Nate Murphy is an adventurous builder and filmmaker who has taken on not just one, but countless incredible projects, converting several vans into cozy living spaces and renovating a centuries old house in the beautiful Pyrenees Mountains. In our conversation, Nate shares his experience of building a van from scratch, documenting every step of the process with over 100 hours of footage. We'll dive into the challenges of editing that massive amount of content down into 70 videos, and the exhaustion and determination that went into the final product. Nate also opens up about the intense filming process, and the unique aspects of Van Conversion that make it both intimidating and incredibly cool. But that's not all. Nate goes beyond the van and shares the captivating story of renovating a 250 year old house in the scenic Pyrenees, stripping down the structure to its bare bones to envisioning its future, we'll hear about the demanding and rewarding journey of bringing new life to this historical gem. Whether you're curious about van conversions, tiny house living or the challenges of renovating an old house, this episode has something for everyone. So sit back, relax and prepare to be inspired by Nate Murphy's tales of adventure construction in the pursuit of a simpler way of living.
In This Episode:
- 💰 Van conversions: Is building your own tiny house more profitable than buying a van conversion?
- 🏡 Customization and enjoyment: The value of a van conversion lies in the personalization and satisfaction of the build.
- 🌍 Van life vs. tiny houses: Younger people prefer the flexibility of van life, while older individuals are drawn to tiny houses for retirement and cost-cutting.
- 🏢 Housing affordability crisis: Limited options in the UK and high prices in areas with economic opportunity.
- ⚖️ Laws and restrictions: Living in a van is tolerated in many countries, but regulations vary.
- 🛠️ DIY resources: How Nate unexpectedly turned into a van conversion educator with webinars, guides, and courses.
- 🕑 Time commitment: Building a van or a house takes time and dedication.
- 🔌 Learning new skills: DIYing a van conversion involves mastering electrical, plumbing, gas line hookups, carpentry, and more.
- 💪 Boosting self-confidence: Building a van conversion can expand skills for future projects.
- 🏠 Renovating old houses: Nate Murphy shares his experience and challenges of renovating a 250-year-old house in Spain.
Links and Resources:
Nate lived out of a van for four years, and now, after renovating a house uses a van for short to medium trips. Nate has been building products, vans and houses for 18 years. From designing and patenting his own medical products to totally renovating a house in Spain, his approach is one of endless possibilities for self-learning.
Nate runs the popular ‘Nate Murphy' YouTube Channel which has been sharing van conversion content and advice with millions of people for the past six years.
This Week's Sponsor:
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Nate Murphy 0:00
If you've never lived in a van, then it's all hypotheticals, right? You're just looking at shiny things on the internet. You see them in YouTube videos or Instagram and you're like, Well, I want one. But it doesn't mean it's necessarily great for living. So we try and sort of inject the reality into that and help people make good decisions for them.
Ethan Waldman 0:18
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 284 with Nate Murphy. Nate Murphy is an adventurous builder and filmmaker who has taken on not just one, but countless incredible projects, converting several vans into cozy living spaces and renovating a centuries old house in the beautiful Pyrenees Mountains. In our conversation, Nate shares his experience of building a van from scratch, documenting every step of the process with over 100 hours of footage. We'll dive into the challenges of editing that massive amount of content down into 70 videos, and the exhaustion and determination that went into the final product. Nate also opens up about the intense filming process, and the unique aspects of Van Conversion that make it both intimidating and incredibly cool. But that's not all. Nick goes beyond the van and shares the captivating story of renovating a 250 year old house in the scenic pier Nice. stripping down the structure to its bare bones to envisioning its future, we'll hear about the demanding and rewarding journey of bringing new life to this historical gym. Whether you're curious about van conversions, tiny house living or the challenges of renovating an old house, this episode has something for everyone. So sit back, relax and prepare to be inspired by Nate Murphy's tales of adventure construction in the pursuit of a simpler way of living. Let's jump in. I asked John and Fin Kernohan of United Tiny House Association what they love about their PrecisionTemp hot water heaters. And here's what they told me.
John Kernohan 1:51
Hey, Ethan. This is John and Fin Kernohan with the United Tiny House Association. We have a total of three PrecisionTemp On Demand hot water heaters. The thing we really like about these and folks know this, I think they pick this up on Fin and I, if we don't like something, you'll never hear us talk about it. So the two things we noticed that we noticed the experience immediately. They took painstaking effort to make sure that it was done right installed. And so that was pretty cool right there. The other thing is the continuous on demand hot water that just ran forever without any fluctuations or anything. I can't imagine an application especially in our environment and our lifestyle of being a nomad, transportable mobile, tiny lifestyle where one of these units aren't good to us.
Ethan Waldman 2:50
Right now PrecisionTemp is offering $100 off any unit plus free shipping when use the coupon code THLP. So head over to precisiontemp.com and use the coupon code THLP at checkout for $100 off any unit. That's precisiontemp.com coupon code THLP. Thank you so much to PrecisionTemp for sponsoring our show
all right, I am here with Nate Murphy. Murphy is a rock climbing and vanlife YouTuber from the UK. He's been traveling for many years, and tends to base his travel destinations around good climbing areas throughout the world. On his YouTube channel, Nate shows you how to convert a van into a camper van. He also creates tours of Van conversions for inspiration, and shares his process of doing his best to practice what he preaches, which is using alternative ways of living so that he can live a more free and adventurous life. Nate Murphy, welcome to the show.
Nate Murphy 3:58
Hello, thank you for having me on Ethan, it's really great to be on your podcast series.
Ethan Waldman 4:04
Great. Yeah, it's great to have you on. I've been following you for for so many years and I don't know how I found you initially. But I came across your guide to converting a van and just found it to be incredibly comprehensive and, and helpful. But before we get into all that, I was curious, you know, how did you get into van life in the first place?
Nate Murphy 4:30
So for me, Van life started off as just basically it was like a tool. I didn't Yeah, like follow a load of people. I didn't I guess it wasn't so much on social media and stuff like that back then. And basically, I was on this like really, like sort of career break. And I wanted to focus on rock climbing. Just see how hard I could climb. I just want to dedicate a lot of time to it. But I obviously have limited amount of savings and income coming in while I was traveling. Okay, so advancing Like a really great tool, and it's really popular for climbers throughout the world to use bands to travel on time. And so So basically, I was drawn to Van life as a way to live cheaply. Wherever I wanted, I could follow the climbing season, I could use it for a base six months a year, and then like be in different continent for the other six months, just a really flexible base, Home Base people my gear, and it will the ropes and the climbing kit. Yeah. And it was just a way to live my life. And I really, really saw as a tool, rather than, like Van life is a destination or lifestyle. Yep. I saw it as a tool to enable me to do the thing I wanted to do more effective. Right.
Ethan Waldman 5:42
Got it. Yeah. And I've definitely, you know, seen and heard that there is a big van life kind of culture within the rock climbing community just because you the, you know, the rock climbing is usually in remote locations, you want to be nearby, you want to spend as much time there as possible and not traveling back and forth to like a hotel or something.
Nate Murphy 6:05
Absolutely. And I think also you have in the sort of the climbing culture, there's, there's definitely like a bag, rough minute sort of theme. So the idea of living in a van is actually almost a little bit luxury. Yeah, I think it also is a sport, which is a little bit conditioned dependent. And if you're doing it like for a long period of time, it just makes sense to better just move when the condition is bad .
Ethan Waldman 6:29
So it seems like in a way, the van life the kind of the the tool to get you to the lifestyle that you wanted, it seems like it's it's in a way, it's like taking over what you're doing.
Nate Murphy 6:43
Yeah. I mean, it certainly taken over in terms of like, I don't know, it's really created this sort of career divergence, you know, so before I was doing sort of more startup type things. I lived in London, and then with the van and I produced videos about how to build a van online, which did well. Well, especially, especially back then. And then I had so many questions. Yeah, continuous questions. I thought with that, okay, well, I write a book and I'll sell a book. Yeah. And that did reasonably well. And then since then, like the YouTube channel grew, I've got a hired someone to help me do the editing. I had a guy who's also helping me do filming in the States. So it just meant that sort of moved into being YouTube, which was just sort of for fun. I was making plenty of videos and some stuff, which I thought would be helpful to do people do vans and things like that. Yeah. And then it sort of turned into a small business, which I made maybe perhaps is in a sort of similar, similar way, you've kind of ended up where you are in doing what you do. Yeah, absolutely. evolved out of it. Almost like a surprise. Yeah, yeah,
Ethan Waldman 7:49
exactly. It's kind of it was a total surprise for me, too. I never really set out to become a tiny house, like educator or tiny house person other than just like wanting to build one and live in it.
Nate Murphy 8:00
Yeah. But I think there's the something Probably, as well, with you. There's something sort of intrinsic, I really like to share and educate and help people. Yeah. And I think from that, that sort of urge, like general basic urge to like, create things that are useful for other people to save them time or share that process, then suddenly, you added value in a way which you didn't necessarily expect. And then that value, great, something that you can kind of continue and, you know, make sustainable.
Ethan Waldman 8:26
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So take me like on your kind of entrepreneurship journey, when it comes to Van Conversion stuff was the Van Conversion guide, kind of your first product, your first educational product that you put out there?
Nate Murphy 8:41
For vans It was, yeah, I've done a bunch of entrepreneurial stuff before. But the, it was just to be honest, the van conversion guide started off as a little bit like, like you'd like throw away. It was like, All right, I'll just do it. And I spent, you know, a few days and just trying to brain dump information, create images, diagrams, and the first version of the book wasn't like, it wasn't amazing, but it answered all the questions that people were asking. And since then, we're in like, we're in the the 14th edition now. So it's obviously a lot better than it was and we spent considerable time into making it what it is now.
Ethan Waldman 9:16
Yeah, no, it's, it's, you know, I bought it years ago, and I'm pleasantly surprised that I've you know, you've continued issuing new editions and kind of keeping it updated with the current technology and techniques and Van models and and also not to mention, that it it you know, the the vans in the in the UK and in Europe are different vans than they are in the States and you you seem to cover all the bases.
Nate Murphy 9:43
But yeah, that's the journey, I realized quite early on that like a big part of like the market is US based, especially sort of California that sort of that case. Yep. Yep. So really, I've put a lot of effort to make sure that the guide is useful originally For quite a long time I had like US, Europe and UK versions. Now it's one version, but I just basically split out the key differences. You know, like whether we're using imperial or metric measurements. Yeah. And actually, over that time, there's been some divergence in the van. So the US and Europe has sprinters, but since dodge came out with a ProMaster, that's the same as a very large number of vans in Europe, it kind of actually made my job a bit easier, because so many people were quite similar vehicles.
Ethan Waldman 10:30
Nice. Well, that that sounds like it does make it quite a bit easier. Yeah, absolutely. And then, and then you also have a course. I guess it's DIY hero.
Nate Murphy 10:42
Do I hear me? Yeah, yeah, that's right. So the course. I mean, I think you know, with any sort of business space, you end up with a situation where you're doing something for a while, and then a lot of people think, Oh, we can do that, too. They sort of basically replicate what they did. I'm sure that's happened in your area as well. Yeah. Yeah. So you end up with like, this, like for Van ebook, How To convert a van. It's quite saturated. There's people who've come in, and sort of, I wouldn't say they ripped off, but they basically in like, it, obviously been influenced by what you've done. And then they've ruled on it, or they've made something slightly different. Sure. So if you want to kind of stay in the game and have enough like revenue to make it sustainable, then you need to adapt, obviously, and branch out and do different things. So the course was a way to like, Okay, well, a lot of people are quite happy just to work from an ebook. Yep. But there are also many people for whom doing a DIY project is quite a scary undercut taken, maybe they've done like, almost no DIY, they haven't even put up a shelf. Yeah. And the idea of the course is to take someone from like zero to hero. That's why I call it DIY hero. Yeah, but the idea is, it's like really hands on showing you like, you know, sort of like almost classroom, one show you, like how all the theory works. And then literally every single step in practice is like 170 videos long, it was an absolute monster of a of a project. I didn't quite appreciate how much work that had been when we went into it. But some of these videos are like an hour long or more, because it's like, how to sew cushions, the big process, ever. Yeah, it takes so much time and so much investment to make the course. But I'm really happy with how it's come out. People who are on the course, so far just seem to really love it, they get a lot of value from it. And actually, surprisingly, there's a lot of people on it, who actually they've like, Oh, I've renovated like, you know, my house or like the one floor of my house. And then actually, the reason I buy the course is because I don't want to waste my time trying to work everything out. They just want to like write about shown because they I think if you've done a bunch of that work, you can appreciate how how useful it is to have shown some show you like in practice how to do stuff and just cut to the chase.
Ethan Waldman 12:53
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that is that is interesting that that, you know, someone who has renovated a house, who is kind of handy and knowledgeable. They know how long it takes to figure stuff out if you've never done it before. So having kind of a shortcut or just a manual is very helpful.
Nate Murphy 13:14
Yeah, absolutely, exactly. I mean, they've definitely that some of them have explicitly said that, like, I buy the course I know, I could figure it out. But I just don't want to waste my time. I just want to build the van and I want to just look at a video and then go and do it. And that's fine. Yeah, I think it's really cool. There's some people who want to work it all out. But like, if that's not you, then of course, or something is useful.
Ethan Waldman 13:36
Yeah, the layout options of a van. That seems value. That's something that I appreciate in the eBook. And I've never converted a van myself and I may never it's kind of it's back there in my head is something that I would bet I'd love to do one day. And then during the pandemic, I was like, Well, this is the time to do it. But that the so did everybody else in the entire universe, you know, have that same idea that it was time to convert a van, but having the kind of featured layouts, and because like it's a very small space. And so going with a layout that works well, and is livable and functional is is very important.
Nate Murphy 14:14
Yeah, I think so. I mean, of course I leave it we try and take people through that sort of design process because it like, well, it's two parts of it really, there's, there's what you want and what's right for you. And if you've never, if you've never lived in a van, then it's all hypotheticals, right? You're just looking at shiny things on the internet. You see them in YouTube videos or Instagram and you're like, Well, I want one. Yeah, but it doesn't mean it's necessarily great for living. So we try and sort of inject the reality into that and help people make decisions for them. So for example, if you're really tall, you probably don't want to be sleeping side to side because you know, it might be fine for a few days. But if you live in in it for like three months, it could just become really uncomfortable. And yeah, I did a and there's also a lot of like optimism about out, you know, power systems and metrics. And we tried to help people navigate that without spending an absolute fortune.
Ethan Waldman 15:07
So you essentially had to build a new van to make the course.
Nate Murphy 15:11
Yeah, I literally, that was basically what I did so so my van Yeah. and bought a van, which was a real nuisance because it's the pandemic post pandemic. So it's like 30% more expensive, just as the base vehicle. Yeah. And it was six weeks late. really messed up schedule. But yeah, then I basically built a built around for best part of a month and had a guy yeah, my camera guy, Ezra, he just filmed it continuously, every single part of the build, it was exhausting. Actually, we ended up with well over 100 hours of footage, which had to be edited down into these, like 170 videos, oh, my gosh, we came back to Spain, where I built a house. And I had two other guys with Ezra editing all the time for like two months just working, working, working, just to try and get it done. Like for the release date, which was January 1, this year, wow. Was was a real, it was a real fight.
Ethan Waldman 16:05
That's a huge project. And also, like, you know, having worked on, you know, I built my house, and I've fixed lots of stuff. And it's like, even when you know what you're doing, there's a lot of time that you're just kind of puzzling it out. And you try, you know, you try turning it one way and it doesn't work. So you have to try the other way. And so like, how do you handle that? While you're supposed to be educate, you're supposed to be teaching, and you're like, Well, that didn't work. I guess I'll try something
Nate Murphy 16:32
else. I think if there's any like real dealer in, I mean, that's not really useful for people to want you to load a dealer in? And of course there are, there are points where I just have to stare at things and like, Okay, how is this? Because, again, like you said, you play with very tight space constraints, sometimes, yeah, you've got to play with things a little bit. So mostly, we just added out my dinner in, but also within a very, very short build schedule. So genuinely, I built this fan out in 25 days. And obviously if we film all the, like the educational videos, which was like sat at a table describing all the things that it was a nonstop very intense period for both me and and Ezra, the who did the filming. Yeah, yeah, I was exhausted. And then also in the evening, you've got to order stuff to make sure you have all the stuff ready to do. Logistics is like, horrible. It's the worst part. Yeah. It's yeah, I wouldn't recommend building a van in a really short period of time. Unless you're slightly sadistic and you like pain.
Ethan Waldman 17:34
Yeah, so like 25 days? It seems like if you are a pro, essentially, you can do it what what would be a more like, reasonable timeframe that you see people building out a van in?
Nate Murphy 17:46
So the way I see it is, for me to build out like a pretty high quality van. With a good number of systems that does the band exactly. You can build out a van in a day, if you're just banging in a bed and not worrying about anything. But a pretty decent van, it will take me about 250 hours of labor. So if you're not very experienced, call it 300. And then it depends on how many hours you could put in a week. So you can just take that like baseline figure and you say, Okay, well, I can put in 10 hours a week. And now you know, how many weeks it's gonna take? It's gonna take a lot of weeks, I think, exactly say, and that's 10 hours a week, every week. And I think what drags it out for a lot of people is often like, you know, it's hard for them to build it because they've got to build it on the street, and they got to put their tools away and take them out every time. And yeah, they come home from work and they're very tired. And they just put it off and put it off. And then it takes like a year or something. And basically there is an advantage to doing it intensely. They're like if you're going to take off a year to travel or something. Yeah, maybe you can get a bunch done beforehand, but you just spent three weeks nonstop 12 hours a day and you get it done. It's just I guess it depends on your situation. But if you take if you're doing a pretty decent high quality, most of the systems sort of ankle version, consider 300 hours, and then spit that out over the weekend. So the spare time what evidence you have. Yeah, yeah.
Ethan Waldman 19:18
And it'll it seems like you know, if you really are going to DIY a van from start to finish, you're going to learn electrical, plumbing, gas line hookups, carpentry, just the whole gamut
Nate Murphy 19:31
Windows installation up. Yeah, I think that's, I mean, it's one of the things which makes it intimidating, but it's also one of the really cool things about doing a van conversion project, which I guess is very similar to a tiny house, but it's like a different scale because the structure is already there for you. You know, I think the cool thing is, is if you could build out a van conversion and you have put in your own plumbing. It's gonna be mostly it's gonna be push fit plumbing. It's basically the same, but in house. Yeah, you might be installing some gas. I would go It's like a disclaimer, be careful of gas, if you're not sure, get some of the jackets, but you can install a gas system and you learn about compression fittings and how that works. And then you do in your electrics. And like when you use all these things, I think a lot of people, they come out with it, just realizing that they can do a lot more. And it can transform how they think about themselves or their capabilities. Or if they've got a little project at home, or another project in the future. Suddenly, they realized, yeah, they can work it out, they could build a version off grid electric system.
Ethan Waldman 20:31
So you mentioned that you renovated an old house completely is that you feel like that's kind of an extension, or that was like the next step for you after doing the van conversions and just applying your skills to a traditional home.
Nate Murphy 20:47
I think in some ways it is. I think it's a mix. I mean, basically, I was traveling in a van for I was traveling for five years traveling back for four years, and I just really was craving like, a workshop space and some studio space to like, write things. Yeah. And in the end, like long story short, it was a bit awkward to find industrial units and things in beautiful places. So in the end, I just bought an old house. Yeah. And once I pulled the trigger to buy it, then I pulled the trigger to go through that process of building it. And I Okay, I could pay builders to do it. But then I'm gonna need a lot more money. And it's gonna take a lot more time. Because you know, like to replace a roof. Then you've got to find the roofing contractors. And there'll be like, Oh, we can start in six months time. Yeah, for me, that was an option. I didn't want to sit around waiting for a house rebuilt for like, three years. Yeah, I was like, Okay, I'm just gonna get it. I'm gonna do it. And I think yes, some of that, you know, belief of like, well, I can, if you believe you can, yeah, everything else is figureoutable. Yes. And yeah. And basically over the, and also, without pandemic, if I was paying people to do it, the pandemic would have just pushed it back, right another year. So it was 100% a really good thing for me to do by myself. And, yeah, I think it's an extension of that similar mentality and sort of self belief you can get when you sort of build anything.
Ethan Waldman 22:05
Yeah. So what did you do? What did you end up having to do in this house?
Nate Murphy 22:09
Oh, basically, you said the house is like, about 250 years old. It's okay, what was a made of sort of, like, stuck together mud and mortar and rock, it's like really an ancient or the, the ground floor that was like, half a meter wide, you know, like, foot and a half wide or something is old. And it comes to this barn and land and looks over this, like, super beautiful, scenic part of the Pyrenees, directly, some like climbing sectors. So it's like, on point for me, and the house, basically, the house needed like the roof taken off the internal walls, taking out some of the internal floors, some openings made. And then basically, you're taking it down to like, just four walls, and like new floors, and then it's rebuild. So it's like pretty major work. And I didn't really speak Spanish at the time, for Catalan is the language here. And I did definitely did not know how to build a house, or do means electric or plumbing or heat recovery systems or solar. So there's definitely like some learning involved there.
Ethan Waldman 23:18
So how do you approach learning something new? Like, those things that you just mentioned? Are you like, are you watching YouTube videos? Are you going to the hardware store and talking to people? Like how do you kind of gain the confidence to actually start in on a job that you've not ever? You don't know how to do it? Or you've never done it before?
Nate Murphy 23:38
I'd say like all of the above, you know? Yeah, so like to do the roof. So there's, there's not really any videos on YouTube to show you how to build the roof or the style of the roofs that are built here. So let's see, I had an architect because you have to not have an architect to do major work for the architect could specify, like, the beams? Because she doesn't structural work, right? Yeah. And then there's this old guy in the village called Cisco who did, he was a builder for a while and he's retired. But he like gave me some good tips on how to do it. And actually, he would pop around every so often. And check I got things straight. Because if you're, if your beams are out of sync, then you're causing yourself real headache later. Yep. And then there's like a big dose of optimism. And I was also just like, going round looking at roofs, other roofs, just to try like God, how the hell this is gonna be done. And in the end, it was it was fine. It just sort of came together. It was just just like, because once you got like, the beams delivered, the roof material delivered. And you run you know, roughly what you do with a bond beam like you got this big bond beam around it because none of the walls are like pinned together properly. So you've got like the house. Yeah, it was just a matter of just getting on with it. And I think this is like the true of almost everything in terms of like building stuff, is that once you've got the stuff in front of you You can just figure it out. Like you get all the things like for me, it took the longest to work out. I have like a woodfire with a back boiler and heating system. And there's some there's some complexity to it. Yeah. And but still, once I got all the stuff in front of me, and I just spent the time it was all figureoutable, everything is great. Some of it's a pain in the ass, but it's all you can figure it out. Once you got the stuff.
Ethan Waldman 25:23
Yeah, totally. I also find like sleeping is great. Like, I'm actually I'm actually renovating a small bathroom right now. And in a condo that was just like, it was nasty. So and I wasn't expecting to have to do it. But it just like it just happened like I the toilet was leaking. And it was gross. I just pulled it out. And then I was like, oh, we need new vanity. And then the floors were nasty. So I pulled those up. And the bath fan, pull that down. And so like, I think the other night, I was sitting in the eyes like taking a bath because I was so tired from working overhead. And I just watched the install video for this new bath fan like three times. And it just like didn't make sense to me. And then I woke up the next morning and I was like, Oh, I know how to install this bath fan it just like there's there's some magic to sleeping.
Nate Murphy 26:08
Yeah, yeah. And I think your brain definitely processes Yes, I can't remember what I was doing at the house. I was doing it quite intensely, because I get a bit obsessed with like physical hands on projects, because I just want them to be finished. And this is a this is a bike enjoying the journey. I'm not enjoying the journey. I'm enjoying it again. Like to me the house was a tool to do my other project. I'm not excited about being a builder. But I am excited about the project. So there are extremely intensely and yeah, every night I was dreaming of building things. Every day, it was yeah, you can have no escaping it. But I'm definitely sure I'm like solving these problems in my sleep. What can you say? There's endless problems with old house renovation, as you probably know whether you're refitting the bathroom?
Ethan Waldman 26:54
Yeah, yeah. Endless problems and all the things that people did poorly, you know, 50 years ago, you know, you have to work extra hard to kind of mitigate the poor decisions that people
Nate Murphy 27:09
really Yeah, well, the surprises, the surprise is when you take things out, and you're like, okay, it turns out that every time they went up a level, they moved the walls that made the walls thinner, didn't have too much weight. And that'd be the real problem. When you're running pipes and things. It's just all the things is a surprise
Ethan Waldman 27:26
oh my. But one thing that I'm always curious about in vans is just dealing with cold weather, because I know that with that, that metal skin, you can run into problems with moisture and things. So I was just curious, you know, what is the kind of latest best practice I guess you could say? For insulating advance so that it's you know, comfy when it's when it's cold out.
Nate Murphy 27:53
So, okay, so I actually think when it's cold, your two problems are not so much the cold. The moisture is a problem because condensation, obviously on a metal skin would be a huge problem. I had a friend who did Chamonix. This is like 1000 meters is in the French Alps. He did his family winter with a non insulated van. And I gave a visiting and it was it was horrible. Like, in the night it all froze, and then when he drove it all rained. It it was awful. So it is a big problem. Yeah, maybe you can get away with it in super dry arid climates and deserts and things but in general, yeah, you want to insulate and you want to put in a vapor barrier. So that okay, it doesn't condensate onto something, and the humidity, you can extract it or just leave but it won't just build up in on your van or your skin or in your sails. So that is that is a seriously important thing to do, in my opinion, the van conversion in terms of like the latest and best methods, I mean, the delay is the best method is the one that you can do well, okay, in my opinion. So probably the most effective one is when you have a professional come in and spray the foam all over the inside of the van. It does create other challenges for the build because you just spray foam all over your practice. Yeah, but that's probably like the effective most effective way but that's not the way I do because I just prefer to just crack on do it myself. I tend to use recycled bottle like fleece and I put the fleece in I use spray foam on the harder stuff areas and then I just do a really good job on the vapor barrier like a foil based vapor barrier tape it all isn't I mean tape and just Just be careful with it. And I've never had a problem with condensation in vans in when it's cold. And really to apart from the moisture thing I think the most important part of installation is actually for the heat. Because let's say you're somewhere quite hot. And if your van and all the thermal mass of the massive thermal capacity inside your van heats up and then at nighttime you try to cool your van down it's gonna take forever because everything was so hot in the daytime. So good insulation, and is almost more important in summer. So the van it will get warm and stuffy when it's closed. But it doesn't get really hot. Right. And that's probably the most important thing because it's quite easy to heat a van, you just use gas gas heater, right? It's much if your grid is much harder to cool the van down in terms of your power systems, just because of how much energy electrical energy that an AC unit will will consume. So yeah, if that makes sense.
Ethan Waldman 30:33
Yeah, and then I'm sure just when you're actually living it day to day, finding a parking spot that's in the shade, if possible, is really helpful. And
Nate Murphy 30:43
yeah, so long as you get enough solar, this is the other day too much. So you got to vote what to be well insulated and in the sun and have a nice healthy hope that batteries. All right, there are like 12 volt AC units coming out, which are a little bit smaller than the traditional RV ones, which are only really designed to be plugged in. And they are becoming a little bit more feasible. If you've got like a pretty good solar array and a really good battery battery charger. And you got a big battery bank, but that all comes at like a cost. So you install your AC unit and it costs you $2,000. But now you got to add like $5,000 to your electrical kit. And there's probably better ways of going about it unless you really get into trouble climate. Yeah, yeah. Well,
Ethan Waldman 31:30
I like this concept of kind of using van life as a tool to enable kind of a better life, that it's not, it's not the van life is just the tool that you use to achieve this lifestyle that you want. Can you give some examples of maybe maybe people that have taken your courses and and kind of told you about what they're doing van life? Or do you have any kind of stories to kind of illuminate that?
Nate Murphy 31:54
So in terms of the course, well, we've only been live for eight months. So there's only one person who's like done and dusted, finished his van and it's nice. The others are still around, because mostly people get it before they bought the van because we help pay for that process. Yeah. And it's good way if they can sort of bounce ideas off people will get like real advice. And say, so yes, it takes a couple months, and no one's no one else has finished the course yet. In general, I just know a lot of people and I met a lot of people and either through through my business or just on their age, who have used van life to set themselves free of like rent or any, you know, like it's yeah, it's a big problem for people, especially younger people who haven't gotten the house and market or older people who, you know, they've been working a long time, and they're just starting to realize that it's, it's hard to take time off, because he got to still pay rent or whatever it is. I mean, I think like, I have like a big bugbear with the property market and what we've collectively allowed to happen to it. And I mean, this is obviously must be really significant for the tiny house movement as well.
Ethan Waldman 33:07
Yeah, I mean, tiny houses have gotten more commercialized, which in some ways is good, because you can now easily find a professionally built a well built professionally built tiny house. The problem is that, you know, a tiny house, when people ask, I asked you the how many hours of labor question for for a tiny house, you know, 1000 plus?
Nate Murphy 33:33
Yeah, wow. Yeah. Yeah, I can imagine.,
Ethan Waldman 33:35
And so you know, and if, you know, if you're a pro builder, maybe you're getting that down by 10 or 15%. But like, There's no way around, you know, labor, the systems, all the labor and so, you know, a professionally built tiny house. You know, they I would say the least expensive ones that I see are, you know, start around $65,000. Yeah, go up, up up into like, into the territory where there are traditional homes by you know, they're not going to be new construction. They're not going to be mobile, tiny houses. But yeah, it and of course, the cost of building materials has, like everywhere has gone up significantly. Particularly during the pandemic, but now they're back down a little bit
Nate Murphy 34:25
with with tiny houses, I guess part of it is once you've let's say it's a big capital expenditure, you buy a really nice, tiny house, and it saves you and maybe you could technically buy a traditional house for that money. But once you've got it, I guess your ongoing costs are really low. Right? Because it's like super energy efficient and, you know, heating space.
Ethan Waldman 34:45
Yeah. And typically, I don't know how it works where you are, but you know, in the States, you have to pay property tax on on your house, and that's what funds that usually funds your town or your city. Yeah, and it's you You know, it can be 1000s of dollars a year. Yeah. And so tiny houses in most places are not considered to be houses. So they don't get taxed, you save money there
Nate Murphy 34:50
they're not permanent or something. But
Ethan Waldman 35:15
then the like, downside to that is that you're not living legally. So you're always at risk of like, you know, being asked to leave. Yeah. So there's, there's kind of the dark side to you kind of being in that legal gray area. But But
Nate Murphy 35:30
I would imagine if you're like, I don't know, it, again, depends probably on the state as well as the country. Yeah, but like, here, it's like, based on livable square footage. So I guess even if you tax with a tiny house, it's like it's a tiny house. So if taxes based on the square footage of your house, or the property value or something, you're still gonna be paying like a much lower tax rate than if you buy a genuine large format American home.
Ethan Waldman 35:55
Yeah, I actually had a tax bill on my tiny house for a couple of years when it was parked in this one town that that, you know, saw it and said, Yeah, yeah, that's fine. But we want to tax you. So I was legal there. I think my tax bill was was about $500 a year.
Nate Murphy 36:11
Which is affordable, isn't bad.
Ethan Waldman 36:14
It's downright affordable. I think, you know, what's also happening in the tiny house world is that, you know, people are developing places to park them that have, you know, all the hookups, all the amenities. But that does add a cost to the lifestyle. You know, it's essentially you have a rent bill. Yeah. On top of owning your house, but and I do think that tiny house living is absolutely still more way more affordable than conventional living. Even if you're, you know, even if your tiny house costs you $100,000. And even if you have to pay five or $600 a month for a bot rental, is the amount of things that you can physically buy and consume just are so much less. No, you save money in the lifestyle, at least in the in how much stuff you know. So
Nate Murphy 37:04
you see, it's almost like, it almost like constrains your ability to consume. Yeah, it's like a cap to consumers and based on your space.
Ethan Waldman 37:14
Exactly. Yeah. People will fill people just tend to fill the space that they have.
Nate Murphy 37:19
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, that's interesting. I think, like, in general, the same with Vans and Van life. And I imagine it's very similar to tiny homes, I think, yeah. People have offset to be well, you know, it's like a trend, and it'll go away, pretty soon. And I, I've done a lot of like, research and thinking on it. And I think, yeah, it's really directly linked to like housing crisis and cost of absence of housing. And unless they can sort that out which governments don't really want to bring down the price of houses. So for lots of their electorate who vote Yeah. So unless they solve that somehow, and you tiny houses are the appeal of basically living in more affordable alternative ways, like to live a veg of life, or just live a life, which is only working, or enabled them to retire or enable people to just cut loose for a while. I think you're here to stay.
Ethan Waldman 38:18
I believe I agree completely. There was, there was this article in Wired Magazine about a month ago, that was like, What happened to the tiny house movement. And the title, the headline was more offensive than the article itself. Because like, you know, while the reality TV shows might not be like, as popular or as visible, you know, what's happened over the last couple of years is that, like, there are several, like real legitimate advocacy efforts that are legalizing tiny houses state by state. I mean, like, every month or two, you hear about, you know, another state has, you know, essentially legalized tiny houses. And so that's happening. And, you know, I wanted to comment on what you said earlier about the kind of the tiny house movement and the van life movement. You know, I consider a van a tiny house as well, like, they're kind of all under the sun really is. Yeah. And yet, it's such a different crowd. You know, I would say that, you know, at least the people most most people who are listening to my, you know, podcast or people who are reaching out to me joining my online community and that kind of stuff, tend to be people who are reaching retirement age, who want to stop working and basically take the money that they've saved up if they've saved any up and live affordably and stretch that money out. And Tiny houses are great for that. And so then the younger younger people are still are doing tiny houses, but they're not staying in them long term. They're kind of that's like their first transition. And they Yeah, yeah, it's transition. And both are fine. There's nothing wrong with it. Just because you've decided to build a van or do a tiny house doesn't mean your life. You've failed if you don't live in it forever. Yeah, absolutely.
Nate Murphy 40:05
Yeah, I think that's interesting. It's an observation. I, I think younger people are probably more attracted to van life because it's like, yeah, you know, it's a bit of a more secure way of living. It's less convenient. And they probably also are, like, excited to travel and hit the road and have adventures. Yeah. Yeah. Which is not to say that older people aren't interested in doing those things. But they're not looking to do that is their full time. Like life? I think a tiny home probably appeals is like you said probably to people, especially who are looking to retire, cut down their costs. As an escape escape. We do endless work. Yep. Yeah. And it always just comes down to cost of living or lack of failure, a failure in our society, basically.
Ethan Waldman 40:45
Yeah, yeah. We've definitely failed on the housing front, or we're in a period of time where there is not enough housing. And the housing that there is, is just too expensive.
Nate Murphy 40:57
It's outrageous. And to be honest, I think in the States, it's, you've got it got it a little bit better than say, if you live in the UK, because you pretty much can't just anywhere in the UK, but a tiny house on a piece of land that you own, just can't, the council would tell you to move it or get rid of it. So you I actually find that slightly outrageous that you're not you don't have the right to house yourself. You have to buy in to expensive mortgage up system. You know, it was additional traditional structures. Years ago, I wanted to buy like this wouldn't beach hut on it's like, beautiful place, like nine meters. It's a tiny home, basically. But yeah, we're planning permission and fixed. And yeah, and, yeah, there's no way to get a mortgage on it. Because it was non standard structure. It's made of wood, which is a perfectly reasonable way to build a house. In the States. It's like largely wood constructions, but it's so inflexible how they do the planning rules, that you it just makes it a lot harder. And I think this in the UK, maybe vans are more attractive, because you don't have that problem. You can just get your van and you can park it anywhere. You can park your van on a piece of land if you want to do but not a tiny home. Is it legal?
Ethan Waldman 42:12
Is it legal to live in the van though?
Nate Murphy 42:17
So if you if if no one complains about it, you're pretty good. Yeah, the UK has recently passed some laws to a vehicle living off, which is a little bit more restrictive. I mean, it's targeted in like the Gypsy traveller community, less so than it is. You know, Van lifers who tend to be young people cannot go on trips or whatever. But it's pretty well tolerated. In other countries, it's like in Europe, it's much more like defined to be completely fine to be sleeping in your bomb. But yeah.
Ethan Waldman 42:47
Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. I've been a little while since I've interviewed anyone who's in the tiny house world in the UK, but like, it's yeah, it's very limited. What? What you can place and where,
Nate Murphy 43:00
which is probably probably why you haven't had somebody to talk to you. It's it's just it's just really difficult. It's very difficult there. Yeah. And the property prices are outrageous, across the country, but especially in in areas where there's any economic opportunity. It's very, very difficult. Well, which is partly why I live in a house in Spain in the mountains. I mean, I mean, there's people who bought van, I need people buy vans and fit them out expensive fill outs, which cost more than my house, including the renovation. Yeah. So you know, it's, I could come here, and it's, again, it all comes back from like the ability to live in a van. So I was living in a van, which allowed me explore these different places, which that'd be fine. My house. When I renovated my house, I was living in my van, which meant I didn't have any other cost didn't have to rent somewhere. Right, right. And just that whole process of the house is just like, it serves the same purpose. It means I can live like debt free. In some way. I can spend way more time working on things I want to do without the massive overhead of me living in a city or paying insane amounts on mortgages, which now have like gone up by 30% because the interest rate changes.
Ethan Waldman 44:13
Exactly, or the interest rates. So you have I don't know if it's still happening or it's going to be happening. You're doing a webinar on how to live zero cost van life.
Nate Murphy 44:26
Yeah, so basically, I mean, if it's interesting one in the audience, yeah. So basically, I've put out a free webinar that anyone can join, and it shows people how they can make owning a van costs, it costs nothing. So it's basically considering that how to build it price points, how to determine how much to spend on the conversion compared to the cost of the baseband. Yeah, and how to go through that process, how to understand how to buy a converter van in a way that you could use it for three years have a time of your life. Come back And then you could sell it for a profit or breakeven. And that depends on the value of the van, the quality of your workmanship and all these things factored in. So it's basically a webinar, which, of course, partly promotes my course. But it also gives really, really valuable information that helps people understand exactly how to make their life cost nothing.
Ethan Waldman 45:18
Yeah. And that's something that has always fascinated me about van life is and like, is that you can oftentimes sell your van, if you've converted it yourself, and at least break even if not profit.
Nate Murphy 45:34
Yeah, it's I think it's really cool. I mean, it's my fifth My, my, like, my last T van, the first one, I, it was more of a breakeven because it was had some miles on it and stuff. Yeah. And that was cool. It's like three years of some of the best three years of travel and climbing in my life. And it cost me nothing from from labor, which I didn't like 17 days. So you know, and I mean, you're those are our YouTube channels, so can't really complain about that. And then the second van, I made some, like, $18,000 profit on it. It was like a new van and a high quality, like install and kit and things like that. So if that fit the market, hit the market, right. But again, like I use it for three years, I lived in my house, I traveled in it, I sell it, and then it doesn't cost me anything. It's better. It makes me some money. I mean, it's really cool. I mean, obviously, it's Yeah, that's a lot of consideration that everyone deeply cares about. Yeah. But I think for a lot of people, they get looking at their life and like all this is gonna cost a lot of money. But not necessarily. Yeah, I would imagine there's a similar vibe, potentially with tiny house. I guess most people with a tiny house, they're looking for like a longer term permanent thing. Whereas, I would say the majority of people looking at Van life aren't looking to live in it forever. Or like 20 years or something. They're more like, are living it for a few years. Yeah, travel when I sell it.
Ethan Waldman 47:02
I think the vans are pretty unique in that in that way, because I haven't seen tiny houses appreciating in value in the same way. Yeah. They're, they're, you know, depreciating in the way that a vehicle just, I think that thing with with the van is that you, you're adding so much value, you know, you're taking this empty, van, that is useful to a certain, you know, it's useful to contractors and builders and trades people and then you're turning it into this like, toy for people to you know, enjoy, you know, and so, you know, you're gonna live in it, but you might sell it to somebody who's like, Yeah, I'm just gonna go out on weekends, I'm gonna go mountain biking, and when you know, this is gonna kind of be a toy for me. So I think you're like, maybe tapping into a different demographic when you sell the van.
Nate Murphy 47:54
Yeah, I think so. I mean, you're, you're selling it to people who want the ready made. Yeah, right. So yeah, I would imagine that, you know, if you're like, the younger people who build a tiny house to live in for a few years, before we go to a conventional house or something, then if they build it themselves, I can. I would imagine they could turn some profit if they didn't live in a really long time or something.
Ethan Waldman 48:16
Yeah, definitely. And that as long as you don't factor in your time.
Nate Murphy 48:21
Oh yeah, exactly. I mean, I think that's, that's the scary thing. But I guess again, you know, with like the van conversions, you're burned out yourself, and you get sort of some intrinsic value from that. And you build it exactly how you want it. Yeah. And you kind of kind of want to do it anyway. Or if you if you want to buy a ready made one, then you've got to shell out a lot more, a lot more money. And it's going to depreciate, it's like a It's not only a cost upfront, but it's like a depreciating, depreciating asset. Yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 48:52
Well, Nate Murphy, it's been so great to chat with you and get to finally meet you. The man the myth, the legend, Nate Murphy, people should definitely check out DIYhero.me and the Van Conversion guide. We'll we'll link to all that stuff in the show notes for this episode. Thanks, Nathan
Nate Murphy 49:08
Thanks so much for having me on.
Ethan Waldman 49:11
Thank you so much to Nate Murphy for being a guest on the show today, you can find the show notes, including photos of Nate's van conversions and his home in the Pyrenees, plus links to everything we talked about at the tinyhouse.net/284. Again, that's the tinyhouse.net/284. And before we go, just a quick administrative note, the podcast will be going to end every other week format through the end of the year. I have some exciting construction projects that I'm working on right now and want to continue to deliver the best possible interviews on the show. And so I decided that the best thing to do would be to go to an every other week format, so that I could still give you the best stuff, but not have to make it quite so often. We'll be back to our regular calendar in 2024 and I hope you stay tuned and stay subscribed to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
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