Through A Story of Tragedy And Inspiration, 14 Year Old Girl Builds This Tiny House

Categories: Life Stories

In 2012, Sicily Kolbeck was 12 years old, and she had an idea: build a tiny house. While the fanciful plans most of us have at age 12 never seem to amount to much, Sicily managed to see her lofty plans through. We know it isn’t easy to save up $10k for a tiny house build, and if you struggle to make ends meet, then perhaps her story will help inspire you. It wasn’t an easy project for a 12-year-old to begin with, and an intervening tragedy meant that it ended up taking nearly two years. But thanks to her own fortitude and help from highly supportive parents, community members, and Indiegogo donators, Sicily now has her own 128-square-foot tiny house on a trailer.



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A project requirement at Sicily’s school (which was owned by her mother, Suzannah) provided the initial impetus for the idea. Sicily wasn’t sure what to do for her project at first, but when she coincidently learned about the tiny house concept, a number of things came together for her. The not-uncommon teenage dream of independence, an aversion to clutter, and a desire to learn some useful skills combined to make Sicily sure that a tiny house was the most logical choice for her school project.

Resourcefulness Pays Off

Most logical, perhaps, but certainly not the least expensive possibility. Sicily estimated that the house would cost $10,000, and while that proved to be a very accurate estimate (she actually came in a couple of hundred dollars under budget), she had only $500 to contribute to it. This is where the love and support of her parents really shines through. Although the family was far from wealthy, Suzannah and father Dane credited Sicily with the $7,000 cost of tuition at Suzannah’s school and added another $700 on top of that. Sicily also raised over $1,500 in donations on Indiegogo.

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Getting By With A Little Help

Even with the money she raised, Sicily readily acknowledges that she could never have built her house for the cost she did without a lot of donated materials and skilled labor. The first to help in this way was West Virginia organic farmer Luke Bair, an old friend of Suzannah’s, who donated a used 8×16-foot trailer in September 2012. He apparently hadn’t used it for a while and misremembered the dimensions as 6×16 feet before Sicily’s family came to pick it up, but she was happy with the larger size and quickly adapted her blueprints to match it.

Trailer Woes

Another issue with the trailer was that it was homemade and required some fairly extensive welding to make it uniform enough to build a house on. Fortunately there was another donor to take care of that.Howard’s Wrecker Service & Body Shop, Dane’s former employer, agreed to do the welding and painting if Sicily could supply the necessary scrap metal.

That work took until December. Meanwhile, Sicily was busy assembling other materials and building her own vegetable oil heater. She also got in touch with EcoFoil and secured a donation of 500 square feet of reflective insulation for use as a radiant barrier on the underside of the trailer. Then it was on to framing, which Sicily and Dane worked on through the end of January 2013. Plumbing work and installation of a sawdust composting toilet came next.

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