Every time we attend an event with one of our tiny houses, we are constantly asked about the height. Our house is 13’5” high, just one inch below the legal limit set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The response is normally, “WOW! How do you drive with that in tow?” Here are some of the things to think about when it comes to tiny house height.

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The more you know

I recently got a question in one of my comments that after writing the response (and going on a huge tangent in the process), I decided I would make it a post.

Q: hi ,, I have a question? do i need some permit to do this kind of work?? thanks in advance

A: This is a question that I get a lot and see discussed often on other blogs. From my understanding, since the construction is happening on a trailer, there is not a need for any permits and many of the zoning laws don’t apply as well. Permits and Zoning usually only apply to permanent structures. That is why you see so many tiny houses on trailers, despite their owners having no intention of moving them.

With that said, while not having to obtain permits is generally thought of as a good thing, there are some downsides. Permits are generally thought of as a way for municipalities to raise money, but they also provide a service to the owner, that being inspections. Inspections put a second set of eyes on your contractors or your own work to make sure what you are doing is safe.

I recently came across a tiny house builder that was blogging about his experience (much like I did). While reading some of his posts I became concerned with some of his decisions. For example, he used the same water heater that I used, but in his build he hung the heater directly in the shower. The problem is that this water heater is rated for outdoor use only. Propane burners that are rated for outdoor use are extremely dangerous to run indoors especially in an enclosed space like a shower (if propane isn’t burned efficiently carbon monoxide is produced which your body will favor over oxygen). People die every year from using their grill in their garage (often because it is raining outside) or using a propane heater in their house. This person also used hose for the plumbing and hose clamps at the connection points. These are guaranteed to fail over time and small leeks can lead to mold growth behind the interior siding. The most concerning part is that this person sold this house to an unsuspecting person and is now selling plans so that others can make the same mistakes. If inspections were performed on this tiny house by anyone with knowledge of plumbing both of these issues would have been immediately caught.

water heater warning

I’m not suggesting that you try to get permits for your tiny house. What I am suggesting is that when building any structure that you and potentially your family are going to be living in that you do your research and if necessary find knowledgeable people to do critical sections of your build. I strongly believe that most people could successfully take on a project like this. However, because you will likely not be getting permits and having inspection, it is extremely important that you trust your source of information and the people you work with.