Welcome to my

Tiny
House
Journey!

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A chronicle where the essence of compact living is knitted together with my personal tale of design, construction, and discovery!

Hi, I’m Dan Lester, a construction and engineering academic with a penchant for the hands-on approach. I am now diving headfirst into the monumental task of building my own tiny house from scratch. This is my diary, blueprint, and open workshop rolled into one.

To every tiny house dreamer, future builder, or curious soul, you’ve spotted the right destination. Armed with my construction and engineering background, I’ll steer us through the confusing maze of tiny house construction. From the early sketches to the joy of delivery day and every saw cut and screw from thereon in. You can expect an unfiltered glimpse into both the challenges and the wins I encounter.

More than just building a small dwelling, I’m here to strike a chord with those who seek inspiration. I want to connect with those craving a minimalist lifestyle, or anyone aiming to infuse their homes with eco-conscious choices. Through my detailed step-by-step updates, watch a mere vision evolve into a home brimming with life and smart design.

Join me in this thrilling venture as I track progress, pivot through obstacles, and craft not just a house, but a home. Let’s explore what it truly means to scale down in size, yet dream big in ambition.

- STAGE 1 -

The Frame

The first couple of months were just a little bit crazy. Learning to live on an acreage, you start seeing nature through a different lens. I love to problem solve and living out here has introduced me to a whole new way of doing things.

This is January 2024, and the next step was to start the tiny house build and learn to live off the grid… it’s a good thing that I love a challenge!

This is the day that my site buzzed with a unique vibrancy—the Tiny House structure had finally arrived!

Nothing compared to the thrill of watching her be towed into the paddock. Eagerly, I survey the steadily assembled skeleton that would become my dream home. Of course, beneath the flurry of excitement lurked a tremor of anxiety.

It was a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. The basic structure was there but of course just a shell. Tangible and a tad terrifying. Every beam, every panel echoed back the Monday desk sketches to Friday night material hunts—the path I had trodden to reach this moment.

Unnerving? Yes. Daunting? Absolutely. But the promise of the sustainable and low-cost home I had envisioned far outweighed the palpable tension I felt. The adventure shifted gear that, and was all-in, ready to wield my tools and my courage in equal measure.

- STAGE 2 -

The Roof

Embarking on the journey to construct the roof of my tiny house introduced an exhilarating yet daunting chapter in my construction saga. Given my engineering background, the meticulous planning and execution needed for the roofing phase were aspects I relished, albeit not without a dose of healthy trepidation. The process from setting the battens in place to achieving a waterproof, and aesthetically pleasing roof that could shield me from the elements of South East Queensland required patience, precision, and a bit of ingenuity—qualities I was ready to leverage to their fullest.

Step 1: Preparation and Planning

The journey began long before any materials were physically handled. Meticulous planning was paramount. I poured over roofing methodologies, materials, and designs. This endeavour wasn’t just about shelter; it was about creating a sustainable, durable, and visually appealing crown for my tiny abode. Selection of materials played a critical role—choosing lightweight yet sturdy options that could withstand the harsh elements while supporting my vision of a tiny eco-haven.

Step 2: Erecting the Battens

Positioning the battens was the first tangible step towards shaping my house’s skyline. Battens, or horizontal beams, serve as the foundation upon which the roof is built, offering support for layers to come. Each batten had to be precisely measured, cut, and secured to ensure an even, stable base for the roofing materials. This initial step was a delicate balancing act—aligning each batten perfectly to avoid future water leaks or uneven weight distribution. My hands, guided by my engineering insight, moved with care, ensuring every fastening was secure, every measurement exact.

Step 3: Laying the Roofing Sheets

With the battens in place, the next layer to tackle was the roofing sheets. This stage introduced a visual transformation, turning abstract plans into a sheltering structure. Handling these sheets required a combination of strength and finesse—positioning each panel correctly before securing it firmly to the battens. The rhythmic sound of the drill became the soundtrack of progress as I affixed each sheet, witnessing the roof unfold piece by piece. This layer not only provided an additional level of shelter but also began to reveal the tiny house’s evolving silhouette against the sky.

- STAGE 3 -

The Exterior

This is 99% complete!

I was truly amazed at how the next stage made her look so much bigger! The action of closing in the frame had a massive effect on the look and feel of my evolving home.

This stage of the development had lots of stops and starts due to rain but I finally got all the doors and windows in AND the thermal/waterproof wrap after a short weather delay that felt a lot longer than it was!

This was the point that I started to go from feeling like the delay was never-ending to feeling like it had all gone so fast!! 

Step 1: Thermal Wrap and Insulation

The heart of the home lies in its ability to maintain a comfortable internal environment. For my tiny house, this started with the thermal wrap, eventually to be tucked behind the external cladding. A very quick and simple looking process rapidly defined the outline of the home. This step was a dance, balancing between efficiency and thoroughness to ensure no gaps or spaces would compromise the house’s warmth (and cooling in the summer months!). The tangible sense of my tiny house becoming a home grew stronger, layer by layer.

Step 2: Flashings and Steel Sheeting

Following the thermal wrap, steel and sheeting was added to seal the interior from the elements. This stage was incredibly rewarding as it began to give the tiny house a more defined space. The process was methodical, each panel bringing me one step closer to the vision of my completed home. This wasn’t just construction; it was an act of creation—transforming raw materials into a liveable, breathable space.

Step 3: Timber Cladding & Finishing Touches 

With the majority of the frame enclosed, it was time for the final touches. The choice of timber material had to offer additional protection and had to align with the tiny house’s aesthetic. 

Standing back to admire the completed exterior was an indescribable feeling. It was more than just a structure; it was a symbol of resilience, a shelter that I built with my own two hands and a lot of help thus far from the expert tradespeople that were along for the ride too.

Then the first set of cladding sheets finally went on! Half the front and all of the back initially. I was amazed at just how slick she looked!! I loved it!!

This was the stage where I couldn’t quite believe how quickly it was all coming together. My brain was fried at this point. I was awash with measurements and costs and schedules, it was just like the good old days when I was a site Quantity Surveyor. There is of course something very different about a project when it’s your own money though!

The steel cladding was fairly straightforward with some more detailed cutting around the windows and doors but I was so happy with the results.

It took me longer than anticipated to get the timber panels prepped and ready for installation. Despite the additional time, labour, and resulting costs involved in this distinctive design element, I felt it really gave my home the special and unique feel I was looking for. 

Being back on track with the final phase of the cladding was a huge relief. The feedback I was getting at this point about the project was phenomenal. To be perfectly honest it was the main thing that was keeping me going on those difficult days. 

Beneath a sky generous with light, today marked a milestone etched with the whir of a circular saw and the scent of freshly cut timber—my Weathertex boards have taken form! From the borrowed tools, a circular saw pulsing with potential and an extension lead unspooling like a promise, my hands guided by camaraderie and craft, sliced cleanly through the boards.

With each measured cut, a sense of accomplishment swelled within me. These boards lay in the wake of my toil, each one a step closer to cladding the final walls of my tiny house, giving them the fine frame they deserve. The transformation from raw planks to precise weatherboards ready to be primed and installed heralds the kind of joy only a builder’s spirit can know.

The jubilation is palpable, captured aptly in the final photograph—my face a canvas of pride and satisfaction. It is also a refreshing breath of visual change; the ubiquitous blue sarking paper that has been a constant backdrop in my updates is now replaced by the tangible progress of my labour. The vision of my tiny house is inching ever closer to reality, one board, one cut, one joyful snapshot at a time.

Tiny House Exterior Completed

And The Exterior is 99% Complete!

Finally!!! It’s taken much longer than anticipated to get those timber panels installed. Much more complex, time consuming, labour intensive (and costly!) than I’d hoped for but I’m SO HAPPY with the result! The only thing left to do outside now is to fix the gutters and complete the flashings, which will not only seal the exterior from the elements, but also frame those doors and windows!

- STAGE 4 -

The Interior

I'm working on this!

NEXT PHASE: interior fit out. Time to get my interior design hat on!

Final Phase Coming Soon...

Check back soon to follow my progress and see how the project wraps up.

Why am I sharing my story?

I’m a single, childless, relatively well paid academic but yet I am still finding myself caught up in this housing crisis. I, like many of you, have been through the whole rental process of going and seeing places that have extortionate rents attached to them and being wholly disappointed with the state of the place. This is not an uncommon situation and we’re seeing more and more of these stories popping up in our newsfeeds. It’s a shocking state of affairs, and those most caught up in this situation are women. Whether they are like me and on their own, whether they are trying to leave a situation that they no longer want to be in and don’t have the financial backing to live independently, or whether they have a family and they all want to downsize and start living tiny to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

This is a significant challenge. I’m building a house at the end of the day, regardless of how tiny it is, it still has all the main components of a standard home. There is A LOT of decision making required, a lot of personal challenges like coming to terms with my level of (in)flexibility. Nevertheless, I am documenting the entire process to share both the ups and the downs, and to help others appreciate how easy it can be at times, and how difficult it can be at other times.

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Copyright © 2024. Dan Lester. All rights reserved.