For the past 9 years, I’ve been designing and building tiny homes. In that time, I’ve seen EVERYTHING there is when it comes to people making the decision to go tiny. And I’ve noticed a lot of people making the same few mistakes over and over again, even though they are easily avoidable if you know what to look for. I see these same mistakes in my clients, at my live workshops, and when I consult with people. Here are some ideas to help educate you to avoid tiny house mistakes and be as prepared for your build as possible.
This is a big one. Many people decide to have someone else (a professional builder like me) build their tiny home because they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves. If this is your situation, you may not have the time, the bandwidth, or the inclination to build your own home. And that’s fine! That’s why we’re here to build tiny homes for you! But - the entire design and build process is much much smoother when the client knows what the foundations of building a tiny home are. It can save a lot of time and money, when the client comes into the process with a base knowledge of how the tiny house is put together. You don’t have to know exactly how to build your own house, but being INFORMED about how things are built in a basic way can really make your entire experience so much better. The other thing we see, unfortunately, is people get taken advantage of by dishonest and unqualified builders because they themselves didn’t know what to look for in a quality tiny house build, and by the time they realize what’s happened it’s too late. In order to have the best experience with a tiny house builder, it’s really important to have a basic understanding of how the tiny house works and what goes into building it. That’s why something like our Tiny House Workshops are so perfect for future tiny home dwellers, whether they are building it themselves or hiring a builder to work with. You’ll learn all of the building basics, what to look for in plumbing (so that you can make INFORMED decisions about what materials and systems you want to be used in your house), and how to spot any problems. You don’t want to get into a situation where your builder is using materials or things in your house that aren’t the right solution, but you didn’t know any better so you couldn’t give them your input.
Here’s another big mistake we see people make when they ask us about building a tiny home. When you approach your builder with no clear design outline, it can make the process more time consuming, and thus more expensive. People who start the tiny house process without their design mapped out end up getting stalled in the design process - they don’t have a good foundation, so we end up going back and forth about design decisions. On a custom design, this can really add up in both time and money. Although I have seen people successfully “build without plans”, the most successful tiny house builds have a good design foundation. You don’t have to have a degree in design in order to understand the basics - and it can end up saving you down the line. One of the issues we see is someone doesn’t have a good understanding of design principles, so they lay out their tiny home based on “something they saw online”, but not something that fits THEIR lifestyle and THEIR unique habits. Then a few months later, after spending thousands of dollars and many months or years on their tiny house build, they move out after a month or two or try to sell it because they realize the designs that worked for “someone” weren’t going to work for them. This tiny house mistake can be easily avoided. You just need a few lessons and examples about how to design a tiny house FOR YOUR NEEDS and the principles of design as they apply to tiny homes. Again, you don’t need to go to school for it like Mariah, but she can teach you all of the most important things you need to know so that you don’t end up in one of these situations!
Some people approach tiny living in a backwards way, and I see this again and again. People are ready to get started on their tiny house, they feel excited and gung-ho and ready to go! But they put the cart before the horse and don’t properly prepare for how long it can take to downsize your stuff and make this transition. Of course, we have seen people in extreme situations get rid of all of their stuff in two weeks, but that’s usually out of necessity or timing, not by choice. In reality, downsizing into a tiny home is a process that takes time. And I wish more people would start the process as soon as possible, so that when the time comes to move in to their tiny home, they are truly ready. If you don’t start this process now, you won’t magically be ready to go tiny when your house is built. If you’re ready to start thinking about your tiny house journey, it’s time to learn the foundations. You should have a basic understanding of building, design, and downsizing - even if your tiny house is in the future and not happening right away. So many of these tiny house mistakes can be avoided by a little fundamentals, and that’s why we put together our Tiny House Workshop. Whether you’re a few years away, hiring a builder, or ready to get down to business and build your own off-grid home on your own, a Tiny House Workshop provides lessons and demos on everything from choosing a trailer, to plumbing and electric, to composting toilets and solar power. We also have in-depth lessons on design and downsizing - two really important first steps you need to take.
Published on 7/8/2022. Published in Tiny House Construction, and Tiny House Research.