Jamboree Houses – Part One

With over 20 Tiny Houses officially on display at the first ever (and we hope to become an annual event) Tiny House Jamboree, held in Colorado Springs, Colorado over the last three days, we applied for a Guiness World Book of Records citation for the most tiny houses ever gathered in one place. I also managed to see a few other houses over my weekend. Below is just a small sampling and only one aspect of this large event that some say drew up to 18,000 people on its busiest day, Sunday. Final numbers are still being tallied. I will write more when I have a moment to stop and rest. Lots of traveling to do to return home, and I’ll post about my trip as well. Social media and traditional media are exploding right now to cover this event, pre during and post. Search for the #TinyHouseJamboree in your favorite social network and you’ll find more than you can handle.

Links are provided below to learn more about each home that I toured. I am not yet posting interior shots, because each builder may have better ones and I have to do some editing. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to tour every home. The event was crazy busy and lines were longer than a ride at Disney. I spent most of my time having great conversations and watching the main stage presentations. More on that in a different post. Enjoy the eye candy.


Meet the very first production models of the Morrison hOMe by EcoCabins, the host of the event. There were 28 feet (above) and 24 feet models in addition to a steel frame so you could see the ‘bones’ and significant engineering that go into these homes. The feeling of the EcoCabins version, a collaborative effort with Andrew and Gabriella Morrison, is reworked from the original in which the family lives in Southern Oregon.

Tumbleweed had two models on display, the Mica (formerly known as the Popomo) – a real favorite of mine (below) – and the Cypress (above). Very sharp.


 Tumbleweed managed to acquire the original, built by Jay Shafer in 1999. He lived in this house for five years while bootstrapping his first company and now owns Four Lights Tiny House Company (not on display at this event). Pictured above is the real Jay Shafer, walking back into his house for the first time in many years. He told me where the secret compartments are. Just kidding.

Speaking of Jay Shafer, while signing his book for eager fans, someone brought a really tiny house. I love seeing 3D printed models of designs. It’s a great use of this technology.


Sprout Tiny Homes had two models, which take a a modern approach both inside and out. I found the exterior to be very well crafted and a standout in the crowd. The stairs with build in storage and guest Murphy bed are unique features, built custom to these models.

While not a tiny house, I have to give a shout out to BlackFlagCoffee, who had this elegant mobile kitchen next their tent. If you haven’t experienced a pour over from them, you haven’t had coffee yet. Pairs so good with a Gooey Butter Cake.

I didn’t learn much about this one, however it was great to see a DIY model on display in the North lot. There were more homes to tour than could fit in the tiny village.

Another off the beaten path, this house by Kona Contractors was worth touring, as it was built without a high loft, conceived to surround a lovely Italian Murphy bed. See my video of this thing in action.


This home, the last featured in this post (again, stay tuned for more) is by Tiny House Chattanooga. The break in the roofline takes a simple shed roof form and makes it really appealing.

My Super Exciting UnBoxed Road Trip to the Tiny House Jamboree (plan)

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.  ~ by Robert Frost (from “The Road Not Taken”)

I have so much writing to catch up on… and these next two weeks aren’t going to help. Redefining what’s important in life, building a tiny house, and taking on new responsibilities at the office have kept me busy.

It’s official. I will be at the Tiny House Jamboree, in Colorado Springs late next week. Over ten thousand people have registered for this free, yes free event. You can still show up and register on site. Do it!

For a Tiny House enthusiast like myself, the opportunity to go to the very first Tiny House Jamboree event is such a privilege. I was also lucky enough to attend the first two Tiny House Conferences (in Charlotte, NC and Portland, OR) the last two Springs. This will be a little different. It is a different vibe than other events, not better necessarily, just more like a festival, it is substantially bigger, is free for attendees – sponsored by vendors, will have live music and of course one of the most kick-ass lineups of Tiny House speakers ever assembled.

Things are starting to align really well on this trip. I’ve got my camping gear, lots of great stuff to listen to, and the determination to make this a journey like no other. The exact details and locations are removed to protect the innocent. I leave early on Wednesday morning and am essentially driving 45 hours round trip — enough to cross the country if I straightened out the roads. I’m super pumped just looking at the map, thinking of the people and places I’ll get to see in five days of driving in addition to the three-day event. This is going to rock. If you want to follow my progress on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, I’ll be using the tag #MyTinyRoadTrip.


The Torch of July

Sparks flew, loud kabooms rocked the neighborhood and there  were plenty of oohs and ahhhs. Of course, I’m talking about more progress on BentoBox in the form of cutting metal. Oh, there was the Fourth of July too. I pretty much slept through the fireworks from exhaustion.

We used an acetylene/oxygen torch which was significantly faster, although much messier and slightly more dangerous (given two explosive gasses are at play). Luckily, my neighbor has significant experience and equipment for welding and cutting steel.

Note, I do advocate safety. Be sure to follow all precautions and wear your safety gear. I always do. I am not responsible for those that don’t. For instance, when I polished the threshold where my new from door will sit, I used all the gear. Leather jacket/apron, leather gloves, face shield and hearing protection (see last photo). I also highly recommend grinding wheels with an added coarse grit paper on the wheel, like a corner/edge grinding flap disc type.

The moment the torch breaks through is mesmerizing. We captured some of that for you, here.Just like my progress building and blogging, I bring it to you in living color and slow motion.

Intentionally left the walls mostly up with just the corners attached for security. We did open the roof. Even though it’s Seattle, the current drought has meant I can leave the roof uncovered while adding the headers and framing above. More on that in the next post. You can see a hint of it in the last photo in the gallery below.



The original story on Hipstercrite is important to read first. Again, don’t click on my important video response until you read the article above, FIRST.


Now, I don’t live in a tiny house yet, but I will someday soon. My video response captures how I feel about it:

Video Response

Never give up. Never surrender. – Jason Nesmith / Commander Taggert

BentoBox – Latest Renderings

Designers Gonna Design. That’s the way it is. I just can’t stop refining my design until the components are in place and built.

So, here are the latest images of the BentoBox  (click on an image to enlarge):

I’ve got two hats on my house. I did start framing the second ‘hat’. Updated photo progress coming soon. The little low slung beret, where hipsters can hang out on the roof deck (after signing a waver or I figure out a way to get a railing up there).

The second roof has a split personality. In the ‘parked’ configuration as seen here is a shed roof.  The hat on my house as well as many local buildings,  affectionately referred to by architects in this area as the Seattle Sombrero.

Speaking of hats. Yes, it rains a lot here. So the flat roof is not really flat (sloped 1/4″ per foot) and as you may have noticed in my previous post, has an integrated roof drain (sloped 1/2″ per foot) which will be connected to a removable downspout for rainwater harvesting.

During travel mode, the shed roof folds flat, to stay under the maximum height of 13′-6″ (4.11 meters). That is the most common DOT standard in the states and provinces of the USA and Canada. The house is a bit taller than most tiny houses when parked.  Full height (for me) in the tatami room is important. That room is 42 inches (1050mm) above the main level, so all these heights add up fast, including the trailer. The roof overhead will be a continuous standing seam metal roof with that material continuing down the back wall.

The exterior materials are composed of a combination of steel, dark brown stained wood windows and shou sugi ban wood siding, a Japanese technique of burning wood to seal it from the elements. Here’s a fantastic video by Delta Millworks in Texas, who I hope to work with for my project.

Delta Millworks (Trailer) from Good Luck Sir on Vimeo.

I’ve never seen anyone do such beautiful work as they do, examples of different species and techniques are found here: http://www.deltamillworks.com/shou-sugi-ban/ 

I’ll still be working out the construction details and materials for the area above the fixed wall on the shed roof. I would love to do something like a highly insulated translucent panel, however must be mindful of the budget.

Is that a hat on my house?

Here’s a little update on the BentoBox progress thus far. The winter months are starting to fade away as the Seattle weather changes. A lot of prepwork inside has led us to where we are: 2×3 studs are attached to the container walls as the structure for the insulation and siding, the window framing is in place and I am ready to cut holes for the kitchen and bathroom windows. We’ve had several comfortable days of sun and temperatures in the 60s F (15-20 C). That’s roof weather!



My house now has a little hipster hat. Yes, this will be the basis of a roof deck covering about an 8×8 area over the kitchen and bath. The design detail called for some extra head scratching to be sure. It’s important for me to ensure the house width stays under the DOT standard of 8′-6″ (2590 mm). This gave me an opportunity to create a shadow line and a way to still have a continuous soffit vent. For those of you inclined, I’ve attached the detail below.



The deck joists at 12″ on center sit on perimeter rim joists. Simpson Strong-Tie products are used extensively. These include: A24 steel angles (which measure 2″ x 4″) and stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts (to prevent reaction with the container’s weathering steel) hold the rim joists to the container, and H1 hurricane clips and joist hangers are used above to ensure everything is stable, and will not uplift in the event of a strong wind (which is what will happen anytime the house is moved on the freeway).


The tight spacing of the joists meant it was very challenging to get a framing hammer in there for much of the work. A palm impact nailer, suggested by Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life did the job nicely. I had no idea it would be so different from a typical nail gun.


You load each nail individually, which allows using the proper nails recommended for the fastener system. Magnets and ball bearings hold ferrous metal nails in place so you can line up the nail with your work. It pounds the nail in with successive hammering action, versus a single quick burst of air. It’s a bit like the game “Operation”. Don’t touch the sides, and don’t touch the nail to anything you do not wish to drive it into. It’s very sensitive. ALWAYS wear your safety goggles.


Attaching hurricane clips. Hannah Crabtree of PocketMansions.com makes quick work of this with the new palm nailer.


I’ve purchased a very simple plastic trench drain – intended to be used on a driveway outside a garage opening. This comes in a 10 foot length. I do not plan to cut it until I’ve finished the tapered deck that will send all water to this. This is sloping at 1/2″ per foot and the built-up roof deck will slope at 1/4″ per foot toward the middle. A roof membrane will be laid on top. My next update will show how I am insulating, venting and flashing the roof to keep everything dry and cozy below.

Make a list, make a budget

When building something as complex as a house, it’s always a good idea to have a plan. That part was solidified over the holidays, and now I’ve begun making lists. Shopping lists, wish lists, comparison lists, lists of lists, and no project could be completed without a schedule, and a budget. The schedule we’ll get to in a future post. Let’s first talk some numbers. By the way, that’s Piggleston above, the Burke family piggy bank and future vacation fund. Say hello.

Making a budget would be a real challenge without prior construction experience. It’s sort of like a game of The Price is Right. Guess too low and you will be in for a surprise com build time, have aspirations that you cannot afford would be a real let down. On the other hand, guessing too high (really rare for most of us) would mean you may simplify your design so much that you are unhappy with the final result and perhaps unable to change your mind later. I wanted to put this together, because I have been challenged by a few nay sayers who don’t believe my budget to be real, or that a tiny house could be built for under $145 per square foot. Of course, I already know that some houses have been built for half my budget by relying on many reclaimed materials and/or sponsors. My new freind Macy Miller built her amazing modern tiny house on wheels with only $11,500 just two years ago.

I’ve done my best to make these numbers realistic – having researched heavily into several of the more costly areas so I could know what to maximize and where to reduce costs. For instance, I knew that I really wanted my design to have significantly more glass than the typical tiny house on wheels. To save money, and preserve the design intent – I will be fabricating my own window frames and sashes, and just having the insulated glass units made to order. I will be spending $35 per square foot on materials versus $65/SF for clad wood windows with all the bells and whistles. Sure, I could put in my labor, however I’m doing this (and building the house in the first place) because I know I will appreciate the experience. Tracking my labor, especially design time would be impossible. I dream about the design, think about it while commuting to work, and spent many a late night tossing out, sketching new and rediscovering old ideas.

Below is my materials budget, both current and with a couple of future projects that I plan to add later. I’ve organized it according to the Construction Specification Institute (CSI.org). This is the most common way of describing materials used for building in the United States. I’ve removed divisions that have no relevance in residential construction.

I did add a section for tools and any labor I need to contract out – which I will try to minimize. I’ve already spend half that on some tools I wanted not just for this project, also for other unrelated projects. As a result, I have broken the tools and labor out so they don’t count toward my goal.

The BentoBox won’t have a hot tub (yet), however since someone else might, I left in the division 13 on Special Construction – ’cause if someone builds an ice rink or swimming poor on or in their tiny house, I want to see it!

As I get all my receipts organized, I will start showing how I’m tracking to the budget – and try to explain what unexpected items I’ve come across. Realizing that this framework is very specific to my choices, especially the decision to build around a shipping container, your mileage will vary.

Pencil Sharpening

Starting your own project soon? I suggest sharpening your pencils and getting to it. It’s not that hard. You can even download the attached Budget Template spreadsheet as your starting point. Good luck.

CSI Division Number CSI Division Name General contents Budgeted
Division 00 Procurement and Contracting Requirements Legal, Contracts, Fees, Permits, etc…


Division 01 General Requirements Tools, Rental, Construction Facilities, Temporary Construction, Cleaning and Waste Management, Labor


Division 02 Existing Conditions Shipping Container


Division 03 Concrete Slab on grade, foundation piers, etc..


Division 04 Masonry Concrete masonry units


Division 05 Metals Metal Studs, Fasteners, Hurricane clips, etc…


Division 06 Wood, Plastics, and Composites Wood Studs, Plywood, etc…


Division 07 Thermal and Moisture Protection Insulation, Siding, Roofing


Division 08 Openings Windows, Doors


Division 09 Finishes Gypsum Board, flooring, trim and moldings


Division 10 Specialties Bathroom accessories, fireplace and stove, cooking stove, fire extinguisher


Division 11 Equipment Refrigerator, washing machine, etc…


Division 12 Furnishings Art, Furniture, drapes, shades, cabinets and countertops


Division 13 Special Construction Hot tubs, ice rinks, swimming pools, vaults


Division 14 Conveying Equipment Hydraulic lifts, slide out mechanisms, etc…


Division 21 Fire Suppression Fire sprinkler system


Division 22 Plumbing Sinks, tub, faucets, water heater, etc


Division 23 Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning Heater, air conditioners, exhaust fans, dehumidifiers, etc…


Division 25 Integrated Automation Home automation, including learning thermostats, occupancy sensors,


Division 26 Electrical Switches, outlets, electrical system, lighting, storage batteries


Division 27 Communications Wifi, Telephone, network cable, routers and ports


Division 28 Electronic Safety and Security Video surveillance, electronic locks, smoke and CO2 detectors, gas leak detectors


Division 31 Earthwork Work to prepare your parking for the project


Division 32 Exterior Improvements Landscaping, paving, gravel, etc


Division 33 Utilities Water storage tanks, propane tanks, Any connections to utilities or items not permanently attached to the THoW


Division 34 Transportation Trailer, vehicles, etc…


Division 44 Pollution Control Equipment Water filters, air filters


Division 48 Electrical Power Generation Solar panels, wind turbines
Total Spend


Project Phase Total (minus tools)


Update, BentoBox design is now really close





Here’s a preview of my current design in progress – Bento Box, a one of a kind shipping container THoW. I spent the last hour annotating the floor plan to make it easier to explain the components. I’ll model the “garage” and other areas below the sleeping/living platform later this weekend and add this to my blog.

Comments and questions are most welcome. I’m so excited I got all the major layout issues worked out in the last two weeks.

I will miss the butterfly roof… it just doesn’t get me the headroom. The only way around that is to punch up past the allowable 14’ height for the west coast states’ DOT limit. I could do something with hydraulics, which while would be the most amazing tiny house ever, might just be beyond my capabilities.

Exterior Progress

IMG_2601.JPGI have a significant number of posts in draft form, especially from houses and Tiny Housers I have visited in the last few months. I’ll get those up soon enough. Let’s talk about now. I’m celebrating, for two reasons – I’ve created some tangible evidence of activity happening on this project, and I made my first little video. I’m sure production will improve over time. For now, I’m just trying to document what I can as I work. Nothing fancy.

I made a trip with the pickup I have access to get some materials; 2×3 studs and the first of many poly-iso boards. I set up a chop saw with a stop to quickly cut each to length.


My lovely assistant Betsy came by the house to help. She held the studs in place while I tapped the metal corrugated wall and initially anchored them. IMG_2609.JPG

Here’s a little video walk around…

Now I can finish this part of work on my own. Each stud will be held by self-tapping 1 1/4″ #12  hex screws at 8″ on center and construction adhesive. Once I’m finished with this process, the insulation boards will go on. I will be welding a steel relieving angle at the bottom and attaching anchors at 4′ and top. Notice how they fit neatly into the valley of the corrugated wall?

IMG_2612.JPGI like the way these fasteners look on the interior and they will tell a story of the assembly of the house. The rubber washers will also prevent any moisture from the interior getting into the wall cavity.

That’s all for now. There’s much work ahead to prepare for the insulation and siding – which will be a rain screen of 1×4 and 1×6 western hemlock. So exciting.

The Eagle has Landed

I’ll be putting together a few images and possibly a short video of this over the next several weeks. So many things happening all at once, it’s very exciting. I’ve got some news about press coverage on my project to share soon, and will be hosting a project kickoff party with my local Tiny House Enthusiasts group.

I must admit, this is the largest thing I’ve ever had delivered. At nearly $1 per pound, it seems like I got a screaming good deal. Thank you Port Containers for all your great customer service. I wish I had specified which way to face the doors… hindsight being 20/20, I may need to make a few adjustments to my design. The towing company was professional, and I was surprised how easily it dropped where I needed it.

The container is now set on the driveway on exterior grade plywood, and this weekend I will jack it up on temporary cribbing to level it. I’ve made a couple of very crude renderings in Revit to mock-up the roof and materials. Am very pleased with where things are heading. The trailer design is also coming along – progress image below.

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