Isabel Winson-Sagan writes about Tiny House progress, fractions, and learning curve

The Things I’ve Learned So Far:

Measuring- I know this seems incredibly basic, but I honestly did not truly understand how to use a tape measure quickly and effectively until I began the wall framing. One of the reasons I started this project was because I was frustrated with the woodworking and green building programs at my school. Because of my woodworking background, I am used to dealing with very minute increments, but I was never really trained to measure. I usually get there in the end due to my own tricks, but it tends to be time consuming. It has also been hard to break my woodworker’s habit of getting everything EXACTLY right (framing doesn’t have to be perfect, and can be inaccurate up to ¼” without any problems arising). There is really no substitute for a construction project when learning this kind of skill.

Fractions- Again, basic. But I haven’t dealt with fractions (outside of fine woodworking) since the 7th grade. My teachers always said we would end up using math someday…

Plans- I think that reading building plans may be one of those things that people often think will be easy to read and understand. My green building prof, who also teaches a class called “How To Read Blueprints,” vehemently disagrees with this notion. Plans involve their own visual language, and you must be somewhat skilled in that language in order to follow along. Even my fiancé, who grew up in the trades, misses little details on my tiny house plans. Luckily we have access to a contractor, who helped us out with our initial misunderstandings concerning the trailer. Ever since then we’ve been able to muddle through, gaining knowledge and relying on each other to notice things the other person might have missed. But when it comes to something more complicated, like the roof, we will probably need to seek professional assistance once again.

Chop Saw- This is actually something that I did receive formal training in. I was taught how to safely and accurately use and maintain a variety of woodworking power tools. The problem, for me at least, has been a lack of hands-on experience. I’ve been taking woodworking on and off classes for the last 5 years, but until recently I did not have access to any tools in my home. I still don’t know all of the tools, and we actually don’t maintain a chop saw in the school shop. Perhaps it’s too small of a thing to make this list, but I know that for many people just starting out on their tiny house adventure, how to use the chop saw is a big learning step.

Project Management- Dealing with the issues of time, money, sub-contracting, the other demands in my life (which in my case includes physical disability), has been a balancing act, and something of an emotional journey. I must have wanted to put myself to the test, because this is it! Even though the experience has been rewarding, it’s also a fairly complicated project, with multiple factors.

To follow the progress, go to

Building A Tiny House: Romance vs. Reality

Isabel Winson-Sagan reports:

Now, if we had followed the original plans, we probably would have ended up destroying this brand new trailer. Luckily I’m being helped by experienced metal workers/contractors, who pointed out that removing the side walls would wreck the structural integrity of the trailer. We could still remove the railings in the front and the ramps from underneath, just not the side walls. It seems possible that purchasing a new trailer, while safer in many respects than going with a used one, undermined us on this point because this model is newer than the one used for previous Tumbleweed tiny houses, and so the plans and the trailer do not match up. So the question became- how do we modify the plans in order to keep the original floor dimensions, without removing the sidewalls, in a safe manner?

To see the ongoing process of Isabel Winson-Sagan’s BabaBuilders, go to


Isabel’s Tiny House

My ultra creative daughter Isabel is building herself an official Tiny House this summer. The Slavic witch Baba Yaga isn’t the only one with a mobile dwelling! Help be part of the team that builds the foundation–a trailer bed in this case–by contributing at
$5.00 gets you in as part of the team and higher contributions get you a B & B stay in the house!