The Five Biggest Tiny House Building Mistakes

Let’s be honest here: we are all human and we all make mistakes. And knowing that, you can prepare yourself for some of them, and there are others that you are just going to have to learn as you go. But in the interest of hoping we can all share knowledge and prevent a few of the biggest mistakes from happening, here are the five biggest tiny house mistakes that you will encounter while building.

Headers

Window and doors put a definite gap in your support structure. You are basically taking a perfectly good wall and putting a huge hole in it. So you have to find a way to distribute the weight around it. That is where headers come in. One of the biggest things people forget is to put a header in. Dan covers headers in his book, The Tiny House Design and Construction Guide.

Going Cheap

tiny house mistakes - trailerI know. I hear you. The tiny house movement was built on being affordable and doings things as thriftily as you could. But there are some places you just shouldn’t skimp. For instance, if you use OSB instead of plywood, you will save some money, but you are not going to be sacrificing in other ways such as water resistance. More to come on this as Dan is currently working on a 30 day experiment to help demonstrate this exact thing. Also, you need to be EXTREMELY careful when repurposing an old trailer, especially an RV trailer. Most of these trailers are not meant to handle the weight of a tiny house. And that can be a real problem once you are built out.

Trailer Width

This is probably my most heard request: I want to have a trailer at the maximum legal road limits of 102”. There is a reason that our standard trailers are at the 90” width. This is to allow you to fit everything inside that max width of 102”. If you build your walls all the way out on the end of the 102” trailer, you are going to go WAY over the limit. You have to account for sheathing (1/2”), outside siding (1/2”), window and door trim (1/2”), drip edge (1/2”) and your roof overhang (at least 3”). Now times that all by two to account for each side. Certainly if you are doing a shed style roof and thin metal siding, you can get away with a little bit less than those measurements, but you will still go over if you are starting with a 102” trailer.

Using Heavy Materials

I know that Dan constantly preaches that we use regular construction for our tiny homes just like you would find in large homes, but comes with a couple of caveats. For instance, you do not want to use some materials like sheetrock or a large amount of tile in your home because of the weight. (Take it from me – the guy who moved 1200 lbs. of tile yesterday!) That doesn’t mean you can’t use some of these materials, but just be on the sparing side. There are beautiful materials that mock granite, hardwood and tile and are a tenth the weight. Also, stay away from tar roof shingles. They are really heavy to work with, too.

Poor Planning

Tiny House Mistakes - PlansWe hammer this point home a lot in our articles, but it is very true: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Whether you buy plans or draw them up yourself, know what you are going for. If you have a plan ahead of time, you can purchase all of your materials together and get discounts along the way. Also, building a tiny house is a huge time sink. You will figure on working an eight hour day for framing, but after three runs to Home Depot and forgetting two missed steps, you are actually only half done after 10 hours. Be prepared! Wasn’t that the scouts marching creed?

What tiny house mistakes have you come up against while building? How did you conquer them? Let us know in the comments below.

7 thoughts on “The Five Biggest Tiny House Building Mistakes

  1. Kyle Phillips said:

    Currently building. One framing mistake I made, was deviating from center. I would start out with 16″ or 24″ on center spacing in mind (depending on the wall, floor, roof, etc). If a stud landed too close to where a window support was, I tended to move it over (thinking It would support the overall structure better). However, now that I’m adding plywood I’ve created a lot more work for myself by having to cut most sheets of plywood so that they fit. I did also have to go back and add certain studs (or even move a few) so that my loft support beams would line up straight (luckily, I caught that mistake before I stood up my walls). Lesson learned. Stay on center, just makes everything easier.

  2. Jennifer said:

    I am interested in purchasing plans. I have been searching the web and have not found the exact plans I am looking for which includes either a flat or much less tapered ceiling above the loft (as well as other style requirements) I thought it would be easy to find a company who offers a service of creating a digital model of a personally designed home, but it seems construction software is aimed to bringing in commercial clients, at least what I’ve found on my search so far. Also, having read information on building a sturdy home capable of travel has me realizing that working with a company on construction plans would have to be pretty specific to tiny home requirements. What are my options here? I’m planning to work with a builder, but I want to really understand the building process of a quality standard before we get started. Visually seeing the plans of my home would help.

  3. Allan Stewart said:

    You guys are so helpful–however my memory is nt–so I need all the books you have on the building of Tiny Houses—I live on the west coast of Canada–in a remote valley and need to do most things myself–Thus the need for your bks –I ordered one -has nt come yet—hopefully soon–I live on a Bench that a river is planning to take at any time—If I could get a list and prices it would be nice

  4. Ben said:

    Biggest mistake: not double checking the work of the builder before continuing. We bought a tiny house shell and on the surface, everything the builder said was correct and true, but after a while we noticed things that were different or that we should have asked about before bringing it home to finish.

  5. Bryana freiter said:

    What is an alternative to sheetrock? I know that it’s heavy but but what can I substitute it with. Also when adding wood or solid panels to a wall, do you think it’s best to create non-uniform surfaces for movement?

    • Tom Bastek said:

      You are looking at paneling or wood interior siding. There is not as much movement as you would think.

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