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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Winter Continues!

Well another storm has schools closed and us huddling around our stove. The tiny house remains a work in progress but continues to be closer and closer to finished.

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The electric channels have been covered, just above the windows, creating a cool shelf above.

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The propane detector has been wired in place by the hot water heater. The water system is completed and pressure tested. We haven’t filled the water heater yet as the house is only heated when we work on our current interior finishing.

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Flooring enclosure finished around holding tank.

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RV type toilet installed and water connected.

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Shower plumbing done and only need to install shower door, after most other work is done.

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Day bed/couch nearing completion. Just drawers need to be built.

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The interior is coming together nicely. We have to build cabinet doors and drawers. The stairway will go from the lower counter to the loft and is one of the bigger projects remaining. Some painting and staining has to be finished up eventually. The bathroom will be painted but most of the house will be stained pine boards. Hopefully I’ll be moving in soon as the remaining projects are “checked off” the list as spring arrives and the house can be moved to its more permanent location.

Life and Some Continued Slow Progress.

Life has been very busy the last few weeks between work and an unexpected tragedy that took me away from building for a time.

Thanks to my father, the contractor, my house has slowly changed and continues to move toward completion.

The electrical wiring is mostly completed including outlets, switches, and appliances wired in. The batteries are in place and the inverter and charger are wired in. The solar panels will be connected later when the house is moved to its more permanent location. For now we are charging the system with a generator.

Most of my lights are in place and operational. The stove is in place and connected to electric for the ignition source. The propane stove heats up nicely.

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The furnace is connected to power and electric. It heats the house nicely and makes working on projects much more enjoyable as we have balmy 20 degree weather here today. The refrigerator is all connected to 12v, propane, and 110v. The insulation and cabinet for the fridge are completed. We haven’t started the fridge up quite yet.

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The shelves, cabinets, and drawers are framed up, but a lot must be completed before the storage is usable.The counter top is ready to be cut again and the sink installed and plumbing connected.

The next projects to complete are the water system connected and plumbing all sorted out. Then the bathroom floor, above the plumbing, needs to be built. Also the holding tank and toilet need final work to complete that system. The shower will also need to be connected during this work.

The ceilings under the lofts are ready to be finished up and closed in now that the electrical work is nearing completion. Also the stairs and railing for the sleeping loft need to be sorted out.

Hopefully the work will continue to be checked off the “to do” list and the house will be moved from the construction site to the more permanent location before the “real” snow arrives.

Details, details, details

The detailed finish work continues and some progress can be seen. It is incredible how much time energy and money goes into finishing things up before moving in. Currently we are finishing the utility and appliance installation process. The furnace is about ready to start up. The majority of the plumbing is set up and the water tanks and pump are in place. The refrigerator is close to being in place although there is plenty of work remaining to close everything in and make it look nice.

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I’ve been working on the ceiling fan which is now hung, but needs to be wired. The ceiling trim is completed. The wiring work is the next major step we need to focus on.

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The only major setback has been the installation of the sink in the counter top. I made a mistake cutting and have a hole that is larger than my sink. Well, after another $132, I have a new counter top and will make another attempt. It was upsetting but considering all my building on this project, I feel ok that this was one of few mistakes that really costs me money to redo. Also, the extra “ruined” counter will be partially used in another location in my house.

Hoping to be in the house sometime soon. Decorating items such as curtains, couch cover, and paint have been picked out. The design is coming together and should be cozy and functional.

Much More Like A House.

A lot of work and time has been invested in the last couple weeks and we can see many differences in the house. The outside of the house is completed as I finished installing drip guards above the windows earlier this week. We had decided to put an extra barrior above the windows using small pieces of flashing and wood to help divert water away from the window frames. We noticed that a lot of water “flows” down the walls and windows due to the designed roof overhangs which are very very small.

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The only other work to be completed outside is installing a different piece of metal for my peak, as the original one was higher than we wanted and we worried about being too tall to take the house down the road legally. This should be a quick job to finish. Also the doors on the front storage area need to be completed.

This past weekend my painting professionals and I polyurethaned all of the interior of the house. It took a couple hours but looks nice and now the pine boards are sealed and protected. There will be more to polyurethane as we finish the interior. Before the polyurethaning I completed the last two windows that needed trim work. Now all the windows and the sliding glass door have the trim work finished.

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The polyurethaning supervisor.

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As we did this work my contractor, dad, and I have been planning a lot and piecing together the interior layout. The appliances and utilities are slowly finding space inside the house. My planned layout has changed numerous times during this process, and probably will shift more as we build. This planning has been one of the hardest parts of building the tiny house as there is a lot to consider in such a small space.

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There are so many decisions and tradeoffs to make. We had to consider venting through the wall, while avoiding the studs, for the furnace, hot water heater, and the refrigerator. Then you have to consider the propane lines for the furnace, refrigerator, and water heater. After that we worked on where to place the water tanks and how to run the plumbing. The toilet and holding tank also had to be fit into all this plumbing work. Also the plumbing must exit to the septic system, which all takes planning and time to work out. All utilities and appliances now have “homes”, but the work to install them and connect everything is ongoing. Below are views of the furnace and hot water heater located below the platform. The refrigerator will sit on the platform to make it easier to access.

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One of the hardest parts of installing the utilities and appliances is cutting holes in the house, we worked so hard to seal and insulate. I really disliked this thought and process but it is necessary. The outside of the house shows some unfinished venting for the hot water heater and furnace.

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One positive of cutting the walls was realizing how thick my insulation is. Below is the piece of insulation we cut out for the hot water heater vent.

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Recently, I bought the counter top and dad began building the cabinets under the counter to hide the water tanks and also planned where the drawers will go. Also I bought a propane stove and have it in place and waiting to be connected.

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Finally, tonight I built the framework for the day bed/couch. This built in couch will have drawers built in it to store clothing. We built it higher than a normal couch to give us more space for the drawers.

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Built in furniture and cabinets have the benefit of being exactly what fits and works for this tiny space and helps to maximize storage spaces. The down side is that all this building takes more time and work to finish before I can move in.

The finish work to make the house liveable is a slow process. I’m glad the house has come this far, but can’t wait to complete the work, move in, and see what living in this small space is really like.

Long Hours Spent Building Yield Major Changes

Many hours have been spent this week, after my job, working on the tiny house. During the week, I finished the trim work on the dormer triangles, as well as the trim on the loft end walls.

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The weekend brought two long days spent on the house. We accomplished a lot and the house looks so much different than before.

The first task we undertook was installing the laminate flooring. This process took many many hours. I’m sure the process could have gone faster, if I had experience installing this flooring. Our end results look nice and the dark flooring creates a nice contrast with the lighter pine wall boards.

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The following day I attacked the window trim work. Dad had completed the window sill work during the week. He also applied more spray foam insulation around each sill after installation. We worked at completing the window trim to finish off the windows. We did all the windows except two, which need more spray foam applied before finishing.

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Dad also completed the dormer window triangle work during the week and began work on the storage area doors. All that remains on the outside is trim work above the windows to help ensure they are sealed from rain intrusion.

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Next we will begin the electrical work and installation of utilities and appliances. The house is really feeling like it will be livable in the near future.

A Few Stolen Hours.

Well now that my summer vacation is over and the work routine is settling back in, the hours to work on the house project are fewer and harder to come by. We are still making slow progress toward completing the house.

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The exterior work is about done. Dad has completed cutting the boards for the dormer triangle areas. One set of boards is installed and the remaining ones are cut out and will be in place soon. The front storage area is mostly completed but the doors need to be installed eventually.

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All of the eaves have been finished and stained. The majority of the exterior work is done and the house is ready for winter weather on the outside.

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The interior is coming together also. Dad has been working on the spray foam sealing of the windows and then installing the window trim and sills. He has completed one window and has many of the parts cut and awaiting installation for the lower windows.

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Today, I finished the pine board installation in the triangle areas of the dormer on the interior. I did the trim work on one section today and plan to complete the other three soon.

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Also, completed a few days ago were the peak boards on the ceiling in the dormer area as well as over the smaller loft. The interior needs a bunch of trim work finished up as well as the window trim n sills. Then the work will commence on finishing the interior arrangements and installing appliances and utilities.

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I think this house will be a cozy place to spend my time away from work. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.