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Tiny House Plans: How to Build Your Tiny Home

Tiny House Plans is Part 5 of a 6 part series by Andrew Odom on his transition from conventional living to the Tiny House movement. Be sure to check out the rest of his journey to learn how he made the shift.

Tiny House Plans: How to Build Your Tiny Home, via SustainableBabySteps.com

Let it be known that creating or choosing tiny house plans is absolutely not for the weak of heart. It is not for pregnant women, men with heart trouble, people under 5 foot tall, or people who are taking anti-depressants or other mood enhancement drugs. Okay, so that is a bit of a stretch. But I think you get the point.

One of the greatest challenges in life regarding a home is deciding to build one yourself. It doesn't even matter what size; big or small. The project starts out innocently enough. Maybe a sketch on a napkin or a desire to be more independent. But before long it has blossomed in to a J-O-B complete with frustrations, late afternoon trips to hardware stores, lots of YouTube videos, swollen knees and knuckles, and the occasional curse word.

But rest assured that no matter how tough it may be it can also be the most gratifying experience in life, akin to giving birth or cultivating a food plot from nothing but dirt.

Making Tiny House Plans

As with any project, planning should come before execution. Good tiny house plans have two parts: the mental planning and the material planning.

The mental planning involved some serious soul searching and some thought about need -vs- want.

  • How much space do you need?
  • How do you want your house to look?
  • How adept are you at building and how much experience do you have?

The material planning involves sketches, drawing, schematics, material lists, cut lists, timelines, and budgets. If you are serving as contractor and are going to need some help building your tiny house you will also want to plan out subcontractors, a schedule of payments and inspections, as well as any necessary permitting according to local codes.

Remember, since you are building the house yourself many of the tasks associated above will be completed by yourself so organization is essential.

Organize Your Tiny House Plans

In the e-Cours(E) I teach, SMALL HOME. BIG LIFE., I talk extensively about the inspiration notebook. It is called such because it begins innocently enough as just a gathering spot for inspiration but it evolves as the build does. I ask that it be color coded or sectioned complete with sheet protectors and pockets. In it you can keep magazine clippings, computer printouts, paint chips, etc. I encourage detail as the more detail you allow yourself the more likely you'll find solutions to problems in your design. I also insist that a section of your tiny house plans be designated to receipts and budget worksheets. Once building begins a section may lend itself to contracts, warranties, and agreements.

Due Diligence

Building a tiny house may be a small undertaking in terms of square feet but it is like any other home build. You need to do your homework beginning with the land upon which you are going to build.

Because tiny houses are often built on trailers you need to check with your municipality about such a project.

  • Can you have a trailer in your yard?
  • Can you build a house on your property?
  • Are there noise or visual ordinances?

Then think about where the house will reside. Will it be completely mobile or just rest on the assurance that it can be mobile if need be? You also need to think about site orientation, water tables, and even surface composition when you're creating your tiny house plans.

One of the first things you should also check regarding where your new home will rest is if the municipality has a size restriction requiring homes to be a certain minimum size. One book I found to be a valuable resource was Cracking the Code by Ryan Mitchell. The book allows you to familiarize yourself with some of the key bureaucratic road blocks, along with suggestions to possible pathways for building your home from the legal perspective, and several strategies to make your tiny house plans a success.

It is also important to do your homework regarding building materials for your tiny house plans. There are so many choices in todays market ranging from natural products to engineered ones. Check to see what is available in your area, what the costs associated are, life expectancy, and maintenance required. With a tiny house you have some advantages that don't exist with large homes. You can use more sustainable products without exploding your budget. For instance, you can use higher grade windows, perhaps a metal roof, and some sustainable resources that in a larger home just wouldn't be affordable.

How-To Create Your Tiny House Plans

How to Decorate a Tiny House

During the course of our build we tried to document everything we felt would help those coming after us. By visiting our YouTube channel or just our How-To page you'll learn how to build the subfloor, how to do basic framing, and even how to put on metal roofing.

Another awesome resource is the tiny house building video library by Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders. There you can follow along with Dan as he builds a tiny house from beginning to end. You can watch as he explains and demonstrates each step along the way. The videos are ordered and broken up into small, easy to learn segments. It's like attending a workshop in your own house (without the travel costs), that you can then attend again and again as many times as you want.

Know When To Say No

As paradoxical as it sounds, building a tiny house is a big job. There may be some aspects of your tiny house plans that are simply beyond your skill or even interest level. You may need a substantial amount of outside expertise. You may need none. But you need to know what you can handle and what you can't. It is important to note though that the more outside help you have to hire, the more the overall project will cost. Plan for those expenses upfront to save frustration, time, and even rework.

Andrew Odom is a content contributor, author, designer, community manager, neo-homesteader, and dreamer. In his spare time he typically dons a tin foil hat and sets out to reveal the real culprit behind the Scooby Doo mystery. Read more from his sustainable housing chronicles here or find him on Google.

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