Michael Janzen is a legend in the tiny house world, having started his website, TinyHouseDesign.com in 2007 and just continuing to work as a prolific designer pretty much since then. Michael has put a lot of plans out into the world and I have no doubt that there are many, many tiny houses that are built either directly from his designs or were inspired by them. On today's show, Michael stopped by to talk about the second edition of his book, Tiny House Floor Plans. It now contains over 350 tiny house floor plans and it's just a really cool book to look through. The houses are arranged from small to large and if you are in the design or planning process it's a really cool resource to just get some ideas about how you can lay out a tiny house. Our conversation is wide-ranging from things in the tiny house design world that Michael thinks are maybe not serving tiny houses, things that Michael is looking forward to, and more.
In This Episode:
- Tackling burnout and re-energizing afterward
- Evolution of the tiny house through the years
- Unusual, innovative, and fun: Michael's designs and process
- What are we questioning in regards to tiny houses?
- Is it possible to build a tiny house for free?
Links and Resources:
- Road Trip Jeep Hauling Tiny House Concept
- Mirrored Tiny House Concept0
- Tiny Free House – Pallet Design on Wheels
- Tiny House Tuesday: Revolution 9 | Living Small
Michael Janzen has been designing tiny houses and writing about the tiny house movement since 2007. He used to blog at TinyHouseDesign.com where he shared tiny house concepts & news and offered tiny house plans for sale. Today Michael blogs at MichaelJanzen.com, where you can find all the things he designs.
He just published the second edition of his book, Tiny House Floor Plans (originally published in 2012). The new edition has over 350 brand new floor plans (up from 220 in the first edition).
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Engage
The summer can be a little bit too much fun, full of family, friends, distractions, holidays… But for those of us who are planning and building tiny houses what we really need is motivation, inspiration, and accountability to get our tiny houses done. That's exactly why I started Tiny House Engage!
Tiny House Engage is an online community that brings together tiny dreamers, builders, and dwellers to inspire and support each other as we build tiny together. In Tiny House Engage, people are celebrating wins and navigating our challenges together. Let's face it: planning, building, and living tiny can be lonely. Tiny House Engage is a 24/7 online community designed to connect you with fellow tiny housers, get your questions answered, get inspired, feel that accountability, and progress toward your goal of living tiny.
I really look forward to connecting with you in Tiny House Engage and watching as your tiny house dreams progress into tiny house reality. Head on over to thetinyhouse.net/engage to learn more.
Michael's Road Trip Jeep Hauling Tiny House Concept
Michael has fun drawing in SketchUp
Mirrored glass tiny homes are fascinating
An example of plans from Tiny House Floor Plans
Tiny House Floor Plans by Michael Janzen
Michael Janzen 0:00
I really applaud them and I want to encourage them and I want to encourage other people that build small like that kind of back to the roots that this whole thing started with. You don't need that McMansion tiny house. You know that 36 footer that sleeps a family of four.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
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 my guest today is Michael Janzen. Michael Janzen is a legend in the tiny house world. Having started his website, tinyhousedesign.com in 2007, and just continuing to work as a prolific designer pretty much since then. Michael has put a lot of different plans out into the world. And I have no doubt that there are many many tiny houses that are built either directly from his designs or were inspired by them.
On today's show, Michael stopped by to talk about the second edition of his book, Tiny House Floor Plans. It now contains over 350 tiny house floor plans. And it's just a really cool book to look through. The houses are arranged from small to large. And if you are in the design or planning process, it's a really cool resource to just get some ideas about how you can lay out a tiny house. Our conversation is wide ranging from things in the tiny house design world that Michael thinks are maybe not serving tiny houses, things that Michael is looking forward to and more. I do hope you stick around.
Summer can be a little bit too much fun full of family, friends, distractions, holidays. But for those of us who are planning and building tiny houses, what we really need is motivation, inspiration and accountability to get our tiny houses done. That's exactly why I started Tiny House Engage. Tiny House Engage is an online community that brings together tiny dreamers, builders and dwellers who inspire and support each other as we build tiny together. In Tiny House Engage, people are celebrating wins and navigating our challenges together. Because let's face it, planning, building and living tiny can be lonely. Tiny House Engage is a 24/7 online community designed to connect you with fellow tiny housers. get your questions answered, get inspired, feel that accountability, and progress towards your goal of living tiny, Tiny House Engage opens just one week per month. And right now Tiny House Engage is open until Tuesday. So there's just a couple of days left. And so I'd like to invite you personally to join there is way more about Tiny House Engage than I can fit into this one short spot here. But you can learn all about it at thetinyhouse.net/engage. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/engage. I really look forward to connecting with you in Tiny House Engage and watching as your tiny house dreams progress into tiny house reality. Again that website is thetinyhouse.net/engage.
Alright, I am here with Michael Janzen. Michael Johnson has been designing tiny houses and writing about the tiny house movement since 2007. He used to blog at tinyhousedesign.com where he shared tiny house concepts and news and offered tiny house plans for sale. Today, Michael blogs at MichaelJanzen.com where you can find all the things he designs. He just published the second edition of his book, Tiny House Floor Plans which was originally published in 2012. The new edition has over 350 brand new floor pans up from 220 in the first edition. Michael Janzen, welcome to the show.
Michael Janzen 4:08
Ethan Waldman 4:09
So I was hoping to just ask you to catch us up. You know, I think you were an early guest on on the podcast. That's that must have been in 2018 at this point. So I know that in that intervening time, you decided to close down tinyhousedesign.com correct?
Michael Janzen 4:33
Ethan Waldman 4:34
I'm curious why Why?
Michael Janzen 4:37
You know it. I think you see a lot of creators get a certain level of burnout. And that's part of it. Part of the burnout was actually caused by so I was posting a bunch of ideas and things there. I started seeing them for sale by other people on Amazon and other places and like some of the free plans that I offered and even some of the paid plans And, and that that was very discouraging. And blogging. Blogging just got more complicated, like, a lot of laws have been passed in the past few years. And I think it's just made it much more difficult to do that. And so I decided to just change directions and do some other things. But I, I constantly draw since I was a kid, I like to draw and so I've been drawing this whole time, some tiny houses that other things too. Like, it's always something on the smaller end, I would never design big things, but but like solar Adobes and stuff like and so I've started posting those at my MichaelJanzen.com blog. But I also got back to I had started a project to redraw the original book. So a lot of people might recognize that. And because they probably had it.
Ethan Waldman 6:03
Michael Janzen 6:03
And then this is just resize comparison.
Ethan Waldman 6:06
Yeah, so most, most people won't see this. But the original book is like, you know, is a
Michael Janzen 6:12
six by nine
Ethan Waldman 6:13
is six by nine. And the new book is this is probably what, 8x11?
Michael Janzen 6:16
8 and a half by 11 and a half by 11. Yeah, yeah, it's quite a bit thicker, and has tons more design. But it started the project. A while back, like I said, got kind of burned out on it. But then got back into it last fall. Yeah. And then really started working on it took a little pause around the holidays, and then got back into it and finally finished it up. But what what the old book didn't have, while the old book was was sort of a snapshot in time. Yeah. What a tiny house was back then, which was much simpler than they are now there are a lot, it was all the different people building all the different houses, all these all this creative energy, we see all sorts of great ideas that are emerging. And so when I redrew it, I completely redo every floorplan and started from scratch, and incorporating a lot of things that that that we see in tiny house today. Like, for example, most of the houses in the first edition don't have stairs, because that was kind of a novelty back then. And today, that's a norm, you know, most tiny houses upstairs. And so in, in the new book, most most of the floor plans upstairs. Yeah, I
Ethan Waldman 7:34
think that that's an interesting one to hit on. Because I think in the tiny house movement, and probably in most new movements that are kind of people are doing a similar thing. And it's like, well, why did I put a loft with a ladder in my tiny house? It's just that's because that's how every tiny house that I had seen did it. And I think that there are some ideas that have been maybe shed over the years that didn't serve as many people as they could have, or just better ideas have come along. Maybe they'll maybe the loft ladder is one of them.
Michael Janzen 7:41
Exactly. But like remember, back in the beginning, that the first tiny house, most of us were were initiated with was Jay Shafer's tiny house.
Ethan Waldman 8:27
Michael Janzen 8:28
And it you know, it was eight by 16. And, you know, had a almost a 12-12 pitch if not a 12 pitch. So a classical pitch and in the loft was ran the whole length of the house and had a little tiny trapdoor to get up into the loft.
Ethan Waldman 8:46
Michael Janzen 8:47
And the kitchen was in the back next. And there was a little tiny, you know, a little portable ladder that you use to get up into the loft. Yeah, you know, but that was the house that was on Oprah. That was the house that was you know, on all the TV shows. That was that's what and that iconic tiny house I think got burned into so many brains back then that we didn't you know, that's what we wanted. That's what we Right. Right. It was amazing. His water system was a couple of pipes and a and a little water tank in his loft. And then he had a little crock thing on the counter for drinking water for his consumption. So it was very simple. And in you know a lot. I'm still very nostalgic for those very simple, tiny houses that cost very little money to build. right because I think that really encapsulated the spirit of what the tiny house movement is all about. And today we have, you know, it's really matured into there's still people out there building small houses like that. But But I think most of the professionally built houses and Very popular houses are much, much bigger and much longer
Ethan Waldman 10:02
Quite a bit bigger. Yeah.
Michael Janzen 10:04
Yep. And and much more expensive.
Ethan Waldman 10:07
You know, we've certainly as we've crossed into the professionally built tiny house as more of a norm than a DIY build, you know, we've crossed a threshold where a new tiny house build, you might be able to go to a how many handful of cities, particularly in, you know, Midwestern cities in the United States where you could buy a single family home for less? The afford? Like it's like the lines of cross and tiny houses are way more expensive than bigger houses, in some cases?
Michael Janzen 10:49
In some cases, yeah. Oh, look at RVs it's the same way. I mean, you can buy $300,000 RVs, which, you know, many think is insane. I would count myself among them. But I think but, but when you think about, you know, the engineering that it took to actually make something so large and heavy traveled on a highway, you know, you kind of cut them a little slack, on the price tag, even though it's sure, you know, it's more than a regular house. Yeah, yeah. But and I think that's true of tiny houses, too. But then you also look at not trying to defend expensive, tiny houses, but you look at the quality of the thing. And this was something they brought originally was the quality of the things in the home, when it was so small had to be really good. had to be you know, it really because you spent so much close time with it, you know, when a house is bigger, you know, it's not as little thing, little details, like the quality of something in your home is less noticeable, but when you're when you're living in space, yes, you know, the quality goes up, and then the budget can make it because you don't have to buy much of that. So like if you're buying a really quality wood floor, for instance, you're buying a rooms worth it are two rooms where the whole house normal house. worth it. So it was it's more affordable. Absolutely.
Ethan Waldman 12:17
I'm curious. So you were kind enough to send me the book, which, as I've already said, it's quite a tome. It's impressive, like 350 tiny house designs makes for a thick book. And I think the first thing that I did is I just I like flipped through it quickly and just saw the floor plans like grow almost like a flipbook because they're, they're organized from smallest to largest, which I just, I mean, it makes a lot of sense. I'm curious, like, how did you approach this project? Like, did you say, Okay, I need to have a certain number of houses at 30 feet and a certain number of 30 to a certain number 34? Did you like did you go in order did like how did you approach it as a creative work?
Michael Janzen 13:07
So I started so I had the model of the original book, okay, as a baseline, and that book is ordered by smallest to biggest. And this time, though, I wanted to keep it all tiny houses on wheels. I wanted them to all be legally tangible in size without getting special permits and thing. So that meant limiting the width, limiting the length.
Ethan Waldman 13:35
Right? So they're all eight. They're, they're all 8 by...
Michael Janzen 13:38
8 1/2, center in half. So houses about and then the longest ones are 36 feet. Right? Right. And so, and a 36 foot house, and that's the house like the whole trailer like with a dually crewcab in front of it is just under 60 feet, which is the which is the longest you can go typically in the US. Without getting a special oversize permit. And the width. A lot of people are building houses that are that are in just under 10 and just under 12 feet wide, too, right? Because you can get a special permit to move those from place to place an oversize permit. And the under 10 footer is pretty easy to get relatively speaking so so people are going that route and getting bigger tiny houses. But I wanted to keep the book but I think of those as Park models I think when you start getting into that size the start sure it's a tiny house but it's it's not a tiny house on wheels by I think the standard that we all think so I kept them all wondering but fine. And then I did on a spreadsheet layout how many I knew how many of course houses I had no First, but this had to be bigger. And I wanted to focus on more on the larger sizes. So the spreadsheet just helped me visualize how, how many of each size was I going to draw. And so the bigger bigger ones, I think they're 48, that each of the bigger sizes, warping and sizes. And so most of the book is 24 feet, and bigger. But I wanted to keep some of the really, really small ones in there like those smalls is 12 feet, because there are so many people out there, so who are building small, tiny houses under 24 feet. And, and I really applaud them and I want to encourage them. And I want to encourage other people that build small like that, and, and kind of back to the roots that this whole thing started with. You don't need that McMansion tiny house, you know that 36 footer that you know, sleeps with family of four, if if you don't need that, you know, if all you need is a place for you to live while you're in school or, or traveling, you know, it's a whole lot easier to tell a small, tiny house than it is a big tiny house, certainly, as you know, and then you need less truck and all that.
Ethan Waldman 16:17
So I wonder if the shift has come also, because so many tiny houses are not moved? Or are moved only once or twice. Yep. That, you know, prioritizing the mobility has become less important to some.
Michael Janzen 16:36
Yeah, I think you're right. But even in the beginning, I think like it was Jay's house. They didn't intend to move it around a lot. He wasn't camping in it. Right. He would move it from, you know, safe place to stay to safe place to stay. And, yeah. And, and the fact that it could be moved, was sort of the the loophole that he found early on. Right. You know, that just by having wheels, all of a sudden, certain building codes didn't apply. It wasn't real estate. It was, you know, it was a trailer. And it wasn't even a trailer they really understood. It was it was something unusual. And it was so attractive that it was, you know, it was not frowned upon in the same way that the normal family tree. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 17:26
So I'm curious. I just kind of have some questions just because you've designed so many tiny houses, so many floor plans. And we touched on that ladder, as maybe a feature that is was almost a sacred cow of the tiny house design movement. And for anyone, I think that's a Seth Godin quote, you know, like, what are the sacred cows? So I'm curious, what are some of the sacred cows of tiny house design that you see right now? Like, what are some ideas out there that you're you're like, that you question in current tiny house design?
Michael Janzen 18:05
Do you mean like current trends that are good? Or things that are bad? Or?
Ethan Waldman 18:10
Well? Yeah, I guess I was, I wanted to ask you, like, what are you most excited about right now in tiny house design? And then also, you know, what are some things that you think are ideas that are going to go away?
Michael Janzen 18:23
So let's see, I really enjoyed seeing people play more with the whole shape of the house. So there are so many shed roof house tiny houses, and there are now fewer Gable roofed houses. But there are there are a lot of people playing with their asymmetric designs, and you know, where the app may have a pitch of or two pitches, but they're not centered on the house. It could be you know, an asymmetric design is going front to back to so I really like to I like to see people playing with that. I also like to see or I get excited about houses that can be towed. So when people are thinking lightweight, I think that that well well a lot of people are getting comfortable with the idea of just parking in one place and just planning on having it there forever. I think there's a real benefit to to having the mobility because you know you can go where the work is you can go where the weather is you could go and and really embrace that that Nomad option to lightweight, lighter weight panels and select the last couple designs I posted on my blog, where we're on a even on a trailer that was that was had a much higher ground clearance. And dualy wheels, like a like a commercial trailer might. And so you could actually take it boondocking if you wanted to if you have the right kind of truck, right and it didn't have a loft. Because once you get up that high in the air you've kind of lost your headroom, if you're going to standard 13 say, yeah, so didn't have a lot, but it was very long. And I could sleep, you know, for people easily. But it's fun thinking about imagining tiny houses that really can can still go with you. And take it places don't like an RV but more like that nomads that. Yeah, but their freedom.
Ethan Waldman 20:28
Yeah, you've posted some really interesting ideas. There's a, there's a road trip, Jeep hauling tiny house concept. So it's a house, that actually you can drive your Jeep up onto the trailer, and there's almost like a garage for the car.
Michael Janzen 20:44
It was like a big porch. It's like a big, yeah, almost closed in porch entirely. But it was just long enough that you can park the Jeep up, there are a couple of ramps, and then has the rest of the house. And I was just playing with the idea that, you know, well, it would be fun for retired couple or, you know, a family of young kids to be able to go somewhere. And you know that dulli you know, boot camp pickup is not a good off road tour, they they're four wheel drive, but they're not, you know, if you're boondocking you could get it there. But then if you wanted to go farther, you know, you'd really need to get on some bikes, or you need to get on a Jeep or something farther into the wilderness, or walk. I guess you could always see that. Yeah. Anyway, so that was just about pushing, pushing that idea and envelope idea kind of thing.
Ethan Waldman 21:39
Nice. And then another one that I wanted to ask you about is the mirrored tiny house, what what inspired that.
Michael Janzen 21:47
So I am totally fascinated with mirrored houses. And you see them every now and then on Instagram or wherever. And they tend, at least in the photos, and I haven't seen one in person yet. But in photos, they disappear in the landscape, they become invisible. Sort of Yeah. Because it's like in a forest, they're reflecting forests. And what I found when I was doing the renderings when I was drawing those, it was so much fun. And I would put a scene around them. But you know, like a landscape photograph around them. Yeah. And that landscape photograph would be mirrored in the, in the walls of the rendering of the house and, and even in the renderings. They disappeared into the landscape, they became part of the landscape. And I just think that would be fascinating. So I actually been researching it quite a bit trying to figure out what the best material is. And what I found, in a nutshell is it's incredibly expensive. If you want to mirror a house has to be glass or some kind of polished metal or probably more likely and mirrored polycarbonate and and all those materials have IT pros and cons like, you know, durability and whatnot driving down the highway. And what kind of dings even getting that if you are driving a giant mirror down the highway.
Ethan Waldman 23:09
shatter your mirrored.
Michael Janzen 23:10
Exactly. Yeah. wreak havoc, but but it sure does seem like a neat idea. And like, what accidents it might cause. Do I? I don't want to imagine, but, but it would be fun to think to see one. And to see when done. I know a couple weird tiny houses were built. Like for jewelry companies. I think there's one out there in Texas or something that built one. And they're just cool. So I wanted to play around with it. Again, I like to draw so I'm just drawing, right.
Ethan Waldman 23:44
So do you start when you're drawing? Do you start on paper and then move to SketchUp?
Michael Janzen 23:50
No, not anymore. So when I was younger, like in college, it was all before computers were super available. And so I always started on paper. And I was drawing things but but now with SketchUp I just it's so much fun to draw in that. Because it's pretty easy to learn. You can use SketchUp free online if you don't want to pay the money for the software. Because it is expensive, expensive now. Yeah, yeah. But SketchUp free is pretty cool. And it does most of the things that the pro version does. It's in a web interface. It's, it's a little little quirkier than, than the desktop version, but it's so nice to be able to just draw shapes and then you know, move them around and change their shapes and cut into them. And I like working in 3d. So my my degree is in ceramics. I'm actually originally I was a potter and I did take architecture in college and then I decided that at one point If I'm going to finish this, and I'm gonna have to do something that I just really loved, which was during it, so that's why I'm not continuing the architecture thing. But I, I always liked working in 3d Arts. And so what's fun about SketchUp is even though it's on a computer screen, it's like working in 3d. So it's like, it's like sculpting. It's really, you're interacting in a 3d world. So like, I don't think I'd like using AutoCAD or any of those CAD software's like, this wouldn't be fun. I think I feel like a job. Okay, but SketchUp feels more like play.
Ethan Waldman 25:33
That's cool. Yeah, I've always something that I've kind of tried to learn SketchUp over the years, I've learned the basics, but I've never had reason to use them. Like I haven't, you know, done enough drawing in SketchUp, to become really efficient at it. But I've always appreciated realizing that, even though it is, obviously all on the computer and not real, that SketchUp won't let you do anything that isn't physically possible in real in the real 3d world.
Michael Janzen 26:10
That's right. You can't draw Escher in SketchUp. I 'd like to see somebody try! Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 26:16
So like it. It's like a physical model kind of exists in bits and bytes on the computer, and you can't defy the laws of physics.
Michael Janzen 26:29
Although is it? And then a few years ago? Oh, just to riff on that, though. Yeah. But you can create things, physical things from your 3d drawings. So a couple years ago, I was experimenting with making these little tiny house kits that you could, that you could assemble is like a little model. Yeah, I would have 3d printed my SketchUp drawing 3d printed. And you could actually have like, you know, wall sections, the other wall second, little tiny house trailer and stuff that didn't pan out. Yeah, but it was sure a lot of fun to get in the mail. I don't have a 3d printer, but haven't printed and get in the mail a box full of tiny house parts and was like, a big kid with a toy. Yeah, that is really cool. But it was it was fun seeing things that that I drew, actually come to life like that. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 27:24
Now, in these designs that you're doing, are you? What level of detail? Are you putting like inside the walls? are you drawing out framing and everything? Or are you Is it just kind of a model?
Michael Janzen 27:39
So not a lot doing a lot of framing drawing? was doing that for all the plans that I used to sell? Right? Of course, because people needed to write it was helpful for people to see where the studs went, things like that. But I do take it into consideration. So the dimensions and like the placement of windows and doors over the app, you know, what sort of they access things like, yeah, I'm still taking consideration from having all that experience drawing. But I also have done a couple of really detailed drawings about wall assemblies, okay, and how the walls assembled. And to make sure that my whips that I was using in the drawing is is always pretty accurate. Okay, I'm not talking about the book so much, but in the drawings, we'll see online 3d draft, right, right. Although in the book, still, same thing. floorplan is never 100% to scale, but it's pretty darn the scale. I really tried to make sure that the wall widths and things like that were, were pretty accurate. So that if you if you then wanted to take the next step and build one of these floor plans, you shouldn't run into any problems.
Ethan Waldman 28:50
I'm sure you know, you've been publishing tiny house plans since 2007. And especially when you are selling plans, I'm sure you've had the experience of somebody getting back in contact with you and having actually built a house.
Michael Janzen 29:06
Oh, yeah. And actually one of my readers from years back has been building a phylo which was a 12 inch tiny house really based on Jay's. Okay. Or 12 foot. Yeah, that'd be really small. It's working. And, and he's still working on it. And he's still finishing it up. And he sends me updates every now and then it's been years that we've been working on it. But that is really inspiring. It's also inspiring to go to like a tiny house exhibit at a like a home show or something when they have tiny and see tiny houses that are very similar to tiny houses that I drew. And again, they're really the original. My original inspiration was that what I liked about what Jay He did in the beginning was he inspired people to, to just imagine another way of living? And, and that inspired and so much that was what that was really the purpose of what I was trying to do tiny off design was inspire people also to try something new to imagine something new and then try it. Yeah. Yeah. Because, you know, the ramifications of going tiny, and the freedom that it could bring people just was staggering to me and just was, just seems so important. So I really felt like, you know, the designs I was putting out there, for free and for pay was, you know, a really, my goal is to inspire people to build that. And so when I see them, even from designs that are in my books, like 101 tiny houses, what the tiny house designs and the original floor plans, but I can see people, you know, and I'm not saying Well, what I think is happening is they're just inspired by what they see. Just like they're inspired what they see online and videos and, you know, other what other people are doing, and they, they riff on it, and they build something on top of that, and they build it their own way. Yeah, but I just I'd love to see that. You know, people are inspired by the way I'm inspired, and, and are taking it to the next level and then building their dreams. That's just really rewarding. Absolutely. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 31:35
Is there a design? By I don't want to make you pick your one favorite design in the book, although if you have one, I'd love to know it. But is there a sweet spot? Like a the size that is kind of your favorite to draw?
Michael Janzen 31:50
So I don't really I try not to have favorites. Okay, that is a philosophical thing. Yeah. Because I, I noticed everything and everyone has as merits right. But I think size wise, I think I really have a love for really tiny, tiny animals, like Jays that that size of 12 feet is footers is a really great size, I think especially for one person who's who's really living a minimalist life. And like, for instance, some Jay and Steve were still partners back business partners back then. And Kent Griswold and I did an interview in Jay's tiny house, and the camera man had to stand outside and shoot inside out through the window at us. But we were perfectly comfortable sitting there in Jay's living room talking. And, and we weren't too close. It wasn't too hot. It wasn't too uncomfortable. It was it was just right. And, and so I think that, that sites house for at least one person is fine. I think I like drawing though, probably like 30 to 36 footers, because I have two kids and and one of them's a teenager, one's about to be a teenager and, and, and a dog and so I can't. I'm not one person. I'm a family of four and a dog.
And so I when I imagined tiny houses, I like to picture what, what what I build for my family. And that's got to be bigger than 12 feet. Right. So I think that's the so I really think the bigger ones are... It gives you a little bit more room and it doesn't, I don't think it It adds on exponentially a lot of money to building you know, like if you go from 24 to 36 I don't think it's I don't think it's going to you know, totally break the bank up that much. But unless you start factoring in the truck, cuz you're talking about a $70,000 truck and then you kind of broke the back. Well, let me use big diesel dually is the poor tiny houses big investment. Maybe tiny tiny was really better. For Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 34:18
Yeah, I mean, I start to win when you start looking at those trailers that are you know, for 30 foot tiny house, and you're up over $10,000 for a trailer. Yep. That's when I start to question the utility of, of even buying it or even building it on a trailer. Right. You know, I, I wonder, you know, could you find buy some really cheap land somewhere, take that $10,000 and actually buy a piece of land. And I know that building a foundation is also really expensive. Depending on where you are in the country and what kind of foundation you need to do, but Yeah, that's that's my kind of cutoff point there.
Michael Janzen 35:03
You're absolutely right. Right. So when you start when you start getting toward some of these houses that are professionally built that are around 100, grand or more, yeah, you know, you really think when you're doing that you really need to think about, well, why, why am I doing this and not just doing real estate, because with real estate, there's still a risk of losing money. But there's, there's also a big possibility, you're gonna get paid back, or you're gonna make money on.
Ethan Waldman 35:30
Michael Janzen 35:30
And so, and you're already probably talking about a mortgage either way, unless you've got a huge savings that you can dump into a tiny house. So, so I don't know, at that point, I'm not a financial advisor. So I wouldn't be giving anybody financial advice in this way. But I do start to question really big, tiny houses from unless you're really talking about moving around a lot less you're really talking about, I guess that's why I'm fascinated with the whole lightweight things that if you could build a lightweight, big, tiny house, then you've got, you know, the best of both worlds you are, you could be nomadic, and really embrace that. And, and that's enough of a reason to say yeah, I'm not gonna put that money into real estate, I'm gonna put that money into something that I can travel. And that's less money and less attractive than a giant RV. Yeah. And more durable than a giant RV. Yeah. And that just is appealing to me to be able to, you know, think about really traveling, taking the family on the road, and just seems like a nice fantasy to be able to hit the ground work for me, I work from home anyway. So it doesn't really matter where I live. So I could theoretically live anywhere I wanted to. At any time.
Ethan Waldman 36:52
I want to ask you about a very old project. And just I because I actually remember reading about it. But then I don't remember what ended up happening, which is your tiny free house. It still exists. Well, can you tell us what it what it was and what it is?
Michael Janzen 37:09
Yeah. So the tiny free house was a project that I started writing the beginning. But the idea was, could I build a house for free only with stuff I found for free, or found on Craigslist for free. Or if I if I needed to buy something, could I find something that I could sell, to recoup the money to, to build it for free. And so really the only thing, the only costly thing I'd be putting into the house would be my time.
And so I got started, I got a free trailer. And it wasn't a very good shape. In hindsight, I probably should have worked on that trailer quite a bit before I started building on it. But I started building and I was building out of pallets. Literally, I didn't just take the I didn't take the pallets apart, I just started building ballots, I don't have the belts down a little bit, you know, screw them all together. And I got as far as putting the siding on and the roof on. It's, it's and I was building it at my wife's parents family barn.
And then about that time my wife's health started taking a downturn. And it's been that way, it's been growing chronically more ill since for about 10-11 years now. So I wasn't able to continue going up there to fix it or to work. And so I just put a pin in it. And I figured I'd get back to this when she's feeling better. And that just hasn't happened. And and now I think looking back so at I did I had built it for free. Essentially, there was a little bit of money that went into the roofing panels. Okay, but, but I, I think I could I could easily have paid for that by the stuff that I had collected, like I found a free refrigerator. I found some free stuff, then I could have just sold that.
And so I think in theory it would work. If you had a lot of time and a place that you could build it. That didn't cost you money. You could and you had a little pickup, you could drive around town and pick up free stuff in then you live there. I live near Sacramento, so there's plenty of stuff around. Yeah, for free. I think somebody could do that. And I think you could build a free tiny house. But it would take an incredible amount of work.
I would not recommend building it out of pallets because you're really relying on the fasteners to hold the thing together. Yeah, not so much the lumber to hold it together. The house is still standing. I think my father in law plans to use it as a chicken coop. Someday but right now it's just sitting there with a family farm still. Okay. It has not fallen down, which is really surprising. And just because it's you know, it hasn't been messed with for a long time. Right. Right. And that it was fun to get started on. It's fun to build, but no. And the other thing I think I've learned was that I would always start spending a lot more time on the foundation on the trailer. And yeah, like this one. This one needed new axles probably. And some beefed up suspension, stuff like that. So like a free trailer is a trailer.
Ethan Waldman 40:34
That's pretty cool. It is, but is it worth the price? It is it's probably worth the the price.
Michael Janzen 40:41
Yeah. And if you're good at working in metal, and you can work on stuff, I think, you know, you're handy. I think you could do it.
Ethan Waldman 40:49
Or there's the demolish it, you know, a defunct travel trailer is the other option.
Michael Janzen 40:54
Yeah, a lot of people used to do that back then. Right? They would, they would get an old travel trailer for free because people are trying to get rid of it. They'd pull off the waist, and then beef up the trailer. Yeah. But I think most people found that you really had to beef up that that the suspension because travel trailers are so light, Rails is so heavily, right. And that's why so like, these days, if I were to build a tiny house, and of course, I would want one to travel, I would have a custom bill because, and just put the put money, good money into the trailer. And it'd be a little more frugal with the rest of the house. But the trailer, the trailer, I think is just so important. Because it's it's the foundation just like on any house or any building. Yeah, anything, you build a fence, even the what's touching the ground is, you know, if it's not solid, it's your thing's gonna fall down. Right, eventually, so fascinating. Anyway, that's what happened to the tiny free house. Okay, I also had a design way back then called 9 Tiny Feet, I really wanted to build it. It was a nine square foot tiny house, and I never built it, but there would have been the easiest thing to build. Because it was so small. And I got the nine from I imagined how many square foot I took up laying down on the ground. So I'm six feet tall, six, one, okay. And that's I just figured, well, I would need at least nine square feet, you know, to lay down and sleep. So how can I build and design a tiny house around that? That's fun. And that was more of a design, you know, experimentation. That never happened to be built. But but I think it's just fun to play with ideas. You know, extreme ideas like that. And I those two ideas were born at the same time. That's fine. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 42:46
I think that from those those ideas, you can learn a lot like you can learn that working with pallets is, you know, not maybe not worth the effort. You know, we spoke I just looked it up, you know, you were you were episode seven on this podcast. And now we're in, by the time this comes out, we'll be in the 170s. It's been every, every Friday for three years. You know, when we spoke one of the questions that I asked you is kind of like is tiny a fad? Or is it sticking around? And I think that I think you said it's sticking around? And you know, and certainly time has has borne that out. Like there's no question to me that that tiny is sticking around. I'm curious, you know, as somebody who's observed since 2007, or or even before and been involved, what do you see, you know, what do you see the next? Let's see, 2007 to now is almost 15 years, what do you see in the next 15 years?
Michael Janzen 43:47
Well, I sure hope we see legalization. Yeah, like broad legalization. We've seen a lot of progress. But But I don't think we've seen enough like landmark cases where, you know, there really breaks. Yeah. And I even more so than, you know, embracing them as a travel trailer. Because I think that's happened more often than not. And that kind of makes sense. Because it's a, you know, it's a house on wheels, like a travel trailer. Right. But it's so much more than that, because it's built like a house.
So it really should fall into its own special category. Yeah, we've seen parkmodel RVs are those who are around already. And, and so tiny houses sort of fit into those rules. Those are not codes. It's a more like an industry standard that the industry sets the park model industry says, but I really would like to see it, you know, and I'm not even sure who would who would give the stamp of approval if it's, you know, cities, municipalities, building code departments, or if it's Really at the code level, because it's, it's, I think it's kind of difficult for the building code people to really stick it in there so much because it's it's not a it's a building, but it's a building that's transportable so it doesn't fall into a highway, you know, under highways. Right? Right. It's in this, it's still in a gray area.
We've also seen the explosion of Van Lives, and, and other alternative housing take off. And I, I sort of suspect where this is headed is where it's really headed is more of an explosion in the direction of just alternative housing, that the tiny houses, like they did in the beginning acted as a catalyst for people to, to question their values and, and their goals and right, and what they think of when they think of a house. And, and I think that's continued to catalyze things like, like the van life, the van lives, man, you know, Van builds, we see so many of them on YouTube, and Instagram, are very, they're tiny house, they're building tiny houses inside of it. And, you know, with the, they're not even like our leads, I mean, they're, they're better than or a lot of really more like Tiny Homes. And, and so we've seen that, and I that we see more like that more experimentation in alternative architecture that pushes, it pushes all sorts of limits on what's legal, environmental issues on sustainability. Yeah, cost, you know, how can we build things cheaper, more affordable, to build things in more extreme places, or places we didn't think we could build before.
And so I, I sort of expect that as people's minds begin to open and like tiny houses help open them that that'll continue to open and people will work, we'll continue to think differently about what our houses, and we'll begin embracing, like, so many people are, with this whole family thing, or they're really embracing this alternative lifestyle, and finding what works for them. And when it really kind of hope more and more people do that, because I think they're headed in the right direction. You know, less debt is more freedom, and more mobility is more freedom, you know, in a more fulfilling life, you can travel to more places, see more things, more people, you know, have more experiences, I think that's living life to the fullest. not sitting in desk job, you know, cranking away or conference calls. Right? You know, and taking their very fat paycheck, and then paying your bills with it. I don't think that's freedom. I think that's, you know, that's something else. Right? Right. Whereas living in a van cheap, or living in a tiny house, you know, she is released well, within your means is way closer to finding happiness and freedom, then, you know, the, what the status quo? Sure, yeah.
Ethan Waldman 48:24
Michael Janzen, thank you so much for for your time today. And, you know, I encourage everyone listening to you know, go over to Amazon and pick up a copy of Tiny House Floor Plans, Second Edition. You know, it's just any size that you want from 12 to 36. There are a lot of designs in there. And, you know, a lot to get inspired by and just see, you know, just seeing them out on paper gives you a sense of how, how the house will kind of flow. And I kind of you know, the the small ones, the 12 foot tiny houses are almost like a sheet of paper, eight by 12. Whereas the the 36 ones are like a receipt. It's like a long scroll. Kind of give you a sense of of the scale of a house like that. But anyhow, I'm rambling.
Michael Janzen, thank you so much.
Michael Janzen 49:22
Thanks Ethan. It's been fun.
Ethan Waldman 49:24
Thank you so much to Michael Janzen for being a guest on the show. Today, you can find the show notes including a full transcript, links to Michael's books and more at thetinyhouse.net/171. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/171. 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.
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