There is much buzz around tiny houses lately which I think is great. However, what you see on TV doesn’t tell the full story. There is much more to living in a tiny house than simply building one. It’s not only a lifestyle change, but also requires much creative thinking about where to put it. If you’re interested in a tiny house and/or joining the lifestyle/movement, here are some things that I considered, or should have considered, before making the move.
Why do I want a tiny house?
Short Answer: I wanted a cheaper housing alternative that I could potentially move to another city if desired and that I could rent out to supplement my income while traveling.
Ponder: Decide early your motives and how strong your convictions, otherwise a tiny house might not meet your needs.
What do I need to change to live in a tiny house?
Short Answer: Luckily for me not much, but I did have to think carefully about what was my minimum comfort level and to get rid of things I was no longer using despite any attachments to them.
Ponder: Decide what you need to live, then decide what you need to be comfortable and lastly decide what you can give up. Think of it not as compromising, but as experimenting to improve.
Where will I put it?
Short Answer: Ideally my own plot of land, but ended up in a mobile home park.
Ponder: In what setting would you be happiest (i.e. urban, country, community) and investigate those options through exploration, your builder, or a realtor. Your city/county’s zoning rules and where you park your home will determine any regulations the house must meet in order to park there.
Am I going to build it myself or find a builder?
Short Answer: Initially I was going to build it (with some help of course), but unfortunately I realized I didn’t have the skills, tools, time or money. So I found a fantastic local builder (TexZen).
Ponder: Determine if you have the resources (time, money, expertise, drive, patience) to do it yourself. It may actually cost you more in terms of money, time and sanity to build yourself and it will guaranteed take longer than you think.
How much will it cost?
Short Answer: It depends.
Ponder: Structural elements (framing, roof, windows, insulation, trailer) cannot be easily upgraded, so spend money on quality there. Decide what’s most important to spend a bit extra, where you can cut costs, and what can you do yourself. Since the space is small, you can go with higher quality materials since you don’t need as much of it.
Who is going to live in it?
Short Answer: Me and maybe eventually a partner.
Ponder: A bachelor pad will differ from a couples house which will differ from a family home.
Is this temporary or long-term?
Short Answer: Both.
Ponder: What need does the house satisfy (e.g. temporary for work, long term for raising a family, bachelor pad forever). We grow over time. The house can grow with you or you can outgrow it.
Do I want it to be stationary or mobile (on wheels)?
Short Answer: Mobile.
Ponder: Don’t get a THOW just because that’s the most popular solution, decide if you really plan on moving the house. Building a tiny house on a foundation vs. on wheels expands your design options significantly. If you’re not sure, a THOW is a safer choice, especially considering where you plan to park it.
How often do I expect to move it?
Short Answer: Rarely.
Ponder: Each time you move, you need to pack everything up so nothing moves/breaks, re-level/setup the house, unpack. This needs to be done if you are moving the house 1 mile or 1000 miles.
What is the minimum I need to have built before move-in?
Short Answer: Shell (roof, windows, door, insulation), sleeping area (loft), bathroom (shower, sink, toilet), closets (empty), kitchen (fridge, sink, cooktop, cabinetry), lighting, A/C+Heater, electrical, plumbing, flooring.
Ponder: Not everything needs to be finished for you to move in. Take some time to experience the new house and it will spark ideas and changes. You can also spread out your money/financing this way.
What skills/attributes do I have to contribute to the process?
Short Answer: Design, 3D modeling, product research, engineering, hard work, enthusiasm, willingness and interest to learn.
Ponder: Be honest with yourself on what you’re good at, where you’re lacking, and what you’re interested in figuring out. Partner with someone to fill the gaps.
What time can I commit?
Short Answer: Nights & weekends.
Ponder: How much time can you realistically contribute, what other things do you have going on, where are you staying in the interim, how are you funding your project?
Do I want to be on or off-grid?
Short Answer: Initially on, but I want the option to be off.
Ponder: Off-grid offers more options for both permanent and temporary tiny house placement, flexibility to travel and cost savings, but you will need to be more conscientious regarding resource usage (water, gas, electricity).
Gas, electric or hybrid?
Short Answer: Hybrid.
Ponder: Consider any off-grid capabilities you need, gas supported appliances available, what you like to cook on.
Electrical: 30A or 50A; 110/120V or 220/240V?
Short Answer: 50A, 110V. Note: This is not a standard configuration for a mobile home.
Ponder: Calculate your power requirements, specifically the amperage required to operate individual appliances as well as those that may be used simultaneously. Research appliances available and what voltage they support. It’s much better to be one consistent voltage throughout the house. Consult an electrician!
Do I ever want to rent it?
Short Answer: Yes.
Ponder: Think about guest conveniences, protecting your valuables, and safeguarding any expensive/breakable items.