Tiny homes are popping up across the U.S. as many people look to live with less, reduce their carbon footprint or of course save money. But living in a tiny house is not for everyone, it has its benefits and drawbacks. Less square footage, less stuff and less responsibility may sounds great, but the reality of tiny living is not always easy, and often it´s not cheap either.
To build or purchase a tiny house is easier said than done. There is a lot for you to consider. In contrast to a RV or travel trailer, it is a fully-insulated, 4-season home with doors and windows; natural floors, walls, ceiling and storage.
Do you think you could live in 200-500 sq ft? There is an easy way to find out!
Where can you live in a tiny house on a trial basis? Book a stay at the Tiny House Hotel in Portland, Oregon!
The size encourages creativity and often shows off floor plans, designs and features not typically found in any traditional family home. The tiny house interior often come with loft beds, fold-able tables’, with benches having storage and ladders move. You have to figure out how to maximize space to allow for storage and multiple functions.
Many of these mini houses have a traditional look with gabled roofs. For some people, that’s how a home has to look like, but actually it doesn´t make a lot of sense. One reason are the bedrooms, gable lofts make lousy sleeping areas as your head is rarely at the highest part, plus you lose important storage space.
Have a look at this brilliant modern tiny house:
A tiny house on wheels must fit the regulations.
In order to travel on any road, there are regulations to consider: the width cannot exceed 8′ 5″ and the max height is 13′ 5″, max length is 40 feet, and an overall length of max 65-feet including the truck. If you want your home on wheels to be portable, you have to think about the weight. 26,000 lbs is the most it can weigh (including the towing vehicle) on the road, anything more will require a cdl. Don´t forget to add the extra weight for your belongings, fuel to a tank, and people in the vehicle.
Tiny little houses do not necessarily need wheels, you can build them permanently on your own plot of land, but the option to move it at least once or twice is a great advantage.
What is the average cost to build a tiny house?
Affordability is a top priority for 18-to 35-year-olds, and micro homes may offer a cheaper alternative.
The cost of a petite house is about $20,000 to $60,000, but if you go the DIY route prices shrink to $10,000 to $20,000 for materials. Compare the price to a single-family home with a 30-year mortgage; this seems like a reasonable and affordable upfront investment without worrying about a monthly payment.
Want to diy and save on the materials? Don´t underestimate the time to find reclaimed materials, dumpster diving, and checking Craigslist every day. Also be prepared to spent almost $900 on nails, screws, bolts, fasteners, brackets, glue, etc ., as you cannot use reused ones.
But small tiny homes may take longer to build than most people think. Expect a minimum of 3 months with a local professional builder, but builder’s skill level and the amount of detail in your design can take more like a year to build. If you want to build it yourself expect 6-12 month.
Other alternatives are buying a cabin kit, a prefabricated or used tiny house: have a look at the listings here.
Of course there is a lot more to consider. From the design to electrical, from heating to plumbing, the complexity of building a tiny mobile home is often overlooked.
Have you figured out where to get the water?
Forget about rain collecting, a typical roof is much too small for that. Best option is the water main from the city, but for them to install a meter, you may end up paying $2,000, and you still have to get it to your house. Digging a well is about $10,000.
What about power supply?
Solar panels and a battery bank are a great choice if you choose a sunny spot. In the woods it may not be practicable. There are some really effective lighting solutions now with power saving LED’s and you can run your stove and fridge on propane. If you connect to your local power provider the cost range around $800-$1000.
Living in a tiny house in winter heating is another issue.
There are quite a few tiny house heating options.
- You can put in electric in-floor heat if you are on the grid, propane or wood are great off grid options.
- A small wood stove has many drawbacks in such small spaces; the most important you can’t keep the house at a certain temperature.
- Opt for a stainless steel wall mounted direct vent propane heater.
- My tip is a propane powered Mini Franklin (you can find some on woodstove.com) as you can set a thermostat. Cost to fill is around $80 for a 100 pound tank. Depending on location and temperature it will sum up to $100-200 for heating a month.
What about the tiny house sewage?
You can avoid regular costs for sewage or black water if you compost all the waste through a simple home-made composting bucket toilet system and filter your gray-water through a simple weeping tile, if allowed. Composting toilets are available at $1,500.
The next challenge in living tiny is parking?
You need a piece of land to buy or rent, park in a family or friend’s backyard or driveway, or stay in a RV park. You can find a place to park your micro house by advertising on Craigslist for example, or more local bulletin board websites. It is not too difficult finding land for tiny house. Just have a look at the “Tiny House Community map” they put together more than 300 places in Florida, California and all over the USA where you can park a puny house.
State regulations on minimum square footage vary -- please check with your local authorities to find out the rules that will apply for your area. Municipalities are now working to create new laws specifically for little houses on trailers; legal building, parking and living should get easier in the years to come. There are even Homeowner’s policies available, specifically designed for tiny homes.
Keep in mind that you need permission from the city to connect to the sewer line or use a neighbor’s facilities.
What about tiny homes for families? Is it possible to live in one full time with a child or two?
Do you think you can enjoy living with less? Some daily amenities become a luxury when you live in less space, like enjoying a bubble bath, cooking a big meal, entertaining, or hosting guests. Some tiny living houses don’t even have running water.
For two people living in a tiny home, it is important to create some outdoor space and leaving the house at certain times. This way both you and your partner are not sticking all day in the small space together, this make both feel more satisfied in their need for privacy and alone time.
Be honest it’s important to know what level of rustic you can really live with.