By Bonnie Sitter
The best friends involved in Tiny Footprint Homes are both young married men with three young children. One day, Josh Batkin and Paul Arts discussed the lack of affordable housing and how it was impacting peoples’ lives.
They decided that just maybe they could put their building skills to use and make a difference. They began investigating the tiny home concept which has become a popular topic of conversation, at least in North America. A new business soon came to fruition.
What is a “tiny home?” What makes it different from a camper, recreational vehicle, cottage and another structure used on a seasonal basis? A “tiny home” is a small, private, self-contained dwelling unit with a living and dining area, kitchen and bathroom facilities, and of course a sleeping area. It is intended for year-round use and can be a primary home, cottage or a so-called “granny flat”. There are plans to develop communities where tiny homes are placed, although with the proper permit you can have one in your backyard hooked up to water and sewer. The design possibilities are numerous.
Josh and Paul are builders and have set up shop. Their hope is that future tiny home owners wanting a custom-built tiny home will come in with an architectural plan that they can build for the client.
Paul already runs his own business in Vanastra called Arts Building Solutions while Josh offers the same services with his business named All Trade Residential in Clinton.
The pair combined their ideas and talents and found a new shop in Vanastra for Tiny Footprint Homes where their first tiny home prototype could be built. As is often the case, the idea was the easy part.
Though tiny homes are smaller by far than a regular home, it does not exempt them from the usual requirements of Ontario’s health and safety building codes. Municipal zoning and other local by-laws plus the necessary servicing for water and sewage all require due diligence. Another consideration is the square footage of a tiny home. You may be surprised to learn that municipalities have minimum and maximum sizes for square footage for tiny homes. What works in Nova Scotia does not necessarily work in Ontario.
Both Josh and Paul said they are very pleased with the encouragement and assistance that they have received from their local building inspector.
As they work towards getting their tiny home designs CSA (Canadian Standards Association) approved they have moved from the original plan of recycling metal shipping containers for the frame and base to building the tiny houses on metal trailers. Brian Cox, of Canadian Trailer Company in Goderich, is very enthusiastic about the tiny homes and his company will be manufacturing the custom trailers for Paul and Josh. Being built on the trailers means the homes can be transported into place. The wheels and axel can be removed and skirting added to finish around the bottom of the tiny home.
Potentially, they can build a variety of sizes. The smallest permitted is 224 square feet and the largest is 480 square feet. Each step of the build has to be inspected and the young men have been told by the inspectors that they are excited about the tiny home business.
I asked about heating and cooling systems and learned that a system called a mini split or ductless split is a popular solution when the space is tiny. They offer both cooling and heating in the same unit. They have an outdoor condenser and an indoor air handler. As tiny homes gain popularity advances are being made to make them energy efficient.
Paul and Josh work with another local man, Dustin Court, who is a cabinet maker with his business in Vanastra. He can build just about any cabinet or cupboard that can be imagined and at the same time make sure every bit of space is utilized.
Once the tiny home is on the purchaser’s property, renovations are permitted and steps, a ramp and/or a deck can be added. One Ontario family opted to have a tiny home put in their backyard so their wheelchair-bound adult daughter could have her own space and still be close to her parents for support. Some people are planning to downsize and live a simpler life while others are hoping for a break and get a roof over their head. Tiny homes might be a solution for both situations.
A suggestion has been made that a tiny home village of four or more homes with a central communal building to cook and socialize might be something to consider.
Even in rural areas, leaders are looking for solutions to the housing crisis. There are employment opportunities available but no accommodation for employees. Tiny homes could be part of the solution. ◊