How To Build A Tiny House: A Step By Step Guide

The PropertyClub Team
Oct 21st 2020
Building a tiny house is not something that most people are willing to do, but if you want to build a tiny house yourself, you should expect to have a fair amount of time set aside. This step by step guide will help you through the planning. 

Are you interested in becoming a part of the tiny house revolution? It’s a well-known fact that building a tiny house is usually the cheapest way to get the home you want. Of course, most of us are not general contractors. So, how does the building process go? 

Before You Begin: Cheap Ways To Build A Tiny Home

The biggest thing you need to be aware of when building a tiny home is that there are cheap ways to do it and expensive ways to do it. Here are the best affordable ways to make your tiny home dream a reality:

  • DIY- DIY tiny homes are often the best choice. You get to buy the materials yourself and also do all the work on your own. This can be difficult to do if you want a tiny home on a foundation, but it’s still doable. 
  • Kits- Many companies take the planning difficulties out of your home building process by offering up ready-to-build kits. These also come with instructions detailing how to build a tiny house step by step, making them ideal for people who are in need of a one-stop-shop.
  • Mobile Home Upgrades- Some people turn old mobile homes and RVs into tiny homes through carefully-planned modifications. 

How To Build A Tiny Home On Wheels

If you are looking to make your tiny home mobile, you will have a unique challenge on your hands. For the most part, you will still need to follow the steps in this guide to make your tiny home on wheels work—plus a couple of extra steps. 

You will need to find a good trailer for your tiny home and pay extra attention to the bottom of your tiny house. When choosing a mobile tiny home, it’s good to look at your local and state laws regarding towing and trailer sizes.  

Step 1: Planning Your Tiny House

The first thing you’re going to need to do is to figure out the logistics of your tiny home, which goes beyond just “mobile or stationary.” Building a home of any size requires a lot of planning. To make the most of your plans, we suggest you do the following:

  • First, figure out what amenities you absolutely need as well as the size you need to remain comfortable. Living in a tiny home isn’t for everyone. Most people will feel cramped with under 500 square feet of space. To make sure it’s comfortable (or tolerable) for you, check out what amenities you can add and plan accordingly. 
  • Talk to architects and come up with a small floor plan. If you want to have a “stick-built” tiny home, you will need to talk to architects about the structure of your home as well as what it would cost to get a plan. This will give you a ballpark estimate of what you should expect. 
  • Figure out where you want to put the tiny house. Do you want to buy a plot of land? What are the zoning laws in the area nearby? Do you need to find a tiny home lot? Figuring out the placement can be one of the biggest struggles for new homeowners.
  • Talk to fellow tiny house builders and homeowners. It’s hard to ignore how important it is to get a full picture of what living in a tiny home means—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Reaching out to other tiny house builders will help you understand.
  • Get construction quotes. When we say construction quotes, we mean getting the materials for your home and learning about construction labor quotes. You might want to hire HVAC professionals to install your utilities, at the very least. 

Budgeting And Financing Your Tiny Home

Before you start to make concrete plans, it’s a good idea to find out how much money you can afford to spend on this home. If you have the intention of building the home on land, you have some good news. 

Most finance groups treat tiny homes as regular homes, which means that housing funding will be reasonably straightforward. You won’t have to worry about getting special paperwork pushed through for a foundation-built tiny home.

Purchasing Your Plans

Part of building your tiny home requires having home plans. You need to have construction plans to build a home. The most common way to get plans is through a firm that specializes in tiny homes. However, you can hire an architect for this endeavor as well. 

Learning Construction Skills

Once you’re dead set on building your own home, you will need to make sure that you have the skills necessary. You may need to take classes to get the necessary skills you need, plus invest in some tools. 

Step 2: Purchasing The Materials

Once you’ve got a full plan out, you’re going to have to purchase the materials and plans to make your tiny house. Here’s what you will have to take into consideration.

Choosing Your Plan

For the most part, it’s not a good idea to try to draw up your own building plans if you are not a professional architect. This means that you will have to get your tiny home plans from a qualified architect that can do a little structural engineering work...or from a reputable tiny home plan seller. 

Choosing Your Materials

There are several different ways you can go about choosing your materials. 

  • Some groups allow you to buy entire tiny home kits for under $50,000 in most cases. This would give you everything you need without the tools and foundation included.
  • You may just choose to go to Home Depot to get the stuff you need. This may be a pricer option, so you might want to shop around from store to store to make sure you get a lower price.
  • Some tiny houses come partially prefabricated and can be finished off with the amenities of your choice. It’s best to check a company’s information before you go this route.

Step 3: Actually Building The Tiny House

We would love to give you a guide on how to build a tiny house step by step, but the truth is that’s not entirely possible. Each tiny home is going to be somewhat different. However, we can give you a brief idea of what will need to be done to get your tiny home built. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Prepare the foundation- This will be required regardless if you have a home plot. You will need to clear the area, pour a foundation, level the foundation, and build the basic foundation outline. If you have a mobile tiny home, you may also need to get different anchors. 
  2. Add flooring- This includes a subfloor, insulation, and getting a vapor barrier in place. You may also need to take this time to install necessary plumbing fixtures like piping, as well as any basement you may choose to have. 
  3. Add walls- This will include the wall framing, window frames, as well as sheer rock. Most construction crews will also advise you to do some sheetrock work at this point, along with portions of your bathroom that won’t be able to fit through the door of your tiny house later on—such as the shower stall.
  4. Test out and install sheathing- Your tiny home will need to have sheathing throughout its frame to ensure that you stay warm.
  5. Create rough openings for all doors and windows- This is also when you apply house wrap to help insulate the interior from moisture.
  6. Frame your tiny home’s roof- When you create your framing, make sure that it stays under 13.5 feet if it’s a mobile home. Otherwise, you won’t be able to go very far without serious clearance issues. Take this time to plan and install your roof’s sheathing, too. 
  7. Add the doors- This will include adding the doorframe, getting the door test-fitted, installing it, and making sure that it works. If you want to get locks, now would be the time to do it. 
  8. Install your siding- When installing your siding, make sure to paint both sides. Hang the siding as well as any outside trim that your home may need for stylistic purposes. 
  9. After this, finish the roof- You will need to install the roofing per instructions from the manufacturer. This would also be the time to add a reflection barrier, ice and water shields, and gutters.
  10. From there, you’re going to have to install the rough portions of your utilities- This will include accounting for the electrical system in your home, the “P” pipes in your plumbing, planning out your drains and outlets, as well as getting the general gist of your electricity. 
  11. Add your insulation- This is what will keep you warm during those cold winter nights in your home. 
  12. Add your major appliances- This would include your oven and refrigerator, as well as other essential tiny house appliances you choose to have.
  13. Finish your flooring- Tiling and hardwood are both excellent options.
  14. Put in your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom amenities- This would include installing your shower, getting your countertops, and all the lovely lighting fixtures you want to add. This is also the time to connect your toilet and get all the finishing touches on your loft bedroom.
  15. Finalize your HVAC- Once everything is connected, your home should be good to go in terms of comfort. 
  16. Install any additional lighting and furniture- After this, take a nap in your new bedroom. You earned it.

Are There Any Parts Where Hiring A Professional Is A Must?

Unless your area requires you to hire a licensed pro as part of the building, there isn’t any must in terms of hiring a professional. However, that doesn’t mean you should do it all on your own. 

A good rule of thumb is that you should always leave plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC to the professionals. If you make a mistake with these things, it can easily lead to thousands of dollars in repairs. So, it’s best not to chance it.

Moreover, there’s no law saying you have to be the one to do all the construction work. If you are not comfortable doing any part of your construction, then don’t do it. Just outsource it to a contractor, and you’ll be fine.

Where Should You Stay While You Build?

It’s worth noting that most tiny house projects will take at least four to seven months to build on your own, at a bare minimum. This means that you can’t live inside your tiny home for quite a while. 

Prior to setting out to construct a tiny home, you will need to come up with a place to stay while you do your work. You can’t just camp out in front of your plot of land for that period of time; it’s just not feasible!

Is Building A Tiny House Right For You?

There are serious issues that come with choosing to build your own home, and it doesn’t just stay relegated to your skills, either. It takes a lot of planning, massive amounts of paperwork, as well as a decent amount of patience to create a tiny home from scratch. 

When you decide to start on your tiny home build journey, be aware that it will be a major project. Not everyone will find it right for them, so what we’re saying is, make sure it’s something you really want to do. After all, it may be cheaper to build, but it’s way easier to buy.