Danby Mini House
My husband (a past contractor) and I (architectural designer) decided that we wanted to downsize from our large, inefficient, 100 year old house in downtown Ithaca and experience country living with our two young boys. We weren’t sure how this experience would work for the four of us, so we kept the downtown house as a rental and built the house with cash. We found 12 acres not too far from downtown and we designed and built a small, well insulated and affordable home for ouselves.
Budget and time were our biggest challenges. We figured that we could afford to build up to 800 square feet if we did the majority of work ourselves. The foot print of the house is 20 feet by 24 feet with a basement and a loft in half of that area. We added a little mud room and a bed bump out in our bedroom bringing the total area above ground to 792 square feet. A large screened in porch expands our space in the summer. The house is typical stick frame construction (2 x 6’s) with the exception that we strapped, ripped 2 x 4’s horizontally every two feet to the exterior framing so that the thermal bridging was minimal and the wall cavity was extra deep. After my husband did the plumbing and electrical work we filled the wall cavities with dense pack blown in cellulose giving the house super insluated walls. The roof has 5″ of spray foam for insulation. the house is oriented with a large area of south facing glass and large overhangs to maximize sun in winter and minimize it in the summer. The house is heated by a small high efficiency wood stove. As a back up heat source we ran pex tubing through the basment slab that is tied into a dual chamber water heater. The house is very small, highly insulated, oriented for solar gain and built with as many local and earth friendly materials as we could afford.
The majority of the interior is finished with locally harvested and milled pine that we finished with linseed oil. We used some finish grade plywood in the loft area to make a rigid frame of the loft wall and as a finish for ceiling beneath the loft. I designed and built all of the built-in furniture, the bathroom counter and shelving and the kitchen shelves with local pine from the same mill and all is finished with linseed oil.
The exterior is also finsihed with local pine and finish grade plywood and all sealed with log oil. All of the exterior wood is on top of a rain screen mesh to allow the house to breathe .
We have been working hard for two and a half years and though many small things are still unfinshed we are currently living in our small dream home.