Home Show & Bylaw Progress

I was at the Edmonton Home & Garden Show on Saturday, helping out Steve Zaleschuk from Finished Right Contracting. He had a tiny house on display, only at the lock-up stage, so people could see how they were constructed. We had some mixed reaction from people. Some just peeked their heads in, commented that it wasn’t finished, and then went on their way. Others enjoyed the fact that they could see the craftsmanship that goes into constructing a home.

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Steve doesn’t use any O.S.B. or any particle boards in anything. Exterior sheeting is done with plywood and the sub-floor is done with tongue & groove Fir. Wall framing is done on 16-inch centers and the sheeting is glued & screwed on every stud. Loft and roof framing is on 12-inch centers, so once sheeted they are solid.

Once the framing and sheeting is on, and the wiring is run, we do 3 – 3 1/2 inches of spray foam. This is a bit more expensive than batt insulation, but well worth it because it gives us an R-22 value, gives us some more rigidity, acts as a vapour barrier, and is fire resistant.

We also use tankless hot water on-demand units to heat the domestic water as well as the radiant in-floor heating. Just like the insulation, this is more costly from the on-set, but will save you a lot more money in the long run, and saves space.

These are just a few of the examples of the craftsmanship that goes into every tiny we build. Although the units are classed as RV here and as such, are not regulated by building codes, Steve meets or exceeds the building codes on every unit.

Now, some things I also learned about at the Home Show that I hadn’t known about yet are:

  1. The town of Big Valley, Alberta has designated 22 lots to build a small Tiny Home Community.
  2. Sturgeon County (just north of Edmonton) is re-writing their by-laws to accommodate and include Tiny Houses.
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What is a Tiny Home?

One of the biggest questions I get asked most often from people is, “What is a Tiny Home?” It’s a fair question, and I am going to try to explain as much as I can from what I have learned from research and hearsay from ‘the experts’.

How Big is a Tiny Home?

A tiny home is a self-contained structure that is typically under 500 square feet (46.5 square meters).

Now the dimensions are where we get into some regulations. I am sure the restrictions and bylaws are different everywhere you go, and this also depends on whether or not you intend to transport your tiny home, but here is what I have noticed mostly everywhere in Canada and the United States.

Anything under 8′-6″ wide and 13′-6″ high from ground to peak can be transported without a permit. The allowable lengths differ from province to province and state to state. Here is a handy AAA reference. Anything between 8′-6″ wide and 12′-0″ wide requires a permit to transport, which vary in cost anywhere from $20 to $200 (check with your local municipality). Anything over 12′-0″ requires a pilot truck, and I am pretty sure those probably are not cheap.

Now, those dimensions are for tinys that require transport. If you are planning to build on site and not transport your tiny anywhere, local bylaws apply and I urge you to check them BEFORE you build. I have seen structures torn down because they did not adhere to local bylaws.

Where Can I Park a Tiny Home?

The best answer I can give to this question is you should be able to legally park a tiny home anywhere you can legally park a flat-deck trailer or RV. As with the building to code, location is another very grey area right now. I am finding that most times on the good old television shows like Tiny House Big Living, people are parking them on private owned land. On other shows like Tiny House Hunters, I see a lot of people parking them at RV parks.

Perhaps the best answer is to do your homework and due diligence and check with your local bylaw enforcement agency.

Does a Tiny Home Have to be Built to Building Code?

While we are discussing grey areas, now would be a great time to get really grey. The really grey area is the National Building Code (or provincial Building Code in my case for Alberta). Part 9 of The Alberta Building Code states that it applies to structures 3 storeys or less with a building area not exceeding 600 square meters (6,458.4 square feet). It also states that it does not apply to an accessory building not greater than 10 square meters (107.6 square feet).

The grey area is this, tinys can be on wheels (mobile) or built on skids  which makes them non-permanent structures which the building code does not apply to. But at the same time, once you are ‘living’ in a structure, it must meet certain safety requirements. Athough the code doesn’t specifically list ‘Tiny Homes’ or ‘Tiny Houses’, it does say words like ‘structures’ and ‘dwellings’ so technically I would say it applies. This is not an issue as there are some tiny home builders out there that already build to meet or exceed building code such as Finished Right Contracting.

The bottom line is, ALWAYS check with local municipalities regarding bylaws and use a builder that ensures your tiny is code-compliant whether it is required or not because they will be better structures in the end.