I was excited to finally sit down with Melanie Copeland because it seems like her name is everywhere! Between a book that is charting on the Amazon bestseller list and involvement with Tiny House Alliance USA, Melanie is a mover and a shaker in the tiny house world. She also has an amazing personal story of renovating a tiny house in just 7 days.
In This Episode:
- How do you build a tiny home in 7 days?
- Why hammocks are an amazing creative seating solution
- Preparing their land for legally living in their tiny home
- Trailblazing Tiny and upcoming projects you won’t want to miss
- Finding the perfect land for your tiny home
Links and Resources:
Melanie Copeland is a tiny dweller and an advocate for legal parking. She built her tiny with her husband and 3 friends in 7 days and worked with her county to legally park on her own land. She is the author of Trailblazing Tiny: A Guide to Breaking Free and the National Spokesperson for the Tiny House Alliance USA where they work to advance tiny housing for veterans and encourage building trades in schools with tiny house projects!
Melanie Copeland and her husband live in their tiny home with their 50 lb dog
They built their entire tiny home in just 7 days!
Hammocks make the most sense for their seating needs
They've had some issues with carpenter bees outside
Chains suspended from the ceiling make hanging hammocks a breeze
A folding chair works well for a workstation – or a nap
The table folds up when you need the space and has wine storage underneath
Melanie's tiny home is 18'x8′
About an acre of land is perfect for the Copeland's tiny homestead
The mini-fridge lasted for a few years and then needed to be replaced
Melanie Copeland 0:00
When we first moved to the house to our first place, which is where we lived illegally, like under the radar, we put up skirting over the winter and we accidentally like screwed through right into our tire.
Ethan Waldman 0:17
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 196 with Melanie Copeland. I was excited to finally sit down with Melanie Copeland because it seems like her name is everywhere between a book that is charting on the Amazon bestseller list, involvement with tiny house Alliance USA. Melanie is a mover and a shaker in the tiny house world. She also has an amazing personal story of renovating a tiny house in just seven days. So stick around to hear all about Melanie Copeland's tiny lifestyle and what she's doing in the tiny house movement.
But before we get to that, I have one quick ask for you. As the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast approaches 200 episodes, I just wanted to say thank you, to all my listeners, I love to hear from you. I love doing this show and all the great conversations that I get to share with you each week. So if you like Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast my ask to you is please share the show with someone who you think will like it, take their phone, show them how to subscribe to a podcast, or just show them that they can go over to thetinyhouse.net/thlp and listen to the shows right there on the page. I'm also experimenting with adding the shows to YouTube so you can watch/listen in the background. So again, my ask is just please share an episode or the show with someone that you think will like it, or post it on social media however you like to do it. It's always great to find new listeners and I really appreciate your support. Again, please share the show with someone you think like it. Alright, on to the show.
Alright, I am here with Melanie Copeland. Melanie is a tiny dweller and advocate for legal parking. She built her tiny house with her husband and three friends in seven days and work with her county to legally park on her own land. She is the author of Tailblazing Tiny A Guide to Breaking Free and the National Spokesperson for the Tiny House Alliance USA where they work to advance tiny housing for veterans and encourage building trades in schools with tiny house projects. Melanie Copeland, welcome to the show.
Melanie Copeland 2:51
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Ethan Waldman 2:53
You're welcome. Seven days, how how is that possible?
Melanie Copeland 3:00
Right, well, it was a really rough seven days. It wasn't easy. So we actually about four years ago, we built with a company called Incredible Tiny Homes,
Ethan Waldman 3:12
Melanie Copeland 3:12
and they used to offer workshops. And so what you would do is you would work with their designer get a design. And for the most part, these were very simple, tiny houses. So you're not talking houses that are, you know, 28 feet 10 feet wide. Like these were simple, basic homes, that you could come in with your crew and build in seven days.
Ethan Waldman 3:37
Melanie Copeland 3:37
So you would arrive and they would have all the materials set up there for you. And they gave you a supervisor, but he was mostly there to teach us how to use tools that we didn't know, he wasn't there for labor or work. They provided in an electrician and a plumber and some of those people to come in and make sure that everything was on up and up. And then the five of us built.
Ethan Waldman 4:02
Melanie Copeland 4:03
So we built from five in the morning sometimes till some mornings to one or two or three o'clock in the morning. I wouldn't say we rushed and ran a whole bunch. We took our breaks, but they were really long days. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 4:19
So wow, that do they still do this?
Melanie Copeland 4:23
They don't. But during the course of their workshops, I believe there were close to 30 tiny homes that were built this way. So it wasn't just ours. There was a lot of us that did it.
Ethan Waldman 4:36
Wow. That's I mean, no judgment, but that's insane. To offer that.
Melanie Copeland 4:43
It was in - it was fun. It was a blast. Like I wish they still did it because you learned so much in that week and you're really just immersed in it and you're you're having a blast. You're having so much fun and when you run into a problem there's somebody there to help you So you're not, you know, snagged and getting held up. And yeah, we we really learned a lot. In fact, I learned so much that I do contract carpentry now.
Ethan Waldman 5:10
Wow. So, so much. How much experience did you have before you started the house?
Melanie Copeland 5:19
Not a lot. I'm a pretty mechanical person. So I'll just be aupront there. Like I like tools. I don't find that stuff hard for me to jump in and do but as far as ever having done any type of framing or - no.
Ethan Waldman 5:34
Melanie Copeland 5:19
I'd used the, I don't even think I'd used the circular saw. Maybe just like a drill and some some basic stuff put put prebuilt furniture together, right?
Ethan Waldman 5:19
Melanie Copeland 5:19
But the confidence coming out of building a home in seven days. And knowing that I could pick up a tool and know how to use it just kind of allowed me to continue to be able to build the things that I wanted to add to the home after the bill. And yeah, so I, you know, now I go and I do framing work on contract when I want wow, I build furniture for other tiny dwellers and different things. So it's been it was a pretty life changing experience. That's to say the least
Ethan Waldman 6:23
Yeah. From zero to hero, tiny house builder.
Melanie Copeland 6:28
That's crazy. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 6:30
So what what kind of contract carpentry work do you do now?
Melanie Copeland 6:34
So I work with an Amish crew in the area that when they do framing, the guys usually call me out to help with the framing.
Ethan Waldman 6:43
Melanie Copeland 6:43
Okay, so that's the majority of what I like to do. And then I, I do build some cabinets or different custom pieces of furniture shelves and things like that, that will fit into other people's tiny houses because we all have these restrictions on our build and what we can actually create in the spaces so it's hard to find items that work. Yeah, so I've, I've done a few custom items like that for other tiny dwellers. Yes.
Ethan Waldman 7:13
Melanie Copeland 7:14
Ethan Waldman 7:16
So that is fascinating. Tell me about Tell me about your tiny house like giving the specs for your tiny house?
Melanie Copeland 7:23
Sure. Yeah. We're an 8x18.
Ethan Waldman 7:27
Melanie Copeland 7:27
So again, very simple. I have two lofts. I'm in my four foot loft right now. My eight foot loft holds a California king bed. It was built to be on and off grid. So we have like a composting toilet. We have a water reclamation system. We're hooked up to a well right now. And we do operate on power but our power bills about 20 Maybe 20-30 bucks a month.
Ethan Waldman 7:57
Melanie Copeland 7:57
So it's, it's a pretty simple build. We have like a four degree pitch. So that allows my roof to have this big bulk area in it. So I have a lot of space up here. And I built it to look like a log cabin. So it's just got a very simple, you know, flat log siding exterior that that looks like a little log cabin and it's brown with green trim and a green roof. So nice. Nice. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 8:26
And any special features or personalizations that make it yours?
Melanie Copeland 8:33
Yeah, so we're big proponents of the hammock life.
Ethan Waldman 8:37
Melanie Copeland 8:39
So our main seating is hammocks, and I've been promoting it for like four years. I don't know why more people don't have these hammocks, but they're amazing. And we've loved them. So...
Ethan Waldman 8:49
Aare they the like top bar hammocks where it's like a seat or are they they're like reclining hammock?
Melanie Copeland 8:55
Yeah, they're a seat. Yep. So the top bar and they they can fold out you can lay back in them. You really do that with them though. And they're an all cloth.
Ethan Waldman 9:06
Melanie Copeland 9:06
Type of hammock so they don't have that little mesh, like string stuff that you sit in? Yeah. So they're really comfortable. And yeah, so that those fold out of the way. And then we have our whole downstairs areas basically open. And we've loved that. It's it's been an exceptional way to have a transformation type space in a tiny where there's not a lot of room for furniture.
Ethan Waldman 9:33
Right. Yeah. So I'm imagining you can just kind of clip it to the wall and get it out of the way when you're not using it.
Melanie Copeland 9:39
Or even unhooked it and just thrown it in a loft when we want to use the downstairs space. So it's been so I think that's kind of our I think that's our most creative thing that we have. Because we're we're very simple, tiny house so there's not a lot to it.
Ethan Waldman 9:56
Yeah. Do you like do you have others Eating like for eating dinner or is there like a table and chairs or anything? Or is it all hammock?
Melanie Copeland 10:06
It's two hammocks and there's a flip up table in between. So and, and underneath that there's like a little storage for wine and wine glasses and the table folds up. But mostly we don't eat at the table like that. We just set our drink or our bowl there.
Ethan Waldman 10:23
Melanie Copeland 10:23
And so you're holding it while you're sitting in the hammock. There is not space for entertaining. Although I could probably just pull the hammocks and put in some fold up chairs and fit four to six people.
Ethan Waldman 10:36
Melanie Copeland 10:37
We didn't design the house for that. So it's pretty much all hammocks. Which is great for us.
Ethan Waldman 10:45
Melanie Copeland 10:46
that's great. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 10:47
You You're saying us? So do you live in the house with multiple other people? Just your husband?
Melanie Copeland 10:53
Yeah, my husband and we have a 50 pound dog.
Ethan Waldman 10:57
Melanie Copeland 10:58
And he has two tiny house puppy areas. And then he has a cubby under our stairs. And he has a spot in the back with his own puppy bed. And but most of the time, he's like, out in the yard with the chickens and you know, protecting his rooster.
Ethan Waldman 11:15
Melanie Copeland 11:18
So he spends a lot of time out there because that's where he wants to be.
Ethan Waldman 11:22
Melanie Copeland 11:23
Ethan Waldman 11:24
So where? How you said this was five years ago that you built?
Melanie Copeland 11:32
Ethan Waldman 11:33
Four years ago?
Melanie Copeland 11:33
Almost four now. Yeah. Yep.
Ethan Waldman 11:36
I always like to ask, going on eight years since I finished my tiny. I'm always curious to ask what kind of maintenance things what has broken that you've had to fix?
Melanie Copeland 11:46
What has broken? Okay. Luckily, like knock on some wood here, because it really hasn't been a lot. We have had most of our issues, I guess have been exterior issues. And they've had to do with like, we've had carpenter bees pouring into our soffit. So and we've had our wood crack on the outside where we've had to go back and put like wood filler and make sure that our caulking is sitting.
Ethan Waldman 12:16
Melanie Copeland 12:16
On one of our on one of our moves. And mind you, we built this really fast. So like when we cut our exterior boards, some of them are cut super tight, and some are cut a little loose. One of the boards on the outside, we cut super tight up to the trim piece on the side where it's in.
Ethan Waldman 12:36
Melanie Copeland 12:36
So it would be the board laying into the corner. And we screwed them in and during the move one of the screws sheared off. And so that board has now lifted and will have to pull in replace it. So during transport, you know those kinds of things just get bumped around. It's the nature of, of wood.
Ethan Waldman 12:57
Melanie Copeland 12:57
So we've had some some things like that break, we've had to replace our mini fridge that died, but it made it almost three years. So that's, you know, for these little the littler appliances like the InstaPots and things don't normally tend to last as long as a traditional stove.
Ethan Waldman 13:18
Melanie Copeland 13:18
So I feel like we've gone through, I think we've had two or three toaster ovens now, we're on our second InstaPot, stuff like that. But as far as other things in the actual housebreaking, it really hasn't been anything else that are needed much maintenance.
Ethan Waldman 13:37
Melanie Copeland 13:38
We have hardwood floors, so it's not, they've held up really well in four years. And all of the windows, we haven't had any leaks or any problems with those either. So
Ethan Waldman 13:48
Melanie Copeland 13:50
We just had to add, like silicone recaulk on the outside.
Ethan Waldman 13:55
Melanie Copeland 13:56
Ethan Waldman 13:56
Melanie Copeland 13:57
Yeah, so there's, it's just been a lot of exterior maintenance more than anything else and, and two flat tires. Like, you know,
Ethan Waldman 14:08
Did that happen during transport?
Melanie Copeland 14:10
No. So when we first moved to the house to our first place, which is where we lived illegally, like under the radar, uh, we put up skirting over the winter. We accidentally like screwed through right into our tire. So yeah, we heard it go. Like all right, yeah, that was that was bad and, you know, live and learn. And then we had one on the other side that just went flat and we don't know why. So we had to replace both of those and about 100 bucks a pop, so it wasn't awful. But yeah, you do have to have some spares when your house rolls so...
Ethan Waldman 14:49
Melanie Copeland 14:49
Ethan Waldman 14:50
I've always I've always thought to myself that if I was going to do a big move that I would probably just preemptively replace all four tires before doing it, just because I would agree mine have essentially been sitting for eight years. Sometimes on the trailer sometimes off, I haven't done a particularly good job of taking care of them.
Melanie Copeland 15:11
I mean, like you put something over them, and then you live in your house, you don't really think about... I'm in agreement. I mean, we've been on our land almost two years now. And if I was to pick it up and roll it off this property, I would be putting four new tires on it. I yeah, I would agree with that. Yeah. I mean, it's just not, it's not that expensive to insure that the house is gonna roll down the road safely.
Ethan Waldman 15:37
Yeah, yeah. And I know that a lot of when I was when I was working on the second edition of Tiny House Decisions, I really did a deep dive on tires. And the tires that come with the trailer aren't usually the highest rated for heavy loads and long distances.
Melanie Copeland 15:53
Ethan Waldman 15:54
They kind of they kind of tend to cheap out a little bit. And so it is worth worthwhile upgrade.
Melanie Copeland 16:00
And considering how much these trailers cost, that actually surprises me, because they're not cheap. So you think that they would come with a pretty decent tire? So, but yeah, I would agree. The ones that came with mine weren't like super high end tires either. So, but they got me around with a few spares. So good times. It's all been good. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 16:25
So tell me about your land. Because I know that. You know, you you had quite an adventure, legalizing getting to live in your own house on your own land.
Melanie Copeland 16:37
Right. So we lived illegally for almost a year. And then we lived in a campground for another seven, eight months.
Ethan Waldman 16:46
Did you have to leave the illegal place? Because that you were forced to leave? Or you just decided to leave?
Melanie Copeland 16:51
No. We decided to leave because we were frustrated with being illegal like we came home every day was basically looking at our door waiting for the sticker telling us, "You got to roll out."
Ethan Waldman 17:04
Melanie Copeland 17:05
Like it just sucked. It wasn't the way that we wanted to live. But we just didn't have we didn't have an option.
Ethan Waldman 17:12
Melanie Copeland 17:12
So. And when we first moved there, we were still doing all the painting and staining and stuff of the outside. So we were kind of, of the mind that if someone asked questions, we were still in the building process.
Ethan Waldman 17:26
Melanie Copeland 17:26
But once we got all that done, we were no longer in the building process. We were dimming our lights every night. We were not sitting chairs outside, we were acting like we weren't living in it. It was sad. It just wasn't like I wanted to sit outside or hang out in the yard. And I couldn't do that because it would kind of expose the fact that I was living in this. And so we had been searching and searching in a campground that I'd actually called before we went tiny. I called a year later and spoke to them. And they said, "Yeah, we'll let you in now because things have changed." So we went there. And I didn't really love the campground life. I didn't hate it. But I wasn't a camper. Like this is my home, these people came to the campground to, you know, party over the weekend and have a great time. And, you know, I was like a million campfires. So my smoke alarm's going off and and they had a lot of stuff. It was I met a lot of great people. And it was fun, but it it's not a home, not a home type environment. It's an entertainment environment.
Ethan Waldman 18:40
Melanie Copeland 18:42
So I have a group called the Virginia Tiny House Supporters and people all over the state had been putting calls out to different counties, myself included, looking for counties that would let us in. And I just started calling, you know, counties that were around me and spreading out to see how far away we had to get. And I finally got through to a zoning administrator who was willing to talk to me and work with me to make this happen.
Ethan Waldman 19:13
Melanie Copeland 19:14
And it was not an easy process. It was difficult the whole way through from, you know, picking the parcel of property that we will be allowed to be on through the building inspector through the health department through the zoning requirements, setback requirements, septic requirements, but we did it and we we found out the campground was being sold and it was being sold to a company that has several other campgrounds in the area that don't allow tiny houses. So we were kind of under the gun at the campground that was like we knew we were going to be asked to leave. And so when we got the opportunity to buy the land, I think we put our offer in In July or August, we closed in October and we were moved on to the land in November.
Ethan Waldman 20:06
Melanie Copeland 20:06
So it was fast. It was furious. It was a lot of travel, it was a lot of trying to get contractors to come and do the work for us, which was horrible.
Ethan Waldman 20:19
What kind of work did you need to get done on the land?
Melanie Copeland 20:22
Well, we needed to have the RV hookup or the septic line,
Ethan Waldman 20:25
Melanie Copeland 20:25
we had to retrench the electric lines so that they could build a rack for us to power up to. And we had to have the power company come out, they had to replace a pole on the property and we had to have a driveway, put it.
Ethan Waldman 20:40
Okay, so that's quite, that's quite a bit.
Melanie Copeland 20:43
Yeah. And so we were, you know, struggling getting the people out here to get that done for us. And in fact, when we, when we drove onto the property with the tiny house, we still had the septic line had been put in, but the inspector hadn't approved it yet. So he had to come the next day. So our first night, we couldn't even hook into it yet because it wasn't inspected. So I don't recommend doing it as fast as we did. But sometimes when you don't have the options, you take what you what you can. But we're here, and we pay our taxes, and we love it. And we're happy to be parked on our wheels legally. And it's been wonderful.
Ethan Waldman 21:30
Melanie Copeland 21:31
Ethan Waldman 21:31
How do you get water there?
Melanie Copeland 21:33
We have a well.
Ethan Waldman 21:34
Melanie Copeland 21:35
Yeah. Our own well. So? Yeah, it's cool. So it's been a, it's been a amazing process. And I hope, you know, I work with the tiny house Alliance. And one of the initiatives we've been working on is the ASTM one, to create standards for tiny houses. And I feel like, you know, with the potential to have standards for tiny homes, there could be more people on their property like this.
Ethan Waldman 22:04
Melanie Copeland 22:06
You know, and that's what I hope for more people to be able to have their own land.
Ethan Waldman 22:12
How do you think having standards would have helped you in your kind of quest to legalize on your own land?
Melanie Copeland 22:23
So you know, I had to work with a building inspector and try to explain to him how I built this, and how it fit, you know, into his building codes and his standards, which you know, they're doing their job, I get it, they have a select set of papers that they have to follow. But when you come to them with something that they've never seen before, and you can't explain what you are, and you can't explain how you hook up other than just trying to vocalize it. But you don't have anything to back it up, even though, you know what you're saying is right, you're not trying to lie to somebody or manipulate them. But there's nobody standing behind you saying, "Hey, this is the right way to do this." So I feel like had I come in with paperwork or a standard and said, "Look, this is my home. This is how it could be handled. This is how we can hook it up. This is how it needs to successfully be tied down and take the liability off the county to make those decisions." It would be much easier for counties to say, "Look, we we've got something to play with now." So yeah, I really think it's it will make a huge difference to have some type of standards for these homes.
Ethan Waldman 23:37
Right, right. And so when you say that it kind of takes liability away, like they didn't have to decide what the what they're looking for. You just can say, "These are the standards, the ASTM standards we built to these standards." And they can either say yes or no to that.
Melanie Copeland 23:57
Ethan Waldman 23:58
Melanie Copeland 23:59
And they don't have to try to, you know, decide because like my building inspector was trying to decide how to tie me down. And I have four tie downs, one on each corner. But mobile home specs for my county require six tie downs. We're not the size of a mobile home. So had I had proper standards for this, I could have shown him that I don't necessarily need to, you know, put two more tie downs on my trailer to hold me down from blowing over. But there's nothing there that shows him that that's going to be an acceptable thing to do for this type of structure.
Ethan Waldman 24:35
Melanie Copeland 24:36
So yeah. And then it does become their liability. If something if they approve it, and something happens to my home, then do I turn around and say, "Well, you let me do it." Like, not that I would do that. But I mean, that's what can happen. And I feel like there's a lot of reasons that counties don't allow these in and I think standards would take a lot of burden off of them.
Ethan Waldman 25:01
Melanie Copeland 25:03
Yeah. From a consumer standpoint, because, you know, when you're working as a consumer and your, your it's your home and it's your land and your money, and you're not coming in as an agency to them. You don't. You don't have a lot to play with as a consumer to help you. We're just sitting here going, "This is my house. Somebody want to help me?"
Ethan Waldman 25:27
Melanie Copeland 25:28
And they don't know what to do. So you don't get any help. So it's this crossroads that, you know, as consumers, we need we need something to work with.
Ethan Waldman 25:38
Melanie Copeland 25:40
Ethan Waldman 25:41
So the the ASTM did vote to form the committee.
Melanie Copeland 25:48
Ethan Waldman 25:49
What are the next steps there? And what's happening next?
Melanie Copeland 25:52
So we are waiting right now I believe it went to Cotco for their approval. And we're hoping to know when the committee's will be formed. Should be soon. Yeah,
Ethan Waldman 26:04
Very exciting. So I wanted to ask next and turn to your book, Trailblazing Tiny.
Melanie Copeland 26:12
Ethan Waldman 26:14
What, who's the book for?
Melanie Copeland 26:17
So the book is for consumers. And it is set up like a workbook. It tells our story of what we did, why we decided to go tiny all the way through legalizing our land. But it actually has sections in it where people can take notes, and track what they need to do everything from how to create a floor plan for a tiny house, how to plan for what to do for each section of your home, how to design your lofts or your kitchen spaces, all the way through tracking things like who your zoning officials are websites that you follow tips and tricks and information. So it's it's a pretty extensive book.
Ethan Waldman 27:01
Melanie Copeland 27:01
And then to top it off, I interviewed 16 other tiny dwellers. So if I lived in an RV park, which I did, and told my view of it, I interviewed somebody else who's lived in an RV park. So you're getting different views from different people, people who have bought their land and what they've done, and people who have built their home just like I built my home and what they would do different so because as much as my story is a cool story, and I'm happy to share it. I am one of many consumers that live tiny. This is a very big industry now. And I feel like the ability to share other people's stories is more important. Because there's a lot of us doing it.
Ethan Waldman 27:48
Melanie Copeland 27:49
It's not just a few anymore. So and to show people that it can be done, because I feel like you know, you get in the Facebook groups or you get on in Meetups, and everybody just sits there and it becomes a very, it can become a very negative environment that there's so many hurdles to overcome. Nobody is getting through. And that's just not the case. A lot of us are getting through. You just don't hear about it all the time.
Ethan Waldman 28:17
Yeah. That's a good point. That's a good point. If you could do it... Well, actually I'm skipping ahead. How was the response to the book, then?
Melanie Copeland 28:32
The response to the book has been really amazing.
Ethan Waldman 28:35
Melanie Copeland 28:35
So it is still rapidly selling off of Amazon.
Ethan Waldman 28:40
Melanie Copeland 28:40
The book sales have been phenomenal. I've been invited to do several speaking events. I'm actually starting another series, which is starting in January, and it's called Trailblazing Tiny Tales. So those will be little 99 cent ebooks and they'll all be on one topic. So the first one is going to be zoning.
Ethan Waldman 29:00
Melanie Copeland 29:01
And this, just a ton of information, a lot of fun, a quick little download. And I'm thinking that those will be really helpful for consumers to know how to work with zoning. Each month, we'll have a different topic. So the next one will be like downsizing or parking or how to design a kitchen and I am talking to other tiny dwellers in these little ebooks as well.
Ethan Waldman 29:25
Melanie Copeland 29:27
Those will be fun. And yeah, and the book is, is just going great. And I hope that I can make it to a few of the tiny house shows this year coming. So it's been it's been better than I thought it was going to be awesome.
Ethan Waldman 29:42
Melanie Copeland 29:43
Like, I would have just been happy to sell one and have the book help somebody. If it sold one and it helped that one person then it was worth my time to write it and the fact that it's selling hundreds and hundreds of copies is beyond what I ever thought it would do. So great.
Ethan Waldman 30:00
Melanie Copeland 30:01
Ethan Waldman 30:02
Congratulations on that.
Melanie Copeland 30:03
Thank you. I appreciate it. It was a lot of work. And I'm, I'm glad to see it helping people.
Ethan Waldman 30:09
That's a long, long book.
Melanie Copeland 30:11
Yeah. So it's not a little book. It's 444 pages.
Ethan Waldman 30:16
Melanie Copeland 30:16
It's inch thick. Yeah, it's not, it's not a little book at all, in the back of it has, you know, note sections and places to draft stuff and, you know, graph sheets to draw out a picture of your tiny house layout.
Ethan Waldman 30:32
Melanie Copeland 30:33
Yeah, it's, it's got a lot of information in it. So
Ethan Waldman 30:37
Melanie Copeland 30:38
It was, it was a ton of work. It was not like I just sat down and wrote it real fast. It, it took a lot of time.
Ethan Waldman 30:46
Yeah, no, writing, writing is hard.
Melanie Copeland 30:49
Yeah. For sure.
Ethan Waldman 30:51
The understatement of the year.
Melanie Copeland 30:54
Right. So I'm glad I did it, though. And I'm glad that it's, it's helping people so good, good.
Ethan Waldman 31:02
If you were gonna build another tiny house, what would you do differently?
Melanie Copeland 31:08
Sure. Yeah, I get this one a lot. And I think my answer surprises a lot of people. If we were to build a dent, I think we would build smaller.
Ethan Waldman 31:17
Wow. Okay, why?
Melanie Copeland 31:19
Mind you, we have an 18 foot tiny house. But I feel like we still have a lot of space that we don't necessarily use, we found a way to use it. But I don't feel like it's been. I think one because we built so simple, we've been able to add in or make the changes. But I feel like if I was to build again, I would probably end up with like a downstairs with a Murphy bed or something that folded up instead of maybe the upstairs loft. I don't know that I would make a lot of changes in like, the systems that I chose, but maybe I would add some more windows. And I selectively picked like to have more windows on one side and less on the other to kind of do passive heating and cooling.
Ethan Waldman 32:03
Melanie Copeland 32:04
So I could turn my house in the winter, get more sun. But I found that when I sit in this loft, I have one window. So if someone was to come to my door right now, I can't see them. So I feel like I'm kind of blinded in some of these spaces.
Ethan Waldman 32:19
Melanie Copeland 32:19
because of that. Okay, even though it does help with my heating and cooling bills. So, you know, kind of a draw on that one, I guess. And I think that I would, now my husband would tell you, he would add two feet on and have a ladder that comes up the back. So we have differences in what we would do if we built again. So...
Ethan Waldman 32:41
A ladder that comes up the back, like on the outside of the house?
Melanie Copeland 32:45
No, goes up like the back wall to the loft. Instead of having the ladder in the living room, he would move it against the back wall, going across the 8 feet coming up to the back,
Ethan Waldman 32:57
Melanie Copeland 32:57
and put storage in that. But he would add two feet on and then leave our living room the same. So we have different ideas of what we would do if we wanted to rebuild from living in it. You know, and that's the fun part about it. Is that to do you know, you don't always know what you're gonna need or want when you're building one of these because you never lived in one. But after you've lived in one you're like, "Oh, I know what I want now."
Ethan Waldman 33:23
Yeah, yeah. Any plans to do that? Build another one or change it up?
Melanie Copeland 33:30
No, no plans to build another one. Very happy in this one. We have thought about possibly doing like a little bus or a van conversion at some point to travel in.
Ethan Waldman 33:41
Melanie Copeland 33:41
But you know, right now we're just, we're working on our land. And we've got a whole bunch of chickens and gardens and we're canning and we're gonna build like a little hobbit house root cellar and
Ethan Waldman 33:56
Melanie Copeland 33:56
We're just kind of enjoying the homesteading stuff right now.
Ethan Waldman 34:00
So how much how much land do you own now?
Melanie Copeland 34:04
So we own just a little over an acre. And it's kind of up on a hill here. But when you go down the side of the hill, one whole side of our property is a stream. So we're actually water property. And we want to build like a platform with a gazebo down there and a little bridge. And so we've been you know, the material costs have been so high in the past couple years. Everything just skyrocketed.
Ethan Waldman 34:30
Melanie Copeland 34:31
it put everything really on hold for us to build because I was not going to pay $8,000 for a fence and like some of these crazy prices, so we've just kind of held off. But yeah, they're coming back down. So hopefully we'll be able to get a few more things going here and yeah, great.
Ethan Waldman 34:54
Great. Are you allowed would you be allowed to park another tiny house on your property? Are you just allowed the one?
Melanie Copeland 35:02
So in my county, you are allowed to park another tiny house, it's considered like a civil agreement as long as you are safe and proper with hookups, but given the layout of my land, it would be very difficult to park a second one. Because this was a distressed property. So there was a house that burned down here and we had it tore down. But the way our lines like our septic lines broken, it would be a lot of work to get another.
Ethan Waldman 35:34
Melanie Copeland 35:34
another tiny house here. We don't really intend to do like any type of Airbnb or stuff like that. It's but you know, the people who live in this county could certainly have them in backyards as civil agreements with the county if those homeowners wanted to put in septic and electric and, and water hookups.
Ethan Waldman 35:57
What infrastructure do you have, like supporting the house? Like what is it parked on?
Melanie Copeland 36:04
So right now we are parked on on dirt. We are on concrete cap blocks. And our jacks are lowered. But they're not like weight bearing, you know, jacks, they're just lowered down. So our wheels are lifted up. We do intend to pour a pad next year. And we'd like to anchor down but that was not a requirement of our county to be here. And so we parked in the spot that we're parked in right now, just to be far enough away from where the old house was, because we had to bring in the heavy equipment to tear that down.
Ethan Waldman 36:40
Melanie Copeland 36:41
And so we want to reposition the home and we'll put it in its permanent spot and then tie it down.
Ethan Waldman 36:46
Melanie Copeland 36:47
Yeah. So there's just some things that you have to plan in a certain order because of what was already here that we couldn't change.
Ethan Waldman 36:56
Right, right. Any tips on finding properties like that, because that's ideal for a tiny house to find a property that already has the right. The septic system already has the well already has the electricity, but the house is gone. So the cost is less.
Melanie Copeland 37:18
Right. So what I did was I did Zillow and Trulia searches I also had, I was working with a it wasn't the reason that I got the land, but I was working with a Realtor at the time. So I did have access to the MLS, but the MLS is what Realtors use to list property.
Ethan Waldman 37:41
Melanie Copeland 37:42
So you can any realtor can do a property search for you. That you can set up in on Zillow through the MLS search to search out properties that are less than two acres or less than one acre. And then you can select all of those options for land, but you want to it'll give you options to do like a townhouse or a duplex or all these things. But there are more options in there than just that to search off of. And then you can get those sent to your inbox. And that's how I found this land.
Ethan Waldman 38:18
Melanie Copeland 38:19
So it's no different than what anybody else could do. And I did find that in rural areas, like where I'm at. It's more common when I would call the Realtors here to talk to them about the land. They would say, "Oh, well, I have a buddy out here. He wants to sell one acre. Let me give him a call."
Ethan Waldman 38:38
Melanie Copeland 38:38
So they had things that weren't even listed.
Ethan Waldman 38:41
Melanie Copeland 38:42
So you almost have to call your local agents.
Ethan Waldman 38:46
Do you know anybody who wants to just peel off an acre?
Melanie Copeland 38:49
Ethan Waldman 38:50
You know, of their they own 100 acres? I want to buy two?
Melanie Copeland 38:54
Yeah. Yeah. And so sometimes it's a lot of word of mouth. And, and the other thing in these rural counties is that it's, it's your local newspaper that's listing them. It's not the internet. They're not there yet. So they're still listing a lot of stuff in newspapers, and they're still just putting up flyers in little towns and cities to try to sell their stuff. So you kind of got to go a little old school with it.
Ethan Waldman 39:24
Melanie Copeland 39:25
And that, you know, we just ran our search on the on the Zillow on the MLS and got it.
Ethan Waldman 39:33
You're in, you're in Virginia, correct?
Melanie Copeland 39:36
I am. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 39:38
What is happening on the state level in Virginia in terms of tiny houses?
Melanie Copeland 39:44
So we have passed Appendix Q. for tiny houses here. But we don't have anything for tiny houses on wheels as it pertains
Ethan Waldman 39:56
Melanie Copeland 39:57
As far as I know, there aren't any county State city regulations for tiny houses that have passed besides Appendix Q. And that really only works with foundations.
Ethan Waldman 40:09
Melanie Copeland 40:10
So that's kind of where we're sitting at the moment.
Ethan Waldman 40:15
Got it. Got it. So some some motion, but not not much.
Melanie Copeland 40:20
Right. And, you know, some of the counties like the one that I'm in, it's the lack of regulation in these agricultural areas that will let you in because they're willing to work with you.
Ethan Waldman 40:31
Right. Yeah. I mean, the the town where my tiny house is parked, they actually have now passed a tiny house ordinance, but they didn't, even before they, quote, unquote, legalized tiny houses. There was no building code. Like there's no building inspector.
Melanie Copeland 40:48
Ethan Waldman 40:49
It's kind of like if you want to build something unsafe. That's like your choice.
Melanie Copeland 40:53
Yeah. Well, in the house that we tore down.
Ethan Waldman 40:56
Melanie Copeland 40:57
that that foundation didn't even go as far down as it would have with code today. It was so yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 41:07
Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests is, you know, obviously, besides your book, which has sounds like a really great resource, what are two or three resources that that helped you? While you were exploring or building your tiny house that you'd like to recommend to our listeners?
Melanie Copeland 41:22
Okay. Well, I would say, you know, Facebook groups were a huge resource for me, I was able to ask a lot of questions, I got a ton of ideas. People are amazingly creative and kind in this community. And that's one of the reasons that I really just love it. I feel like everybody has been so helpful, and kind to us along the way. I've, I've made some really great friends. And I, I appreciate that. So I I'd say get in a couple, you don't have to max out like 30-40 groups, just find a couple.
Ethan Waldman 41:59
Melanie Copeland 42:01
And, you know, start interacting with those ones and see what kind of responses you're getting. The other thing is, join a local group. If you don't have a local group, look for a Meetup group look for, you know, a group online that's kind of in your state or area. Because what's going on in your local areas and where you're trying to park, it's most helpful to talk to other people that are facing the same problems as you get around.
Ethan Waldman 42:32
Melanie Copeland 42:34
That has been, that was the game changer for us to get linked, to find a place to park that that really was it. And, you know, as far as building or designing a tiny house, get on YouTube, and start looking at what it takes look up framing, look up, how houses are framed, look up, how to put up lap siding. I mean, there's videos on all of these things so that you have some idea of what it takes to do construction, what you should be looking for, and a house that's built if you're not the one building it,
Ethan Waldman 43:12
Melanie Copeland 43:12
If you don't know a product or design of something, find a YouTube video and learn and make sure that your home is being built right make sure things are being done properly. Green. So those would be my recommendations.
Ethan Waldman 43:26
Well, Melanie Copeland, thank you so much for being a guest today. This has been a great conversation.
Melanie Copeland 43:33
Thank you. Thanks for having me. It was great to be here.
Ethan Waldman 43:36
Thank you so much to Melanie Copeland for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including links to Melanie's website and books, plus a full transcript of this episode at thetinyhouse.net/196. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/196. 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.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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