Most people’s dream home is made of wood or brick, but this unconventional couple built their house out of shipping containers! Dave and Jaimie Hinckle decided that a dream home would not have a pool or six bathrooms but rather be a debt-free tiny house made of metal boxes.
Going into the project, they knew that building with such unconventional materials would prove to be a challenge, and they were up for it. Although stacking two shipping containers on top of each other was just the beginning, this journey would prove to be one filled with surprises.
Meet the Brains behind the Project
Dave and Jaimie are originally from Vancouver, Washington. Before taking on this project, they were just like any other American family. They were hard-working but still had a mortgage and bills to pay. With each passing week, they found themselves needing to work harder and longer just to make ends meet.
They wanted to live a life that was full of memories, not debt. The couple, who are parents of three children, wanted to spend more quality time with their family and less time working. And so was born the idea for a tiny house.
Brainstorming a Better Future
Jaimie and Dave were desperate to escape the endless cycle of working just to pay bills. No matter how hard they worked, most of their monthly earnings went to mortgage and bills. The bill that drained them the most and seemed to be a bottomless pit was their mortgage.
That meant they had to say goodbye to their home. In theory, a debt-free life sounds amazing. But were they really ready to say goodbye to the place where they were housing and raising their two daughters and a son?
Downsizing to Accommodate Bigger Dreams
The couple knew that in order to live the life they wanted, they would have to downsize their home—radically. That was the only way for them to reach their goal of living a mortgage-free, debt-free life. Dave was extremely enthusiastic about downsizing and pursuing the tiny home lifestyle.
In December 2019 in an episode of Living Big in a Tiny House, a YouTube channel that explores the tiny home lifestyle, Dave expressed his sheer excitement for the project. He was ready to take on this new lifestyle.
A Tiny Step in the Right Direction
After countless hours of thinking and talking it over, Jaimie and Dave knew they had to make a decision. They couldn’t just keep discussing their dreams. They had to take action and make a change. So in 2014, they took a tiny step in the right direction and listed their Vancouver home.
And it sold. They used the cash to purchase the land they would be building their future home on. In Cowlitz County, Washington, was the perfect five acres that would complete their dreams. They purchased the land for $65,000.
A Plot of Land Destined for Greatness . . . and Goats
Dave and Jaimie felt they had purchased the perfect plot of land. The couple felt like they had struck gold and were well on their way to completing their tiny house. Jaimie had found the property while scrolling through Craigslist. A private party was looking to sell their own plot of land.
After purchasing it, Dave and Jaimie realized it was a goat trail! The plot was perched near the side of a mountain, which made it a perfect resting place for goats. It was definitely not something they had witnessed in the suburbs, but nothing could dim their excitement.
Shipping Containers Made Homey
Apparently, shipping containers are not only used to send tons of goods across the ocean but can be turned into homes! Dave and Jaimie knew they would have to use two shipping containers to create their tiny home.
The reason people use shipping containers for homes is that the metal used to make the containers is not only durable and insulating but is a great way to conserve metal resources. Additionally, there are a lot of old shipping containers that are no longer in use, and repurposing them is not only environmentally friendly but cost-effective.
As Easy as Playing Blocks
Now that the couple had settled on using shipping containers, they had to figure out the logistics. They thought that sticking two containers together would be a piece of cake. Dave had always been interested in metalwork and had created a few small projects of his own.
The couple thought that constructing the house would be the same idea, just on a larger scale. It would be like playing blocks, simply stacking one on top of the other, right? They couldn’t have been more wrong. The project proved to be far more challenging than a child’s game.
The Biggest Risk of All
Although the actual building of the tiny home seems to be the most challenging part, it is not the biggest risk. According to the law, you must have an occupancy permit in order to legally live in a home. Even though Dave and Jaimie owned the land, they still had to buy all the materials and build the house. And they would not be able to legally live in it without a permit.
If they couldn’t get this permit, they would be in big trouble. So to keep things easy, they continuously kept the local Cowlitz County officials involved in the planning and progress to avoid running into a problem.
Did the Planning Pay Off?
After all the plotting and planning, it was finally time for Dave and Jaimie to go get a permit. If they couldn’t get the permit, the entire operation would be shut down—and Dave and Jaimie would be homeless. So, they went to the local building department in Cowlitz County, Washington, to apply for the permit.
It turns out that their visit to the county was a huge success! The local officials were incredibly helpful and intrigued by the crazy idea. They completely supported the project. Dave and Jaimie were the first people in Cowlitz County to tackle such a feat, and the local officials were totally on board.
The Cost of a Tiny House
Yes, Dave and Jaimie did sell their house in Vancouver, but they used most of the money to pay off their existing mortgage and debts. So when they decided to take on this project, they had to wrestle with the cost of completing it.
Although it is a tiny house, the cost to make it is not so tiny. The couple would use any profits from the sale of their house, and they were willing to dip into their savings. They had come this far, and money was not going to stop them.
Almost Out of Capital
Jaimie and Dave did not realize how much each simple little task would cost. When building a house from the ground up, you have to account for everything. Even though it is a tiny home, it functions like a full-sized house, so it has to have all the moving parts.
Turning on the water would cost $10,000, electricity was $9,000, and putting in a septic tank was $12,000. They would have to pay for all of that, and they hadn’t even bought the containers yet!
Leaving their Troubles Behind
Despite having many issues and concerns, the couple was determined to move forward with their new home. They may have been tight on cash and unable to get a loan due to the nature of the project, but they looked ahead. In June 2015, they finally started breaking ground or . . . breaking metal.
Anyway, they purchased the shipping containers and had them delivered to their property. The larger shipping container was 40 feet long, and the smaller one was 20 feet. They planned to stack the smaller container on top of the larger one, creating the height they would need for a livable home.
Hit with an Unimaginable Obstacle
The couple was completely devoted to this project and making their dream come true. The first two months of working on the home were exhausting, both physically and mentally. Considering they needed all the money they could get to fund the project, Jaimie and Dave never took a day off of work.
They devoted nights and weekends to working on the home, which was especially taxing. Then, in August 2015, the project came to a sudden and devastating halt. Unforeseen circumstances put the project on hold.
What Happened to Dave?
Dave and Jaimie had been working hard on the project and making tremendous progress. They had cut out holes where the windows would go and then had the windows craned in and installed in the containers. The couple was almost done with the structural welding to combine the two containers together, but then something unimaginable happened.
Dave had an intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding in his brain. This can also be considered a life-threatening stroke. He was rushed to the hospital and placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) where he spent five days in recovery, unable to even speak.
Dave’s Health Puts the Project on Hold
Intracranial hemorrhages are spontaneous. There is no way to see them coming, and there are no underlying causes. Dave had been in great shape, which was apparent and why he was able to do the physically taxing work to complete the house.
On the day he had the stroke, Dave called Jaimie to tell her that he felt something was wrong because he had lost all feeling in his arm. She instantly left work and drove home to check on him. The minute she pulled into the driveway, she suspected that Dave was having a stroke and called an ambulance.
A Life-Saving Phone Call
This was a very serious situation. Dave’s life was at stake. However, his condition could have been far worse. Dave was home when the stroke started. He called Jaimie and struggled to stay awake and explain to her the situation and what he was feeling.
When Jaimie got home, she rushed to her husband who was lying on the driveway, and he collapsed in her arms. If he had lost consciousness during the stroke, he would have been in a much more serious condition, and he could have died. Speaking to his wife on the phone literally saved his life.
Even a Stroke Couldn’t Stop Dave
Dave was physically and mentally compromised. His days in the ICU were a struggle. He could barely speak or move, but that did not stop him. Despite his grave condition, he constantly thought about their tiny home.
Jaimie shared that right before the doctors took him into surgery, a surgery that could cost him his life if not performed correctly. He whispered, “I don’t have time for this. We’re building a house!” Dave was a trooper and a true believer in this project in spite of his life-threatening condition.
Things Were Not Looking Up
Despite Dave’s perseverance and incessant focus on the tiny house, his prognosis was not looking too good. It didn’t seem like Dave would get the chance to finish the project and live out his dream.
The kind of bleeding he had and the location of the bleeding in the brain was not an easy fix. The hemorrhage was so deep that the doctors were apprehensive about doing surgery. They feared surgery might cause more damage due to the nature of the injury.
Finding the Will to Survive
The entire situation seemed terribly bleak. Dave’s wife and kids didn’t think he would come out of it alive, but Dave did. He was determined to survive this entire health crisis and finish his house. Jaimie remained by his side throughout the five days he spent in ICU. She even shared the hospital bed with him.
Her husband was fighting for his life on the inside, and she was fighting for it on the outside. She believed in their dream and knew that the journey was not yet over. Despite what the doctors said, Dave did survive.
Regaining Strength after Surgery
After the surgery was a success, it was time for Dave to fully recover. Over the course of his stay in the hospital, he had lost his ability to move and could hardly speak. The stroke had caused a loss of feeling in his limbs.
Although the situation seemed dire, Dave could regain his movement and speech with intense therapy. Jaimie took matters into her own hands and signed her husband up for five forms of therapy. She took around-the-clock care of her husband and constantly drove him to therapy.
The Grind Never Stops
You would think that because of all this, the building of the tiny house would come to a halt. It is a huge project for two healthy people, let alone when one is compromised. It would make sense that the couple would put the project on the back burner while they focused on Dave’s health.
But that was not the case. The project actually played a huge role in Dave’s recovery. It seems that working on the house would be far too difficult for Dave, but he felt otherwise. Constantly thinking about the house and working on it in any way he could helped him recover.
An Unconventional Approach to Therapy
Dave was not the only person who believed building his house could help him recover. His therapists wholeheartedly agreed with him. Building the deck and the stairs for the house was used as therapy tools. According to his therapists, this type of work helped Dave relearn cognitive behavior and problem-solving.
Dave was relearning dexterity by using his fingers and hands to pick up and build things. He regained feeling and sensation in his body parts by using screws and drilling holes. This was not a conventional approach to physical therapy, but it definitely worked.
A House That Saved a Life
This approach to therapy was far easier said than done. In the beginning, Dave lacked all feeling and had limited range of motion. On top of that, he was handling power tools and lifting heavy objects. Most people would not agree to this type of physical labor so early on, but Dave was determined.
Jaimie explained that she was very nervous at first. Watching Dave do all these things in his early days of recovery made her afraid, but she found it to be the ultimate form of therapy. Not only was it effective but it gave her husband motivation. The tiny house was his reason to get out of bed and not give up hope.
The Road to Recovery
After Dave’s stroke, no one thought he would return to work so quickly. The doctors weren’t even sure if Dave would survive his surgery. His return to working on the house affected his recovery tremendously and shocked the doctors.
By spring 2016, Dave got almost 85% of the feeling back on the affected side. Working on the house gave him purpose. The stroke may have slowed down their plans or put a damper on things for a little while, but ultimately it made Jaimie and Dave much stronger as individuals and as a couple.
Dave Valued His Work, and It Saved His Life
The sheer fact that Dave survived his stroke is incredible. No one knew if he would make it out of surgery alive. Eight months after this terrible event, no one thought Dave or the tiny house would be in the condition it was.
Dave explains that he really valued the work and the house even more after his stroke. He found a greater importance in completing the house. He shared that right after his stroke, working on the shipping containers was the only thing that helped him survive. It helped him rebuild the nerves that had been damaged by the stroke.
Time to Finish the House
Dave had recovered almost 85% of the feeling he had lost due to his stroke. It took him about eight months to recover, and the home took 10 months to build. He had regained feeling on his affected side around the same time work on the house was completed.
The tiny home turned out beautiful beyond compare. It is even more amazing to see the house knowing what the couple went through and what they survived in order to get to that final result.
The Grand Reveal
The inside of the tiny house is absolutely gorgeous. The layout and design are stunning and practical all at the same time. The lower level of the home is the larger shipping container that was about 40 feet long. In this area are the living space and a kitchen. Both are wonderfully designed and furnished and have a warm, cozy feel.
Upstairs is the master bedroom that overlooks their garden. Stacking the two containers on top of each other gave them a second floor, so the master bedroom is high up and gives the couple a nice view.
An Issue with the Floor
It turns out that Dave’s health was not the only major issue with the newly erected tiny home. There was also an issue with the flooring. When you look at the pictures, you can see that the floor is made of streaky wooden planks. It has two tones that drape across each floorboard, giving it a rustic feel.
It appears to suit the house perfectly, but Jaimie would beg to differ. They initially purchased the funky looking wood because they thought it would be a nice contrast to the hickory cabinets, but after installation, it took a lot of getting used to.
Wrong Interior Design Choice?
Jaimie hated the floors of her tiny home so much that she cried after they were installed. The container was completely empty at that time with no furniture or cabinets. It was just the floor, and it sent Jaimie into a panic. She claimed that this was the ugliest floor she had ever seen.
She was so upset and disappointed with the flooring that she seriously considered ripping it out and starting all over, but she decided to stick with the initial choice. After the place started to slowly come together, the quirky wooden floor grew on her.
ot So Tiny Furniture
Today, Jaimie is over the moon about the floors. She has gone so far as to say that she loves them. She is so happy she stuck with her gut and didn’t rip them out at first sight. After the floors were installed and the home was finished, it was time to furnish the place.
It goes without saying that most furniture is built to fit a regular home, not a tiny home. So furnishing this new space seemed to be a bit more complicated than they expected, especially when it came to finding a couch.
Special Furniture for a Special Home
The search for perfect furniture was well underway. Traditionally, tiny homes have built-in furniture that is put into the initial plans. That is done to avoid the need to find furniture that fits. Built-in furniture is completely customizable and caters to the size and shape of the tiny home.
They are also built with a lot of storage compartments. However, Jaimie set her sights on a more contemporary look for her home. She and Dave scoured countless furniture stores with a tape measure to find the perfect furniture for their perfect little home.
The Search for the Perfect Couch Reaches an End
After many days of scouring countless furniture stores, the search finally paid off. Jaimie and Dave found the perfect sized couch for their space. It is large enough for them to comfortably sit on but not too big. It still gives room to move around in the living area.
It fills the space without making it feel too cramped. They did not give up on finding furniture, and they got what they wanted. This was another big step in completing their dream home and continuing their life together in it.
All the Fancy Bells and Whistles
As for the kitchen, the couple learned an important thing or two when it came to interior design. This is a tiny home, so naturally everything in the home is on a smaller scale, including the kitchen. The fine marble countertops and fancy cabinetry you would normally find in a big home is cut to about a fourth of the size.
Upon realizing this, Jaimie and Dave found that they could afford many higher-end finishes because they only needed a small quantity. So they opted for beautiful countertops and stainless-steel appliances.
The Stunning Second Floor
There is also a bathroom and a walk-in closet on the main floor. The closet has it all and holds anything you can imagine, from pantry items to clothing. But once you have finished admiring the closet, there is a sleek, black, spiral staircase that leads upstairs to the master bedroom.
In the bedroom are a big bed, an armchair, and a television. Jaimie was initially set on nightstands, but due to the size of the house, they would not fit. A bigger bed trumps nightstands any day.
Rounding Out the Second Floor
To surprise his wife, Dave decided to mock up some nightstands and build them on his own. He customized the shape to fit their needs and the space, making them the perfect nightstands. He built them and installed them, completing the bedroom.
The second floor also has an outdoor deck area. It looks like a large balcony and is located on the roof of the bottom container. The first container was bigger than the second, so there was room to create a deck on top. This unique addition to the home is absolutely stunning and makes for the perfect view.
The House That Keeps on Giving
Although the house was officially completed in 2016 after 10 months of construction, the couple is constantly improving their home. They refuse to take a break. For example, in July 2020, Dave decided to build a bridge that connects their tiny home to Dave’s shed where he works on other projects for the property.
This cool bridge hangs from the top floor of the home and crosses the property. A house with a bridge is not something you see every day. Dave also wants to build a zip line once the weather warms up in Washington.
Jaimie and Dave’s House Made It to YouTube
The couple was asked if their house could be featured in a video for the YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House. The video has more than 4 million followers. Jaimie and Dave take viewers through their tiny house and talk about their journey. The show’s creators, Rasa and Bryce, travel the world showcasing tiny houses.
When Jaimie first received an email from Rasa, she thought it was fake and completely ignored it. But in December 2019, Rasa and Bryce headed over to Cowlitz County, Washington, to videotape the Hinckle family home. The video was condensed into a nicely edited, 16-minute video where viewers can explore the house and hear from the owners.
Jaimie and Dave Today
In 2022, Jaimie and Dave are not only happy and living out their dream but are constantly upgrading their tiny house. The property now features a greenhouse, a garden, a chicken coup, and many cows. Taking a chance on this little mountainside property has changed their lives for the better.
Jaimie and Dave recently got a cute little puppy named Remi who has been a great addition to their family. Their children and grandchildren regularly visit the property to enjoy nature and quality time with their parents and grandparents. This tiny house has really brought the family together.
Living Their Best Life
Dave and Jaimie have never been happier. They could not have made a better decision than to sell their Vancouver house and start building a new one. The couple feels very blessed for all they have survived and all they have accomplished.
Both Dave and Jaimie are healthy, thriving, and constantly putting in the effort to stay happy and grateful. Beginning their debt-free life with a tiny home was unconventional but worth it. This tiny house has filled this family with big memories that will last a lifetime.