What You Need To Consider For Your Tiny House Building
So you’ve decided to do it: you’re going to sell your sprawling place in the suburbs, throw an enormous yard sale to trim down your collection of outdated, rarely worn clothes and Christmas flatware, and start building a tiny house to live in. Congratulations! You’re part of a growing group of people who have decided that owning lots of space you rarely use isn’t worth the crushing debt it incurs. Affordable housing like this is a fantastic way to save money and avoid current housing market trends. But you have some decisions to make before you can move in.
First, it would be a good idea to decide how tiny you want to go. Typically to qualify as a “tiny house,” buildings have to be under 1,000 square feet. That’s not that small; many of us have lived in apartments smaller than that. Probably the biggest deciding factor for the size of your tiny dream house is how many people will be living in it. Are you single? Kids? Will relatives be staying with you? Pets are another factor. Twelve cats would wreak havoc inside a 120-square-foot house.
Another factor is how much you plan on trimming your current lifestyle. Tiny houses, by nature, have tiny amounts of storage. Will you be able to do without your costume collection? Your workshop? Your sewing room?
Most of the beautiful tiny houses floating around the internet are between 100 and 150 square feet. But most of those are showpieces, built to show off an interesting design technique, and how much can be fit into small spaces efficiently. Don’t base the decision on an existing house: take a look at your life, and figure out how much space you really need, and what you can do without.
Another factor that greatly affects the size of your tiny house is whether or not it’s designed to travel. Many of them are. That’s part of their attractiveness. But some are more portable than others. Many are actually built onto a trailer. The benefit of these permanently mobile houses is that they’re … mobile. Permanently. Choosing a location doesn’t require much of a commitment. The way to make them more a little more permanent is to park them on a level concrete slab. For extended stays tiny house owners will remove the tires and wheels to keep them out of the elements, propping the trailer body on blocks to use as a foundation. Doing this is very similar to living in a camping trailer or an RV. Keeping the house on a trailer also bypasses some building codes and regulations, which we’ll touch on in a moment.
If you’ve found the ideal location for building a tiny house and never want to move it (or, if the location is difficult to access with a large trailer), then building it on a real foundation might be the best choice. This results in a much sturdier tiny house, and allows you to build a larger tiny house if you choose.
Utilities Not Included
You’ll need to plan for power, water, sewage, and, most likely, an internet connection. One easy option is to use a campsite or trailer park with hook-ups ready to go, but that convenience usually comes with close neighbors. If you’re building your tiny house on existing home property, it’s not difficult to run a heavy extension cord, attach plumbing line, and splice into existing sewer line. If you’ll be in a remote rural area, you’ll need to research “off the grid” options like solar power, composting toilets, and rainwater collection.
Is It Legal?
This is a big subject that could fill up its own article. The problem with the law and tiny houses is that the law, for the most part, does not like tiny houses. Several decades ago cities drew up standards for their definition of a minimum habitable structure as a response to slumlords renting tiny, run-down hovels to poor families. But the laws are based on the square footage of a structure, and not its livableness. Your tiny house may be at risk of levying fines, so do the research for the land you plan to live on.
Build It Or Buy It?
Would you rather have your pre-made house delivered to you, or design it and build it with your own two hands? There are plenty of options here. With the surge in popularity, there are plenty of companies out there who will sell you a pre-made tiny house that just needs furniture, appliances, and some decoration. You can also buy a home kit that require a bit of building know-how, much like furniture from IKEA. You can also purchase plans of unique house designs that detail exactly what to buy and how to put it together. Or, you can design and build your tiny house from scratch, if you’re a fan of DIY construction … but be sure to do draw up some blueprints first. Making your own small house can be one of the most rewarding experiences available. Use recycled materials whenever possible!
Once you’ve done your homework and settled on a location, you’re ready to begin building your tiny house. Be patient, stick to your plan, and you’ll have an affordable new home before you know it.