Independent Education Project: Building a tiny house

Ed. note: This is a guest post by Hannah Wnuk, a participant in Rise Out’s 2014 Independent Education Project. Hannah is building a tiny house. Please consider supporting her project through her Indiegogo campaign

Hello All,

My name is Hannah, I’m 16, and I am a homeschooler. This year and until I graduate I will be taking a more unschooler route to my education. What I love about unschooling is that I can take a project I am really interested in and make it part of my education. The project I have my heart set on is building a tiny house for myself.

The term “Tiny House” generally refers to a house that is 400 square feet or less. They are often built on trailers, but not always. They are inexpensive to live in, and generally have a low environmental impact. The Tiny House Movement has been making a push to get more people in smaller, more environmentally friendly homes, and to simplify their lives. I love that idea.

I have always loved being in small spaces. When I was little, I slept in my closet for a month because the walls on either side felt comforting. When I got a bit older, my dad and I started to build a tree house in my backyard that I could hang out in. He was a very good builder and I would have learned how to build very well if we had had the opportunity to build more than the basic floor frame. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was 11. I didn’t get to learn all his skills from him and I know he would be so proud of me for planning to build this tiny house.

I learned about tiny houses online. I found one cool video, then another, then another, and pretty soon it was 2:00am in the morning and I had spent the past 5 hours watching videos and looking at blogs about tiny houses. Originally, I thought it was a cool idea but nothing more. I never expected to want to live in one, let alone build it myself.

As time passed and I immersed myself more into the idea of living in a tiny house, I found that it really appealed to me. I watched an episode of Hoarders and did a “deep clean” of my bedroom. In retrospect, I didn’t get rid of much, but it was a start.

I had ignited my dream of living a minimalist life in a tiny house.

As a homeschooler, my education centers on my interests, and this past year I made it very clear to my mom that I was interested in tiny houses. I spent hours looking at all the different houses and styles and I fell in love with a particular house from Tumbleweed. Together we went to and bought me a set of blueprints for a tiny house that is 18’ long by 7.5’ wide.

Shortly after the holiday season at the end of 2014 my mom decided that if I am going to build a tiny house, I must get myself some resources, and she signed me up for a weekend tiny house workshop that I recently completed.

The workshop was very helpful to me because it gave me a more complete understanding of what I was getting into. I learned about what kind of bathroom systems are best and what an R Value is when you are talking about insulation. I got a lot of contacts with people who can help me or could point me in a helpful direction. I also got a book that included everything I learned about in the workshop so I will be able to consult it at home.

Already I have looked back into the book to find out about trailers and the different options that Tumbleweed sells. I plan to buy a trailer from them because that way I know I will not have any major problems with that aspect of my build.

I have saved money in my “Tiny House Account” since I began working and will continue to save. I plan to sell a lot of my belongings, from Pokemon cards to clothes to my entire Polly Pocket collection that I’ve had since I was 3 years old.I’m doing as much dog and cat sitting in my neighborhood as I can to earn more money. But in order for this project to begin in this year, I need outside help. I have estimated that the build for my dream-home/school-project is going to be about $30,000. I will use reclaimed materials where I can, to lower the price, but the best way to save in the long term, living in the house, is to spend a little bit more on the build. That way I can assure I will have minimal problems in the future.

I have a builder who has built his own tiny house on board with my project. He has agreed to help mentor me with the process. I plan to build a model in SketchUp and have him help me perfect it.

I am very excited to build my tiny house and can’t wait to get started.

These are the things I will learn as I create my tiny house:

  •  I will learn trigonometry through making measurements on my tiny house.
  • I will learn writing with things like this blog post and other ways of raising awareness and money
  • I will learn HOW TO BUILD MY OWN HOUSE
  • I will learn how to use power tools
  • I will learn how to use SketchUp
  • I will learn how to ask people for help graciously
  • I will learn how to budget
  • I will learn how to convince people to help me build
  • I will learn how to market myself and spread awareness for things like the tiny house movement and my project
  • I will learn about building codes and housing laws
  • I will learn physics through building
  • I will learn how to keep in touch with useful people
  • And I will learn so much more