Five Lessons Learned Building My First Tiny House

This time last year, Dan and I embarked on a shed style, tiny house shell for a customer. Dan, of course, has been through this a time or 20, but for me, this was to be my first tiny house build. I was excited and anxious to see the man who I view as the “Zen Master” of tiny house building, Dan Louche, in action. There was much for me to learn so now that we are complete. I thought I would share my top five tiny house lessons learned.

Leveling and Squaring is Important

Let me say this once, very loud and very clear, “Leveling and squaring your house is important.” Ok, so I said it twice, but it is that important. Once you have your trailer jacked up off of the ground, you have to get it leveled. Then you can start on that sub floor. You have to stop and square it up before sheathing the floor as well as after you frame out the walls.  Because once you place the sheathing on the walls, there is no turning back. The smallest difference in level and square can really snowball into a problem that will cause you major time and money.

READ MORE: Straight and Stable: The Ins and Outs of Tiny House Leveling 

Tool Organization and Material Preparation is Essential

The biggest time waster during most builds is not having everything you need when you begin the project. Sure, we had a materials list, but even we would forget a fastener here or a fitting there and have to run to the store. If this happens to you too often, you’ll be spending your afternoon running back and forth to Home Depot.  The same thing goes for tools. You might have all of your tools laid out, but make sure it is located near the job site. A tool table is a great solution for keeping track of them. Set up a place where you know all of your tools go, and make sure you return the tools to it when you are done with them.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Tiny House Materials Guide

Tools Take Practice

When it comes time to work with tools, not everyone learns at the same speed. Just because you own all the tools of a master carpenter, doesn’t mean that you are going to operate as one. Understand your capabilities (or lack thereof) and know that this is going to take some time. Don’t be disappointed, everyone starts somewhere. For me, I mastered the mitre saw immediately but noticed my circular saw skills are definitely in need of a little fine tuning.

Allow Enough Time

Speaking of time, give yourself plenty of it for everything. No matter how fast you think you can get a task accomplished, something will force you to take more time than expected. Try to set yourself task oriented goals instead of time based goals. For instance, instead of assuming it will take one day to finish the framing, tell yourself that you are just going to work on framing until it is done. Time based goals normally end up making you rush, which can become a safety concern for everyone on the jobsite.

Be Prepared to Face Your Fears

Building a tiny house is not something that you normally do. So you are going to come across things that you are scared of. Maybe you (like me) don’t necessarily want to be up on a roof. Well in order to sheath it and lay metal upon it, you are going to get up there. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to circumnavigate those fears, you just have to find them.  For instance, if heights are a bother, a well placed scaffolding can really place your mind at ease. Placing your ladder with two rungs above the roof line makes getting onto it much easier and less scary.

READ MORE: Face Your Fear: Tiny House Heights

Bonus: Prepare for a Sense of Accomplishment

You did it! The best thing that I took away from my tiny house build was a huge sense of pride. Sure, I have built other projects, and I have a learned set of skills (although 20 years ago), I was still pretty amazed at what we accomplished with our own hands in a very small amount of time. Be prepared to take pictures and high five everyone within the area, because you just built your first tiny house!

What lessons have you learned during your tiny home build? let me know in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “Five Lessons Learned Building My First Tiny House

  1. Ed O. Bridgman said:

    I want to experience building a tiny house with Dan.

  2. Ingrid Stanway said:

    I had the same experience with my build so far….. Everything has taken twice if not 3x as long as expected….. And the biggest fear I faced was windows…..I was terrified of not getting them right…..the hardest thing I’ve done was mount French doors. I recommend an expert for doors….im still having problems because I didn’t know what I was doing! Huge learning curve. Loving it!

  3. Teri Foster said:

    Tom, I am NOT going to build my own TH, but if I did I would be so grateful for your advice. Did you see the Tiny House Summit where Deek kept saying “level your trailer” every 3 minutes? Great minds think alike! Thank you for your post.

  4. Jacklyn L. White said:

    Just wondering, if there is a budget for someone on a fixed income? I know if I can get one built, it would save money on rent and all costs of living. I was just wondering if you had any good ideas to get all of us fixed income people on the “Tiny House Movement”, road?

  5. Laura Corkill Broussard, Lafayette Louisiana said:

    Just received the “Tiny House Design & Construction Guide” book by Dan Louche.
    in the mail today. So excited to start reading. Thank you so much for all your support
    for all of us wanting to go tiny house.

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