COST!

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After recent debates in online forums, I’ve been thinking about the “costs” of building a tiny home.

One of the best parts of building a tiny home is the choices you get to make. Build a simple home or go extravagant, it is all up to your “wants” and your wallet. Building a tiny house is still building a house. The same steps and challenges are involved in constructing a structure to reside in, be it a conventional house or a tiny house. The structure must be safe, comfortable, and of quality materials (new or reused). “Built to Last” is how I think of it.

There really is no way around the cost.

You pay up front in $ or later with your time. I spent both $ for convenience, ease of building, and a known quality of materials. I also spent lots of my time, planning, researching, deciding, then eventually building. Then more building. Then more…about 14 months worth. The majority of my “free” time was spent somehow on the building process which you won’t fully understand until you build. Ask a contractor what I mean if you have doubts and haven’t built before.

My build time would be doubled if it wasn’t for the help of my dad. He worked wonders and brought skills and knowledge that I didn’t have. I learned so much from him during this build. I really can’t thank him enough. Also my mother, girlfriend and her son all helped a lot. Without them all, my build time and effort would have been exponentially larger. Thanks to each of them.

Building a tiny house is still building a house. You complete all the same steps creating a tiny structure that you would for a mansion. Some steps are more difficult because of the smaller square feet involved. There are challenges building in this unconventional way on a trailer. How do you keep the structure light and yet sturdy enough to tow? Big is easier when it comes to the interior. The tiny house will test your skills in how to fit all your wants/needs into a small area. Compromises will be made based on your priorities. This involves balancing your needs, wants, comfort level expectations with the limited interior space.

Building isn’t cheap if you want a quality home that will last and be comfortable for the long term. Everyone will have different expectations for comfort and different goals. I teach full time, and therefore chose speed of build and a certain level of comfort and convenience to meet my daily needs and wants. The choices I made did cost me $, but also saved me time/energy. Choices and trade offs.

I’m sure people can build for less $, if that is their goal, but less $ just means costs in time (searching for materials, transporting them to the build site, preparing materials to reuse, waiting to build while looking for what is needed for the next step). So what is your time worth in $$$?

It really comes down to choices, and that is the fun part. Choosing what you want and need to be content in your home.

My cost analysis is meant as a guide only. If you spend more or less it doesn’t matter, as long as you produce a structure (home) that meets your needs/wants. A structure you can live with. A HOME. My house works for me. My house is cozy in the climate I live in here in Northern New York State. The yearly costs to operate it will be lower than most homes (and I’ll write a post about that eventually), the upkeep will be small, the space is enough for me.

It is all about choices in the end. You pay one way or the other in $$$ or time, and most likely with both.

Enjoy your builds and I wish you luck.

Enjoy the adventure!

More Modifications for Comfort and Utility.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I completed two projects to improve the usefulness and comfort of the house.

I built a new couch on the opposite side of the house from my existing couch and removed two chairs to utilize the space more effectively. The new couch gives us more seating/lounging area while opening up the entrance area. The benefit of an open entrance area is many fold but mainly it helps with winter clothing storage/drying and donning winter attire. The new couch also provides much needed storage space because the top flips up and creates a huge built in storage chest.

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The other addition was a covered entrance to keep wind and snow from invading the house. After the first snowfall it became obvious that some type of entranceway was necessary. I chose to use clear roofing material because I wanted the sunlight to still reach the sliding glass door and interior. Sunlight is so important in a tiny home to help the house feel larger than it is.

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Future building will include an improved deck, as this one was “borrowed” and was not built for the tiny house, but this will have to wait until after winter passes.

As with any home, changes will be made as time, money, and necessity dictate.

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What It Really Costs To Build A Tiny Home

It amazes me all the claims you read about super cheap tiny house construction. Honestly, I feel these claims are misleading at best. To build any structure meant for extended residency, year round living, costs money. It’ll cost what you have planned and probably much more to settle into living in a small space.

My plan parameters were simple. I wanted a comfortable home which meets all my needs, but didn’t cost me 30 years of loan principle and interest. I decided to use new building materials of good quality and forgo the search for used/repurposed building materials. I love the idea of building from recycled materials, in concept, but didn’t want to take the time required to “find” what was available locally. I spent about 14 months building my house and am sure It would be doubled if I didn’t just buy the materials new. Since my goal to build this home was out of necessity and time mattered to me, I feel the expense in dollars was worth the time saved searching for used materials. Like everything in life, building is based on choices and trade offs. I’m happy with my house and am glad it is finished and very livable and comfortable.

I saved all receipts from the build and have compiled a total cost based on reviewing them and calculating costs by categories in the building process. Anyone that takes on a construction process this involved knows there are many stages involved. I hope this overview gives you the true picture of what building entails financially. This is what my build cost in $$$.

Building plans – $249

Ordered plans from tinyhousebuilders.com. Great resource and good plans for the price.

Trailer (house foundation) – $4000

Bought new at best local price I could find for a flatbed trailer rated at 15000 pounds. Came with ramps, which support my porch, and required some modifications during the build process.

Lumber – $5361.44

All lumber including structural lumber, cedar siding, finish lumber, plywood subfloor, plywood sheathing, house wrap, caulk/glue, t/g pine interior, hurricane straps, tar paper, aluminum flashing, some of the “million” screws and nails, built in cabinets shelves, drawers, and couch.

Windows/Doors- $2888.50

11 double pained, opening windows – $2194.87
Provide much needed light in home.
Sliding Glass Door – $533.36
Entrance door, change from original plans.
Pocket Door Interior- $160.27
Bathroom door.

Insulation – $2483.06

Spray foam insulation, and the only contracted expense for the build.

Roof – $502.89

Colored metal roofing.

Flooring – $203.52

See pictures for results, but should have spent a bit more as this product was hard to install.

Stain/Paint – $324.47

Exterior stain on exterior cedar siding. Stain on pine interior walls, ceilings and lofts. Green paint for bathroom and chalkboard paint for cabinet by stove.

Plumbing – $493.75

All pipes and fittings in water system. We used PEX tubing and crimps.

RV Parts – $843.40

Includes two 26 gallon water tanks, one holding tank, fill covers, water pump, and other specialty items, like vent covers, needed to install RV specific items used in this tiny house.

Appliances/Utilities – $3347.39

RV fridge (propane/electric), RV furnace (16000btu), RV thermostat, RV water heater (10 gallon), apartment sized stove (propane), sink (25×17), shower (36×34), ceiling fan, some LED light fixtures, RV toilet, sink faucet, shower head, and 2 counter tops.

Electrical/Solar – $2295.62

All wiring, boxes, outlets, and switches. 4 solar panels, 4 batteries, charge controller, inverter (1000w), 12 volt circuit box, 110 volt circuit box, solar panel disconnect switch, RV exterior plug, interior light fixtures (use LED bulbs).

Miscellaneous – $502.06

Tools needed, saw blades, drill bits, bolts, screws, nails, extension cords, angle iron, paint brushes, hinges, knobs, cabinet catches, caulk gun, clamps, shim tool kit, tool belt, etc.

I feel this area could cost substantially more for people that haven’t built before. My dad is a builder so tool expenses were minimal between the speciality tools he has and what I’d previously collected. This category could cost a lot more.

Total Cost – $23,495.10

This total doesn’t account for labor. It is the cost of materials only.

The only work contracted out was having spray foam insulation applied at two different stages during framing by a local contractor. His price obviously included labor and cost $2451.25. This insulation choice is just one of many choices to be made on a huge building project like a tiny home. I chose this insulation for the high R-value in a thin 2×4 stud wall because of the fact that where I live in Northern N.Y. our winters routinely produce below zero temperatures and wind chills, and the fact that the spray foam insulation effectively glues the structure together and would make the house even sturdier.

The rest of the labor was provided by me, my father, mother, girlfriend and her 9 year old son. If it was paid labor I feel you could easily double the total cost. Especially if you include planning the build and time spent on building material orders.

This overview of costs also doesn’t include money spent setting up my new household. I wasn’t starting fresh as I had items from my past life, but did incur substantial expenses to make the house usable. Household items easily cost between $600-$1000 and included a small medicine cabinet, garbage cans, fabric for curtains and couch foam cover, new mattress to fit loft, two throw rugs, added 4 LED lamps, storage baskets, etc. This category is too abstract and different for each person to try to include here. It is a consideration though because a lot of your past belongings won’t “fit” your new tiny living space.

I feel the invested money was well spent and my house will hold up for many years. I’m sure there are ways to cut costs, but at what expense? Time? Quality? Comfort? For me this price was reasonable in build time and dollars spent to have a place of my own, a place to call home.

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Ladder Completed

Fall is upon us and I’m not looking forward to the snow. Summer is never long enough, for my liking, in our Northern New York Region.

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Dad redesigned the ladder and has it installed. We need to complete a railing on the loft and the remodeling is almost done. We do have a plan for our railing, and I’m sure it will be built and installed soon.

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We are debating if the new ladder will be painted green, like our old “stairs”, or stained to match the majority of the pine boards in the interior. Little details in design and decoration make a big difference, especially in such a small space.

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Our house is very cozy and usable. The renovations were definitely worth the time, energy, and expense.

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Loft Expanded

After using the house for a few months, we have decided to expand the loft some. We found that with one person in the loft it would probably be acceptable, but with two wedged in there it was tight and we constantly hit our legs on the ceiling when rolling over. We found it best to put a hand on the ceiling before moving or sitting up in bed. We jokingly starts calling the loft our MRI tube. So, after some planning we expanded the loft by 32″.

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My dad installed the rafters, supports, and had the floor roughed in.

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A few days later Trish, Carter, and I finished the construction by nailing in the pine boards for the floor and ceiling. The stairs we had were repurposed, and we will be building a new ladder.

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In these photos a step ladder was in use until a new ladder could be constructed. The boards will be stained in the near future so they match the rest of the interior.

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After a few nights, we’ve found that the expanded loft is much more comfortable and user friendly. We have some storage at the foot of bed now and can roll over without injury. Sitting up in bed isn’t dangerous now.

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If I built this design again, I’d reconsider the roof design and probably have more of the high ceiling area with only small sections of the lower ceiling area on the ends. The lower (steeper pitched) ceilings really leave you little room in the loft. The steeper pitched roof does hold more snow load, which was part of my concern and trade off when I built the design as planned. After utilizing the house I feel comfort and usability dictate more room in the loft and I’d approach the roof build a bit differently next time.

Interior Getting Settled!

The house is coming together nicely. We are settling in, but there are still small odds and ends to tie up. It is a work in progress, just like any move is.

This house took a lot of time and energy to build (just over a year). Even though these houses are small, you still must complete the same construction steps needed to build a larger house, from the foundation to the roof to the utilities and interior.  I worked hard and often had help. It never would have been completed without my father’s hard work and guidance. I appreciate him more than he knows.

Also I have to thank mom. All the curtains were sewn by my mother and are custom for the house except the ones over the sliding glass door. The couch cover and couch pillows were designed and made by mom also. Materials were picked by mom and Trish. Thanks mom for making my house look good!

Thanks to Trish also for all your hard work and interior design guidance. You are the best!

Here are more pictures of the interior now that it is basically completed and utilized as a home.

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Boy and dog sleeping.

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Dog pile on a rainy day.

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More dog pile.

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Closet needs finishing, as there will be a lower clothes rod also, but it is almost there.

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The boy drew pictures for us, on the chalkboard paint, a fun feature in our tiny house.

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Standing by sliding glass door, our main entrance, looking toward bathroom pocket door.

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Bathroom view.

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New medicine cabinet.

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Shower and towels hung to dry.

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View from kitchen sink towards entrance.

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Couch and entrance.

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Sliding glass door, covered by curtain, with storage loft above.

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Couch area.

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Kitchen area. Stairs lead to loft bedroom above.

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View from my green chair.

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Relaxation corner, great for reading a book.

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Master bedroom.🙂

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Storage loft which also houses the batteries and inverter for my electrical system which is solar powered.

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Entrance, sliding glass door, behind curtains.

Endless Possibilities

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Endless Possiblities:

I want for me
And you want for you
It’s all that we see
And all that we do

Wouldn’t it be nice
Wouldn’t religion be more true
IF I cared for you
AS I care for me

IF you did the same
OUR World could improve
Imagine the endless possiblities!
WE could all make true….