How-To Make Your Tiny House Safe

by andrewodom on March 6, 2012 · 13 comments


As we draw even closer to the beginning of our actual tiny house construction (combined, of course, with now having yet another life to be responsible for) my thoughts have become focused a bit more on safety.

The other day Crystal and I were talking windows when I suddenly thought Wait! Will any of these windows be appropriately sized to act as an escape route as well? The answer? One will now! And so that got me thinking about ways we could add to our tiny house to ensure a few more safety protocols. In fact, perhaps the tiny house community on the whole is not taking enough security measures in our pint-sized pads. So I began to jot a few things down. A few things turned into this list.

Safety Checks for the living space and sleeping area

  • All outlets and switches should have faceplates.
  • Check that extension cords are correctly rated for the amount of electricity they are to carry and are Underwriter Laboratory (UL) approved.
  • Make sure electric cords are not nailed or stapled in place.
  • Install at least one window that can double as an exit strategy in the event of an emergency.
  • Do not install or store ladder to loft area in a direct traffic path.

Safety Checks for the kitchen (and bathroom as they both have water flow and puddling possibilities)

  • Small appliances (hair dryers, mixers, toasters, etc.) should be unplugged when not in use.
  • Keep all appliance cords away from hot surfaces (toasters, range tops, ovens, etc.).
  • Check that all appliances and electric equipment are located away from the sink and bath.
  • In kitchens, bathrooms, and near swimming pools, standard outlets should be replaced with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s).
  • Never leave electric heaters and hot plates unattended when in use.

Safety checks to insure against fire

  • Develop an emergency exit plan for your tiny house in case of a fire. Practice the plan regularly.
  • Keep your vent piping clean.
  • Keep candles and incense away from beds and blankets.
  • Store flammable liquids such as paints, solvents and propane away from heating sources.
  • Install an A,B,or C fire extinguisher approved by The National Fire Protection Association at each end of the house.

Safety checks to insure against carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Use extreme care whenever any types of fuel (oil, coal, gas, kerosene, wood) are burned indoors.
  • Be especially sure there is proper ventilation when fireplaces, wood stoves or other air consuming devices are operated.
  • Never use a charcoal grill in the house.
  • Install a CO detector.

Did I miss anything? What steps have you taken in your tiny house to insure against unnecessary accidents or calamities? Has this post helped you think about ways you can protect you and your family more?

  • http://twitter.com/ethanwaldman Ethan Waldman

    Great article! I think the trickiest part is trying to get a window that’s big enough in the loft to provide proper egress.  As much as I’ve tweaked and planned, I can’t seem to get a big enough window in there to meet proper code. I’m really not wanting to put a hole in the roof for a skylight. They don’t fare well here in VT with all the snow, and ice, etc.  So, I’m just going with the biggest windows I can in the loft, and some good smoke detectors below!

    • anotherkindofdrew

      I wouldn’t worry too much about code. Are you anticipating a building inspector coming out to your place? If so, chances are (and please don’t hear me as being discouraging) your entire house will fall below code. Just design it with a window that will work for you to escape from! In addition to the smoke detectors you may want to consider CO detectors if you are using propane at all. Keep on keepin’ on, my friend. You are rocking!

      • http://twitter.com/ethanwaldman Ethan Waldman

        Drew- It’s not actually meeting code that I’m concerned about. I just know that code offers a good guideline when it comes to egress.  I’m much smaller than the average person, so I could probably escape from a smaller than code window. 

        Also- great call on the CO2 detector. I will have many propane appliances. Definitely the fireplace and the HW heater, and I’m also looking at Norcold propane fridges.

  • TheJessParsons

    And for those of you that do have cars parked outside your house and neighbors close by, the panic button on your keychain doubles as a house alarm For use in many different emergency situations !!!!

    • anotherkindofdrew

      EXCELLENT point. Funny you mention too. We have a panic alarm on our car keychain and I accidentally pressed it for the first time today. (note: our car is a 2007). I had NO idea how to shut it off so there I was sitting in the car with the alarm going off not knowing what to do. I finally just pushed it again and it “magically” turned off! HAHAHAHA

      • http://www.thisluminouslife.wordpress.com/ Laura N.

        *LAUGHS!* You have no idea how often I accidentally push the car alarm button on my keychain….

  • http://www.thisluminouslife.wordpress.com/ Laura N.

    Love this post! I know you’re in the south, but have you considered or done any reading on securing a tiny home during a strong storm, snow, rain, lightning, whatever, etc? That seems to be a big concern from my parents.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Actually, I have. I wrote a post back in May 2011 about just that subject. Check it out Laura: http://www.tinyrevolution.us/2011/05/21/how-to-anchor-down-your-tiny-house/

  • http://www.cozyhomeplans.com/ Kevin Harrington

    Another great post as usual Drew! That’s a great list but my first reaction was that safety starts during the planning and construction phase also. Make sure all electrical wires are adequate to carry any load required of them plus installed properly during construction. If you’re using gas or propane for heating or cooking, make sure you have adequate ventilation and access to any connections to check for leaks in the future. We are all focused on making homes as airtight and efficient as possible but we need to remember that homes still need to breathe. My suggestion for any emergency exit windows is to have them custom made out of tempered glass. Then in the unfortunate event that it ever has to be used you can just go right through it instead of loosing those precious seconds trying to open it. Just a thought…

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you so much Kevin. And as always…thank you for being part of the conversation. You are absolutely right! And see? Even I took it for granted to talk about. Safety should be a conversation had before the first nail is hammered in. Wiring, ventilation, and even plumbing are things that no DIYer should be embarrassed about asking for help with. 

      Oh, and great idea about the tempered glass. We are going to call Monday or Tuesday to a local glass shop and see if we can have our rear window retrofitted with tempered. 

  • http://www.cozyhomeplans.com/ Kevin Harrington

    Honored to be a part of the “Tiny” movement with you and sharing. Certain types of windows like a single casement or single/double hung would be better for escaping through.  It would be much harder for an adult “especially one my size” to get through a slider type of window quickly. I am actually working on a kid friendly plan now inspired by our last conversation. Keep up the great work!

    • Andodom

      Honored to have you. You know, if you ever want to write a guest post or host a giveaway here you are MORE than welcome to. It would, in fact, be our pleasure! 

      You are right in that a double hung would be better. However, my beautiful wife really wanted to size of the glider and I have always liked the way they function. BUT….we have 3 that are 48″ x 48″ so that makes things a little better. May be expensive to get the glass cut though in regards to tempered. Would make it worth it though for peace of mind.

      Can’t wait to see your kid friendly design. Let us know if we can throw in our two cents seeing as how we are dealing with much of that now. 

      Thanks again for the support Kevin!

  • EmmaJ

    I’ve thought about this some myself. If I ever get to build my imaginary tiny house, loft windows that are big enough to climb out of are a priority. Thanks for the tips on additional matters to consider!

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