Tiny Homes — Buying, selling or maintaining

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Tiny homes are popular for guest cottages, temporary housing, Seasonal housing, mother-in-law apartments and more.  This article concerns Tiny Homes which are built on trailers and considered recreational vehicles or RV’s.  Smaller homes, ‘micro-homes, or compact cottages on permanent foundations have more in common with detached buildings and are discussed in greater detail in this article.  We can and do inspect Tiny Homes on a regular basis– keep in mind however that recreational vehicles do not appraise in a real estate transaction and may or may not convey, however there may be some appraised value in the campsite, utilities or the permanent improvements.   An appraiser or real estate lending institution can be consulted for more information.

Tiny Homes and County Regulations

Check with your county for more information about Tiny Homes.

Buncombe County Regulations on Tiny Homes or RV’s

Here in Buncombe County Tiny Homes on a metal chassis are consider RV’s and these regulations apply:

  • Short Term Vacation Rentals are not permitted
  • Allowed in Zoning districts R3, PS, CR and OU
  • Can be lived in for 180 days or less per calendar year

Tiny Home Utilities or ‘Full Hookups’

Water, Sewage and Electrical set-ups for Tiny Homes are typically similar or exactly the same as RV utilities – or RV ‘Full Hookups’.  What do full hookups look like?  Anyone who has experience with RV camping knows that full hookups could be as simple as a 30 amp plug fastened to a 4×4 post for power, a 4 inch PVC drain pipe for septic, and a frost resistant hydrant with hose connection for water service– we will discuss these utilities more below.  Tiny Homes are generally considered by states, cities and counties as recreational vehicles or RV’s.  When we discuss inspecting the utilities for Tiny Homes they are generally entirely separate from the electrical and plumbing systems inside the tiny home.

Tiny Home Temporary Power (Sub-panel)

The most common tiny home electrical configuration is similar to full hook-ups for RV’s– most tiny homes will typically have their own 30 or 50 amp sub-panel located somewhere inside and a power or extension cord that can connect to a Temporary Power source or an exterior sub-panel.  The exterior panel that provides temporary power to the tiny home is typically fastened to a post, detached building, or the main house.  All electrical sub-panels located outside should be labeled Type 3 and corrosion resistant.

A note on the Ampacity or ‘Amp’ rating

Ampacity refers to the maximum load a system can safely handle.  The ampacity of a sub-panel is typically limited by the thickness of the wires, the rating of the panel, and the distance of the service wires.  These calculations are best performed by a licensed electrician.

Typical Amp Requirements:

Modern homes — 200 amp
Townhomes/Condos/ Smaller homes — 150 amp
Older Single Family Homes from the 60s/70s — 100 amp
Older Single Family Homes 50s/60s — 60 amp
Larger RV or Tiny Home– 50 amp
Smaller RV or Tiny Home – 30 amp
Dryer/Range – 30 amp
Typical extension cord or smaller electrical circuit for home (8 typical outlets) – 15 amp

Inspecting Tiny Home Temporary Power Sub-Panels:

Best Practice Power Installations:
  • Minimum of 30 amp.  A Sub-panel that has a 30 and a 50 amp plug with GFCI outlet would be even better.
  • Breakers, panel and wiring should be properly labeled, sized and rated
  • Modern sub-panels require a 4 wire cable — 2 hots, 1 neutral, and 1 ground (rather than 3 wires)
  • Neutral and ground wires should be isolated or not connected to the same bus bar or panel
  • Conduit, or protective tubes, should be used to protect the service wire from damage (below panels and underground).
Common Temporary Power sub-panel defects:
  • No sub panel present– wire or extension cord only.  (This is an electrical and safety hazard and can damage wiring, appliances and other components) — full upgrade/replacement may be needed
  • 3 wire service only – recommend an additional driven grounding rod at exterior sub-panel to provide an equipment ground
  • Neutrals and grounds not isolated – generally an easy fix
  • Breakers not compatible with panel – generally an easy fix
  • Corroded panel due to high humidity – this is unsafe and the panel and breakers should be replaced
  • Missing conduits – selective repairs or a full upgrade may be needed
  • Service line not buried deep enough to prevent possible damage – full upgrade/replacement will be needed
  • Under-sized service wires – full upgrade/replacement will be needed

Tiny Home Water Service and Septic/Sewer Systems

Inspecting Tiny Home Septic/Sewer Systems

The seller should be asked for the Operations Permit of any on-site wastewater or septic system.  A septic inspection company or sewer scope inspection company can be consulted to learn more about the septic/sewer systems.

Best Practice Water Service and Septic/Sewer Installation:
  • Permitted and professionally installed
  • Water service line should be buried below the frost line with 14 gauge trace wire to help with location
  • 3″ or 4″ Schedule 40 PVC waste lines with adequate slope to septic/sewer
  • Frost resistant self-draining Hydrant for water service
Common Water Service and Septic/Sewer Defects:
  • Un-permitted — check with city/county planning
  • Water service line that is not buried below the frost line and subject to freezing/bursting – full replacement needed
  • Waste line exits to yard not the sewer/septic system – full replacement needed
  • Septic system is not designed to accommodate additional septic load of detached building – check with city/county planning
  • Issues with the septic/sewer system– inadequate, undersized, deteriorating, damaged pipes, backing up, etc…

Tiny Home Parking Area or Campsite

Best Practice Parking or Campground Accommodations
  • Well-draining compacted soil, gravel or hard-surface parking and lounge area
  • Covered areas and other structures should be well constructed and well-maintained
  • Good access and turn-around areas
  • Driveway should not be too steep
  • Full hookups (water, septic/sewer, and 30/50 amp electrical service)

Tiny Home Construction

Good construction and maintenance practices will extend the service life of a Tiny Home:

Best Practice Tiny Home Construction
  • Roof overhangs (help protect the siding and trim)
  • Seamless gutter system with drip edge flashing (help protect the siding/trim)
  • Low maintenance and/or decay resistant siding/trim materials
  • Metal z flashing at siding/trim transition areas
  • Double paned windows
  • Professionally installed electrical and plumbing systems
  • Professionally installed insulation and ventilation systems
  • Professionally installed heating/cooling system
  • Tiny Home is constructed in a controlled environment to prevent mold issues
Tiny Home Maintenance
  • Paint every 5-7 years and stain every 3 years
  • Maintain the gutters regularly and re-seal every 3 years
  • Mechanically dehumidify the interior during hot/humid/rainy times
  • Regularly treat for rodents and wood destroying insects
  • Park in a covered area if possible

Asheville Tiny Home Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for Tiny Home Inspections in the Asheville area.  We also provide Tiny Home Mold testing,  Schedule online or call with questions.

 

 

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