Learn how to build a tiny house

Do you dream of building your own home and wonder about off-grid living? Then join us for a 2 week practical course in West Dorset.

In this hands-on course we will build a small house structure in local timber and make it weatherproof using corrugated roofing, natural-fibre insulation, and wooden cladding.  

You will have a go at the various tasks involved in studwork, insulation, fitting windows and doors, cladding and roofing. You will be guided in the use of both hand and power tools. Alongside the building work we will talk about the design process and reflect on how you might decide to build your own. The course intends to build your skillset in no-waste production of affordable housing – while you have a good time. Everyone can do it.

By the end of the course participants will have explored all the basic elements of creating a tiny house, including:

  • Basic building design and understanding the advantages of different layouts
  • Building a simple studframe for a building that fits a 2.5 m x 5.4 m trailer.
  • Sourcing and installing cladding and insulation
  • Sourcing and Installing windows and doors
  • Building a simple roof
  • Using hand and powertools safely and working as a team.
  • Making informed choices about power and energy systems.

As a part of the course special guests will deliver sessions on issues around sustainable Tinyhouse living such as energy and water-use, planning and community building.

Guests include:

Victor Crutchley will take us for a walk through his woods at North Eggardon Farm. He will talk about the diversity of the woodland environment, his way of growing trees for timber and explain what is involved in timber processing. Includes at visit to Eggardon Sawmills. www.eggardonsawmill.com

Pat Bowcock from Ourganics – Evolving Systems will share experiences from her life in off- grid permaculture. Pat is one of the leading lights in permaculture design teaching and is a great guide in the principals of People Care, Fair Share and Earth Care. www.learnpermaculture.com/ourganics-evolving-systems

Chris Rudge, who since 2006 has advised and installed Off Grid power for people and organisations in need of it, will share his knowledge on various sustainable energy systems to heat and power your Tinyhouse. www.offgridsystems.co.uk

The course is run in collaboration with Tim Crabtree of Dorset Woodhub and Wessex Community Assets (WCA)and is part of the Raise the Roof project. It will be led by designer, maker and constructor Karen Hansen.

Karen Hansen has worked in design and make with natural materials in West Dorset for 25 years and her experience in construction is based on carpentry, traditional timber-framing and strawbale building. After reconnecting with her danish roots she now works with material culture in education and to establish communal work practices that enable local action for sustainable living. The structure is built to her design and she is covering all material cost involved. www.karenhansen.co.uk

The practical details

The day program will run from 9.30 – 17.00 and be at a pace where you can both be active and have time to reflect.

Week 1: 26-30 July with guest speaker Victor Cruthcley and Pat Bowcock

  • You will learn about the woodland environment and be introduced to timber growing and selection for construction uses.
  • We will make the panel structures for the house, erect them and carry on with the roof.
  • We hope to celebrate with a topping out ceremony.

Week 2: 23-27 August with guest speaker Chris Rudge and Pat Bowcock

  • You will learn about sustainable material choices and consider circular economic solutions.
  • We will install the windows and doors and the structure will be insulated and made weatherproof. 
  • We will line the interior, making it ready for fitting out and talk about energy systems to run the home.
  • We will celebrate and relax.

Course Fee

The course fee is £720 for both weeks and will cover lunch and all tools and building materials. You also have the option to join us for a single week at £396. We recommend you come equipped with safety boots.

Places are limited, but feel free to get in touch even if you can’t afford the full fee. We are working at finding ways to offer bursaries.

To apply, please complete the booking form at: https://forms.gle/aEtoDUvtGuurAKiw9

Site and Accommodation

The course will take place in Nettlecombe near Powerstock.

You can camp for free in the nearby cider orchard or choose to pay to stay at Ourganics in Litton Cheney (hot showers and kitchen facilities). Please enquire for further details.

WCA was founded in 2005 and is a community benefit society run by locally-based practitioners who help social enterprises in Devon, Dorset and Somerset to access land, finance and other resources. It was a key organisation in the development of community land trusts in the UK and has supported over 100 community enterprises in fields such as local food, renewable energy, employment workspace and affordable housing. The focus is now to develop a model for the construction of affordable housing, linked directly to locally rooted materials and develop a training programme in sustainable construction, that will enable people to engage in the design and practical building of their own homes.

This course is run as a follow on from the Tiny House Course of 2020 which was held at North Eggardon Farm. 14 Dorset based unemployed  people who was offered free training in sustainable construction joined forces with the tutors Karen Hansen, James McLellan and Victor Cructhley to build a Tiny house which is now on its way to be erected as a dwelling for a homeless person in Somerset.

Tim Crabtree- developer of research and innovation within WCA is coordinating the Raise the Roof partnership with Common GroundThe Arts Development CompanyDorset Woodhub and Bridport Town Council, and the project was fortunate to secure funding from the Golden Bottle Trust, Dorset AONB and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (the latter provided funds from the Education & Skills Funding Agency matched by the European Social Fund) to start off  the process of prototyping initial designs and testing local supply chains. www.wessexca.co.uk/2020/11/raise-the-roof. The Raise the Roof project are developing further pilot projects and training programmes which are under way for later in the year.