In Part 1 of our design series, we covered best tiny house interior design practices. Now, in this article, How To Create Your Own Tiny House Floor Plan, we cover the steps to crafting a detailed and beautiful custom floor plan.
Creating your tiny house floor plan by hand can be a really rewarding and creative process. After all, this is the stage when you get to transform all your wishes and dreams into a visual depiction of your dream tiny house. Let’s go over the steps you’ll need to take when creating a tiny house interior that really hits the mark.
Activate Your Imagination with Bubbles
If you’re totally new to architectural design, we highly recommend that you first create what’s called a “bubble diagram” to visually represent each room and area of your dream tiny house. Take the list you created from the previous design article (click here to read it) and organize the items so they get grouped together. For example, our list grouped the home office and dining table together since we knew we would use the same desks for both of these functions. Our TV lounge and guest room were also coupled in order to save serious space.
Next, draw a circle around each of these collections and cut them out. Start playing around with their location in relationship with each other. Do you want your kitchen next to your bathroom? If so, put both circles at one end and then work your other items such as sleeping, dining, entertainment around them. Do your best to really visualize yourself walking through each proposed scenario and focus on making the flow as efficient and comfortable as possible. Are you able to easily move from area to area? Are you able to incorporate all the items you wrote on your wish-list into your tiny house interior? Would the flow improve if you moved the dining room to where the living room is? Once you feel comfortable with the overall layout of what area will go where, you’re ready to convert some of these findings into answering the question of what size is best for you.
Identify Your Ideal Tiny House Size
In order to move forward with creating a tiny house floor plan design, you’ll need to have a set of dimensions to begin with. Of course this can change so we’re not proposing a life long commitment to these dimensions here, but this is the time to choose a dimension and explore the implications. Keep in mind that larger tiny houses cost more to build, are harder to tow, and require larger vehicles to pull them. Bigger is most certainly not better in a tiny house so we recommend it be designed to meet the needs of its inhabitants but in the smallest square footage possible.
Extract the information from your bubble diagram and wish list and do your best to determine how much space each of these areas will consume. Do you want a kitchen with full sized appliances or something that takes up as little space as possible? Research the dimensions of each item you want to incorporate into your tiny house. Go online to sites that list the exact dimensions and weights of every product they sell (such as HomeDepot, Ikea, etc).
With our hOMe floor plan design, before we really sat down to design it, we collected information on the dimensions and weights of all our dream appliances, cabinetry units, furniture pieces, HVAC systems, bathroom components, etc. If you’re not 100% sure of which components you’ll incorporate, get a sense of the general dimensions of the items you’re likely to build into your tiny house floor plan and then cross reference the dimensions of your items with the space available in your tiny house floor plan.
Floor plans provide a visual representation of a house interior from a bird’s eye vantage point and should always be drawn to “scale” (proportionally accurate). The easiest way to produce a house interior design floor plan to scale is by using an “architectural scale” (a specialized ruler). The most commonly used scale dimension in American architecture is 1/4” = 1’, meaning that every 1/4” on a line represents 1’ in the real world. Whatever scale you draw your tiny house floor plan to, be sure to note it down so that you use the same one during future edits. A high quality mechanical pencil is also recommended for creating a clean floor plan.
Here is the standard order of operations for creating a hand drawn floor plan:
• Begin by drawing your exterior walls in your tiny house floor plan design. Use your architectural scale and pencil, making very light lines that can easily be erased as needed. Remember that if you want to tow your tiny house on wheels without any special-use permits (wide-load), you’ll be restricted to a total exterior width of 8’ 6″ at the widest point in most states. Any gutters, exterior lights, roof overhangs do count in this measurement.
One often missed detail when drawing exterior walls is the thickness of the wall system itself. Most people frame their tiny houses using 2”x 4” material. On top of this they add exterior sheathing (1/2″ average), exterior siding (3/4″ average), and interior wall finish (1/2″ average). This creates a wall system 5 1/4″ thick. If you don’t factor these dimensions into your tiny house on wheels design, you’ll most likely exceed the 8’6″ maximum road width highway standard which will require a wide load permit during transit.
Another frequently missed detail is the trailer wheel wells. If you have a custom trailer that maximizes the width of your house, other than a trailer deck that sits completely atop the wheel wells, your wells will protrude into your tiny house to some extent (how much depends on if you plan on using a drop axle or regular axle trailer). Having some information on hand as to what type of trailer you will use is helpful. Typically, if you plan on building a tiny house 28′ or longer, you should look at a triple axle trailer. From 18′-26′, two axles and from 16′ and below, a single axle.
The more axles you have, the more of your interior will have wheel wells inside competing for space. Bear in mind as you layout our furniture, lower cabinets, stairs, and door that you’ll need to factor in the location of these wheel wells. Wondering how to roughly calculate where your wheel wells will land? Our friends at TinyHouseBasics.com, who have manufactured dozens of hOMe tiny house trailers, shared this invaluable tip:
• Next, draw out your interior partition walls, again adjusting for the thickness of whatever material you will use. In hOMe we used 3/4” plywood to create partitions and this worked out really well for us. Our original intent was to frame with 2″ x 4″ material but an error in our design process prohibited us from installing a bathroom wall quite that thick. We’ve had no regrets in using a thinner partition wall to our bathroom and it even provides a significant amount of sound buffering.
• If you plan on building stairs to a loft, we recommend you incorporate them into your design at this stage since they can take up significant space in a floor plan. Make sure your stair design is comfortable for day to day use (not too steep) and that it incorporates storage below. The specifics of your stair layout will depend not only on what’s comfortable, but also on what code you’re building to. Be sure to review the details in the ANSI code (if building to RV standards) or the recently approved 2018 IRC Appendix V (if you plan to build to “official house” standards).
There are many details to consider when building a code compliant stairway. For example, you’ll need to consider the stairway width, treads and risers design, headroom requirements, landing platforms, handrails, and stairway guards all of which are addressed in Appendix V. At a bare minimum, be sure to address the treads and risers of the stairway with the following details (from Appendix V) to make sure they meet code. The formula is used in both IRC Appendix V and ANSI standards.
Risers for stairs accessing a loft shall be not less than 7 inches (178 mm) and not more than 12 inches (305 mm) in height.
Tread depth and riser height shall be calculated in accordance with one of the following formulas:
1. The tread depth shall be 20 inches (508 mm) minus 4/3 of the riser height, or
2. The riser height shall be 15 inches (381 mm) minus 3/4 of the tread depth.
• Doors and windows are next in a house interior design process. Make sure to erase your wall lines as necessary to create a gap for your door and window openings. Get a sense of what type door(s)/window(s) you want to install and find their dimensions ahead of time. Keep in mind that doors and windows have what’s called a “rough-opening” dimension. This is the size of the actual opening in the framing you’ll need to create to accommodate the unit. The conventional representation for a door in a floor plan is a quarter circle emanating from the direction of the door opening (refer to the hOMe floor plan below for drawing conventions). To draw your windows, use the same principles as those outlined above for doors. The one major difference, is that you’ll need to consider the height at which the windows are installed, even though that won’t show on the floor plan. Keep the “elevation view” (the two-dimensional view of the house represented as perpendicular to the wall itself) in the back of your mind to make sure everything will line up properly in the overall design.
• Next in a tiny house floor plan design are the cabinets and appliances. By now, you can see the importance of knowing what appliances and cabinets you want to use. In our hOMe design, we had to work and rework our floor plan several times to make room for all the cabinetry we wanted. And just when we thought we had figured it out perfectly, we realized we had forgotten to add a refrigerator!
You can simplify this process by creating scaled paper cut-outs of each appliance, cabinet and piece of furniture you want to incorporate. Move them around like puzzle pieces until you figure out a configuration that accommodates each component.
• Once you feel confident that your downstairs looks the way you want it to, go over the exterior wall lines with a pen. We do recommend that you keep your house interior design details in pencil so that you can easily make changes as needed.
• If you plan on incorporating lofts in your tiny house floor plan design, go ahead and place a second piece of paper atop the original first floor drawing and transfer the exterior dimensions onto the new sheet. Just don’t copy the window details to the loft floor plan drawing since you’ll want to incorporate the second level window placement in your floor plan, rather than the downstairs ones.
• You’ll need to budget space for electrical and mechanical systems in your tiny house interior design. In order to do so, you’ll need to have an idea of what systems and units you’ll use. For example, will you use a tanked or tankless hot water system? Will you heat your place with a wall panel unit or something that sits on the ground? What clearance requirements will your heater need in order to meet safety standards? Where will your electrical panel go and will you need any water filtration systems? These little things can take up significant space in a tiny house so make sure to research these components extensively before finalizing anything. Create a light switch and light fixture plan once you feel pretty solid on the rest of your details. One thing to consider with utility placement is the use of exterior space. For example, perhaps you can install those items in a locked cabinet that attaches to the front or back of the home, such that it won’t impact the road restriction width.
Give yourself some time off between design renditions if possible (at least a couple of days). It’s easy to become so focused on the details that the larger picture becomes blurry. Conversely, it’s easy to become so attentive to the larger details, that smaller ones are missed (like our missing fridge in one of our designs!).
Your tiny house floor plan design will serve as the foundation for your entire tiny house interior design so the time you invest into this process will reward you with a reduction in headaches and questions down the line. Once it’s all done, if you want, you can hire someone to turn it into digital form or do it yourself with some of the software that’s out there. Take your time with this process and remember that the more detailed information you have before going into creating your interior design floor plan, the easier time you’ll have in creating your floor plan.