reason to have a bigger house.

    Also if you have stone, consider starting with mobile home or whatever and building with stone. Very cheap. I knew nothing of building with stone when I moved to this area, but had an abundance of stone on the place. If I were building again even just for me, I would build two story 4 room say around 20x40 or 16x32 minimum and design it so just front half of house could be heated if I so desired to save fuel. And it would be all stone except upstairs floor and the roof. Very time consuming with lots of hand labor, but very durable and very cheap.
     
  11. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Is that a single room or two story? Is there a basement? At one floor Thats only 240 sqft. Can you legally build a home that small in your area? Having lived in an effectcy apartment about that size I can tell you thats not much space. Of your 240sq ft, take out 15 for a bath area, A closet is 9, Even a very small kitchen will take up 20sq for applicances, A queen size bed takes up 30sq ft. Your space goes away pretty fast. If thats a two story plan then you have a little room living down, sleeping up. If its a one story you might want to consider an A-frame to give you some overhead sleeping area and the vaulted ceilings will give you some sizing of the rooms.
     
  12. See if you can find floor plans for either a large travel trailer or a park model trailer. I have two kids that live in park model trailers. They are 7 and 1/2 feet wide with a couple of tip outs and 35 feet long. Both have a nice living room kitchen, full bath and a bedroom. One has wall to wall closets in the bedroom. The other gave up that closest for another small bedroom which has one closet and bunks in it. That has been invaluable for storage.They are planned to use every inch of space. Before purchasing my homestead recently I was also looking at plans for small garages with an apt over them. If finances allow you to go up for a second floor you could finish the downstairs and do the upper floor later.

    Good luck,
    Liz
     
  13. bgak47

    bgak47 Well-Known Member

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    I have a 20x20 cabin that is mostly used for hunting, weekends, & vacations. I added a 14x20 porch with the idea of closing it in someday when I retire & move there permanently. I raised 2 boys & a girl in an 1100sq ft 3brd 1 bth house in town, but it was pretty hectic sometimes! My advice would be to build as large a place as you can possibly afford & plan on building on later.
     
  14. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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    Have you checked into Permabilt metal buildings - don't know if they are in your area, but I had one built on my old property. The guy who built it lives in one. They have a good strong wood frame and would make a good home when finished on the inside.

    Also, I got my new place because it was on the market for a year - the reason is it's size- 1100 sq ft. I got it $20,000 below asking price. I mention this because what you build will influence the resale value also. Not a big deal if you keep it cheap and plan on staying in one place, but something to consider.
    It made a big difference here because while this one sat vacant other places with acreage were getting snapped up as soon as they went on the market due to the low interest rates and the migration from the city going on here.

    These are just alternate ideas. If my house fell down today I think I would move in a 14 by 60 single wide trailer or a small double wide depending on the deal I could get. That plus a permabilt garage to store my "stuff" ;-)

    Debbie
     
  15. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    j.r. guerra in s. tx. Well-Known Member

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    As someone had mentioned above, if you can enclose a screened type porch and have a comfortable living space 'outside', the interior can be used for only the necessities, such as storage, and sleeping. And it also depends if your area is safe from burglary - not many places like this.

    Heck, some couples live in a travel trailer or sail boat 7/24/365 - no reason why 700 sq. ft. on land should be any harder - you have more options.

    One method for safe storage would be those large steel shipping containers - they go pretty cheap in many spots. An 8' x 8' x 20' goes for $1000 delivered to your site (within 50 miles according to one we checked out). Thats 1280 cubic feet of storage there alone, though its not conditioned space.

    I'd be interested in seeing the posts here - I'm interested myself. For the record, our home is about 1800 s.f., more or less, with a two car carport. Two adults, two kids. Small but definitely liveable - just wish I had one more 12' x 12' foot room for strictly storage.
     
  16. DAVID In Wisconsin

    DAVID In Wisconsin Well-Known Member

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    I lived happily for 3 years in a place 12 x 20 with my dog. I had all I needed to get by on. A full size stove, bed, sofa and everything else. I loved it. It can be done and without giving anything up. Once you get into the mindset you automatically and creatively solve space problems. For some good inspiration you might get the book "Tiny, Tiny Houses" by Les Walker. It'll give you some good ideas while showing you that a small living space doesn't have to be ugly or cramped. Two people (who like each other) should have no troubles.
     
  17. Ruby

    Ruby Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would say it all depends on you, what you are willing to give up. My husband and I, a small dog and a cat live in a 8 by 50 trailer, have been for a little over 6 years. My grown daughter lived with us in it about 3 years. Now she is staying in a motor home and only eats here. We didn't plan on this being permanent, but circumstances beyond our control happened. (Maybe one day). It does get crowded but you can do it. You might want to plan it so you can add on latter. Good luck, I do think you will be happier thought if you build instead of buying a used mobile home. But that's just me, I guess because I've lived in mobile homes for the last 25 years. I would love having a (real house built on a foundation.)
     
  18. jhannibalak

    jhannibalak Member

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    We built a 16x24 log cabin with a 6' porch. This also had a half loft. This is about the smallest that I would recommend building. Yes you could get by on less...but would you be happy. This cabin was small and we didn't have electric, water, phone, etc.

    Now we live on the Ocean in Southeast Alaska. We live in an almost 3000 sf home. It is rather big compaired to how we were living just a short time ago.

    Don't build too small!!!

    JOHN
     
  19. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the advice here. There is 9+/- acres that this house would go on. We would be living there for a short time(5-10 years) and then moving out of state. Just staying long enough to make sure the parents and in-laws are ok in their golden years.

    This place is pretty remote (1 1/2 miles off the road on an old logging road). With no other current residents(though the land around us is sold so that may change). Closest sizeable town is 12 miles (12000 people). Very beatiful land if a bit on the slope side. Luckily however it is a southern slope so solar would work well.
     
  20. jhannibalak

    jhannibalak Member

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    I still say that you don't want to limit yourself too much. I know about Missouri and even still have land down there in Licking, and Rolla. Good luck with your building project and have fun.