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    Prefabrication for tiny houses and other buildings...

    I have been involved in a number of wood frame prefabrication projects and would love to try and answer questions that others may have about how prefabrication can be applied to building tiny houses and other small buildings. I spent about 1-1/2 years working for a prefabrication company that built full size houses and some smaller commercial buildings. I was in charge of the engineering department where our responsibility was to transform designs into manufacturing details for building wall panels and other prefabricated parts. In that job I lost count after 100 such design jobs. Much more recently I have spent time helping two different tiny house building companies get started. I introduced prefabrication techniques in both companies. I have personally built complete sets of panels for probably a dozen different tiny houses. I also have produced 3D designs and complete prefabrication drawings for those houses as well as quite a number of other units. I am also willing to do design work for people that would like to build their own tiny house. For more information about me and some of my prefabrication techniques check out the following:

    http://www.diy-prefab.com/
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    #2
    Thanx for sharing about your prefab & design experitise.
    I hope this isn't outside the scope of this forum - if so, sorry & I'm sure the admin will delete.
    I could use some advice fr an experienced builder with your background who isn't selling me anything.
    Could you check out the American Tiny Homes travel (green) unit & kit for sale online at americantinyhome.com and give me your opinion on the design & materials being used? For our wider forum audience, this could be helpful info on DIY and prefab build specifics & material types for siding, windows, etc.
    One other question is about the picture windows which come w/ the prefab model - how difficult & costly (aside from windiw expense) would it be to replace at least several of these w/ really opening windows?

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      #3
      First of all let say up front that I do not have any direct personal experience with steel framing. I do however feel that it is a perfectly viable approach to take for building a tiny house. I think that it does make a lot of sense to have the frame manufactured by a company that knows how to do that though. Wood framing is a lot easier for a do it your self construction project in large part because of the easy availability of wood in all sorts of sizes and types. Steel framing is not something that is readily available at lumber yard or big box store. Also some of the parts needed are somewhat unique to a given project are typically best made to order on a per project basis.

      Regarding the windows from what I can tell some of the more basic kits may not come with the windows which means you would supply whatever you wanted. Also the shells or kits that do come with windows are likely available with variations on the choices of fixed or operable windows. I am sure the company can advise you about those options. It should not cost all that much to upgrade a given window from fixed to operable. Crank out (casement) windows would be typically be somewhat more expensive than sliding windows.

      It looks like it would be largely up to you and whoever is helping you complete your tiny house to pick the siding and other finish details. The versions of the shell that come complete with foam insulation installed would likely be a good option since this form of insulation would make for a very energy efficient shell. That type of insulation needs to be installed after you install all of the thing in the walls such as electrical wiring and plumbing though. So if you are intending to install those things yourself you should check locally with insulation contractors to find out what is available for spray foam insulation. It is possible to buy kits for installing foam insulation on line. Keep in mind that foam insulation is more expensive than other types.of insulation though and if your budget does not allow for it there are other approaches that are acceptable. I did not see any mention of insulation in the floor or any specific information regarding what the final R values of the insulation would be in the walls or roof. It would help to know how much thickness is available in each of these places for insulation to help you determine how much insulation value you could achieve with each type of insulation material.

      One thing I did not find on the website was anything specific about recommended interior floor plans for any of the models. Before you order a shell from any company I think you need to have a pretty good idea about how the interior is going to work out. Placement of windows and doors have a very direct impact on what you can and can not do with the interior layout. It also helps to think about where the various utilities would be installed. What about electrical, plumbing, heating and etc.?

      I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions if you have any. Maybe I would be able to answer them or perhaps someone else reading the forum posts would have the answer.

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        #4
        Malcolm,

        I also am interested in the concept of Prefabrication for Tiny Homes. My interest is more in using the techniques used in prefab production to enable the novice homebuilder to construct their own small home. I'm an architect with a long history in building and design, including a stint as a supervisor for a motor-home production factory. I learned two important things as a production supervisor. First; most of the jobs in the plant were tedious and unrewarding, day after day of doing the same thing. I have no desire to create a situation that requires that kind of tedious labor. However, the other, and most important, thing that I learned from the production environment was that when a work station was properly set up, well designed and safe, someone with very limited experience could learn the task and perform it in a satisfactory manner in a very short time. This is necessary, of course, because of the high turnover rate in the production environment. So I'm working on a modular small home design that can utilize simple production techniques to help DIY first timers to build and understand their own homes.
        I've been working on it part-time for an embarrassingly long time now but I enjoy working out the easiest and safest ways to put a small modern home together.
        I look forward to watching your site and expect to learn from your example. And I hope to post my progress as well.

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          #5
          Originally posted by malconium View Post
          First of all let say up front that I do not have any direct personal experience with steel framing. I do however feel that it is a perfectly viable approach to take for building a tiny house. I think that it does make a lot of sense to have the frame manufactured by a company that knows how to do that though. Wood framing is a lot easier for a do it your self construction project in large part because of the easy availability of wood in all sorts of sizes and types. Steel framing is not something that is readily available at lumber yard or big box store. Also some of the parts needed are somewhat unique to a given project are typically best made to order on a per project basis.

          Regarding the windows from what I can tell some of the more basic kits may not come with the windows which means you would supply whatever you wanted. Also the shells or kits that do come with windows are likely available with variations on the choices of fixed or operable windows. I am sure the company can advise you about those options. It should not cost all that much to upgrade a given window from fixed to operable. Crank out (casement) windows would be typically be somewhat more expensive than sliding windows.

          It looks like it would be largely up to you and whoever is helping you complete your tiny house to pick the siding and other finish details. The versions of the shell that come complete with foam insulation installed would likely be a good option since this form of insulation would make for a very energy efficient shell. That type of insulation needs to be installed after you install all of the thing in the walls such as electrical wiring and plumbing though. So if you are intending to install those things yourself you should check locally with insulation contractors to find out what is available for spray foam insulation. It is possible to buy kits for installing foam insulation on line. Keep in mind that foam insulation is more expensive than other types.of insulation though and if your budget does not allow for it there are other approaches that are acceptable. I did not see any mention of insulation in the floor or any specific information regarding what the final R values of the insulation would be in the walls or roof. It would help to know how much thickness is available in each of these places for insulation to help you determine how much insulation value you could achieve with each type of insulation material.

          One thing I did not find on the website was anything specific about recommended interior floor plans for any of the models. Before you order a shell from any company I think you need to have a pretty good idea about how the interior is going to work out. Placement of windows and doors have a very direct impact on what you can and can not do with the interior layout. It also helps to think about where the various utilities would be installed. What about electrical, plumbing, heating and etc.?

          I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions if you have any. Maybe I would be able to answer them or perhaps someone else reading the forum posts would have the answer.
          Thanks for all of this - lots of great info!
          I'll definitely have more specifics & questions soon...

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            #6

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              #7
              Carolee,

              I think in at least some respects what you are wanting to do would be prefab. My original intent for this part of the forum would be to discuss ways to build a tiny house using prefabrication techniques to actually build the shell from scratch your self. Probably if you are intending your house to be on a foundation of some sort discussion about your approach might fit better in that section of the forum. I don't mind talking about it here but more people would be likely to find the discussion in the other part of the forum about tiny houses on foundations.

              On another note will you be building in a place where you are going to need to go through the building permit process? If so you will likely have the challenge of combining whatever drawings the company that supplies the shed might have with whatever other details you need to supply relative to the conversion to a house. Building codes for a house can be somewhat different than for a wood shed. It might be easier to draw up the plans for permitting as though the house was going to be built from scratch making sure that the prefab unit details of construction match what is drawn and comply with the necessary building codes.

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