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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17 thoughts on “What It Really Costs To Build A Tiny Home

  1. Thanks for the detailed break down. I know people are up in arms at the expense of tiny houses, and I wonder if some forget that the basic necessities (kitchen, bath, plumbing, electrical work) is a constant, and when decreasing the square footage the per footage cost will automatically go up. That doesn’t mean the total cost of the house isn’t still more affordable.

    It seems to me most tiny houses are very well built, and if the owners build themselves that means they’ll also be able to do repairs themselves if/when the time comes.

    I currently live in a 650 sq ft apartment. I have one bedroom window and one balcony door. No other natural light coming in. I’m working towards a 160 – 200 sq ft tiny house with 7 windows. That would be so nice.

    (when I say “working towards” I’m still in the daydream stages of planning – Working on paying off debt, then save money to eventually realize that dream)

    You have a lovely home!

    • I agree Sabine. Utilities and appliances cost a lot of money, and even more so when they need to fit into small spaces or are RV specialty items.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Reinforces my point that even tiny homes cost money if you want modern conveniences, like a full size shower as in my home. I have 11 windows and the sliding glass door. Definitely worth the money as it gives the house an open feel and lovely breezes in the summer.

      Good luck on your future tinier place.

  2. I enjoyed reading your article. I myself live in my Tiny House full time while going to school. I read all the time, people complaining about the cost involved when building a TH. My added expenses were $980.00 for a composting toilet, $3600.00 for trenching water, electrical, and french drainage system, $350.00 for dual 40 lb. propane tanks w/ fill, $220.00 for insulated skirting, along with other miscellaneous expenses. The only monthly expense that I have is my electric which runs about $6.00 to $12.00 per month.

  3. Hi there, I liked reading about your tiny home. I enjoyed the pics of seeing it being built. Can you please show us the pics of the inside, finished? I have also been looking into building one of these, with a few differences, of course. On some of these tiny homes, I see that people are buying used trailer frames, then rebuilding them with wood. I think I would rather have mine built with steel, and most everything else with more steel as well, so I would need more money for all of this. By the way, thank you so much for showing us this, and posting the costs.

    • Bobbi, click the home button above the cost post and you can see all my posts and pics. There are construction photos from getting the trailer framed to final interior additions recently. Hope that helps.

  4. I think this was one of the most honest and not exaggerated posts I have seen on building supplies… I was thinking hi end around 45,000. I may have to spend, but this number is much better 🙂 …enjoy your house! Thank you!

  5. thank you for this detailed information and loved seeing all the pictures of your build as well congrats on your new beautiful home

  6. Great article! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and looking at the pictures of your tiny house. Congrats on completing your lovely new home! Thank you for taking the time to write out the costs associated with your build. It helps in trying to figure a budget. I’m looking for a builder in NY. The only one I know of is Bear Creek in Woodgate NY. Do you know of any others? Thanks so much!

  7. I was wondering if you used open or closed cell, the size of your home ( it may have been mentioned but I am on info over load), and whether you used spray foam in walls, roof, and floor?

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