Friday, May 3, 2013

Big Lessons for a Tiny Home Owner

Years ago when I lived in my first new construction home, I found a binder in the master bedroom closet provided by the home builder that highlighted all the important things related to the house such as where the fuse box can be found and where the water shut-off is located. It contained the warranty information and instruction books for appliances, my home warranty information, emergency and service phone numbers for all the utility companies in my area, and lots of other information that we would have never thought to ask for until there was a problem. We jokingly called it the house bible and I cannot count the number of times we referred to that book.

Recently Carolyn Shearlock of The Boat Galley ( wrote a post about how she and her husband mapped out all the systems on their boat. Carolyn and her husband lived on their sailboat for a few years and her blog is helpful for tiny house folks because she essentially lived in a tiny house on water. Her ideas are interesting and many can be adopted for the tiny house with little trouble. When she and her husband first bought their boat they spent a good deal of time mapping out the plumbing, electrical, etc. before ever leaving port. This allowed them to know their boat inside and out. In the case of an emergency or a needed repair, they would know how to go about problem solving and fixing the issue. You can read her blog post here (or go to

Her post got me thinking about documenting the different systems of my tiny home as I build them: photographing them, and labeling as I go along, collecting all this data in one convenient "owners manual." This will allow me a good reference in times of emergency as well as documentation for insurance and, if I wish to sell my tiny home sometime down the line, good documentation for the new owner. Understanding how all the systems interact and are assembled from the ground up will help save time, materials, and energy in the long run when it comes to repairs and maintenance.

So, what is some of the information I will be sure to include? For starters the layout of the electrical system including the 120 and the 12 volt, the solar panel system, the backup generator info, and the water system (filters, pump, rainwater catchment, etc.) layout. I will keep the documentation on the trailer, appliances, and other products that have a warranty and I will keep the receipt stored right with the documentation where I can find it easily (many warranties require you have the original receipt.) Trailer registration information will be kept here too.

Creating an "Owner's Manual" for a tiny house as it is being built seems like a wise decision and much easier then trying to go back and reassemble all the data. However, if you already live in a tiny house it is not too late. Having this type of documentation will perhaps put your mind at more at ease that you are ready and capable to handle any tiny household emergency.