How Much Does a Tiny House Cost to Build?

One of the most common questions asked in the tiny house industry is “How much does a tiny house cost?” Although there is no simple answer, we will give you the best estimates and guidelines to help you plan for your tiny living experience. Here are the three ways of constructing your tiny home and the cost associated with each.

DIY to Keep Your Tiny House Cost Low

One of the biggest appeals to DIY is the ability to save money. That holds true in the tiny house world as well with saving money one of the most prominent reasons people choose self-construction. This is obviously the cheapest tiny house cost because you are taking on all of the labor. For the sake of this comparison, we are going to use the 20’ tiny home as our baseline. This size is typically the most popular but keep in mind that the price does not go up or down like in a conventional house. In a normal home, if you jump your square footage up by 50 percent, more than likely you are adding additional bathrooms, and larger rooms throughout the home. In a tiny home, you may be adding a bit more of living space, but you aren't adding additional appliances, bathrooms, etc. So when you are planning out your space or figuring out your replacement value, keep this in mind. You can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 for a 20’ tiny house for the materials, but you have to keep in mind that your time is not free. Not that you are going to pay yourself, but how much is your time truly worth? A great way to figure this out is to ask yourself questions like, “How much money do I have to get paid per hour to not feel bad about spending less time with my kids or my wife?” “How much would you pay someone to do your normal job so that you could take a vacation?” Questions like this will help you put a true value on your time. Rationalize it out however you want, but your value of time cannot be zero.

Have Someone Build a Shell

Weather is an ever-present factor in building your tiny home and until you are dried-in (everything on the outside is finished), Mother Nature will be your biggest worry both time and money wise. In the beginning, if you don’t have the time to build or if you are particularly slow, then having someone build a shell could be for you. Sometimes people are more comfortable with someone else making sure the house is structurally sound, so they let the professionals handle the exterior and more. The benefit of working from the shell inward is that it still allows you to get your hands dirty and feet wet, but the big parts are done for you. This also allows you to add your own personal touch. It is important to know that all shells are not created equal. Some are finished just to the dried-in spot, some have the entire exterior completed and some even have the rough in for plumbing and electrical completed. So make sure you are comparing apples to apples when you are choosing your builder. Depending on the completeness of the house, your costs are roughly $20,000 to $30,000 for a shell but be careful when choosing because things like windows are some of your highest costs. 

Contract a Tiny Home Builder to do the Whole Thing

This option is not too varied from building a foundation-based large home. This is for the person who has more money than time, or who doesn’t have the desire or ability to learn the skills necessary to build their new home. Your home comes to you move in ready. If you are looking for financing for your new home, this may be a better choice as lending institutions are keener on giving out money to professional builders over DIYers. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $45,000 and up. If you would like to get upgraded amenities and appliances, trim packages, and materials you can certainly spend considerably more.

Going Green Costs More Green

Another big motivator to make people want to go tiny is the ability to go green at the same time. Please do not confuse being Earth friendly with being wallet friendly. Eco-friendly insulation typically costs more and takes longer to source. Solar panels can be costly and having your house wired for DC or buying a inverter is an additional expense. Re-purposed materials do not usually come ready to use. Boards normally have nails to pull, stain and paint to strip and may even need to be planed to lose the warping. So what are you planning to spend on your tiny house? Or if you own one, did you come in under or over budget? Let me know in the comments below.

Published on 11/11/2022. Published in Tiny House Research.

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