Tiny homes to star at garden show

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Local Kenton Zerbin speaks on compact living

St. Albert residents will get to check out some of the tiniest homes around next week as part of an annual home and garden show.

Sturgeon County resident Kenton Zerbin will speak on building and owning a tiny home next week as part of the 49th annual Edmonton Home & Garden Show.

Some 55,000 people are expected to come to the show at the Edmonton Expo Centre next week to learn about food, gardening and home renovations, said Alison Farrell, one of the event’s managers. Featured this year are some 600 vendors (several from St. Albert), 23 interactive exhibits, and celebrity guests such as Food Network star Massimo Capra.

This year’s show features a display of tiny homes, which are homes small enough to fit on a trailer. Tiny homes are an emerging trend amongst homeowners looking to downsize, Farrell said.

Zerbin built one of the homes in the display, and will talk about how he made it at the show.

A tiny home is usually about 24 feet long, eight wide and less than 13’6” tall, Zerbin said – any taller and you can’t fit it under certain bridges. Most cost between $40,000 and $50,000, although some claim you can build one for $10,000.

“It’s kind of the ultimate do-it-yourself project,” he said, although there are companies that will build them for you as well.

Zerbin said he and his wife’s home has cost about $100,000 so far; it would have been about half that if they didn’t make it off-grid.

“For us, (a tiny home) was a way to have a gorgeous house that’s very energy efficient and off-grid without going half a million dollars into debt,” Zerbin said.

The smart, small house

Zerbin’s home, which is nearly complete, is a turquoise box designed for off-grid living. It has onboard water storage, solar electric and solar thermal panels, LED lights, many windows and more hidden compartments than a James Bond vehicle. Despite being just 28 feet long and nine-feet, six-inches wide, you can fit 10 people in it.

The first thing you see when you open the door is the couch, Zerbin said.

“It actually has a hidden water tank,” he said. There is a concealed storage compartment behind the back and by your feet for cushions and books.

Left of the couch is a sliding barn-wood door with integrated ladder that leads to the loft. Behind the door is the bathroom/utility room, which contains a shower made from half a wine barrel, a heated towel rack (which is actually part of the home’s heating system), a washing machine, a composting toilet and the utilities – all in a four-by-eight foot space.

To the right of the couch are stairs that also act as storage boxes. Upstairs is the master bedroom, which features numerous windows and a closet, concealed behind a pivoting wall.

The kitchen is under the bedroom, Zerbin said. This C-shaped room features a fridge, a full-sized gas range, a wood stove for heat, two countertops, and a pull-out breakfast bar that deploys legs and a bench to become a table.

Tiny homes aren’t legal in Edmonton or Sturgeon County, Zerbin said, although the county was considering legalizing them as part of changes to its land-use bylaw. He knew of about six in the Edmonton region, most of which their owners kept secret due to these legal issues.

Zerbin said tiny homes force you to really think about what you want in your home, as you don’t have space for it all: if you have a big kitchen, you might have to shrink the bathroom.

“You have to do a lot of smart design.”

The Edmonton Home and Garden Show runs from March 23 to 26. Tickets are $16 at the door. Discounts are available by purchasing tickets online at edmontonhomeandgarden.com.

Correction

A previous version of this story said that the maximum height of a tiny home was 10’6″. This is actually the maximum width allowed for a home on the road without use of a pilot truck. The actual max height to fit under most bridges is 13’6″.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.