Tiny House Mistakes

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.

Tiny House Mistakes #1: People think that if they’re having their tiny house built for them, they don’t need to know how it all works behind the scenes.

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.

Tiny House Mistakes #2: People approach their builder or a project with no clear design or starting point, making the process more expensive and time consuming.

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!

Tiny House Mistakes #3: People think that by the time their tiny house is built, they’ll be magically ready to make the transition.

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.

15 thoughts on “Tiny House Mistakes

  1. Alexis said:

    Glad read this. I can’t wrap my head around not designing and following the build. I live in an old motorhome and want to transition to a tiny house. I would want to know everything about the build. Thanks for writing this b

  2. Joan Giddings said:

    How heavy is a typical, comfortable full living tiny house weigh? Can a Ford 150 Eco boost pull any of the models?

    • Drew said:

      You need to check the towing capacity of your vehicle first. Your towing hitch kit that is bolted to the frame of your vehicle, should match or exceed that weight capacity. If your vehicle has a Max towing capacity of 3500 lbs gross; you will need to select a model with a gross weight of 3000 lbs maximum . If you are only pulling your trailer for short trips occasionally; then you can match the vehicles full tow capacity. Otherwise you’ll be stressing the brakes, geartrain , cooling system, and tires .This will cause early breakdowns.

  3. Amy said:

    Makes me very happy that I am already signed up for the workshop March 16th!

    • Dan Louche said:

      We are too Amy!! See you soon!

  4. Debbie said:

    This was a great article…So true..it took a total of two years to do all of this stuff before i got my tiny house in July 2018…but really love it now

    • Turd said:

      I’m nine years old I’m planning for my tiny house when I’m 18 years old I’m crazy

  5. Bryan said:

    After studying and planning and designing a tiny house for about a year now, the thing that still intimidates me most is drain plumbing. Interference with the trailer frame, plumbing everything like you would a normal code built home. It’s (seemingly) more tricky in a tiny home because there’s not much room to work around trailer frame members. If I can get past this successfully I will breath a sigh of relief. Comments on how to make this easier anyone?


  6. Richard Truhn said:

    These are some great thoughts, very helpful. Thank-you for sharing your experience.

  7. Jim said:

    Having lived in an Old 25′ Airstream for the past 3 summers, I can say that it does take some getting used to the smaller space when my girlfriend and I hit the road. It always amazes me the amount of planning and design that went in to my original layout of my 1966 Airstream each time we stay in it. The architect (s) that designed these old Airstream trailers really put lots of thought and detail and I am sure “feedback” from other trailer owners into every little storage compartment, closet bathroom etc. I have seen so many people take these original Airstreams and “gut them” only to have a bed , couch, and a counter top. My point is this- Learn from the Pro’s . No one will ever master anything on their first build. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

    I will be buying a set of plans for my Tiny House build. I have build enough vintage cars, catering trailers etc to know that there is a learning curve to everything. I retire from teaching in 7 years- my goal is to build this Tiny house myself over the next 1-2 years. Put in in my back yard as a 1 bedroom apartment. Rent it out to a responsible single person to pay for the cost of build. Then buy a piece of land in a rural setting and put the tiny house on that land. Now I have a paid for summer home.

  8. Chris H said:

    Nailed it. No pun intended.all good advise.

  9. Victoria Banaszak said:

    Been working on the downsizing a few years.It’s not easy and life can really get in the way.

  10. Sandra said:

    My plans are to retire in 3.4 years and intend on getting a TH to retire in. I absolutely LOVE these emails that I receive from you and try to absorb all of the material in them (although I must admit that it can be a little overwhelming at times lol). Thank you so very much for posting all that you do!

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