A man is standing outside of a wooden tiny house at sunset. The surrounding landscape seems to be grassy wide hills.

What Is a Tiny House?

A tiny house, as its name suggests, is the smaller alternative to the traditionally large American-style home. This untraditional living space is lauded as being a financial blessing and environmental haven. Taking up less land, resources, and money to build, the tiny house is an increasingly popular choice for budget-minded and environmentally conscious people alike.  

These benefits and more will be explored below. 

The Tiny House Movement

The Tiny House Movement is both an architectural and a social movement that advocates downsizing living spaces and simplifying your home. For some, this type of lifestyle can help reduce the financial and emotional burden of having too much stuff. Tiny home enthusiasts are often DIY-ers, minimalists, and eco-friendly people. Tiny homes are a conscious choice for such people looking to live smaller.

For others, the tiny house movement can help provide affordable housing or a feasible transitional option for people experiencing homelessness. Taking up a small amount of land and costing very little, tiny homes present a great opportunity for people looking to get back on their feet. 

Defining a Tiny House

The typical American single-family home is around 1,600 to 1,650 square feet. Tiny homes, as the name suggests, seriously cut back on that footage. While there is no official definition of a tiny house, they are generally considered to be the smaller counterpart to the bigger American-styled home. The square footage of a tiny home is usually anywhere between 100 and 600 square feet. 

At the end of the day, every tiny house looks a little different with only one thing remaining consistent — they’re small.

What is the Maximum Square Footage of a Tiny House?

Although there is no concrete definition of a tiny house, building one typically requires abiding by specific maximum square footage. Building codes, zoning, and trailer regulations are the source of these strict guidelines, which will be explained below. Typically, you won’t see a tiny house exceed 400 square feet — and rarely will you see one exceed 600 square feet. 

For the most part, tiny homes are built on trailers. This style of tiny house is referred to as THOW, or “tiny house on wheels.” The maximum dimensions allowed for building a house on a trailer fall around 8 feet 6 inches wide, 13 feet 6 inches tall, and 40 feet long. However, you won’t typically see a tiny house longer than 32 feet, as this makes for a much heavier load and thus a more difficult transport. 

While a tiny house can be built on a foundation, it is subject to local building codes if it is. Many municipalities require a minimum home size and most tiny homes just aren’t that size. If the tiny home were to meet that minimum size, it may no longer be considered a tiny home. 

Benefits of a Tiny House

The benefits of a tiny house are wide-ranging. From financial to environmental, there’s no lack of advantages to this style of home. Of course, a tiny home isn’t for everyone. If you’re living with children or pets, the space can feel very small. But if it’s just you, or you and a partner, a tiny home may be the perfect fit. 

Financial Benefits

The most outright benefit of a tiny house is perhaps its cost savings. Since the space of a tiny house is so much smaller than the average American house, you save on all sorts of costs. 

The first savings come with the initial cost of the house. Whether you’re building or buying, you save money. If you’re building, there are fewer building materials to buy, and if you’re buying, there’s a smaller down payment, as well as mortgage payments. 

From your utility bills to your rent, there are lower upkeep costs too. Since you’ll be consuming less energy, your gas and electric bills are lowered. Tiny houses that aren’t on a foundation also feature lower property costs and taxes.

Environmental Benefits

Another benefit to a tiny house is its environmental impact compared to a bigger house. These homes require less material to build, take up less land, consume less energy, and produce fewer emissions. Plus, if your tiny home is on wheels, you can move without leaving much of an environmental impact on the land you were previously on. 

You can also choose sustainable building materials if you’re looking to construct a tiny home from the ground up. 

Minimalism Benefits

Tiny homes go hand-in-hand with minimalism — a movement to live only with the things you truly need. Living in a tiny home can prompt you to turn towards minimalism as not many items will fit in this style of house. 

A tiny home and a minimalist lifestyle can allow you to focus only on your priorities. This may help reduce stress, increase productivity, and of course, keep your home clean and organized. Minimalism also usually means spending less money, allowing you to cut financial expenses and increase your savings.

Building a Tiny House 

If a tiny house sounds like a good fit, you may be wondering how you can build one. You’ll want to find the right building materials, a good location, and explore different types of tiny houses, floor plans, or design elements, among other important criteria. 

As for building materials, you can usually find tiny homes constructed out of steel or wood. Steel buildings are praised for their durability and sustainability. These can be placed on a foundation or wheels — whichever is best for your needs. If you’re looking to build a mother-in-law suite, a foundation may be the way to go. But if you’re building for yourself, wheels can give you the option to move house whenever and wherever you desire. 

You may also want to look into installing insulation, a vapor barrier, windows, subfloor, and utilities, among other core necessities. As for utilities, you may need a water heater, fridge, shower, toilet, light fixtures, gas lines, and HVAC. Hiring a professional is highly recommended for all of these activities. 

Cost of a Tiny Houset

One of the most important considerations to make when building a tiny house is cost. While several factors can influence the final cost of a tiny house, you can almost always find it to be less expensive than a traditional full-size house. A $200,000 house can easily add up to more than a million over your lifetime when factoring in the down payment, principal, interest, taxes and insurance, maintenance, and major repairs or improvements.  

The factors influencing the cost of building a tiny house include the building materials, size, and appliance installations. For instance, the cost of a metal portable building may differ from that of a wooden structure. Depending on where you park a mobile tiny house, you may need to pay for land rental and insurance as well. Upkeep is another cost to consider, but given the comparatively small size of these styled homes, it tends to be much less expensive than a full-size house. 

All in all, tiny homes are a popular choice for people looking to live simpler, greener, and of course, smaller. You can save money and live intentionally without ever staying tethered to one location. If this style of house sounds like the right fit for you, don’t hesitate to build your own tiny home.