There is a lot of planning for going tiny. All the downsizing, choosing your floor plan, your appliances and color palette. Then there is finding a place to put the house and getting the utilities hooked up. Getting your tiny house situated is a huge milestone, but it's not the end of your tiny house journey, it's the beginning. Like any home owner you now have to properly feed and water your dwelling. Every house has to be maintained, no matter how big or tiny. Whether you are already a tiny house dweller or if you are making tiny plans, this post aims to hit on some important tiny home maintenance considerations. It's not comprehensive but it's packed with info.
A properly leveled tiny house
Getting your tiny house level is task number one. Here is a list of things that can be affected by a level tiny house
Water runoff from the roof and drip edges
Proper function of windows, especially larger awning and casement windows
A front entrance door that easily closes and opens and has no bite from a crooked door frame
Mini Split condensation drainage
Functioning of cabinets and drawers inside the house
When leveling your tiny house, make an investment in a 36" or 48" box-beam or I-beam level. Don't use some busted up old level. Make sure the level is accurate. Points to level the house include the hitch, the front and back steel channels of the trailer, and the side steel channels of the trailer. At Wind River Tiny Homes we provide swivel jacks for adjusting the corners of the trailer. Be sure to place concrete pavers or thick treated timbers under the jacks to get them off the ground and provide extra stability. You don't want to jack the tiny house so high that the wheels are lifted off the ground. Lift the corners enough to take stress off the suspension but keep the tires on the ground for stability. Depending on the length of your house, you might also want to put additional jacks under the middle of the house. Keep in mind that even though the trailer has steel channels they will flex enough to need more support than just the four corners. If you ever use scissor jacks be very careful that they don't slip under tension and go flying.
Roof and siding
Every home owner has to get up on the roof every once in a while. It's very important to keep leaves, debris, and snow (as much as possible) off the roof of the house, especially if you have a skylight. This is important for the life of the roof and for preventing the collection of water that can lead to water seeping where it's not supposed to. Keeping the roof clean will also help preserve the color and durability of the metal roof. Be careful - some metal roofs have an air gap from the roof decking. If you need to climb up on your metal roof, be sure to step where you can see roof screws.
Many permanent foundation houses have eaves, boxing and overhangs that provide extra protection for the siding of the house. Because of size restrictions a tiny house often doesn't have these features. Instead there is often extra caulking in the siding and trim to provide protection from the elements. Caulking will invariably experience weathering from sun or freezing, or from flexing with temperature changes. About once a year be sure to inspect the house for caulk cracking/separating. But sure you get your eyes on the trim above the windows and doors. You might need a ladder. Caulk is often purposefully missing from the bottom of trim pieces but the sides and top of trim are usually caulked. If you are not sure what kind of caulk to use, ask your builder. At Wind River Tiny Homes we currently use SherMax and other Sherwin Williams caulking products.
If you have natural wood on the exterior of your tiny house, like cedar siding or trim, you will need to evaluate treating the wood annually. It's usually best to repeat prior treatments. Be sure not to slack on this maintenance. It's essential for maintaining the integrity of appearance of the wood.
Humidity and condensation
In a tiny house humidity tends to be on the high side. Humidity levels rise with showers, dish washing, boiling water on the stove top, and washing the floors. One of the biggest factors is people. People generate about 1.25 liters per day per person just by breathing. During various seasons of the year warm humid air inside or outside the house can lead to condensation. Humidity can lead to condensation and condensation can lead to mold growth or it can attract pests. There is a relationship between humidity, dew point, and temperature that can cause condensation in various ways. Every house will have some condensation issues somewhere. As a homeowner, the important thing is to understand what circumstances cause condensation in your home and how to prevent it. Here are some tips for controlling humidity in the home and avoiding condensation:
Monitor the humidity in your tiny home. Optimal humidity ranges in a tiny home are 45% to 55%.
Make sure your Mini Split runs consistently and efficiently so that it's dehumidifying capabilities are optimized
Perform regular maintenance on your Mini Split unit (read more on this below)
Run vent fans generously and during activities that cause additional humidity, like showering, cooking and cleaning
Make sure that warm humid air is not trapped behind furniture or home decor, allow space for air flow
Be mindful of covering the interior of the house with any kind of non-permeable material that will trap warm humid air
Use a dehumidifier
Educate yourself on the relationship between humidity, dew point, and temperature
Get a bunch of new appliances with your tiny house? Take time to read about regular cleaning and maintenance for those appliances. Also, take time to register the products with the manufacturer so you can take advantage of warranty terms if needed. When registering your appliances you can typically list your builder as the installer when asked. Don't put this off! Many new appliances require you to register within a certain amount of time after purchase or installation. It means paperwork and filling out forms but it's not as painful as finding out your appliance failure would have been covered under warranty if you had your ducks in a row. Again, don't neglect to read about regular maintenance especially for wood stoves and propane appliances - very important! If your appliance is acting funny or not functioning properly, don't ignore it. Investigate and get it fixed. Appliances, whether electrical or gas, can become hazardous if not functioning properly.
Wind River Tiny Homes recommends that you partner with a licensed HVAC technician and have them perform maintenance on your Mini Split at least twice a year. Here is a list of maintenance items your licensed HVAC technician can help with on a regular basis:
Cleaning primary mesh filters
Clean indoor air quality filtration components
Examine evaporator coils for debris and cleaning, if needed
Inspect and clean the drain pan
Verify that the blower and fan wheel are in balance
Inspect the insulated tubing at the condenser for defects or wear-and-tear
Preparing for winter
Tiny houses need extra attention in the winter time. In most colder climates, tiny houses should be skirted. There are plenty of commercial and DIY suggestions out on the web for skirting your house. This is very important for protecting the utilities under the house from freezing and to increase heat efficiency. Be sure that any water lines up to the house are not exposed to the elements, they need to be buried below the frost line. There are other normal winter freeze considerations like letting your faucets drip during the night and having a backup heat source. Take precautions to make sure you don't freeze any of your plumbing. If you are storing your tiny house for the winter there are drain points to allow you to empty your pipes. When busted frozen pipes thaw they will likely cause water damage.
Tiny homes have a larger percentage of wall space containing wires or plumbing. Your builder will (or should be) using nail plates to prevent nails and screws from penetrating into wires or plumbing. Small tacks and nails are probably OK for interior decorating, however, if you ever want to secure longer nails or bolts in the wall check with you builder. They should have pictures or videos of the uncovered walls that show where all the wires and plumbing are located. You definitely don’t want to nick or pierce wires or plumbing. Blindly penetrating the walls is a proceed-at-your-own-risk project.
Build a support network
Every home owner, tiny or otherwise, needs a network of trusted professionals to help with house maintenance. Getting a good plumber, HVAC professional, and handy man are crucial. While your tiny home builder certainly stands by their product and is there to support you, they are not a home maintenance company and are not set up to provide maintenance services nationwide. Before you even purchase your tiny home you should be thinking about a support network to help you maintain the house. Remember the most important person in your tiny home maintenance network is YOU. When you suspect problems or notice issues address them right away. If you ignore problems because you think they might be too expensive to fix - they are usually more expensive to fix when you wait to address them. Be proactive, get educated, and tackle problems so you can gain confidence about taking control of feeding and watering your tiny home.