Sue spotted my post on The Shed Option, and commented with a link to her own shed-based bunkhouse. The whole project cost them about $12,000 to complete. Here’s what she said:
“We bought a 10 x 16 cedar sided “shed” type shell building that we finished as a “bunkhouse”. We live in a small 464 sq ft cabin built on site by the same company that built the shed and brought it out. We finished it, doing all the work ourselves except for the electrical rough-in and the plumbing, which included hooking to our septic system. We just added a 5 x 16 deck to the bunkhouse. Total cost for the project was right at $12,000. No permits or inspections were required for our area and we are in a warm climate. The wall AC unit also has heat.” – Sue
Their bunkhouse looks nothing like a pre-built shed to me – very nicely done! The addition of the porch looks great too. Kudos to Sue and her family – and thanks for sharing your project with us!
A tiny house on a trailer could cost less than the permits for a normal house. This recent post on building permits by Karl Ulrich shows exactly what permits and fees will cost him to build a normal house in his neck of the woods. Karl is also a tiny house owner-builder himself and has a small cabin that borders the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont.
His Vermont cabin was built within the definition of a shed and cost less than $10,000 in materials. His normal house project will cost over $26,000 in permits and fees. Generally speaking the cost for permits ranges wildly from community to community and can vary even more widely depending on the size and type of structure. But you can see why a tiny house is an attractive option for many people when it is designed to preclude the need for permits.
This is not to say that a tiny house project is always exempt from permits and fees. Local codes and ordinances may apply, so check your local requirements. For safety reasons you should always build with the universal building code as a guide and know that obtaining insurance and financing for alternative housing can be more difficult. So tiny houses are not always housing nirvana, but learning more about this option can empower you with options you didn’t have before.
Three ways to avoid permits
- Build on a trailer. Trailers are typically out of the jurisdiction of planning departments. Local laws and ordinances may still apply since the house will often be looked upon as a travel trailer by authorities. Living and camping in a travel trailer is not always allowed, even on your own land.
- Build within the definition of a shed. This often means that living in the structure is not technically permitted. Many backyard home offices are legally built this way, but check your local laws to inform your choices before choosing to live there.
- Choose a region that just doesn’t meddle in your housing choices. They are out there and I wish I could point you to a resource that highlighted communities that are alternative housing friendly. It seems that parts of Vermont, Texas and Missouri come up in conversation often but I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pictured here is a Tumbleweed Fencl which typically costs about $23,000 in materials for an owner-builder to build themselves. Tumbleweeds are considered by many to be one of the finest tiny homes you can buy or build. But even using this premium tiny house as a comparison, it’s easy to see why tiny houses are quickly becoming an icon of freedom.
I spotted this incredible little house on Facebook recently. It’s the creation of Ricky Newcomer and a prototype for a prefab building system he’s developing that could be built by a contractor or owner-builder. The cottage you see here is 412 square feet and the shell would cost in the neighborhood of $29,000 to build with new materials. There are several photos so continue reading past these drawings.
Here’s what Ricky told me about the project:
My mission has become to truly help people “escape the matrix” of mortgage debt. The plan for accomplishing this mission is to produce a series of dignified small houses which can be purchased in whole, or more interestingly, by the prefabricated part. The parts, which bolt together on site, should be manageable by hand (installed with a boom or crane truck), easily stacked and stored until assembly and buildable by anyone with the basic tools, reasonable carpentry skills and a sufficient work space. The plan allows for people to buy house parts of varying amounts as budget and timing work out for them – in no particular order, with no credit required and no interest added. One would order and pay for an awning bracket, floor, wall or roof panel, etc. Then we’d build and ship it. 100% of the money goes directly toward house principal!
As an architectural designer and part time builder for over twenty years, I’ve worked with literally hundreds of really fine people to make their dream homes become a reality. Maybe it’s midlife, maybe it’s the state of our economy, perhaps it’s my own personal experience causing me to think that the truth is, most of the people I’ve tried to serve, now have a long term financial burden in the Classical, Colonial Revival or Craftsman Style. If someone had shown me the way, even as a teenager, how to work toward not having to get into the mortgage bind…I would have done it and saved so much time and wasted money.
This cottage actually started out to be a shipping pallet design before I got the chance to deconstruct a huge wooden warehouse. You’ll notice that there are four sections measuring 4′ x 10′ placed around a center void of 10′ x 10′. These dimensions work well with 40″ x 48″ pallets. The cottage is 412 square feet. It has a full kitchen, large bath sleeping loft, two pantries, two closets and space for full size washer and dryer. The exterior wall and roof materials would be chosen and installed by the owner. Also, the interior plumbing, wiring, finishes and appliances would be chosen and done by the owner on site. The basic shell to the blacked-in stage is what we could offer for now. The price using new materials is $ 29,000 with delivery being extra for the whole package. If someone is interested in buying plans or getting started buying their house parts they could contact me (until our website is finished) through our page on Facebook.
One of my readers, Rick, sent these photos to me of a small shed/clubhouse he build for son. It’s not the typical kind of tiny house I post on Tiny House Design but it’s an excellent example of how a simple 8′ by 8′ structure can be built for very little money. Except for the corrugated roofing and patio door, which were freebies, Rick built this little shed with a hammer and a hand saw for just $550. Thanks for sharing this Rick!
If you’ve been reading Tiny House Design for a while you might remember one of the long term projects I have on a back mental burner is the Tiny Simple House. While simmering back there it’s been transforming from a modified shotgun house to a more flexible yet equally as simple housing solution. The Tiny Simple House will be a low cost and easy to build tiny house design that most amateur owner builders could tackle because of its scale and simplicity. It will also be flexible and customizable to meet a wide range of needs from those of an individual to a family.
In this latest iteration the house begins as a core 12x12x12 box with a gable roof. Inside this space would be a bathroom, kitchen, loft, stairs, and small living area. The owner-builder would then add shed and gable roofed units onto the house to meet the additional space needs. The house could range from a coupe hundred square feet to a several hundred square feet. Continue reading to see a few of the details and configurations. I’ll continue to work on this concept at a more rapid pace and when I’m finished I should be able to offer the complete concept documented in a book. In the mean time enjoy these previews and please let me know what you think. Thanks in advance!
Here’s a simple concept that builds on the tiny shed cluster concept. This time instead of four sheds it’s just two 8′ by 12′ sheds connected by a deck. The roofs are setup to collect water and fill one cistern that sits on the south side of the house.
One shed would have a bedroom and tiny bathroom. The other shed would be an open living area with a kitchen along the back 8-foot wall. On the roof would be solar panels for electricity and I’m even thinking of inserting a small trombe wall on each shed’s back wall to provide a fuel-free way to provide heat.
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).