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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Tiny Prefab – eBook & Plans

Last night I put the finishing touches on a 65 page house plan ebook. It’s called Tiny Prefab, A Do-It-Yourself Prefab Building System and contains the plans and instructions for creating tiny prefab structures that are easy to build from common building materials. The book is a bit of a hybrid between a set of plans and instructions for building and assembling a panelized prefab tiny house. A wide variety of sizes of buildings can be built but the roof plans in the ebook are designed for an 8-foot deep tiny house. The smallest size building is 8’ by 8’.  If more space is desired it’s length can be increased by increments of 4 feet so if you want a structure that us 8′ by 20′ this DIY prefab system will work fine. Below are small screen shots of all the pages in the ebook so you can get a good idea of what is included before you buy. Just click the thumbnails to see more.

tiny prefab ebook janzen

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House of Cards -or- DIY Tiny House Kit

After posting the latest design variation for Nine Tiny Feet I got a few requests to make the house more lightweight. This seems like a pretty good idea since that project is really about getting the most value from the least amount of space. Initially I was thinking this only meant square footage but it seems perfectly logical to make it lightweight too. If I could find a way to make it super lightweight nine tiny feet could even be pulled by a bicycle.

But I digress…

These recent reader comments got my brain cooking up ways of building inexpensive ultra-lightweight panel walls. Then on Sunday night a very simple approach to making panels occurred to me. The design below is not for a nine square foot house, although I’m considering something like this for Nine Tiny Feet too. This design is 49 square feet and could be built for about $1200 in new materials, (less if you’re resourceful and scavenge a little).


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