Tiny Solar Saltbox

I updated the Tiny Solar House plans tonight and added 5 pages that explain how this 8′ by 12′ house can be easily extended into a 12′ by 16′. I also made a little change to the name of the house and changed it from Tiny Solar House to Tiny Solar Saltbox.

I’ve also sent out a free update to everyone who has already bought the plans. So when you buy a set of my plans it’s more like a subscription where you receive updated versions when I make improvements to the design.

The plans are available for $9.95 and come as a PDF download. The Tiny Solar Saltbox plans now has 45 pages that mainly details how to build one 8′ by 12′ Saltbox unit. But once you know how to build one unit, you can build wider variations easily. Below are some of the drawings you’ll find in the plans.

For those of you patiently waiting for the 12×24 plans… they’ll be available any day now.

13 thoughts on “Tiny Solar Saltbox

  1. David Chase says:

    Breathe Micheal breathe, seems you’re piling a bit much on your plate lately. Been missing your updates but don’t forget, breathing is important. Yes, I’m ragging you a little to remind you of the probable reasons you’d started all this. Have Fun.

      • frank says:

        The difficulty then is that when you get up to 12×16, a permit is required in many areas. And since the roof design does not follow the prescriptive guidelines of the building codes, and doesn’t even show the nailing requirements (number, size, spacing), the building inspector will likely require an engineer’s stamp (at least in areas that get any significant amount of snowfall). So these $10 plans could end up costing the buyer several hundred dollars.

        Of course if no building permit is needed, people can go ahead and build this at their own risk (assuming they understand that there is a risk). That roof design kind of reminds me of a nutcracker working in reverse…the leverage results in a strong force being applied near the hinge point (roof ridge). A heavy snow load will spread the rafters and tear that cross-tie apart. But what amount of snow would do it? 60 lbs/sqft? 40? 20?

        To avoid these issues, I really think buyers would be better off if you stuck to designs that fall within the prescriptive guidelines of the most common building codes. This is what Canadian building codes say about rafter ties:

        (4) When the roof slope is 1 in 3 or more, ridge support need not be provided when the lower ends of the rafters are adequately tied to prevent outward movement.
        (5) Ties required in Sentence (4) are permitted to consist of tie rods or ceiling joists forming a continuous tie for opposing rafters and nailed in accordance with Table
        (6) Ceiling joists referred to in Sentence (5) shall be fastened together with at least one more nail per joist splice than required for the rafter to joist connection shown in the Table
        (7) Members referred to in Sentence (6) are permitted to be fastened together either directly or through a gusset plate

        The referenced table tells exactly how many nails to use based on the roof slope, rafter spacing and snow load. Note that sentence (4) refers to the *lower* ends of the rafters. A tie up near the ridge doesn’t meet the requirements, no matter how it is attached.

        • Michael Janzen says:

          Thanks for being frank Frank 🙂

          My intention is to provide the best plans I can to DIY owner builder types (like myself), so I really appreciate your input.

          When I drew the trusses I was picturing using metal connectors to fasten the trusses to the walls and bolts in the plywood plates. In the plans I mention that the builder should use the appropriate connectors and fasteners for their specific region but do not specify down to that level of detail… since the requirements would theoretically change slightly for each situation.

          So I have immediately started researching the best way to augment the plans to make them as safe and structurally sound as possible. When the next version is ready, which will include more information on making this design work in heavy snow locations, I’ll send a free update to all past buyers, as I do for every revised version.


    • Michael Janzen says:

      The structure and how you choose to setup the utilities are really independent of each other. The choices are nearly endless which is why they aren’t specified in the plans.

  2. Nelson From Vegas says:

    I have been searching for a design that I can build for my Family .I think this is going to be a great one as it can be expanded in graduations of 8 feet. Frank was saying I may need a permit if over 16 feet I am building in Montana on a piece of land given to us by my wifes folks.I have checked on the Montana Government site and they say sheds do not require a permit. Where would I go to verify all these questions?? Thanks for all the help and will be buying your PDF plans shortly.

    P.S. I have already got the roof on and started buying windows for 8 X 8 house that I built from your free plans. They are awesome plans and I highly recommend them to anyone!!!

    • Tom (IRC Expert) says:

      Depending upon the edition date of the International Residential Code adopted by your jurisdication, Section R105.2 “Work exempt from permit” states:
      1. One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed ___ square feet.

      The 2003 and 2009 editions state 200sf.
      The 2006 edition states 120sf

      This is often amended, so you will need to contact the regulatory jurisdication to determine their stated exempt value.

      Be aware that the language is for “sheds” and other structures that are not habitable. Building a house, albeit small, implies that it is habitable and therefore not exempt.

      Building it on a trailer that is licensed and has wheels removes it from the building code’s authority. However, zoning regulations may intercede.

      Some friendly guidance to keep you out of trouble!

  3. Nan says:

    As for snow, ask your electrician to put a small electrical warming element under your shingles. It is thermostatically controlled and uses very little energy. It works kind of like radiant floor heat.

  4. Craig F says:

    Question: I am not sure if has been stated, but what are the front and rear wall heights?
    Do you feel the plan could be easily modified to have 10′ walls? The reason I ask is that I would like to build a 12×16 (under the requirements for permit, UNLESS I have power) and have a little loft. once that is done I want to have a close, yet not attached 12×16′ covered deck, and then build a 12×16′ saltbox next to that.. all REAL close but independent. Thanks

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