This part of our website is currently under construction (don't worry, we may not be great at building websites, but we're excellent home builders!). The details below were for the first tiny house we ever sold. We'll be updating this in the near future with info about our new, better builds.
Materials, Their Costs and Construction Notes
This tiny house is 241 total square feet with 192 SF downstairs and 49 SF in the loft.
Here's a list of the materials we used to build it, how much those materials cost and details about how we constructed it. We've grouped small items into bigger buckets so when you see, for example, framing lumber at $2,989.25 that not only includes the lumber itself but also a bunch of nails, screws and other fasteners.
We also suggest reading this right before bed, particularly for you insomniacs, because this should put you right to sleep.
20 ft. x 8.5 ft. Tiny House Trailer
The trailer Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 14,000 lbs. The tiny house is approximately 12,000 lbs., which includes the weight of the trailer itself, leaving you more than 1,000 lbs. for furnishings and belongings. Note that the GVWR is the maximum weight when towing the trailer. There is no issue far exceeding that when the tiny house is stationary so if your fantasy is to put a hot tub in the living room... actually, no, we beg you, please don't put a hot tub in the living room!
One other thing about towing... The tiny house is road-legal with a 13'6" height, 8'6" width and 24' length. The trailer has brake lights and brakes that are connected with a standard tow attachment. Hopefully needless to say, but it's a fairly high profile house so if you're towing it yourself you would want to check the weather to make sure wind is not high on the day you're traveling.
Windows and Sliding Door
The windows and sliding door are dual pane and all have screens. Note that we have a cover for the front picture window that easily attaches for use when you're towing the tiny house so that rocks and other road debris can't impact the glass.
And we cannot do the view from the living room justice with a photograph. It has a good "I'm indoors, but feel like I'm outdoors" feel.
Two 12-volt batteries, four 310-watt panels (1.24kW total), an inverter, and the charge controller. The batteries are sealed, require no maintenance and are safe for transport (including on airplanes as if that matters!).
This size solar system could be considered overkill for a tiny house. One of your intrepid tiny house builders has comfortably lived in a 2,000 SF off-grid house with a system that's half this size for the past 15 years. That said, it's nice to not have to worry about running out of power so we erred on the side of a larger system when you want to use a power tool or are addicted to bright spaces at nighttime.
Subfloor is 2x6s, walls are 2x4s, roof rafters are 2x6s and the loft joists are 2x4s. If you've read blogs from other folks who have built tiny houses many people use 2x6s for their lofts, which decreases the available headroom below and/or above the loft. We used 2x4s to buy back some headroom and just put those 2x4s at 14 inches on center so that we can safely carry the load of the mattress, you fine folks sleeping up there and canine or feline friends who might join you.
Roof and Siding Metal (yes, it's black, but, no, it does not make the inside an oven!)
Black attracts heat, it's true! Well, this black exterior is magical because it performs extremely well on hot summer days (disclaimer: not literally magical like Harry Potter or Gandolf).
We measured the internal temperature on several hot summer days here in northern New Mexico. On the hottest day we were able to get a reading we closed and covered the windows first thing in the morning when it was already 68 degrees inside the tiny house. We then let the closed-up tiny house bake during the day when the exterior high temperature reached 95 degrees. The highest the temperature reached inside under those conditions, at roughly 530PM, was 78 degrees. For those of you who don't keep track of such things, that's coincidentally the same temperature the US Dept. of Energy recommends you set your AC to on hot days for max efficiency and to spare the electrical grid a meltdown. And, yes, it's a New Mexico summer before monsoons roll through, so our test was a "dry heat."
All that said, our tiny house does not have AC and so if you're planning on living in it in Phoenix in the summer you would have to outfit it with AC (does anyone living in Phoenix actually live in a tiny house? You could be the first!). You should be able to hire an HVAC professional to install a mini-split unit for $1,000-$2,000 depending on your location. We don't currently offer add-ons, but the space above the picture window is where we recommend putting it. And of course you have to be mindful of the electricity necessary to run a mini-split with solar so please understand the electrical draw and its implications for your daily usage before you pick an AC solution.
Did you read that commentary above on the black exterior roof and siding? If so, you were probably saying to yourself "well you could set the outside of a tiny house on fire and it wouldn't get hot inside if you insulate it well enough" (WARNING: don't ever set the outside of your tiny house on fire!). Speaking of which...
The floor is R25 insulation. The walls are R13, which is a standard for walls throughout the US and nearly as good as you can get with 2x4 wall construction. The roof is insulated with R28 PLUS a radiant barrier. A radiant barrier does not add R-value, but it's not all about R-value. A radiant barrier, like it sounds, works to limit radiating heat whereas typical insulation limits conduction so the combination of the two is very good at moderating the internal temperature.
Nature's Head Composting Toilet
This is the Cadillac (or Tesla?) of composting toilets. Read some reviews (oh man, right, we are not huge Amazon fans these days, and we also don't fully trust their reviews, but we figure with so many reviews for the toilet that you get a decent sense of its pros and cons). Now back to that toilet...
The smell does not escape and that's (maybe needless to say?) important in a tiny house. If you're reading this and saying it doesn't matter because your s*** doesn't stink, well, congratulations. But you might need to ask if you're really being honest with yourself!
Electrical Rough Materials and Switches
Solar powers the lights and electronics in this tiny house, but if you're on-grid you can simply run a (high-quality) exterior extension cord to it and plug it in, bypassing the solar altogether.
The wiring itself is 12-gauge romex, there are independent circuits for the bathroom, kitchen and living spaces, there are dimmers on most of the light switches, and the lights are LEDs so they draw as little power as possible.
Plumbing Rough Materials
All pex for the water systems. If you love copper, we understand, but pex is very lightweight and in a tiny house every pound matters. Propane lines are black pipe with standard flex lines at the hot water heater, cooktop and heater.
Every inch of the exterior walls and roof* is covered in plywood (except for the windows of course), making the house's envelope extremely strong. The stair risers and treads are also plywood.
*We actually used OSB on the roof. Is the distinction really worth more text on this page??? Your tiny house builder thought so when he read what was written here and so in the interest of keeping him happy...
Dickinson Cozy Propane Heater
Dickinson is an extremely well-regarded company that specializes in products for marine use (marine as in boats, not semper fi). This stove is actually a boat stove, but is very popular with the tiny house crowd. It uses a pound every 4 hours on high heat and to do the math for you that means that you could keep it running continuously on high for a bit more than 3 days without running out of propane ("ha ha," you say "we caught you bending the truth! It wouldn't last 3 days if you were also using the hot water heater and the cooktop at the same time!" To which we reply "touché").
One comment on propane tanks: go big. Getting a bigger tank than the typical 20-lb. bbq tank is sensible to avoid the hassle of having to swap it out frequently, particularly in the winter when you're using more heat and hot water.
In the name of efficiency we were originally going to use Ikea cabinets for the tiny house, which we have used in countless home projects over the years, but Ikea fell victim to Covid supply chain issues so we actually built all the cabinetry ourselves except for the hardware for the drawers and pulls, which we were able to source from Ikea.
Bathroom Tile, Grout, Thinset
Not much to tell you about this other than the fact that we opted for tile, and its added weight and labor installation time, because those plastic shower walls/floors are just not our cup of tea. But as you can see the small white hex tile is hardly expensive and though it took some time to install all of it we hope the end product speaks for itself!
40-Gallon Water Tank
Any tiny house builder will tell you that there's a trade-off between water-gallon-tank size and available space. We tried to provide a reasonably-sized tank and an easy means of supplementing that tank by making it simple to connect an external water source. Takes about 10 seconds to connect a hose to our tank with the external connector.
Important to know, though, that the average American uses 82 gallons of water per day. If having a tank that's half that scares you, don't let it! If you're living in a tiny house you're not taking 30-minute showers, leaving the water running while brushing your teeth, or using a hose to wash the driveway. Our bet is that every few days, for two people, you would have to fill this 40-gallon tank. If your tiny house is going to stay in a fixed location for any period of time we recommend connecting a larger external tank or water source. And if you're going to be on the road regularly then you will need to empty the tank before you tow the tiny house anyway (because water is heavy (~8 lbs. per gallon!) and so you will eat up a lot of towing weight when the tank is full).
There is nothing particularly special about this fridge except for its size; it's neither small nor large, just about perfect for the needs of a tiny house dweller or two. And the energy usage is low for a fridge, which, at the risk of repeating ourselves, is important for off-grid living with solar.
The flooring is a pre-finished laminate thus the "wood" in quotes. It fit the bill for this tiny house build because it's easy-to-install, reasonably-priced and, we think anyway, nice looking.
Butcher Block Countertop
Not too much to say here except that the butcher block was sealed and sealed again and then sealed a third time--we've run into too many homeowners who have opted for butcher block countertops only to complain a year later as moisture and food remnants get trapped in them. Every few years you'll want to just take note of the countertops and make sure the sealer is still doing its job and if it's not just take a few minutes to reseal them.
Camplux Hot Water Heater
This Camplux unit straddles the line between cost and quality. If you read about it you'll see some mixed reviews, but a lot of those are because the installation instructions for this unit aren't the most straightforward. Multiple friends of ours have successfully been using this unit for many years out on the Taos mesa, which is why we ultimately felt good about using it.
Primer and Paint
We're at a loss for words about how to describe paint and primer other than to say it rolls on or is applied with a brush (you don't say!) and periodically you may need to retouch it when it gets scuffed. If you have any ideas about how to spice up a conversation about paint, please let us know.
There are less expensive and equal-quality cooktops available and if not for Covid we probably would've chosen one of those, but supply chains across the world have been impacted by Covid and so we just purchased a quality brand that was available. In the future we will probably try and cut down on cost by installing a slightly-less-expensive cooktop.
Ikea Bathroom Vanity, Sink and Faucet
They were useless for kitchen cabinets for the better part of the Covid lockdown, but this small vanity/sink/faucet combo that one of us has been using in our own home for the past 10 years was in stock and fits the bathroom space perfectly. It's surprisingly functional given its compact depth and width.
Chicago Kitchen Faucet
Similar to the tile in the bathroom, we're just picky about certain things and kitchen faucets are one of those things. If you're unfamiliar with Chicago Faucets they're an extremely reliable producer of faucets that are used mostly in businesses like restaurants the world over. We're (oddly) obsessed with their minimalist design and so have 3 of them installed in our own houses and wouldn't trade them for anything even though it seems weird to care so much about something like a faucet.
It's drywall. It might be the least exciting material or product on this list. In fact, with the mudding and taping, it might be the least popular building material on earth (least popular to work with but most popular to use of course).
Schluter Shower Pan and Walls
If you're unfamiliar with Schluter products we're going to use the word magical again to describe it. This stuff is so much easier to work with than what's historically been used such as cement board, and it's so much lighter that there was no question we'd use it for tiny houses.
Another one of those items where you look at the price we paid for the sink and say "couldn't they have done better here?" to which we once again blame supply chains. Thanks Covid.
Kohler Medicine Cabinet
You can certainly buy cheaper medicine cabinets, but you'll also curse yourself for doing so when the plastic insides turn yellow in no time flat. Not that Kohler is some luxury item, but they do make quality bath products and we couldn't live with ourselves if you had to stick your deodorant (if you're into that sort of thing) into some janky medicine cabinet.
Electrical and Water Connector (for optional "on-grid" living)
These quick-attach connection points make it possible to easily connect the tiny house to an existing electrical and water source (similar to the connections at an rv park). For the electrical you just connect a high-quality extension cord to the connector we supply and plug it into the tiny house. For the water you'd just run a standard garden hose and screw it onto the connection point on the tiny house.
Like we said in the rough electrical section these light fixtures are LEDs and so will only minimally draw power.
Baseboards and Other Trim
Pretty standard stuff. Not much to say about it other than it's good for closing gaps between walls and floors and the such.
This may come as a shock to you, dear reader of this list of materials, but the bathroom is... tiny! So the fan for the bathroom is pretty low power. But it does the job of pushing the moisture (and odor!) from your steamy shower and other bathroom-based activities outdoors.
A Little Bit About Us, The Builders
If you're buying an off-grid tiny house, it's good to know the builder has extensive experience building homes and living off-grid.
If you've read other parts of this site we've mentioned our home base of New Mexico a few times. Northern New Mexico, the Taos area in particular, is extremely well-known as an off-grid capital of the United States. The first earthship was built here decades ago and there are hundreds if not thousands of off-grid houses here, relying on solar and water catchment to live.
And that's exactly what our tiny house builder has been doing since the early 2000's--living and breathing off-grid living in the house he built and lives in to this day, and building off (and on) grid houses and structures for himself, and for countless clients over the years.
Thanks for taking an interest in our tiny house!