Building a Tiny House: The Five Requirements

As far as I can tell, there are five main factors to building.. well, anything, but in this case a tiny house.

1. Money
2. Time
3. Space
4. Skills
5. Tools

Depending on how one plans to build a tiny house, you might need more or less of any of these five.  For example, if you are hiring a contractor to build the entire thing for you, you need a whole lot of money and not very much time, space, skills or tools.   If you are using exclusively reclaimed/used/free materials, you don’t need so much money but you need lots of time.  Here is how I plan to deal with each category.

1. Money:  I’ve noticed in tiny house blogs that the specifics of money don’t get talked about much.  While many people share their budget overall, not very many people discuss HOW they came up with whatever sum they’ve budgeted for.  This was intimidating to me.  While a $20,000 price tag for a house is much more within my grasp than a $200,000 traditional home, it is still close to my yearly income and therefore, terrifying.  I imagined that these people probably took out loans because they have better credit than me (plus, remember my no home loan vow) or that they had really well paying jobs, or an inheritance, or something.  On the other end were people that built REALLY low cost houses, which is awesome, but they always seemed a little more rustic than I would like.

My budget is roughly $15,000, finished.  I say roughly because I am going to get as much salvaged, used or free material as possible, but also imagine there are expenses I’m not accounting for.  Things will change as I build as well I’m sure.

My living expenses are low at the moment.  I’ve been staying rent free with my grandparents since September.  This was intended to give me some time to focus on writing, which I did, and now has the unintended consequence of allowing me to put almost every penny I make towards the house.  I picked up 2 jobs; pizza delivery and cab driving, both things I’ve done before.  They pay well enough and I have almost no expenses besides gas, phone bill, food and dog stuff so unless anything goes seriously awry, I’m hoping to put $400 a week towards house expenses for the next 4 months.  Then, I’ll go to Alaska to my summer job and will come away with $4-5K towards building expenses in August.  I’ll be staying at my Mom’s house then, which is also the build site, and if I need more money I’ll pick up a job in town and work/build until the house is done.  I have a variety of skills in high turnover, low wage jobs (lucky me!) so this is generally not difficult to do.

I have also received donations from both parents towards the cost of the trailer, and promised support further down the line from Dad.

2.  Time:  At the moment I’m working every day to pile up some cash for supplies. The trailer is due to be picked up March 8th. I plan to take weekends off once the trailer is set up at the build site and hope to get the house framed, sheathed and roofed by the time I leave for my summer job in Alaska sometime at the end of May. Once I get home in August I’ll work full time on the trailer until it is finished or I run out of money. Then something will be figured out. Get a job in town and keep plugging away.

3. Space: My mom and stepdad live on three acres about an hour away from where I am living now. Plenty of space for building and they also have a small guesthouse/bunkhouse with 4 beds for overnight build trips. A moment of gratitude for my family!

4. Tools: Dad lives an hour from the build site and has all the tools we will probably need. Uncle Mike has volunteered a planer. I come from a handy family, thank goodness! There are also multiple trucks in the family to be used for moving the trailer/house around until I can upgrade (my ’93 Nissan Pickup ain’t pulling no house, tiny or not).

5. Skills: I, personally, have never built anything in my life. There are lots of tiny house folks that build their houses alone with absolutely no experience and not much experienced help. I think this is awesome, and super inspiring. I am lucky to have a family of builders nearby. Dad build his own garage and will be my go-to for knowledge and advice. Brother Kyle is an electrician and I’ve already started picking his brain. Hurrah for blue collar kin! Later down the line there are also carpenters, cabinet builders and plumbers in the extended friend family whose brains I will be picking (if they’ll let me). And I don’t want to discount the very valuable assistance of my friend Stone who is in the middle of refurbishing an Airstream and will eventually be a tiny house builder herself. Any problem or question I have, she’s already researched. Bless her. But when it comes down to it, I’ll be the one building this thing and the skills will be learned as I go.

Without these amazing familial resources I doubt I would be undertaking this project. I believe a tiny house build is possible anywhere, by anyone, but unless you already have many of the resources listed above (and/or a lot of money), I don’t think it is possible without asking for help. And this is one of the beautiful things I’ve noticed from reading about other people’s tiny house builds… how people come together to make them happen. I’m seeing it happen around me already.

Passed this tiny house/shed on the freeway yesterday en route to look at used windows
Passed this tiny house/shed on the freeway yesterday en route to look at used windows
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