Tiny house senior unit: how a family, community, and strangers came together in honor of our mom.

Jill Bottger

We built a tiny house for my mom and her bed got moved in on February 24th 2018. She has been warm, dry, and very happy in her new home ever since! This past year our family, friends, community, and even a few strangers all took part in building a tiny house for my mom!

Timeline and bullet points.

When I first started talking about building a tiny house my cousin Tim was all about helping out. His wife was on board too, so that was a real good solid start. I knew they would make the trip to Cali and help me put some kind of shack together, but I had no idea how instrumental they would be in this project? Believe me they didn’t either! But we were going for it and excited to take on the adventure. Once I told my sister we had them on board she knew it was getting real too. We had a lot of time to try and gather donations, so that’s what we focused on from the start.

Jill Bottger and her siblings

Tim and I first started talking very seriously about the tiny house at our family reunion in the summer of 2016. My mother grew up with 12 siblings and most of them wanted to help her somehow. From siblings, to cousins, to 2nd cousins, to distant cousins. All the buzz at the reunion gave our generous Bottger (and extended) family lots of time to gather interest and donations.


Christmas 2016 We started a go fund me campaign and the Bottger family raised $500. Even 2 ex-wives (of my mom’s brothers) donated for her tiny house because they love my mom!

Dennis RMI and mom
RV moving out day

April of 2017 We sold off the old RV and then had $4ooo to cash flow the house project. We weren’t sure if we would use the 4k for the trailer or finance it? We could have purchased a smaller one outright, but in the end we decided to finance it to give us some spending money, and get a larger trailer. The one we bought is actually an auto transport trailer that can hold 10klbs. It is not a trailer that was made specifically for a tiny house, but it works just fine for one. We bought it from Dennis at RMI in Eureka Ca. We were told it would take 6-8 weeks, it took 6.

Leonard Rosseau Jill Bottger

May-July Once the trailer arrived our friend Leonard picked it up and delivered it to our property.

I got a phone call one day from my cousin Tim because he had made a phone call (to APEX) and scored 4 triple paned windows for FREE! Really nice windows!

Sometime in the spring we discovered Ana White’s tiny house “the wild rose” and Tim started to work that model into our tiny house more and more with a little tweak here and there for flair. Amy encouraged me to build the dual level table Ana White designed to be a coffee/dining room table. It’s in mom’s house today in front of her 2 long narrow windows. 

Amy called to let me know she had scored a FREE fridge/freezer (bottom freezer even!)  and a FREE stove/oven from A-1 appliances in Minnesota. Cute, little, tiny ones! I scored an antique Jotul wood stove for $100 from facebook marketplace. My uncle donated a skylight that we temporarily put in the roof of the tiny, some older pictures show it installed. Even though we ultimately took it out, and didn’t use the wood stove we’d scored, at this point it seemed like the tiny house would come together with donations alone!

My cousin Tim worked (and worked and worked) the plans for the tiny house into his CAD program to ensure we didn’t go over weight. He is an engineer that helps people make their dreams come true all the time with his business Genesis TEK. It was great to have his expertise help and to be able to see the model of what the tiny would look like in 3d. There was a lot of talk about “brackets” to extend the width of the living space, but this was not an easy find! It was a nail biter up to the very end/beginning of

the build. These brackets are the unseen hardware that can allow you to

$600 brackets

build out to the end of the wheel wells, aka wider living space. Some trailers floors already go that far, but it was looking like I would have to travel to Oregon to get one. If you’ve never been to the REAL northern CA (5 hrs N San Fran) then you cannot understand what “behind the redwood curtain” means. Some things are not worth traveling for, I decided early on, as tempting as the home depot 1.5 hrs away was, I would look for my needs right in Humboldt. I’m perfectly pleased with our trailer, and cannot thank the people at North Coast Fabricators for getting our brackets done in 1 day!

Tim, my sister and I were in talks with our family about when we could all be out here at the same time. Beginning of August 2017 it would be.

I blogged about the first few days working on the house, but ever since we got started, taking pictures and building was about all I have had time for. I knew I could finish blogging once the house was complete, especially if we took many pictures, which we did.

August-Our family arrived on the 2nd week of August and we began the build.  Tiny house: Day 1

Brian Bottger Jr. Thomas Bottger

We threw a fundraiser pizza party for the tiny house while my family was here and raised $350. My sister, mom, and I decided to give the money to our cousins for the cost of renting and hauling the U-haul trailer full of donated appliances and windows. Too bad their engine blew up on Amy and the kids on the way back to Minnesota while Tim was still

Tim, Amy, Devon, Caitlin, Kiara Bottger

here working on the tiny house. I still feel bad about that one! They REALLY do love their aunt Jill!

In the middle of this project we had some special guests from half way around the world come in support of my cousin, my mother, and really our entire family. A man from China that does a lot of business with my cousin Tim happened to be taking a trip with his family around the states.  The two had talked about meeting (for the first time) during this trip somewhere in weeks prior. He was unable to make it to our fundraiser the night before, but we had our own little party the next day, and it was so great! The kids were fascinated watching how we make our pizza, and they loved eating it. That day in my home was so special and I will never forget that sweet family and how they blessed us so generously!

My cousin Tim stayed long and worked hard even after the rest of the family had returned home. He was here almost a full month. He had wanted to make sure we had the windows installed, the roof done, the exterior walls up, and that the house was wrapped. He really had high expectations! We did all that and felt good at what we were able to accomplish. Of coarse there were times we wanted things to be moving faster, but early on we decided we would not be rushing or stressing unnecessarily. We stayed on point to enjoy the project and the process, and to roll with the changes.


September-October-November After the whole family left William and I were left to finish up the fully framed, roofed, and weather wrapped shell of a house thinking it would be done fairly quickly? Ha, ha. Maybe it would be for 2 people who didn’t have anything else to do, but that is not us! We decided to hire our good friend who is super hard working, broadly skilled, righteous, professional builder. He was there for us every.single.time. whenever we needed him. And boy did we need him!

Matthew Mullaney

When Matt Mullaney would show up on site, everything was well in our world again. We didn’t really know how to build a house, c’mon! Matt was consulting with us all the way from day 1 of the build. But even closer to the end he and his right arm man (& bro in law) Kristian helped to

Kristian Josang

batten down the house. They ran all the electrical and plumbing, put up the interior walls and ceiling, exterior walls, and finished up bunches of odds & ends. They basically killed it night and day, rain or shine, dry or super muddy! Matt hooked up the on-demand hot water heater. On one of his earlier trips up Matt advised me on what types of jacks I ought get. So before he cut us loose on the house for good he made sure we were secured with the jacks and brakes, stabilizing it. Matt mixed up some cement and put it inside the tiny house in the bathroom where the shower was about to go in. I was like, “um, what are you doing?” He explained to me how it helped support the shower and keep it from sagging into the floor, both getting ruined over time. I had no idea? Matt was looking out for us, and taking care of business in ways we couldn’t even see, like a good contractor should. I seriously don’t even like to imagine what this mammoth project would have been like without him!

Throughout the build there were lots of mini projects and helping hands to get them all done. So many of our friends were interested and excited to help us out. We are so thankful every person who help support this project and want to also give a shout out to all of our prayer warrior friends-you know who you are!

women of this tiny house build
Michael Pulley hard at work
Daryl Messina shedding some light







Deven Teixeira Tim Bottger


Cody Starr making her shine
Chris Menzel aka “Felix the cat”


Jill Bottger family tiny house August 2017
William Hardwick

I didn’t really want to be dependent on my husband to help me with this project. (HAHAHA!) I knew I would never truly be alone in the whole thing, but there was a time (less than a year ago from this day) that I hadn’t had much of a clue as to how it would all come together or how long I could really get by without his help? But he always knew I would be completely dependant on him! Initially we were sure we were doing the right thing but sometimes we were just in way over our heads! My husband mustered through the punch list from start to finish on every detail of this labor of love. Sometimes we worked together, sometimes we worked alone. We pushed ourselves to the limit with time and money to finish this as soon as we could.











While my sister was here she did all the hard work of putting together the tiny house expenses  into an excel sheet. We only have things logged up until September, but it shows all the donations we got, and most of the biggest expenses. Receipts are still rolling in, bills are still getting paid. Dust is still settling over the Hardwick homestead, but I would say we are looking at somewhere between $22-25k for this build. Some money was cash flowed, some was borrowed, some was donated. I would guesstimate that William and I owe $12k for the build. Much of the labor was free, BOTTGER family style. I estimate we paid anywhere from $7-10k in labor and materials on top of the original receipts that have been logged. I will know better after this month has passed.

Winter 2016

March 12th, 2018 We moved my mom’s bed in this past Sunday, February 24th 2018. Before this week, I had been restless. Really, restless. From the day we put a gigantic tarp over my mom’s 5th wheel to shield it from the rain.  It’s obvious from these photos why I was so determined to build something better for her. She clearly has a great spot.

1st week in tiny
kitchen, bathroom, loft
lost spiral stairs





















This dream of building a tiny house for my mom turned into something much bigger than I could have ever imagined! I don’t mean the beautiful tiny house alone, although it does still take my breath away because it’s just so cute! Our faithful friend Joe Kent would always say “it’s so much more than a project” and he is right. With this tiny house build we saw outrageous generosity from strangers, friends, and family…lots of volunteers…moral support…we welcomed special guests from China…there was an epic backpacking trip… a spa party…we crashed an Aunt & Uncle’s 45 yr wedding anniversary dinner with writing in the sand they could see from moonstone grill…we had beach dinners…my sister’s flight from San Fran was cancelled but my husband was already going to a CUBS/GIANTS game (GO CUBS!) so she got to crash that…our home was stuffed with family…from North Carolina, Minnesota, Chicago, Idaho, San Diego…we had crazy pizza concoctions…we had a mini West Coast Bottger family reunion….and build a tiny house inspired by an amish style barn raising… all in honor of our mom! William Hardwick and I are once again in total amazement and do wish to give God all the glory! Believe me, a little faith went a long way on this dream!

So you want to build a tiny house, where should you begin? Hire a contractor. In our situation the expert help we got was clutch. And also having plenty of time. If you have unlimited money, that makes a difference for sure, but in any case-plan well. There are many steps in building a tiny house, (just as many as a regular house) but if you are building on a trailer then the first step would be researching the exact right one. Either way you will want to know these things early on.

Once your house is built you will need a spot for it. This may take some time to find all the things you are looking for.

How big do you want your tiny house?

How much will it cost to complete it?

Will you be off grid or need hookups for electricity, water, toilet? In our case my mom had an RV in place before so all the hookups had been put in by my husband years before. Hooking up a septic system is no small task and I’m sure that’s why so many opt for a composting toilet. Electricity and water can be pricey too if you have a long run to a power/water source.

Get plans, if you can with a materials list. If they are custom plans then you (or someone) ought to use a computer program (in my case, my cousin) to help keep track of the overall layout and weight of materials.

Ask for help building. Ask for donations of cash and materials. Look for deals and free materials on CL and facebook marketplaces. It’s not begging to give people an opportunity to give. In our case strangers donated high end windows and appliances! People love a good cause, and lots of people have a soft spot for seniors.

I suggest budgeting and estimating the costs for the work you know you will need to hire done, and be ready to add to it. When I first started thinking about building a (much smaller) space for my mom,  I didn’t have any real plans outside of purchasing a trailer and building on it myself however long it took me. But fortunately for me plenty of people came alongside to help us finish it. Thank you all so much!