budget living

Here’s How to Create the Perfect Off-Grid Cottage

Many individuals want a rural cottage, but with housing costs so high, they lament building a house. For some, like the one in three U.S. women or one in four U.S. men who experience domestic violence each year, they need a safe space to call their own. The tiny house phenomenon provides a housing option they need that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Cottage Costs and Designs

With ingenuity, you can construct a tiny house with the help of DIY-talented friends for less than $20,000. That includes the price of the land. If you hire builders, your cost goes up, but purchasing building materials through a Habitat for Humanity ReStore gets you high-quality materials for 90% off. Most ReStores don’t carry lumber, so you’ll need to shop at a local hardware store or home improvement store for it.

Finding Your Site

Platforms like Zillow, Realtor, and Homes.com offer filters so you can search for land sales only. Check each location’s building codes. Not all areas allow tiny houses, and some require a specific minimum square footage.

Also, check an area’s environmental quality before purchasing. For example, Alaska offers some lovely land, but some areas experience pipeline corrosion, something that degrades soil quality and costs the U.S. economy about $9 billion annually. Some areas of California, South Carolina, and North Carolina experience soil erosion problems. Investigate your land options thoroughly, so you purchase wisely.

Prepare for Life in a Rural Area

If you want to live off-grid, that phrase means without electricity or running water. An off-grid home does not rely on municipal utilities. Your options for electricity include a generator, wind power, or solar.

In most areas, the growing solar market offers you the best option. In 2017, global solar installations grew 29.3% as locations around the world added 98.9 gigawatts of solar power. Off-grid water means installing holding tanks. Not all states allow holding tanks. With this option, you either need to haul the tank to a water source to fill it or hire a company to bring the water to you.

Until recently, people could also set up water reclamation barrels to capture rainwater, but that’s no longer an option. According to a 2022 study published in the academic journal Environmental Science & Technology, rainwater throughout the world now contains per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), hazardous chemicals not suitable for human consumption.

Set Up Your Work Site

Even if you go solar once you’ve built the house, you’ll need to purchase or rent a generator to have power while you build. Gas-powered generators make a lot of noise but they’re easy to start, and you find plentiful fuel since they use standard petrol and engine oil. The generator provides the power source for power tools and working lights.

Many people find it easier to build 4’x8′ modules at their normal home site, then transport them to the building site. This method uses less generator gas and can speed building.

If you want to reside on the property while you build, purchase a cabin tent. These roomy tents offer three or more rooms, mosquito netting, room dividers, and built-in trash cans. They also typically measure at least 6′ 4″ in height, making them easy to stand up straight in for most people.

Start Building

Building with pre-fabricated modules typically takes about five full workdays, so if you can take a week off to build, think of it as camping for a week. Pack enough food and drinking water for the week. You’ll need at least a gallon per day of clean drinking water per person.

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