How to Build a Tiny House: Erika and Tish’s success story
Tish and Erika attended not just one but two of our tiny house workshops and we’ve stayed in touch since. Each time we received an update or saw some pictures on social media, our hearts welled with pride. Erika and Tish really, truly are a success story, going from not knowing how to build a tiny house (and never having built anything before), to completing a stunning hOMe inspired tiny house. It goes to show that with enough determination, passion, and commitment, even those who have no experience can learn how to build a tiny house!
We’re so excited to share your story! Please introduce yourselves.
We are Erika and Tish! We’ve been together for 5 years, married for 4. We are passionate about traveling, the outdoors and staying active. We place emphasis on the quality of our everyday life over joining the rat race and waiting for some unknown future date to finally relax. We don’t subscribe to the ideal that one must dedicate 50+ years of hard work in order to “enjoy” retirement; we do our best to make choices which support our daily happiness. One of the reasons we decided to build a tiny house was to align our daily lives with our passion: being outdoors and traveling as often as possible!
How did you come about the wild and zany tiny house movement?
One day while walking our dog, we were talking about where to live and how to create a life in which our living costs were low enough to allow us to travel as much as possible. I had come across tiny homes one day (Macy Miller’s) and when I showed it to Tish, she was intrigued. After looking through more images we discovered hOMe, looked at each other and knew immediately that a tiny house made perfect sense for us. We were already living in a small space and didn’t have much in the way of clutter (or so we thought!), so downsizing wouldn’t be an issue; we knew we could do it. We were drawn in by the idea of customizing a space to our lives; owning our own home without a huge mortgage was pretty enticing too!
Did you have experience building before? What were your initial concerns?
I thought Tish was crazy to suggest that we could build it ourselves. Neither one of us had any experience – literally – I think the biggest thing I had built before was a popsicle stick picture frame, haha. I had come across enough YouTube videos and blogs to know other DIYers had done it, so I knew it was possible but I didn’t think it was realistic for us. Tish eventually convinced me that we could do it, reminding me of my dad’s experience in construction and ability to problem solve as well as the financial benefits we would enjoy.
Once I was sold on the idea, we found out that this rock star couple who built the house that inspired us to go tiny was hosting their first workshop in Orlando. We bought tickets and drove down to learn as much as we could. The two-day workshop sealed the deal for us; meeting you both and listening to Andrew breakdown each part of the build gave us the confidence boost we (ok, mostly I) needed; we were so inspired that we spent the 12-hour drive back to Virginia listening to the Tiny House Talk podcast and writing down our plans to make this dream a reality.
Each time we looked at your guys’ social media posts, you made the build seem easy!
LIERRRR! LOL! Social media is an amazing thing, we can force a smile, capture the moment and claim happiness! No, in all seriousness this process was anything but easy but it was extremely rewarding!
How long did it take to build your tiny house?
From trailer delivery to move in took 18 months. Research began months before the trailer arrived so I’d say it was more like a two-year process. We sold Tish’s house in Virginia and moved across the country to live with my parents in Northern California while we built. We were really fortunate to have their support, and the support of a family friend who let us build on his property rent-free.
We had help from different people at different points of the build, in NorCal my dad and his buddy (who happens to be a contractor) helped me frame, sheath and roof the house. My dad and I put in the windows and door together. Once the house was dried in, we moved it to Portland to finish it. We met a fantastic, extremely talented handyman, Cody, in Portland who helped on the parts of the build I needed more muscle and hands. The only two projects we hired out 100% were the electricity and gas line.
Originally Tish and I thought we’d build the whole thing together, but she quickly realized it wasn’t something she was going to enjoy. So she did a lot of the background and important work – sourcing material, budgeting for each step of the build, taking care of our animals, keeping the house clean and me fed.
How does it feel to be living in the house that you built?
It feels pretty surreal. As the build was in its final stages I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t just a “project”, it was our home and we’d be living in it. Our first night was full of smiles, some champagne and many deep breaths of relief. We didn’t have hot water or a stove because our gas wasn’t working (turns out the guy we hired to put it in used the wrong regulator—I should have just done it myself!).
We just passed the two-month mark living in it, and just like anything, there are some quirks to get used to. We are constantly reevaluating what we use and don’t and where it makes sense to store items we use all the time. But that is Tish’s hidden talent, she has an incredible talent for finding the best way to do something by trying each possibility until she finds the right one.
My favorite thing about the house is the kitchen shelving/bathroom wall/barn door design. I created it on paper and it actually worked out in real life. Tish says her favorite thing is that the house can be deep cleaned daily and it only takes about 7 minutes haha!
Looking back on your initial concerns and now having completed your build, what advice do you wish you could have told yourself back then?
Tish had no concerns, and that might have been the issue! She built up my confidence so well that I “knew” we wouldn’t fail. This made me take on way more than I should have! I think our first bit of advice would be to schedule marriage counseling ahead of time haha! We are fortunate that we made it through because we continue to choose each other in the midst of stress, but I can see how a project like this could lead to a break up or divorce!
Other advice we would give ourselves would be to schedule breaks from the build and to not feel guilty about them. Also, to allot quite a bit more time for the build itself. About halfway through the build, we started each morning with “reorganization/rescheduling” meetings, and I wish we would have done this from the beginning. I am very unrealistic when it comes to how long a task takes while Tish has an impeccable sense of time, so these meetings were imperative.
What role did our tiny house workshops (you attended two) play in your tiny house build?
Your workshops certainly made the process feel doable, which was the encouragement we needed for such an undertaking. I’m pretty sure most of our family and friends didn’t think we’d actually finish the house, much less have something that looks so cool. The workshops were great not only for the information Andrew covered, but because it put us in touch with a community of people as crazy as we are! We were really glad we attended the workshop twice, the first one made us feel capable, supported and inspired and the second, which we took right after we received our trailer, gave us the opportunity to really understand the information because it was so much more relevant to our stage of construction.
Where are you currently parked and how did you find the place?
We are parked in the side/backyard of a single-family home in North Portland. We posted an “ad” in the Portland Tiny House and Tiny House Hosting Facebook groups and had several people respond with potential locations, but this one happened by chance. A friend of our host saw our post and knew her friend had just bought a house and was looking for some additional income. Tish and I literally tell each other at least once a day how lucky we are – we have a beautiful home in a neighborhood where our animals feel safe to roam, and an amazing host whom we consider a friend. It truly is better than we could have imagined, and we are soaking in every drop of greatness our tiny home has brought into our lives!