In this special episode of THLP, your host Ethan Waldman joins forces with veteran tiny house designer, builder, and instructor, Lina Menard, to chat about “what we wish we knew before we started”.
Plus, we bring you a sneak peek of our upcoming LIVE course, Tiny House Considerations, an interactive, 8-week course with Lina and Ethan as your guides.
To get on the waitlist for Tiny House Considerations, head over to: https://www.thetinyhouse.net/considerations
In This Episode:
- Could we have built our houses faster?
- Better together: the positive effects of a good support system
- How your budget can get away from you
- About our new course and who it can help
- The importance of knowing the ins and outs of your systems before you begin building
Links and Resources:
Lina Menard is a natural co-conspirator who has lived out her own questions around intentional living, less stuff, and happiness. She has resided in a travel trailer, yurt, backyard cottage, and three (and counting) tiny houses on wheels. Rooted through a background in sustainable design-build and urban planning, Lina also has a penchant for experiential learning and healthy communities. She has found her niche nestled between small spaces, collaborative education, and community planning.
Building a model of your tiny home design helps you plan where to put everything
Taping off your design plan helps you get a sense of what the space will feel like
Lina's work from home setup in her tiny house
Ethan Waldman 0:00
Lina I'm really excited.
Lina Menard 0:02
Ethan, what are you excited about?
Ethan Waldman 0:04
I'm excited that we're finally going to teach a class together like on on our own.
Lina Menard 0:11
I know me too. I'm really excited.
Ethan Waldman 0:14
Yeah. So do you want to tell people what it's called?
Lina Menard 0:20
Ethan Waldman 0:21
Lina Menard 0:21
Are they ready for this?
Ethan Waldman 0:22
I think they're ready.
Lina Menard 0:24
Okay, we're gonna be teaching Tiny House Considerations. Ethan Waldman, Lina Menard, Tiny House Considerations.
Ethan Waldman 0:31
Lina Menard 0:32
And, hopefully you!
Ethan Waldman 0:34
Yeah, hopefully you.
All right. I am here with Lena Menard that is a natural co conspirator who has lived out her own questions around intentional living, less stuff, and happiness. She has resided in a travel trailer, yurt, backyard cottage, and three and counting tiny houses on wheels routed through a background in sustainable design build, and urban planning. Lina has also has a penchant for experiential learning and healthy communities. She has found her niche nestled between small spaces, collaborative education and community planning. Lina Menard, welcome back to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Lina Menard 1:15
Thank you. So glad to be back.
Ethan Waldman 1:16
Yeah. Glad glad to be here chatting with you. And we've been meeting now since - it's July, and we've been meeting since February working on the curriculum for Tiny House Considerations.
Lina Menard 1:30
Ethan Waldman 1:31
It's, it's really good. And I want to tell people about it. But the title of this episode is "What we wish we knew before we started building" and I think we should give people a little taste of some of those things. So do you want to you want to go first with with something you wish you knew?
Lina Menard 1:50
Ethan Waldman 1:51
Maybe we'll each do two? We'll start there.
Lina Menard 1:53
Sure. Yeah, I think one of the things I really wish I knew was how long it was going to take, and how to figure that out. Because we followed in the footsteps of some really awesome people like Dee Williams and Brittany Yunker, who had designed and built their own tiny houses. And, you know, maybe I'm just not quite the powerhouse, they are. They're some pretty awesome human beings, but, um, but you know, they built their homes pretty darn quick. And, and I was a little bit slower in my build, and I just kind of wish I had understood a little bit more, all the different things that went into building a tiny house, so that I was ready to really dedicate the time and energy to do it. And, and really have a good sense of all the steps in sequence.
Ethan Waldman 2:48
Did you know, well, I want to follow up on that. Did you have a time frame that you thought you were going to be able to do it in? And then like, what was what you thought it was gonna take and what did it actually take?
Lina Menard 3:02
Yeah, well, you know, it's funny, because I've designed and built two tiny houses for myself at this point. And the first one, I was thinking, you know, probably like three months, right? Because that's, that's what Dee had done. She built her tiny house in three months. And, you know, she is the first to say that she had some friends coming out to help that she wasn't flying completely solo. But she did a lot of the work on her own. And she got it. She got it wrapped up in three months and moved into it. And was was on her way with tiny house living. And so the first, you know, kind of first round of my dream around tiny houses, I was like, "Oh, yeah, you know, I'm headed to grad school, I'm going to study urban planning, I should just build my tiny house this summer. And then I'll take it with me to grad school. And that'll be that." And I don't even know what it was because, you know, the examples I'd heard were people doing it in pretty short order. But, I kind of got nervous and I was like, "I don't know if I could do this in three months while working full time." So I decided not to and that's actually when I decided to rent Brittany's tiny house. And that was a great choice because I got to try it out first. I got a little better sense of it. And so when I built my house, I knew it was probably going to take me longer than three months when I built the Lucky Penny. But I didn't know it was going to take six working pretty much all the time. I wasn't working at my day job. I was working on my tiny house. It was a lot.
Ethan Waldman 4:31
It is a lot. So I was I thought it would be three months as well. Maybe, maybe I got that number from Dee but also my housemate was a contractor who like... Well, he wasn't a contractor. He was a carpenter. And he told me it would be like no problem to build that in three months. And I think at the three month mark, I had essentially done nothing. I mean, I had the sub floor framed and I had a couple of walls framed but not standing on the trailer. I was moving slow. It took me 13.
Lina Menard 5:10
13 months. Yeah,
Ethan Waldman 5:12
Lina Menard 5:14
But how long do you think it would have taken if you knew then what you know now?
Ethan Waldman 5:21
Well, I think that it might have taken just as long. But I, I would have done a much better job planning the build, and having my expectations set appropriately, and budgeting my time and money and energy in a more just in a better way. I mean, of course, now I know, I have the building skills that I didn't have then. So sure, maybe a little bit faster. The learning curve might be different. But I mean, and this is something that we're going to go really into in in Tiny House Considerations is just talking about different building envelope options. How are you going to construct your tiny house? And I really think, you know, I stick framed mine. And I, I think that if I did another house, it would be SIPs. And, you know, there are a lot of reasons for that. That we you know, we will enumerate in our course. But you know, you actually really influenced me on on theSIPs. I know that both of your builds were SIPs and a few other of my podcast guests and conversations have kind of convinced me. And so that would that would dramatically speed up the build. Because you essentially go from a framed and sheathed floor to a building in a short, short amount of time.
Lina Menard 6:54
Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, I'm curious, too, it sounds like, like the timeframe was probably one of yours, too. Is that right? Would you say that was one of your top two wishes you knew?
Ethan Waldman 7:05
Definitely, definitely, like, just understanding how many hours it would take to build. And I think like this is this might seem like a little woowoo and fuzzy. But it's just like, how hard building is like, how drained I felt both like mentally and physically, because it's physically hard work. And if you're learning how to do it, while you do it, it's just it's a lot. So I just remember being more tired than I ever was.
Lina Menard 7:38
Yeah. You know, I think the other thing was that, at that point, too, there weren't as many people doing this. So we didn't have as many people rooting for us. Right. And one of the things that's so awesome now, when I'm working with students and working with clients, is we really get to encourage each other and support each other in a way that wasn't necessarily true, you know, back when we were first getting going. And so, so it's really, it's really empowering, I think, to have so many people rooting for you. And of course, that's one of the other benefits of of this course that we're going to be teaching is that people will be going through it together in this cohort. So they'll have the opportunity to meet other people who are going through the same process and be supported by each other as well as by us, of course, in terms of in terms of both understanding what's going to be hard, and also understanding that it is doable, if you're really thoughtful about it. And if you have that support, and if you have the information. You can you can do it. Yeah. Which is so cool.
Ethan Waldman 8:48
Yeah, it is really cool. And I've seen, I've seen just amazing houses built by normal people who have never built anything before. And also, I want to throw out the kind of caveat that also, it's okay, if you don't want to build your own house. And also, this course that we're working on, will very much still apply to you. So don't you know, if you're kind of tuning this out being like, "Okay, I'm going to hire someone to build the house. I don't need to know any of this." I would almost say that you need to know this more. Because you don't know what your builder is going to put in those walls and how they're going to do things.
Lina Menard 9:36
For sure. Yeah, I think it's a real consumer awareness thing to know what it is to even ask about. Right? If you're not asking questions that are informed and if you don't speak the same language, as the person you're asking to build your home, you're probably not going to have an alignment of expectations.
Ethan Waldman 9:56
Lina Menard 9:56
So I think that's super important. That's a great point, Ethan.
Ethan Waldman 10:00
So I guess, let me... I'll share one, kind of what I wish I had known, which is like, I wish I had known how to budget for a building project. Like I had a budget, I had a number, which was $25,000, which is kind of silly now.
Lina Menard 10:16
It's so funny. That's what mine was, too.
Ethan Waldman 10:18
Lina Menard 10:20
I wonder where we got that one, right.
Ethan Waldman 10:22
Yeah. Well, it was, again, like, the Tumbleweed houses had price estimates. And like my house was based on the Fencil and that, like the Fencil said DIY build, I think it's a $20,000. And, like, I saw, I had that number, but I didn't know how to make an overall budget. So when I was like, "Yeah, I guess I'll upgrade to a standing seam roof," or like, "Oh, yeah, like, I like these cherry floors." Like I didn't really have a sense of how I was doing in that budget, like, and that's something that we are going to talk about in the course is coming up with that that overall budget.
Lina Menard 11:09
Yeah, for sure. You know, it's interesting, because I'm thinking too, you know, back in the day $25k was not actually super unusual, at least for a goal budget, but that was partly because there were so many people really DIY in it, right? We were, we're doing super scrappy stuff. And, and we weren't including a lot of the things that are included in tiny houses now. So, you know, when we learned about Dee Williams building her tiny home in three months for, you know, around $10,000. Yeah, she talked about how she like, salvaged her door and pulled it out of dumpsters awesome stories. But I think it's also super important to remember her houses, her first house was only 14 feet long, and it didn't have a shower. They didn't have a fridge, you know, like some of this stuff, a lot of us, you know, have incorporated into our Tiny Homes. Not to mention, it didn't include, you know, an entertainment center or a washer dryer combo, or some of the other stuff that has become more common these days. And it's interesting, because for the Lucky Penny, I did actually come in right around $25k in terms of materials, but partly that was because I got some lucky breaks, which is actually why the house got called the Lucky Penny. Where did you end up with your budget?
Ethan Waldman 12:31
I ended up over $30,000. I think I was like $34k?
Lina Menard 12:37
Yeah, yeah. So in the scheme of things, that's pretty inexpensive for a tiny house.
Ethan Waldman 12:43
Lina Menard 12:43
But it was a huge proportion of what you thought it was going to be.
Ethan Waldman 12:46
Right. I mean, it was almost double. Well, not almost double, but quite a bit more. I'm not - I don't like to do public math on the spot. But it's a quite a bit more.
So is it fair to say that you've been you've been teaching tiny house for like 10 years? How long have you been teaching this stuff?
Lina Menard 13:07
Oh, golly. It's hard to even know how to start counting, right? Because I took my first tiny house class I did attending this class with Dee Williams in 2011. And pretty shortly after she helped connect me with some awesome people in Portland, Oregon. And I started because I done some building already with Habitat for Humanity and that sort of thing. I started, you know, helping people out with their builds, and sharing what I knew. So I would guess, you know, yeah, I guess it has been 10 years. That's kind of wild. I hadn't done that math, and certainly not out loud. And in public. But yeah, it's been a decade.
Ethan Waldman 13:45
Yeah. And so you've taught at Yestermorrow. I've taught as well. And then you've also run your own courses through through your own business.
Lina Menard 13:57
Absolutely. And, you know, it's funny, because I've actually taught tennis considerations before. And you were teaching Tiny House Decisions. But I'm so excited about this teaming up, because now we're pulling together all these ideas and really collaborating on it, which is so exciting.
Ethan Waldman 14:15
Yeah, well, let's like, let's just kind of lay some, like some info on on our good listeners here. So this is, this is going to be an eight week course with Lina and I as your instructors. So each week, we will give you some kind of either a recorded presentation there, there will be homework. So come in expecting to you know, have to read some things have to think about some things. And then there's going to be a live session with us every single week. Correct?
Lina Menard 14:51
Right. Yeah, I'm really excited to see what sort of questions people come up to because one of the things it's been really neat over the last decade, thanks for reminding me, is that there's so much more information out there, you know, and so people, people are a lot more informed in a lot of ways because they've been seeking all these different resources. And yet it's hard to sift through it all.
Ethan Waldman 15:14
Lina Menard 15:14
Right. And so I think there's even more questions than there used to be because people have more ideas about what to ask. But it's hard to make choices. Sometimes when there's, you know, everybody in their grandmother is building tiny house right now. Right.
Ethan Waldman 15:30
And that's, that was something that, I think, you know, we're working on the on the, like, sales page for this course and I think you wrote this that, like, when we started, there wasn't enough info. Now, there's too much.
Lina Menard 15:44
Ethan Waldman 15:45
And it's just so easy to get lost in it, and just kind of consume content, watch tiny house tours, like, "Oh, that's a great idea," or like, just get in the weeds on these things. And so we're kind of saying, we have maybe 20 years combined between us of time spent teaching people about tiny houses, following the movement, staying current working on builds, and we've kind of developed a curriculum to to take you... Well, let's talk about like, we're taking them from, from what and to what like-
Lina Menard 16:25
Yeah, I mean, we're gonna start out with kind of getting oriented and talking about some of the inspiration, some of the, you know, pretty pictures we're seeing out there, those videos that show all this transformer stuff, and whatever else it might be. And then, then we're going to go through talking about some of those really big picture questions, things about timeframe, and cost and regulatory issues and kind of figuring out if, if tiny is for you, which I think is super important to think about.
And then we're gonna start getting into some of the logistical stuff. So we'll cover heating and ventilation and air conditioning, and electrical, some of those systems that make up house and houses kind of go together, talk about water, and sanitation. And we'll also talk about the structure itself, that the foundation, the trailer, or if it's not on wheels, other foundation options. And then the way that the building actually gets built that wall assembly, that roof assembly to make the envelope to make the shell of the house. And then of course, we'll talk about some interior stuff to how to make it pretty and how to make it home.
And then the other part, I think, is really useful here. And this is something that I'm grateful, we're able to talk about, with the experiences we've had is talking about how to actually move it towards reality, like what what does it take to start thinking through where and how to park and how to move or travel with your house? If it's if it's mobile? And how do you fund a dwelling that's pre legal? You know, I think there's just a lot of stuff to consider here that doesn't necessarily get addressed, and the, "reality" TV shows that have unrealistic timelines or budgets, or they're kind of faking the drama, there's plenty of drama. Right, but, but let's take out some of it, right?
Ethan Waldman 18:18
Yeah. Yeah. And when you say, like talking about, we're going, we're basically like, taking the knowledge that's in our heads and teaching it to you. And by the end of the eight week course, you know, my goal, at least, is that you will have not a set of plans, because that's a different thing. You're not going to have drawings for your tiny house. But you'll have a plan for your tiny house as in, how big is it going to be? Is it going to be on wheels? How will you heat it? How will you electrify it? What kind of insulation will you use? Or will you use SIPs or some other framing material. All those decisions will be made for - Well, they won't be made for you, you will have made them but with with the help of Lina and I as your instructors, and then also with the group of other students. So this is not like scroll the long sales page, buy an ebook and do it yourself. This is very much like this is a live class.
Lina Menard 19:22
And I'm so excited to be able to do this with a group of people. Because it's it's really fun to see people working together and collaborating and getting excited for each other. And, you know, I I've been doing design classes to Ethan I have taught 10 Yes, design classes together. And one of the things that's kind of tricky about doing the design class is that there are so many considerations, and it's hard to fit it all in. So I'm excited about the zooming out being able to really explore the considerations. And then people who are interested in doing either a design class or doing their own design or working with a designer Are we so ready for that?
Ethan Waldman 20:02
Right? You really, I'm trying to come up with like a metaphor for this. And I'm like, I think that like starting to design your tiny house without having made all these decisions in advance would be like jumping straight into like an advanced math class before you learned, you know, multiplication division, like the basic algebra, like, you know, because this, like, I don't want people to think that this is all really simple stuff, because like, this is some nitty gritty building science. Let's, I feel like I've just been ranting a little bit. Do you have another thing that you wish you knew?
Lina Menard 20:45
Well, you know, one of the things that I, I wish that I knew, when I got started with my build was a little bit more about electrical. You know, and I know that in this particular course, we're not going into like a lot of detail of electrical. But I feel like if I had understood systems a little bit better, like if I kind of understood the big picture of how it all came together in terms of, you know, what's it? What's an HVAC system? Right? What does that even mean? You know, and where do I want to put it in my house? Those sorts of things. You know, I just, as I was designing my house, I didn't fully understand the systems yet. And I think if I had spent a little more time thinking through some of the system's decisions, I would have been in a better place to really use the space. Well, yeah, I think it turned out okay. But, but it definitely would have been better to have understood that first.
Ethan Waldman 21:37
Totally. And like, I will, I will buddy off of that like and give an example of like, my house is only 30 amps. It's two to 15 amp circuits. And if I wanted to say upgrade from my current heating system, which is direct vent propane, I would love to get away from propane, and do a heat pump. But I don't know that I could do a heat pump with my existing electrical plan, I would potentially have to add another panel. Because I'm already maxing out one side of my circuit board. With my I switched from a propane to an electric hot water heater. And so that's technically 12 amps right there. And then to put the AC on the other side, I don't know like, I don't know if I could do it.
And that's an example of something that I wish I had understood how to think through my electrical needs, but then also think about the future, like giving myself more headroom. So in case I did want to switch off of a propane appliance like that, I would have enough capacity for that. I'll talk about a like a construction decision that I wish that I had understood. Or maybe maybe it's not a construction decision, but I just wish I had known more about thermal bridging. And you know, what, what is referred to as our insulation, so putting out a layer of insulation outside of your studs, so that you can not have that transfer of heat through the studs. Because my tiny house is warm enough, but it is not. It has never performed in the cold as well as I had expected it to. I think I had always just remember reading on Tumbleweed's website, like, "You can heat this house, like we have these in Alaska, and they're nice and warm." And it's just like with R20 all around in a stick framed house. Like I call I call BS like, like those floors are frigid. And like the house has never been drafty, because it's very tight. It's very well built. But like every stud, every window, every corner, you know, there's a lot of opportunity for losing heat. And so yeah, that's like totally something that we're going to drill into you in this course.
Lina Menard 24:30
Is there anything else we want people to know before they sign up?
Ethan Waldman 24:34
Well, yeah, so there's going to be an early bird registration. Well, we should probably like tell people when this starts because you know, you might want to look at your calendar and clear for some time so I think we kick it off. September 2
Lina Menard 24:54
We'll share some info September 2 so people can be ready for first class on the 9th.
Ethan Waldman 25:00
First class is on September 9, registration is going to be opening soon. And there will be an early bird rate with a pretty significant discount,
Lina Menard 25:13
like, save some money, put it towards your tiny house fund on this discount. It's big.
Ethan Waldman 25:19
Yeah, well, if people want to learn more, they can head over to thetinyhouse.net/considerations. And if you go there now, what that's going to bring you to is a place where you can sign up to kind of be on the waitlist. And then as soon as early bird registration opens up, you will be the first to know. And this course is limited in size. So there will be this will fill up and then it'll cap out. And then I think the next time we'll run it, depending on how we like doing it will be January. But yeah, tiny house, thetinyhouse.net/considerations, get on the waitlist, it's been a long time in the making for Lina and I had to do this together, maybe I'll say a little bit more about it, it's just that so Tiny House Decisions, my guide book is actually kind of the core textbook for this class. So by enrolling your you will also get a copy of Tiny House Decisions.
And then Lina, one thing that I've always admired about teaching with you is just all of the amazing worksheets, like all the exercises that you've you've developed to help people clarify their needs to really start to learn to think as designers. And so you're bringing a lot of those exercises and that kind of content to the class. And then there's the Tiny House Decisions workbook, which is kind of, you'll be creating your own resource where you kind of pull this whole thing together. And you'll you'll basically have a document that that says everything about your tiny house that you could bring to a designer that you could use to design, or that you could bring to a contractor or a builder to say like, "This is what I want, like a design build type person."
Lina Menard 27:23
It's pretty exciting stuff. Yeah. And I think too, you know, one other thing that I really appreciate about the tiny house community is that so many people are resourceful, and scrappy, and DIYers, certainly not everybody, there are a lot of folks who are going to be doing this course because they want to be really informed. So that as they work with a designer or work with a builder, they know what questions to ask, they know how to how to do specifications, right How to say what it is they really want. But I appreciate that a lot of people are scrappy, and, and I am excited that we're able to offer this course, at the price point we can because by all these people learning together, and all of us being able to support them through this, this is going to be a really good way for people to save time and money and heartache by being informed and educated and empowered going into this project. So I think that's really going to be a neat aspect of all of us. You and me and other people are going to join for this teaming up together. And by doing it in September and October, people also have the opportunity to really spend this winter designing and getting things in order. So next summer, we can build.
Ethan Waldman 28:43
Yeah, exactly. This is like you can't just wake up in April of 2022. Like and be like, "I'm gonna start building a tiny house now the weather's warm," like this is getting you started so that you can start, you know, this is like really getting you off on the right foot. So that's a great point. Awesome. Well, I think that I put you on the spot for recording this show. And I'm actually really happy how it came out. So looking forward to hearing from people who join the waitlist. And we're excited. We're still hard at work creating all the content for Tiny House Consideration. So hope to see you in the class if it if it you know, obviously if it feels right for you. And you're interested in our help we will look forward to working with you.
Lina Menard 29:35
Awesome. Talk to you soon, y'all.
Ethan Waldman 29:39
Thank you so much to Lina Menard for being a guest on today's show. You can find out more about Tiny House Considerations and join the waitlist for when we launch at thetinyhouse.net/considerations. That's the thetinyhouse.net/considerations. You can also find the complete show notes for this episode including a transcript at thetinyhouse.net/172. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/172 where we will also have links to the waitlist where you can sign up to be the first to find out about Tiny House Considerations. We are really looking forward to meeting our future students and working with you so if this sounds like it is something for you, head over to thetinyhouse.net/considerations.
Well, that's it for this week's show. 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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