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what is a small house anyway?

Posted by spunbondwarrior (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 27, 06 at 14:40

Well, the question was asked as a reply to another post, and a good question it is too. And one certainly worthy of discussion.

Someone posted about how they cannot help but notice and think about all the wasted space and oversize rooms they see everywhere they go... Me Too!

There is one, well, three major issues with building small, the second and third directly related to the first issue:
1) good design, though proper is a better term in this case
2) storage, which is directly relate to item number one.
3) traffic, see number two

LOL, and the issue of guests/guest quarters....
There are 26 acres here, there is a shed and a barn.... there is more land on both sides of us just next door too at the sons and daughters places. But there are no extra bedrooms no sleeper sofa's nothing other than a hard cold floor... get a room somewhere, anywhere, cause there ain't one, and ain't never ever gonna be one, here. Feel free however to stay at the big house in town.... it's a quick 42 mile drive there.... until the for sale sign is replaced with one that says "sold" anyway.

Building of our new little house is well, albeit very slowly, under way....I have been told repeatedly that come June 2007, it will be the new permanent and last ever house I/we live in

The little house is 804 sq ft...This actually translates to a lot of space, a lot more appears to be there than the numbers might suggest... It's that good design thing again. Good design is something best read on, learned of, and applied. Near as I can tell, your average architect and designer have somewhat less the design potential and usable creative ability of your average cereal box designer, And IMHO that is a rather charitable statement.

Get a big pad of 17X22 lined graph paper, some good erasers, an electric pencil sharpener, some rulers, angle templates and a thing for measuring degrees and a couple of books, the more the merrier, on design and construction and stained glass and plumbing and whatever, and, get all the "Little House" books too.

CAD software IS A BIG DESIGN MISTAKE!!!! It is how ever great for mechanical type stuff, and for details and drawing what you want >>>>AFTER!!!!!<<<< you have walked and thought and talked and drawn through all your design issues at the speed of pencil and paper. Trust me on this folks....You >>>CAN'T AND WON'T<<< do that with CAD software. And besides, lots of CAD software is actually fun to use and almost addictive once you get started with it....

"From the Ground Up"
Wing and Cole

It's 35 years old but still one of the best at explaining some engineering type things that you might find advantageous to know about.

It is a 1 bed 1 bath house.
Living room: 201 sq ft
Dining room: 201 sq ft, but, there is also a computer nook and a seperate sewing maching nook designed/built into this room.
Kitchen etc: 120.66 q ft this includes a small pantry too
Bath and hall: 80.36
Into the house goes everything (except a freezer) W/D, DW, HVAC, cold water heater, everything.
A 5' twin full glass unit doorway out of the bedroom and another out of the dining room too.

The house, well the goal anyway, is to be all electric (primary heat will be electric with wood/gas/coal capable and water heating will be solar pre-heat and wood/gas finish) and have no mortgage and a power bill of less than $33.33 average monthly bill per year. I intend to AC the little house using spring water a big Cat D8 dozer radiator and some scrap industrial ductwork I have collected.
And a few solar panels and some deep cycle batteries and that'll pretty much cover the lights and computer and TV/stereo parts of the power bill.

A friend who is in an energy intense process industry and is over utility/energy planning and reduction told me last September to plan on USA energy prices from all sources to double in three years (8-2008) and triple in 5 years (8-2010) I am more than just a little paranoid about the energy and food security of the USA for the next 25 years or so, so I am buying another tank and intend to have at the least 3000 gallons of petro-agri mix diesel available along with lots of 50-50 gasoline/ethanol too. And will be growing a couple of acres of oil seed every year from now on too and I am looking at putting in a still and putting all the fallen apples/pears to better use than yellow jacket food ..

>>>> Posted by spunky_ma_z6 on Jul 14, 06 at 16:05

Boy, I don't think 1600 or 1800 sqft is a small house! We have 1700 and it has 4 bedrooms,(mine is 3 @ 1952ftsq) Boy, I don't think 1600 or 1800 sqft is a small house! (Me Neither!!!), a 13x24 living room (16X20) , 12x15 kitchen (13X26)and average size (12X12) dining room. (plus a 12X9 office, and 7X13 "entry" Plus almost 1500 sqft of basement >>>3/4 of which is "all the way" in the ground<<< .). When I think of a small house, I think of 2 bedrooms, a 12x12 living room, small kitchen and dining area. Something under 1400. (I think of less than slightly more than 1200 sq ft is plenty big enough)...
So, what is a small house anyway? <<<<


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: what is a small house anyway?

Just as a curiosity. Does your house have a basement? I have a three bedroom 2 bath house just under 1800. No basement and only a small attic crawlspace. We had a house in Idaho years ago that had only 1100 feet but had a full basement - it was huge compared to what I have now.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

>>>> Does your house have a basement? <<<<

Yes there is a 28 X 56 basement, that is almost 1500 sqft of basement 2/3 to 3/4 of which is completely buried "all the way" in the ground. I never go down there, it collects useless stuff that Sindi swears she/we/they might possible at some point in the future might maybe absolutely positively you never know have to have and not be able to find anywhere else on earth except for in our basement...

The oil furnace and HVAC air handling unit are the only things down there that need any regular or any other attention, filter change & done. A 1500 sq ft waste of space, that causes me to lose another almost 40 sq ft of floorspace due to having to have a stairwell.

I have figured the little house wastes a grand total of almost 12.75 square feet. Still a bit too much but I reckon I can live with it.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

BTW CADSOFT 3D Home Architect Home Design Suite Version or 8 is excellent for designing and then viewing the design. It is not a CAD program. It does have 3D visuals - and it is amazing what looks good on paper that doesn't work when you see it in 3D. IMHO - it beats paper and pencil by a long shot.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

For many people, mere efficiency is not the goal of their homes. What might be "wasted space" to you would be important to someone else. "Good Design" is not fact, it's opinion that's driven by your priorities. Some people prefer separate rooms, some people prefer open plans.

Then again I'm one of those idiot architects you so charitably describe ;)

RE: what is a small house anyway?

The largest motorcoach, even at $2 million, still a tiny house. And, there's many people who live in those big/little motorhomes fulltime. So, a "small house" is not always about money.
However, we chose to build a small house mainly because of the "after-the-fact economics". Our 1,715 sq ft house will end up costing quite a bit, per sq ft. But, the cost of the utilities, taxes, insurance, and maintenance will be realitively LOW. As a retirement home, this is extremely important, to us.
Also, I truly enjoyed meeting the challenge of designing a "perfect" small house, but with big house features.
On second thought, maybe it's all about money. If our retirement income was higher, we would've built a 2,500 sq ft house.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

Our house is 1200sqft. I would think a "small house," in today's terms, would be anything under 2000 sqft. Given rising energy prices, and the damage done to the environment in the search for fossil fuels, I think the monster houses being built/bought now are unconscionable. Houses as big as 4000-5000 sqft are growing more popular, and I really can't see any justification for energy consumption on this level simply because someone "wants" a house that big. We live on this planet together and our decisions affect each other. It's no longer simply a case of "my money/land, so I can do what I want." What I do with my land and the amount of energy I consume/conserve affects you, and vice-versa. I think we have a responsibility to each other and the planet to live reasonably within our means. JMHO.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

My house is 1400 sq ft. 2 adults, 3 kids, 2 cats. I grew up in a MUCH larger house so this seems TINY to me. The fact that DH is a packrat so there is not 1 sq inch of open space makes it seem smaller. But if we had 5000 sq ft it would seem small because he'd just junk it up.

Housing costs are MUCH higer where I live than where I grew up. If I lived in my home town, I'd have 5000 for what I paid for 1400 here. But I agree about the energy costs! Plus, who would want to clean 5000 sq ft & 3 or 4 bathrooms?

RE: what is a small house anyway?

Anyone whose house is surrounded by much larger houses thinks they live in a small house. In our neighborhood 2,000 sq ft houses are "huge", 1,200 sq ft houses are "average" and "small" doesn't start until you get down to something like 800 sq ft. In a nearby town people think their 2,000 sq ft houses are "small" because the average size is more than twice that.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

I have to wonder what is going to happen in a few years when all those McMansions fall out of favor and people can't sell them? With energy costs going up, up, and up, and more and more of the younger people being concerned for the environment, I think it's possible a lot of those monster houses will become hard to sell, if at all. I really wish people would consider if they really need that big house, I think too many buyers of them are overextended as it is.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

My house is a ranch, with only three bedrooms and one bathroom and a full basement. It is only 1040 square feet on the main floor. So I guess it is definitely not much more than a cottage, and even in todays terms most cottages are even bigger. Still, I have lots of gardens around the house, no houses across the street from me, and it is very secluded in the summer because the houses around me are all hidden by wooded lines growing in between.
I also have waterfalls, rivers, marshes, ponds and streams all around me. It is one of the prettiest parts of the town I live in, and one of the wildest as bedroom towns go. We are surrounded by wilds, and lots of trails to hike. So I can deal with the small house. Just as long as they don't mess up the town too much by overbuilding.

RE: what is a small house anyway?

My version, my design, of a small house might be quite different than yours. The front of my house (not yet finishied) is to the right (in this photo), and there's a front porch all the way across, which is 48 ft across. The depth dimension is 37 ft (not counting the 38 ft for the garage). BUT, it has 10 ft high walls plus 7/12 roofs, plus the large rear-attached garage. The doors to the 3-car garage are hidden from the street. It's a large corner lot, with the long driveway to the right side of the house. The heated/cooled area is right at 1,720 sq ft, but the house looks a lot bigger due to the porches and large garage, and the height (even thought it's a single-story). The side porch is for my outdoor kitchen (BBQ grille) and the french door leads to the indoor kitchen. It's all very well insulated (BIBs), and cooled by a 2-stage 3-ton Trane. I built it good enough to be our last house.

BTW we're living in the motorhome while we finish the house.

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