Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Maryland Tiny House Expo Draws Thousands

On Sunday I visited the Tiny House Expo at the Howard County Fairgrounds just west of Baltimore, Maryland. First thing I liked about it was that it was an indoor show and I didn’t have to walk through the crowds on a muddy field while it was raining.


When we arrived on Sunday morning we had to wait in line about 5 minutes to get into the show. When we left about 12:30 PM the line to get in was about 200 people deep.


The lines to get into the houses had wait times of up to 30 minutes as most of the tiny houses on display only had one door. Note to self: don’t invite a lot of friends to party inside.

Trade Show Observation: As we walked around the perimeter we stopped at several displays and talked with vendors. They were a mixed bag of tiny house builders, bathroom remodelers, clothing shops and a cooking demonstration. With the exception of several vendors, most just set up a table next to the traffic flow, which was huge at times, put some literature on the table with 2 chairs behind it. If someone actually wanted to talk to the vendor they were pushed and shoved by the crowd.


Halfway down the first aisle I came across a modular home builder with a great looking booth that decided to add tiny houses to their offerings. Gerard and Alicia, owners of Willoughby Construction, had a good booth with plenty of room for lookers to get out of the traffic. I learned they also offer modular medical cottages, granny pods, additions, ADU’s, cabins as well as custom modular homes.


On the other side of the building was the National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH). This was a pleasant surprise. They offer a certification program for the Tiny House on Wheels (THOW) factory and DIY builder. Basically it appears to be a third party inspection service strictly for the THOW builder. They told me they already have 70 factories signed up with their service.


After introducing myself, the two people working the booth were very knowledgeable about the problems facing the THOW industry including implementation of the 2018 IRC supplement that regulates code for tiny houses. I showed them a picture I took of one of the tiny houses on display at the show and they quickly caught the poor workmanship saying that home would never get certified by NOAH. See if you can spot the two problems they noticed.


Then it was off to visit the tiny houses themselves. The people I talked with standing in line were there to see the homes that they’ve been reading about and seeing on TV. After actually walking through them the people said they were cute but the vast majority really didn’t get the appeal. “Too small!”, “You mean I have to use a toilet that looks like it came out of my travel trailer?”, “How would my dog ever climb the ladder to my bed?” (my favorite) and finally our most often heard comment “I could never live in that.”


On a personal level, my wife and I could actually live in a couple of the ones on display. They were well designed and built with all the essential features we would need. To be honest though, I think we wouldn’t last more than a year in one. Buying or building one as your primary home is a choice that should be well thought out.

Now for the other side of tiny houses. Several were poorly designed and a couple were built with materials both in the interior and exterior that wouldn’t hold up very long in the real world.

If after walking through the tiny homes on display you absolutely fall in love with idea of living in it permanently, do your homework. There are a lot of things the tiny home sellers don’t tell you especially if you want to live in the Eastern part of the country.

Overall the Tiny House Expo appeared to be a success and a lot of people had smiles on their faces while there. It was a fun event.


Anonymous said...

Coach, enough with the tiny outhouses already. There are inexpensive RV trailers that look better, designed better and with more safety features than these goofy looking portable job johnnys.
So please stop writing about something that if not regulated will be nothing more than death traps for people that want to look and act like hippies and gypsies.

Jason Carter said...

Coach you have to keep talking about Tiny Houses. They aren't going away! they will just have to be built to IRC code and they should be! As our economy continues to grow slowly and the income margins change and the young people need to have a place to live and most of them want a life style of lean. So either its City towers or Tiny Houses in the cities and rural area's you see tiny houses have more to offer they really don't want an RV and the HUD or RVIA Tiny's have proven to take charge for certain demographics. SO you haters of code! sorry, some times they are needed.

Coach said...

Don't worry Jason. As long as tiny houses are in vogue I will write about them. My worry is that someone won't build one to any type of code and die because of CO or fire. I also have real concerns that anyone with a hammer can build them in their backyard and call themselves a factory.