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The Pros and Cons of Tiny Homes

By: Everett S
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tiny-beach-homeThe smaller your home is, the easier it is to make it energy self-sufficient. This is an important thing to think about when preparing to make the move off-grid. Some people have taken this to an extreme, spawning the tiny home movement. And when they say tiny, they mean it – most tiny homes are somewhere between 65 and 800 square feet, with varying levels of comfort.

Of course, living in a tiny home takes some getting used to. For starters, it requires throwing out or donating most of your possessions. If your entire home is now the same size as your former bedroom closet, you’ll have to purge quite a bit. Living in a tiny home can also require some lifestyle changes, since there usually isn’t room to entertain more than a few friends at once. And if claustrophobia is a concern for you, living in a tiny home is a sure way to feel cramped, especially when cabin fever sets in during the wintertime.

For people who can get past those disadvantages, however, tiny homes offer many benefits. Their low cost (most small models begin around $15,000) is a major draw for people who want the freedom that comes with not having to make monthly mortgage payments. Environmentally minded individuals appreciate the low carbon footprint that comes with a tiny home. Heating a tiny home is easy and inexpensive, sometimes costing just $10 a month. And freedom is another benefit of living in a tiny home. Many of them are mounted on wheeled trailer beds, so they’re fully portable – just hitch it to the back of a truck, and when you arrive at a new location, hook it up again much like an RV.

Most tiny homes can be built very quickly, often in just 500-800 hours. A quick online search yields the names of several companies that sell building plans, so you can jump right in and get started. For example, Cabin Plans sells easy-to-build designs ranging from 144-720 square feet for as little as $24.95 per set.

If you don’t feel comfortable trying to build a house on your own quite yet, you can always take a class to learn how it’s done. Peter King, a carpenter in Vermont, conducts weekend workshops to teach people how to build a tiny house (300 square feet or less) in small groups.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company also offers courses on building tiny homes, but if you don’t have the time or energy for that, the company can deliver pre-built, road-ready tiny homes on wheels – for a PRICE. And yes, we meant to put that in all-caps.

Local building codes can be a challenge, since many cities require that homes have a minimum size. Some tiny home owners work around this by flying under the radar, placing their homes in backyards, in orchards, or even in national parks. If someone complains, they can always hitch it back up to a truck and tow it to another location. On the other hand, a tiny home can sometimes be a great way to avoid building permits all-together, as some locations will not require you to file for permits on anything under a certain square footage (often 100 sq ft).

Obviously tiny homes aren’t for everyone, but even if you aren’t ready to fully commit to living in a tiny home, you can always try to use one for an off-grid office or workshop. Tiny homes also appeal to a certain type of outdoor enthusiast who is committed to living off the grid. If you see the land as your playground, and your backyard as a natural extension of your living room, then tiny homes are an easy, inexpensive option that you can enjoy for years to come.

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Category: Renewable Energy

Comments (20)

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  1. [...] an ultra-frugal lifestyle and it really appeals to me.  This was the case when I saw a video at Living Off the Grid about people who build, and live in, tiny [...]

  2. Maureen Boling says:

    What fun! There are lots of ways to do it, but I totally agree with the idea of just dumping the system and just doing your thing. I finally decided to just buy a 31′ trailer for $2000 (240 sq feet) and tow it out to the building site. Just getting the solar system and water all hooked up will keep me busy for a while. What I really want is a greenhouse with attached semi-underground house and all a bit larger than these cute little houses. Perhaps we can leap frog the camp trailer for site to site.

  3. sandy F says:

    I am currently living in a 480 sq ft house. Beleive me it is SMALL! I love it mosly althought here are times when I miss the extra space. It definitely makes you more selective about your belongings! I only have to run a electric heater about 5-6 days a year. The rest of the time my house can be heated by the body warmth of myself and my dogs. If it gets really chilly, I fire up my crockpot and cook something.. the heat it puts out is amazing and I get dinner out of it! I actually have more trouble with a need for cooling in the summer than I do with heating in the winter. Also, a reminder, tiny houses arent always owned by crazy buts in the back of beyond. Mine is in Denver proper. It was difficult to finance and I had to jump through some pain in the neck hoops when I bought it but I dont think I would trade it!

  4. Pete
    Glad I came across your site. I like yourself believe less is more and it shouldnt cost you an arm and a leg and an ear.
    Are you a builder originally? I like yourself am a journeyman carpenter transplanted from the bronx to the adirondacks whew big change. !!! Cant even think about going back.
    Well just wanted to offer our services out this way to central new yorkers and adirondackers if they were looking for a carpenter or lets collaborate if you have someone who needs help out my way please do not hesitate to call or write. Our prices are much more reasonable or shall i say realistic.
    Very nice site its a mirror of our northern life.
    Thanks Bill Rockhill owner Bear Creek Carpentry

  5. shawn says:

    Thanks for posting, I enjoyed the video a great deal. Peter is a smart guy with a nice presence.

    As a first time builder who just finished a passive-solar house @ 1664 SF I can relate that it is wholly possible for a novice to build an energy-efficient house without much problem (our house even made Fine Homebuilding magazine). As Peter says, Once you have the basics, well it’s pretty straightforward.

    I can also relate that 1664 SF is much larger than my family’s needs and that we could do fine in half the size. For resale, however, even a 1664 SF house is considered way too small for most people WITHOUT children (I know this since we are selling).

    A 100 SF house is workable – for some people. It is one way (and one I find enjoyable to read about) but it is certainly not the only way.

    An idea that would more widely suit a family would be reverting back to the house sizes of the catalog homes of the early 20th century where many houses ranged from 600-1000 SF. To my mind these are reasonably sized buildings that could easily be made energy-efficient with today’s innovations along WITH the added bonus of a long life because of their functionality (something I do not think the majority of these tiny houses will have in the long run).

    Downsizing is a very good thing to promote. And a 2000 SF is not a small house. In fact, I think small might be considered 1000 SF or less with the tiny realm being the world of innovative people like Peter.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Kim says:

    We found a great deal in central Texas several years back. Seven acres and an unfinished 1500 sq ft house for $25K. We have been building as we have time and sealed in about 800 sq ft with the other 700 used as laundry/pottery studio/work area. We built a loft for our bedroom and a storage loft next to the bedroom. We actually do live in the 800 sq ft portion comfortably; and, in fact, have areas that aren’t used. The fireplace is the central feature with everything else wrapping around it. It is very open and spacious, and our mortgage, minus taxes/insurance, is only $300 a month!

  7. john sundwall says:

    shipping containers are another excelent base to create your own micro house,or use them like legos and build your dream 3000 ft house. I am making plans to build a small 2 story home myself using 2 40′ containers as the bottom floor and 2 20′ containers as the second floor and the roof space left on the 40′ containers will be an elevated deck! All steel construction and water tight. it will last for generations!

  8. erin says:

    i want to go learn how to build with that guy!!

  9. For 1000’s of years man has lived in small dwellings and lived quite comfortably. Nomadic people had mobile dwellings and learned how to survive the climate changes. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution the majority of us can’t survive without all of our belongings ie computers, cell phones, Flat screen TV’s. We build homes not for ourselves but for our stuff. Think about how much money we spend on items we really don’t need.
    Let

  10. What’s the difference between living in a Tiny home vs living on a sailboat, boathouse, Mobile Home or an RV? They are all tiny but we love them!!! Maybe it’s because we really like the intimacy and the coziness that they have to offer. We are not tied down to our stuff. It’s a simple way of living the freedom to be.

  11. Pobept says:

    Living small was the norm when I was a child. 400 to 575 square foot homes housed many families with 6 or more children.
    Many home’s were off the grid because they had no choice in the matter.
    Many rural areas did not get elect service until the mid 1950’s.
    I have down sized to 288 Sq Feet and find that I have space to spare.
    Heating and cooling cost are as low as $25.00 a month, this is the minimum electrical service charge of my service provider.

    Love your posting, Thanks.

  12. Kent Napper says:

    I believe my earliest memories of a small house are of my grandmothers, it was under 6oo square foot. I have downsized from 2000 sf to a log cabin with 576 sf. I am single and realize that I do not use anywhere near that much space. In my future I see a Tiny house in my plans. I currently build small garden sheds and playhouses but can not wait to build a Tiny house.

  13. [...] also code standards for electrical harnessing, plumbing and grey/black water storage and disposal. Pros and Cons of Tiny Homes … That being said, I really *lovelovelove* some of the prefabs that are on the market right now. [...]

  14. Sharon says:

    I am very interested in learning to build these tiny houses. I have a pc of property that I was considering putting a shed on and finishing it into a small comfortable space. Please contact me via my email address and let me know if you offer a class on how to build these structures. I am certain that along with myself, my brother would love to attend. Thank you for your response to this email request.

    Sharon

  15. c l byers says:

    Do you have a class on line I’m in Texas and am interested in building my own small place

  16. Beatrice says:

    Dear Sirs, I,m interested in tiny houses. Thank You

  17. Kent kjar says:

    You people need to go to jail. Now that’s a tiny home

  18. Kent Kjar,

    In my opinion most of the people in this country living in huge 4,000+ sq. ft. McMansions in the suburbs are the ones in prison. They have to fight traffic both ways to work every day, sit in a cubicle, office or work on an assembly line just five out of seven days of their life, end up spending their little 3-week vacation just fixing up the house so the neighbors don’t call the HOA prison guards on them… It’s a treadmill and tiny houses are one way to get off of it. Personally, I prefer a home closer to 2,000 Sq ft. for a family, but I would never belittle someone for choosing to go smaller. They have their advantages, and if you spend most of your time outside enjoying nature – something prisoners of the type you refer to can’t do at all, and the type I refer to rarely get to do either – then you don’t need a big home.

  19. PattyWolford says:

    I’m thinking this “tiny house” thing is a fad. I mean, yeah, it would be nice to have no mortgage, low utilities (to none), and live “green.” But in reality, as I live in a 1,000 foot l960’s box ranch (to which I downsized), and having made it energy efficient with extra insulation and new heat pump, I’m wondering how much better off (and happier) I’d be at age 61, getting rid of all my belongings to live in a cramped space!???

  20. Patty,

    In some respects it might be a “fad” in that it is popular now and may not be as popular five years from now if/when there is a real economic recovery. But I think there will always be people who seek to live a life of minimalism. Imagine how free you would feel knowing that you could hitch your “house” up to a truck and move it anywhere you want? I would personally LOVE to get rid of 99% of the crap we have, but with a wife and child it isn’t very easy. I can tell you though that if I were “on my own” I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’ve lived that way before and it was the happiest time of my life, aside from being a father.

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