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If you’ve been dreaming about selling all your stuff and moving into a tiny home, you’re not alone. Many are wondering how to build a tiny house, especially with the rules and regulations varying and changing in cities, counties and states across the country.
There are a few decisions you’ll have to make when it comes to building a tiny house.
- What type of house you want, whether it be a tiny house on wheels or a tiny home on a foundation
- Where you’re going to park your tiny home
- Whether you want to build a tiny house yourself or hire someone to do it
What’s the difference between a tiny house on wheels and a tiny house on a foundation?
This is the part that gets confusing, because a tiny house on wheels can be one of two things: it can either be a tiny home on a foundation that was put on wheels to travel from places to place, or a tiny house build to RV standards which always stays on wheels.
These two types of homes are very different.
A tiny house on a foundation is built according to the standards that all residential homes have to follow. It will undergo an inspection and be issued a certificate of occupancy.
In fact, tiny home builder Andrew Morrison of Tiny House Build helped come up with an addendum to the residential code that gives parameters for tiny houses. This is called Appendix Q, and applies to homes under 400 square feet.
A tiny home built on a trailer has an entirely different set of rules and inspection process. This home is built to RV standards and certified by The Recreational Industry Association.
These houses are RVs rather than houses, they often have a harder time finding somewhere to park. Many campgrounds and mobile home parks have limits on how long you can stay, so if a tiny homeowner with this type of house has to be comfortable moving around regularly.
How to decide where to park a tiny house
Another main component of building a tiny house is figuring out where to park it. The best bet is to get in touch with the local planning department in the city or county of your choice, and ask them what the minimum square footage requirements are for homes. The number will vary depending on who you ask.
Alexis Stephens, co-director of Tiny House Expedition, says sometimes, you may have to educate city planners on tiny homes and what they are since the tiny home movement is fairly new. She said to keep your attitude positive and try not to rub city officials the wrong way.
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“If you can, forming an advocacy group will be to your benefit,” she said, and recommends setting up educational sessions for city or county officials.
More and more cities, counties and states are jumping onboard with the tiny house movement, but they still are illegal in many places. If you build a tiny house somewhere it’s not allowed, you could face a big fine.
That’s why it’s important to do your homework before setting down the foundation or a wheel-base for your tiny home.
Building a tiny house yourself or hiring someone
Whether you want to take on building a tiny house yourself or hiring someone is entirely up to you. Some people like the challenge of building their own home.
If you’re wondering how to build a tiny house, you can always attend tiny house festivals to look at and tour tiny houses, meet builders, and figure out a game plan for your own build.
“One of the things we do is inspire people to do it themselves,” said Morrison. “It takes some education, so I’d recommend attending a workshop and getting some experience. Maybe that’s joining Habitat for Humanity and getting a feel for what it’s like to swing a hammer. Once you get that excited buzz, you may really want to do it on your own.”
(Check out this super cute tiny home video for inspiration)
If you don’t want to put in all that effort, hiring a builder is another option. But Morrison does have a buyer beware.
“I do recommend people be careful because it’s gotten to the point where the tiny house industry is big enough that there are unsavory characters, so I recommend you understand contracts and pick a reputable company to work with. Most companies are good but some are doing bad, shoddy work.”
Another option is to do a combination of the two: do some of the build yourself but then hire licensed contractors to take on the harder parts like electrical and plumbing.
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Also, learn more about how to travel with a tiny house in a series of videos by Tiny House Expedition
Tiny prefab homes you can order
Yet another way to go about living in a tiny home is looking at tiny prefab homes you can order and that will be delivered to your doorstep.
There are so many companies out there making prefab homes that it’s hard to make a list, but here are some to start with:
- Amazon just started selling tiny homes that will be delivered right to your doorstep. These are super basic shipping container homes that come furnished
- Wheelhaus has a stunning array of tiny and modular homes that can be delivered anywhere in the U.S.
- Modern Tiny Living sells a variety of homes, including the super tiny 12-foot home called the Nugget
- Minum Micro Homes offers completed units and plans for building your own tiny home
These are just a few companies offering pre-built tiny homes, so be sure to do your research and compare prices before settling on a prefab tiny home.
The tiny home movement is up-and-coming as people are priced out of “normal” homes and are craving a simple, minimalistic lifestyle. Jump on board!