In our article, Everything You Ever Thought You Knew About Tiny House Pricing is Wrong, We talked about inflation in the price of tiny house market and some of the causes of it. Some folks, naturally and rightly, pointed out that the solution is to Do-It-Yourself. While some have the general carpentry skills and general handiness to pull this off, there are a few things that are very different about building tiny that you don’t really experience or even think about in normal “stick construction”.
So here are the 5 Things to Watch Out for When Building a DIY Tiny House:
- Weight – If you want to bypass many of the zoning restrictions related to size that many counties have and municipalities, you’re going to have to build on wheels. Houses on wheels do not fall under the same strictures as normal residential dwellings (check in your area – your experience may vary!). Being mobile and on wheels creates a few challenges that do not apply in a typical dwelling. The biggest is weight. Weight matters for a lot of reasons. For one, you have to tow it and the heavier the tiny house, the more challenging and expensive it is to move. Second, many of the out-of-the-way places that are really cool to have your tiny house are hard to get to. That means small bridges with limited weight capacity. The other obvious factor is that you don’t want your tiny house to sink where you park it. All of this means you have to use lighter, more flexible material that can be towed and can withstand the rigors of being on the open road.
- Materials – We mentioned the weight of materials, but that’s not the only consideration. In a tiny, confined space using materials like OSB board can expose the occupants to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals used to treat the lumber. OSB is great in things like sheds, but sheds were never intended to be lived in. Even some materials used in traditional construction aren’t wise choices for tiny houses. For example, some insulation that is perfectly safe and acceptable in a huge McMansion introduce too many toxins in a tight, confined space.
- Safety – Large traditional structures have many safety factors built into them. Many of these items are written into state and local building codes, but since these codes don’t apply to a tiny house on wheels, it’s important to keep these things in mind. An electrical fire can burn down a house and leave an entire family without a place to live. Occasionally, you hear of tragic events where there is a loss of life. This risk is magnified in a tiny house where the entire structure can go up in seconds. Most tiny houses only have one exit and if that end of the tiny house is ablaze, a bad outcome is likely. For this reason, we recommend that you leave critical electrical work to a licensed electrician.
- Size Matters – Building in a tiny space leaves little to no room for error. Small “goofs” in a traditional build may be able to be hidden or worked around, but in a tiny space they can be catastrophic. Experienced tiny house builders know where the “gotchas” are in measuring and planning a tiny space. Items like custom cabinets are expensive and a small miscalculation in the layout can cost hundreds or even thousands.
- Time is Still Money – You can save thousands, possibly even 10’s of thousands by building yourself. But just because you are not paying someone to build it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an expense associated with your time. Building a tiny house almost always takes longer than people think and that’s especially true for novice builders. Henry Ford famously said, “The more times you touch something (you are building or making) the more it’s going to cost.” This is as true for tiny houses as it is for Model Ts. Projects almost always take longer and cost more than what we think. So, when you plan your build, plan on overruns and the project taking longer than you think.
I’d love to hear from you! What are the things you’d encourage others to look out for when building tiny? Please add your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading and keeping thinking TINY!