D. S. Mitchell
If you have ever watched “Tiny House Nation” or “Tiny House” you have seen a growing trend in the United States toward minimalist living. Many people are attracted to the prospect of financial freedom, a simpler lifestyle, and a smaller human environmental footprint. The downsize revolution promotes living structures with sizes between 300 and 700 square feet. In general, the tiny home is 400 sq. ft or less. In some cases, the homes are even on wheels. Despite the stated positives, they are not for everyone.
Small does not necessarily equate with cheap. A tiny house can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000. Holy Moly. The cost is dependent on a series of factors: location, building complexity, materials, and finally are you doing it yourself, or are you having it built. A contractor construction package will generally cost twice as much as a “do it yourself” house.
Not always identified, but a serious matter, are the extra building costs for appliances, fixtures, water heaters and heating & cooling systems because of their reduced size. The rule it seems is that the smaller, the more expensive. It is important that you do some very careful figuring before you commit yourself to building a tiny home. One recommendation would be to get a minimum of three bids. Many builders do sizeable markups on small projects.
Before you decide to DIY you need to understand that construction of a tiny home can take from three to six months if you are working at it full-time. When taking on such a project you should take into consideration that while you are trying to save money on contractors you need to account for the money you won’t be earning while you are acting as your own contractor. And, unless you are an experienced carpenter the frustration and potential areas of significant error should be added into your equation. Weigh those pros and cons carefully.
There are pre-fab tiny homes being made, but this is a case where buyer beware. Avoid potential pitfalls by making sure the NOAH (National Organization of Alternative Housing) certifies the plan and the builder. Things like windows, framing, roofing, insulation, become very expensive if you need to go back and fix things done incorrectly the first time.
I know it looks like fun, and even exciting when seen on TV, but before you commit the time, energy, and money required to build a tiny house, please do some big time research. Self education is essential before you go tiny. This should not be a decision made one Sunday night after watching a television show. There are books, magazines, videos, workshops and even Facebook groups which provide excellent information.
I saw one article where the writer recommended that anyone considering building a tiny home to try it out first. I thought that was a great idea. You can rent tiny cabins all over the country. Give it a try. For at least a week, I would suggest. And bring a lot of stuff with you, and remember, this tiny space could potentially be your full time home, with all of your junk, and the necessities, that go with actually living in a home.
I can imagine a lot of people loving their tiny home and never wanting to go back. However, I can also visualize a significant number of people not adapting well to the smaller lifestyle, and regretting their purchase. Please, don’t be a regretter, be a planner, be a student, before you build.
Have fun. Even if you don’t decide to go “tiny” you will have learned a lot about the industry, yourself, and your needs.
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