Tiny Homes are a hot topic. You see them all over your Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest feeds. There are also plenty of TV shows on HGTV, A&E and the DIY channels about tiny homes right now, but what do you really know about tiny homes? Do they have to be on wheels? How small does a home have to be in order to be considered a tiny home? Does it have to have a loft space? Where can I put a tiny home? How much does a tiny home cost?
These are the questions that dominate my inbox on a daily basis. When I got involved with tiny homes several years ago I didn’t have anyone that could help me answer these types of questions. I was building tiny homes on wheels for customers all over the country and couldn’t keep up with the demand. I would get over 50 inquiries a month without doing any advertising. I was blown away that even with all the resources we have today, there wasn’t any information on line to help people understand the process of finding a tiny home builder, designing a tiny home, finding a place to put the home and what the costs of tiny homes are.
For this conversation I want to focus on the cost of Tiny Homes. The cost of a tiny home can vary pretty dramatically. Just like a regular, residential, stick built home, the cost can vary depending on the size, the materials chosen and where you want the home. The average cost of a tiny home ranges from $45,000 to $130,000. The lower end of this range will normally be around a 20ft x 8ft (160 square feet) tiny home on wheels and it will include a loft bedroom, living room, galley kitchen and a 3/4 bathroom. The other end of the spectrum will be a 400 square foot tiny home with a main level bedroom and loft bedroom, a full bathroom, full size appliances in the kitchen and a living room space. It can also be completely off-grid with a solar system, gray and fresh water tanks and a composting toilet.
One of the most expensive elements of a tiny home are the off grid features. People are currently using 1.5kW back up batteries (Lithium-Ion) up to a 6.5kW battery (Lithium-Ion) to power their home. These systems will range from $1,500 to $15,000 once you include the cost of the panels. That doesn’t even include the cost of labor either. Composting toilets range from $600 — $2,000 vs. a regular flushing toilet is $100 — $250. A 50 gallon fresh water tank will run about $200 for the tank, another $150 in connections and then the cost of labor. Being off grid is great, but it’s definitely not the cheap way to go.
The other materials chosen for the home can have a big impact as well both in the cost of the materials themselves, but also in the amount of time it takes to install those materials. When you decide to use shiplap for your walls and ceiling instead of drywall, you are saying that you are willing to pay double for the cost of the materials, and the labor. Throwing up drywall in even the “biggest” tiny home can be done in a matter or 4 or 5 hours with two or three people. Shiplap on the other hand, can take 2 days when it’s done right. These are the reasons that the cost of tiny homes aren’t always $40,000 or less.
Tiny Homes on wheels also have the added cost of the trailer itself. Depending on the size of trailer you want, they will range from $3,500 to $12,000. The trailer is the foundation for a tiny home on wheels. You can’t just take any trailer with a couple axles and build a tiny home on top of it. You need to make sure the trailer and the axles are rated to handle the weight you are about to put on it. You need to ensure that the tongue of the trailer is rated to the right weight so when you travel down the road, the tongue doesn’t snap off the hitch and you lose your home. You want to make sure the trailer is designed to handle the weight distribution so you can drive faster than 10 mph down the road. I’ve witnessed a tiny home that didn’t have the proper weight distribution going down the freeway. I promise you the last thing you want to see is 400 square feet fishtailing right in front (or even worse, behind you) of you when you are going 60 mph. I’ve also seen a tiny home come off the hitch while driving down the road because the spring in the tongue broke and the hitch came loose off the ball because it wasn’t rated properly. Long story short, get a trailer that is designed to have a tiny home built on it.
If you are looking for answers to your tiny home questions, send me an email at tinyhousemovement1@gmail, or send me a DM on my Instagram page @tinyhousemovement. Let’s help the masses understand the benefits of tiny homes!