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Do you want to learn how to build your own tiny house? No matter your experience level, you can do it! Just know that it will likely be one of the most challenging and rewarding projects of your life.
Starting your own DIY tiny house build might be one of the toughest steps. In fact, it can be paralyzing. Once you have a better understanding of what’s involved, you’ll be empowered to move forward.
Preparing for building your own tiny house is perhaps the most involved step of the entire process. There are a lot of factors to keep in mind before it comes time to hammer your first nail.
Do you have a building site? Have you budgeted for absolutely everything? Also, have you taken any DIY building courses?
Importantly, you need to begin with a bit of soul searching before diving into construction in earnest. What do you need and most desire in your future tiny home?
Also, if you’re actually a maximalist with a lot of belongings, you need to ensure you’ll be able to live comfortably in a small amount of space. Downsizing is a necessity but varies significantly from person to person.
Once you’re sure it’s a journey you’re ready to embark upon, you’ll need to decide on a tiny house floor plan, as well. Then you’ll know what kind of materials you’ll need to begin construction in earnest.
Ready to learn how to build a tiny home? Let’s dig into top considerations, more planning advice, and critical phases of the process.
Table of Contents
1) How much do you want to spend when building your own tiny house?
The cost to build your own tiny house varies considerably based on size, materials used, and level of customization. Of course, labor is also a significant factor. If you can do-it-yourself, you can save up to 30-50% of the overall cost.
A typical DIY tiny house build costs approximately $15,000-$50,000. In contrast, a professionally built THOW typically costs $45,000-$125,000.
Keep in mind, while the savings can be huge, building your own tiny house will require months, or even years, of your life to complete.
On the other hand, for many, building your own tiny home is incredibly fulfilling, both in the life learning experience and priceless satisfaction of living in a space built with your bare hands.
How much does it cost to build a tiny house? Find out more here!
2) Research Building Standards and Certifications Before you Build Your Own Tiny House
Building standards dictate how a structure is built with safety being the top concern. A tiny house can be constructed to meet RV standards, residential code, or both.
You might be thinking; if I build my own tiny house, I don’t have to worry about building permits because it’s on wheels. While true, if you already know where you want to park your tiny house, you’ll need to find out about local building code requirements before you begin construction.
For example, Lake Dallas Tiny Home Village in Texas requires tiny houses on wheels to be built to the International Residential Code Appendix Q standards. To be placed in that tiny house community, the house must pass an inspection.
3) Find a place to build your own tiny home
Access to a build location, as well as tools, are necessities for any tiny house build. If you’re lucky, maybe a family member has an available driveway.
Or you may have to look for land for your DIY tiny home.
Make sure you discuss rules, like not hammering after 9 pm, to be respectful to the neighbors. You’ll also want to review any HOA regulations.
Kill two birds with one stone by building at a Makerspace. These often offer both building sites and access to a wide array of tools.
Even better? They also offer a sense of community, with free-flowing advice and moral support from other DIYers. Additionally, network with local tiny house Meetups for potential build sites and helping hands.
4) Plan your tiny house build
No one should ever take on the task of building their own tiny home without a plan. Always remember that proper planning leads to better outcomes. While a lack of it will lead to unanticipated costs and wasted time.
Here are a few things to consider if you want to build your own tiny home:
Decide on the size and overall layout
This affects all aspects of your DIY tiny house build, including the cost and materials needed.
Unsure about how tiny is right for you? Read my post about how to pick the best tiny house floor plan for tips to help you make this crucial decision.
Research & study. Consider signing up for eCourses and DIY tiny house building workshops
Consider the TinyHouseBuild.com Digital Workshop. It includes an in-depth look at how to build your own tiny home, geared for beginners, with 54 bite-sized and engaging episodes (which you can watch as many times as you want and at your leisure).
Create a realistic budget, including 10% extra for contingencies.
Invest in a set of trusted tiny house plans. This will provide a materials list to help you budget accordingly. You can always customize these to better suit your needs or accommodate fresh storage ideas—we did!
Consider purchasing a tiny house shell for your DIY tiny house build
Another great option to consider is purchasing a tiny house shell, like these ones from Tumbleweed. The exterior is completed, and the interior is mostly unfinished. Further, RV-certified shells are available with financing options, as well as completed plumbing and electrical.
A shell provides the best of both worlds, professional-quality where it counts and gratifying hands-on building to complete your tiny home.
Importantly, the price point is higher than a full DIY build but significantly lower than a professionally built house.
Tiny house kits are another great option for a semi DIY build. Check out these 5 Tiny house kits under $5,000!
5) Source materials for your DIY tiny house build
Once you know what you’re aiming for, it becomes much easier to implement your tiny house construction in earnest. Building your own tiny house goes from being an abstract problem to a tangible project.
It can be a lot of fun and very rewarding to build your own tiny house, once you get into the swing of it.
For specifics, refer to the material list from your tiny house plans. Generally speaking, you’ll need the following:
- Trailer for your tiny house
- Fasteners and hardware
- Lumber or steel framing
- Sheathing and house wrap
- Siding and trim
- Interior wall finishes (paneling, drywall, etc.)
- Windows and flashing
Once you know all of the building materials you’ll need, you can start to shop around for the best deals.
You don’t have to get everything brand new, straight from Lowes or Home Depot.
There’s all manner of ways to save on building materials, ranging from used building supply businesses to deconstructing vacant houses yourself or scoring free materials from Craigslist.
In our build, we used many salvaged and reclaimed materials—from an old farmhouse to discounted materials at the local Habitat ReStore.
Just remember, salvaged and reclaimed materials are much more labor-intensive but can result in significant savings.
6) Begin Construction on your DIY Tiny House
Once you’ve done your research, procured your floor plans, and secured your building materials, it’s time to start building your own tiny house.
This is the point where you need to decide if you’ll be doing all the construction yourself or if you’ll be hiring an outside professional for specific aspects, like framing.
For instance, we hired help for hanging rafters in our DIY tiny house build, as well as electrical (we wanted this done as safely as possible).
Either way, you’ll want to begin with prepping your custom tiny house trailer.
Believe it or not, it took us three full days to insulate our trailer, then lay the subfloor. But it’s absolutely worth taking your time to make sure this is done right.
Importantly, this makes it more possible to secure your tiny house from the elements so you can work on the infrastructure in comfort, in case of bad weather. Of course, there are about three dozen small steps in between.
Here’s an overview of the primary tiny house building steps.
Thinking of a different kind of tiny house? You’ll need floor plans! Check out floor plans for a shipping container tiny house.
7) Know when to ask for help building your own tiny house
Doing a tiny house build yourself doesn’t mean doing it alone entirely. Besides asking friends or family for help, you might need to hire contractors to help out for some of the more complicated aspects of your tiny house build. Just remember, pro help will drive up your overall cost.
Electrical installation is the most common reason you’ll need a contractor if you want to build your own tiny house. You definitely want this done to code for your safety.
However, if you feel uneasy about major structural work, consider hiring a carpenter to complete difficult tasks, like framing, or even just for a consultation on your DIY tiny home.
Don’t forget the bathroom! Check out toilet options for an off-grid to a normal loo.
8) Expect that building your own tiny home will take a long time
A DIY tiny house build will always take longer than you think it will. Speaking from my personal experience, my boyfriend and I thought it would take three to four months to complete ours.
Ultimately, it took us nine months to build our own tiny house.
Also, almost every tiny house build will be delayed at some point. What if a supplier suddenly takes three weeks longer to deliver your custom lumber order? Or if lousy weather stops construction?
Make sure you have a contingency plan for delays when building your own tiny house. This includes a financial buffer of at least 10% of the overall build budget. You should also plan where you’ll live if the build date overruns, and your current apartment lease ends, etc.
If you’ve never built anything before, building your own tiny house will require much starting and stopping to look at YouTube how-to videos. We did this countless times in our build.
To be honest, you’ll have to redo many aspects after you mess up a cut or find your frame is out of square.
It is pretty understandable that build mistakes will happen, especially since most tiny house DIYers have no prior experience. That’s just a fact; not to worry! Most issues can be fixed, but again preparation is critical to avoid as many as possible from the start.
I highly recommend you take a DIY building workshop to help you have a more solid grasp of tiny house construction before you get started.
Again, during your build, don’t be afraid to ask for help—ideally from someone with more experience.
For us, we were fortunate to have the mentorship of a carpenter friend. He would occasionally review our work, and when we got stuck on a particular step, he offered guidance on how to move forward.
Building your own tiny house isn’t as daunting as it might seem. It’s a series of small steps that all add up to a fully-functional home.
If you think through the DIY tiny house process carefully ahead of time and prepare accordingly, it can even be rather fun! And there is nothing quite so rewarding as building your own home, however big or small it might be.
Key takeaways from how to build your own tiny house
Learning how to build a tiny home for the first time can be daunting. There are tons of factors that you have to consider. Aside from giving up most of your material possessions, you are also taking a lifestyle risk.
Simply by leaving behind a conventional chapter in your life, you venture onto a road less traveled in the hopes of a big reward—a renewed sense of self and a just-right home.
With the right prep, you can build your own tiny house!
Other posts to check out!
- All-in-One Kit Houses. Kit houses have been popular in the United States since their introduction in the late 19th century, according to Architect. ...
- Quick Setup Yurts. ...
- Industrial Quonset Huts. ...
- Economical Shipping Containers.
- Trailer. Tiny House Trailer. The trailer is the foundation of your house on wheels. ...
- Wood. Dimensional Lumber. ...
- Insulation. Extruded Polystyrene (Styrofoam) (XPS) Boards. ...
- Roofing. Metal Roofing. ...
- Hardware. Exterior Screws. ...
- Strapping and Flashing. Hurricane Straps. ...
- Millwork. Exterior Door. ...
- Electrical. Wire.
Most states have adopted building and zoning codes from the International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC codes require that all homes must be built on a minimum of 320 square feet. The minimum square footage for a house is 120 square feet, and at least one room must be habitable.What is the cheapest way to build a small house? ›
The cheapest way to build a home is to design a simple box. Sticking to a square or rectangular floor plan makes the building and design simple. Generally speaking, building up is cheaper than building a sprawling one-story home, so you may want to consider planning for a multiple-story home if you need more space.How can I build a small house on a low budget? ›
9 tips to build your house on a small budget
- Cement flooring. ...
- Walls with cement. ...
- Pallets for walls. ...
- Exposed brick finish. ...
- Recycled wood. ...
- Concrete blocks. ...
- Visible pipes and fixtures.
In general, ranch style homes are the cheapest houses to build. Their shapes are usually a simple block, so there won't be any extra costs for custom bump-outs.What is the least expensive material to build a house? ›
- Build for Less. 1/9. ...
- Concrete Sheets. 2/9. ...
- Reclaimed Wood. 3/9. ...
- Used Brick. 4/9. ...
- Corrugated Metal. 5/9. ...
- Stone Veneer. 6/9. ...
- Shipping Containers. 7/9. ...
- Bamboo. 8/9.
Price: Generally, slab foundations are your cheapest option when it comes to foundations, an excellent choice if budget is front-of-mind. Low Maintenance: Of all foundation-types, slabs require the least amount of maintenance, adding to their pricing value.What skills do you need to build a tiny house? ›
- Project Management.
- Interior Design.
- Research and Flexibility.
It's typically cheaper to build a tiny house than to buy one prebuilt, but don't get too caught up in the savings. You may underestimate the job you're taking on by choosing to build yourself, as one small mistake can end up costing extra time and money to fix.
A tiny house takes about 800 people hours to build. If you do all of those hours yourself, it's going to be a long time before you move into your tiny house. If you were able to put in twenty hours a week, it'd take you about forty weeks – almost a year.What is the largest a tiny house can be? ›
Tiny Houses can range from 60 square feet up to 400 square feet when built on a trailer. Of course, you can build bigger if you build on a foundation. Typically your tiny house can be up to 8 feet wide inside, so your length will be the main variable that impacts square footage.Do I need a building consent for a tiny home? ›
If your tiny house on wheels is a building then you will need to ensure that building work on your tiny house complies with the Building Code. You will also need to get a building consent to construct the tiny house.How much does it cost to build a 500 square foot home? ›
New home constructions typically cost $100 – $200 per square foot to build.What is a panelized kit home? ›
A panelized house kit is a prefab home that typically includes a roof, wall panels, and floor systems that are all first assembled in a factory, then delivered to the construction site. When building a panelized house kit, the foundation is laid first.Is it cheaper to build a house in 2022? ›
It is anticipated that interest rates will be on a rising trend throughout 2022 and costs will continue to increase, although the cost increases will be at a more normalized rate. It is highly unlikely that it will be less expensive to build in the future.Is it cheaper to build a 1 or 2 story house? ›
Per square foot, a one-story house is more costly to build than a two-story home. There is a larger footprint, meaning more foundation building and more roofing materials. And because the plumbing and heating/AC systems need to extend the length of the house, you'll need bigger (and costlier) systems.What is the cheapest structure to live in? ›
Dome homes are arguably the cheapest site-built home available. These homes are constructed of a steel frame, covered in a fabric form, and then sprayed first with foam and concrete. The result is a solid structure capable of withstanding all types of natural disasters, including tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.What is a Barndominium? ›
A barndominium, also known as a barndo, is an open concept steel building with large square footage that combines living space and a working area. The term can be used to describe any metal structure from a simple one story to a large, luxurious home.How much does it cost to build a 1000 sq ft house? ›
|Size||Average Cost Range|
|800 sq. ft.||$80,000 – $160,000|
|1,000 sq. ft.||$100,000 – $200,000|
|1,200 sq. ft.||$120,000 – $240,000|
|1,500 sq. ft.||$150,000 – $300,000|
Yes, you can. It's not common to build a house for such a low amount but if you're extremely thrifty, know how to negotiate and haggle, have excellent DIY skills and stick to a strict budget, you could manage to build your own home for £50,000.Where is the cheapest place to build a house in the US? ›
Is that a 10 I see?: Spring Hill, Tennessee is the cheapest place to build a home. Avid academics: Harrison, New Jersey allocates the most school funding per student at $24,360. Spend less for more: Conway, South Carolina has the lowest cost of living, sitting at 88.2 under the U.S. average of 100.What is the most costly part of building a house? ›
Pouring a foundation is expensive; often it is one of the most expensive parts of building a home, usually over most of the items on this list. A larger home's foundation will be more expensive to pour. The type of foundation and the climate you're building in will also matter.
The Strength of Steel. Pound for pound, steel is the strongest construction material available (unless you count exotic materials like titanium).What is the strongest material to build a house out of? ›
Brick is one of the most durable construction materials available. They're a low-maintenance option for most types of buildings but they are susceptible to extreme weather conditions.What type of foundation is best for a tiny house? ›
Tiny House Vented Crawlspace Foundation
A vented crawlspace foundation works great because you can run all your wires and plumbing in the space. If there is ever an issue, you can crawl under your home to get access to fix them. Your crawlspace walls will have some vents in them to allow for moisture out.
Based on an average cost of $4 to $8 per square foot, a 24×24 slab may cost $2,304 to $4,608. However, those estimates include material, labor, and a six-inch slab. If you want a more accurate estimate, use the following guide to explore the costs of a 24×24 concrete slab.Can I pour my own foundation? ›
We don't suggest pouring your own foundation. It's expensive, time consuming and can be dangerous for DIYers. This is one project that you should hire a professional to do. While it takes a crew of skilled professionals to build a foundation, the process is fascinating.How much does it cost to build a miniature house? ›
The average cost of a tiny house is a reasonable $30,000 – $60,000, although they can cost as little as $8,000 or up to $150,000 depending on the amenities you choose to include. It's typically cheaper to build a tiny house than to buy one prebuilt, but don't get too caught up in the savings.What are the first 5 steps to building a house? ›
- Step 1: Plan your Budget. As you prepare to start the homebuilding process, your first step should be determining how much you can afford to spend. ...
- Step 2: Choose your lot. ...
- Step 3: Choose Your Team. ...
- Step 4: Create your plan. ...
- Step 5: Obtain Estimate & Contract.
Learning how to build a tiny house isn't at all difficult. It's a bit tricky but definitely doable. Learning to live in a tiny home though, will take a bit of getting used to. Try to think about the energy you're saving and the simplicity and beauty of it.What are the 7 steps of construction? ›
- Step 1: Design. During this phase, the client places a project for bidding. ...
- Step 2: Pre-Construction. ...
- Step 3: Procurement. ...
- Step 4: Construction. ...
- Step 5: Commissioning. ...
- Step 6: Owner Occupancy. ...
- Step 7: Project Closeout.
A tiny house is generally a home smaller than 400 square feet. The average cost of a tiny house ranges from $30,000 to $60,000, but can be as high as $150,000 depending on the amenities you choose.How much does it cost to build a 500 sq ft tiny house? ›
The cost of a 2-story tiny house is $60,000 to $125,000 for prefab construction. Custom builds range from $75,000 to $200,000. This assumes a house size of between 300 and 500 sq. ft.What is the correct order of construction? ›
The major sequences of construction are marking, excavation, concreting, brick masonry, roof laying, flooring and finishing.What I Wish I Knew Before building a house? ›
- Your schedule is a guideline. Our build stretched over the course of a year. ...
- Design for your future. ...
- Finish before moving in. ...
- Plan for storage. ...
- Research contractors. ...
- Sweat equity is king. ...
- Invest in fixtures. ...
- Go neutral.
Understand the process of building a house. The first step in the construction process is getting the land ready. This includes clearing the area, digging trenches and making sure utilities are installed. Your foundation will be made of poured concrete reinforced with steel rods.What is a good tiny house size? ›
Tiny homes are generally designated as being under 600 square feet, but the average size of a tiny house for sale in the U.S. is actually just 225 square feet, or roughly eight times smaller than a typical home, according to a new survey by Porch.com, a home services platform.How long does it take to build a tiny house yourself? ›
How long does it take to build a tiny house? The industry average to build a tiny home is about three months for professionals, according to Haery. DIYers can take a year or more.How long will a tiny house last? ›
With proper maintenance, your home on wheels can last over 30 years. Ultimately, your tiny house is a durable, affordable housing option that can last you a lifetime.