What does it cost to build a tiny house?

Tiny houses, like all houses, run the gambit when it comes to how much they cost.  The most important variables to consider are: size, materials, and labor.

While planning BIG Art; Tiny House, we made a few important decisions:

  1. The house is 20 ft long (obviously the smaller it is, the less it costs).
  2. Because we were working on a tight timeline, we used all new  materials.
    1. While reclaimed materials are wonderful and can be free, the amount of time and labor that goes into preparing them was (by our reckoning) way outside our projected timeline.
  3. All of the labor for the exterior was volunteered.
    1. 800 hours went into building the exterior of BIG Art; Tiny House.  By most estimates, an accomplished carpenter could build a tiny house (not just the exterior!) in 500 hours.  When people are stunned by the $50,000 price tag of professionally built tiny houses, it is because they aren’t accounting for the labor of the professional who built it.  The materials may only cost $25,000, but in any project the total cost is usually at least double the materials.

The projected cost for BIG Art; Tiny House was $25,000.  As of the end of 2015, we have officially completed the exterior of the tiny house and have spent $14,300 of the projected budget which breaks down like this:

Trailer 4,200
Framing Lumber 2,200
Windows 3,200
Roof 900
Siding (wood and paint) 1,050
Door 750
Additional Building Materials 2000
TOTAL EXTERIOR 14,300

As you can see, the most expensive parts of tiny house building are the trailer (a.k.a. foundation) and the windows.  While it’s possible to skimp on these areas and spend far less, we believe that this is where you want to place your money.  What’s the point of a beautifully built house if the foundation rusts out and the windows crack/leak?

You may also be wondering about the “Additional Building Materials” category.  These are all the things that you don’t realize you need to buy until you’re standing in front of your house and you can’t figure out why there’s still a hole in it or why two things won’t stay together.  They include, but are not limited to, the following and they add up quick:

  • Nails or screws
  • Flashing
  • Caulk.  Lots and lots of caulk.
  • Basic hand tools
    • All of our power tools were loaned by volunteers involved in the project, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t need a few more exacto blades.
  • Zip tape
  • Pencils
  • Gloves and protective wear

Keep your eye out for Part 2 of our budget: the interior!  Hopefully this will come out to right around $10,500 but either way we’ll know by June of 2016.

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