Are you tired of living with a lot of clutter? Are you ready to live a simpler life? Then a tiny home might be the solution for you.
As the minimalist movement gains popularity and people want to get back to basics, incredible tiny homes have gained a following.
Not only that:
There are some excellent tiny homes on the market, decked out and styled like regular homes.
Why Should You Consider a Tiny Home?
There are a lot of reasons to consider moving into a tiny home. Here are some reasons people decide to take the leap:
- They learn to let go of things they don’t need and live a simpler life
- They’re environmentally conscious and want to contribute to a lower carbon footprint
- They want to spend less money on a home and have more money to pursue their passions
- It helps them get out of debt
- They want a home that meets their needs and fits their personality
Let’s find out if a tiny home is a smart move for you!
A Tiny Home Is…
A tiny home is a house that is typically under 600 square feet. Though it is sometimes built on a foundation, some are built on trailers.
The tiny house movement, however, is:
An architectural and social movement that encourages living a simpler life in a smaller space.
Basically, a group of people were fed up with having too much stuff and were ready to downsize their life. So they started the tiny house movement, and it spread all over the country and the world.
How much do tiny homes cost?
Tiny homes range in price depending on the type of home and conveniences you choose.
A mobile tiny home that has all the conveniences such as a bathroom, kitchen, and dining room costs an average of $60,000. But if you want a simpler home with the basics, you can get it for around $25,000.
If luxury is more your style and you have the budget, it can cost as much as $150,000.
And if you want to build your tiny home:
It will cost between $12,000 and $35,000.
10 Types of Tiny Homes
Here are the types of tiny homes you can choose from and even live big in if you do it right!
Flash-back to the 70s
Living on a bus may seem like a ridiculous idea, but this isn’t what a bus conversion is. Instead, you take a big bus, normally a school bus that is an average of 40 feet long, and convert it into a home.
What does this mean?
It means taking the seats out of the bus and starting out with a blank canvas. With a bus conversion, you can design it however you want.
- Add floors
- Install a sink
- Place curtains over the windows (or cover them altogether)
- And add seats and a bed
Now you have yourself a bus conversion.
You might be thinking:
“Where do I put my stuff?” Great question.
If you need storage, you can install seats that also function as small storage units or storage trunks. The seat will lift up so you can put your belongings or treasures inside of them.
Think, piano bench.
Also, floors can act as “trap doors” where you can place your belongings. With a bus conversion, you can get very creative and create a home with your own personal style.
Taking it on the road
If you don’t like staying in one place but still want the comforts of home, a tiny house on wheels might be your solution. This requires having a trailer to put your house on when you move around, and knowing where you can put your house.
You will most likely build a tiny house on wheels rather than buy it because you will personalize it in the size and design you want, and purchase a trailer that can carry it.
There are some things to consider before getting started on your house on wheels.
- What kind of trailer do you need?
- What are the local laws on living in a tiny house on wheels?
- Where can you park your tiny house?
- Can your car tow your house?
Once you have these answers, then you can get started on building it.
Fairy tales you can live in
Not only the homes of fairy tales, but cob houses are also a great option for a tiny home. In fact, cob — which is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw — is a perfect natural material to make a tiny home.
Ready to have your mind blown?
Some cob structures in England have been standing for over 500 years!
That is a home that you can depend on to last, if you build it right. You do have the option to buy one, but if you decide to build your own, take these details into consideration:
- Have an overhang roof to keep too much direct moisture from entering your exterior walls
- Build a strong stone foundation that will keep the bottom of your walls safe from the outside elements
Want to know another secret to their success?
Cob houses are elevated above the ground because they are built in stacks of stones.
How does this help them?
This design keeps the bottoms of the walls from absorbing any moisture in the ground.
Vardo tiny houses,
With a vardo tiny home, you’re taking a British Romani wagon and converting it into a home. Think of the horse-drawn carriages from hundreds of years ago and modernize them. Instead of a horse, a car will usually tow this home.
One of the tiniest homes on the list, the key to making this one of the incredible tiny homes is to make the best use of your space.
Here are some tips:
- Keep the bed in the widest part of the wagon to utilize the rest of the wagon for other needs. This will also minimize the effects of strong winds.
- Add a skylight and a large window over a main area such as the kitchen sink. This will take advantage of the natural light and make the wagon feel more open.
- Build cabinets that line the top of the wagon and build lights into them. This adds storage units and brightness while using minimal space.
Want to know another secret to their success?
Add a large window above the bed. This will make the space feel even brighter and take even more advantage of the natural light!
Image via: youtube.com
This type of tiny home is not the same as the homes in a traditional trailer park. In fact, a trailer tiny home is made from a trailer that is hitched on the back of a truck.
People normally pick this tiny home for its mobility. You can move around in this home or stay in one place.
You don’t have to build it from scratch! You already have the trailer as your house. And you just need to design it and add to it to make it your home.
How do you do this?
Either hire a contractor to do the work, or Do It Yourself with a plan you purchase, usually online, or you can draw it yourself.
Here are some suggestions to make an incredible trailer home:
- Build your frames from timber. This not only gives the home a good foundation but is cost-effective
- Add a side and front door for easy access
- Add large windows for natural light
Plus, it is essential to add cinderblocks to the home to keep it from rolling away!
Add a front porch to your trailer home, so you have a place to enjoy the outdoors and get some space!
Going with the classic
Considered the original tiny home, RVs have been around long before tiny homes became a trend. The advantage of RVs is that you don’t have to build one.
You can buy one and live in it to see if tiny home living is right for you. This is especially beneficial if you want to test the waters and not make a commitment to a tiny home.
Like the previous tiny homes, you can make an RV your own. In fact, you can completely revamp an RV so that it doesn’t look like the standard campers you associate with RVs.
Here are some tips to make an RV a home that looks like one of the incredible tiny homes:
- Paint the walls white to open up the space. Dark colors make it feel cramped.
- To add storage space, build cabinets into the counter and above the sink
Keep in mind, though, that RVs are not built for cold weather. RVs are great if you live in a mild climate, but if you live in a cold climate, you might want to reconsider.
It’s not always what’s IN the box…
The most mainstream design of the tiny homes, shipping containers have the advantage of being both fireproof and hurricane-proof.
And that’s not all:
Like the trailer homes and vardo homes, you already have a foundation to work on. You just need to design the interior and maybe add to the exterior.
Plus you don’t have to stick with the standard aluminum container. You can make a home out of a wood shipping container instead.
Here are some suggestions to make an incredible tiny home out of a shipping container:
- Add windows and glass doors to make the space feel bigger and add in natural light
- Add shelves and cabinets for extra storage
- Consider placing your bed in an area that uses the least amount of space, so you can best utilize the rest of the container. The center of the home might be a good choice.
- Add a porch to the outside of the container to make it truly feel like a home
On the water
Called the RV of the water, houseboats are a perfect option for you if you love being near the water.
Houseboats also have the design similar to RVs, so a lot of the suggestions to make an RV your home apply to houseboats.
But here’s the thing:
Houseboats are on water not land, so you also have to consider this when making one your home.
Here are suggestions to make your houseboat into one of the incredible tiny homes:
- Paint the walls white to open up the space.
- To add storage space, build cabinets into the counter, above the sink, and even in the bed frame
- Since you’re on water, you won’t be able to add a porch. Instead, add a second floor that acts as a deck so you can enjoy the outdoors
- Add a large window that you can open, so you have extra natural light and enjoy the fresh air
The Mongolian thrill
First off, what is a yurt?
It’s a traditional round tent that Mongolian nomads used to live in. Made to be portable, they had a basic wooden frame, felt covering, and the walls were usually made of bamboo or wood.
Although modern yurts are made to be semi-permanent, people who want a yurt as a permanent dwelling can make some adjustments.
To make a yurt your home, here are some suggestions:
- Make your floor out of poured concrete, so it supports heavy foot traffic
- Make your walls out of the traditional bamboo latticework, then reinforce them to make sure the structure is secure
- Place your sleeping area in a place that uses the least amount of space, i.e., the side of the yurt rather than the center
- Add modern conveniences such as a closed-off bathroom and fully functioning kitchen with a stove
Frame it up
Do you like the idea of a tiny home that feels like a getaway? Do you enjoy rustic charm?Then an A-Frame might be the right choice.
A-Frames are usually made up of all wood and have slanted walls. This gives the tiny home a unique style.
The best part is:
It also makes you feel like you’re living in a cabin 24/7!
Other unique design elements of an A-Frame are bedroom lofts and sloped roofs with large overhangs.
What does this do? It makes you feel like you have a covered porch.
Talk about charm!
Here’s a secret:
The key to the A-Frame’s durability is that it’s made of metal with wood so that it is secure and has an excellent foundation.
When you choose a staircase for the bedroom loft, go for a floating staircase. It will help keep the floor plan open and make the space feel larger.
History of Tiny Homes
Writers started praising the virtues of tiny homes in the 1980s. However, it was a book that writer Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1854 that would become a blueprint for tiny home enthusiasts 150 years later.
Here’s the timeline for the tiny home movement:
1854: Henry David Thoreau writes “Walden,” a book that chronicles his time in a 150-square-foot cabin he built near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He lived there for two years, two months, and two days.
1973: Authors Lloyd Kahn and Bob Easton release “Shelter,” a book that details Indigenous construction methods and small-home designs from around the world.
1987: Author Lester Walker publishes the book “Tiny Houses: or How To Get Away From It All” featuring photographs and drawings of tiny homes, some of them unusual.
1997: Portland, Oregon changes its housing regulations to allow homeowners to build Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs) by right. This gave homeowners the right to build an ADU on their property, as long as it met guidelines, without acquiring a special permit.
1998: Author Sarah Susanka publishes “The Not So Big House.” The book becomes a bestseller and starts the “Not So Big” franchise.
1999: Jay Shafer, who is credited with starting the tiny house movement, founds the “Tumbleweed Tiny House Company” in Sonoma, California. It is the first US company to sell mobile tiny homes. That same year, he publishes is first article about the merits of simple living.
2002: Jay Shafer, Shay Salomon, Nigel Valdez, and Gregory Paul Johnson found the Small House Society, to support more research and development into smaller living spaces.
2017: Jay Shafer appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show, giving a tour of his 96-square-foot home. That same year, Kent Griswold founds the “Tiny House Blog,” which is the first blog dedicated to tiny homes.
2008: As the housing crisis hits, interest in downsizing and living in more modest homes, including tiny homes, spikes.
2012: Jay Shafer leaves the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company to found “Four Lights Houses.” The company promotes hands-on workshops, books, and the development of tiny house communities.
2013: The first tiny house hotel opens called the “Caravan Tiny House Hotel.” The founders also begin teaching classes about designing and building ADUs.
2014: The FYI channel premiers a Reality-TV show called “Tiny House Nation.” That same year, the channel HGTV premieres its own show called “Tiny House Hunters.” Also, the small town of Spur, Texas, declares itself the first “tiny-house friendly town.”
2015: The American Tiny House Association is founded as a non-profit in Florida. It goes on to establish chapter leaders in many US States. That same year, zoning legislation is unanimously approved to allow construction of a tiny homes “pocket” community. Then the Rockledge Tiny House Community is formed, and they start a movement on Facebook.
2016: Fresno, California, passes new zoning laws that allow for mobile tiny homes to be treated as permanent backyard cottages. That same year, The International Code Council announces that a tiny house specific appendix will be part of the International Residential Code.
2017: Idaho’s state code board votes for an early adoption of the IRC’s tiny house appendix.
The Pros and Cons You Need to Know!
There are a lot of advantages to tiny homes but also some disadvantages. Before you make the decision to live smaller, let’s go over both.
- They’re better for the environment
- You can make them your own
- They help you live the simple life
- You’re not committed to one place
- No space
- Hard on relationships
- You have to buy or rent land
According to the EPA, houses account for 38% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Living in a tiny home will lessen your carbon footprint. This will make anyone who cares about the environment feel a little better!
Next, as we’ve seen most of the tiny homes start with a basic foundation and you can customize your home into anything you want. You can put your personality in your home and truly make it a home that represents y-o-u.
And what about this:
A tiny home can help you get back to basics. As the minimalist movement is gaining popularity, people are realizing that they have too much stuff and finding great joy in getting rid of things they don’t need.
That’s a huge pro to a tiny home!
It forces you to downsize and only live with what you need. This can be a very freeing experience.
Not only that:
With a tiny home, you’re not committed to one place. If you’re not sure where you want to live, a tiny home may be a perfect alternative. Just make sure you choose one that is mobile.
First of all, there is not a lot of space with a tiny home. You need a home office? Want to watch TV while your roommate or partner sleeps?
Neither one of these is an option in a tiny home.
Next, it can be hard on relationships. A couple needs space and time apart to have a healthy relationship. A tiny home makes that challenging because there’s not a lot of space to get away when they need to.
If you have an argument, there’s nowhere to retreat.
The last thing to consider before getting a tiny home is…
You’re going to have to find land to rent or buy. Otherwise, if you have a tiny home that is mobile, you can park it in an RV park or someone’s backyard. But living in an RV park or a backyard isn’t much of a home.
How to Buy a Tiny Home
The tiny home movement is still fairly new, so if you’ve decided that you want to buy a tiny home, there are some things to consider before you get started.
First, decide what your goals are:
What do you want?
- Custom design
- Mobile tiny home
- A home that stays in one place
Then decide where you want to be.
- 1Near family and friends
- 2Several places throughout the year
- 3In a community that shares your minimalist values
What is your goal in buying a tiny home?
- Reduce your impact on the environment
- Downsize your life
- Have more freedom to travel
Once you’ve established your motives, then you can get down to the business of buying the tiny home. There are several resources for buying a home that will help you get started.
Tiny House Listings offers the largest list for tiny houses for sale on the internet and can narrow down your search by state and preferences.
If you’re looking for a custom design, Tumbleweed Houses is one of the biggest contractors in the country. They also give workshops on tiny homes and are green certified and approved by the US Green Building Council.
If your goal is a lower carbon footprint and you don’t mind living in Texas or its adjoining states, Tiny Texas Houses is a contracting company that specializes in recycled, reused, up-cycled, and other salvageable materials.
And, if you’re interested in living in a tiny house community, Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village is a 20-year-old community whose goal is for tiny homeowners to come together and live in ecologically sustainable ways.
Need more help?
A great resource is Facebook. In fact, this Facebook group has tiny house listings throughout the country, and when you find one you like, you can contact the seller for more details.
This video also gives you pointers on how to buy a tiny home:
How to Build Your Own Tiny Home
If you decide that building a tiny home is your cup of tea, then there are steps you need to take before you get started.
First of all, plan, plan, plan!
You’re going to need a strong construction plan. How do you do that? Here are the steps:
- Determine what you need in a home (similar to the checklist for buying a home)
- Research building sites and land
- Talk with other tiny house builders and owners to get ideas
- Create a rough floor plan
- Decide on the features you need in your tiny house
- Draft or purchase building plans
- Create and determine your budget
- Start training, learning the basics, and honing your construction skills
Next, you’ll need to source the following items:
And you will need to refer to knowledgeable friends and professionals who can help you along the way.
Then think through the whole process of building the tiny house from start to finish. Think of every scenario.
How will you get your trailer on the site and how will you get it out if you ever need to?
Play out every step of the building plan and see where problems may arise and how you will solve them.
You will also need to order your materials ahead of time, so they arrive when you’re ready to build.
When going through the scenarios in your mind think of all your large objects such as the shower stall, mattress, and furniture. How will you get them into the home? How will they fit through the front door?
Now that you’re done planning and have all the materials, you’re ready to build. Use this list to go through each section of the house one on one while building:
- Tiny House Trailer
- Tiny House Foundation
- Wall Framing for a Tiny House
- Tiny House Sheathing
- Windows and Door Rough Openings
- Tiny House Roof Framing
- Roof Sheathing
- Install Skylights
- Outside Trim Work
- Rough Plumbing
- Rough Electrical
- Gas Lines (Rough)
- HVAC (Rough)
- Install Major Appliances
- Sleeping Loft
- Main Room
Finally, you can move into your home! Once in, the only steps you need to take are cleaning up any debris, inviting friends over, and celebrating.
It is highly recommended to hire a professional to install the electrical, plumbing, gas lines, and HVAC.
How to set up utilities and electricity
One of the most important parts of building a tiny home is setting up the utilities and electricity. How can you have a home without lights? Before finding out how to set it up, establish these things first:
- Plan out the location of the lights, fans, socket, and outlets
- Plan the location for the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
- Consider your power usage
Once you have that down, you can start setting up the electricity.
First of all, it is highly recommended to hire a professional to help you with this. Even if you decide to do it yourself, have an electrician on hand to help you.
For mobile tiny homes, you can either plug into the grid or into off-grid power sources such as gas generators or solar.
In addition to this:
You will want to use propane for all your cooking, heating, and hot water because you can use smaller extension cords and you will probably use a lot less electricity.
For a Tiny House on Wheels:
- Stay away from a 220-volt and 50-amp input plugin. Instead, use an RV plug that is at or below 30 amps and a twist-lock input that is at or below 120 volts.
- Wire the plug and input into a small sub-panel box with split-circuits and breakers for a few different inputs like lighting, electronics, and refrigerators.
- Make sure you have grid access with a dedicated 30-amp and 120-volt plug or a larger gas generator that is in the 4,000 to 5,000-watt range
- Another option: get a 30-amp to 20-amp duplex adapter that will shift your energy needs down. This will allow any 15 to 20-amp duplex outlet from the grid, a smaller gas generator or a small solar power system to work for you.
- Last option: Utilize a split sub-panel box with dual feeds. On one side you have a 15 to 20-amp duplex input split between your basic items like a refrigerator, consumer electronics, and LED lights. On the other side, you have a second feed that is a 20-amp duplex, 30-amp RV or a 30-amp twist lock for heavy energy products like a washer/dryer, electric heater, AC, etc. Connect this using a heavy duty extension cord from a separate off-grid power source or on-grid circuit.
For fixed tiny homes with constant grid access, setting up electricity is different because you have to focus on the local zoning, code regulations, and NEC guidelines. It is highly recommended to hire a professional to set up your electricity in a fixed tiny home.
Where do you put your Tiny Home?
If you build or purchase a mobile tiny home, you have the following options as to where you can “park” it:
- If you’re a registered mobile home, you can live in any mobile-home park full-time, or in any zone that allows for mobile homes
- If you are registered as an RV, you can live full-time in an RV park
Otherwise, unless you live in a city that allows for tiny home occupancy, you have little options.
You park your mobile tiny home in your backyard and “rent it out.”
But didn’t you decide on a tiny home to get away from paying a mortgage?
What I can tell you is:
These are the current options for mobile tiny homes until they gain more traction in the future.
If you build or purchase a fixed tiny home, you’re going to need to find land to build it. This can be difficult. Not only do you need to pay attention to the local zoning and code regulations but not a lot of places allow for tiny home building.
Here are some of your options:
- A city that allows tiny homes
- Your friend’s backyard
- A rural area
What to Do If Your Tiny Home Becomes Damaged
What happens if your tiny home becomes damaged and you need to fix it? Unless you’re a pro at house repairs, you will need insurance. And this can be tricky with tiny homes.
Here are your insurance options:
- You may be able to get a personal property insurance policy for your mobile tiny home if you put your house on a permanent or semi-permanent foundation. However, you may have to agree to live there part-time.
- Beware that some insurance companies will not cover your home if you’re mobile because their policies don’t cover towing.
- If you travel with your mobile tiny home, you may be able to sign up for RV insurance.
- Even though RVs are not considered permanent dwellings, most insurance companies offer full-time policies that act as homeowner’s insurance.
- If your home doesn’t have an RVIA seal, make sure it meets the requirements of the insurance company, such as the types of appliances and facilities it requires.
Work with an insurance carrier that specializes in alternative living structures, and find an insurance policy before you buy or build your home.
Resources for Tiny Homes
If you’ve decided to move forward and downsize, here are some resources to help you out as you navigate this new world:
Is a Tiny Home for You?
Living in a tiny home can be exciting and free your life of clutter. But there are some important things to consider before taking the plunge.
Where you live, what home to buy, what insurance to purchase, and how to live with someone in a small space are a few important things to consider before deciding on this move.
But think about this:
If you are passionate about downsizing your life, care about the environment, and want a little more freedom, a tiny home might be right for you.
Are you consider the tiny home life? Which kind of tiny home are you thinking about? Let us know in the comments!