This is the third and last post in my series about our interactions with our local building inspector and the steps we took to get a Certificate of Occupancy thereby making our tiny house a legal single-family dwelling.
Andrew and Crystal Odom are seeking legal status in their North Carolina home. Good news over there, too!
Finding an engineer was like a scavenger hunt. I like those. We started by asking for referrals from everyone we know who is remotely connected with building and design. We called folks who gave us more referrals. Since it was the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we left a lot of voice-mail messages. We decided to put the search on hold until January 2nd. I got up early on the 2nd and started calling. I finally reached a real, live structural engineer, and his soothing voice reminded me of my Uncle Leon’s. I explained our situation. He assured me that it was something he’d worked with before, that it would cost about 3-5 hours of time at $75/hr. We scheduled his visit.
What a relief! The not knowing part was the hardest: Would we be able to find an engineer? Would he or she be willing to take on our project? Would it be crazy-expensive?
We sat with Mr. Engineer on the tiny house couch last Monday. When Karl explained the R-value of the insulation, and the structure of our house, Mr. Engineer looked over at me and said, “You can stop worrying now.” The light was streaming in from the window behind Karl’s head and looking across the room at him, I felt proud. He knows his stuff and knows how to figure out what he doesn’t know. He knows the questions to ask and understands the answers. I feel so much better knowing that the house passes code. I can’t wait to make it official with the engineer’s report in the building inspector’s hand. That should happen this week.
The engineer sent his report a few days after visiting us. He cited code and said our home “meets or exceeds” said code. The bill was for $331. Woohoo! Karl took the letter straight to the building inspector’s office, and headed to work.
Hearing Karl’s building inspector impression on my voice-mail made me jump for joy. “Ma’am, your engineer’s report is just what I needed. We’ll need to pull a permit for a single-family dwelling ($120). I’ll come inspect the tie-downs, and we’ll be set.”
All of the what-if scenarios were a necessary trajectory—the awful reality of not being able to live here made me appreciate all the more how special this home is. The fact that I need the approval of the building inspector reminds me that I am always going to be that girl who’s afraid of getting in trouble, but who pushes it just a little. It also speaks to the core human need for shelter and more importantly, home. We all need shelter, but if we have home–a place where we feel accepted, safe, and loved–we can come home to ourselves. Feeling uprooted and insecure about home is one of the most scary and vulnerable experiences I have ever had. I wish everyone in the world had a place to which they could come home.
The final inspection was quick and painless. The inspector looked at the tie-downs, told Karl that Mr. Engineer spoke highly of our little home and signed off on a tear-off tablet, “Active Certificate of Occupancy”. Karl walked in the house and handed it to me.
“Shouldn’t this be fancy with an embossed stamp? I think it goes up there with diplomas and birth certificates and stuff,” I said. But it’s just a tear-off from a pad that says Building Department at the top. I think I’ll frame it anyway. There’s got to be a place to hang it somewhere around here.