Over the last month we’ve reconsidered a number of things, and I’m going to explain why.
Our goal was to build Minim without pursuing a variance of any kind. We wanted to show you how to build a tiny house in the simplest of ways. But last week we discovered that the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections will not permit us to build on our tiny, 1050 square foot site without applying for a variance. We had originally expected the site to be “grandfathered in” considering that it once had a house on it. Now the code requires a minimum lot size of 1,800 square feet and the City is going to hold us to it. Given that we have to apply for a variance anyway, we’ve decided to apply for several more, leading me to our redesign.
December brought winter, and a bunch of very expensive tiny house bids. There are a number of factors that we believe caused this. First, some of the larger contractors we approached simply can’t efficiently bid a tiny house. Our best approach will be to have two guys on site who build everything themselves, with a little help from a roofer, plumber and electrician. Second, Minim’s design separates out the kitchen and bathroom plumbing. This makes no difference on a trailer, but it makes a lot of difference on a building site. You need kitchen and bathroom plumbing backing onto each other to have the most cost effective solution. Third, we disliked the siting of Minim, lengthways along the site. In particular we thought its tiny elevation would not look good on the street. Fourth, using 170 square feet of our tiny 1,050 square foot site seems downright foolish. So we have redesigned our tiny house into a compact L-shape which hugs the back of the site. We’re planning a beautiful garden out front and the owner will park on the street. While we’ll keep some interior elements of the Minim design, we’re ready to call it The Garfield Tiny House instead.
Our zoning hearing is in March and we’ve applied for the following variances:
- A reduced rear yard setback of 3 feet;
- Waiver of the on-site parking requirement; and
- Permission to build on a site that is smaller than 1,800 square feet.
Slowing down and changing direction has allowed us to develop a more attractive solution for our tiny site dilemma.