Building A Tiny House: Step By Step GuideJuly 23, 2019
Does the thought of building a tiny home evoke a sense of curiosity and excitement?
Sure, the idea of building a house can be intimidating, but hear me out when I say building a tiny house is totally feasible.
In fact, it was one of the most gratifying decisions I ever made. Not only was I able to make my tiny living dream come to fruition, I did it with my own 2 hands…
And so can you!
If you’re in need of a launching point, this article is perfect for you. You will find general ideas and concepts that are paramount to planning out the blueprint to your perfect tiny home.
Continue reading to take that giant step forward to living out the life you’ve always wanted to explore.
Table Of Contents
- 1 1. Design Your Tiny House
- 2 2. Pick a Location to Build Your Tiny House
- 3 3. Build a foundation
- 4 4. Build the floor
- 5 5. Going up – Building The Walls
- 6 6. Cover it up – build a roof
- 7 7. Windows and Doors
- 8 8. Electricity and Water
- 9 9. Interior Walls, Insulation and Loft
- 10 10. Cabinetry and Stairs
- 11 Take Away
1. Design Your Tiny House
Don’t skip this step because it is crucial! Taking the time to plan and build your tiny home will make a world of difference – both in the build and in how you feel afterward while living in your tiny home.
The first step in planning is to think about what your needs are. Do you have pets, children or a spouse? They will all need some tiny corner of space to call their own.
How much space do you need and what will the finished size be? I recommend if you are a first time builder that you build in increments of four feet. Lumber is easily divisible by four. Four foot sections are easy to work with and have little wasted lumber.
So an 8 x 16 foot home would be easy to design and construct.
Get that pencil and paper out!
Drawing your design out on paper is valuable. Things like the placement of doors, windows, and electrical wires can not be decided as you are building because they may not be in a feasible location.
Planning will save you time and money.
If you are building in an urban area or even in a small town, you may be required to submit plans to a zoning board. For that, you may want to get some good software (affiliate link? ) to help make your design look professional.
2. Pick a Location to Build Your Tiny House
Location, location, location! We hear it all the time in reality and in business marketing. And it is very true of building your tiny home.
If you own property already you are all set. You just need to figure out where you want to place the house. Keep in mind that your tiny house should be located in a well-drained area that is easy to get to.
Do you want to live in the city or the country? If you have not obtained land yet you may be shocked at land costs in urban areas. My advice is to purchase the largest piece of land you can reasonably afford without much debt. After all, the goal of living tiny is to lower your expenses.
3. Build a foundation
The foundation is the most important part of your home. When building the foundation remember that it is responsible for holding the house up and keeping it intact through all kinds of weather.
The foundation will most likely be the most expensive part of your home. Especially if you hire someone to pour a concrete slab.
A simpler way to make a foundation which is more DIY friendly is to use concrete or post piers. These piers are dug into the ground and anchored to keep them stable. Then you can affix the floor joists securely to the piers to hold your building tight.
Concrete piers are very long-lasting. Make sure you place bolts in them so you have someplace to attach the floor joists. When using wood posts you will want to use pressure-treated wood and larger posts such as 6 x 6’s.
Using piers also make it easy to add on in the future. You can add on a deck or even another room by just installing more piers and building another floor.
4. Build the floor
Attach your floor joists to the piers. If you are using wooden posts you can add hurricane hangers to the joists. This is important if you are in an area of the country with frequent storms or high winds.
The most important part of building a floor is keeping it level. This is where you are going to stand every day and what is holding up the walls. Also, an unlevel house will make it very hard to install your doors and windows.
The first part of building a floor is adding the joists. You can reinforce the stability of your floor by adding boards in between the joists. This will also give you additional places to nail the subfloor making everything nice and tight.
After attaching joists to the piers you will nail down your plywood subflooring. Do you have family members or children? Nailing on the subfloor is a great family project. My children loved this part of the build.
5. Going up – Building The Walls
Next, you are going to build your walls. Walls are typically built on the floor or the ground and stood up into place. Walls are typically made to be eight feet tall for a single story. Your walls may be a bit taller if you plan on having a loft sleeping area.
When you have the framing of the walls done you can add your exterior walls. This may simply be a layer of plywood or OSB. With that in place, you can add your exterior siding such as cedar shakes or vinyl siding.
Another option is nailing on T 1-11 siding. This is an all in one answer which is the sub and exterior layer all in one. It creates a rustic look.
It has also become quite popular and environmentally friendly to side your home with metal. Metal siding comes in a variety of colors and comes with thirty-five year plus warranties.
When attaching your exterior walls you will leave spaces for windows and doors. You may also add trim around the windows and doors to prevent airflow and to look nice.
6. Cover it up – build a roof
Ok. I am going to admit it. Roofing is not my favorite part of building. I am afraid of heights and roofs can be hard since you have to haul your materials ten feet up.
During your design phase you should have decided what pitch you wanted the roof and what materials. A simple roof is best for a beginner builder. A roof like a pie recipe needs to be done with exact measurements.
Metal and shingles are the two common roof materials. By the way, a metal roof is the correct answer if you are building sustainably. Especially, if you want to use a water catchment system.
Start by building your trellises on the ground. This will make it easy to measure because they all need to be exactly the same. A trellises template will be helpful here.
Keep in mind that like the floor, the roof must be even with a slope that matches to prevent leakage.
7. Windows and Doors
Obviously, windows and doors are import parts of a house. But what you may not realize is how important they are to your general comfort.
When making holes for your windows and doors you can choose one of two ways. You can build the walls with openings for them. You can also just put up the walls and then later cut out the openings as you go.
I have done both ways and prefer to take the extra step to measure and cut the opening while the wall is still on the floor. To do this you must have purchased the window or door so you have the exact measurements.
Windows provide a connection to the outdoors via light and air. They make the home feel open and having cross ventilation gives us a level of comfort and reduces heating and cooling bills.
Doors offer a way to enter and exit the home. They can also offer light and ventilation if they have a glass aspect or even just a screen door you can utilize.
Like the floor and roof, installing windows and doors must have precision. Making the openings square and level is imperative. If they are not square and level your door and windows will not open and shut properly.
In addition, this is not an area to go cheaper. Good windows will make a big difference in energy bills so go for the double pane argon filled or similar models.
Make sure you add a bead of caulking around the windows and doors as well as in any cracks.
8. Electricity and Water
Back to a well-planned design. Electricity and water must be preplanned because much of their fixtures are placed within the walls. This will make it difficult if you suddenly change your mind on where you want the kitchen sink.
The other major decision is what type of power system do you desire? Off-grid, attached to your local grid or a hybrid of both. This decision will greatly affect your budget and what type of tools, supplies, and equipment you need.
Take your time with this step of your tiny house build. Plumbing, in particular, has many steps and needs to be cut, glued and fitted. Plastic piping is best for your tiny home however you may also choose cooper line especially if you live in the far north.
Many persons who build a tiny house have a small bathroom with a composting toilet and greywater. This makes it easier to build and takes up less room in the overall home.
Electricity is one place where I always suggest having a professional. In fact, in many areas, your zoning may demand that you at least have a licensed electrician do your inspection. Remember that incorrect wiring can cause a fire or shock someone through and outlet, so better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t forget to plan for smoke and carbon monoxide sensors to keep you safe.
9. Interior Walls, Insulation and Loft
Insulation is the primary answer to lowering your energy build. A good R-Value will make it easy to cool or heat your home so that you are more comfortable.
Insulation comes in several different application methods.
Rolled batts of fiberglass insulation are easy to apply but may have air leakage. If it gets wet it is ruined. Foam batts are cut and put in place. While sturdier than the fiberglass they do have a lower R-Value. Spray-in foam has a great heating value but does take more equipment and time to install.
Interior walls become more of a fashion or decorating choice. Drywall gives you the option to paint, adding bright fun colors or a cool soothing cream. Drywall does have many steps and hanging it should be done with care.
Paneling is a bit easier then drywall since it comes by the sheet and simply needs to be cut and hung.
Lofts are popular when building a tiny house. They offer a nice place for a sleeping area or a private space that can serve as an artistic retreat. One of the advantages of a tiny house on a foundation is that you don’t have to be restricted by height laws from the Department of Transportation.
You can in fact turn your loft into a second floor.
10. Cabinetry and Stairs
Now you are ready for the interior build. This would include things such as kitchen cabinets (interior link to kitchen article) stairs to the loft and shelving units. These things will give your home structure and valuable storage space.
Some of these things such as the kitchen cabinets you may purchase and install instead of building from scratch. If you are on a budget, kitchen cabinets can often be found at resell building stores.
Building a tiny house is a step-by-step process. But it is very doable for the beginner level weekend builder. Make sure you do your homework and carefully plan your design. Continue to read our blog to learn more fun facts and great ideas for living tiny.
And don’t forget to check out our article on the best tiny house kits for under $5k (perfect for all the DIYers out there)