We’ve made some progress on our latest design, which for now I’m calling ‘Simple Living’.
The subfloor is complete and we’re now ready to stand up the walls. We’ve actually been at this point for some time while I work out which windows we are going to use. You don’t want to do any framing until you are certain of the brand, type and size of all your windows.
While most manufacturers can make you windows to any size, if you pick from their ‘standard’ sizes it is a lot cheaper. I put the word ‘standard’ in quotes since these sizes aren’t standard across manufacturers. They’re not even standard across different lines or types (wood, premium vinyl, standard vinyl, etc) within the same manufacturer. So if you want to control cost, you have to have the brand, line, and size of every one of your windows picked before you start your framing.
For this house, since I am trying to keep cost down, my original idea was to try to use exclusively off-the-shelf windows. These are the windows that you can just walk into a home improvement stores and buy, and are generally cheaper than special order windows. One of the problems with this idea is that the sizes that are available are pretty limited. They are the most popular sizes used in conventional houses and are thus usually a lot bigger than what is needed in a tiny house. You can forget about finding a loft window. To get around this we could have bought just some off-the-self windows and special ordered the others, if size was the only problem. The other problem is that we always order our windows with tempered glass since the houses will be driven down the road. Tempered glass, for those who don’t know, is glass that has been heat treated to make it stronger. It also breaks into much smaller pieces when it shatters making it much less likely to injure anyone if it breaks. It’s the only type of glass used in cars and RV’s. None of the off-the-shelf windows have tempered glass. So all of our windows will need to be special ordered.
In our tiny Living Design, the windows are the largest single cost of all the materials. So I knew if I was going to make a less expensive house, I was going to have to bring that cost down. There are two ways to do that; first, use fewer windows, and second, use less expensive windows.
To use less windows, I’ve eliminated the dormers. This is one of the most loved features of the Tiny Living design, but it adds a lot to the cost of the house, not only in the price of the windows but also in other materials and labor. I’ve also eliminated the two windows that flank the front door. While I really like the look of those, they don’t provide that much light since they are so narrow. By getting rid of these 6 windows, we drop the total cost of the windows (not counting the other saving from getting rid of the dormers that I will talk about later) by $1500. That’s almost 10% of the total materials cost of the Tiny Living house.
Next, we’re using less expensive windows. Instead of the aluminum clad wood windows used in the Tiny Living design, I am opting for vinyl windows. One of the biggest issues I have with vinyl windows is their color selection. They usually only come in white or almond and can’t be easily painted (don’t even try). I personally don’t like the white up against the stained wood siding that’s found on Tiny Living, but since I am using a different, less expensive siding that will be painted and not stained, that’s less of a concern. Vinyl windows end up being about 30% less than the aluminum clad windows.
With these two changes I expect to shave about $2000 off the materials cost. My hope is to get the total cost to build this house down to under $10,000. This is a good start.