Tiny Texas Houses from Salvaged Materials

Reader Contribution by Lloyd Kahn and Shelter Publications
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These recycled buildings, offered for sale out of Luling, Texas (between San Antonio and Houston), are built of recycled materials, based on traditional designs. They have instant soul. This is a wonderful body of work by builder Brad Kittel. The following is an excerpt from Lloyd Kahn’s Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter (Shelter Publications, 2012).

Our buildings are 99 percent pure salvage. Everything — doors, floors, windows, lumber, porch posts, glass, door hardware, and even the siding — has been saved and re-used to create houses that we hope will last for a century or more.

I believe that there are presently enough building materials sitting on the ground in the U.S. to build much of the next generation of housing. All it takes is pure human energy, spirit, and the desire to build something that will last for several lifetimes.

My goal is to show people what can be done with a concept I call Salvage Building. I believe used material is far superior to nearly anything being used today.

Building with Salvaged Material is Superior

It’s crazy that 51 percent of our landfills are building materials, yet we ravage the world looking for more building materials. A huge amount of wood, hardware, glass, even roofing is available today for little more than the human energy it takes to salvage it.

No materials today will cost us less fuel or energy to make ready for building than the materials we have already harvested.

There is a trillion dollars of great building materials sitting in this country, forming the largest untapped and undervalued resource available for construction. It is possible to create jobs in Salvage Mining that cannot be exported to other countries.

Tiny Texas Houses are each built to be one-of-a-kind creations. As a consequence, there are not set prices or models. We build to the customers’ desires. Pricing is based on size, style, and the various amenities.

To date, the range has been from $38,000 to $90,000. Our sizes range from 10-by-16 feet to 12-by-20 feet so far — and we can build them to be joined together if desired. Our goal is to build houses that will last 100 years and more, just like our ancestors did. We use the best of Old World building techniques, combined with the best that new technology has to offer for insulation and energy savings.

We ship our houses with an insured mover whose costs will vary depending on the length of time it takes to get to the destination, but it tends to run about $2,500 for a day’s trip out and back.

The Koehler house was built for a young couple who had a 2½-year-old; they live in it full time. It is 12-by-28 feet with 2 lofts, a full kitchen, and bath. We ­delivered it to a beautiful treed setting in Bastrop, Texas.

The Kaye House is a 12-by-28-foot tiny house with full-length front porch and a fully screened-in back porch. Note the rock skirting.

Tiny Homes for Retirees

Seventy-six million baby boomers are about to chant, “Downsize me” in chorus and the best way to get there may be right under our noses.

My next step is to set up Tiny Texas Villages for people to come and stay overnight to see how they feel and buy one if they like, but the goal is to do live surveys with real people in order to plant the seed in the public mind, to create the lasting image that will open up the future to the possibility of living in Tiny Villages with support groups that will allow us to stay in our homes for the rest of our lives.

One common house in the middle will provide a big kitchen and get-together area for eating, fun, and games, then back to the house for the night. The spaces could be leased or condo’d but ultimately, the ability to move a house in or out will allow for all sorts of possibilities as our population ages and settles in for decades of limited income and growing expenses.

This is one way to fight back, to get rid of the built-in obsolescence and build things that will last for several lifetimes again, just like we used to do a century ago.

The Koehler House on the road.

Lloyd Kahnis a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home WorkTiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the Mother Earth News Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitterand Facebook, and read all of his Mother Earth News posts here.

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