How to Build a Tiny House

The two most common questions I hear from readers are, how can I build a tiny house and how much does a tiny house cost. Both of these questions are tied together and I’ll answer both in this post.

The following is an overview of what you’d need to do to build a tiny house for yourself. To do this topic justice I’d have to write hundreds of pages, but I think this outline should give you a good idea of what’s involved. I think you’ll also see that it is a project within reach of many do-it-yourselfers.

Above: Working on my Tiny Free House.

1. Design your tiny house

Keep the design simple if you are planning on building on a tight budget or have limited experience. Avoid things like dormer windows and complex roof lines. Avoid complex walls, wide window and door openings, porches, and excessive ornamental features. Each tiny complexity in the design can add many hours of work and hundreds of dollars in materials.

You can buy plans or come up with your own design. I offer several free tiny house plans and a selection of low-cost tiny house plans.

If you choose to design your own tiny house I recommend using SketchUp to help turn your ideas into measured drawings you can build from. Once you have your design in hand, it’s time to make a materials list and go shopping for building materials.

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23 comments

  1. B

    Nice write up Michael. You might get some more that want to build the solar house.

  2. Thanks Bill!

    As an experienced tiny house builder let me know if I missed anything :-)

    (Bill is building a house from one of my free tiny house plans, the 8×16 Tiny Solar House. http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/free-plans/)

  3. B

    Thanks for the vote of confidence Michael. There are probably a few things I would change in building another, but the plan is a great starting place. I will have to write some of these down for you later.

    I wonder how the tiny solar house would be with a vardo or rounded roof on it instead? It could give you more space in the loft area, and maybe be a bit easier on constructing the walls. Of course the roof part would be a bit trickier with that method.

    This is a nice starting point for anyone wanting to build one. I hope we see more people start their own house soon.

  4. nice article- smart man…very thorough-informationally loaded! Great job Michael!
    -Deek
    Relaxshacks.com

  5. S

    I really appreciate that you put this information up. I have been seriously considering building a tiny house on a trailer to live in with my three year old daughter. I am a college student on public assistance and tired of living this way and getting nowhere. I am already dissatisfied with my career choice but the one I would really like does not pay the salary I would need to live better than I do now. It has always been a catch-22 for me and I am sure I am not alone in this either, but a tiny house gives me hope because I know how to live with very little already and a tiny house will give me so much more in many ways. Thanks again for the information, especially about the google sketchup because I am designing my own house and that will be a great help.

  6. B

    I hope you do get a chance to build or purchase your tiny house Sarah. Michael’s tiny solar house plans are a great starting point. He has the basic frame laid out, so you can focus on the internal layout of your house.

    Good luck and let us know what you end up doing.

  7. Even though I don’t think of building my own tiny house your recipe is very informative and detailed. After reading it seems that maybe even I could build it. Great job Michael.

  8. B

    It is not as hard as it seems, once you do some reading on the topic. There are some excellent books out there for building houses. One is how Habitat for Humanity typically builds a house. There are a few others I bought as well. Until I began building my solar house, I had not built any either. Now that it is almost done, it is kind of amazing to see. There are things I would do a bit different next time, but it has been a great learning experience.

  9. D

    Hi, just need some input. I LOVE the tiny home, have for along time and seriously thinking of starting on purchasing a trailer. Than I start to think why not just get an RV?? Help please with pros and cons, thanks Deb.

  10. s

    Good advise and a good read
    Cheers Stewart
    http://tinytugboat.blogspot.com/

  11. R

    I will be taking on this project THIS weekend.. I hope!!!

  12. M

    This blog post was really helpful. I found it while searching for info on roof pitch. I still don’t understand why almost all tiny house plans on a trailer use a 12/12 pitch (45-degree angle) for the roof. Does anyone know, what is the minimum degree the pitch has to be? I want to have optimal head room space for my loft areas.

  13. The 12/12 pitch is just an aesthetic choice. The minimum pitch and the chosen the roofing material go hand-in-hand. For example if a really shallow pitch is desired some kinds of roofing material will not work, like shingles.

  14. T

    Thank you! Building a Vardo is a dream of mine. Question …could I use a modified boat trailer as a base? Thanks again… newbie Tracy

  15. K

    I saw somewhere that you had a SketchUp model of a flatbed trailer with fenders somewhere. Can you let me know where that is? I see there’s a flatbed above the wheels, but I’m looking for the one you use in your tutorials.

    Thanks,

  16. E

    Canyon Rim Tiny Houses is an up and coming Tiny House company that believes in the Tiny House movement. We have been in the construction company for over 25 years and are now building tiny houses! Please check us out and let us know what you think at http://www.tinyhousesforsalecanyonrim

  17. C

    This is a super helpful post, thanks for the tips. I’ve been looking at building myself a tiny home for a few years. Now that I’m done college I’ve started looking into it more seriously. I have a question about insulation. I’ve read about foam board a bit online and like it’s connivance, but I live in Canada and at times it can drop to -40 degrees would it supply enough warmth or should I look into other methods, and what might those other methods be?

  18. c

    I am in the process of purchasing land to be able to build a tiny house. I am really excited about the prospect. Thanks so much for the information on this page – I am sure it will come in handy when the building project starts :)

  19. L

    In #10 you explain, “For example, exterior grade plywood can be painted and serve as the cladding. You can also use fibrous concrete board, like Hardie Board, as a single layer exterior sheathing and cladding”. Am I understanding this to mean that in using exterior grade plywood as opposed to regular plywood sheathing over your framing, there would be no use / need for house wrap? Would the house be as ‘water tight’ without the all-over house wrap? I’d consider / look in to this option if it would be worth while (and I wouldn’t be giving any thing up as far as it’s soundness regarding water / leakage) to get my build done for less cost initially. Later, once recouped from the initial build expenses, I could install something more attractive and more detailed if I wished.

  20. No, I would use housewrap in both cases. If you use exterior siding sheathing then place the housewrap directly on the wood framing.

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