7 Tricks for Building a Tiny House for Cheap + One Thing You Should Never Skimp On

7 Tricks for Building a Tiny House for Cheap + One Thing You Should Never Skimp On

In my research, the average Tiny House costs around $25k to build. My house is no exception (click here for an explanation and breakdown of my Tiny House costs). Does that mean you have to build a $25k Tiny House? Certainly not. You CAN have a cheap Tiny House, built on a shoestring budget. Cheap is not necessary a bad word. If it bothers you, replace it with “thrifty.” In this article, I list SEVEN TRICKS THAT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY ON YOUR BUILD. Use all these tricks, or just a few, to stay within your budget.

7 Tricks for Building a “Cheap Tiny House”

1). Refurbish a Trailer

Manufactured Tiny House trailers can cost thousands of dollars (mine was $4,850). Often, it’s a big chunk of your budget. Macy Miller built her Tiny House for $11.416.16, and one reason that was possible is because she refurbished an old gooseneck trailer that she bought for $500.  If you have the skills, structural knowledge, and time to refurbish a used trailer, go for it! You can save thousands of dollars on your build.

Cheap Tiny House
Macy Miller and her $11k Tiny House

2). Source Reclaimed Materials

Deek Diedrickson (writer, instructor, and HGTV show host of “Tiny Home Builders”) is the master of cheap Tiny House construction. What’s his secret? He spends A LOT of time sourcing and restoring reclaimed materials. Refurbishing old items can save your budget and add character to your home. I used reclaimed materials on my Tiny House, such as my reclaimed crate staircase. Salvaged items can be great for saving you money, but they won’t save you time or labor. You’ll pay for it with sweat!

3). Build Smaller

This should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. The smaller you build, the less money you will spend on materials. Do you really need a 26-foot Tiny House? Perhaps an 18-foot Tiny House is better for your shoestring budget. Adhere to the saying: “If you build it, you will fill it.” The larger the house, the more belongings you will have. Building a smaller abode will save you more money in the long run.

The first Tiny House that was ever built was only 14 feet long!

Cheap Tiny House
Touring the first Tiny House ever built, by Jay Shafer

4). Install Less

Question everything you want to put in your Tiny House. Do you need an oven? A bathroom sink? Should your design have 10 windows, or will 6 be enough? Can you live with a DIY composting toilet ($5) or do you need a manufactured compost toilet ($900+)?  Appliances can blow your budget, especially smaller and more efficient appliances. If you really want to save money on your build, opt for used appliances or live without.

5). Skip the Wood Stove, Solar Power & Skylights

These three items made up $8.296 of my total budget of $31,360. That’s a lot of money! These items aren’t “needs.” They are “wants.” I love them, but I recognize they were splurge items. Choose where to save and where to splurge.  Keep the balance to stay within your budget.

6). Design Openings to Have Standard Sizes

My windows were all custom sizes because, at the time, Tumbleweed plans used only custom sized windows. Tumbleweed has since updated their plans with standard size windows, saving new DIY builders thousands of dollars.

Likewise, a custom door will cost you a lot of money, while standard size doors are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Entry doors are generally 30 inches, 32 inches, or 36 inches wide. Meg Stephens modified her Tiny House plans (which she designed as an architect) to have a standard door size. She then salvaged an old door and spent two days refinishing it.

Cheap Tiny House
Meg Stephen’s Tiny House with a reclaimed, standard size door

7). Find Sponsors

My sponsors saved me! Even though I say the total cost of my build was $30k+, some of that value was put up by sponsors. I have written an in-depth article about how to attract sponsors to your project, read it here. Another great resource is Andrew Odom’s (fellow Tiny Houser) eBook: Your Message Here and the sequel Put Your Message Here Too.

One Thing You Should NEVER SKIMP ON …

Structural integrity. Unless you are an engineer or expert carpenter, you should purchase a set of high-quality build plans that are PROVEN to withstand forces on the road. In fact, it’s a good idea to buy plans even if you are an expert. Tiny House construction can be different from regular construction. There is no point in building a cheap Tiny House if it falls apart. Buy plans, be safe and build a safe Tiny House.

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  1. billy
    September 22, 2020 / 7:04 am

    Hi, I’m in Northern California, I’m trying to understand the cost of property tax, if I buy land I world just pay property tax on the land and not the tiny house as it on wheels, so is that true for a mobile home on wheels? I would not plan on moving my tiny house, just trying to reduce my expensive and simplify life

    • User Avatar September 24, 2020 / 12:18 pm

      It really depends on the laws in your area. Does a Tiny House count as a permanent residence? Can you legally live in a Tiny House on wheels in your area? If so, you will pay property taxes on the house as well as the property. If not, your Tiny House will be considered an RV and a temporary dwelling. You will only pay yearly fees to the DMV and insurance for the Tiny House and property taxes on the land only. But, in this scenario, if you lived in it full time, you would be doing so illegally. For the most part, the government wants you to pay property taxes on house and land. If you’re not doing that, you’re either renting or living in an area that has special laws.

  2. Jessica
    March 3, 2019 / 2:59 pm

    We have a tiny house and we love it. The one problem we seem to be having though is excess moisture. We’ve put in exhaust fans but still have a problem. Any advice? Thanks!

    • User Avatar March 4, 2019 / 3:06 pm

      This is a common problem. I use a dehumidifier and always leave my skylight cracked. Luckily my windows are vinyl, so I don’t have moisture on the windows. Have you looked into getting a heat exchanger? The lunos, for example, is recommended by a lot of tiny housers.

  3. Aiden
    July 21, 2018 / 3:38 pm

    Hello, my name is Aiden. My husband snd I have a dream of traveling and off grid living. We’re still young. He’ll be 30 soon, and I’ll be 28. My husband is rejoining the army and we want to get this project done as smoothly and quickly as possible. As cheap as the wood frame work is we’d like steal for ours and would like to know any recommendations for companies that custom print steal framework and ship out to be assembled on your own?

  4. Molly
    December 10, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    Hi Jenna. I found your YouTube channel by total chance and am loving watching the videos. My interest in tiny homes started with “how cute is that?” and then morphed when I realized that tiny homes (or something similar) could possibly help my sons with autism to live somewhat independent lives while still being close enough that I can offer support when they need it. It will be years before we need to consider such options, but I want to learn as much as I can beforehand. Thank you for all of your articles and videos!

    • User Avatar December 12, 2017 / 8:36 pm

      Thank you for your comment and for reading/watching my content. It means a lot! It’s great to hear that you’re thinking of a Tiny House as a real solution for your son. Best of luck to you.

      • Becky
        August 15, 2020 / 7:07 pm

        I love your site & all the great information you share! I’m fascinated with tiny houses. I’m looking into the possibility of getting one for my son. He desperately wants to be independent but rent is very expensive here even with roommates. I have a small property that one would fit on perfectly but I need to figure out how to set it up & keep it very affordable. I’m hoping you can help with some questions. Could it be plugged into the outdoor outlet of the house on the property? What type of solar system are you using? Do you have any information on starting with a used flatbed trailer? Prefabbed just seems a little more than we could afford. Thank you

      • User Avatar September 3, 2020 / 10:35 am

        Hi Becky! All of the answers to these questions (and more) can be found on this blog. Try the search function. I will try to answer a few now. Yes, a Tiny House can be plugged into an outdoor outlet. Depending on your needs, a regular 120 outlet can be enough, but some Tiny Houses require a 50 amp RV plug-in. I was using the Goal Zero solar generator, but I now prefer the Kodiak by Inergy. You can find more info here: https://tinyhousegiantjourney.com/product/portable-solar-generator/

        I don’t have info on starting with a used flatbed trailer, except that I think it’s not worth the time and hassle you will put in to convert it. Tiny House specific trailers are worth the money, as they are rated for the weight and have a few other advantages, such as extra head height. I always say, if you have to spend money on one thing in your Tiny House build, it should be the structural integrity. Don’t skimp on the foundation! Safety matters! Here are other ways to save money – https://tinyhousegiantjourney.com/2017/02/02/cheap-tiny-house/

  5. September 18, 2017 / 12:22 am

    Your tiny house costs are ultimately up to the choices you make and what you need. Whatever the reason is you have your own decision which is best. Great tips from you and thanks for sharing. You may need a solution to find an ideal residence, find at http://www.biesterbos.nl; They are professionals developers and guarantee you a perfect house for you but don’t worry they are cost effective as well.

  6. Zane Ramjeawan
    August 7, 2017 / 10:14 am

    Hey everyone. I am from a small island in the Caribbean named Saint Lucia.. my dream is to start this tiny house movement here… how can you help me… with the process

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