I am pretty excited to introduce you to Wesley Birch who just completed his tiny house. He and his wife purchased the hOMe plans early 2015 and hit the ground running. They modified the plans themselves, customizing them to fit their needs exactly. The end result is the incredible $8,000 tiny house: a pretty darn impressive 24′ self built tiny that includes a full bathroom and kitchen, a living room with a 7′ couch (that pulls out into a bed), two lofts, stairs, and more. Honestly, we were so impressed by how they worked the floor plan to fit so many things into the space, and their resourcefulness that we asked Wesley if he would be willing to share what he learned. World, meet Wesley!
Building Tiny On A Budget
By Wesley Birch
So you want to live the tiny life? I’m sure one of the reasons that most of us make the leap into the tiny world is because we are tired of the financial burden of the typical home. While researching tiny homes, my wife and I got a little overwhelmed by the $60,000 and up price tags on some of these tiny houses. We were then still overwhelmed by the $25,000 average cost to build a tiny house. We got creative and decided to build a twenty four foot tiny house with a $7,000 budget; we finished the build with about an $8,000 dollar price tag.
For $8,000 dollars we built a twenty four foot long, eight foot wide, thirteen foot tall tiny house with a full bathroom, full kitchen, a living room with a seven foot couch, and two lofts. The bathroom has a composting toilet, sink, and a bathtub/shower; the kitchen has a full size gas range, dishwasher, double basin sink, mid-size refrigerator, a very large pantry, and plenty of storage, our loft fits our king size bed, fits all of our clothes, and has stairs instead of a ladder; the spare loft can fit a standard twin size mattress and has storage for clothes; the living room/entryway has a seven foot couch with storage underneath and can fold out into a guest bed. So, you want to live the tiny house, but don’t want to spend over $10,000? Then hopefully you can use the following tips and tricks to make your dream come true without the bank account nightmare.
To start off, this is not a list of ways to cut corners! Please follow safety precautions, and DO NOT buy things that will put you, your family or your home in harm’s way; for example, DO NOT buy a trailer to use as a foundation that has been rusted out, even if it was only $200.
Tips to bring your cost down to an appealing number:
1. Unless people offer help for free, do all of your own work, unless you don’t feel comfortable with it. Labor is incredibly expensive, and the majority of a tiny house build is actually fairly simple. You can learn to do anything after watching enough Youtube videos. The two biggest things that you may want to get help with if you are not comfortable doing the work yourself are the electrical set up and the plumbing set up.
2. Learn to love second hand material. With a little bit of elbow grease and care, a lot of second hand material will look brand new.
3. Craigslist.org should become one of your best friends. The best part about building a tiny house is that when contractors order for building project, they tend to over order, and what they have left over is enough to use for a tiny house. The free section on Craigslist is a terrific resource. Before and during my build, I would check the free section on Craigslist multiple times per day. Here are some of the things that I used in my home that were found free on Craigslist: Vinyl siding, double basin sink, ¾” tongue and groove hardwood flooring, dishwasher, plenty of pallets, and much more. I was amazed at what people are willing to give away for free
4. Check out what local second-hand building supply stores are in your area. The stores that are at my disposal in Portland OR are the Habitat for Humanity Restores. Check out these stores frequently. The deals at these stores are incredible. Here are some examples of purchases that I made at my local Restore: bathroom sink for $2.50, 5 gallons of exterior house paint for $20, insulated roofing foam for $70, bathroom vanity for $8, ceiling covering for $72, windows for between $10 and $25, ceiling fan for $20, and much more. These stores get all of these materials donated which is why they are able to sell for so cheap. Also check the culled lumber section at your local big box hardware store.
5. You may want to consider investing in a truck if you don’t already have one. Lots of free material is only available for a short time. It is very difficult to be the first person to grab free material on Craigslist if you also have to coordinate borrowing a truck from a friend. A trailer also helps. I was able to buy a truck on craigslist for $1,300 and it will tow my house. I also picked up a fourteen foot flat bed trailer for $800 dollars and later sold it for $1,300.
6. Start collecting your materials early! Never wait until the last minute to buy a piece for your house. If you wait until the last minute to buy something, odds are that you will not find what you want used and you will be forced to buy brand new merchandise. Before you even lift a hammer, write down a list of materials that will be needed and start gathering them right away.
7. Do not buy windows to fit your frame; frame your building to fit your windows. Windows are incredibly expensive to buy brand new, so buy them used and frame your walls to fit them.
8. The trailer frame can be purchased used; plenty of people are selling trailer frames on Craigslist.org, but we decided to get ours custom built. If you do decide to get yours custom built, ask family and friends if they know anyone that does custom trailer fabrication. It turns out that one of my wife’s family friends owns a metal shop. He only charged us for materials for our frame.
9. Do not be shy to tell everyone about your upcoming project. It is human nature to help other fellow humans. So when you tell people about your tiny house, don’t be surprised if people start offering too much material, knowledge, or help.
10. Barter Barter Barter! Go ahead, the worst thing someone can do is refuse your offer.
11. There are things that I did not feel comfortable buying used. The electrical hardware, the plumbing supplies, and the framing lumber. Just because I didn’t buy them used, does not mean I paid full price on all of them. When buying your framing lumber, do not just go to your local hardware store and buy the lumber; get quotes first. Look on Craigslist.org still; people do sell brand new things on there for cheaper than the store.
12. And NEVER buy the cheap beer during your build; you will need the good stuff to keep you going.
So you want to live the tiny life, but you can’t spend over $10,000? With these tips, a lot of hard work, and lots of creativity, your tiny house dream can and will come true.