The whole idea of tiny houses would have sounded silly to past generations who dreamed mostly of homes that were bigger, bigger, bigger!
A small and minimal home was the near opposite of the American Dream. No longer!
With ever-rising real estate costs and the current green generation more keenly aware than ever before of their impact on the planet – more and more people are turning to tiny homes for their own home and they’re discovering something important, they love living like this.
Our guide to tiny houses & tiny homes covers the types of tiny homes that there out there, how to buy a pre-made tiny home, amd how to find tiny house plans and build your own tiny home.
So, let’s plunge straight into the world of tiny homes!
Welcome To The Tiny House Movement
Tiny homes might sound like you’re going to be stuffed into a can just big enough for a sardine but that’s not how this works.
What you do is take a smaller living space than you would normally consider but use the space super effectively so that less becomes a lot more.
People in tiny homes have plenty of room to walk around at home and enjoy the company of others.
They just ensure that things like stairs can be used for storage containers, that the tables they dine on can be quickly packed away and that their under-bed space is utilized for more than just air.
What, Exactly Is A Tiny House?
A tiny house is a home that measures in at no more than 500 square feet in area. If it’s any bigger than that, it’s not tiny.
There are many styles of tiny home, as we’ll see in a minute, and they are often pre-built and supplied on wheels.
This ensures that they comply with all bylaws and highway codes that you might come across. There’s also tax advantages, depending on where you live.
You can move these tiny homes on a whim to almost anywhere in the country. If you love RV life you’ll love a tiny house on wheels.
Others, however, are much more permanent fixtures and these may be on or off-the-grid (if you want to know more about off-grid living check out our guide to off-grid living here).
So, let’s look at the 5 basic types of tiny home in more detail and the questions you should ask yourself before you commit to anything.
A Tiny House On Wheels
These super portable options are popular throughout the tiny home community. But you need to consider:
What sort of trailer do you want the house to be built on? There are various options and not all of them are suited for every purpose.
What sort of laws are there in your state or country about living in a tiny home on wheels?
Where can you legally park this tiny home?
Is your vehicle capable of towing your new home? (There’s no point in building a big home and then realizing your car can’t shift it to pastures new).
A Tiny House In A Bus
We reviewed the book Skoolie recently which explains how you retrofit a bus to make a super mobile tiny house.
Again you need to think about parking and whether you can legally live in one but you know that this kind of tiny home is going to be road legal (unless you do something daft when modifying it) and capable of getting from A to B.
A Tiny Cob Home
If you’re thinking about building your own tiny home and you want to go super eco-friendly you could consider a cob house. That’s one built from just clay, straw and sand.
Sure, you might not want to build one of these in the middle of a hurricane zone, but they can last for hundreds of years.
Check with local zoning or planning authorities as to whether you can build from these materials but otherwise, you face few legal issues with a cob house.
A Vardo Tiny Home
A Vardo used to be a horse drawn carriage. Its modern equivalent is like a custom home trailer that’s already been designed with tiny living in mind.
They’re super effective at standing off high winds and very comfortable to live in. There are similar concerns as with any other mobile tiny home for these.
Trailer Tiny Homes
The original tiny homes were simply built directly onto a trailer that was then hitched to a truck and thus, you’ve probably already seen one of these on TV, at least.
Again, they require similar considerations to other forms of mobile home.
And as you can see from the video below, they don’t have to cost much.
Various Tiny Homes
You can, of course, build a tiny home just like you build a regular home. On a plot and with bricks and mortar.
There are underground tiny homes.
Tiny homes that exist in trees and many other variants which would be far too time consuming to list here.
So, feel free to use your imagination when thinking about where you really want to live in a tiny home and how you want to do it.
Pro-Tip: For Before You Live In A Tiny Home
Before we look at building, planning or buying a tiny home, we want to sure with you the best tip on this subject – rent an RV or camper van from Outdoorsy or RV Share and try out living in small spaces for yourself.
We acknowledge that this lifestyle simply isn’t for everyone and it’s better to be out a few hundred bucks on a weekend away than thousands (or more) dollars on a house that makes you unhappy.
The Easy Option For Owning A Tiny Home: Buy One Premade
We’re love tiny homes and we’ll be blunt with you; we know that not everyone has the time, skills or energy to put into building their own. If that’s you – don’t worry. In fact, you can buy a tiny home where someone else does all the work and you just benefit from owning the home.
While you can’t get a traditional mortgage on these homes these companies will also often offer financing deals which allow you to make your dream a reality for a surprisingly reasonable monthly payment and just like a mortgage, when the last payment’s made – the home is yours to keep.
One of the coolest providers of Tiny Houses and certainly one of the oldest in the game (they made their first home in 1999) Tumbleweed is a name that you can really trust when it comes to your future minimal lifestyle.
They’ve got a superb reputation for customer service and better still, also for craftsmanship. That means that when you buy a Tumbleweed Tiny Home then they do all the heavy lifting for you. They will plan the designs for you, find and source the materials and build it too. It’s a full end-to-end tiny home service.
They provide RVIA certification at the end of the process (for peace of mind) and if you want, they can provide a certified green recreational vehicle too.
Their prices are very reasonable and run from $70,000 – $100,000 for everything and they can help you get insurance and zoning permission when they’re done. Finance options are excellent, and their 23-year plan can work out as little as $430 a month!
That beats paying rent, right?
New Frontier Tiny Homes
With a motto of “Live Intentionally” you know that New Frontier Design makes excellent tiny homes with a focus on creating green living experiences.
These homes are absolutely breathtaking to look at but they are quite a bit more expensive than the Tumbleweed options – they’re “ultra-luxury” in the Tiny Home space.
Their basic Alpha Tiny Home starts at about $95,000 and you can add bespoke features that ramp that price up considerably.
However, if you want the kind of tiny home that they feature on TV shows – this is it.
84 Lumber’s Tiny Living
if both of these options are too expensive then you might consider 84 Lumber’s Tiny Living, they supply four models of tiny home in three different packages.
You can get a kit home with plans and materials that your build yourself (and yes, that’s cheap), a semi-DIY option and even a full “move in today” home. Prices range from $7,000 to $50,000!
They take just 10 weeks to manufacture too, so, if you decide that you’ve got your heart set on 210 square feet of floor space for your new home, you won’t be waiting very long to be able to move in!
Second Hand Tiny Homes?
You might also be able to find a second hand tiny home but we would add a note of caution to buying like this – because the tiny home market has not been subject to the same level of scrutiny as the regular home market, so far, you want to ensure that everything is exactly as it appears to be before you sign the contract.
Where To Find Tiny House Plans?
If you’re thinking of building your own tiny home, then you’ll need some plans. Of course, if you’re an architect or super qualified at DIY – you can probably do this yourself but for the rest of us, we probably need some help.
We’ve found some excellent free tiny house plans on the internet for you that can help you out without costing a thing:
8 x 12 Tiny House – this is a decent sized place from Tiny House Design. There are 20 pages of plans and allow you to construct this home with a 12/12 pitched roof. They also offer some handy tips on boosting the design if you want to take that on too.
Tiny Solar House – if you want to go all solar then the folks at Tiny House Design have some plan that they’re happy to share with the world. There’s a lot of information here, so make sure to take it in slowly.
Ana White’s Trailer Home – this place is gorgeous! We can’t believe that Ana is giving away the plans for free. You won’t believe your eyes when you see it.
You can, of course, also buy plans for your tiny home if you want something that you can’t find in these plans and we’ve already mentioned the excellent Tiny House Designs who can offer bespoke and pre-made designs that suit your needs.
There are also the couple that run Tiny House Plans that you can turn to and they’re super experienced in creating tiny homes that people truly love too.
How To Build A Tiny Home
OK, you won’t be ready to build a tiny home from this quick guide but you should be able to know all the steps you will follow to get your home built and that’s a great start.
Find where you want to live. It’s better to get the land sorted first, just make sure you can build on it before you buy. You may already own somewhere and if you do this step is super easy to complete.
Plan and design the space. We’ve already given you options above but you can always do your own plans or even hire an architect to do them for you. The better you plan, the easier the building is.
Start with the floor. If your house will be on a trailer, use that as your foundations, if not use standard lumber for the flooring. Make sure to securely attach the home to the foundations, you don’t want it to blow away. Cover the lumber in plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB).
Get the wall frames up. You build the walls using metal braces, you will cover them when the job’s done, so don’t worry about how they look. Use OSB or plywood again to cover them when they’re in place.
Put the roof on. Roofing can be really hard and if you’ve never built a roof try and go with something simple and easy to do. If you want it to last, then use standing seam metal as the material. Then cover it in roofing material to keep the rain and the noise of the rain at bay.
Put the wrapper on. No, we’re not joking, the next step if to insulate the house with “house wrap” which is designed to protect it from the elements.
Time for windows and doors. Windows need to be measured up perfectly or they won’t ever fit right and the same is true for doors. Not only will this ensure they fit but it will also ensure their longevity – if you need professional help for this, get it.
Coating the exterior. Get any cladding in place and then you want to seal any gaps with caulking and if you purchase pre-finished materials for this, you should only have to do it once and not twice.
Time to sort the plumbing. This is a job with no room for error and we’d strongly recommend that even if your DIY skills are near perfect, you hire a plumber to do this – waking up with a house full of toilet waste is never a laughing matter and it will cost a fortune to put what’s gone wrong right in the end. Use copper piping if you can afford it as it’s easier to work with and lasts longer.
Time to sort the electrics. This is a job which must be done by a qualified electrician, the risks of burning to death in your sleep are too serious – DIY is not an option, unless you’re an electrician by trade.
Get it insulated. To keep it cool in summer and warm in winter, you need to insulate it use low-VOC content foam board insulation (to maximize air quality) and then fill every nook and cranny with the stuff.
Sheath the interior. Now, it’s time to build the interior properly. Wood frames are the most popular for this, but drywall works just as well. Drywall is cheaper if less aesthetically pleasing.
Paint and stain. Once that’s done, you can paint the place and make it look the way you want it to look.
Get the electricity and water connected. You will probably need a housing inspector at this point to give everything the once over before they approve it for utility connection based on meeting all the local safety ordinances.
Install the flooring. Finally, it’s time to cover the floors! Use tiles, boards, vinyl or whatever your heart desires. Remember, when you’re done, you’ll be ready to move in!
Final Word on Tiny Houses
So, there you have it a complete guide to living in tiny homes in just a few short pages.
We hope that you’ve found some inspiration here. Tiny homes are a great way to live the life you want to live while caring for the planet.
If you do make the plunge, we’d love to see some pictures of your new home.
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