Who among us has not been intrigued by the idea of a tiny home? Maybe you’d just like a backyard getaway that’s a little more than a “She-Shed”. Perhaps you’ve always wanted a treehouse - but now you’re a bit more agreeable to keeping your life on the ground level. Or, you might be looking at a way to have a vacation home on a budget. Whatever your idea, there so many options to consider when it comes to building your own small-scale home.
Many first-time tiny home builders are able to cut out a lot of the work by using part of another structure as a base. There are as many creative solutions out there as there are Pinterest boards. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Using a recreational vehicle: Beginning with a solid foundation on wheels can offer real advantages, especially if you’re wanting to keep your tiny abode at least partially mobile. Recreational vehicles already have the advantage of a chassis that can handle the weight, as well as basic wiring and plumbing. If the existing floorplan is acceptable, the biggest changes will be in weatherproofing exterior elements such as the roof and walls and possibly swapping out windows for larger ones.
- Travel trailers are even easier, with less space lost to the vehicle. Again, there will need to be an upgrade to the exterior, but either of these options can allow you to start with an option that allows you to expand upwards: many people add on rooftop decks or loft areas, or even outwards: the conversion to a tiny home can allow builders to add a porch addition.
- Pre-Built Barns are another entry point into tiny home building. They’re available unfinished, with the bare studs, plywood floor, and open beams - the same type of storage building that you see in backyards everywhere. If you’d like to save some steps with the framing and are handy with electrical and other work, these are a great way to build a customized tiny home. The basic shell is ready for your choice of flooring, wall covering, and layout. They can even be delivered directly to your location on a truck.
Pre-cut kit homes are available in every price range and every style. Depending on your budget, you can order anything from kits that supply you with a trailer base, materials list, and building plans, to kits that give you the pre-cut lumber, hardware, materials, and plans, to kits that deliver a “shell on wheels” - your tiny home arrives already on the trailer base, the basic structure with subfloor, roof and walls ready for you to finish yourself. A basic package can save the builder a couple of hundred hours in construction time, but you’ll still need to address elements like windows, doors, plumbing and electrical.
Other kit innovations are always coming along. You’ll run across tiny home kits that use snap-together MDF sections, arched versions that combine the look of A-frames with a touch of Quonset hut technology, and even concrete.
As with any home build, be honest with your budget and experience when pricing out kit homes. You can spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to the price of a regular home in some parts of the country. There’s truly something for every taste in the tiny home kit world.
Building from Plans
The most hand-on tiny home build can be ably accomplished with a good set of plans. If you don’t have the confidence to start completely from scratch, there are scores of innovative plans out there.
Good tiny home building plans will specify everything you’ll need, from hardware to each piece of lumber. You can even attend workshops that will guide you through the process of building and help you select the right plan. When you’re building from a plan, be sure to match your interior furniture designs to the plan as well.
Don’t forget that you’ll still need to address things like a proper foundation for permanent structures. And, even with a set of complete plans, you may need to hire a licensed contractor to complete portions of the build like electrical work. Still, you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished. Chances are, any design issue or idea that you’ve struggled with on a tiny house build has been solved in an existing building plan. It’s a great way to get inspired and to assess what your personal comfort level is with a building project.
Building your own tiny home is now possible, no matter what your skill level. If you want to save money, add your personal touches, and get the structure of your dreams, you’ll be glad to know that there are more options than ever.
Whether your experience has readied you for a build from the ground up, or you’re looking for a bit more guidance and less work, you can choose from kit homes for all skill levels, basic building plans, or renovation project that is piggybacked on an existing structure. Just bring your creativity, an assessment of your talents, and your budget, and you’ll be able to find a tiny home project that suits you perfectly.