It started with a bottle opener.
When Mike Cheatham, co-owner of Movable Roots, was at the International Builder’s Show in Orlando a couple of years ago, he stumbled upon the Viega booth, where he used a press tool to create a bottle opener with a piece of Viega PureFlow PEX. He was hooked.
“I was amazed at how easy it [making the press connection] was and started to think about how easy it would be for us in the labor we were doing,” Cheatham said. “It wasn’t like sweating copper or anything like that, and the more I looked at PEX, I knew it was something I wanted us to use in our homes. When I looked at the competitors out there, I wasn’t crazy about them. We picked Viega.”
Cheatham and his brother Jonathan own Movable Roots, which builds high-end custom tiny homes. All of them include Viega PureFlow products for the water supply
“We bought the Milwaukee tool and jaws and use both the ¾ and ½ fittings. We’ve also started using Viega parts, like the washer and dryer box, with the press system and the ice-maker line for the fridge,” Cheatham said. “Each build depends on what kind of customization people want, but we plumb in the water heaters and everything with Viega.
“There’s a lot more linear feet of PEX in a tiny home than most people think! Plus we take advantage of the flexibility of PEX. We run a lot of supply lines in the belly of the trailer itself, not a lot in the walls, so using the bends and things, we want as few connections as possible down inside the trailer,” he added.
Roots of the company
The history of Movable Roots goes back a bit. Mike and Jonathan (and their late brother Paul) grew up in construction because their dad was a remodeler, so Mike jokes that he grew up with a hammer in his hand. During the boom and height of the market in the early 2000s, Cheatham was building large homes with a healthy-sized crew. Then the bottom of the market fell out, and a couple of builders Cheatham was working for shut their doors unexpectedly, which eventually led to him taking a break from construction.
A few years later, he and his wife, Nikki, talked about building their own house, possibly on the water. He said the thought process was to spend more on property and put a smaller house on it, which led them to research tiny homes.
“We went to some builder shows and we weren’t seeing a whole lot that fit our lifestyle,” Cheatham said. “We felt like if we were going to go tiny, why can’t we have some of those finer features in the houses that we used to build? If I only need 300 square feet of flooring, why not buy the more expensive, beautiful stuff?”
They bought property in Florida, only to learn that local zoning regulations prohibited them from putting a tiny home there. But the Cheathams weren’t discouraged. They decided to see if they could not only change rules and regulations, but they also decided to jump back into the building world.
A new venture
In 2017, Movable Roots introduced its first model, The Henderson – named for their brother Paul Henderson – and Mike said “it’s been kind of a crazy whirlwind since.
“We worked with a group to get zoning changed locally, and now there is a whole tiny home community going up in northern Brevard County,” he said. “And we still own our property and talk about what to do with it. We’re so busy building for other people that maybe we’ll put a spec home on it, who knows. We haven’t let go of the dream of living on it.”
In the meantime, Cheatham has taken on the challenge of designing tiny homes to meet the daily needs of owners.
“It was a crazy learning curve in the beginning. When we were building a normal 2,000-square-foot home, the plumbing or electrical stack of something in the rough stage could be shifted three to 12 inches and it wouldn’t affect anything negatively,” he said. “In a tiny house, if I have to shift something a quarter of an inch, it might mean the couch doesn’t fit!”
Cheatham credited the flexibility of Viega’s PureFlow tubing and fittings in helping to make it possible. Because exterior walls might be only three and a half inches thick, there are limited spaces for things like supply lines. PureFlow fits.
“The system itself is very user-friendly,” Cheatham said of PureFlow. “We had a plumber friend who had never used it, but had used Uponor and other systems. We’ve asked him in to help a few times when we got bogged down in difficult scenarios, and he loves [Viega]. He raves about the ease of use of it!”
In 2018, Movable Roots built eight houses, and Cheatham said they were on track to build the same in 2019. Their creations are everywhere, from California to Texas to Montana. One of their builds was featured on the TV show “Tiny House Nation.”