Over the past year, I’ve detailed our adventures building a tiny 350 square foot house, from sinking the first post in the ground, to siding and framing, to insulating, and finally moving in! (you can read the entire series here). A question that comes up frequently when we mention that we’re building a house is, “How much does it cost to build a tiny house?”
I know that’s a horrible answer to give, but it’s true! The cost of a tiny house will depend on many factors such as:
- Whether you are doing the building yourself or hiring out the labor
- What permits are required where you live
- If you’re using new or reclaimed/recycled materials
- The quality of your materials (for instance a granite counter top vs. a re-used counter from the Habitat ReStore)
- And many other factors, such as wiring for electricity, plumbing, etc.
We kept detailed records of the cost of materials as we were building, and I’d love to share that information with you today. I’m also very fortunate to have a neighbor who also built her own tiny house, and she has generously shared her records with me as well, as comparison.
Beth’s Tiny House
Beth is a skilled natural builder who used a combination of her own labor, volunteer labor, and hired labor to build her 120 square foot house on wheels. Her house includes a 6 x 8′ porch, and a 7 x 7′ sleeping loft.
Beth’s house was built with a combination of reclaimed lumber for the framing, subfloors, and trim, and locally milled wood to frame her porch and sleeping loft. The reclaimed lumber was obtained from a regional friend whose cottage industry is to find, collect, and prepare reclaimed lumber so builders can use it in a “like-new” condition. As such, his lumber costs .80 cents a board-foot.
Beth’s walls and ceiling are insulated with 1″of rigid foam and 6″ of blown cellulose, and the floors are insulated with 8″ of rigid foam, which she says certainly added to her costs.
Other reclaimed materials include cabinets, all windows except one, floor tile, sink, formica countertop, tongue and groove subfloor and loft floor, trim wood, shelving in closets, and a trailer chassie. She purchased a new table and chairs and those costs are reflected here as well.
Materials Cost: $14,200 (this includes a used hay wagon chassie on which her house sits)
Total Cost of Beth’s 120 Square Foot House: $21,200
Our Tiny House
Our house was built with a combination of reclaimed and new materials. We used locally milled wood for the framing, but purchased reclaimed 100 year old barn wood for the exterior siding. The windows and doors were a combination of reclaimed from the Habitat ReStore, and bargains from a materials overstock warehouse.
The house is insulated with rigid foam in the floors and blown cellulose in the walls and ceilings. Half of the house’s floors was insulated with free, used rigid foam; the rest was new.
Our house’s interior is still unfinished, but we have included our estimate of the materials we need to purchase (sheetrock,plaster, and cork flooring in the kitchen). However, we have not included the cost of our front porch, or some interior finish wood/shelving, as we are milling and planing our own wood.
Unlike Beth, we did not account for items like a table and chairs, sink, counter top material, or a wood stove because we already owned those items.
Materials Cost: $7,800
We did hire our neighbor Beth for several days’ work, as well as another carpenter friend for one afternoon.
Labor Cost: $470
Total Cost of our 348 Square Foot House: $8,270
It depends on exactly what you are including when you declare your sticker price. I have seen advertisements online for plans to build a tiny house with new materials, for $2,000. But when you read the fine print, that cost does not include doors or windows.
It depends on how quickly you need your house built. In our case, we needed to move into our house before the fall weather became too cold to camp in a tent. So we ended up purchasing new materials that we perhaps could have obtained used, because we needed them immediately.
And I think one should also consider the costs of maintaining and living in a tiny house. Beth, who spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on insulation, literally heats her house with small sticks of wood that she gets for free at the local sawmill, or cuts by hand from the forest around her house.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this subject. Please feel free to share this post with your friends, and comment!