What does a Tiny House Cost?

What does a Tiny House Cost?

“Building an expensive tiny home goes against the tiny house movement.” This statement keeps popping up on online forums, and it annoys me. People love to preach about the backbone of the tiny house movement, but tiny houses are as diverse as the people who own them. There isn’t one idea that encompasses this movement, because going tiny means something different from one person to the next. In this article, I’m going to prove that tiny homes are NOT expensive. I’m also going to realistically show you a tiny house cost breakdown. Let’s do this!


Skip to my Tiny House Cost Breakdown

Me & My Tiny House

Why do people go tiny?

Below I’ve listed a few examples of why people go tiny. No one fits into every single category, and that’s okay.

  • Affordability
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Minimalism
  • Off-grid capabilities
  • RV with year round comfort for all weather / locations
  • To use as temporary housing, guest home or a vacation house
  • Survivalist house in case of emergency
  • Exemption of property taxes
  • Non-toxic or chemical free home
  • Ability to design an artistic home with quality materials
  • Ability to build your own home in short amount of time

Affordable housing is one reason people go tiny, but it’s not the ONLY reason. 

Why are tiny houses so expensive?

Are they though? Let’s compare the price of standard homes, RVs, and mobile homes (or trailers). Tiny homes fall somewhere in between these categories.

I think the above averages speak for themselves, but you can also build a tiny house for less! Through my research, I’ve found the average tiny home is built for $25,000 in materials. That’s makes tiny homes the clear winner for affordability.

Common arguments I hear (& will crush):

“The price per square footage in a tiny house is outrageous!”

This argument is ridiculous. This about it, nothingness (or the empty space in between necessary space) is not the expensive part of a house.  Adding square footage is cheap! A 125 square foot tiny house will most likely have all the same systems (kitchen, bathroom, heat, etc.) as a 1,000 square foot house, just in a smaller package. As square footage goes up, the cost per square foot goes down. 

Every inch matters in a tiny house. Who can say that about their 2,000 square foot home? To properly design a tiny home you will need to purchase compact appliances. Small, energy efficient appliances are expensive. In a standard size home, you can purchase the cheapest appliances on the market and you will hardly notice the difference.

“I purchased a 1,500 sq ft home for $40k! Why should a tiny house cost more?”

First of all: LOCATION. If you purchased a home in Los Angeles it would cost more than if you bought the same home in the rural midwest. Tiny homes cost the same amount regardless of location.

Secondly, the maintenance, insurance, taxes and the cost of heating and cooling would be far greater in a 1,500 square foot house than a tiny house. You need to take that cost into consideration. Not to mention the cost of your own time. Cleaning and repairing a large home is time-consuming. Time is money.

Thirdly, see argument #1.

“I can build a tiny house for $7,000 in materials!”

Congratulations, you must be a resourceful and skilled individual! That being said, there is a difference between a $10k tiny house and a $20k tiny house (in the appliances for example). And, unless you have a warehouse of bulk construction materials, you probably spent a lot of time gathering and repairing reclaimed items. Nothing wrong with that, but time is money.

The appliances in my tiny house alone cost over $10,000! A tiny home built on a shoestring budget would have to be frugal with their choices. Also, many lower budget builds require restoring a used trailer, such as Macy Miller’s $11,416 tiny home. Macy is a trained architect and she received several items on her build for free (such as her windows). Macy’s tiny home is fantastic, but it’s also an anomaly. Not everyone has her skills, connections, and patience for restoration.

“Tiny homes are being built for the homeless. They must be cheap!”

Tiny homes for the homeless are wonderful. I fully support the effort many people are making to help others in need. That being said, tiny-homes-for-the-homeless are a completely different animal. Here is a photo from Opportunity Village:

Tiny House Costs

These structures are built with donated materials. Often the electrical and insulation is very basic, and they do not have plumbing. The shapes are simple in architectural terms. I love the concept, but there is no point comparing the price tag of these dwellings to average tiny house cost breakdown. Speaking of…

The Average Tiny House is:

  • $25,000 in materials. You can argue that, but this is my estimate after speaking with dozens of tiny housers
  • Built with high-end materials and appliances
  • Unique and custom in design
  • NOT concerned with building the cheapest home possible. Instead, they want an affordable lifestyle. There is a difference.

The fact is, the average tiny homeowner would rather spend $20,000 than $10,000 to build the home of their dreams. That extra $10k might afford them better appliances, spray foam insulation, more windows, skylights, solar power, a wood stove, off-grid capabilities, a custom countertop, etc.

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Tiny House Cost

Tiny House Cost Breakdown

Below I’ve listed my tiny house materials from the most expensive to the least expensive item. I hope this guide is helpful in creating a realistic budget for your future tiny home.

ITEM

PRICE

NOTES

Tumbleweed Trailer 

$4,850

Including registration fee.

Kimberly Wood Stove & Flue

$4,495

Splurged for the aesthetics, efficiency and off-grid capabilities. Read my review.

Windows & Skylights

$4,000

Custom sizes. $$

Structural Lumber & Sheathing

$3,000

Estimated

Portable Solar System

$2,800

Brand: Goal Zero. 4 panels at 380 watts, 1250w solar generator, & cables.

Buy Here: Solar Generator

Siding

$2,200

Reclaimed siding purchased from retailer

Insulation

$1,200

Rigid Foam. Read my build tips here.

Water Heater

$1,125

Brand: Precision Temp. Buy Here. Read my review.

Compost Toilet

$900*

*$25 off with this link. Brand: Nature’s Head.  Read my review.

Refrigerator

$870

Brand: Dometic. 3-way power. Buy here.

Roofing

$800

Brand: Onduvilla

Build Plans

$769

Tumbleweed Cypress-20 Overlook Plans

Plumbing

$700

Estimated for all elements. More info here.

Mattress

$450

I love sleep. Sleep is good.

Shower 

$440

Shower tub, fixtures, and shower fan

Light Fixtures

$400

 Read about my DIY copper lamp.

Front Door

$385

Bought new and trimmed to size. Read more here.

Propane Heat Blanket

$380

For extremely cold climates. Buy HereRead more here.

Flooring

$330

Engineered hardwood

Propane

$310

Tanks, regulator, and piping. Break down on my materials list.

Wood Slab Countertops

$300

And a lot of work! They sure are pretty.

Kitchen Sink & Faucet

$220

Stovetop  $176  Brand: Atwood. Buy Here..

TOTAL COST:

$31,160

“Holds onto your butts!”– Samuel L. Jackson, Jurassic Park

*For a detailed list of the above items (and more), click here

You may notice some items are missing from the above list, such as hardware, electrical, and miscellaneous build materials. These items, as well as my decor and furniture, are not included in the total. I also hired a finish carpenter, plumber and electrician intermittently during my build. The cost of labor is not included in this total. The REAL total cost to build my tiny home is somewhere between $35,000 – $40,000. I did receive several sponsorships which saved thousands of dollars. Thank you! If you’re interested in gathering sponsors for your build, read this article.

My tiny house cost breakdown is more than the average. Why?

Because I built my dream tiny home. It’s okay if my tiny house cost breakdown is more than yours. It’s mine.

I would never consider my tiny house to be outrageously expensive. Instead, I focused on quality over quantity. I splurge when I wanted to and saved when I wanted to. My tiny house lifestyle affords me a smaller footprint, mobility, and flexibility. It also allows me to work part time and travel the world. That’s real freedom and affordability.

I don’t think my house “missed the point” or that “I am in the tiny house movement for the wrong reasons.” In fact, I would never say that about another tiny houser. You have achieved your goal of owning a tiny house, and that’s wonderful.

What do you think of my REAL Tiny House cost breakdown? 




If my Tiny House Cost Breakdown has helped you in some way, consider making a small donation. This is how I am able to maintain this website. Even $5 helps! Thank you for your support!

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102 Comments

  1. August 6, 2017 / 1:36 pm

    This is is great, at last a proper step in the right direction in Tiny House cost analysis. Also please keep in mind the hidden costs as pertaining to the diy projects, including your all the tools, construction plans,material delivery cost, cost of fuel to and from lumber yards, hardware stores, etc., saw blades, drill bits, screws, glue, liquid nails, hurricane straps, fasteners, bolts, washers, nails, paint or stain and accessories, clear coat, ladders, scaffolding, and misc. parts and fittings.

  2. Edna Hudson
    August 6, 2017 / 7:10 am

    Hi. Thanks for this breakdown. I am embarking on building Tiny Homes for homeless veterans. I will donate so you can continue sharing. Blessings!

  3. July 27, 2017 / 3:51 am

    I have been seeing a lot about the tiny house movement lately and I love it. I think the houses are so cute and have everything that you need. I love the idea of minimalism when it comes to housing. I hope one day i can have a tiny house of my own. Thanks for sharing!

  4. July 18, 2017 / 10:13 am

    Thank you for listing all this. I am almost done building my tiny house also a Tumbleweed 18′ house. It has been almost 4 years since I started however unless I hired someone to help, I’ve been on my own. I will be living off grid and I don’t have a lot of knowledge about solar systems but you sharing your experiences with that has been extremely helpful for me. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey from start to now!

  5. June 30, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    Perfect! As a contractor myself, I am constantly explaining to people why tiny houses cost so much. I may just point people to your blog post now!

  6. June 23, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    I just came across your blog and thank you so much for this! This is so helpful to me with estimating costs and understanding what a tiny house needs. I’m very grateful to have come across your blog! I’m hoping to get a tiny house myself and I would like to do some stuff myself, but I have zero construction experience. Do you have any advice for people who don’t have much experience as far as what can be done oneself and what should be left to the experts?

    • June 27, 2017 / 10:35 am

      I’m not sure what your skill level is, but many people without ANY skills have built a Tiny House. Keep in mind that it’s a huge project and it will be frustrating at times. I would recommend hiring a plumber, electrician, and a roofer if you don’t feel confident.

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