Tiny Tuesday: Hoisting the Tiny House Standard

There are legal standards for building a house on a foundation – much of the US has adopted the International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings. There are also standards for building an RV and a manufactured home (aka mobile home). But a tiny house on wheels is none of these: it’s a hand-built mobile structure, readily towable but unable to move under its own power. As yet there are no official standards to build such a house. The American Tiny House Association (ATHA) wonders if it should change that.

ATHA already publishes guidelines for constructing a tiny house on wheels. Some guidelines are structural: “Tie the roof to the walls with hurricane straps, and 10d nails.” “If open spaces make up more than 25% of a wall, crossbeams may be required for additional support. Consult a structural engineer.” Other guidelines improve occupant safety given the unique demands of this kind of home: “Tiny house appliances and systems should either be installed with extra caulking to withstand road vibration or be properly secured during travel.” “Energy recovery ventilators are recommended in tight homes to protect indoor air quality.”

But the guidelines are optional to follow, and they’re certainly not the law. Repercussions abound for a potential tiny house owner: how does one know that a house for sale is safe and structurally adequate? How can a home inspector check for code compliance if no code exists? What’s the resale value?

ATHA proposes writing a standard for acceptance by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which would solve these problems and would also enable zoning regulations to permit tiny houses on wheels where RVs are prohibited. The code development process requires time and money from the tiny house community, including volunteer writers, legal counsel, and an annual maintenance fee to ANSI.

What do you think – is it time for tiny houses to get their own ANSI standard?

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