We constructed our home with things people didn’t need. I am grateful to the internet and craigslist for creating a revolutionary way to connect people who need things with people who want to get rid of them. Everything we need is already made and someone wants to get rid of it.
Our mission when building the tiny house was to buy as little “virgin materials” as possible. We stayed focused on buying what had already been used once. This commitment has produced a homey home, a place with stories. Rolling into Home Depot to load up on materials is much less charming than meeting a stranger through craigslist and helping to make use of their excess. There is more time commitment, but also more fun. Papa gets up every morning and checks craigslist for about 10 different things. When the opportunity comes to get something on his list, he makes a trip, has an adventure, feels better about what he’s bought and always saves money.
He recently took down a retired woman’s shed in trade for the wood. I can image her thinking she got such a deal – this handsome man showed up, made her laugh, took down her shed and raked up behind himself – hauling away the wood. There are many opportunities on craigslist to trade time for materials. Often, just showing up to haul it away is all folks want. After taking the woman’s shed down and helping another retired man dismantle his deck, we have enough wood to build our well house/laundry room/food storage building. From there, we will begin amassing more reclaimed materials to build a garage where we can continue salvaging for our small house.
A quick survey of the salvaged/used items in our tiny house:
Flatbed trailer – It used to have a mobile home on top, but was already stripped down when we bought it. We sanded and painted it and built our tiny home on top.
Windows – Someone special ordered them and never paid for them. They were stacked in a man’s garage along with a lot more excess. These are too small for most homes, but just right for ours.
Wood floor – I bought 120 sq. ft. from a family who had it stacked up in their basement—leftovers from flooring their log cabin. The mom was home with her twins. We mamas loaded the car and did the deal. She was so happy to get it out of her basement. I paid her $140. It makes a beautiful floor for the tiny house and there is still a bit leftover.
Range – an apartment size from the 50s. It came out of an old lady’s estate. It appeared to be the extra one, maybe only used for holidays and canning.
Interior oak paneling – a craigslist find. A local family found their home structurally unsound and decided to take it apart piece by piece. Papa salvaged this beautiful wood by trimming the ends and pounding out the nails. I remember Pappy laughing when he visited for Christmas. “You guys are crazy.” It did seem a bit crazy, as I looked at all that wood piled up. Now, it makes our home very cozy and beautiful—even more so because of the extra labor and the knowledge that the wood is local and salvaged.
Range hood – oversized for the range, but vents the whole house in minutes. I bought it from a landlord who remodeled and got the wrong color. It was in a garage full of extra stuff.
Rigid foam insulation – This came from a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with foam panels. They buy the insulation from old warehouses and large structures as they are demolished. What an adventure that trip was – driving two hours to pick it up and about four to get it home. We had to drive back roads on the way home, because we stacked the insulation about 8 feet high and it wanted to take flight at speeds over 40 mph. We made a pit stop in Micanopy, FL, and met a few stray cats over ice cream. As I sit in our tiny home on this crisp, blustery Oct 1, I feel cozy and warm with only the heat from the 1950s gas range pilot light. I feel happy knowing that insulation surrounds us living a second life (or 3rd, 4th?) as the wrapping keeping the warmth in our tiny home.
Kitchen sink – I have a clear image of our badass-70-year-old neighbor (the one who sang karaoke for himself in his garage on Saturdays) ringing our door bell one morning holding a sink. Being a retired plumber, he had quite the collection of sinks and faucets too good to throw away, but not good enough for a client’s house anymore. “I think this is a nice size for your project,” he said as he walked back across the yard. “Been hanging in my garage for long enough.” It is perfect for our house, and when I do dishes I think of his singing and smile.
Shower – a gift from our first neighbors in VA. It was in their garage when they bought their house. They were glad to have it used and claim the garage space for something else.
Our own excess:
The tile – leftovers from remodeling our home in FL. We had just enough to tile the tiny kitchen backsplash, bathroom backsplash and bathroom floor. I like the connection to our last home, the one we lived in when we got married, became parents and owned a restaurant.
Lights – all taken down by loyal customers volunteering their time as we closed our restaurant.
Upholstery fabric – a whole roll we bought and never needed for our restaurant.
Refrigerator – bottle cooler from our restaurant. I remember the Pepsi saleswoman’s agitation when she visited and saw beer displayed in it. I smile thinking about what she’d say now, as it has found its home in the tiny house. It gets a bit full some days, but it works. We’ve even gotten used to doing without ice.
Sticking to our mission has given us adventure, story and rich happiness unavailable at big box stores.