Many shoppers of tiny or Cozy home plans want to have a sleeping loft available in their new home. Many famous tiny homes utilize the loft idea for not only sleeping, but for storage, design aesthetics and the ability to “nest” inside their own home. The idea of a loft for sleeping is cozy, comforting and a real space saver.
While the benefits of a loft work well for tiny homes under 200 square feet or on wheels, there are some disadvantages to the spaces under the roof. One of the main ones being that they usually need to be accessed by a ladder. This is not easy for older people or the disabled. Another reason that a loft may not work in your tiny home is that they tend to trap heat in the summer and don’t release the heat quickly unless you have an operable skylight or other window. Another reason not to build a loft is that you are not able to stand up in most tiny house lofts. This may appeal to children, but not to a six-foot adult. It also makes it more difficult to make your bed or get dressed.
Cozy Home Plans offers a small home design with an “upmarket” loft. The Cozy Cube has a simple shed roof design that stays classic, but allows for a standing loft that also includes a balcony. The Cozy Cube is 196 square feet with a flexible design plan and includes all the “Tiny House Must Haves” including a fully functioning kitchen, storage space, a dining area, a 3/4 bath, room for another bed and a stackable washer and driver. The loft is accessed by an open staircase rather than a ladder and looks out over the living area. The loft can be a sleeping or office space and also has a large closet area under the roof.
Photo by Rowdy Kittens
The first earth berm house I ever visited was not a tiny, small or Cozy home, but the house stayed at an incredible 70 degrees during 100 degree temperatures in the high desert summer. This clinched the idea that an earth bermed or earth sheltered home is one of the best and energy-efficient ways to go if you live in a hotter climate.
Earth sheltering is an architectural practice of using earth against a building wall for external thermal mass. This reduces heat or cooling lost and maintains a steady indoor temperature nearly all year long. Earth sheltering has long been a part of human shelter. The first home-dwellers lived in caves and utilized the rock to keep the place cool in the summer, sod home dwellers of the American Plains would use the local earth to maintain heat in the winter. Eventually the prairie grasses would grow up over their walls and roof, creating even more thermal mass. These days, earth sheltering is a rare practice and is considered unconventional by most builders. Some problems like water seepage, condensation and poor indoor quality can be addressed with appropriate design, landscape planning and construction.
Several Cozy Home Plan designs can be turned into an earth berm home with several different processes. The 320 square foot Granite Mountain for example can be bermed with earth piled up against the back exterior walls and sloped away from the house. The mansard roof on the Granite Mountain will help shed water off the main berm. Another way to earth berm is to build your home into a hill. The house is set into a slope or hillside and the open part of the home can face to the south (Northern Hemisphere) or to the north (Southern Hemisphere) to obtain passive solar light and heat in the winter. The 975 square foot Gypsy Rose can be built into a hill with the appropriate foundation and wall materials.
If you want to learn more about earth berm homes, check out the earth bermed house of Dual Survival’s Cody Lundin.
Photos by Natural Building Blog and Energy.gov
Anyone who lives in a Cozy or small home knows full well that cleaning a tiny space is much easier and quicker than cleaning a 3,000 square foot home. In my small home, it really only takes me about half an hour to dust, clean the bathroom and run the vacuum. I can get it done on a weekday afternoon and have the rest of the weekend to relax and have fun. However, when you have a smaller home, there are some tips that can come in handy when keeping a small space clean.
1. Stay on top of things
When you have a tiny or small house, everyday clutter can pile up quickly since you don’t normally have the storage space or appliances to stash projects, dirty clothes, paperwork or dirty dishes away. In a tiny home, a little time each day should be spent making sure all the dishes are washed and put away, the beds are made, laundry is either being washed or the dirty clothes are in their respective hamper, and books and other objects are in their proper place. This allows you to do your regular cleaning much faster since you are not busy picking up after yourself.
2. Keep your cleaning products clean
According to the Environmental Working Group, many cleaning products labeled “green” are actually full of toxins including phthalates, carcinogens and chloroform. Not only do these chemicals find their way into your food, and your lungs but they are washed down the drain into our water supply, rivers and lakes. Keep your small home even simpler by cleaning with EWG approved cleaners or just doing your cleaning with natural cleansers like vinegar, lemons or salt.
3. Reduce the size of your vacuum cleaner
In a tiny house, there is no need to drag around one of those heavy vacuum cleaners, in fact, you might not even need one. For a simple, small home with wood floors, a broom will be enough to clean the floor. However, if you want a vacuum cleaner, brands like Shark, Dirt Devil and Dyson all sell smaller vacuums that use bags or are bagless.
Photo by Boston Public Library
Tiny, small and Cozy homes can be a challenge when it comes to storage. Cozy Home Plans tries to add in as much built-in storage as possible into each small home, but sometimes you might have to let your furniture do the storing of your clothing, paperwork, books or DVDs. These days, more and more furniture is being designed to hold your belongings. Some of these pieces of furniture are unique, functional and stylish and still take up less room than some storage bins or other alternative ways to hide away your stuff.
This platform bed for $275 from Humble Abode features two large drawers on each side of the bed for clothing, bedding or towels.
This stylish chair from Coleman Furniture has storage inside the seat.
Target sells some nice looking ottomans in different shapes and fabrics that also double as storage cubes.
This dark cherry dining table has a storage pedestal base for stacking cookbooks or dining accessories, with a lower door offering even more out of sight storage. It costs about $260 from Wendy Furniture.
This rolling laundry cart from Casa not only holds laundry in separate compartments, but it can also hold clean clothes and it rolls around from bathroom to bedroom. It costs around $100.
The kitchen in a small, tiny or Cozy house will most likely be one of the central parts of the home and the countertops are more than likely going to be the stars of that part. They will be subjected to all sorts of traffic and abuse and you will want the best material installed that you can afford. But what to get? There is a huge amount of choices out there for every budget and it can be overwhelming. Here are the top materials with their pros and cons.
When most people think of luxury countertops, they think of granite. They are more affordable than they used to be and come in a huge range of colors and patterns. Granite countertops are durable and won’t scratch and are resistant to heat, cold, stains and water. However, they can be very expensive and need to be custom cut to the size of the kitchen. They also require resealing about once a year. $50-$400 per foot cost.
Beautiful, but heavy marble comes in a wide range of colors and patterns and offers a nearly indestructible surface. It’s very heat-resistant, but can be stained or etched by acids and some cleaning products. $100-$400 per foot cost.
Lava Stone (Pyrolave)
This unusual material has a beautiful finish and many color options. It’s surprisingly non-porous and highly resistant to heat, cold, stains and scratches. It’s also low maintenance, but very expensive. Around $225 per foot cost.
Stainless steel is a beautiful choice for a modern kitchen. It’s durable, stain and spill proof, impervious to temperature and is easy to clean (with specialized products). They can become nicked or scratched over time and tend to show a lot of fingerprints. $100-$300 per foot cost.
The first time I saw a poured concrete countertop, I fell in love. You get the look of stone with a lot less cost and the materials is smooth, strong and durable. You can also personalize it with lots of textures (including embedded materials like stones and shells) and colors. However, they can get cracked and are porous unless they are regularly sealed and waxed. Each concrete countertop does need a custom cast. $80-$150 per foot cost.
Soapstone has been used for ages to make stoves, so this heat-proof stone is a perfect choice for the kitchen. It has a smooth, matte gray finish and is resistant to acids. Scratches can be sanded or oiled away and the stone is not as harmful to the environment as other quarry harvested rock. It does need regular maintenance and may crack, chip or scratch. $75-$150 per foot cost.
Glass is an interesting and stylish approach to kitchen counters. They are naturally heat-resistant and easy to install. They can be chipped or broken easily and must be replaced. They also show lots of fingerprints and scratches. $60-$300 per foot cost.
Engineered Stones (Silestone, CaesarStone, etc.)
Engineered stones will give you the look of granite or marble for about half the price. They come in various mixes of quartz combined with pigments for nearly any color you can think of. They resist scratches and stains and no sealant is required. However, they are not heat-proof. $50-$150 per foot cost.
Solid Surface (Corian, Staron, ECO, etc.)
Solid surface countertops are made with durable, man-made acrylic and have a very smooth surface which is easy to integrate into the sink and backsplash. You can even sand away stains and scratches. A ton of colors and patterns are available and they can be made to look like marble or granite. They can be damaged by heat. $45-$150 per foot cost.
Many aspiring chefs dream of the full butcher block kitchen counter which are useful for prepping and chopping foods. The look of wood makes the whole kitchen seem warmer, but because it is porous it will need regular maintenance and a food-safe sealer. The wood can become damaged by burns, dents and spills. $40-$150 per foot cost.
Ceramic tile is DIYer’s dream. It’s fairly inexpensive and easy to install. The tile itself is heat and moisture-resistant. However, it’s the germaphobe’s nightmare. Food spills can become embedded in the grout and the tiles can get scratched, stained or broken. $2-$150 per foot cost.
Laminates (Formica, Pionite, etc.)
One of the most budget-friendly materials, laminates are stain-resistant, waterproof and low maintenance. They also come in a large range of colors. They are not heatproof, though and can crack and scratch and are difficult to repair. $45-$70 per foot cost.
Paper-based Composite (PaperStone, Richlite, etc.)
These types of composites are made from recycled paper, so they are some of the most green materials for kitchen countertops. They are durable, harder than wood and somewhat heat-resistant. They can scratch and stain and they do require sealant. $45-$70 per foot cost.
Bamboo & Paper Composite
This is another green material made from the fast growing and sustainable grass. It’s durable, won’t discolor and is scratch, water and stain-proof. A few colors are available but it does require some maintenance. $35+ per foot cost.
Even though it is still snowing parts of the country, this is actually a good time to get a head start on your tiny garden for your Cozy Home. We did a post last year about small vegetable gardens for your small home…so how about adding a water feature to your garden with a small pond or fountain? Many cultures add water features to their gardens to represent peace and balance. In Japanese culture, water represents serenity in nature and in Islam, the word paradise means an enclosed garden with the sound of water. Water not only brings peace to your green space, but it also attracts helpful wildlife like birds, frogs and dragonflies.
Because your Cozy garden is small, your pond or fountain should be too. This saves you time and money up front and care and maintenance later on. You can get a huge range of ideas for garden water features from Pinterest. There are several different types of ponds and fountains that you can build yourself for around $200 in supplies.
You can purchase a pre-formed pond liner from any home improvement store for around $30-$75. To install, all you need is an area large enough to dig a hole for your pond, a shovel and a level and some sand to set the liner. Flagstone, flat rocks and other plants can be put around the pond once it’s installed and filled with water. A fountain or spitter and some water plants can also be added to aerate the water. Here is a great video by Patti Moreno on how to install a pre-formed pond in a small space.
Vinyl or Rubber Pond
Vinyl ponds give you a little more leeway as to the shape and size of your pond. High quality vinyl is laid inside and over the lip of your pre-dugged hole and held down with rocks, soil and other landscape materials. You can add pond pebbles and rocks to the bottom as well as fish and plants. Vinyl is more expensive (around $90 for a 10×10 foot liner) and is prone to damage from rocks and roots.
If you want to keep it even more simple, just add a small pot or container fountain to your Cozy Home patio or deck. These can be made with various pots and fountains can be purchased in a garden store or online for around $20. If the pot is large enough, fish and plants can also be added.
Should you put recycled denim insulation in your new Cozy Home? Nearly 24 billion pounds of clothing end up in landfills each year. To reduce this type of waste, several companies (including the clothing store, the Gap) will donate and recycle old denim to be used as insulation in new homes built after a disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane. There are two companies that manufacture insulation from recycled denim and cotton fibers, Green Jeans Insulation and Bonded Logic. The product, called UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber, is made from 85 percent recycled material, making it a green choice for home insulation. There are no VOC concerns, no chemical irritants and no itch when using it. This insulation is a Class-A building material and meets the highest ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) testing standards for fire, smoke, fungi resistance, and corrosiveness, according to Bonded Logic, Inc. The product provides sound insulation as well as thermal performance.
Denim insulation has an R-value around 3.4 to 3.7 per inch – very similar to fiberglass. Installation is essentially the same as with fiberglass insulation but no special equipment or protective clothing is needed to install it. Denim insulation comes in rolls or batts, as well as in a loose form so it can be used as blown insulation. Often, the insulation contains about 10 percent boron as a fire retardant and is covered with a plastic barrier.
There are pros and cons to using denim insulation in a home. The pros are that denim insulation requires less energy to produce than many other forms of insulation and it’s recyclable. According to the Science Insider, denim insulation is light, non-dense and contains no skin or throat irritants, as well as providing superior sound dampening. Denim insulation is resistant to mold, fungus and pests. The insulation is distributed throughout the U.S. in hardware stores and in specialty and green building stores. The cons are that denim is about 15-20 percent more expensive than fiberglass insulation. Also, cotton is not necessarily the most environmentally friendly of crops and jeans manufacturers also use a lot of bleach and water to create their product.
Photo by smith.rickard
A Cozy or tiny home may seem even more cozy in the winter with a wood stove or fireplace, but sometimes a much smaller home will not have the room for a fireplace inside…so having a wood stove outside is a good solution. An outdoor wood furnace like a Shaver Wood Furnace sits outside and keeps the mess of wood, kindling, bugs and ash away from your tiny living room.
An outdoor wood furnace provides hot water to work with any heating system: floor heating, forced air, boilers and water radiators. It can also heat water for your tiny home water heater and hot water for spas, hot tubs and swimming pools. The hot water is circulated through underground pipes to the inside of the house, where they are hooked to a heat exchanger. It can also directly plumbed to the hot water heater, eliminating the need for a $200 side-arm heat exchanger.
With a Shaver Wood Furnace, you load it with wood (preferably oak) once at night and once in the morning and let it run. Smoke, air pollution and mess is kept outside and this type of furnace is beneficial for people with asthma, children and the elderly.
Consider that the smallest Shaver Wood Furnace heats up to 3,500 square feet and costs just over $4,000. It could easily handle a small cluster of tiny houses and supply heat and all there hot water needs.
Wood is actually a Green option for heating your home because its net carbon dioxide emissions are below those of other types of fuels. Technology has advanced in the wood stove and fireplace industry too. Certified stoves are available today that produce no visible smoke and 90% less pollution than were not available just 25 years ago.
Wood heating is a lifestyle choice, so wood heating may not be for everyone. It’s typically available almost everywhere and makes a perfect choice when you want to be off the grid.
Photo by Shaver Wood Furnace
During more extreme temperatures, your electricity bill can jump by about 50-60 percent. That can really dig into your budget. Even in a tiny or small house, there are various ways to save on electricity costs. Here are the top five ways and a few you many not even have considered:
Great Stuff Insulating Foam Sealant
The cheapest solution to saving money on electricity might be one of the most important. Cool air from air conditioners and hot air from heaters will find any gap or crack in your home and sneak out. Break out the Great Stuff Insulating Foam Sealant and seal up any gaps or cracks in the walls and ceilings. The foam will expand to fill in spaces up to 1 inch wide and created an airtight, water-resistant bond. A can of Great Stuff will run you about $8-$12.
Dual/Tri-Pane Glass Windows
A little more investment might be in order for these energy savers. In cold weather climates nearly one-third of a home’s total heat loss occurs through the windows and doors. Single pane windows are huge culprits, so investing and installing double or even triple-pane windows will result in lower electricity bills. These windows use layers of glass with air or gas in between each layer to keep cool or warm air inside. A typical triple-pane 36″x54″ window with LowE glass and argon will cost around $250.
If you can’t afford a whole house full of triple-pane windows, try some cellular shades, also known as honeycomb blinds. These fashionable shades are made up of two layers of fabric that are joined together at the seams so that when the shade is pulled down, excess solar radiation is shut out, and pockets of air are created to insulate the room. The soft, double-layered fabric that keeps too much heat from coming in while still allowing daylight in. They also help keep your space warm by preventing heat from escaping through your windows on chilly winter nights. Cellular shades cost around $35-$50 each and come in many different colors.
Ceiling fans are not just for outdoor porches in the Deep South. Even a small ceiling fan can make a difference in both the winter and summer. During the summer, a fan can circulate the air that comes from air conditioner or it can just work alone to keep the air cooler. In the winter, a ceiling fan can also push the rising warm air from a fireplace or heater back down into a room. A small ceiling fan will cost between $75 and $200 depending on the size and style.
Changing your mind about how you react to certain temperatures will also save you money. Instead of turning up the thermostat or space heater in the winter, put on some luxurious silk underwear or a warm sweater. In the hot summer weather, don’t run the clothes dryer inside; instead hang your clothes out on a clothesline. Also during the summer, avoid using the oven and dishwasher and maybe do most of your cooking outside. Oh..and turn out the lights when leaving a room.
Photo by Snap Man/Flickr
If you are thinking of building one of our Cozy Home floor Plans with a steel frame? Keep in mind what might be the benefits. Additional companies like Tiny Green Cabins, are also building mobile tiny homes with steel and it’s becoming more popular with people interested in smaller homes.
The benefits of steel are three-fold. They are beneficial to the homeowner, the builder or contractor and to the environment. For the homeowner, steel framing allows for less scrap and waste. Steel creates only about 2 percent waste versus 20 percent for lumber. Steel prices have also been fairly stable over the years and have not changed much since the 1980s. Steel is also fire and termite proof. For the builder, steel allows for very straight and true walls and is lighter to work with than wood. A steel frame is less prone to damage in earthquakes or high winds and shows less wear and tear over the years. For the environment, steel frame construction is beneficial in that more steel is recycled in North America each year than aluminum, plastic or glass combined and that saves the energy equivalent of about 18 million homes each year. Every ton of steel that is recycled saves about 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1,400 lbs. of coal and about 120 lbs. of limestone.
If you are considering building your new small or tiny house from steel, here are a few things to think about:
Steel is more expensive than wood, but there will be less waste with steel since wood framing needs to be cut and culled to create a straight stud for framing. Some builders also use foam board as insulation for steel frame homes which is not the most environmentally friendly option for increasing the R-value of a home. Also, if you are working with a builder who is not familiar with steel framing, the building process might be slower.
If you would like additional information about steel framing, an article about Cozy Steel Homes is available on the website.
Photo by tommy snappy tommy