We have been asked many times for a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to build a tiny home. And since we have been through this process a couple of times and walked others through the same process, we are happy to share our experience with tiny home enthusiasts who want to explore the DIY option.
In today’s post, we will take you through the basic outline and show you all the steps you need to take to build a tiny home. Sure, the whole process is intimidating at first, but our comprehensive guideline should help eliminate any worries or confusion.
For those looking to build a tiny home but don’t know where to start, our detailed tiny home checklist below should give you a headstart on everything you need to know, from planning to construction to all the important setups.
When it comes to building tiny homes, it’s always essential to have an overview before jumping in.
While building a tiny home isn’t rocket science, you’ll need to have a plan, be prepared to learn from your mistakes and that of others and be open to understanding the whole process thoroughly. Yes, you may run into a few roadblocks along the way, especially if this is your first time, but guess what? Building your tiny home the DIY way is a satisfying learning process with gratifications.
Tiny home building: The all-important checklist
You see all those beautiful tiny homes you keep exploring? Well, they didn’t just pop up from the blues. They are an end result of thorough planning. And if you want to achieve the same result, you should be prepared to follow the same trajectory.
For those just starting out, our tiny house building checklist has been watered down into easy steps you can follow right away.
While some steps and phases of the tiny home building projects may overlap, we have tried to arrange them in the correct order to avoid any unnecessary confusion.
Let’s cut to the chase and run you through everything you need to know about building your tiny home right from the very beginning.
Phase 1: Before you set out to build your tiny home
We understand that you’re pumped up and can’t wait to get your hands dirty. But before you get started, you want to ensure that you have planned and brainstormed the whole project thoroughly. Even though plumbing, logistics, solar and other construction steps are vital, taking the time to plan and brainstorm about the entire project will make things a lot easier.
To set yourself up for success, especially considering how extensive building a tiny home can be, you want to first create a solid and detailed construction plan before even getting your hands dirty.
With that in place, the next thing to do is look at tiny house plans and designs. This should give you an idea or two on how your tiny home should look. With a decent tiny home plan, you can imagine the whole thing, consider the entire process and get started with the job at hand right away.
With a good tiny home plan, you should be able to avoid regrets as well as unnecessary expenses later on.
How to plan your tiny home project
After the planning and brainstorming stage, the next thing to do is take stocks of everything you’ll need to achieve your tiny home dreams. And because we want to make the process as seamless as possible, we have put together a list of some of the critical things you should get right. Here, check out some of them:
- Determine what you’ll need to live a hassle-free life in a tiny home
- Take your time to research possible building sites and land
- Put together a rough tiny house plan
- Interact with other tiny homeowners to see what you can learn from their experience
- Consider all the major features you want to include in your tiny home.
- Purchase a comprehensive building plan.
- Consider your budget and plan accordingly.
- Address the major barriers to building a tiny home
- Take some time to train, learn the basics, and improve your construction skills.
Tiny home building: Sourcing the right components
Are you ready to get your hands dirty? Then be prepared to source the following items. While you may already have some of them, our checklist will ensure you don’t forget to buy all the necessary things you’ll need for your tiny home project.
Here, check out a list of essential components you should have while building your tiny home:
Trailer: Since most tiny homes are built on trailers, yours shouldn’t be an exception. So if you don’t already have one, please ensure you get one right away.
Windows: Just like your traditional home, a tiny home also needs to have windows installed, so factor this into your budget.
Lumber: Your tiny home projects can definitely make do with some lumber, so make sure you get some for your project.
Tools: You’re not planning to build your tiny home with your hands, are you? Well, that’s why you’ll need some essential tools for your tiny home building project.
Appliances: Determining what you’ll need in your tiny home right from the on-set will save you a lot of hiccups. From the kitchen to the bathroom and others, take some time to determine all the appliances you’ll be needing and have them ready.
Knowledgeable friends: To avoid many of the challenges that come with tiny home projects, especially if you’re taking the DIY route, you’ll need to speak to knowledgeable friends, especially those who have done something similar in the past. You should be able to learn a thing or two from their experience.
Professionals: You’ll need the help of professionals if you ever run into problems or looking for some valuable insights.
Access and logistics
This is where you want to think about how to build your tiny home from the very beginning all the way to the finish line. To stay on top of your game, you want first to figure out how you’re going to get the trailer to the site as well as how you’ll get it out should you decide to move in the future.
Try to play out each step in your mind and see where you may have one or two challenges.
As per access and logistics, here are some things you should keep in mind:
- Consider larger items: When and how are you going to bring in large appliances, furniture, toilet, shower stall, mattress and others? Also, consider if these items are going to fit through your front door. If not, what’s your next line of action?
- Try to order all building materials at the right time. This way, they will arrive right when you need them. Also, ensure you have all the proper tools needed to get the job done.
Tiny house building: Construction
Once you’re done with the planning and logistic phase, the next logical thing is to prepare for construction. And if you have gone through everything correctly, you should feel quite great knowing that you have procured everything needed for your tiny home building project (this isn’t to say you won’t make occasional trips to the hardware store to get some items later).
To be on the safer side and ensure that your project doesn’t stall, you want to make sure you work out all the gaps in the planning stage.
For many experienced tiny homeowners who have gone the DIY route, planning and research were critical to the success of their project. Also, it ensured that they could get to work without feeling rushed or making frequent trips to the store when there is still plenty of work left to be done.
Finding land to build your tiny house
Of course, you’ll need land for your tiny home. And once this is ready, you can kick off the building process right away. Whether you want to place your tiny home at the edge or the back of your property, having land for your tiny home project is a great place to start.
If you think getting a lot will be a problem, you can consider building your tiny house on wheels.
This explains why most tiny house projects lean more towards the trailer-style design.
Here is a brief breakdown of what the whole process entails, especially if you opt for the tiny house on trailer design:
- Site selection: This involves setting up land for your tiny home project. Like traditional housing projects, this process is super important to every tiny house project.
- Leveling: If you’re planning to set up your tiny house on solid grounds, there is a need to have the whole place nicely leveled.
- Removing decking is also critical to any tiny house building project. That said, if you plan to get a higher-weight-rated trailer, you may not need to remove the deck.
- Cut off the extras as you proceed. This gives your project shape and form.
- Finally, you want to weld on anchors. Doing this will give your tiny house project that solid foundation it deserves.\
Building the floor
Besides the foundation of your tiny home, you also want the floor to be as solid as possible. That’s why we recommend using standard lumber for your tiny house floor. If you decide to use a trailer instead, you can still use standard lumber as your foundation.
While building your tiny home, you want to ensure that it is adequately secured to the foundation. To this end, reinforcing the joints and other probable weak points is a must.
With your tiny house floor foundation properly secured, you want to go the extra mile to sheat the lumber using plywood or oriented-strand-board. Even though both of these options are super sturdy, OSB (oriented-strand-board) is a lot more affordable.
Read the breakdown below for easy comprehension:
- Kickoff the process by building the foundation frame
- This is followed by anchoring the foundation to the trailer
- Proceed to attach metal flashing
- Don’t forget to add insulation
- Add vapor barrier for protection against water
- Finish the process off by installing subfloor
Wall framing is an integral process in your tiny home building project. This process helps give your home shape and structure. To get this spot on, feel free to use metal bracing to keep all the walls together.
Though this process is a bit tedious, don’t fret as it isn’t as difficult as it seems. Plus, the metal bracing will be effectively hidden from view once the house is completed.
With the braces nicely tucked within the interiors of the wall, they will do their job of adding structure to your house. And if you want to take things up a notch, you can sheath the walls using OSB or plywood.
Here is a breakdown of the entire process:
- While framing the walls, you want to ensure it is nicely squared, and this you can do using a good level.
- Follow this up by test fitting windows to see if everything aligns properly.
- Proceed to sheat the walls
- While framing, you want to consider larger items like a shower stall, fridge, a mattress that may not fit through the door.
- Also, you want to ensure that walls are raised, squared and braced.
- Finally, ensure that the framing is nicely secured to the trailer using solid anchors.
Framing your tiny house roof and installing necessary materials
Now that your walls have been nicely set up, the next thing you want to focus on is roofing. Sure, this process can be tricky, especially if you want to get everything done as quickly as possible.
To get this right from the get-go, you want to go for a simple roof design. This is highly recommended for people who are new to construction.
Once you have finished the roof frame and completed sheathing, the next thing on your checklist is to install the roofing materials, which is very important if you want to keep the rain out.
For long-lasting roofing, you’ll not be disappointed to opt for a standing seam metal, as this helps get the job done.
And just so you don’t freak out, keep in mind that it will be pretty tricky to install steeper, especially if you opt for a more complicated roofing style.
Tiny house building: The wrapping process
Once you’re done with roof framing and installing all the necessary roof materials, you want to quickly follow up by wrapping the tiny house using a house wrap. This breathable material is used to give extra protection to the house.
While wrapping your tiny house will allow moisture to be released, it also helps keep the interiors dry and protected from other weather elements.
By wrapping your tiny home, it should be able to withstand severe weather beatings.
Installing doors and windows
The trick about installing windows and doors is getting the measurements right. And to get this right, you want them to be impeccably squared and leveled. This is important for your tiny home’s aesthetics and for ensuring that your doors and windows are durable.
If you’re not confident in your skills just yet, you won’t go wrong to hire a professional to get the job done.
As per windows and door installations, here is everything you need to know:
- Check both windows and door dimensions and ensure they are correct. You can give a little extra allowance for any adjustments later.
- Cut out all the relevant window holes. Do this using either a plunge router or Sawzall.
- Install all windows, shim and doors. Feel free to tack using a few screws.
- Once installed, you can proceed to test windows and doors for functionality.
- Feel free to secure windows and doors as recommended
- While flashing windows and doors, you want to start from the bottom and work your way to the top.
- Ensure you leave the bottom edge unsealed so water can drain out.
Trimming, Cladding, Painting, & Caulking Exterior
If you’ve reached this stage, then you’re almost done with your tiny house DIY project. And just like other steps you have taken so far, this phase which involves adding finishing touches to the exterior of your home, is just as important.
If you want your tiny home to look as flawless as those you have come across online, then you must ensure you get this phase right.
To seal cracks and gaps, feel free to use caulking. Also, you can use pre-finished materials to sheath your tiny home as you like. Doing this will ensure you wouldn’t have to add an extra layer of cladding or sliding later.
Installing Plumbing your tiny home
Just like traditional homes, plumbing your tiny home is a slow and meticulous process. And because of how important plumbing is to a home, there is no room for error. While the process can be tricky, you can get a professional to handle this aspect of your tiny home project.
Although experts recommend plastic plumbing for tiny homes, you can opt for the good old classic copper plumbing.
Even though the latter is a lot cheaper, it can be somewhat challenging to work with.
And there are many options to consider like – An indoor shower vs an outdoor shower which begs the question of the toilet is inside the shower or its own separate area. Regular toilet vs a composting toilet, as you can see, there are many ways to optimise the plumbing aspect of the tiny house build.
That said, composting toilets have been a great hit with tiny houses for the fact that you don’t require any additional plumping. There are many great products on the market that a making many people decide on composting toilets because they don’t smell and they take virtually no effort to clean.
Powering your tiny house – Solar?
If you are confident in DIY electric work for your tiny house then you have the potential to save a large chunk of money. That said if you are unsure about it then its important to enlist the services of a professional electrician to handle this aspect of the project. It’s a safe and conscious idea to protect your investment potential electrical fires that can happen with dodgy electrical install.
Electrical shouldn’t be an afterthought to your build, in fact it would be a safe option to get an electrician to do this work. If you plan to use solar panels to power your general power usage then you need to take note of how much solar energy you need, and build the dwelling that can house the solar panels, inverters, batteries and etc that will power your tiny house appliances and lights.
A quality plan drawn up for a tiny house is so important to avoid potential blackouts or damage to your electrical gear. Solar power can cost up to $20,000 dollars with the cost of batteries, wiring and installation and its paramount to get it right the first time.
If you cant afford to pay a professional then if you know someone who is a certified electrician that can do it for a lower price then that is your best course of action but skimping on a safe electrical setup
Insulating your tiny home
For tiny homes, using foam board insulation wouldn’t be such a bad idea. And to ensure there isn’t any problem in the future, we highly recommend using low VOC. This guarantees a healthier interior air quality.
Also, you want to ensure you seal up every nook and cranny using plastic sheeting and spray foam.
Sheeting the interior
Having completed electricity works, insulation and plumbing, the next step is to finish up the walling process. While most tiny homeowners prefer wood for their interiors, you can opt for drywall if that’s what you want.
With drywall, you wouldn’t have to spend much. Plus, it provides your home with extra protection from fire.
Staining and painting the interior
This is one of the most exciting aspects of building your tiny homes. And since you have always wanted to get your hands dirty, you can certainly play around with the colors. The only risk here is that you may end up spilling paint all over the place or worse still, end up with a color you hate.
If you don’t think you’re the guy for this job, you can enlist the help of a professional to handle the staining and painting aspect of your tiny home project.
Wrapping up electrical and plumbing works
Installing all electrical and plumbing connections is super important. And while doing this, you want to ensure that everything meets all safety codes, regardless of whether or not your tiny home will be inspected.
Flooring and finishing
The final phase of your DIY tiny home project involves flooring, and for this, you want to cover the subfloor using materials like tiles, wood, or vinyl.
If the money isn’t a problem, you can go for a pre-finished wooden floor.
If you have completed this phase, you can start getting ready to furnish your tiny home as you like and moving in when you think everything you need is in place.
Building your tiny home can be time-consuming, but guess what, if you’re someone who likes to get your hands dirty, it is an exciting project. And as you explore how you can build your tiny home, the most critical phase is planning.
Sure, you can’t plan for every contingency, but if you spend some time thinking the project through, you’ll enjoy a smoother and hassle-free building process.
Frequently asked questions: Learn more about building your tiny home project.
Is it cheaper to buy or build a tiny house?
Compared to buying a tiny home, building one yourself is always cheaper. While a fully completed tiny home will cost anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000, building one yourself will cost between $12,000 to $35,000.
Can you build a tiny house for $5000?
Building a tiny home for $5,000 is almost impossible. The most this can get you is a shell, and even this comes with cheap pre-cut kits.
What states allow tiny houses?
With the tiny home movement continuing to gain massive popularity, more and more states are opening up to this incredible trend. As of right now, states like Texas, California, Colorado, North Carolina are considered friendly to tiny homes.