05/07 Massage therapist builds a tiny house out of salvaged materials

tiny home of massage therapist Johnny Reaves

tiny home of massage therapist Johnny Reaves

Many people are daunted by the prospect of building a new house using a contractor, much less doing it themselves, especially with no construction background.

And how about doing it mostly solo?

That’s exactly what a local massage therapist and self-described “gypsy and vagabond” has done on Johns Island [South Carolina].

Johnny Reaves not only built a tiny house by himself but did it using either free, reclaimed materials or deeply discounted surplus supplies. And while he didn’t want to say how much it ultimately cost him, he did describe it as “costing less than a new car.”

The 35-year-old constructed the 512-square foot house, which includes a sleeping loft area, without going into debt and has become somewhat of local legend to a growing number of people interested in building tiny houses in the Lowcountry.

“This for me has been very challenging. But to have that sweat and to know this house intimately, that I put a nail through my finger on that board, that’s pretty awesome,” says Reaves, adding that most people could do it if they have the will because of the information available online.

“Videos, websites, YouTube, books. It (the know-how) is so available out there today. Before, you had to find your great-grandfather or a craftsman, but now it’s doable. And I’m here as a testament to that.”

Reaves hopes to inspire others, locally and beyond. And he already is, as evidenced by a recent Tiny House Enthusiast Meetup gathering at his house, when nearly a dozen showed and stayed and talked about plans, regulations and other challenges.

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Elaine Walker