This is my story about building a non-toxic tiny home in BC, Canada, that would become my healing sanctuary. I decided to build a 10 x 20 ft tiny house on wheels because I did not own land or even know exactly where I would live. I knew I wanted to move from Toronto to Vancouver Island, Canada. I wanted a healthy home, so I found a builder familiar with green building and began the task of choosing zero-VOC materials. I designed the house loosely based on the plans from Leaf House Design.
I used a low-odour wood (for the frame and interior). I originally tried cotton insulation for the walls, but later decided I would go with XPS foam which gives you a high R-value and is healthier than most people think! The walls are magnesium oxide board, a non-toxic cement board, covered in clay plaster to give it a warm and cozy feeling. I love the feel of natural materials like wood finished with hemp oil and clay plaster.
We even dug deep into the details and looked for non-toxic glues, silicones, paints, and stains.
In the kitchen we used solid wood cabinets and Cambria quartz countertops. By carefully choosing materials we were able to avoid materials with added formaldehyde, one of the biggest VOCs in conventional houses. In fact our goal was to get to as close to zero-VOC as possible!
The exterior siding is cedar which is naturally rot resistant. No gas or propane is used in the house, everything is electric and it runs on about 60 amps.
I have fresh water intake from an outdoor hose. A greywater pit and composting toilet allow me to live semi-off the grid. I don’t need a connection to sewage or septic. This way I have a lot more flexibility in where I could park my trailer. I have not had any trouble finding places to park my tiny house in rural areas of Vancouver Island, Canada.
It took only four months to build the house, it was rushed and would have been ideal to have much more time– building green takes more planning. You have to research and source materials, and many things needed to be special ordered.
1 – I could have picked a design that I liked as is, instead of redesigning everything. When choosing a design you can also look for designs that accommodate standard window, cabinet and shower sizes, this will save you a lot of money, this will save you a lot of money.
2 – The second would have been to use a builder who has built a green tiny house before, that would certainly have cut down in labour costs.
3 – The third change would be a lot easier to make now than when it was built in 2013 – now I would go with more local green materials. There has been a big movement in the last few years with all the big companies moving towards manufacturing and certifying greener materials. And now you can find many of these healthier materials at local stores in Canada and the US.
I moved into the house in October 2013. There was no “new house” smell, only the smell of wood, hemp oil and clay! I immediately slept better the first night, and have continued to feel health improvements since I moved in. Most people find my house spacious and calming, and I believe this is because of the design and the healthy materials. After 3 years of living tiny, I’m still loving it and have no plans to go back!
You can check out my blog My Chemical-Free House, for all the details on choosing healthy, non-toxic materials. I have since become certified as a Building Biologist and I now help people build or renovate their own healthy homes.
Feel free to contact me to talk about building green.
– Corinne Segura