Build Your Own Free Tiny House with Shipping Pallets

Tiny-House-Building-SystemsBy Ziggy

Compliments: Green Building Elements

Last week I talked about how to live simply and decrease your carbon footprint living in a tiny house. Even better than buying a tiny house is making your own, and Michael Janzen is blazing a trail with his free tiny pallet house. Not only is his house made out of recycled shipping pallets, it isn’t costing him anything to build. And lucky for us, he’s sharing his plans so you too can build your own tiny free house.


You can save money, sharpen your DIY skills, and further decrease your environmental impact by following Janzen’s example of building a free pallet house. 

Keep pallets out of landfills

free-pallets-for-tiny-house-buildingHere are some disturbing statistics about shipping pallets:

  • Approximately 40% of all hardwood harvested in the U.S. is for making shipping pallets
  • About two-thirds of pallets are used only once before being thrown out
  • 1/4 of all wood in landfills is from used pallets

You can help prevent deforestation and keep pallets out of landfills by finding creative alternative uses for them, like building a house. Pallets can be found everywhere. Once you start looking for them, you’ll see them scattered all over your town or city.

Contact a local warehouse, supermarket, or any business that receives large shipments, and get permission to pick up their used pallets. Most companies are happy to give their pallets away.

Plans for a free pallet house

Janzen has made plans for building a free pallet house available on his website. These plans are a guide for building what he calls a disaster preparedness and emergency shelter. Janzen says:

As hurricane Gustav plowed across Cuba headed for the gulf coast of the United States memories of Katrina and the potential displacement of thousands got me thinking. I wanted to do something to help. It occurred to me that someone else might find what I now about building with shipping pallets useful in the coming weeks and months.

With some creativity, you may find that shipping pallets can be reappropriated in other ways to build your own free tiny house. For example, I have a friend that has disassembled shipping pallets and used the wood to build roof trusses for his straw bale building.

Ultimately, you can help prevent deforestation and keep pallets out of landfills by using them to build creative housing.

Think tiny and free!

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Tiny house hero Dee Williams on her book tour

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Janet Eastman

Compliments: The Oregonian

Tiny house hero Dee Williams will talk about the benefits of living simply in a small, efficient space and read from her popular book, “The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir,” on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Vintage Books in Vancouver, Wash.

This stop – which includes a walk inside her 84-square-foot house on wheels – is one of many she has made crisscrossing the country on a book tour intertwined with her ongoing efforts to educate about building, living and enjoying tiny houses.


The self-taught carpenter and founder of the respected resource center, Portland Alternative Dwellings, has lived in her solar-powered home for more than a decade. She cooks using a single propane burner and sleeps in a loft with a small window.

“The house looked gorgeous: just like an ad for pancake syrup or a painting called A Simpler Time,” she writes in her inspiring, funny memoir that resonates with anyone on a quest to downsize, de-stress, let go or feel at home.

People interested in green design and plans for an legal accessory dwelling unit can explore Williams’ tiny house, from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Vintage Books, 6613 E. Mill Plain Blvd. She will read from her book and answer questions from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. inside the bookstore.

The event is sponsored by Vintage Books and Clark County Environmental Services’ Green Neighbors program.


Williams has been interviewed by networks and newspaper reporters and has addressed TED Conference audiences, telling her powerful story about selling her high-maintenance Craftsman house in Southeast Portland and gifting away most of her possessions after she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

We caught up with her days before she is to tug her tiny house to Vancouver.

Q: You’ve been on the road telling your story and reading from your book since April. What has been the biggest adjustment being on the book tour circuit?

Dee Williams: I think the largest adjustment has been traveling so much. I’m a homebody – a real “stick in the mud” is what my 20-something-year-old niece would say. But I’m perfectly happy to putter around in my garden, to scavenge wood out of the rubble pile down the street or to play firefighter in the backyard with the four-year-old boy who lives next door. I like being home and the book tour is a bit of a distraction from that normal, mundane, simple life.

The other adjustment occurred by seeing that the small house movement isn’t just people who want to build a tiny house (or already have), or people who like cute tiny houses; it’s not that simple. Instead, the tiny house movement seems to be a tapestry of openhearted people who are interested in community building; they’re interested in living more simply on the earth, investing in their neighbors (both human and natural); they’re rabble-rousers and non-conformists, and some of the most compassionate, inclusive thinkers that I’ve met in a long time. It was invigorating and humbling to meet so many awesome people.


Q. What is the most common question you are asked and how do you answer it?

DW: “Is that legal?” has probably been the most common question. And I usually answer it by saying something like… “ah dang it, not that question!” And then I’ll wax on about how much I like rules; that I’m an enforcement officer with the State, and I once cried at a stoplight because the idea of civil law is so beautiful to me – the way we all learn how to stop on red and go on green, and thereby save ourselves from having to tow our cars away in a heap.

So, I’ll explain who I am and then launch into how most municipalities apply travel trailer restrictions to wheeled tiny houses. They might restrict where you can park (not on the front lawn, in front of a school, too close to the neighbor’s house, etc.) and how long you can recreate inside the unit. If you’re living in the space for longer than 30 days or six months, you might be asked to move along.

I’d also throw in that there are a lot of cities that are looking for ways to redefine codes to allow for longer stays in tiny houses on wheels. They’re looking at ways to create better urban infill, and to create more affordable, sustainable, safe housing and little houses are a part of that discussion.

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Live Sustainably in Tiny Houses

energy-tiny-house-green-cropBy Marc Stapelberg

Compliments: Northern Star

SIMON Hartley is one of many forward-thinking residents of our region doing some impressive sustainable living experiments in their homes and yards.

Mr Hartley will open up his home to the public this month as part of Sustainable House Day, actually run over three days this year in a joint project between Lismore and Byron Shire Councils.

Live Sustainably in Tiny Houses Simon Hartley Goonellabah

At the main event in Bangalow, a suburb of “tiny houses” will pop up for the Sustainable House Day Expo, held on Saturday September 13.

These three homes are open this Sunday:
• 9am-noon. Richard Swinton and Cindy Thummell at 24 Ryces Dr, Clunes have retrofitted a 1980s project home.
• 10am-4pm. The Robinsons at 182 Bentley Rd, Tullera have built a new, low-cost sustainable home.
• 10am-4pm. Elaine Wood at 51 Cedar Dr, Dunoon has a solar passive steel-frame design.

These two homes are open next Sunday, September 14:
• 10am-4pm. Vanessa Tallon at 9 Keith St, Girards Hill has retrofitted a 1940s weatherboard cottage.
• 10am-4pm. Simon Hartley at 2/89 Figtree Dr, Goonellabah has a retrofitted brick duplex with intensive food production.

The popular tiny house movement is built on saving time, money, and the environment by dramatically reducing the size of our living spaces.

The event will include speakers on tiny houses, straw-bale building and a carbon neutral eco-village and information on repurposed shipping container housing, solar passive designs, aquaponics and retrofitting homes for energy efficiency.

Examples of “green” granny flat designs will also go on show, with the winner of Sustainable Small House Design Competition to be announced on the day.

There were 50 entries to the competition that gave designers a blank slate to create the best possible sustainable design.

“The competition was open to professional architects and designers, the community and young people,” Lismore City Council environment strategies officer Vanessa Tallon said.

“Some of the entries are unique and provide clever insight into how to build small and sustainable.”

Five locals are opening their homes for inspection on the Sunday before and the day after the expo.

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Service Space

peace-tiny-house-greenCompliments: Service Space

ServiceSpace is an all volunteer-run organization that leverages technology to inspire greater volunteerism. It’s a space to explore our own relationship with service and our interconnection with the rest of the world. ServiceSpace allows our inherent generosity to blossom out into small acts of service for the community around us. It’s a space to learn how outer change is closely tied to our own inner transformation. It’s about changing ourselves, to change the world.


ServiceSpace was conceived by volunteers, was built by volunteers, and is run by volunteers — all for the benefit of volunteers. Our projects range from a daily positive news service, to an acts-of-kindness portal, to a gift-economy restaurant. Regardless of the endeavor, we act in concert to create service opportunities for each other and to support each other’s service journeys.

In September of 2011, we formally changed our name from CharityFocus to ServiceSpace. Founded in 1999, ServiceSpace was originally started to help non-profits with technical services. Over the past dozen years, the organization has become an umbrella for many generosity-driven projects. Thus we have expanded our services from focusing just on helping charities, to encouraging everyday people to contribute in meaningful ways to the world around them. As the name suggests, our new expanded ServiceSpace platform allows people to stay connected with others interested in service, participate in service opportunities through any of our dozen projects, organize their own local service event using our tools, and stay connected to inspirational content. Above all, we believe in the inherent generosity of others and aim to ignite that spirit of service. Through our small, collective acts, we hope to transform ourselves and the world.

Visit the Service Space organization

Churches run into obstacles on path to hosting Tiny Houses

peace-tiny-house-greenBy Doug Erickson

Compliments: Wisconsin State Journal

Last October, Madison City Council members approved an ordinance change allowing religious institutions and nonprofit organizations to host people in tents or other temporary portable shelters on their premises.

One impetus was the “tiny house” movement, the effort by Occupy Madison Inc. to build a series of small structures on wheels for homeless people. The houses can be parked on city streets, but only if they are moved every 48 hours. Through the ordinance change, churches and other worship communities could provide longer-term sites.


Ten months later, no church is yet hosting a tiny house or homeless encampment, but it’s not for lack of interest or trying, said Brenda Konkel of Occupy Madison Inc.

“The churches that seem most willing to do it are the Downtown churches that don’t have a lot of space,” she said. “It’s the logistical issues that make it most difficult.”

In fairness to the churches, the urgency to find sites has diminished somewhat since last fall. In May, the City Council approved Occupy Madison’s plan to create a village of up to nine tiny houses on a site on East Johnson Street on the city’s East Side. Also, there is not yet a critical mass of tiny houses. Only four have been constructed.

“It’s been a little bit of a lower priority to find church sites,” Konkel said. “Not that we gave up or won’t be back, but until we get to that 10th house, we’re focused mainly on creating a community of tiny houses (at the East Johnson Street site).”

Several churches have spent considerable time and effort on possibly becoming hosts for tiny houses. Trinity Lutheran Church, 1904 Winnebago St., appears to have come the closest.

During Lent this year, the congregation held a series of educational forums on homelessness, with representatives from Occupy Madison among the guest speakers. At the end of Lent, the congregation discussed actions it could take to concretely aid the homeless, and hosting tiny houses was among them.

“We talked extensively about it, and there was definitely support from the whole congregation for having them here,” said the Rev. Sue Schneider. “We were all on board.”

Then a hitch developed. The parking lot adjacent to the church is small and used constantly for church functions and by the many community groups that meet at the church, so it wouldn’t work, Schneider said. The church instead wanted to place the tiny houses on the much larger, auxiliary parking lot it owns across the street.

But the current ordinance does not allow for that scenario. To host a tiny house, a parking lot must be on the church’s immediate premises, not off site, said Matt Tucker, city zoning administrator.

Lake Edge Lutheran Church, 4032 Monona Drive, also pursued the issue seriously.

In June, a church committee met with a number of people from Occupy Madison, including Konkel. Ultimately, the committee felt there were too many issues still to be worked out to move forward right now, said the Rev. Stephen Marsh.

The committee had concerns about the design of the tiny houses, such as whether the heating, ventilation and electrical systems are safe for the occupants, Marsh said. Also, the congregation would need to come to a consensus on several significant details, including whether to allow access to the church building and whether the occupants would be allowed to have alcohol on church property, something currently not allowed.

“We are not giving up, but we’re finding a few more obstacles than we anticipated,” Marsh said.

Lakeview Lutheran Church, 4001 Mandrake Road, which has a long history of helping the homeless, also has put the concept on hold.

“I like the entire idea, and I know there would be interest in this congregation, but I also know there would be some resistance in the neighborhood,” said the Rev. Dean Kirst.

The church saw that resistance in November 2012, when it opened a warming room with coffee for homeless people camping nearby at Lake View Hill Park. “We watched people stop and yell at that encampment, so we know there is opposition,” Kirst said.

The church hosts homeless families on site several weeks each year, providing meals and a safe place to sleep. It does this through an organization called The Road Home Dane County, which handles all of the management issues, from screening families to enforcing rules and responding to emergencies, Kirst said.

Hosting tiny houses would bring with it a greater level of responsibility, one the church has not had time to seriously consider, he said.

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