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
Small adjustments to a room, especially in a tiny house or Cozy Home, can make a large impact. Without spending a lot of money, a few simple projects in a small kitchen can maximize space, enhance the visual aspects and even add value to the home. Maximizing space is essential in a small home and there are several simple tasks a homeowner can complete themselves.
Christopher Toleman and David Silverstein, co-owners of Arocon Roofing and Construction, give homeowners tips on how to improve their kitchens if space is an issue.
“Inexpensive, open shelves can really provide you with the most storage for less,” Toleman says, “Slide-out baskets can also be installed to the underside of wall cabinets.”
Extra storage in the kitchen can also be created by adding shelves to the inside of cabinet doors and by using nails as hooks underneath the cabinets. Hanging pots, pans, lids and utensils from these hooks makes them easier to get to and frees up cabinet space. Increasing the visual appeal in a kitchen can be as simple as updating hardware and adding a coat of paint.
“Updating hardware, like drawer pulls, is a quick and easy way to spice things up,” Silverstein says. “Painting your kitchen cabinets is another great way to brighten up your kitchen.”
If a homeowner wants to add value to their kitchen on a budget, it’s important to choose the most impactful project. Increasing the amount of natural lighting in a room, such as adding a skylight, can add value by making the space look bigger and feel more comfortable. Redoing the flooring is also a great place to start.
“The floor gets the most use, so replacing or upgrading your floors will greatly increase the value of the home,” Toleman says.
There are many types of flooring, each with different benefits. Tile has the most visual appeal and comes in many colors and textures. Laminate is durable and low maintenance. Wood is warm underfoot and quiet. Vinyl is inexpensive and has several colors to choose from. Also, upgrading appliances can significantly increase value of the home. When choosing which appliances to improve, start with the fridge.
“Your refrigerator is the appliance that gets used the most and also has the most visual impact because it’s the largest,” says Silverstein. “Today’s refrigerators really maximize food storage and are much more energy efficient than older fridges.”
Arocon Roofing and Construction is a screened and approved member in the HomeAdvisor network. They focus on creating individualized construction solutions and specialize in roofing, siding, gutters, kitchen/bathroom remodels and more. HomeAdvisor, is a leading website and mobile app provider offering resources for home repair and improve projects. For more tips on sprucing up your tiny space visit HomeAdvisor.com.
When you think of Murphy beds, what sometimes comes to mind is some comical movie scene where someone gets trapped inside this bed that folds out of a wall. In reality, the Murphy or wall bed can be an ingenious space saving option for a micro, tiny, small or especially a Cozy home. The original Murphy bed has been around since the early 1900s, but has come a long way and modern wall beds offer more high tech options and beautiful details.
Most Murphy beds fold up into the wall and disappear into a closet or cabinet, leaving additional space for a living or entertaining area. These types of beds work great in a studio home or in the Cozy Home Plans like the 288 square foot Thimble Peak or the 288 square foot Granite Mountain. These days, Murphy beds also include more than just the bed, you can have specialized lighting, storage and clothing cabinets and office components. Because of the mechanics and cabinet work included with Murphy beds, they do not have box springs and the mattress usually sits on a platform or cordage. The beds usually run between $1,500-$2,000. Some of the ultra-chic beds can reach $5,000.
Because of their multiple components, Murphy beds do need to be installed on the wall of your home. The cradle is the mechanism that makes the bed fold up easily into a cabinet and will need to be put together with the correct distance from the wall. The DIY Network has a good tutorial on how to install a Murphy bed.
Here are several simple Murphy beds at different price points that could work in a smaller home as either a main bed or even a guest bed:
This Queen size Murphy bed is simple, but still includes a small closet, a side table and some storage drawers. It is currently going for $1,727 on Wayfair.com.
This Hiddenbed by BREDABeds is $1,995 and converts from a desk to a bed without having to remove the desk’s contents. It also includes a side hutch.
With this bed you get a living room and a bedroom all in one cabinet. The Dile sofa bed by Flying Beds provides a stylish seating area and some shelving and a fold down bed inside. The price for this bed is $5,710.
Photo by Andrew Sinclair/Flickr
The western U.S. is currently suffering from a heat wave and even people in Cozy, small or tiny homes are feeling the heat. Some locations around the U.S. can go without any kind of air conditioning (you lucky people up in the mountains), but many homes need some sort of cooling during the summer months.
However, there are ways to avoid the expense of central air conditioning when building your Cozy home. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, central AC units and installation can cost between $3,000 to $7,000. These units do end up lasting around 20 years, but air-conditioning is one of the heaviest burdens on the power grid and causes more greenhouse emissions. Having a smaller home to cool is the first benefit and there are several others.
1. The placement and insulation of your Cozy home can have a huge difference in how easy it is to keep cool. If you place your home with most of its windows, or the largest windows, facing West, the home will heat up faster. Design and place your home so that the windows face south if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. Good insulation will trap the cooler night air in a home and will let it out less gradually than a home with sub-par insulation. Also take into consideration the color of your roof, a lighter colored roof will reflect back heat.
2. During the summer, reduce the use of home appliances and electrical equipment. When these appliances or lights are left on, they heat up the home from the inside. Avoid using your oven and cook with an outdoor grill instead.
3. Choose some air-conditioning alternatives. These include swamp or evaporative coolers, geothermal heat pumps, solar-powered AC and ice power. Swamp coolers cool air through the evaporation of water; geothermal heat pumps use the earth’s steady temperature to cool and heat water, and each system has an indoor and outdoor unit that transfers water into the ground and pumps it back inside; solar-powered air-conditioning contains an AC unit connected to solar panels and helps reduce energy bills without the commitment of extensive rooftop solar panels; ice power works in conjunction with conventional air-conditioners by making ice during the night, when energy demand is lower. During the day, it uses this “ice battery” to deliver cooling to the AC unit, which offsets the energy usage of the system.
If you are interested in installing a small window AC unit in a tiny house, there is currently a great article by Logan Smith of Smalltopia in the Tiny House Magazine, Issue 7 about how he and his wife, Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens, installed an air conditioner in their tiny house on wheels.
Photo by Justin/Flickr
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
The summer months mean family vacations for many people across the country and many people these days are looking for alternative ways to spend their holidays. To get away from the typical hotel or resort, some people camp during the summer and some people stay in unusual places like river camps, tipis, sheep wagons and even tree houses. Companies like VRBO and Airbnb are making it easier for people to experience these fun and unusual places to stay.
If you have your own tiny, small or Cozy home, you will know about the satisfaction that comes with living and being happier in a smaller space. It would be nice to share that feeling with visitors without having to have them take over your own sacred space. Maybe you could build another tiny house that is just used as a vacation rental? Cozy Home Plans offers several very tiny home plans that are affordable to build and could end up being a good source of income as a short term or long term rental.
The first is the Cozy Cube, which was featured on Tiny House Talk. The Cozy Cube is 196 square feet and two story with an upstairs balcony. This home will probably have to go through a county inspection before it is started, but it offers a private space for several people.
The brand new Limbo Rock is for someone who really wants to challenge themselves with living small and it’s the perfect guest or rental option since it’s only 64 square feet. It has a single bed, a toilet and some great skylights.
The cute Sprinkle Drop looks just like a typical guest house and comes in at just under 200 square feet. It features a great room with a tiny kitchen and a small bathroom with a shower. The kitchen doubles as a food prep area, eating area and small office.
The Thimble Peak is a Cozy Home basic that comes in at 288 square feet and offers a large covered porch and a studio room that includes a kitchen. It also has a full bathroom and an area for a washer and dryer.
Cozy Home Plans has many other tiny house ideas on its Flickr pages. Check them out for your own guest house idea.
Many of the popular tiny homes are built on a portable foundation like a trailer that can be towed around the country, or even on skids that can be moved around a piece of property. However, if you are thinking of putting down roots in a small or Cozy Home, you will most likely want a strong and solid foundation. There’s a saying that a home is only as good as its hat (roof) and boots. Let’s go over those boots.
There are several different types of foundations for a small home. A slab foundation, a concrete perimeter foundation, a basement foundation and a crawl space foundation. In some hotter parts of the world, some homes are built on a pier and beam foundation. Each of these foundations are built in different sections of the country and each have their own pros and cons.
Most homes in the South are built on a slab. A slab foundation is usually concrete poured directly onto the ground after the soil is removed and the grading is complete. It’s a quick, efficient and more inexpensive way to build a foundation and the pro is that concrete rather than wood is used to support the weight of the home.
Most homes in the north part of the country have a basement foundation. These types of foundations are constructed at least 8-10 feet into the ground with a concrete slab and concrete walls around the slab. The house rests on the concrete walls and the basement can act as an extension of the home. Some basements can be finished to include an extra room or storage and laundry space and some are used as a refuge during tornadoes or other fierce storms. A basement foundation does add additional cost to a small home.
Concrete Perimeter Foundation
For homeowners who want the stability of concrete, but don’t want to have a basement, a concrete perimeter foundation is a cheaper solution. A concrete perimeter foundation is formed by excavating around the outside dimensions of where the house will sit and pouring a layer of concrete known as footer into the ground. After the footer is poured, concrete blocks are cemented together on top of the footer to provide concrete block walls for the house to rest on.
Crawl Space Foundation
Crawl space foundations are usually built where the frost line is not as deep. This type of foundation is built above the ground allowing just enough room to crawl underneath to access wiring and plumbing. There are stem walls on the perimeters, pierced in-between and then a girder system and floor joists on top of that.
Pier and Beam Foundation
A pier and beam foundation consists of wood beams or posts that sit on top of concrete piers, with the house resting on the wood beams. The advantage of this type of foundation is that it is easier to construct and less expensive than a concrete perimeter foundation. A pier and beam foundation may be implemented in areas where there is a low risk of earthquakes or hurricane-velocity winds because the foundation is not embedded as deep into the ground as a concrete foundation.
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.
Even if your house is tiny or small, you might want to have an area or space that’s specifically for entertaining purposes. This can include a TV, stereo system, computer or laptop space and maybe even some cool speakers. With technology getting smaller every year, even the tiniest house can have a great place to watch movies or listen to music without taking up too much room. Several Cozy Homes have a space for a flat screen television including the 384 square foot Crested Butte and the 505 square foot Mount Kiska. With a little ingenuity, a small entertainment space can be integrated into a living room with a flat screen TV area.
A small cabinet or shelf from IKEA can hold a DVD player, a compact stereo, a cable box and even some movies in a small corner. The key to keeping space uncluttered is to install as many things on the wall as possible. This includes the TV, the speakers, shelving and wiring. Speakers for a small house can stay in one area or can be installed in various places around the house. An unobtrusive style of speaker system from Bose is only around $160 and comes with custom mounting brackets. They are only about 4 inches high and about 11 inches wide. If your main source of entertainment is your computer or laptop, this and its components can be tucked away into a desk or shelf or even inside an ottoman with an inside storage area…only being brought out when you want to watch a movie or your favorite show.
If you have to share your small space with other people and you don’t want to watch or listen to the same thing, a good pair of headphones can be a relationship-saver. A pair of wireless TV headphones allows one person to listen to the TV while the other sleeps or reads. A Sennheiser set of headphones runs about $70.
Now that the weather has warmed up around most of North America, the garden centers and landscaping stores are full of people pushing around carts laden with pavers and patio stones to build that perfect outdoor patio. A Cozy, small or tiny home can also benefit from an outdoor patio. They offer a great refuge to sit and enjoy your garden as well as an extension of the indoors. Patios can be placed anywhere in your yard: right off a back door, tucked in a secluded corner or they can even encompass the majority of your yard.
For a Cozy home, a smaller patio might work best. Not only will it be less expensive to construct and you could do the labor yourself, but it will not overwhelm a smaller home. With a good design you can also fit an eating area, some plants, a barbecue and maybe even a small water feature. Pre-cut paver stones or bricks make a good patio and they can be laid down in a variety of patterns and styles. Natural stone pavers create a more organic look, but will need to be adjusted a few times to fit together – like a puzzle. Both types of pavers can have sand, small pebbles or “gator dust” pour in between them to create a smooth, seamless patio. Also make sure that you create a level and stable patio that can support foot traffic, chairs and tables. Transition areas between the yard and the home should also be smooth and should not have sharp corners or places where you can trip.
Here are some additional design tips for building a small patio for a small home (from Better Homes & Gardens):
• Make the design attractive: It should complement the house and landscape, as well as provide a comfortable living space.
• Don’t be square. Add slabs at the corners of paver patio, for instance, to make a unique geometric form. Curves often make the best use of space.
• Create a hidden or enclosed patio away from the house. It is one of the simplest outdoor rooms you can make. All you need is level ground, comfortable seating, and the shelter of trees and shrubs.
• Extend a patio’s usefulness with a roof or partial cover. Position the patio to be warmed (but not baked) by the sun; a southeast or southwest location is ideal.
• Keep in mind the costs of maintenance over the anticipated lifetime of the paving material, when figuring the patio’s cost initially.