tiny house Building Methods

Comparing Different Building Methods and Materials for Tiny Houses

As housing prices continue to soar across the United States, many people are turning to tiny houses as a means of living their best lives at a fraction of the cost. If you are interested in dabbling in the tiny house realm, you may have many questions on what to expect.

Consider the following building methods and materials to get you started on the right track as you construct your tiny house.

tiny house Building Methods

Know the Pros and Cons of Building on a Trailer

The vast majority of tiny houses are built on a trailer to avoid the need for building permits. If the tiny house is on wheels, it is classified as a recreational vehicle and not a standing structure, which would require city approval. In addition, the appeal of having a portable house speaks to people who enjoy traveling.

However, while there are benefits to building on a trailer, not every tiny homeowner wants to feel like their home is a camper, with some wanting the feeling of “roots” established with a traditional home. Therefore, explore the other foundations of building a tiny home, such as concrete slab, skids, stilts, or post and beam, and see how they compare to building on a trailer. Just be sure to check your local building codes first. 

Use Doors and Windows to Make Your Space Feel Bigger

Although tiny homeowners embrace the concept of doing more with less, even the most ardent tiny home enthusiasts are not rushing to make 400 square feet feel cozier. Therefore, by carefully planning the doors and windows, you can leverage your small amount of existing space as much as possible.

If you can get by with only an entrance door, that is the best option, as doors inherently create a lack of utility for space. If you use a traditional hinged entrance door, make sure that it opens out, as doors that open in will cut into your limited living area.

If an interior door is essential for privacy reasons, be sure to use some kind of accordion or sliding pocket door; that way, when the door is not being used, the space is still accessible.

Additionally, use windows creatively to make the exterior feel like part of the home. When done correctly, not only will windows make your tiny home feel bigger, but they should all but eliminate the need for electric lighting during the day. Just be sure to keep insulation in mind, with low e vinyl windows being a preferred choice, as a window-centric house can create some heating and cooling concerns if they are of low quality. 

Weight of Materials Is of Critical Importance

Although lightweight building materials are generally preferable to heavier ones for any type of home, they must be prioritized when building a tiny house--especially if the home is built on a trailer. When building on wheels, you must be careful that too much of the home’s weight is not placed on the tongue of the trailer, which would make it difficult to haul.

Some ways to ensure that your tiny home is both lightweight and durable include:

  • Using synthetic floorings, such as luxury vinyl tile, instead of hardwood or porcelain tile
  • Avoiding heavy types of house siding, such as metal or brick, in favor of lighter composite products like fiber cement
  • Choosing lightweight countertops, such as MDF wood or plastic laminate, in place of heavier stone options

Don’t Plan on Shrinking Everything

A tiny house does not mean that everything in it is tiny. Sitting in a tiny chair or lying down on a tiny bed will create some serious health concerns over time.

tiny house Building Methods

Rather, find ways to make the areas of the house multipurpose. Choose beds that can also serve as sofas. Make sure that tables and other furniture come equipped with storage compartments. Even look into ways that walls can fold out into countertops or bench seating. 

Understand That Roofing Is a Priority

Quality roofing is a critical element of any type of home. However, its importance is magnified in a tiny house, as there is nowhere to escape from a leaky roof or from being woken by the sound of birds frolicking overhead. 

Therefore, do not cut corners when roofing your tiny house. Choose a material that is durable, moisture-resistant, and sound insulative. One particularly strong option for tiny houses is torch-down roofing. In addition to being highly resistant to moisture and UV rays, the asphalt layer contains a rubbery additive that does a better job of absorbing sound than a product such as wood shingles. 

Build with Passivity in Mind

Finally, building a tiny home is all about limiting consumption. Therefore, choose materials that will keep your tiny home as close to zero energy consumption as possible, such as:

  • Polyiso insulation panels for the walls and ceiling
  • Synthetic cedar shake shingles to provide roof protection
  • Smartglass windows that can change their light and heat transmission properties based on the ambient conditions

Comparing Building Methods and Materials for Tiny Houses

With the cost of traditional homes untenable for many Americans, the tiny house movement is set to strengthen in the coming months and years. Consider any of the aforementioned building methods and trends for your own tiny house to stay ahead of the trend. 


Guest Post by Matt Lee

Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.

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