Going ‘tiny’ takes family road tripping to the next level
Bucking the longtime trend toward super-sized homes, micro-sized tiny houses have become a popular alternative for buyers seeking simplicity, lower living costs and an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
Kane County builder Bob Clarizio, owner of Titan Tiny Homes in South Elgin, couldn’t be happier about the growing interest, fueled in large part by TV shows, such as HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters” and the FYI network’s “Tiny House Nation,” which will feature Clarizio and his business in episodes airing Saturday, July 9, and Saturday, Aug. 27.
Clarizio even keeps a tiny house available at his business for prospective customers who want to spend the night in one before they buy.
“I just had a couple come all the way from West Virginia,” says Clarizio. “They’ve bought a piece of land and are outfitting their house to live in full time.”
But Clarizio also realizes that living full time in a 200- to 300-square-foot space isn’t for everybody. Even so, he sees the appeal of tiny houses extending beyond the core demographic of singles, first-time buyers and empty nesters.
Clarizio envisions tiny houses as the perfect solution for vacationers.
Starting at under $50,000, they are an affordable alternative to a traditional vacation home, whether they’re parked at a campground or lakeside and connected to available utilities, or moved to a plot of land and outfitted (at additional cost) for off-the-grid living.
“I’ve talked to hunters who have remote five acre parcels with no utilities, and we can set them up to be fully sustainable,” says Clarizio.
They also offer benefits not found in traditional recreational vehicles. Clarizio explains that RVs come in two distinctively different classifications: Park models are designed to remain at a permanent site, while smaller, towable travel trailers, can be moved around easily.
While many RV enthusiasts like the convenience and affordability of travel trailers, structurally, they’re not built to withstand long-term parking and exposure.
“When I was a kid, we had one parked at a place in Wisconsin and when it sits, it deteriorates, rots and leaks,” he says.
Though park models can remain in one place, transporting them to a site, or relocating them – even occasionally – can require scheduling a wide-load escort.
“A park model is 10 feet wide and takes up most of the road. The average person can’t move it on their own,” he says, adding that park model utilities aren’t conducive for short-term connections..
But a towable tiny house offers the best of both worlds, Clarizio says.
At eight and a half feet wide, 13 and a half feet tall and 16 to 32 feet long, the house can be hitched to a pick-up truck (Clarizio moves his tiny home with a three-quarter-ton, 2500 series truck). Quality insulation and double windows ensure the structure can withstand harsh climate and seasonal use.
“We’ve sold units to customers from northern Minnesota, Maine and North Dakota, and other places where it gets really cold. Our houses are insulated to stay at 70 degrees inside, even when it’s 10 below outside, so you can use it all year,” he says.
Prior to launching Titan Tiny Homes, Clarizio focused on home construction and remodeling and takes pride in offering residential quality materials and craftsmanship.
“We use steel stud construction because we wanted to eliminate the opportunity for the structure to rot. Inside, we have drywall and butcher block countertops and premium cabinetry,” he says.
The tiny home’s two lofts provide sleeping space for six adults. The kitchen features a three-burner stove, oven, sink and a 10 cubic foot refrigerator. There also is a living and eating area and a bathroom with a toilet, sink, porcelain tub and shower.
This summer, Clarizio, his wife, Terri, and their young son are finding that a tiny house is great for weekend trips in the area. When the family recently parked at a Yorkville campground, the family’s tiny house drew big interest.
“When we go someplace in it, we get swarmed,” says Clarizio. “Everyone wants to know what it is, and can they see inside it? We must have had 40 or 50 people come to look at it.”
Tiny house camping is more comfortable and convenient than roughing it in a tent, Terri Clarizio says.
“It’s nice having a private bath, sink and electricity,” Terri Clarizio says, adding that she has adjusted to the challenge of cooking in a small kitchen. “You do need to be mindful of space, though the fridge and freezer are decent sized. I would definitely consider it for a longer trip, like up to northern Wisconsin. People up there live in homes that are very small, so we’ll fit right in.”