Created From Excess

Posted by on Oct 1, 2011 in Recent Posts, Salvage | 19 comments

Created From Excess

We constructed our home with things people didn’t need. I am grateful to the internet and craigslist for creating a revolutionary way to connect people who need things with people who want to get rid of them. Everything we need is already made and someone wants to get rid of it.

Our mission when building the tiny house was to buy as little “virgin materials” as possible. We stayed focused on buying what had already been used once. This commitment has produced a homey home, a place with stories. Rolling into Home Depot to load up on materials is much less charming than meeting a stranger through craigslist and helping to make use of their excess. There is more time commitment, but also more fun. Papa gets up every morning and checks craigslist for about 10 different things. When the opportunity comes to get something on his list, he makes a trip, has an adventure, feels better about what he’s bought and always saves money.

He recently took down a retired woman’s shed in trade for the wood. I can image her thinking she got such a deal – this handsome man showed up, made her laugh, took down her shed and raked up behind himself – hauling away the wood. There are many opportunities on craigslist to trade time for materials. Often, just showing up to haul it away is all folks want. After taking the woman’s shed down and helping another retired man dismantle his deck, we have enough wood to build our well house/laundry room/food storage building. From there, we will begin amassing more reclaimed materials to build a garage where we can continue salvaging for our small house.

A quick survey of the salvaged/used items in our tiny house:

Craigslist finds:

Flatbed trailer – It used to have a mobile home on top, but was already stripped down when we bought it. We sanded and painted it and built our tiny home on top.

Windows – Someone special ordered them and never paid for them. They were stacked in a man’s garage along with a lot more excess. These are too small for most homes, but just right for ours.

Wood floor – I bought 120 sq. ft. from a family who had it stacked up in their basement—leftovers from flooring their log cabin. The mom was home with her twins. We mamas loaded the car and did the deal. She was so happy to get it out of her basement. I paid her $140. It makes a beautiful floor for the tiny house and there is still a bit leftover.

Range – an apartment size from the 50s. It came out of an old lady’s estate. It appeared to be the extra one, maybe only used for holidays and canning.

Interior oak paneling – a craigslist find. A local family found their home structurally unsound and decided to take it apart piece by piece. Papa salvaged this beautiful wood by trimming the ends and pounding out the nails. I remember Pappy laughing when he visited for Christmas. “You guys are crazy.” It did seem a bit crazy, as I looked at all that wood piled up. Now, it makes our home very cozy and beautiful—even more so because of the extra labor and the knowledge that the wood is local and salvaged.

Range hood – oversized for the range, but vents the whole house in minutes. I bought it from a landlord who remodeled and got the wrong color. It was in a garage full of extra stuff.

Rigid foam insulation – This came from a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with foam panels. They buy the insulation from old warehouses and large structures as they are demolished. What an adventure that trip was – driving two hours to pick it up and about four to get it home. We had to drive back roads on the way home, because we stacked the insulation about 8 feet high and it wanted to take flight at speeds over 40 mph. We made a pit stop in Micanopy, FL, and met a few stray cats over ice cream. As I sit in our tiny home on this crisp, blustery Oct 1, I feel cozy and warm with only the heat from the 1950s gas range pilot light. I feel happy knowing that insulation surrounds us living a second life (or 3rd, 4th?) as the wrapping keeping the warmth in our tiny home.

Neighborly gifts:

Kitchen sink – I have a clear image of our badass-70-year-old neighbor (the one who sang karaoke for himself in his garage on Saturdays) ringing our door bell one morning holding a sink. Being a retired plumber, he had quite the collection of sinks and faucets too good to throw away, but not good enough for a client’s house anymore.  “I think this is a nice size for your project,” he said as he walked back across the yard. “Been hanging in my garage for long enough.” It is perfect for our house, and when I do dishes I think of his singing and smile.

Shower – a gift from our first neighbors in VA. It was in their garage when they bought their house. They were glad to have it used and claim the garage space for something else.

Our own excess:

The tile – leftovers from remodeling our home in FL. We had just enough to tile the tiny kitchen backsplash, bathroom backsplash and bathroom floor. I like the connection to our last home, the one we lived in when we got married, became parents and owned a restaurant.

Lights – all taken down by loyal customers volunteering their time as we closed our restaurant.

Upholstery fabric – a whole roll we bought and never needed for our restaurant.

Refrigerator – bottle cooler from our restaurant. I remember the Pepsi saleswoman’s agitation when she visited and saw beer displayed in it. I smile thinking about what she’d say now, as it has found its home in the tiny house. It gets a bit full some days, but it works. We’ve even gotten used to doing without ice.

Sticking to our mission has given us adventure, story and rich happiness unavailable at big box stores.



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  1. You know, we’ve often thought of doing the same thing (we’ve been following the tiny house movement for years, and discovered Tumbleweed/Jay Schafer 4 years ago while living in the most consumer of areas, NYC. Currently we’ve fulltiming and seeing America in our 1971 Airstream, but will eventually need to settle down once our kids get older, so here’s my question for you: How did you get whatever governmental entity where you live to give you a CO on your place? How did you get your permits for electricity, water, septic, etc? Most of the tiny houses get away with it because they are on wheels, which is a natural loophole that can be exploited, but being a family of 4 ourselves, we’d need a bit more space.


    • Our tiny house is on wheels, with a license plate. We have septic and electricity in place as though a 3 bedroom house is on the property (though there isn’t one). The tiny house taps into a special septic pipe on the plan for an “RV”.

  2. What a list – How inspirational!

    I’m glad you’re doing without ice ‘cos it shocks the stomach and shuts down the digestive juices, thus rendering the food in there undigested. This results in it putrefying in the intestines which releases poisonous toxins into the body. 🙂

    • Thank you, Patricia!

  3. When we lived in an old travel trailer (91 square feet)we tapped into the septic system thru a clean out port. We did however use the TT’s holding tanks, so as not to have an obvious connection. These days, we use a chemical toilet, finding places to dump legally has been a challenge, but not impossible. Sometimes you just have to obey the spirit of the rule, rather then the letter, if you live unconventionally.

  4. Hi,
    I discovered your site through the Tiny House Blog. It’s been a real inspiration. 🙂 I just have a quick question for you. Where did you get most of your salvaged materials? We’ve found a few things on Craigslist, but not a lot. Our local Restore charges outrageous prices; some of the used items cost more than the same item brand-new, and we can’t afford to pay those kind of prices.

  5. What floor plan did you use?

    • Hi Sara!
      Thanks for your question. We created our own floor plan, and we are working on publishing the plan. I will let you know when it’s ready.
      Hari (Mama)

  6. Why hello! I am fascinated by your story and will be scouring your blog for ideas and just the fantastic story included. About a year ago I decided that the tiny home life was for me. I started a plan and look forward to building my own from everyone elses great ideas! Thank you so much for your dedication to sharing your story. Any suggestions, or websites to look at for advice?!? Thatnks!

  7. Hi! I was wondering about a couple of things: Have you gotten any closer to releasing the floor plan of your tiny home? And would you mind sharing with me just how big your flatbed trailer was?

    My husband and I are considering building a tiny home for ourselves & our 3 small children. We’re hoping to find some land that we can live on in the tiny home while we build a more permanent house – much like you guys are doing.

    • Hi Heather!
      Our flatbed is 8’x21′
      We are very close to releasing our plans–release date is April 3rd! The same day as my ebook. Exciting times!
      Congrats on making the decision to live life your way!
      Keep us posted!

      • Awesome, thank you! I can totally justify your e-book as my birthday present, because my birthday is on the 1st! (And maybe I’ll be able to swing the plans, too.)

        Its proving to be kind of interesting trying to find a trailer over 18′, I will say. I’ve looked all over the place and nearly all of them end up being gooseneck trailers – which we just simply don’t have a vehicle that can accommodate one of those.

        • Heather, considering how we decided to situate our tiny house, it is unlikely that we will move it. If we do, we will need a crane. We have been talking about building tiny houses on skids and paying a trucking company to move them rather than spending so much on a trailer and tires. Something to consider if you think you’ll be semi-permanent. These suckers are heavy, so having a vehicle to pull them is expensive too. We moved our half built house with a big u-haul. Some food for thought…

          • Oh, I’m more thinking about when we find our land to move it onto, not being able to move it around indefinitely. Currently we’re staying with family, and this is our way to be able to move onto a section of land…wherever it may end up being, and get back on our own. 😉 We’d end up renting a uhaul as well, I think. I’m not terribly sure – we’re still working out all of the details.

            To get a trucking company to move something, or to hire an independent runner, you’re going to look at paying around $3 a mile – possibly less for a larger company, but I don’t know what kind of requirements would be with that. (My husband is an OTR flatbed truck driver, currently with a company, but considering going independent in the next year or two, so we’ve been doing a lot of research on current going rates and all that.) So to move something 1,000 miles, you’re looking at a straight up $3000 simply for moving it. And it seems like it would cost less to rent a uhaul truck anyway, and be able to retain a little bit of independent mobility not reliant on a semi-tractor being available.

            But then, we’ve also been considering converting a semi-tractor dry van trailer into a home. So long as my husband goes independent, we’d have the capability to move it without having to pay for anything more than the time off to move it and the fuel to get it to wherever we’re going. But that relies on quite a few factors, which is what’s making the tiny homes a bit more appealing, with the way you can move them with a uhaul rental.

            Anyhow – definitely still deciding on all of it and trying to work out the pros and cons to it all. 🙂

  8. Heather– wow! You guys could have the perfect tiny house situation–truck and all! Good luck finding the perfect trailer.

  9. Love your tiny house! And you website! How big is the piece of property that you guys built on? I have a half acre lot on a lake in Mississippi, and a 16 acre tract of land in Arkansas I’m wanting to build something like this on. Thanks for posting all of your experiences!

    • Hi Kenny! Our property is three acres. It’s great fun building a tiny house! We are almost ready to release the plans for our tiny house. I will announce the release in the free newsletter–sign up if you’d like to be notified. Best of luck with your land and building projects!! Thanks for reading.

      • Thank you for the response! I will definitely sign up for that.


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