I wouldn't hesitate to say that my guest this week is one of my all-time favorite professional tiny house builders. JP Marquis from Minimaliste Houses has been building gorgeous, modern, premium tiny houses since 2015, early on in the movement and his company really has staying power because of their pursuit of building excellence. And I'm not reading any pitch, this is all coming from me. They have continued to innovate to make their tiny houses both safer and better to live in. In this conversation, we go kind of deep on building for cold weather, why JP thinks that SIPs are the only choice for building a safe and warm tiny house on wheels, heating systems, and more.
In This Episode:
- Why ventilation is so important and JP's recommendations
- What is thermal bridging?
- Building materials that reduce waste and cost
- Heating tiny homes in very cold climates
- Why Minimaliste makes wider homes
- Avoid these mistakes with your wheel wells
Links and Resources:
- Ryan Tuttle
- Zack Giffin
- TruHeat System | Electric Floor Heating System
Passionate about skateboarding, fishing, and photography, JP is the type of guy that always has the funniest story to tell and can entertain a whole group for the night. Newly a dad, his son will be lucky enough to be raised with good values, while learning to live with JP’s dad jokes.
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Decisions
Tiny House Decisions is the guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. And it comes in three different packages to help you on your unique tiny house journey. If you're struggling to figure out the systems for your tiny house, how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it, what you're going to build it out, then tiny house decisions will take you through the process systematically and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions for podcast listeners. Head over to https://www.thetinyhouse.net/thd and use the coupon code tiny at checkout!
Stairs in Baobab
The Baobab has a Cinderella Incineration Toilet in the bathroom
The kitchen, bathroom, and storage staircase in the Ébène II
The Ébène II has plenty of natural light and varying natural shades of wood
Ébène II exterior
The Charm has a full kitchen complete with a dishwasher
The Charm also has an Ikea modular storage couch
Minimaliste builds their houses 10 feet wide instead of 8 1/2 feet
The Noyer was built for a customer that now helps people with their own tiny home journies
The view of the office in The Noyer
The Sequoia has in-floor storage in the sitting area
Glass in between the handrails make The Charm's staircase safer
JP Marquis 0:00
Some horror stories as well in tiny houses that if you look at them from the exterior, you're like, "Wow, this is a fantastic home." You never know that two years after that, there's going to be mold in the bottom of the wall. That breaks people's dreams.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
I wouldn't hesitate to say that my guest this week is one of my all time favorite professional tiny house builders. JP Marquis from Minimaliste Houses, has been building gorgeous, modern, premium tiny houses since 2015, early on in the movement and his company really has staying power because of their pursuit of building excellence. And I'm not reading any pitch, this is all coming from me. They have continued to innovate to make their tiny houses both safer and better to live in. So in this conversation, we go kind of deep on building for cold weather, why JP thinks that SIPs are the only choice for building a safe and warm tiny house on wheels, heating systems, and more. It's a really great conversation and I do hope that you stick around.
I want to tell you about something that I think will be super helpful as you plan, design and build your tiny house. Tiny House Decisions is a guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. It comes in three different packages to help you on your unique tiny house journey. And if you're struggling to just figure out the systems for your tiny house, you know, like how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it, you know, what construction technique are you going to use - like SIPs or stick framing or steel framing, Tiny House Decisions will take you through all these processes systematically and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions for listeners of the show, you can head over to thetinyhouse.net/THD to learn more, and use the coupon code tiny at checkout for 20% off any package. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/THD and use the coupon code tiny for 20% off.
All right, I am here with JP Marquis. Before joining the Minimalist team JP was an active member of the Canadian Army. After serving for 10 years where he was deployed in domestic and overseas missions, JP decided to quit this job stability and step out of his comfort zone into a project he believed in. He always loved woodworking so he went back to school to become a carpenter. Always willing and keen to help he spent a few weeks in Argentina teaching wood construction methods right before jumping into Minimaliste's journey. Talented and passionate the team is lucky to have him around as he always puts in the effort to get things done. Passionate about skateboarding, fishing and photography, JP is the type of guy that always has the funniest story to tell and can entertain a whole group for the night. Newly a dad, his son will be lucky enough to be raised with good values while learning to live with JPS dad jokes. JP Marquis, welcome to the show.
JP Marquis 3:24
Thanks for the introduction, Ethan. It's a pleasure for me to be part of your podcast today. So thanks for having me.
Ethan Waldman 3:31
Yeah, it's it's fantastic. to have you on we were chatting a bit during the pre show. I've been following Minimaliste. And I hope I'm saying that correctly.
JP Marquis 3:40
Ethan Waldman 3:41
For years and years when when did the company start?
JP Marquis 3:46
Actually, the company started in 2015, which is when we actually built the first prototype. They actually brought us to where we're at today. Of course, this is quite an adventure. So it's not just about the prototype itself. But there's a lot of things that brought us to where we are. But yeah, I'll be more than happy to elaborate on that.
Ethan Waldman 4:10
Yeah, so maybe, could you tell us the story of that prototype? And you know, what inspired you to even build a tiny house in the first place?
JP Marquis 4:20
Yeah. So what happens is we like everybody else, we we saw what was going on with the tiny house movement in the United States. That it started to be more and more active after the economy crashed in 2008. But then, the movement took a little while to get here and then we learned about it with TV shows. But then, besides the fact that all these houses were let's call them cute, let's call them attractive. I mean, it's part of an exotic way of living, but besides that we thought that the whole industry was lackign a ittle bit in safety and upgraded construction methods because we live in a place where most of the houses that we saw in tiny house shows could not handle the type of weather that we have here in Canada. And then we wanted to incorporate our technical, the technical specifications that we need to follow here, because of our climates, we wanted to adapt them into your tiny house and actually offer a prototype that was that was offering the possibility for clients to downsize without downgrading. And this is where we actually aim for when we enter thetiny house market.
Ethan Waldman 5:38
Yeah, can you? Can you say more about that? Because I agree completely about, you know, the industry lacking some of the safety and cold weather kind of features. But can you say more about, about what you saw out there in the industry and kind of what you started doing differently?
JP Marquis 5:55
Yeah, I mean, it, it starts with the framing methods, and, and also with the thermal bridges, and also with the access to lofts. And like we saw a lot of ladders, and we saw a lot of staircases that were really steep and really narrow, no hand rails. There were some major points that we identified as items that if we changed, and we, if we offered a more clever idea, or different aspects of the tiny house living, we would be able to reach a market where people normally don't picture themselves in tiny house. But then while bringing something new, in addition to this industry, we thought we'll be able to reach a new market, like aging people, for example. But then with minor changes and some some thinking, we're able to actually anchor this type of clientele that we love to work with.
Ethan Waldman 6:53
Nice. So do you think that you have found a different kind of client within the tiny house niche? I guess, like, are you finding that you're working with people...
JP Marquis 7:07
What I think we did, we actually offer people an outlet for tiny houses, or different motivations that will bring people to live in a tiny house. And of course, after the economical crash in 2008 the first motivation was economical and then we thought we would aim for people that will want to go tiny for other reasons than just economical reasons. So offering the ability to downsize without downgrade would make it so clients that are going from like, let's say, a 2000 square feet home. And they have like money is not an issue. But they want to reduce their ecological footprint, and they want to do their part for the planet and they don't want to live in a big house anymore. Then mediamatic came up with a product that ticks all the boxes for them in order to downsize without downgrades. So that's what we that's the niche we actually went into. So that goes for aging people, and also for young professionals, that they don't want to compromise their comfort, but then it's not luxury. It's just what they wanted inside a tiny house. They want to do compromises but not everybody wants to do some compromises at the same place. That's for sure.
Ethan Waldman 8:35
Right. Right. That's a that's an interesting point you bring up because I remember being surprised that, you know, in in 2014, I published my my guide TIny House Decisions. And it was kind of one of the first kind of ebooks and resources for people to use to buy to follow. And I remember being surprised, I thought that most of the other people who would be kind of buying it and following me would be people who were around my age, so I was in my 20s then now I'm in my 30s. But I've been surprised to see that, I would say more of my customers and more of the people who who are following me are people who are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and even 70s people who are looking to retire into a tiny house or to kind of move from that bigger house into something tiny just to match you know, so that they don't have to have loans or or big expenses as they age. Is that something that you've found, as well?
JP Marquis 9:42
Yeah, that's totally correct. And yeah, and not only don't want to like have loans and all that but they don't want to take 4 or 5 hours to clean up their houses. They want to actually live inside their home, not for their home. That's the difference.
Ethan Waldman 10:05
So we recently had Chad Deschenes on the show, who I, who I know has been in contact with you. He's a building inspector, who is passionate about safety, and particularly preventing issues, moisture issues, poor ventilation issues. And he actually really lauded you and your company as, as a tiny house builder that is, is doing things right. And so I want to ask you, you know, can you talk a bit about, you know, the ventilation and and the things that you do in your houses to make sure that they are, are safe for the inhabitants that live in them?
JP Marquis 10:49
Yeah, it all starts with, I think, like the regulations in the tiny house industry, I think it is a matter of time before we see some some changes in the industry. But what happens is, here, what we wanted to do is adapt the building code, which, the building code in Quebec is probably one of the highest in North America. So we wanted to adapt that to the actual RV industry in which most of the houses will fall under. So that starts with ventilation because the way brand new houses are made, actually, if they're done properly, they're meant to be really, really airtight. But what comes with it is like, if you just buildl a really airtight home, you're going to be facing major issues even worse than if you build them the old fashioned way. So having a house that breathes, actually, with the proper ventilation system should not be like an option in a tiny house, it should be it should come with the house envelope with the constructor should always include a way for the house to be itself from the start, or professional, and a more, let's say high end technology in terms of either structure and also HVAC.So and now I'm pretty sure you're familiar with them. I'm glad you had Chad on theshow. And just so you know, I mean, he's not. He's not getting a dime for saying what he's saying. just telling what he thinks, should the tiny house industry look like or actually lean towards in the in the years to come. And that starts with proper inspection by third parties and proper ventilation of the product because he's seen some horror stories. And we saw some horror stories as well in tiny houses that if you look at them from the exterior, you're like, "Wow, this is a fantastic home." And you never know that two years after that, there's going to be mold in the bottom of the walls, and then everything that's been put inside the house is good for garbage. And that's also that breaks people's dreams. And everybody puts like, high expectations when the final product. But then we wanted to educate the whole population and the tiny house enthusiasts on how we build our houses. And that's how we are able to..... our returned relationship with our clients even though we're located 5000 kilometers apart.
Ethan Waldman 13:23
Yeah, yeah, that and that's amazing. Well, I so I do want to talk about that. But before we go to, you know, how you work with clients all over the US and Canada. Do you have any recommendations on specific ventilation units that you like to work with? Because that's, that's a question that I see a lot inside my my online community. Yeah, Tiny House Engage is that people are asking, you know, do I need an HRV or an ERV, and then there are so many different, most of them need an HRV not an ERV. But there then there are different systems. There are the Lunos and Blauberg that just are a single, you know, they go through one point in the house. And then there are more elaborate ducted systems. So which which systems do you like putting in in your houses?
JP Marquis 14:19
Actually, we the first one we heard of, because we knew from the start that we needed an air exchanger inside the tiny house, considering that it's mostly an open space with no with no basements and the walls are not as thick and the floor is not as big as the regular home. We knew that it's going to be a ductless system that would be more appropriate for the type of house that we wanted to produce. So we did some research and it came up to us that Germans have the great technology. They had a great technology and was called Lunos. Lunos was one of the first HRVs that we use inside our houses. But depending on the size, we started to include the either a pair of those or one because if you have two, they can talk to each other and well, one pulls the air in the other one extracts the air out. So they can work either in a single zone, or they can work in there, though. And actually, if it was not for the reps, that talked to us about the Blauberg, we would probably still be using the Lunos. But then when the rep told us about the Blauberg, and the actually upgrades that it had compared to the Lunos, and I'm not saying Lunos is not good, I would say, price wise, if you're in California, I will record demain Lunos over the Blauberg, because the main advantage for us with the Blauberg is the fact that is good, up to 25 Celsius. And also that the exterior event is more residential than RV like the the outside is not a flat profile, the vent with a tank in it that prevents wind from bursting... so when we're facing -40 here in Quebec, you don't want the wind bursting through a small plate. So we knew that these upgrades would be a benefit for our product and also for the clients that will buy those.
Ethan Waldman 16:21
JP Marquis 16:22
So HRV was definitely something that we wanted to include in the base price. And that should never be optional.
Ethan Waldman 16:31
Yeah, I appreciate that. I've, I put an HRV in my tiny house when I built it in in 2012. And I was fortunate because the designer that I worked with, is very, I'm not even gonna say progressive. He just, you know, he's a good designer and understands that when we build homes really tight with spray foam, that you need to ventilate the home, because otherwise you can get sick and have all kinds of issues. So Iam grateful that I was steered in that direction back in in 2012. But another thing that I think is is tough in the cold weather is heating, as well. And so I'm curious what, what heating systems do you like, when you're building a home that is going to go, you know, in Quebec or in the northeast United States or somewhere that is quite cold?
JP Marquis 17:31
I would say like the biggest challenge with building tiny houses, the cold weather is definitely about the thermal bridge that comes with a tiny house. There is way more opening per square foot in a tiny house, then there is in a regular house. S0 thermal bridge means less space for installation, and more space for structure that will bring the cold from the outside to the inside, just for the fact that there is solid materials from the exterior to the interior. And when we we did like two or three houses that were stick frame from the start with actually all the characteristics that we needed to include to make sure that these houses will not fall apart. So and then it was really high time consuming. So I did a couple of research on on SIPs. And then we finally decided in early 2018 the switch for structural insulated panels, because I knew that I... well, I had the impression and after that it was confirmed - that we would save a lot on energy costs and on time, and also we will avoid all these thermal bridges, because there's a lot of weaknesses in a tiny house, actually with the wheel wheels and all that. So we did some first steps but with the with the SIPs. And then one other weakness on the tiny house that we saw in United States because some people they're not afraid to show the pictures of their procedures or their construction methods. But then that shows to people how you do stuff. And I feel like our way of doing things is not to diss the competition at all is to educate more people on the differences that make one product different from what is seen on the market.
Ethan Waldman 19:26
JP Marquis 19:27
And then when we saw some tiny houses with plywood applied directly on the trailer frame and then starting to put up walls on that. Of course you live in, in hot weather. But then condensation doesn't only happen when you have minus 30 in winter, it can happen with the slight variation of temperature. We wanted to have proper insulation throughout the whole house.
And then we when we started build with SIPs, we we went with some blow door test. And that's something that not a lot of people will do in the industry. But then that showcases the specs of the house, how it's, like, let's put some numbers on what we think is a good way a good way of building. So when we had the first blower door test on our house, and we had around 1.12 changes of air per hour, in 200 Square Feet house. In this test, he was really impressed. And he said, Well, the smaller the footprint, the harder it is get a good ratio, because the ratio is on depends on the size of room. So if you have like a big building, you can easily get 1.12 change of air per hour, because the ratio is on a smaller scale, but then the square feet on a small box, if there is a leak, then you're going to notice that gonna affect your results, or ensure that if we go and also structurally, structurally sound.
Wood will actually dry over time, it will bend over time, it will tweak - it's living. So this is made from a dead material, which is OSB. And then a lot of people they they think always be it's not good because when it gets when it gets drenched in water, it falls apart and everything well, OSB should not be facing rain. When OSB is wrapped and properly installed. It's going to age as well as plywood, as well as lumber. So OSB actually is more eco friendly in the way it's produced. So it takes smaller trees, so you don't, you don't need to roll up big pieces of huge trees to make plywood OSB comes with, with smaller particles. So if you dig deep, and you analyze that there was an ecological move in using SIPs.
And also we reduce all the ways that the shop, well, I'm now I think I'm going in another direction. But talking about the construction itself, the insulation, we wanted to confirm that with blow door tests. And then it showed that we had a recipe that was really good. And then if you combine that with a mini split system, because you wanted to know about the heating methods, well, this system combined with steps is probably the most economical, economical way to keep or provide air conditioning inside of a tiny house. But then becomes to really, really cold places, even though we would put 12 inches thick foam in the floor, if it's -40 outside and there's no basement, you're going to feel a little bit of cold on the floor. And if somebody tells you otherwise, it's not true. It's just how it is. So of course, it's not gonna be freezing cold because it's insulated. But then it's not going to be as comfortable as summertime.
So of course, we include the heated floor. And then there's two different heating floors that we work with. We have the hydronic system that after using that in a couple of houses, this is not where I would go, if I was somebody that is not too technical, and is not able to provide proper maintenance on the whole system, because it's not really user friendly. Because you have the glycol pipes and everything. But I must admit that is probably the best heating method for house because it radiates from the floor, it's really comfortable. And then it creates a thermal mass. So there's only benefits to that system, but then you're required to place. And it's also really expensive. But now we have theTruHeat system, which is a low voltage tape. And then it shows to be really, really interesting or cheap, and actually requires less space. And for the purpose is the third is probably the best in between when it comes to heating from law and that we only recommend that when you're facing like freezing temperatures, like I would say Colorado, you don't need a heated floor, but then you only need it because of comfort. It's not a requirement at all.
Ethan Waldman 24:26
JP Marquis 24:27
But then if you're working on houses that are going to be installed off grid and propane, propane to be part of the game. So either a propane furnace and we already did a propane powered boiler or a heating floor that was running on on glycol as well. So there's different ways of doing that. But the best combination so far is definitely the mini split combined with an auxiliary heating system which we always include. You cannot rely on only one heating method. If it's the middle of the winter, you don't have any heating, they'll always have a backup heating.
Ethan Waldman 25:07
Oh, yeah, I second that I actually, I do have a, you know, I have a propane, just direct vent propane heater in my house. And then I've always had just an electric space heater as well. That the space heater can't heat the house alone. But if we lose propane or something happens, it is able to at least prevent, you know, the pipes from freezing.
JP Marquis 25:34
Yeah, definitely. That's a good point.
Ethan Waldman 25:37
I just so appreciate how well thought out your houses are. And it seems like you really are, are putting the person who's going to live there above all else, because I could see other builders maybe not wanting to use SIPs because they can make more money charging for their time to stick frame a house. But you've come to the conclusion that SIPs are the safest and best way to build a tiny house. And so that's that's what you go with.
JP Marquis 26:10
Yeah. And then it's been like to be honest, it's been really hard for us, not to justify the price of our houses, but then we wanted to be the company that offers what's best in terms of base materials, end of the line. So yeah, we there was no compromises in the base recipe of our houses. And of course it comes at a price. But then, like a way of thinking is, the price is a result of the choices that the client will make in his tiny house added on top of our base recipe. And if they're not willing to pay for that, and we don't, we don't try to make more profit and hope the client will, will actually accept the price, we just say "Well, this is the best price we can give. And this is the time that it requires to do. And then if it doesn't work, then we're not the builder for you." But then, so far, it's been working great because the clients when you take the time to explain them, and you educate them on the specifics of your house. They know what they're paying for. And then, and, of course, we think that we we like the thing that we build houses are looking good. But then what justifies the price of a Minimaliste tiny house is cannot be seen from the inside. So we had to think of a strategy to highlight that, and we do a lot of behind the scenes shots, some videos. We want to educate people about how we build houses. The people that come to us, they are people that have been doing their research. You don't you don't buy a house from us like you buy an RV from a yard where there's 80 or 100 RVs in there. It's a way more personal process, and people feel that.
Ethan Waldman 28:02
JP Marquis 28:02
So yeah, I think it's it's a different mindset. Totally.
Ethan Waldman 28:05
Yeah. Yeah, completely. And you have been just able to reach so much further than then where you are. So you is it? Is it true that the majority of your clients are in the US?
JP Marquis 28:23
Yeah, I would say like, actually, it's not like, to be honest. It's not because we aimed for the United States at first, because I mean, everybody wants to be the company that works in their own backyard and serves its own population. But I mean, Quebec, as of now, is not totally ready for tiny houses. And then we saw that there was more openings in the United States. And this is where the prototype was sold, so we had to do all the paperwork to get be able to do business in the States. So while we were at it, and people were writing us from the States, so now we had the entrance. The path was actually - well, we thought it was going to be easy but itt was definitely not. But then yeah, that's the reality. That's the that's the behind the scenes. There's always other stuff that is more complicated than what we post on Instagram, let's say, and then yeah, we aimed for the US market afterwards. And as of now, I would say it's at least 60% of our houses are sold in the United States.
Ethan Waldman 29:32
I'd like to tell you a little bit more about Tiny House Decisions, my signature guide and the resource that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. It starts with the big decisions which is you know, should you build a tiny house yourself or with help? Is a is a prebuilt shell a good idea? Is a house on wheels better than on the ground and what works better for you? Deciding on the overall size, deciding on whether you should use custom plans or pre-made plans, different types of trailers and more. Then in in part two, we get into the system so heat, water showers, hot water toilets, electrical refrigeration ventilation. And we're only two thirds of the way through the book at this point. From systems we go into construction decisions - talking about nails versus screws, SIPs versus stick framed versus advanced framing versus metal framing. We talk about how to construct a sub floor, sheathing, roofing materials, insulation, windows, flooring, kitchen, I know I'm just reading off the table of contents. But I just want to give you a sense of how comprehensive Tiny House Decisions is. It's a total of 170 pages. It contains tons of full color drawings, diagrams and resources. And it really is the guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions, using the coupon code tiny, when you head over to thetinyhouse.net/THD. That's THD for Tiny House Decisions. Again, that's coupon code tiny when you check out at thetinyhouse.net/THD.
Though, it must be a challenge working sometimes with clients who can't just come and see the house in person or talk to you in person. Have you come up with any any innovative ways that you you work with clients when they can't like be in the same room as you?
JP Marquis 31:34
Yeah, well, I'm the first one I was surprised at first when when we had a client that we were actually building our second house. And then we started advertising, not like paying advertising, but showcasing what we were doing on internet now like through social networks. And then there was this lady from Saskatchewan, which is a province. Let's say, close to Montana, north of Montana but in Canada. This lady was she saw that we were building our second house. And then that was tomorrow, I'm flying down to Quebec, she flew. And she talked to us for three hours. And they asked her that he was transferring the whole amount for her custom project. And we were like, "Really? She really did that?" That really showed us that, okay, if it's possible, there is some interest into this. So let's just focus on showcasing as much as possible. What we do here in this backyard, people can see what we do and how we do it. And after that, you know, of all the 35 plus custom tiny houses that we built, only I would say, three or four people had the chance to actually see one of our houses in person before committing on something. This is a big investment. And I still like, to this day, I still cannot explain it totally, except for the fact that we build a trust relationship with our clients through the videos and the transparency and the authentic way of telling people what we do and how we do it. Yeah, it's pretty impressive.
But besides Zoom calls, of course, the process of building a house, it starts with the phone call. But actually, I'm taking the first phone call with the client and I explain to them what it is to actually have a tiny house built by us. And after that, if the client decides to commit, then they have a phone call with our design team. And then we really go deep into personal life of people to make sure that the house will reflect their way of living, and we will not lean people towards the direction that we want. Because that's not the thinking that we have as a company. You don't push people where you want to go, you help them decide what's best for them. And of course, we have the knowledge we have the background, we know that sometimes they will make choices. And we will say, "Well, for this, this reason, we don't think it would be the proper way to go." But then after that if the client really wants to stick with his idea. We're not going to fight against gravity. I mean, it's a custom project, but we think about the resale value. And we we tell people what we think is best for them on the long term. And people, I mean, they really have great trust in our expertise. And the they put that trust in us.
Ethan Waldman 34:38
Yeah. And and I think that you are deserving of that trust, clearly. I'm curious. So we, we scheduled we originally, were going to have this conversation almost a year ago, or over a year ago. And then the pandemic hit and you were just slammed I'm with with tiny house with orders and work. How many houses per year are you building right now?
JP Marquis 35:09
Actually, right now we're around... We started from like, 6 to 8 to 12. And now we have 20 custom projects, plus, well, I'm not going to go too far in that direction. But we have an announcement coming in the next weeks or around like less than two months, it's going to be known, but then things are moving a lot here. So I would say, officially 20. But then that number could be around 40 by about by the next two months. There is a lot of things going on. But that's the situation right now. But then what happens is being a company that built his reputation on a product, that was actually a lot of quality control, like high end stuff, and then yeah, so we don't want to sacrifice quality over quantity. So we knew that at some point, we wanted to scale up because we have big hopes and big expectations for medium at least. But we never wanted to lose what people came to us for.
Ethan Waldman 36:20
One thing that that I've been hearing from the, across the board from from professional builders and di wires, is that the cost of materials has just gone up astronomically. And I'm curious as a builder, have they gone up across the board on everything? Or are some things, some things more expensive than others?
JP Marquis 36:43
Yeah, like, unfortunately, I must admit that, while the lumber prices really increased, I think the side industries of connstruction, the advantages of increasing the prices a little bit as well. But then, I'm not saying that we didn't have to actually raise our prices, because of course, like every construction company, we had to do so. And that starts with being fully transparent with the client. And you know what, most of the time, they know that the recent pricing doesn't go in our pocket is just how it is. And if you're not willing to move forward, then we can postpone the project. And we wanted to adapt our construction schedule accordingly. But luckily, almost no people stepped out of their project because of the pandemic. So what happens is, we had to close the shop for two months. And then because it was like that. But then after that we only needed to catch up on the production schedule. So we didn't lose contracts, we just had to deal with some some headaches with the production schedule, while also dealing with the fact that we are aiming for for an expansion in 2022. So that was just only a lot going on at the same time.
And then getting back to the price increase. Of course, you know, SIPs, you know the the structural insulated panels are made from different materials, and we don't have as much lumber or like like you would in a stick frame home. And that's pretty much where the increase was with plywood, and all that. So we had to increase the price. But we didn't have to double up the price, like we saw in some projects. So yeah, we were able to actually still keep up with the production while having to slightly adjust. But then there's no alternative, the only alternative for a client is not to move forward with the project. So there's not much we can do, except for being fully transparent and discussing with the client and most of them will cut that we'll cut the fare in half. So it is
Ethan Waldman 38:58
Yeah, yeah. Well, that's, that's good to know that the cost of sips haven't necessarily gone up quite as much as the cost of of lumber. I mean, I've just seen, you know, a two by four going, you know, costing $10, or $15. It's just insane.
JP Marquis 39:15
Yeah, so I would say the system increased by, let's say 10%. But then if you have lumber that doubles up and you have a stick framed house, and you pretty much double up your framing, well, we need to upgrade the price of around 10% only for the SIPs part. So of course we were kind of protected. But of course we really we needed to upgrade the prices because like we need to be a company that is successful in order to be able to still offer our houses. So the cheapest as possible is not good for the industry, because most likely we will not be there to sell houses in two years if we don't charge what it's worth right now. So we knew that it was coming the pricing like, "Alright, we're, we're not different from anyone where we'll need to deal with that." But so far it's been it's been working great and knock on wood. Yeah, hopefully we'll get out of this situation quite quick.
Ethan Waldman 40:18
Looking through the tiny house models on your, your website, they're all just so beautiful. And just the design aesthetics are so nice. What I've noticed about many of the featured ones, is that they look like they're a bit wider than your classic tiny house on wheels. Is it true that that many of your houses, or would you say that the majority of your houses are the 10, or 10 and a half feet wide?
JP Marquis 40:46
Yeah, the only I would say, the reason why we did eight and a half at first is because we didn't know enough of what's implicated with the 10-ft-wide home. And then the whole thinking behind that is really, really simple. If you're looking at a house, that is, let's say 30 feet long, and then that will weigh, let's say, 16,000 pounds, and eight and a half feet wide. Don't expect to be pulling that with a pickup truck. So considering that, why not benefit from an extra two feet inside? If you're not going to move it a lot and you're not going to move it yourself, then the extra two feet really make a whole difference inside the house in terms of comfort. You're not only gaining two feet, actually, because most people don't know that and a lot of people - well a lot of builders will actually - you know, the eight and a half normally must include everything that exceeds the house. So the vent for the rangehood. Here we're in Canada, I don't have a flat range hood vent. So we need to have something that is around seven inches deep. So this is space that you lose directly inside the house. So we ended up with around, let's say, 6 feet and a half interior space inside a tiny house. That's not a lot of comfort, because we have a thicker wall composition, we have the wall itself, but then we have some shearing strip on the outside, and a double shearing strip on the inside to pass all the wires without compromising the integrity of the SIP. Right. So everything makes it so we have q space left inside the house. And that results in a lack of confidence. Then when we created the first 10 and a half feet wide house, which was actually the cooroy was a gooseneck design, then it was just with the revelation we like okay, well, this is what we think is going to be the next thing for tiny houses especially for full-time dwellers. If you want to move a lot, but the tiny house, then we have a new product coming and of course, I would love to show you and explain it to you. But I mean, I'm not going to commit on that today, but it's coming.
So we're going to divide our offer into different specific categories next year. It's going to be the park model size tiny home for full time living. And then model that we're going to be offering where mobility is definitely possible because it's not true that you can travel in everywhere in North America, with the eight and a half by 30 and a half tiny house with lofts, it's not meant for that for different reasons, but it's definitely not a good idea, which is why we went with wider models and when we explain that to people they're like, "Yeah, totally makes sense. I'm not gonna invest in an $80,000 vehicle just to be able to move my house once every year or once every three, four or five years. Doesn't make sense." So the also the transport companies that we deal with have the experience they have the insurance. So you buy the peace of mind. You buy the house, it's delivered on your side, you hook it up and then if you move for you get a new job in four years, you want to move your tiny house then it's still possible and our houses, they're meant to travel. I mean they the structure is heavy duty. The trailer is meant for that the axles everything, but it's just the vehicle required to pull it that it doesn't really make sense and you have a pintle hitch in front of that. None of the pickup truck that is on the market is able to pull one of our houses while being smart. That's just how it is.
Ethan Waldman 44:46
Well being smart. So how do you address when your building you know, 10 and a half feet wide? How do you address the wheel wells in within the SIP? It looks like maybe the wheel wells fall right into the walls. So I'm guessing the does the SIP get cut around the wheel wells? And then how do you prevent thermal bridging from the wheel?
JP Marquis 45:12
Well, yeah, maybe like, like you said, we'll weld like, if you're on a, like a flat deck trailer above the wheel, then you don't have to worry about the wheel well. So if you want to maximize the interior space, you need to have a drop axle trailer. So the base of our trailer is around 18 inches high. And then of course, if you want to maximize the interior space, we need to actually deal with the wheel well inside the house. And most of the time, it will be where the cabinets are, or where we'll install the bench. But then when it comes to your actual question, there is a notch inside the wall. And there is a notch inside the floor structure as well as this step, but then you don't just sit directly on the on the wheel well. And we start - a lot of builders actually using the wheel wells as the structural element of the tiny house. This is a problem, really the worst idea ever, like fitting a door on top of a wheel well, directly on top of it, even though you put a little spray foam, it's probably the worst idea ever. You need to have something solid to put the door on. And a wheel well, no matter how thick the steel is, should not be used as a structural element on a tiny house.
So what we do when we notch the wall and the floor is we leave at least an inch around on top and on the sides of the wheel well. So we can put foam to create a barrier between the seal and the actual fit. So after that, that makes the air gap filled with foam. But then afterwards, you have the box of the wheel wells inside the house. And this one, we have hard foam that is applied on all the surface of the wheel wells. And then we have a box installed in a box that we put on top of it. So that way we prevent the biggest weakness on a tiny house, which is the wheel well to affect the whole structure of the house. Because once the damage is there, there's not much you can do. Except tearing everything apart and starting from from the start. So yeah, we want to avoid that.
Ethan Waldman 47:25
Yeah, it really sounds like you, you put so much attention into the details. How long does it take like, once you... Actually I'm changing my question. How long does it take from you know, from design to finish construction? I know you're right now you're not even accepting projects for 2021. You're only booking in 2022. But if somebody wanted to work with you, how long does it take once once things get going?
JP Marquis 47:59
I would say we always start the design phase. Actually, for a custom project, we will start the design phase, sometimes before the construction and most of the time, it will be around six months. So the turnaround time, we want not always year to six months, starting this next year. But then we have a reality that we're facing right now. And that's just how it is.
But then once the client is jumping into the process, we start with the design phase. And then we put the project on the construction calendar, sometimes the project booked for next year, like you said, I mean, we're booked out for the year. So next year, what happens is when the project is put on the construction calendar, it will take from six to eight weeks, including the cleanup, the inspection, the videos or the quality control everything before we're able to deliver that house. But then we can build two or three at a time right now. Which is why we're able to stretch from eight houses a year with three carpenters to 20 houses a year with 8-10 carpenters. So yeah, of course, the process.
Well, the real question is how much time it takes to build a tiny house on wheels that Minimaliste? It will take from, I would say 500 to 1000 hours. That's just labor hours.
Ethan Waldman 49:23
JP Marquis 49:23
But then in reality, the house will be at our location for six to eight weeks, which is not the exact time that it will take to build but that's the time you will spend at our shop considering that we're bidding more than one.
Ethan Waldman 49:37
Right, right. Fascinating. Well, it's, I'm sure it's just a unique and interesting challenge, trying to scale the building of something that is incredibly personalized and incredibly done by hand, but trying to scale that up and keep the quality and the details Continuing to be as good as they've always been.
JP Marquis 50:05
Yeah, that's totally right. And then we have the exact, we have this reputation, and we still have in it. But right now we're planning. We're actually working on the marketing plan in the new website, coming this summer. And that will definitely set the table for what will be Minimaliste is 2.0. And, of course, like you said, the customized touch of our designs will still be there, because what we plan to do starting next year is to actually take the - extend the expertise that we we created in the past years. And right now, because from the start, I'm not sure that you can, well, some people do it, and it's fine.
I'm not sure that you can actually know what people will need, until you build something custom for different people to get some feedback. And then like, being in the business for like, six years now and doing only custom projects, we kind of know what will suit this type of household better, then, in terms of designing, in terms of model, in terms of space, let's say you're a single person that is living in this type of environment, then nowadays, we can lead you towards a design that was created that reflects these needs. And then if you're a family, then we know in which direction, we'll be ending up going anyway.
So right now, after doing a lot of research development in custom projects, we are confident that if we come come up with four or five models that could be personalized, we are confident that these models will respond to 95% of specific needs. Which would have never been the case if we created only models from the start. And not a lot of people know that. But let's say the Magnolia, it was custom created for a client and after that we offered it, and then we made some variations of it. But from the start, all the models that we have on our website are custom projects that we now offer to people. We have like almost 10 different Magnolias right now.
What it tells us is the base plan of the Magnolia responds to a lot of criterias and a lot of needs. And then if we're able to produce more houses next year, then we cannot take the time to do only custom projects, because it will not, it will not make sense. And we will not be able to provide the service and the attention to detail not in terms of the product, but in terms of taking the time to analyze everything for the client for a custom project. We're confident that these models, they will come at a lower price point. But then you'll be able to choose personalized items. And we're confident that mixing a good custom service combined with strong well thought models, is probably the best way to scale up the company. Because we don't want to sacrifice the customer service. But we know that we cannot build 80 custom houses a year is going to be a nightmare in terms of production. And then you cannot secure stuff in advance. So you cannot actually lower your price for the client. So we want to democratize the tiny house industry in this tiny house product. And that starts with being able to offer more houses to more people. So that's why you want to work with a ratio custom and in models in the in the months in the year.
Ethan Waldman 53:51
Yeah, well, that's really exciting. I can't wait to follow that journey. And I'll be sure to let people know about it when you when you make that announcement.
JP Marquis 54:01
That's great. Thanks.
Ethan Waldman 54:02
Well, one thing that I like to ask all of my guests is what are two or three resources so they could be books, or people or anything that has inspired you that you'd like to share with with our listeners?
JP Marquis 54:22
A nice resource to have is definitely one of the clients that we had for the Noyer design. So she has a website. She's a corporate photographer, she's living in California, her name is Ryan Tuttle. And of course, I'm mentioning her name because it's not a secret. She has her own website where she helps people through their tiny house journey. So it starts with financing, finding the right builder. So she's an amazing person in general. And then we were lucky to have her as a client and then and we had the chance to visit her In California last year, and we saw her house. It sold as an accessory dwelling unit in California near San Francisco. So it was awesome to see someone living in her house. And then she had so many specific items that that she wanted to include in her house. And then it's something to build a house. And to ship it across the continent. But then it's something to go there and see, "Well, this is a drum kit where she plays drums while looking outside a window that she had designed, specifically pacifically for this reason. She ordered the items, but then thinking through the resource she can welcome people by Zoom or by in person if the situation allows. And she educates people on tiny house living, what mistakes not to make, and stuff like that. That's one of the nice resources if you have questions about his tiny house good for me, because there's a thinking process that everybody should go through before contacting a tiny house builder. Most of the people are not ready yet. They're curious, they have interest, but they don't know where to start. But it starts with analyzing your, your your your must-haves and nice-to-have and breaking it down to what compromises you're willing to make. And she really helps people doing that. That's a great resource.
Ethan Waldman 56:24
Can you say her name?
JP Marquis 56:26
Yeah, Ryan Tuttle. So funny is because her houses that's the know your design, and then but she she has a nickname for it is called that Tuttle Shuttle. It was just a, it was just a wordplay that I came up with, because I really like word plays in bad jokes like that. But then the Tuttle Shuttle is the name of her website. If you go on tuttleshuttle.com. That's the website for her tiny house journey. Yeah, I recommend if you I recommend you look it up. She has also an Instagram, I'm not sure about Facebook, but definitely Instagram.
Ethan Waldman 57:09
JP Marquis 57:10
Another resource, it's not a resource, but more of an inspiration. I would say Zack Giffen. I mean, I think he's a he's done. pretty tiny house industry. And if you start looking into -he is an inspiring person. We like a lot of his stuff on on YouTube and all that. So if somebody doesn't know about that guy, he could be a really inspiring person to look into because everything is done for the tiny house movement in and you know, we think that we are pioneers in Quebec and Canada for a tiny house, while he is for the sign of the whole tiny house movement. And I think that you are so a part of that because 2012 is still a time where tiny house was still unknown to majority of people and then you all really you really help democratize the tiny house industry.
And in having a podcast like that today, I would say you would probably be a third resource that I would recommend. Because you not only you, you're talking about the tiny house industry, but you take the time to invite guests in different areas of the tiny house industry. I mean, I recommended Chad because I think he had some knowledge that could benefit your your audience. And then the feedback that you gave me just shows me that you're doing this for the right reason. And we we think that tiny house, tiny house industry, there is going to be some unfortunate people jumping on the bandwagon in the years to come, that's for sure. But then it's always easy to see if somebody's doing that for the right reason and that's the case for you. So actually, thanks for being one of those guys. That is truly inspirational. And also true to who he is.
Ethan Waldman 59:03
why I very much appreciate that JP Ive will continue to be inspired by your your beautiful Tiny Home designs and builds. And it's been great catching up with you on the show. I'm glad we finally got to connect.
JP Marquis 59:17
That's great. And then if you have any any topic that you want to discuss or, or a podcast, feel free to reach out to me It will be a pleasure to help out.
Ethan Waldman 59:25
JP Marquis 59:26
on another podcast with you. And thanks for having me today. That's a great opportunity. And if anybody has other questions for us, you can redirect them to I don't know if you're allowed to do that, but we have
Ethan Waldman 59:36
JP Marquis 59:37
we're able to answer any questions on our website or on different social media platforms.
Ethan Waldman 59:43
Yeah, I will. I will link to your website and all those details on the show notes page for this episode, which as soon as this interview is done, people who are listening will hear me tell them where where they can find that.
JP Marquis 59:57
Okay, well, thanks. Thanks for having me on the show today. And actually we I wish you the best of success of your podcast. And we'll definitely share the interview and share your whole podcast concept to our community. That would be a pleasure for us.
Ethan Waldman 1:00:12
Thank you so much to JP Marquis from Minimaliste houses for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including links to Minimaliste, the resources we talked about, and some photos of my favorite Minimaliste houses at thetinyhouse.net/167. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/167. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.